updated 5/19/2009 11:55:58 AM ET 2009-05-19T15:55:58

Guests: Dr. Patrick Whelan, Chris Cillizza

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

The speaker versus the spies: CIA Director Panetta writes, “Our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed.‘”

Senator Bond of Missouri says he‘s reviewed the records and agrees.

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SEN. KIT BOND, ® MISSOURI:  She has stepped up to beyond her ankles.  And the more she talks, the deeper in she goes.

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OLBERMANN:  So, the CIA briefs you, you can‘t take notes.  They take notes—you don‘t get to see them—but Senator Bond gets to see them and we can be confident that the Bush CIA did not lie in the notes.  Who is in it up to beyond their ankles?

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ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I appreciate the invitation to get involved in here but I‘m not going to RSVP.

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OLBERMANN:  You are cordially invited to shut up, Dick.  New polling: 57 percent of Republicans saying the former vice president is hurting the party.  One comment: “The best thing he could do is disappear for the next 10 years.”

Intolerance at Notre Dame: 74 Catholic bishops criticize the invitation by the university to have the president give the commencement speech on Sunday.  I‘m assuming you, guys, also protests to Ara Parseghian, the Presbyterian football coach who won two championships at this school in ‘66 and ‘73.

And what the .

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GOV. RICK PERRY, ® TEXAS:  There‘s no reason at all for us to be even talking about seceding.  But, if Washington continues to force these programs on the states, if Washington continues to disregard the Tenth Amendment, you know, who knows what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The governor of Texas again refuses to renounce secession.  So, we‘ll answer his question.  What happens if we let Texas go?  From losing NASA and maybe the NFL, to getting 24 more Electoral College votes to blue states, to that day a decade from now when the demographic majority starts agitating for the “Texas Republic” to rejoin—

Mexico?

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

One question that has not been asked to former Vice President Cheney on his seemingly endless “anything but true confessions” tour: Did you use torture in hopes of producing false evidence justifying the invasion of Iraq?  The answer to that question is now having been reached without Mr.  Cheney‘s help.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: More evidence today that the Bush administration did exactly that—and coincidentally more evidence today of a Republican effort to distract from that and make Nancy Pelosi the story instead.  The speaker of the House is still drawing fire for daring to have alleged that the CIA misled her and other lawmakers about the use of waterboarding in a briefing she received in the fall of 2002.

And instead, the real news here is, documents show the interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Muhammad in March 2003 centered on the question of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda—one that did not exist.  Page 353 of the intelligence committee‘s July 2004 report, on intelligence during the pre-war period reading, quote, “CTC—that‘s Counterterrorist Center—noted that the questions regarding al Qaeda‘s ties to the Iraqi regime were among the first presented to senior al Qaeda operational planner Khalid Shaikh Muhammad following his capture.”

Earlier, the report noting that Khalid Shaikh Muhammad was, quote, “unaware of any collaborative relationship between al Qaeda and the former Iraqi regime”—despite the fact we waterboarded him 183 times that month.

The head of the CIA is now defending that agency against Speaker Pelosi‘s claims that it lied to Congress about the use of waterboarding in 2002 on another al Qaeda suspect, Abu Zubaydah.  In a memo to CIA‘s employees today, Director Leon Panetta writing, quote, “Our contemporaneous records from September 2002 -- September 2002 -- indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing the enhanced techniques that had been employed.  Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidenced and reach its won conclusions about what happened.”

Would those be the same contemporaneous records that former Senator Bob Graham cited yesterday?  The ones in which the CIA claimed to have briefed that Florida Democrat four separate times in 2002, when on three of those dates in question, it had not met with Mr. Graham at all?  The kind of record-keeping that would make the CIA about as trustworthy as Republican Senator Kit Bond‘s endorsement of the agency does?

This morning, before trashing Speaker Pelosi, Senator Bond claiming that CIA spies might lie to the rest of the world, but never, never to members of Congress.

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BOND:  I‘ve been dealing with the CIA for a number of years.  They don‘t lie to members of Congress.  I believe they know that if they did, we‘d cut their budget and get them fired.  They may lie in other places around the world, but they know we hold the purse strings.

And now, to have the speaker of the House calling them liars straight out really ruins the spirit and puts all of the members of the intelligence community in a risk-averse position.  We can‘t afford that.  That‘s where we were prior to 9/11.  And we don‘t want to be in that position.

Unfortunately, she has stepped in it up to beyond her ankles.  And the more she talks, the deeper in she goes.

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OLBERMANN:  Minority Leader John Boehner also finding it hard to believe that intelligence professionals would ever lie to or about Congress, when in December of 2007, after the nation‘s intelligence community—CIA included—had concluded that the Iran nation had halted its nuclear weapons program, lying was pretty much all he could believe.

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REP. JOHN BOEHNER, ® HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  I‘ve dealt with our intelligence professionals for the last 3 ½ years on almost daily basis.  And it‘s hard for me to imagine that anyone in our intelligence area would ever mislead a member of Congress.

Either I don‘t have confidence in what they told me several months ago, or I don‘t have confidence in what they‘re telling me today.

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OLBERMANN:  Federal law requiring the executive branch to keep the Congress briefed on, quote, “significant anticipated intelligence activity that have major foreign policy implications.”  The Bush administration started to waterboard in August 2002; even by its own admission, not briefing Congress until September—which would be by itself is breaking the law.  To lie in those briefings would be breaking the law—not to mention torture itself qualifies as breaking the law.

Despite all of that, the Obama administration choosing to ignore the latest revelations.

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GIBBS:  I think you‘ve heard the president say this a number of times—the best thing that we can do is to look forward.  The president is spending his time on any number of issues, including keeping the American people safe, by looking forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, but it is a crime what the speaker alleged.

GIBBS:  You know, and .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s a serious allegation, one that would be -

would necessarily alarm the American public at a time of war, which the president, I know, as you‘ve told us, takes very seriously.

      

GIBBS:  He does, and, Major, I appreciate the invitation to get involved in here, but I‘m not going to RSVP.

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OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now—with special invitation engraved in fact—to our own political analyst Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

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

OLBERMANN:  The CIA‘s already being accused of lying to Congress, and we knew that based on the timeline that the administration, the Bush administration, failed to inform Congress about its torture before it started to torture—which by itself constitutes a violation of law, torture itself is a violation of law.  And yet, somehow this is still being discussed as some sort of referendum on Nancy Pelosi on whether she will survive?

WOLFFE:  Yes.  And, of course, this is all intentional.  This was a trap that was set many years ago, not just over the last few days and weeks.  Pelosi has obviously struggled to deal with the story and everything railed against her.

As this story emerged and it‘s been emerging for several years now, I spoke to senior Bush administration officials who said that they were trying to co-opt to the Democrats in Congress here.  They knew that these briefings were of limited use, there was no real recourse for members of Congress to come back in any meaningful way.

And so, what they were trying to do was to say, if they later emerged as public critics of these programs they would be able to say—the Bush administration would be able to say, “But we told you about it.  You knew.  Therefore, you were part of this whole operation.”  That was always the intention.  The trap was set and Nancy Pelosi has now found it closing all around her.

OLBERMANN:  But, it‘s predicated on a kind of math from Mr. Bond and Mr. Boehner.

I just want to make sure I understand that.  The intelligence community is lying to the rest of the world about, say, Iran having stopped its nuclear program, at least lying a year and a half ago, but it would never lie to Congress and it didn‘t lie to Congressman Boehner now, although it must have been lying to Congressman Boehner in 2007.  And it did not lie about when and whether it began torturing detainees.

I mean—is that, more or less, correct?  Or did I leave dids and did-nots out?

WOLFFE:  You left out a bit where the Bush administration blamed the CIA for getting all the intelligence wrong in Iraq.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  But yes, you basically got it right.

Look, the biggest thing here is, is that it‘s much easier in this town, in Washington, to play petty political games than to deal with the magnitude of what has now emerged.  And the magnitude is that people who were respected and even liked in this town engaged in illegal conduct—and the goal, as we‘ve now recently learned fully, was to justify the war in Iraq.  This wasn‘t just about torturing people because there was a ticking time bomb.  It was to justify an unjustifiable war.

The big questions are something this town has never been able to deal with because it poses very difficult questions about trust and the people who are respected in this town.  That‘s why you have Senator Bond or John Boehner saying, “Well, these people would never lie to me”—right up until the moment they realize they‘ve been lied to.

OLBERMANN:  But seriously, would—is there anybody who knows, even from a textbook, the history of this country and the history of the CIA, who could just uniformly say, OK, the statute of limitations on the first 40 years of CIA lying—going up through Iran-Contra, from the founding, from the change during the Second World War through Iran-Contra, the statute of limits on that is over?  And there‘s a chance again that a bunch of people who we pay to lie for a living, internationally—and if you bear it down to the essentials—there‘s no chance they would lie to us now.  They‘ve learned their lesson.

How is it that people say that with a straight face?  Do they believe it?  Does John Boehner believe that?

WOLFFE:  No, I don‘t think they do.  They‘re seeing political opportunism here and the chance to reset the clock, to ignore everything that happened in Iraq and debating it as if it was 9/12, I guess as Glenn Beck would say.

But here, what you really have is—the lesson is, if you don‘t deal with the problems of the past, if you don‘t deal with what the CIA used to do, how can you correct things moving forward?  That‘s exactly why we need to have an open investigation and commission into what happened in the name of freedom with regard to torture and the pursuit of al Qaeda.

OLBERMANN:  Why is this president still sort of pretending that this isn‘t happening?  And we can only look forward—we heard Robert Gibbs answer before.  Why are they avoiding it as well?

WOLFFE:  Politically, it‘s better for them to be above the fray.  They feel they‘ve taken a lot of heat already and set the ball rolling with the torture memos.  And they know that, in the end, this stuff is going to come out.  They don‘t want to be seen as pushing it along.

As long as it happens, there are many people inside the Obama administration who are happy to let that happen.  They don‘t want to take the leadership position, though.

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

Have a great weekend and a great leadership position.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the legalities of what‘s being alleged and what‘s already known to have happened, let‘s turn to George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley.

Jonathan, good evening.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The National Security Act, the Intelligence Authorization Act and the Federal Torture Act—how many different ways, conceivably, have the Bush administration and its intelligence arm broken the law in this case?

TURLEY:  Well, that‘s the baffling thing about all this, and the refusal to start a criminal investigation at the Department of Justice.  Most prosecutors would love a case like this.  There are so many laws that now have a very credible basis for believing that they were violated.  You have an army of witnesses that have come forward, giving details about the knowing use of torture, and about its use for things like the Iraq war justification.

These—if you take a look at the conditions that existed when we appointed a special counsel in the firing of U.S. attorneys, this dwarfs it by many, many times of magnitude.  We have so much more information now.

So, the refusal to start a criminal investigation is perfectly baffling.

OLBERMANN:  Tell me how I can get the law applied to what I do for a living that is applied to the CIA in terms of briefing.

It gives you a briefing, you can‘t take notes.  It can take notes, you can‘t see the notes.  If the notes are false representations, well, sorry, they‘re not false representations because that‘s the way we have them in the notes.

That‘s a heck of a system.

TURLEY:  Well, I think what the public is really seeing here is what many of us have been saying for years.  The oversight system in Washington has been a colossal joke for decades.  The intelligence committees in the Senate and House are viewed as captured—to use a common term—by the agencies that they regulate.

And there‘s very little oversight.  There‘s very little effort over these members—including, I think, Nancy Pelosi—to fully fulfill their obligations.

And on the other side, these agencies are used to not giving much information—but more importantly, these members don‘t often want the information.  I don‘t think Nancy Pelosi wanted to have a fight with the Bush administration over the treatment of detainees.

And so, this is a circumstance where everyone looks bad.  Which is why this commission idea is so troubling.  You‘re going to give the same people the job of investigating themselves.

Remember, the first substantive thing that the 9/11 Commission did after these people selected those commissioners was to say that they would not blame any individuals.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

TURLEY:  That‘s what a commission in Washington does.

OLBERMANN:  What was that movie, “The Parallax View,” that opens and closes with the same commission investigating the first assassination and the assassination that follows, the second assassination, and they read exactly the same statement.  And it‘s perfectly true.

TURLEY:  That‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Panetta said something that is absolutely fascinating.  After saying, “Oh, no, we have records saying that we briefed Nancy Pelosi and everybody else correctly,” he said, “Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.”

But if they lied either in the briefing or in the account of the briefing or the notes of the briefing, how could you ever prove that?

TURLEY:  Well, I do think that that is the operative point.

That—I think that Nancy Pelosi is legitimately subject to criticism, as are the other Democrats, like Jane Harman and others.  She basically has said that her job was to be notified, as if that‘s it.  The whole idea of notification is to act.  And whatever she was told, she admits that she was at least told in the future tense that they were thinking about using an act of torture.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

TURLEY:  If she‘d simply gone and googled waterboarding, she would have come up with 200 sites saying it‘s well-documented torture.  But, at the end of the day, this is not nearly as important of the fact that Speaker Pelosi and others have yet to call on the president to start a criminal investigation.  That‘s the main question here.

Congress can only harm any future prosecution by giving immunity, by leaking evidence.  What we need is for an independent and respected prosecutor to look at this and take it where the law may follow.  I would think that Dick Cheney would want that vindication.  Everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence.  Let‘s leave it in someone who is neutral and going to apply the law.

OLBERMANN:  Let me double back, finally—while we have you—to torture and waterboarding Khalid Shaikh Mohammed about 9/11 and ties between Iraq and al Qaeda, which is part of the story today.  We talked before about how the claim that torture works is irrelevant to the crime both domestically and international.

Is torture deliberately designed to elicit false information any worse legally than any other kind of torture?

(LAUGHTER)

TURLEY:  You know, that‘s what I think is the most troubling of this debate.  And Democrats and Republicans and a lot of reporters are participating in this and people around the world are totally nonplussed by the fact that we somehow believe that it‘s relevant whether our torture produced good results.

That‘s not the point.  It‘s a crime.  You know, otherwise, you know, you would say the sheriffs could beat suspects as long as they got some evidence from it.  It‘s a crime.  And the people who did such an act are criminals.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Turley of George Washington University—thank you, sir.  Have a good weekend and off-topic, thank you for your note, my friend.  I appreciate it.

TURLEY:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, there is Mr. Pro-torture.  And finally, some polling on the impact of Dick Cheney‘s finger-wagging amorality.  Fifty-seven percent think it‘s hurting the Republican Party.  That‘s 57 percent of key Republicans.

And then there is the prospect of the “Republic of Texas.”  What a wonderful, romantic notion secession is—voiced anew as it just has been by the governor of that state.  Practically speaking, of course, it‘s more like throwing the pin and holding on to the grenade.  What the .

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OLBERMANN:  When Republican leadership has heard enough from Dick Cheney, it may be time for him to give the platform back.

A previously tolerant Catholic University suddenly held hostage by religious fanatics offended that Barack Obama is giving the commencement—when they had no issue when George “war, torture, and capital punishment” Bush gave the commencement.

And tonight‘s WTF Moment: The governor of Texas again fantasizing about secession.  Do you know what that would do to the political balance in the rest of this country?  Can I help you pack, Governor?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  Fifty-seven percent of those polled say Dick Cheney is hurting the Republican Party and needs to hush.  Those polled: Republican insiders.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Your own people have had enough, Mr. Vice President.  If you can still hear me amid the echo of your voice—Mr. Vice President, hello?

The former vice president has, of course, placed himself in high rotation lately.  Not only are he and Mr. Limbaugh easily filling the mammoth GOP leadership vacuum, there appears to be no criticism of Cheney from prominent Republicans, but a poll of GOP insiders by “The National Journal” has evidently been liberating.  As Mr. Cheney left office, he has hurt the Republican Party, according to 57 percent of respondents.  Thirty-percent percent say, no, he‘s helped.

With the comments of those polled fleshing this out a little bit.  “He seems determined to vindicate his decisions and policies even if it damages the GOP‘s recovery.  And it has.”

“Cheney‘s represents the grumpy intolerance that has come to characterize the GOP.  Get off the stage.”  Another one, “There is nothing Dick Cheney can say or do to help the Republican Party today.  The best thing he can do is disappear for the next 10 years.”

And among those favoring Cheney speaking out, some degree of recognition that it still comes with a price.  “He is a target for Democrats but he helps motivate a base that is in a state of hibernation.”

Let‘s turn now to “Washington Post” White House reporter, author of its online political blog, “The Fix,” Chris Cillizza.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Your publication also looked at this recently, with the GOP strategists who are speaking unanimously and the quote was, “While Cheney is entirely unhelpful, no one has the standing to show him the door.”

Is that—is that where the entire party stands right now?  Is it stuck?

CILLIZZA:  In some ways, it is, Keith.  You know, what I was struck by in that story, it‘s a great story by my colleague, Dan Balz, none of the Republicans who criticized Dick Cheney and none of the people in that “National Journal” poll you quoted, spoke on the record—which is sort of remarkable that he still carries a significant weight that people are concerned.

He is not going to come back and be president or vice president.  He‘s made that very clear.  But people are still—within the party—are still worried enough, concerned enough about offending him that they‘re not speaking for the record.  I mean, I think that shows you the weight that he still carries.

OLBERMANN:  Is it something to do with the vacuum around him, that there there‘s no background, there‘s just him and a blank screen behind him?  Because he was, after all, at about a 13 percent approval rating.  He‘s no longer in office, and other than if he wants to go back in Congress, there isn‘t one he can get.

Where is the—how is he generating this much fear?  Is it just that there‘s nowhere else to hide in the event of a lightning strike?

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA:  I only laugh, Keith, because I was on TV last night when lightning almost struck me.  So, I‘m a little worried about that.

OLBERMANN:  Sorry.

CILLIZZA:  But, look, I think that—I think that one issue with Dick Cheney is his willingness to go out there, is that there aren‘t that many people willing to go out there and directly criticize Barack Obama‘s policies.

People with an eye on 2012, Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty

most of them are in the background at the moment.  They‘ll pop up here and there and offer a criticism maybe of the economic policy, maybe of the foreign policy, but it‘s not a sustained critic like you‘re seeing from Dick Cheney.  So, part of it is just—he‘s willing to put himself out there and do it.

      

OLBERMANN:  Well, they never did groom anybody during that administration to succeed them in power.  So, it‘s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I guess.

But if we take Mr. Cheney at his word here that he‘s speaking out as a matter of principle, as a matter of his principle—when does he begin to scale it back so the rest of the party can get into that room?  Or is the answer never because the real motives are actually much more tied up in self-interest?

CILLIZZA:  Well, I think we will find out what his true motives are over the next six months to a year there.  There is no political calculus that says Dick Cheney should continue to stay out here and be the most visible figure in the party.  He is among the least popular, if not the least popular figure in the party.  And the idea that people want to revisit and re-litigate the Bush years is totally false from a political perspective.

So, if he is truly a team player and a party player, he will move and recede into the background and let other people step forward.  Now, the Republican Party is going to have to push maybe a few people forward here if Dick Cheney doesn‘t want to get off the stage.  But this—it‘s a critical moment—the next six to 12 months, I think, will tell us a lot about: Is he a team player or is he really about protecting the Dick Cheney/George W. Bush legacy?

OLBERMANN:  Well, that‘s the whole context on all of our sides, right?  The Democrats, the Republicans, the media—are we all missing the larger point here?  People are trying to analyze his actions in context, particularly in context of the Republican Party.

But is this not outside of that realm now, it‘s in another universe?  It‘s about where his life-lines up?  Because Iraq has to be connected to al Qaeda.  He‘s still working on that one.  He still believes torture saved the nation.  He has got to pound this—they have to be literally the last things he says on earth, don‘t they?

CILLIZZA:  Well, you know, Keith, this is someone, Dick Cheney, who has spent a very long-time in public office.  You know, we forget he was—he‘s been in several administrations as well as serving as a member of Congress from Wyoming.  This is someone who is not immune from the idea of protecting or burnishing his legacy.  So, there is obviously a part of that.

It‘s fascinating, though, the dichotomy between George W. Bush—who has largely stayed almost entirely out of the spotlight—and his vice president who has been in the spotlight far more than he was in the final years of the Bush presidency.  It‘s an amazing split there.  I wish I could know what goes on—if they do talk, what goes on in those conversations between those two men.  It‘s just fascinating.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Cillizza of “The Washington Post”—thanks for your time.  Watch out for those electrical storms.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA:  I‘ll do my best.  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Tie me kangaroo down sport, tie me kangaroo down.  No, it‘s not a giant rat.  It‘s another sad story of an attempted escape from Murdoch Island.

And Karl Rove and another interview with the special prosecutor in the U.S. attorney scandal today, four hours.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  Bushed in a moment.  Karl Rove testifies, sort of, again.  First, this is May 15th, thus 23 days since Sean Hannity offered to be water boarded for a military families charity.  Thus, 22 days since I offered to donate 1,000 per second that he lasted.  Thus 21 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise. 

Sean, does your growing reputation as a fraud worry you at all?  Here, kitty, kitty, kitty. 

Let‘s play Oddball. 

We begin on the Gold Coast of Australia, where this kangaroo is trying to get off the island.  Surfer Neil McCallam (ph) and son were jogging on the beach when this kangaroo hopped past them and into the drink.  Actually, hold on, Mr. McCallam tells it better than I do. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He stopped right here, right in front of the water.  And then I went, wow, it is a kangaroo.  That‘s pretty incredible.  And then, boom, dives in the water and starts swimming out to sea. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  McCallam jumped in and attempted a rescue while his son went and fetched the camera.  Eventually, the Joey was coaxed safely back to shore and hopped back into the brush unharmed.  For his part, McCallam has become a local celebrity, and now he forces his children to watch tape of the rescue on a continual loop. 

And to the White House, where this afternoon the president welcomed the 2008 world champion Philadelphia Phillies.  This was supposed to happen on April 14th, but that was the day the legendary Phillies announcer Harry Kalas passed away.  So they rescheduled for a month later, and a day, today. 

In his remarks, the president noted how last year, both he and the team were underdogs who prevailed.  He then poked fun at the Chicago Cubs.  And then the president was given a signed ball, a number 44 jersey, with apologies to the Phillies actual number 44, Les Walron (ph).  And finally it was smile, it‘s picture time.  And don‘t ask me how, but the Canadian born Matt Stairs on the left there, with the goatee, he got a better spot than Chase Utley or Ryan Howard did. 

An unfortunate new meaning for Fighting Irish.  What the Notre Dame controversy over Obama‘s speech says about Notre Dame.  And tonight‘s WTF moment; Governor Perry of Texas again refuses to reject secession.  Have you ever thought about what would actually happen if Texas were suddenly its own country?  It‘s not pretty. 

But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals, still bushed. 

Number three, bailout gate.  We‘ve talked about Charles E.F. Millard before.  He was a financial adviser to one time New York Mayor Giuliani.  He was Bush‘s official in charge of pension guarantees for 44 million Americans.  And just before the crash, he moved 2.5 billion of that money into the stock market, via Goldman Sacks and Black Rock.  Mr. Millard is now being investigated for doing that in hopes of getting a high-priced job on Wall Street after he left the government, a job with Goldman Sachs or Black Rock.  He is now much likely to get a job with breaking rocks.

Number two, US attorneys gate.  Karl Rove was interviewed for four hours today by federal prosecutors.  No idea yet has leaked out about what he told those conducting the criminal investigation into the political purge of nine U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration.  The tea leaf readers, and Rachel will have one of the most informed of them, former US attorney David Iglesias, on with her at the top of the hour—they suggest this means that special prosecutor Nora Dannaghey‘s (ph) investigation is nearing an end. 

What is Mr. Rove nearing?  The House Judiciary Committee is also investigating.  It is supposed to interview Mr. Rove shortly. 

And number one, vestige gate.  President Obama today announced that of the 241 military tribunals planned for Bush detainees at Gitmo, his government will now proceed with less than 20 of them.  He had suspended the tribunal program upon taking office. 

Five men accused of plotting 9/11 will be among those few tried.  But under entirely new rules, even for them, giving detainees the attorneys of their choice, eliminating most hearsay evidence, ruling out all evidence obtained by torture. 

It is to Mr. Bush‘s eternal shame and ours that we ever have to hear a statement like that, ruling out all evidence obtained by torture. 

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OLBERMANN:  This will be the sixth president since Eisenhower to give the commencement address, the ninth since Franklin Roosevelt to receive an honorary degree.  But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, when President Obama arrives at Notre Dame University on Sunday, he‘ll be the first president to encounter not just a commencement, but a politicized circus. 

Intolerance running rampant at South Bend, Indiana, protests on campus, throughout the country, citing the president‘s stances on abortion and stem cell research as reasons to disinvite him from speaking.  The demonstrations leading to multiple arrests and the requisite displaying of graphic imagery.  This despite the latest polling from Quinnipiac showing 60 percent of Catholics are in favor of the president speaking at the institution. 

Today, Press Secretary Gibbs said the president will address the controversy in his speech.  But despite the polls numbers, despite the Vatican remaining silent on the matter, despite Mr. Obama adopting a social justice agenda not dissimilar to that of the Catholic church, advocating equitable health care, putting an end to the war in Iraq, Cardinal Francis George, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, is calling the president‘s upcoming address an embarrassment to many, many Catholics. 

Quoting again, “it is clear that Notre Dame didn‘t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation.”  Perhaps Cardinal George wants to hearken back to the man who gave the university commencement address in 2001, after he had presided over 152 executions as governor of Texas, prior to waging two wars that the Vatican condemned while he was president, a man who labels himself pro-life, George W. Bush. 

Joining me now, the president of the group Catholic Democrats, Dr.

Patrick Whelan.  Dr. Whelan, thanks for your time tonight. 

DR. PATRICK WHELAN, CATHOLIC DEMOCRATS:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  What is this all about?  Notre Dame has seemingly done a pretty good, consistent job in the last 75 years, maybe longer, balancing its religious role and educational role.  Is that the problem?  In some minds, has it been too balanced? 

WHELAN:  I don‘t think there‘s such a thing as too balanced there.  There are always two sides to every story.  And the same is certainly true here.  I think that the only Catholics who are truly embarrassed by President Obama going to Notre Dame are the Catholic conservative political strategists who have used abortion so effectively as a means of clubbing Democrats in elections. 

I think mostly that this is about a graduation, a celebration.  I wrote a piece in the “Chicago Tribune” about two kinds of pride, the kind of pride that a parent feels in their child who is graduating, the kind of pride that most Catholics feel in President Obama going to Notre Dame and celebrating what it means to be Catholic in America.  And then this other kind of pride, which is the shout, use this kind of language, destroy the civil polity of our society. 

I think those two kinds of pride are not very compatible with one another. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s now up to 79 catholic bishops who criticized Notre Dame‘s invitation to the president.  A few years ago, there was an uproar about whether or not John Kerry and other pro-choice law makers of the Catholic faith should receive communion.  What are the bishops trying to achieve here?  And, in some degree, is it tone deaf to the teachings of Christianity, as opposed to the bureaucracy of any large organization? 

WHELAN:  I think it‘s easy to look at the comments of some of these bishops, who represent a minority, only less than 20 percent of all the bishops in the United States, and get the sense that somehow there‘s this very focused and intense opposition of the really good Catholics to President Obama‘s visit.

But when you look at what the Vatican has actually said, with the statement they put out in the Servitory Romano (ph) last week, on the occasion of his 100th day in office, you see that the Vatican is actually delighted with the way things are going in the political world in the United States.  And even bishops I‘ve talked to are delighted with what‘s happening in the United States now. 

Privately, I think they‘re pleased that we‘re taking on the health care debate for the first time in a serious way.  But they‘re under—I have a lot of sympathy for these bishops.  They‘re under a huge amount of pressure from the religious conservatives.  They feel like they have to be out in front on this issue.  But I think, to President Obama‘s credit, he changed the nature of the debate last year during the campaign.  And many of our lay groups did as well, by trying to articulate an alternative vision for the abortion problem.  Let‘s solve it with common ground solutions instead of these polarizing, difficult non-solutions. 

OLBERMANN:  And crediting them as 20 percent, as you suggest, why is that part of the church do you think not taking advantage of this situation to try to find a solution?  Why have they gotten into this either/or situation?  Why go for underlying, underscoring the differences rather than finding that middle ground that the president spoke of? 

WHELAN:  I think we have to be careful to pass judgment on the individuals who have spoken out.  I think in many ways they‘re victims of the rhetoric of the right, which is so extreme.  And when you get this kind of extreme language, how do you not respond to it in a very forceful, you know, assertive way. 

But I think the fact of the matter is we‘re early in this administration.  The Obama administration has formed an abortion reduction task force, unprecedented for presidential administrations.  They‘ve sent representatives to many of the subcommittee meetings for the bishops conference.  At a private level, the bishops and the administration are cooperating.

And I think as the months and years pass in this administration, we‘re going to see increased collaboration and, you know, cooperation between the church and the government. 

OLBERMANN:  We can hope.  Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of the group Catholic Democrats, many thanks.  Good luck at the graduation on Sunday. 

WHELAN:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  And more secession talk out of Governor Perry of Texas.  He does realize that pulling out of the U.S. would make this country pretty solidly Democratic, doesn‘t he?  And it would make his new nation of Texas pretty solidly infeasible? 

Speaking of which, it‘s base irony, as Bill Hicks used to say, but it‘s still a hoot.  Michael Savage suddenly needs the help of somebody he used to compare to Hitler. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias on Karl Rove‘s four hours with the special prosecutor today.  You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In a moment, the governor of Texas again flirts with secession.  Attention, Texans, have you all really thought this through?  Have you thought of what would happens to NASA and your border security and your hurricane relief, and most of the sports teams, except the Cowboys, having to move out?  Our nightly WTF moment is ahead.

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

The bronze to DrudgeReport.com.  This is not about politics or lack of facts.  It‘s about lack of cleanliness.  The U.S. attorneys office in Massachusetts has directed its employees not to use government-issued computers to log on to that site, only personal or other non-governmental computers, if they have business for some reason there.  Because, quote, a malicious code was found contained in a web ad on the site.  A possible computer virus, they say.  Also at ESPN.com, there‘s no truth to reports that the office also warned its employees to avoid Gawker, due to dangerously high counts of fecal matter.

The runner up, (INAUDIBLE) “radical left wing George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley is making the far left round, quoting the release of the torture pictures.  We used to respect Turley, but no longer.  He has really gone over to the dark side.” 

Apart from the fact that Turley is worth about a thousand of you, Bill-O, do you notice that Skesics (ph) has now gone from retaliating against by attacking above me, GE, to attacking around me, Chris Matthews, to now attacking the individual guests on my show.  Next it will be individual letters of the alphabet.  We used to have great respect for Q and Z.  But no longer, they‘ve gone over to the dark side.  Also, who is this we you always refer to?  I have always wanted to know.  Do you have an invisible friend or something? 

But our winner, Michael Savage, reduced these days to farce, but still capable of farce on the grand scale every couple of years.  The radio lunatic has previously suggested that Hillary Clinton was godless and had something to do with the death of John F. Kennedy Jr.  Savage also said she used, quote, Hitler dialogue, claimed she would be at fault for any future terrorist attack here, and said she would have started a race war, a civil war just to become president. 

But that was all before Savage was banned from entry into Great Britain by that country‘s Home Office because of his hate speech.  Savage has now had his lawyers try to go through diplomatic channels to get his name off the British list.  He is thus asking for the help of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Yes, use some of that godless, race war starting, Hitler dialogue on them Brits. 

Michael, help me, Hillary, help me, Savage, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally, as promised, tonight‘s number one story, our new regular feature, the WTF moment.  An elected governor of an American state continues to flirt with treason.  Rick Perry of Texas, who probably would advocate stoning the heathen in Valverde if it would win him 37 extra votes, has once again refused the opportunity to step back from the stupidity that is secession. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  We live in a great country.  America is -

Texas is a very unique state inside that great country.  And there‘s no reason for us to be even talking at seceding. 

But if Washington continues to force these programs on the states, if

Washington continues to disregard the tenth amendment, you know, who knows

what happens.  There may be people standing up all the country in tea

parties saying, enough.  All right>

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  How about them standing up in Texas and saying enough, all right, governor ass hat.  Recent polling suggests more than a third of all Texans believe the place would be better off independent of the United States.  It is a split among Republicans.  But when you reduce it to just the bully‘s threat to take his ball and go home, 51 percent of all Texas Republicans approve of the suggestion that Texas may need to leave the United States. 

You know what the South Carolina politician James Lewis Pettigrew (ph) said of his state, just before the Civil War, too small for a republic and too big for an insane asylum. 

Governor, have you or your separatist friends considered what would happen if you actually seceded?  Assuming the rest of the country did not decide it was a rebellion, and didn‘t send in federal troops, and didn‘t try to capture you and hang you, and, in a bitter irony, did not suspend habeas corpus in the rebellious territory, so that former President George W. Bush could be detained without charge and without access to attorneys? 

I‘m talking about what would happen if we all just sat back and said, bye, have fun storming the castle. 

Let‘s start internally.  Your taxes would shoot through the roof.  Just FEMA has sent 3,449,000,00 to Texas since 2001.  Others agencies sent you another billion just for Hurricane Ike last year. 

When NASA pulls out of Houston, that‘s 26,000 jobs, another 2.5 billion you just lost from your economy.  We‘d obviously move everybody out of Ft. Hood, Texas, whose financial impact on your new kingdom is another six billion. 

Your own country, get your own damn forts, and you‘re own damn Air Force, Army, Navy.  What is that, 10 billion a year, 100, a trillion?  You‘ll need some form of welfare, Social Security.  You‘ll have to get your own FDA, CDC, FDC, FEC, FBI, CIA, NSA, Post Office.  You‘ll need a lot of new investments after the Americans—I‘m sorry, the Gringos pull out.  You‘ve got four nuclear power plants there.  Good for you.  Where were you going to put all the nuclear waste?  The Alamo. 

Remember, these are all the startup costs.  I lost track at about 500 billion and we haven‘t even gotten to annual maintenance or expansion or improvements.  Pell Grants, I forgot Pell Grants.  The U.S. gave Texas students a billion dollars in Pell Grants for the academic year 2006-2007.  Good luck with that. 

What are you going do about your sports franchises?  The Cowboys just spent a billion on that new stadium.  America‘s team.  That‘s funny, the Cowboys, north Texas‘ team. 

Now, no American network is going to want to televise their games, because the ratings in Texas will no longer count in America.  You‘ll be Canada with something of a twang.  Do you think it‘s a coincidence that half the Canadian baseball teams went out of business because of TV revenues and other reasons, and half of the Canadian basketball teams? 

So take your choice, Astros or Rangers.  One of them is going to move to Charlotte.  Who exactly do you think your University of Texas football team is going to play now?  USC?  Oklahoma?  Try Sul Ross (ph) or San Hacinto JC (ph) or the new big rivalry with Tom Delay Exterminator University. 

Now, security.  You‘ll need your own Gitmo.  Starting wars is optional, of course.  See your Mr. Bush about that.  And since you‘ll be surrounded by the United states and Mexico, presumably the U.S. will continue this knuckle headed border fence you guys started, only it won‘t be on your southern border anymore.  Now it will be on your northern one, because the rest of us here, we can‘t risk the economic impact of hordes of illegal aliens fleeing the chaos of the United State of Texas, or the Texican nation, or Texaco, or whatever you‘re going to call yourselves. 

So you‘ll have to put up your own fence at your own expense. 

We‘ll talk politics for a second too.  Let‘s look at what your departure will mean back near in the northern 49.  Congratulations to the Democrats and their filibuster proof 60 seats in the 98 seat, Texas-free Senate.  And thanks from the Dems in California, New York, Florida, Illinois and Michigan, which will take the lion‘s portions of those Texas electoral college seats, 13.  Eleven more would go to other blue states.  The other red states would, of course, get the leftovers, ten. 

Per Nate Silver‘s calculation, if Texas had left last year, Obama would have won the electoral college by 242 votes, not by 192.  And also speaking of politics, remember sovereign republic of Texas, you‘ve got your big political nightmare coming up 11 years from now.  The big political nightmare, the big political nightmare, you know, when the Mexican Texans get the ballot initiative passed on whether or not Texas should become part of Mexico. 

Right now, Texas is 48 percent Anglo, 36 percent Hispanic.  With no major change in population, just progressing things outward, by 2020, every projection has Anglos being outnumbered by Hispanics in Texas.  That‘s in 2020.  By 2040, the Anglos will comprise barely a fourth of the population of Texas. 

I‘m sorry, of Texas.  Texas state in Mexico.  Hasta la vista, baby. 

Don‘t let Oklahoma hit you on the backside on the way out. 

Secession; what the—

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,206th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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