updated 5/8/2009 9:55:12 AM ET 2009-05-08T13:55:12

Guest: Shannyn Moore, Brandon Friedman, Chris Hayes, Richard Justice, Richard Wolffe

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Joe the Plumber says he is quitting the Republican Party.  His political toilet, as it were, overflowing with GOP overspending.  “Time” magazine‘s startling report that the phony-baloney image of the party is—going down the drain.

Fortunately, they still have Sarah Palin—whose new poll numbers drop from 85 percent approval to 54 percent approval in 14 months.  No longer the most popular governor in the country, no longer even the most popular Republican in just the state of Alaska.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Sarah Palin could build the party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Sure, if the party is based on disapproval numbers.

Torture-gate: Memo writer Judge Jay Bybee tries to protect himself from impeachment and from testifying, and the Republicans drop a non-too subtle hint—if Eric Holder investigates the Bush administration, they will investigate rendition during the Clinton administration.

OK.  So, proportionately, you‘ll need how long for that?  Forty-five minutes?  Will Dick Cheney look out for the little guys there, too?

The secession movement: Civil war junior, secession supported by a vast margin in the south -- 8 percent.  Nationally, only 9 percent of Republicans even want to do.  Good for you, since it would be treason.

Worsts: Hannity complains about the president putting mustard on a hamburger, Billo complains about hate crimes legislation he claims might protect pedophiles—when it explicitly does not protect pedophiles, and Harold Hill complains after a guy from ACORN cleans his clock on the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  And he actually has the nerve to ask one of my producers out on a date.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Manny being Manny—asterisk, with performance enhancing drugs.  The bizarre saga of a man who might be baseball‘s best hitter, his team unbeaten at home for the first month.  He now suspended for the next 50 games for using something like steroids.  It even got reaction from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It‘s a tragedy, it‘s a shame.  My sense is, it‘s a great embarrassment on Major League Baseball.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Or as one rival manager put it, any ground baseball might have regained after the Bonds scandal, Clemens scandal and Rodriguez scandal, quote, “We lost as an industry.”

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And so it goes with Manny Ramirez.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Losing Senator Arlen Specter might have been one thing—but in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN:  If even Joe the Plumber, the guy who has come to symbolize the target voter for the Republicans, if even he no longer wants to be a Republican, is the GOP truly going down the tubes?

In a new interview, Mr. The Plumber, Samuel Wurzelbacher, taking “Time” magazine that he is ready to leave the party, quoting “Time,” “Wurzelbacher better known as Joe the Plumber tells ‘Time” he‘s so outraged by GOP overspending, he‘s quitting the party, but also he said he wouldn‘t support any cuts in defense, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—which, along with debt payments, would put more than two-thirds of the budget off limits.”

As we like to say around here, good luck with that.

Meanwhile, representing the Republican viewpoint at the White House today, none of the party‘s actual current leaders, Michael Steele or Minority Leader Boehner, instead getting a meeting with President Obama, Newt Gingrich—part of a panel that included Al Sharpton and New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a born-again Republican, to discuss education.

At the White House, Mr. Gingrich is sounding a lot more bipartisan and moderate than present-day Republican lawmakers do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, ® FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  I think this is an issue that should bring all Americans together.  I think that education should be the first civil right of the 21st century.  And I think this president has shown courage during the primaries, when it was difficult.  He stood out for charter schools.  He has made clear his commitment to lifting the cap on charter schools, he has made clear his belief in accountability, and I think as Americans, we can reach beyond Democrat or Republican, we can reach beyond liberal or conservative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  GOP old timer‘s day at the White House.  Paging Boss Limbaugh, will Mr. Gingrich now have to turn in his Republican membership card?  Continued membership might have its privileges.

Emphasis on “might” because—as Sarah Palin is learning the hard way, the Limbaugh stamp of approval comes with definite downsides, the Alaska governor increasingly unpopular in her own state.  New polling in Alaska showing positive opinion of the governor at just 54 percent, nearly 42 percent with a negative opinion—a staggering drop from just a year ago before she ran for vice president when she was the most popular governor in the country, 85 percent then, had a favorable opinion of her, only 12 percent unfavorable.

These days, Governor Palin not even the most popular Republican in her own state.  That honor now belonging to Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Time now to call in our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

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

OLBERMANN:  The Republicans lost Congress, lost the White House, lost a can‘t-lose election to fill Senator Gillibrand‘s seat in the House, lost Senator Specter to the Democrats, and now, it looks like they‘ve lost Joe the Plumber.  And as inconsequential as he is as a person, as a symbol—does he represent some sort of tipping point?

WOLFFE:  Well, all puns aside, there isn‘t a tipping point in this.  It‘s more of a marker in the long-term decline of the party.  You know, if they lost their heart in the 1980s and they lost their mind in the 1990s, what we‘ve seen in the 2000s is Republicans losing their image, and they‘ve lost it on national security.

And here, you have the epitome of image.  Really, the only reason there was a Joe the Plumber or a Sarah Palin be was because they were reaching out for that old electoral icon, the regular working Joe.  And, of course, it didn‘t matter that they hadn‘t vetted him, that his name wasn‘t Joe, and that he wasn‘t a plumber, they thought they could reach people just by throwing an image out there.

And what you‘re seeing here is that Joe—if that‘s his name—was never really a Republican.  He was really a libertarian.  And that this is the party that has just run out of every last tactic.  They‘ve run out of ideas and now they‘re out of strategy.

And Joe doesn‘t represent anything more than the end of a very long decline.

OLBERMANN:  We—I often quote my heroes Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding.  And they once made an observation before doing a satire of a man in a street interview, that why do we ask the man in the street—typical man in the street for an interview—why do we assume he knows—he could possibly know what he‘s talking about, or even that the odds are very good on a given topic?

And yet, here he is, the man in the street, if ever there was one, Wurzelbacher, says to keep him, the Republicans would have to quit overspending without cutting defense or Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid.  Does that illustrate how impossible a position the GOP has maneuvered itself into?  It has made—not only promises to people—but has made them believe that impossible promises can somehow become possible just by wishing.

WOLFFE:  Right.  And it‘s not just—look, Joe the Plumber was never the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the party, but he is, on this libertarian wing, representative of, frankly, the teabaggers.  And again, we try to avoid the puns here, but he represents this idea that you can have your cake and eat it.  You can actually be a limited government party but also intervene in just about everything—whether it‘s in every possible war zone around the world, that‘s where you need such huge national defense spending or when it comes to sort of social conservativism that Sarah Palin represents.

You cannot do both.  You cannot be a libertarian and also interfere in every part of the world and every part of people‘s lives.  And that intellectual incoherence is represented seminal figure of Joe the Plumber.

OLBERMANN:  And now, he‘s replaced by somebody from the past, one assumes, Newt Gingrich representing the Republican viewpoint at the White House today and being very malleable in what he had to say about the Obama administration.  But does that demonstrate the other huge problem for the GOP right now—there isn‘t somebody to turn to, to even replace a plumber?

WOLFFE:  Well, Newt‘s positioning is interesting here.  He, first of all, shows a soft underbelly.  He does the education thing.  He‘s been saying nice things about health care.  And, of course, then he also goes out on FOX News and says that, you know, the president isn‘t tough enough to take on the Somali pirates.

He‘s obviously positioning himself for a presidential run.  I just wonder what the situation was in the FOX News headquarters.  I‘m sure there were a couple of kittens who got trouble (ph) today.  He was with Al Sharpton after all.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s another one.

One would have to be about 175 years old to have a distinct memory of a national political party in this country actually disintegrating, actually moving from part of the two-party system to outside of it.  Yet, the “Time” magazine from which Wurzelbacher news comes is titled, “Republicans in the Wilderness: Is the Party Over?”  And it began with the use of the term, “The aura of endangered species.”

Is it that bad?  I mean, could the presidential challenger of 2012 or 2016 not be a Republican?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think if the economy continues as it is, if it‘s stumbling along, then you‘re in a situation where an independent character does come in, maybe without a traditional party line.  But let‘s not write them off too quickly here.  Republicans will come back, and Democrats are going to have to be ready for that.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe—as always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the perils of Palin in Alaska, let goes to Anchorage and joining us there, a political commentator, contributor to “The Huffington Post,” Shannyn Moore.

Good evening to you, Shannyn.

SHANNYN MOORE, HUFFINGTON POST:  It‘s nice to be here, Keith.  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  The more the lower 48 got to know Sarah Palin last year, the more they grew to dislike her.  Now, the popularity number is plunging even among Alaskans.  Why is it happening there and why is it happening now?

MOORE:  I think it‘s happening, basically, because Sarah Palin went on tour.  She stopped being the governor—through any other means than her BlackBerry during the election, and she threw a lot of her allies under the straight talk express bus.  And then, when she came back to Alaska after the election, it was though she stayed on tour like some sort of 1980s band that really should have stayed home and wasn‘t exactly selling out bars anymore.

And she‘s continued and continued to ignore the needs of Alaskans.  We have huge issues here that have been ignored and put on the backburner for her political agenda.

I also think the tabloid sort of politics that have been surrounding her and encouraged by her and her own staff, whether it be Sarah PAC or the governor‘s office reacting to, you know, the teenage drama that‘s going on has really just sort of put a sour taste in the mouth of Alaskans when it comes to our own needs being ignored.

OLBERMANN:  And energy, how could the same governor who campaigned for the vice presidency with that slogan, “Drill, baby, drill,” allow high energy cost in her own state and then allow them to continue to such a degree that they would bring down her popularity, independent of what had happened in that campaign last year?

MOORE:  Well, we have the highest energy cost in the country.  It‘s not even a secret.  It‘s not even close.

And so, you look at like rural Alaska right now—one of her own political allies, a representative—a Republican representative in Juneau said that rural Alaska for their energy problems should probably start cutting down trees.  Well, there are places in the state that say, “This is the farthest west tree, please don‘t cut down,” or on Alaska National Forest and its three trees.

There are people that are spending thousands, I‘m talking $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 to heat their homes in rural Alaska and they haven‘t gotten relief from her.  And now, she‘s looking at the $28.6 million in stimulus funds for energy.  This is for weatherization.  No other governor is turning this money down except for Sarah Palin.  Go figure.

OLBERMANN:  And, you know, is this crisis that she‘s sort of gotten herself into apparent to her?  Or is it—does she just put on the Internet and listen to the “Boss Limbaugh show” because she‘s got that endorsement—does that make it all good for her?

MOORE:  I think Boss Limbaugh is actually in a great position to support Sarah Palin.  I think he is in a better position than anyone I know.  He lives in a state where it‘s 80 degrees, and he has a contract for $400 million.  You know, he has absolutely no clue what the needs of Alaskans are, and I often wonder if she does as well.

And I think she is listening to her own press far too much and she‘s sort of kept this bubble around her of loyalists that I think aren‘t telling her how we‘re really feeling.  But I know that this poll with Alaskans going from, you know, 12 people in a bar of 100 people to 42 people in a bar of 100 that don‘t want to buy her a drink, I think that this is actually maybe going to—she has until the 12th of this month to accept the stimulus money.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we‘ll see what happens then.

Shannyn Moore, a political commentator, contributor to “Huffington Post”—thanks for your time, Shannyn.

MOORE:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One thing can be said with a compliment earnestly intended.  Sarah Palin has never shirked the risks of becoming a mother.  Today, apparently, she‘s joined in that category by baseball superstar Manny Ramirez.  Which drug he was taking, which performance-enhancing drug he tested positive for, which drug just got him suspended for 50 days is almost as startling as is baseball‘s first-ever midseason suspension of a star juicer.

As that investigation continues, so do threats about investigations about things like rendition.  Threats made today by Republicans about the Clinton administration.  Republicans so desperate they now seem to be trying to claim Mr. Bush‘s violations of American and international law were somehow rooted in pre-9/11 thinking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Republicans finally turn to blackmail to try to keep the White House of investigation Bush torture by threatening to investigate Clinton rendition.  We can do both?  Cool.  Thanks for the suggestion.

What‘s crazier than southerners suggesting secession?  How about with which performance-enhancing drug a baseball superstar got himself suspended 50 games for using?  Hint, it might also have been used by the Octomom.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  The former Vice President Dick Cheney‘s goal in defending the lawyers who authorized torture was to mobilize Republicans to warn Democrats against investigating how he, Cheney, got those lawyers to authorize that torture, then mission accomplished.

Our fourth story tonight: Republicans ratchet up the stakes.  At a hearing today, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked about renditions—

U.S. transfer of terror suspects to third countries, renditions that occurred in the Clinton administration.  The threat was unmistakable.  If Holder goes after Bush lawyers who OK‘ed torture, let alone top Bush officials such as—Cheney, then Republicans will go after Democrats whom they say knew about torture, and also, they‘ll go after Holder himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, ® TENNESSEE:  We‘re going to ask lawyers who are asked to give legal opinions, we‘re going to investigate them, jeopardize their career, second-guess them, look back—then, where does that stop?  I mean, do we—do we not also have to look at the people who asked for those techniques, at people who approved those techniques, at members of Congress who knew about and encouraged the techniques perhaps?  Or, in your case, in the Clinton administration, we don‘t know what the interrogations were then.  Perhaps, you do and the question would be whether you approve them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Alexander‘s threat, however, came just one day after an interview appeared in which Mr. Cheney claims he opposes torture investigations because he wants to protect the little guy.  In this case, top lawyers in the U.S. Justice Department.  One of those lawyers, now Judge Jay Bybee, having already gotten Bush officials to plead his case within the Obama Justice Department is now reportedly lobbying individual members of Congress himself.

“The Las Vegas Sun” quoting Bybee‘s congresswoman, Democrat Dina Titus, saying she and Bybee have not yet met but, quote, “I‘d like to hear from him if he thinks he made the right decision interpreting the law, but I also will not hesitate to make it clear to him that I absolutely disagree with his interpretation.

It remains unclear why Mr. Cheney or any top Bush officials would want to protect rather than punish people who we are supposed to believe misled the Bush administration into violating international treaty and U.S. law, damaging America‘s reputation and fueling anti-American terrorism around the world—unless, of course, Bush and Cheney told them to.  Especially considering that when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke and Mr. Cheney had the chance to defend the little guys who implemented his policies there, like Lynndie England, who did a year and a half in prison, and Charles Graner, still in prison—Mr. Cheney instead the little guys there had done outrageous things, and that he, Cheney, did not know of any other abuse outside Abu Ghraib—despite the fact that he had secretly signed off on waterboarding two years earlier.

Joining us now is Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Brandon Friedman, now author of “The War I Always Wanted,” and vice chair of VoteVets.org.

Great thanks for your time tonight, Brandon.

BRANDON FRIEDMAN, AUTHOR, “THE WAR I ALWAYS WANTED”:  Thanks for having me on, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  How do you think—how have you been able to assess how service members and vets feel about Mr. Cheney‘s current crusade to protect the little guy?

FRIEDMAN:  Well, when Dick Cheney came out the other day and he said that he was looking out for the little guy, he conveniently left out the military and the troops.  He covered for CIA officers.  He talked about covering for the lawyers.  But he left out the troops.

So, what has essentially happened is you have the troops now who have been left holding the bag for torture enthusiasts like Mr. Cheney himself.  At this point, the only people who have been prosecuted, the only people who have been fully vilified are troops.  And frankly, to me, that‘s not fair.  And I think that‘s how most people in the military view it too.

OLBERMANN:  Strategically, what do you see is the former vice president‘s ultimately goal in protecting whoever it is he considers to be the little guy, if it‘s not the people who were taking the orders at the ground level?

FRIEDMAN:  Well, he‘s not concerned for the quote-unquote, “little guy,” if that‘s how he wants to refer to the military.  I think—it‘s very clear to me that Mr. Cheney‘s looking out for himself.  He‘s looking to cover for people like defense secretary—former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and anybody else whose paths will lead directly to him.  Because, at the end of the day, Dick Cheney knows that the buck stops with him, and he knows that these are policies that were engineered by the Bush administration.  And he knows that he bears responsibility for that, as do the people who surround him.

OLBERMANN:  If Senator Alexander proves right, that the Obama administration has to choose between investigating nobody or investigating everybody, including Clinton officials on the subject of renditions, what should happen then?

FRIEDMAN:  Well, look, Keith—we‘re a nation of laws.  So, everything has to remain on the table.  But in my view, I‘m not so much concerned with going after people in the military, people who were working at the CIA level, that‘s—those are people who were doing their duty, who were, I presume, carrying out policies that they thought were lawful.  What I‘m more concerned with is in going after the people who came up with these ideas.

I mean, what I don‘t understand is who, in the Bush administration decided all of a sudden that it was OK to waterboard people?  That it was OK to sacrifice our values as Americans?  Because that‘s not how we treat prisoners of war.  It‘s not what we did in “Desert Storm.”  It‘s not what we should have done in this war.

What I want to know is, when would that be OK, who decided that was OK, and who wanted to give the order to tell the CIA or to tell the military to carry out these things?  Those are the people that I want to go after and that I would like to see dealt with, because they bear the responsibility, and we need to hold them accountable.

Because—here‘s the thing: at bottom, the terrorists are not using -

they‘re not using rendition, what Senator Alexander was talking about, with Attorney General Holder.  They‘re not using rendition for propaganda.  What they‘re using for propaganda is Guantanamo Bay and waterboarding.

               

So, I want to find out the people who are responsible for that, because that has put our troops in danger.  And that‘s my priority and that‘s the perspective—that‘s my perspective from where I‘m coming from.  I want to see people held accountable for that.

OLBERMANN:  Brandon Friedman of VoteVets.org, contributor to “The Huffington Post”—as always, sir, great thanks.

FRIEDMAN:  Thanks for having me on.

OLBERMANN:  So they started irradiating food and you said, “Don‘t worry.  Everything will be fine.”  Look—look at what you‘ve done.  And that popcorn thing, that‘s a medium.

You know why they call television a medium, right?  Because it is neither rare nor well done.  Sean Hannity reminds us as he complains about the president putting mustard on his hamburger—seriously.  Worst Persons is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and Molly the Cow had set her mind—on escape.

First, this is May 7th, thus 15 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for military families charity, thus 14 days since I offered to donate $1,000 per second that he lasted, thus 13 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise.

Let‘s play Oddball.

This is London, where “One large popcorn, please,” does not mean what

it used to.  Behold, the planet‘s biggest box of popcorn, 20 feet high,

nine feet wide, suspended from a crane near Tower Bridge, which collapsed

into the—no.  Now, if there was only a way to access the kernels inside

hmm, delicious and dangerous.  That ought to get you through Wolverine.

               

Actually, this was a promotional stunt, surprisingly, and these folks are looking for prizes.  He‘s oh, no, he‘s all right.  All in all, it was a success.

But same could not be said for the competing event involving the giant container of hot butter.  Services will be Saturday.  We made that up.

New York City, hello, where every dog has its birthday—and this little lady is no different.  Meet Chanel.  The (INAUDIBLE) dachshund is 21 or 147 in human years, especially making her the world‘s oldest pooch.  Chanel credits her longevity to a diet of boiled chicken, she wears sunglasses to help her cataracts.  She celebrated her big day with a cake and a photo-op.  The party continued well into the night after Chanel drank 21 flaming shots out of her owner‘s toilet bowl.

So, secede from the union, you say?  You‘re in favor of it?  Did anybody mention to you that it was treason?

And Manny Ramirez, the first baseball star suspended in midseason for using performance-enhancing drugs.  In this case, reportedly, it was—no, you won‘t believe me even when I tell you what it was.  These stories ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Number three: Best confession.  FOX out-of-business network news model Jenna Lee admitting to a Wall Street web site, quote, “Ii love anchoring an international market show that‘s really hard news and a little bit of fun because I know how it feels to feel completely clueless listening and reading business news.”  As do your viewers.  Viewer.

Number two: Best erroneous celebration.  Ron Gordon, teacher in Redwood City, California, and chief promoter of the fact that today is “Odd Day” -5-7-09, only one of six dates this century that will feature three consecutive odd numbers, he says.  Except, of course, it doesn‘t.  The numbers are five, seven, zero and nine.  Zero is not an odd number.  So you look at it the other way.  It‘s 05, 07, 09, that‘s even worse. 

The first odd day with three consecutive odd numbers is January 3rd, 2050, one, three, five, zero. 

But our winner, best escape, Molly the Cow.  The sad truth awaited her yesterday as she was being led to the pen at the Moosa Hallal (ph) slaughter house in Jamaica Queens, New York.  And then opportunity arose.  She busted through a door evidently, and onto 109th Avenue. 

Molly had escaped.  She avoided traffic, police, employees at the meet company.  She even knocked down a fence and went and hid in somebody‘s backyard.  Finally, she was shot with a tranquilizer gun and turned over to the ASPCA. She will live the rest of her life at an animal sanctuary on Long Island. 

To steal a few lines from the New York newspaper, “News Day,” not to milk there story, but on any other day this would not have had an ending that was so moving. 

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OLBERMANN:  It is a free country.  And so leaving it is, by definition, always an option.  Nobody is stopping you.  Just go, two borders, no waiting.  But declaring that your state is no longer part of this country is obviously radical, historically apocalyptic, not to mention treasonous. 

So in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, when a measurable minority of Republicans and southerners either supports secession or don‘t disapprove of the idea, it gets our attention.  The sentiment has been brewing just enough that a poll has been conducted: “would you approve or disapprove of the state that you live in leaving the United States?” 

In the northeast, Midwest and West, the Research 2000 poll found that one of three, or one to three percent of the respondents would approve; 87 to 94 percent of those polled in those areas would disapprove.  In the south, eight percent would approve; 29 percent unsure.  Leaving less than two-thirds, 63 percent, who disapprove of the idea. 

When responses are broken down by party affiliation, Republicans generally gibe with southerners.  Nine percent of Republicans approve; 28 percent of Republicans are unsure.  And on a similar question, 12 percent of Republicans favor their state being an independent nation; 26 percent unsure. 

Honing the results still further, 35 percent of Texans, 48 percent of Texas Republicans would prefer to be an independent nation; 27 percent of Georgians, and 43 percent of Georgia Republicans say they want independence.  And it‘s not just idle thinking.  For the last month, the Georgia Senate, South Dakota House, and the Oklahoma legislature passed sovereignty resolutions.  The Georgia bill stating that further infringement on the right to bear arms would result in all powers of the union reverting to all the individual states. 

Have a nice time out there on your own, Georgia. 

Let‘s turn to the Washington editor of “The Nation,” Chris Hayes. 

Good evening. 

CHRIS HAYES, “THE NATION”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I know we‘ve talked about the Republicans not having any new ideas.  But secession, treason and civil war, do they not remember how poorly that went last time?  Or do they treat American history like science and you can opt out if you don‘t believe it? 

HAYES:  Well, it is a fascinating feature of contemporary conservatism that it keeps kind of hopping back in time to try to find, quote/unquote, new ideas.  So, you know, we‘ve seen it go back through McCarthyism and back to New Deal, Liberty League, Andrew Mellon kind of thinking and kind of captains of industry industrial revolution conservatism of the 1890s.

Now we‘re all way back to the 1840s in antebellum South Carolina, where John C. Calhoun is essentially propagating this notion of nullification, that the states essentially can take leave of federal laws they don‘t like.  That was the ideology that essentially created the sort of legal architecture and framework for the Civil War. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, to say nothing of the idea that if they go back far enough, the Republicans will go back to the original idea, which is we need another party to replace the Whigs, after they went out of business.  No other reason than to oppose the Democrats, which is initially what the Whigs were succeeded by the Republicans for. 

If we could break this down to after about 100 days of not getting its way, this segment wants out.  Where‘s the love of country?  Where‘s the country first slogan that they were talking about last year?  I mean, they want their own country first? 

HAYES:  Well, yes.  I mean, it‘s ironic because there was so much venom, you know, spewed by the right at progressives, people on the left, liberal, even people who weren‘t particularly identified that way politically, who were frustrated, angry, upset at the direction of the company.  There was so much venom about anti-patriotic sentiment, that they don‘t love the country, et cetera. 

In defense of the people answering yes to this poll, I think a lot of the yes answer is essentially a kind of sublimated proxy response to frustration, anger at the federal government.  And that—in some senses, that is what it is. 

What‘s so fascinating is the regional focus of it.  That to me is so interesting.  It is not necessarily that, OK, when push came to shove, 30 percent of Georgians really would support actual secession.  It‘s a poll.  But the fact that these kind of sentiments are focused so much in certain areas of the country, and just so widely not even on the radar in other sections of the country, that to me, is what is really interesting about this data. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there also a certain irony to the party that stayed in power for at least six of the last—completed eight years on the, you know, don‘t let the terrorists win, they want to destroy our country.  Now a measurable group, at least sentimentally, would be happy to destroy the country? 

HAYES:  Yes, it‘s a weird—it‘s a bit of a weird position to take. 

And the other thing is that, look, you just said, it‘s been 100 days.  There is part of me that wants to be like, guys, suck it up.  I mean, it‘s like, you know, like you had power for a very long time.  And I understand that, yes, it‘s frustrating to feel like you don‘t have control of the levers of government.  And, you know, people get frustrated about that.

But this is not—you know, it‘s only been a few months here.  We‘re already like up at the escalated level of sovereignty resolutions.  I think it is a little, little early for that level of venom. 

OLBERMANN:  Especially in South Dakota, which, if it went on its own, would be like an American Liechtenstein.  Chris Hayes of “The Nation,” which may have to rename the magazine in case this happens.  Maybe you want to get together and figure out a new name. 

HAYES:  Part of the Nation. 

OLBERMANN:  Three-quarters of the nation.  Thank you, Chris. 

HAYES:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  A Dodger friend told me in Spring Training, watch Manny screw it up; he got his money.  Manny Ramirez suspended for 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs.  In his case, it was—no, no, you got to listen to this. 

No segue necessary for worsts, as Harold Hill goes nuts again, this time because a spokesman for Acorn played him on his own show like a three-dollar banjo. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, did you know another Arabic translator is about to get kicked out of the National Guard under Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell, and also under President Obama?  She will interview our loss coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Barry Bonds scandal, the Roger Clemens scandal, the Mark McGwire scandal, the Alex Rodriguez scandal.  And now the Manny Ramirez scandal.  For the first time, a baseball superstar suspended in season for using performance enhancing drugs.

That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worsts persons in the world. 

The bronze to Sean Hannity, opened his show by saying “in 1765, parliament passed the Stamp Act, provoking outrage among the American colonists.  Now the leaders of a tax uprising were the Sons of Liberty, who met in August of 1765 under an old Elm Tree in Boston to air their grievances against the tyrannical King George.” 

He then proceeded to read a long rant somebody wrote for him about how it is time to for a new Liberty Tree.  And so he put one up and then described all the apples that had fallen from it during the Obama administration.  Then last night, by the way, he complained about an Obama hamburger condiment choice.  “By the way, who eats a cheeseburger with Dijon mustard?  What a guy.”

First, wow, exotic, mustard on a hamburger.  Only terrorists do that.  Second, as you said, the Liberty Tree was an elm.  No wonder the apples fell off.  Third, what, you want your crazy viewers to air their grievances against, uh, the King of England, because otherwise you are tip-toeing around treason, again. 

Fourth, when are you going to answer the question about the charity water boarding. 

Our runner-up, Bill-O the clown, reading the talking points again. 

Now he just repeats what Bill Hemmer reads in the morning, for God‘s sake.  “New hate crime legislation could possibly say yes to protecting pedophiles but no to protecting military people.”

Except it does not allow for any possibly of protecting pedophiles.  There is already law on the books defining victims of hate crimes for sexual orientation as those who, quote—practice, quote, consensual homosexuality or heterosexuality. 

The non-protection of military people?  That is part of a bogus amendment offered to the legislation by the bogus Iowa Congressman Steve King, which presumes that veterans are frequently victims of hate crimes.  The only thing ever resembling that recently was when O‘Reilly denied there were 300,000 homeless veterans.

But our winner, Harold Hill—I‘m sorry, Glenn Beck.  Haven fallen behind on his reading of GOP talking points, he only got around to repeating this lie yesterday, that “Acorn or groups like them” were included in the stimulus package.  Thus “we have guaranteed them billions dollars to buy more votes for the party that helps them the most.” 

Beck then had on an Acorn spokesperson named Scott Levinson.  Levinson, frankly, beat the crap out of Beck, to the point where Beck barked, “shut his mike off.”  Then the consensus number one pick in your fantasy, which conservative gets institutionalized first league, did something despicable by his own standards. 

After the interview ended, after the subsequent commercial break, he came back on and said, “I was standing here and he gets up and I said, you, sir, and your organization are bad for America.  And he said, you‘re just afraid of black people.  I threw him out of the studio.  Get the hell out of my studio.  He does that, closes the studio door after I kick him out of the studio.  And he actually has the nerve to ask one of my producers out on a date saying, quote, doll, you‘re pretty hot.” 

This is the freedom of speech Glenn Beck wears like a personal flag.  Freedom of speech for him.  For the people he lies about, smears, misquotes, cries over, threatens, makes up quotes from, no free speech for them.  They are free to hear him talk about them after the break. 

Glenn Beck, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  “You have no idea,” a Boston Red Sox friend texted me last July, after his team traded Manny Ramirez to the L.A. Dodgers.  You haven‘t heard half the stories.  Ones you have are only half the truth. 

Our number one story, Manny being Manny, now complete with an asterisk for the use of performance enhancing drugs, suspended by baseball until July.  Perhaps the greatest natural hitter in modern baseball had been the subject of the widest range of rumors and accusations in modern baseball, from literally not trying, to inattentiveness, to faking injury, to forcing his trade from Boston, then trying to un-do it after fact. 

Just a month ago, the dark prince of conscience in the steroid game, Jose Canseco, completed the list.  Asked if he thought Ramirez was on the list of 104 players who had tested positive for steroid use in 2003, Canseco answered, most likely, 90 percent.

Today, with his team unbeaten at home for the first month of the season, with the best record in the game, Ramirez was suspended for 50 games without pay for use of performance enhancing drugs.  His excuse, “recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue.  He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me.  Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy.  Under that policy, that mistake is now my responsibility.  I‘ve been advised not to say anything more for now.  I do want to say, I‘ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.”

Well, that streak‘s over.  The personal health issue, ESPN and the Associated Press report that Ramirez was busted for taking a drug called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, or HCG, a women‘s fertility drug.  Manny Octo-Mom Ramirez. 

Quoting the ESPN report, the drug is typically used by steroid users to restart their body‘s natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle.  It is similar to Clomid, the drug Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and others used as clients of Balco. 

About an hour ago Joe Torre, the Dodgers manager, faced the L.A. media for the first time in the wake of the Ramirez suspension.  He was asked if he felt betrayed. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE TORRE, DODGERS‘ MANAGER:  To me, betrayed is something that I don‘t think you can ever forgive or anything like that.  And I never want to get to a position—as I said, I‘m certainly not proud of everything that‘s gone on in my life.  And if it wasn‘t for people that welcomed me back, I‘m not sure how you make it through. 

You know, we‘re human.  And it‘s an easy way just to say cover everything, you‘re human.  But the fact of the matter is when you are in this line of business, you have to be much more aware of the fact that maybe you‘re not allowed to be human. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Not two months ago, in Spring Training, a friend with the Dodgers and I watched Ramirez languidly stretching in the outfield.  “Look at him wincing,” my friend said.  “I‘d be concerned, but he told me now that he signed, now that he got his timing in the batting cage—since he Hated Spring training so much, he figured he would pull a hamstring so he could get a few days off.  He actually told me that.  Look at him.  He‘s practicing looking hurt.  Looks like a great team.  Watch Manny screw it up.  He got his money.” 

Now he will be giving back at least 7.5 million dollars of that money.  I‘m joined by Richard Justice, sports columnist for the “Houston Chronicle” and unfortunately our expert on this topic we so frequently revisit.  Richard, good evening. 

RICHARD JUSTICE, “HOUSTON CHRONICLE”:  Good evening.  This is a good one, isn‘t it? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, our choices are baseball‘s most bizarre star, maybe its greatest natural hitter of our time, is either a juicer or he‘s trying to get the job on “Nightline” as the second man to become pregnant. 

JUSTICE:  Or maybe he knows a great Hollywood story.  He may have nine screenplays in his locker right now.  Manny leads Dodgers while with child to World Series.  Think of that one. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s laughing to avoid crying. 

JUSTICE:  Yes.  Look, Keith, here‘s the thing.  Baseball has decided we‘re not going let these guys get away with their lies.  Alex Rodriguez said hey, I was young and dumb.  I took this one thing.  Well, he tested positive for two substances.  Baseball made it clear.

Same thing with Manny.  Manny you didn‘t just blindly take a prescription a doctor gave you.  The truth is you took a substance that indicates a regiment of steroid use. 

OLBERMANN:  Which way do you see this, Richard?  The testing system works and it just caught a big fish?  Or the testing system is not enough to keep the big fish from trying to get away with it? 

JUSTICE:  From the beginning, from 2002, when the testing started, baseball people would tell you, guys are still going to test positive, because there‘s still a certain amount of institutional arrogance.  An agent, a friend, a doctor will convince them, hey, this is the perfect substance; it is undetectable; you‘re OK.  Try this.  It will be the magic possession.  And then they get caught. 

OLBERMANN:  Baseball survived McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Clemens, the book about Alex Rodriguez, which reads like some, I don‘t know, medieval nightmare story, or Stephen King novel.  It‘s not selling.  The Yankee fans seem perfectly willing to take Rodriguez back as early as tomorrow.  Now Manny Ramirez—is there—I know we talk about this every time.  Is there a tipping point somewhere, or do the fans just not care about this? 

JUSTICE:  You know, I guess they just don‘t care.  They‘re going to go.  They‘re going to know.  They‘re going to think in their minds, probably, they‘re all dirty.  Remember though, Keith, you and I lived through, between 1975 and 2002, owners and players tried to kill the game every three to five years.  I mean, they did terrible things.  They simply didn‘t care about the fans.  And the fans came back. 

I think that‘s the way they look at it now.  The fans will always be there.  You know, in defense of baseball, this testing program does seem to be working.  But what you have is certain guys just don‘t want to play by the rules. 

OLBERMANN:  This is—this one is different and new for one reason, if no other.  It is in the middle of the season.  One of the most cogent observations I‘ve seen today comes not from you or me or an executive or a fan, but another player.  Mark Teehan of the Royals said, “I don‘t know when the test was taken or anything, but it definitely casts a cloud over the Dodgers start and Ramirez‘s career.” 

This is happening in real time, as it were, for the first time.  Everything else is off season.  Are we feeling for the first time how a whole team takes a credibility hit, not just one player on it, when a positive test like this comes back? 

JUSTICE:  Absolutely.  I was at Dodger Stadium Tuesday night and what you‘re struck by, it‘s the perfect team, this blend of veterans, young kids, a great manager, Joe Torre.  Off to the best start in history at home.  And now this, like a mushroom cloud now hangs over.  It will be hanging over the clubhouse.  It will be hanging over every game. 

They have to live with it.  Then there‘s the whole story, the distraction of Manny coming back.  It‘s awful for what had been a feel-good story, now has this over it. 

OLBERMANN:  But, the—I think what Teehan is referring to is specifically outcomes on the field, which is a point we‘ve discussed before.  We‘re not just talking about a player doing well by cheating, but we‘re talking about the team he plays for doing well by cheating, by at least his measure, and who knows if there were any other contributors to it.  Does this raise the question of whether or not a team should be, in some way, punished—I mean, you would have to look at the Dodgers‘ extraordinary finish last year, when Ramirez joined them at the end of July, and say, was that valid?  Is there some way—should there be an asterisk on not Manny Ramirez, but the Dodgers and would that change the game‘s reaction to this stuff, if something like that took place. 

JUSTICE:  That‘s the logical conclusion to all of this.  You know, during—you have talked to players and they say, hey, I gave a home run to a guy that I know he was doing it.  I was facing a pitcher that had been throwing 89 two years ago, now throwing 95.  The logical conclusion is all the races were impacted. 

Look at who won the 2002 national league pennant, the San Francisco Giants.  And so it played a role.  That‘s right.  And as we‘re going to look at the leader boards, the record books and all that—you know, I know you love the baseball reference book.  But, it just looks different now.  You‘re going to have to go through there and go, this doesn‘t count; this doesn‘t count. 

So it‘s the same with the teams.  As far as putting asterisks, that sort of thing, I don‘t think that‘s a road we want to go down, because we aren‘t going to get everybody. 

OLBERMANN:  Last point, we always wonder about this, tool is it ever going to make an impact on the other players?  Is anybody going to be scared straight? 

JUSTICE:  I think some players are.  I think younger players are.  But I think the superstars feel like the rules that the others play by don‘t apply to them.  And as many times as doctors and trainers tell them, do not put anything in your body that we don‘t approve of, they‘re going to be guys that think, hey, I can get away with it.  I mean, that‘s been true since this thing started. 

OLBERMANN:  Women‘s fertility drugs, for God‘s sake.  You don‘t need a doctor to tell you don‘t put a women‘s fertility drug.  It‘s just—it‘s and old Bill Cosby sketch. 

JUSTICE:  You want to say—when Manny comes back, you want him to say, Manny, would you explain that again to us. 

OLBERMANN:  Exactly, in a deeper voice.  Richard Justice of the “Houston Chronicle,” great thanks.  I‘m sure we‘ll unfortunately talk about this again. 

JUSTICE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,198th 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.

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