updated 3/17/2009 10:01:51 AM ET 2009-03-17T14:01:51

Guest: Robert Reich, Gail Davidson, Janeane Garofalo

High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Spec: Politics; Government; Elections

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

He still can‘t stop trying to scare you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR:  Do you believe the president of the United States has made Americans less safe?

RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And he means the current president, not Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy—so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Cheney and another eternal Bushy also trying to rewrite history on our economic circumstances.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  I don‘t think you can blame the Bush administration for the creation of those circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But wait, there‘s worse.  The credit for the last week of hopeful news, Good Lord, Dana Perino found a camera to talk to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Can all that credit go specifically to President Obama?  Well, I would say no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, maybe you and Mr. Bush can do something to take credit for stopping the latest rounds of bonuses at AIG.  We give them $170 billion in bailout, they hand $100 million in bonuses to the very people who crashed the economy and damaged our economy.

The attorney general of New York issuing subpoenas to figure out whaddya, whaddya; the president steams.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  It‘s hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses.  How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Worsts: The freshman Republican congressman who actually says something other than no, unfortunately, it‘s a bill to require all presidential candidates to submit proof of citizenship which, quote, “will remove this issue as a reason for questioning the legitimacy of a candidate elected as president.”  Or you and the other tinfoil hat raving right-wing loons could just stop questioning what‘s already been proven.

And—its vast left-wing conspiracy week.  Bernie and Billo‘s worst five liberals in media.  Tremble before the terrifying presence of our special guest—Janeane Garofalo.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, TV HOST:  It‘s scary, isn‘t it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening from Los Angeles.

Tonight—man has answered the centuries-old breathtaking mystery of time travel.  The former vice president, Dick Cheney, is just back from the future to blame an al Qaeda attack on President Obama.  And President Bush‘s last press secretary is revealing that her old leader has gone back in time to last year to make the stock market rise last week.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Would that these people understand their fear-mongering and historical revisionism was as stupid and counter-productive as it is when phrased thusly?

Mr. Cheney, yesterday, is not only sowing fear about President Obama‘s domestic priorities, but returning to his old Constitution-stomping grounds, claiming legality for his deeds—and why not, they hired “yes men” lawyers to tell them all what was legal, but also furthering the cause of Osama bin Laden yet again, by telling Americans—yes, don‘t stop being blindly, irrationally afraid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN/”STATE OF THE UNION”)

KING:  Do you believe the president of the United States has made Americans less safe?

CHENEY:  I do.  I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11.

I think that‘s a great success story.  It was done legally.  It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles.

President Obama campaigned against it all across the country.  And now, he‘s making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In fact, the former top CIA official who read Khalid Sheikh Mohamed interrogation transcripts told “Vanity Fair” magazine, 90 percent of the information he gave was “B.S.”—meaning: we will never know how many steps we lost by chasing our own tails, don‘t know how many enemies we gained by torturing to get “B.S.”

And as for the success story of keeping America safe, it has been 2,744 days since September 11th.  September 11th occurred 3,019 days after the first bombing of the World Trade Center—meaning: al Qaeda operates on a long view timetable.

And if al Qaeda does attack again someday, the only people we already know we can blame, Mr. Cheney, are you and your president because we don‘t need to debate our safety because you only let al Qaeda survive.  A fact the new White House hinted at today in responding to a question about your comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBS:  I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy—so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal.

I would say that the president has made quite clear that keeping the American people safe and secure is the job, is the job—is the most serious job that he has each and every day.  I think the president saw over the past seven-plus years the delay in bringing the very people to justice that committed terrorists acts on this soil and on foreign soil.  That delay in seeking swift and certain justice was what he decided to change through his executive order in changing the legal architecture by which these terrorists would finally be brought to justice.

I think the American people will, in this administration, see those actors brought to the swift and certain justice that was not brought to them in the previous administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Bush/Cheney failure to convict even the suspects in their custody, however they got there, providing insufficient shame to prevent Mr. Cheney from using al Qaeda as an excuse for his own performance on the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Eight months after we arrived, we had 9/11.  We had 3,000 Americans killed one morning by al Qaeda terrorists here in the United States.  We immediately had to go into the wartime mode.  We ended up with two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Some of that are still very active.  We had major problems with respect to things like Katrina, for example.

All of these things required us to spend money that we had not originally planned to spend or originally part of the budget.  Stuff happens.  An administration has to be able to respond to that and we did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Stuff happens.  As if response not preparation had been his only responsibility.  In keeping with his blame avoidance, he said President Obama is wrong to say eight years of unfettered Bush policy might have anything to do with this current economic crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  There‘s no question what the economic circumstances that he inherited are difficult ones.  You know, we said that before we left.  I don‘t think you can blame the Bush administration for the creation of those circumstances.  It‘s a global financial problem.

We had, in fact, tried to deal with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac problem some years before with major reforms and were blocked by Democrats on the Hill, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.

So, I think the notion that you can just sort of throw it off on the prior administration, that‘s interesting rhetoric, but I don‘t think anybody really cares a lot about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  First, Fannie and Freddie succumbed to the meltdown, they did not cause it.  Second: The problem became global, Mr. Cheney, because you screwed it up that badly, a fact that even you tacitly admitted in this very same interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  The key, I think, is the extent to which they fix the problem with the financial institutions in this society.  That is a federal government responsibility.  It‘s the bank, it‘s the Federal Reserve, it‘s the FDIC, it‘s all of the financial regulations and management of our currency that is a federal responsibility.

And I look to that as an area that they‘ve got to get right in order for everything else to flow.  I worry a lot that they‘re using the current set of economic difficulties to try to justify a massive expansion in the government and much more authority for the government over the private sector, and I don‘t think that‘s good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Asked to respond to the Cheney claim of exploiting the Bush crisis to press Obama priorities, Press Secretary Gibbs reacted again with poorly disguised disdain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBS:  I think not taking economic advice from Dick Cheney would be maybe the best possible outcome of yesterday‘s interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But it was, in fact, the former White House press secretary, Dana Perino, this weekend, who had the most entertaining spin on this, and not political spin, I mean, spin as in “Superman spins the world backwards to change time” spin.  Perino admitting, unlike Cheney, that the problems started on their boss‘s watch but also hinting that Wall Street traders last week decided to reverse their sell-off and start buying stocks, not in response to, say, last week‘s developments, but a reaction to something she never does say exactly what that Mr. Bush did last autumn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, C-SPAN)

PERINO:  The question is, did they do anything and did we do anything

in the fall, President Bush take action to try to alleviate the downturn and—statistics lag.  You know, when you take—you make a policy and it takes a long time to see if that policy actually had an impact.

You were just speaking earlier about the possibility that since we had a little bit of a better week on Wall Street last week, does that spell a turnaround?  And can that be—can all the credit go specifically to President Obama?  Well, I would say no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, beginning at the end, briefly, how much stock do you think Dana Perino bought last Monday?

WOLFFE:  Well, if she is investing, I have some very cheap AIG stocks she maybe interested in.  Alternatively, she could put her money in the hands of the federal government and buy U.S. Treasury bonds if she doesn‘t mind being a socialist.

Look, getting investment advice from the last administration is as crazy as getting advice from the current one.  So, she should stay off this subject.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  To Mr. Cheney‘s attempt to undermine any support for the Obama domestic agenda.  Why?  What does he achieve doing this?

WOLFFE:  Well, I guess Dick Cheney is still of the mind that offense is the best form of defense.  But he really needs to make a better case of defending his own agenda and his own record.

I mean, the idea that this financial crisis can be laid at the doorstep of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd is delusional—and doesn‘t even, in his own comments, really get to the nut of the problem.  Although he did return to Barney Frank and Chris Dodd a couple of times as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they are not the root cause of this collapse in the economy even as they were important players, at least in terms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

But the whole judgment is twisted here.  His big threat in the Obama administration is the idea that government is going to expand.  This is from an administration that increased Medicare‘s obligations with prescription drugs, increased defense spending beyond any measure that we‘ve seen in recent history, and has a record of expansion of government the likes of which is extraordinary.  So it‘s a twisted judgment.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, this is twice since he left office that Mr. Cheney has given an interview in which he not only tried to frighten people not into action but into a kind of immobility, a frightened immobility.  And it‘s so odd because we heard a powerful conservative commentary declared that George Bush had defeated al Qaeda and won the war on terror last week.

What is Cheney doing in this—what in God‘s name does he think he‘s doing?  Let me put it that way.

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s clearly a preemptive strike from a man who loved preemptive war.  This is a guy who wants to printout the “I told you so” pictures before there‘s another terrorist attack.  And the problem here is that his judgment, his predictions, his forecasting, his reading of intelligence, has been so flawed that we really shouldn‘t take him seriously.  He shouldn‘t be given the credibility to be taken seriously now.

I mean, he said to Tim Russert in September of 2003, after the invasion, that he thought that ultimately, Saddam‘s weapons of mass destruction would be found.  He said that he didn‘t buy the idea that Saddam was innocent and there were no weapons of mass destruction.  He said it was crazy and bore no resemblance to reality.

Well, the thing that‘s really crazy here is why he‘s given the time or the platform to make these predictions now, because his judgment on past intelligence and his predictions about the future have been proven so badly wrong.

OLBERMANN:  And, Richard, to that point as well, this wasn‘t on FOX News.  This was CNN.  And again, in this interview, he went unchallenged.

Where were the follow-up questions here?  Where was a question even couched in the most disbelieving of manners about that hint that Sy Hersh dropped last week about his investigation of American assassination squads that supposedly reported directly to Cheney?  I mean, just a question about that, even if it is the craziest thing in the world, give him a chance to say it?

WOLFFE:  Well, I‘d be fascinated to read Sy Hersh‘s book.  And certainly, that was an explosive revelation he made.

You know, what happens—and I respect John King a lot, but this was a pretty soft interview.  And what happens with Dick Cheney when you interview him is that he often gets all spooky on you and he starts to give you the death stare.  He can play the golden silence very well in an interview and he can resort to the sort of intelligence-laden classified information that makes it sounds like he knows a lot more than you.

In this case, out of government, when he doesn‘t have intelligence and he can‘t throw his weight around anymore, he really does need to be pressed on why he said what he did, why he did what he did.  And that does require follow-up.

OLBERMANN:  Our political analyst, Richard Wolffe, as always my friend, great thanks.

As much as Dana Perino might induce the jaw to drop or the head to shake with slow sadness, if only we could send George W. Bush on a mission back in time to last September, say, in the days before the bailout was set in stone and we saved a couple of investment banks to make sure there would be no collapse of the lives of the traders and executives who work for them.  Maybe even Bush could have been trusted to go back and warn us all that this was, in large part, a threat to collapse the world‘s financial system if the people who made their own companies fail were not rewarded with millions of dollars in bonuses for having done so.

The Treasury Department and at least one state‘s attorney general are scrambling tonight to do something to stop another $165 million in bonuses for the financial cretins at AIG.  But, wait, we own 80 percent of AIG now.

Robert Reich is here.  Certainly, we can screw these guys out of these bonuses the way they screwed us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Once again today, we call it the bailout.  Tomorrow, we‘ll call it why daddy went to jail.  Another $165 million due in retention bonuses to the traders at AIG Insurance who did such a bad job that we had to spend $170 billion to save the AIG and it certainly seems no earthly reason why we should want to retain these shouterheads.

Former President Bush prepares for his first post-presidential speech in Canada.  I‘ll be joined by a Canadian attorney who‘s trying to make sure it never happens.

And you could be a responsible congressman and simply tell your tinfoil hat constituents that Barack Obama is indeed a natural born citizen or you could introduce a bill calling for greater birth documentation for presidential candidates.  Take a guess which one a Florida Republican just did.  The answer—ahead in Worsts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In his movie, “Brazil,” Terry Gilliam posited a society so unhinged that it tortured people and then sent their widows bills for services rendered.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: AIG Insurance making reality out of part of that cinematic nightmare.  They crashed—destabilizing the economy, and requiring four separate federal bailouts.  You and I pay them $170 billion.  They pay now $165 million in bonuses to the idiots who sank the company.

Specialists at AIG financial products, and yes, Specialist is a brand name not a description here, they received the so-called retention awards this Sunday, precipitating a surge of populist outrage.

Chairman of House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank, calling on AIG to fire people.  The New York attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, issuing subpoenas to AIG for not disclosing the names and salaries of those getting those bonuses.  The Senate majority and minority leaders agreeing that the abuse of taxpayer money is unacceptable.  And the president, vowing to use the Treasury Department to get that money back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  This is a corporation that finds itself in financial distress due to recklessness and greed.  Under these circumstances it‘s hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay.  I mean, how do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?

In the last six months, AIG has received substantial sums from the U.S. Treasury.  And I‘ve asked Secretary Geithner to use that leverage and pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Except, Secretary Geithner has already used his leverage to try and block those bonuses, telling AIG‘s CEO last week that such retention awards are unacceptable, but he had to concede to yesterday‘s payout when lawyers for both AIG and the Treasury Department agreed that breaking the bonus contract which was agreed upon last April risked lawsuits.

So, now, sources tell the “Wall Street Journal,” the Treasury

Department is finding and essentially holding the latest AIG bailout money

$30 billion more—hostage, until the company works up a repayment plan for the financial product group bonuses.

While on Capitol Hill, Democratic Congressman Gary Peters of Michigan just introduced legislation creating a 60-percent surtax on bonuses.  His fellow Democrat, Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, is seeking similar legislation but with 100 percent surtax on bonuses so taxpayers can recoup all of their money.

And to add outrage to outrage, AIG also revealing yesterday just which of their customers benefited from that taxpayer bailout money.  While some of the biggest recipients were foreign bank, AIG also paid out $1.5 billion to Wachovia, $2.3 billion to Citigroup, $5.2 billion to Bank of America, $6.8 billion to Merrill Lynch, and $12.9 billion to Goldman Sachs.  Each of those companies had already been bailed out by the U.S. taxpayers, which means we just paid for their mistakes twice.

The financial collapse, subsequent bailout, and all of its screwing of the American taxpayer by AIG—prompting the president today to once again call for an overhaul of our entire financial regulatory system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We already have resolution authority—excuse me, I‘m choked up with anger here.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  We always—already have some of that resolution authority when it comes to a traditional bank.  But when you start getting into AIGs and some of these other operations that have a whole bunch of different financial instruments, then we don‘t have all the regulatory power that we need.  And this is something that I expect to work with Congress to deal with in the weeks and months to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Once again, a pleasure to be joined by Robert Reich, who in addition to serving as labor secretary under President Clinton, advised President Obama during his campaign and the transition.

Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY:  Well, good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We—and that‘s the American taxpayers—we own 80 percent of AIG.  So, how is it possible that apparently we don‘t get any say on how they spend our money?  How did that happen?  Why hasn‘t it been fixed?  And should we stop referring to it as our money?

REICH:  Well, it is our money.  I mean, it‘s our commitments.  But I think there is an ideological aversion in this country to nationalization.  I mean, the word “nationalization” or “government ownership” sends shivers up the spines of a lot of Americans.

So, we get the worst of both worlds now.  I mean, we actually own these companies.  We put up $170 billion for AIG and yet, we have no control.

AIG is not responsible to the market.  It‘s not part of capitalism any longer, but it‘s also not responsible to citizens.  It‘s not part of democracy.  AIG essentially is taking $170 billion and doing whatever it wants with that $170 billion.

OLBERMANN:  The disconnect seems so obvious.  The employees clearly did not do a good job.  And if we had not bailed AIG out, there would be no AIG to pay these retention bonuses, as it is the bonuses are some sort of form of retention award to retain guys who did these terrible jobs.  Why is this not as obviously ludicrous inside the financial industries as it seems to be outside of them?

REICH:  You know, Keith, I‘ve been scratching my head for days trying to figure that one out.  I mean, the thing is, you have in the financial industry this tradition of getting paid for doing deals, regardless of whether the deals are done with any value at all.  And here, a ludicrous upon ludicrous, outrage upon outrage—you have a contract between these traders and these executives and AIG that apparently predated the bailouts.

Now, why it was that we didn‘t know?  We—that is you and I and taxpayers and Treasury Department, and the government generally.  We didn‘t know that we owed all of these predated contractual bailouts—that is bailouts of the individuals, bonuses—when we made the big AIG bailout, is beyond comprehension.  Why did Tim Geithner only learn of all of this this past week?

I mean, again, ownership should come with some control.  You and I should own and therefore control AIG.

OLBERMANN:  If our head owner in this case, CEO Obama is instructing his Treasury Department to use its leverage to try to get the bonus money back, would he actually be saving time here by just going directly to the Justice Department and try to see if there is fraud involved in this?

REICH:  Well, I think that—absolutely, there is fraud.  In fact, if a company like AIG is too big to fail, it‘s too big, period.  Maybe you go to the Justice Department and have the antitrust laws break it up.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, if we own 80 percent of the company, can‘t we play, pretend Wall Street with it and do the kind of thing that private owners who didn‘t want to pay these $450 million in total bonuses would try to do, something like spinning off that part of the company that owes the bonuses and making sure it goes bankrupt?  Obviously, I‘m being overly simple.  But is there not a way to do it—does not the private sector do something like this all the time?

REICH:  Yes, it does it all the time.  And remember, this is the unit.  I mean, when—outrage upon outrage upon outrage, this is the very unit that came up with the notorious credit default swaps that caused all the mischief and, you know, incredible costs in the first place.

Yes, spin it off.  Sell it.  Get rid of it.  I mean, let‘s give it away.  Give it away to FOX News.  Give it away to North Korea.

(LAUGHTER)

REICH:  It doesn‘t matter, give it away.

OLBERMANN:  Co-ownership, perhaps.

Robert Reich, former Clinton labor secretary, author of “Supercapitalism”—once again, it‘s always an education.  Thank you, sir.

REICH:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Getting bored with the top model series?  Your robot masters in Japan have a master plan that could set electronic tongues wagging on the catwalk, on the catwalk.

And evidence that the “New York Post” and its gossip editor, Richard Johnson, have truly jumped the shark.  They compete with Steve Doocy and a lunatic fringe congressman in tonight‘s Worst Persons derby.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Long before John, Paul, George or Ringo were born in Liverpool, in England, Henry Youngman was, on the 16th of March, this day in 1906.  Henry would soon move wit his family to Brooklyn, eventually changing his first name to Hene, and becoming one of the century‘s best known stand-up comics, the popularizer or maybe the inventor of “take my wife, please.” 

On his 91st birthday, Youngman invited TV and print reporters to a New York restaurant, where he read his last will and testament.  In it, he read, “to my nephew Irving, who still keeps asking me to mention him in my will, hello, Irving.” 

Let‘s play Oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Tokyo, where today the world of creepy humanoid robot heads became one with the creepy humanoid bodies.  Meet HRP-4C, designed by Japanese scientists to replicate human faces and motions.  She goes for a cool 200 grand.  She is the first fully fledged female cybernetic supermodel, and will strut herself on the cat walk at a fashion show next week, even though her creators say she is not yet capable of wearing clothes.  Nothing to be embarrassed by HRP-4C.  Some of the human models still haven‘t gotten the whole wearing the clothes straight thing yet either. 

To the James S. Brady press briefing room this afternoon, where, in advance of the Robert Gibbs press briefing, White House correspondents Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie were on, when a kind of shadow government sprung up behind Todd. 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  If they could, we would already know they are doing it.  Right now, they just say words like they are legally trying to do everything that they can.  

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Chuck, I have a feeling something is going on behind you. 

OLBERMANN:  Could have been worse.  Could have been the president.  Then Press Secretary Gibbs snapped Chuck Todd in half like a stick of celery, not shown in your picture. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The former president‘s first post-presidential speech in Canada.  And Canada lawyers are trying to keep them out of their country.  Couldn‘t have seen those cliches coming. 

And your chance to meet your own vast left wing conspiracy.  Its fifth most influential member, per Bernard Goldberg, Janeane Garofalo, she stops by to accept her fourth runner-up trophy. 

First, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number there, best vinyl fan base.  This weekend, England‘s Nottingham rugby club lost to the Exeter Chiefs at Notts County Stadium (ph) in front of a paltry crowd of 2,300 fans, only 1,300 of whom were human.  The other thousand, in a publicity stunt, blow up dolls.  You thought the sporting events here in Los Angeles you would see a lot of plastic faces. 

Number two, best candidate for unemployment, Erin Kelly, the 24 year old cage cleaner at the Reynolds Animal Clinic in Arkansas.  She thought her veterinarian boss, quote, needed to chill out, so she spiked his coffee with some Valium.  He was hospitalized.  She was arrested. 

Number one, John B. Hill.  He was at various times the chief engineer and unofficially the man who could repair anything at the student run radio station of Cornell University and the community of Ithaca, New York, WVBR FM.  John found the place after being a student at Ithaca College.  He stayed more than 30 years.  He did not just rebuilt sound boards and turn tables and transmitters and tape machines and staff lounges and refrigerators and cars and—this was always just our guess—atomic power plants.  He held people together at WVBR. 

Honest and blunt and yet always supportive, without the B.S.  JBH died last week.  He was 60 years old.  There are dozens of us who have worked in professional broadcasting in large part because we witnessed and emulated his combination of ingenuity, insurrection and inspiration, inspiration without making a big deal about it.  In my day, we thought so highly of him that we named a spare room he fixed up the John B. Hill Memorial Staff Lounge.  That was in 1978.  Thank you, John.  Goodbye.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Remember back in 2000 the speculation that future President George W. Bush would not be allowed to enter Canada because he had a DUI conviction?  A sweeter and simpler time.  Our third story tonight, fast forward more than eight years, and with Mr. Bush due to go to Canada to give his first post-presidential speech tomorrow, the first president elected after earning a rap sheet has probably managed to add a few more crimes in the interim, conspiracy to torture, kidnapping, aggravated invasion of another country, the charges we know about. 

Will Canada let him in?  If so, would they prosecute him?  Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper of the conservative party is not commenting.  He also has not responded to a Canadian attorney, Gail Davidson, of Lawyers Against the War, who joins us momentarily, and who wrote to the prime minister asking that enforce Canada‘s law, which specifically prohibits anyone reasonably suspected of war crimes, such as the treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, not to mention Abu Ghraib or the black sites, from entering Canada. 

When Mr. Bush was forced to admit his DUI conviction, ABC News reported that before entering Canada, criminals like him are supposed to create a rehab checklist, taking responsibility, exhibiting remorse, a change in lifestyle, evidence of stability in his family life or employment.  With Canada‘s government silent, protesters have already made preparations to greet Mr. Bush in Canada, reportedly building a Bush effigy, collecting shoes and constructing a shoe cannon. 

Let‘s turn now to Gail Davidson, attorney and member of Lawyers Against the War.  Much thanks for your time tonight. 

GAIL DAVIDSON, LAWYERS AGAINST THE WAR:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Explain Canadian law as it applies to Mr. Bush, in your opinion, if you would be so kind? 

DAVIDSON:  Well, Keith, as you know, there is overwhelming evidence that while president and commander in chief of the Army, George Bush oversaw, directed, authorized and supervised a system of torture that was long-term, widespread, in many countries throughout the world.  Now, under Canadian law, anyone suspected of a crime like torture is inadmissible to Canada.  Suspected means a little more than a suspicion and less than proof to the balance of probabilities. 

So Mr. Bush is actually inadmissible on the grounds of the torture allegations alone.  Because the crime is torture, it gets a little more complicated under Canadian law.  Once Mr. Bush crosses the border—once he crosses the border, Canada has a legal obligation to investigate him for torture.  And if there‘s enough evidence to launch a prosecution, then under the convention against torture, Canada has to either prosecute him or extradite him to another country that‘s willing and able to do so. 

So we‘ve asked the Canadian government—sorry, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sorry to have interrupted you.  You asked the Canadian government what? 

DAVIDSON:  To, first of all, bar him from Canada, as the law allows.

OLBERMANN:  But five years ago, nearly, Mr. Bush was determined to have in the formal and legal sense of the term diplomatic immunity.  Why would that not still be the case? 

DAVIDSON:  Four years ago, when he came here, Lawyers Against the War actually launched a criminal prosecution for aiding, abetting and counseling torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay against Mr. Bush.  That was tossed out on the grounds that as a sitting president, Mr. Bush had immunity. 

But, as you know, since the Pinochet decision in London in 1998, I think it was, there is no immunity for former heads of state.  So Mr. Bush, even in England and certainly not in Canada, has no immunity from prosecution for torture. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve been quoted previously as saying that even if Canada does not act tomorrow, it is important to keep the pressure on.  Why is that?  What do you achieve by keeping the pressure on? 

DAVIDSON:  Well, Keith, I see that we haven‘t got any option but to try and enforce the law, obviously.  Because what would be the option if we didn‘t enforce the law on torture?  Then what would victims of torture, the families of people tortured, what would they be doing if they couldn‘t go through the legal and peaceful process of seeking criminal and civil remedies through the courts? 

Would they engage in counter-torture?  Would they just forget about it?  The fact of the matter is, if we‘re going to look at stamping out torture, the torture created and administered by the Bush administration has to be remedied.  One of the principal remedies is criminal prosecutions of those people that are responsible. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, good luck tomorrow.  You seem to be having more procedural success than some of us in the United States are.  Gail Davidson with the Canadian group Lawyers Against the War, again, many thanks for your time. 

DAVIDSON:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  How well do you know the liberal conspiracy to destroy Bill O‘Reilly?  Meet the person his sidekick Bernie Goldberg placed fifth on his newest list, the all powerful and mighty Janeane Garofalo. 

Then there is a new president of El Salvador, and his unholy links to America‘s dangerous enemy, Caesar Chavez of Venezuela.  You almost hate to the tell the morning clowns at Fixed News that that is not who they are thinking of.  Worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  She‘s been called the representative of Hollywood‘s ditz-ocracy by no less a moral authority than Bernard Goldberg.  We call her our first guest on Left Wing Smear Machine Week.  Janeane Garofalo is next.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to gossip editor Richard Johnson of Rupert Murdoch‘s vanity newspaper the “New York Post.”  After his section broke the dramatic scandal that the Topps Company has made a series of baseball trading cards picturing me, which I actually give out to friends and other collectors, and autograph some for charity; he has now contacted MSNBC asking about what he implied was a conflict of interest in my consulting for Topps. 

After we here all stopped laughing and after it was pointed out to Dick Johnson that I have been involved with baseball card production since 1975 and that my consulting for Topps is unpaid, informal, as has been previously revealed here.  He seemed to give up on that.  He moved on to hinting he would be writing an expose on funny it was that I collected antique baseball cards.  The “New York Post” loses a reported 50 to 60 millions dollars a year.  My collection of baseball cards is worth more than is the “New York Post.”  Then again, so is the collection of the average kid in your neighborhood.  Thanks a lot, Dick. 

The runner up, the incomparable Steve Doocy, the walking spoonerism (ph) from Fixed News, reporting that a former CNN employee has been elected the president of El Salvador.  “Here is a story you won‘t see on CNN.  He is from a party down in El Salvador that is essentially the communist party.  I wonder if he is just on a leave of absence from CNN, which given its political inklings, CNN could stand for the Communist News Network.” 

A Fox analyst named Peter Johnson then said, “allegedly has ties to strong man Caesar Chavez?”  Doocy came back with, “you don‘t mean strong man Wolf Blitzer, you mean strong man Caesar?”  There‘s a reason you won‘t see this story on CNN.  The president elect‘s party allegedly has ties to strong man Caesar Chavez, Caesar Chavez, the late lamented American union organizer?  You mean Hugo Chavez or Venezuela or, I don‘t know, maybe Eric Chavez of the Oakland Athletics. 

But our winner, Freshman Congressman Bill Posey, Republican of Florida, wants a bill passed demanding—let me just quote him, “opponents of President Obama are raising the birth certificate issue as a means of questioning his eligibility to serve as president.  This bill, by simply requiring such documentation for future candidates for president, will remove this issue as a reason for questioning the legitimacy of a candidate elected as president.” 

You could do that or you could grow a pair, Congressman Posey, and tell the racists and the assorted other nut bags in your Republican party that it is time for them all to put away the shrooms and accept that the president‘s birth certificate was all the proof required, and that they should stop embarrassing themselves. 

Wait, you know, it says here you refused to say whether or not you believed the president is a natural born citizen.  Congressman, what you should do is stop embarrassing yourself and take the Reynolds Wrap off your head.  Congressman Bill “X-Files” Posey, today‘s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  After whining about how the left smears the right by besmirching reputations and tossing out a bunch of big words like gutter snipe and democracy, we thought we would devote part of this week to letting you get to know your top five Bill-O and Bernie Goldberg left wing smear merchants, the ones whose reputations they besmirched last week. 

Our number one story, Janeane Garofalo, the fifth most powerful liberal in the media.  That one of Mr. Goldberg‘s last list inspired a mad man in Tennessee to shoot up a church full of innocent people because he could not shoot the people on Mr. Goldberg‘s list did not give Mr. Goldberg pause for thought.  Nothing seems to. 

Thus playing Igor to O‘Reilly, his five worst off-enders in the mainstream media are as follows: Number five, Miss Garofalo, number four, Bill Moyers, number three, DailyKos.com, number two, the evil “New York Times,” and  number one, the totally irrelevant. MSNBC. 

The two rocket scientists were briefly not unanimous about that fifth slot. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  OK.  But she has absolutely no influence at all.  She failed at Air America. 

BERNIE GOLDBERG, FMR. CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  She is representative of the bigger group of Hollywood. 

O‘REILLY:  That is a good point.  When you put them together, the cacophony of nonsense, I love that.  The cacophony of nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If anyone knows their cacophony and their nonsense, it is him.  Joining us now comedian, actress, political activist and fellow left wing smear merchant Janeane Garofalo.  Good evening and congratulations. 

JANEANE GAROFALO, COMEDIAN:  Thank you, Keith.  As you know, the machine likes to operate in a much more clandestine manner.  But now that we have been exposed, I might as well discuss it.  As you know, we meet alternate Wednesday inside the eye in the pyramid on the dollar bill.  We rent the space from the Knight‘s Templar, contingent upon how clean we are after the meetings. 

You know all this.  I‘m just sharing it with the wider populous.  I‘m a little uncomfortable now it has been exposed though, because we have been going for years. 

OLBERMANN:  I know. 

GAROFALO:  The machine, it takes a lot of work.  I‘m a little bit sorry that I‘m just number five.  I would have really liked to have been number two or even number one.  Maybe next year. 

OLBERMANN:  You also noticed that we do, in fact, send out a dress similarly memo every day. 

GAROFALO:  Yes.  We have pink on.  I love casual Fridays the best.  As you know, in the next Wednesday meeting, it is 50s day.  Last time was backwards jeans day.  That was a lot of fun.  Now we are going to do ‘50s day.  And I‘m really looking forward to it. 

OLBERMANN:  Sadly, having been born in 1959, I just show up as I‘m normally dressed, because every day is ‘50s day for me.  I was wondering aloud last week if you were a wizard of some sort, or had magical powers and just hadn‘t informed us about this at the meeting.  The fact that Goldberg named you as one of the leaders of the smear machine.  Do you, in fact, have these powers?  Rationalize or explain your position in this list. 

GAROFALO:  I do have magical powers.  Again, I would prefer to keep them secret, much like the vampires.  As you know, the Vampire Rights Amendment Act was passed in the Deep South recently.  There is a documentary about it called “Tru Blood” on HBO.  They like to operate secretly.  I myself like to keep my powers under wraps, if you don‘t mind. 

OLBERMANN:  You are using one of them to annoy Bernard Goldberg. 

That‘s just sort of practice, right.

GAROFALO:  Yes, I like to call him Goldie. 

OLBERMANN:  Goldie. 

GAROFALO:  Yes.  He is absolutely right.  I want to emphasize again the machine has been going and going.  We used to been an advertising agency in the ‘70s called Sache and Sache, and were responsible for “That‘s One Spicy Meatball.”  Do you remember that one?  “I can‘t believe I ate the whole thing,” that was us.  The feather in our cap is the “no fat chicks” bumper sticker, which we really got a lot of mileage out of that one.  That‘s the machine.

OLBERMANN:  All details about the machine aside, Bill-O noted to Bernie, this is the greatest assignment you could ever get, payback unlimited.  Payback for what?  The last time there was payback and Goldberg involved in it, and making lists of people, people wound up dead.  There is a dark, dark side to stuff like this? 

GAROFALO:  Yes.  There is.  Going back to—if we are going to get serious about this, and I guess we are forced to when other kind of very damaged people respond to some of the right wingers‘ message; the reason they accuse the left of having a machine is because they themselves do.  There really is a right wing smear machine in place.  Whether it‘s all the regressive radio, and even some of the right wing churches, and then right wing candidates. 

As you know, during the Bush administration, they used to invite some of the radio hosts to actually meet with candidates.  And Grover Norquist has those meetings, where the talking points are created and handed out to all and sundry in the right wing machine.  Unfortunately, they do have a base that listens to this.  And because their life isn‘t working, they want to blame all the wrong people. 

The right wing has a way of always having an enemy, whether it be immigrants or Arabs or brown skinned people, black skinned people, homosexuals, women.  They all rally around an enemy, an other, that they can get mad at.  Death does occur.  This has happened in abortion clinics.  It has happened, as you said, just recently.  Unfortunately, it may happen again. 

Guys like Bernie Goldberg, they don‘t care.  It means nothing to them. 

Dick Cheney going on those—was it “Meet the Press” on Sunday? 

OLBERMANN:  No, it was CNN with John King. 

GAROFALO:  John King?  What does he care?  What does it matter?  He just keeps spreading fear, you know, claiming that we are less safe because of something Obama does, and claiming that the government wants to expand.  All these kind of thing, unfortunately, a lot of the people in the right wing base are not the most intellectual people in the world, not the most savvy people in the world, and they are definitely quick to anger, and quick to blame other people. 

It is a ridiculous thing.  You know, I don‘t know what to say about it other than it is a very sad, sad thing, and it is part of the human nature of a personality type that tends to identify as Republican or conservative.  It is an unfortunate part of our society.  It is a scourge on our society. 

OLBERMANN:  It is, indeed.  Janeane Garofalo, political activist, currently appearing in “24,” and the fifth ranked liberal in media.  At least you get a plaque. 

GAROFALO:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,137th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>

template

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,