Guests: Richard Wolffe, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Howard Dean, Denise O‘Donnell
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
You can‘t spell plagiarizing without P-A-L-I-N.
Newt Gingrich 2005: “Reagan never won an argument in Washington.
Reagan won his arguments in the country with the American people.”
Sarah Palin 2009 --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA: Ronald Reagan never won any arguments in Washington. He won the arguments by resonating with the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yet, her on-again/off-again appearance at tonight‘s gala fundraiser for the Republican House and Senate committees is on again? They don‘t want to hear Newt read his own stuff?
Grassley blows a gasket on health care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: All across America, our families are making hard choices when it comes to health care. Now, it‘s time for Washington to make the right ones. It‘s time to deliver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Republican senator from Iowa tweets, “Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris, you said, ‘Time to deliver on healthcare.‘ When you are a ‘hammer,‘ you think everything is a nail. I‘m no nail.” Note to self on tweeting, Senator—tweets read aloud sound stupid.
Break a leg, Judge Sotomayor. Uh-oh! She broke her ankle? Rushing through the airport to go see Senator Grassley? Did he tweet about it? That‘s another reason to vote against her. She‘s not graceful.
She did get an unexpected endorsement from Laura Bush?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA BUSH, FMR. U.S. FIRST LADY: I think she sounds like a very interesting and good nominee. Yes, we‘ll see what happens. But I wish her well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the long-ago Republican leader, who withdrew his claim that she was a racist, returns to a semantic variation on the same slander.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: It‘s clear that what she said was racist, and it‘s clear—or as somebody wrote—racialist, if you prefer. And it‘s clear that she didn‘t just say it once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And Bests: She sued the makers of Crunch Berries because the box misled her.
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The theme for tonight‘s big annual congressional Republican fundraising dinner is, “Party unit,” with a fine selection of just desserts.
In our fifth story tonight: The party arguing that it‘s more capable
of leading this country, finally managed to figure out whether Sarah Palin
tonight embroiled in a plagiarism charge—would attend its biggest fundraiser of the year just hours before the fundraiser kicked off.
First, the Republican campaign committees for House and Senate announced that Palin would be the keynote speaker for tonight‘s big D.C. fundraiser, but it was unclear whether she actually had committed to speaking. “The Hill” newspaper reports, that made Senator John Cornyn nervous, so they made Newt Gingrich their keynote speaker.
Fred Malek, a GOP fundraiser and friend of Palin, then told Cornyn, “It just so happened that indeed Palin would be in the neighborhood tonight.” So, Cornyn worked on a deal to let Palin speak after all.
Congressman Pete Sessions thought that was unfair to Gingrich—so, Saturday night, “Politico” reports, Sessions sent word to Palin she could be introduced, she just couldn‘t speak. So, Palin‘s people said maybe she won‘t be in the neighborhood tonight. So, yesterday, Cornyn called Palin without success.
And today, “The Plum Line” blog reports Sessions also worked the phones to get her back. This afternoon, we learned she was supposed to attend. She won‘t speak but she will hear this line from Congressman Sessions‘ speech obtained by “Plum Line,” quote, “Together, we are showing America that we are a unified party.”
Such Republican unity aside, Palin herself is sending a clear unified message. She spent this weekend in New York, commemorating the 50th year of Alaskan statehood by honoring the man who made it possible, William Seward, at the home of the former secretary of state—a Washington insider whose government spending to buy Alaska was known as “Seward‘s Folly” and was opposed by conservative Republicans, and made possible only by Washington bureaucrats and corruption, Governor Palin took on Washington insiders, government spending, Washington bureaucrats, and corruption. Specifically, she blasted President Obama for borrowing money for government expenses and blasted him for not borrowing $1.2 billion more for government expenses, namely, an expansion of Alaska‘s missile defense facilities to keep Alaska safe from Kim Jong-il.
Time now to bring in then-disinvite, then-reinvite, MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, whose book, “Renegade: The Making of a President,” might have been called “Maverick: The Making of a President” if Sarah Palin had been a bigger draw.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Just as well I didn‘t buy a new outfit, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
This back-and forth-over this fundraiser tonight, has it taught us anything about the state of the party?
WOLFFE: Well, look, this is exactly the kind of disarray that Republicans have so much fun with Democrats for so long about. But, you know, it does speak to a bigger problem. There isn‘t just a contest of personalities and egos here, which obviously is being played out. But there is a contest for the direction of the party and they can‘t figure out what that contest really is, because they‘re not debating ideas.
This is precisely the kind of meaningless trivia that doesn‘t define the party in a way that it needs to do to connect with the voters—who overwhelmingly rejected them.
OLBERMANN: Is this .
OLBERMANN: Yes. Go ahead. Sorry.
WOLFFE: No. I was just going to say that Palin doesn‘t represent one school of thought here. They don‘t have any schools of thought. So, that‘s the debate that needs to play itself out.
OLBERMANN: Is there anything to be made out of the fact that it‘s Alaska‘s governor, the governor of the state who‘s reliant more on government largess than any other whose state only exists because the—maybe one of the first Washington insiders, Mr. Seward, imposed his policies on Alaska, that she‘s trying to sell the message of American self-reliance and doing so at a time when polls show that most Americans have decided that on the critical issues of the day, they want big government, they want the president of the United States to come in, take over the reins, and provide a big solution to a big problem?
WOLFFE: Well, that‘s exactly the point here. The public has decided
this is one of those rare moments when they trust government more than any other player in the economy or in American society.
And conservatives have always been slightly schizophrenic on this one, because let‘s face it, they do like government spending. They do like big government when it comes to military spending or pork barrel projects in their own states and districts. So, until they figure out what kind of government they want, this whole capitalism, socialism, small government, big government framework is not in touch with—again, what voters need.
This is a time of crisis. And at times of crisis, as we saw, whether it‘s national security or economic, Americans do want a government that works for them.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of crisis, the internal one in the GOP, there‘s obviously antagonism between Palin and the party‘s more traditional infrastructure. Does it tell us anything about 2012?
WOLFFE: Well, look. If Newt Gingrich is the establishment intellectual here, you know, look at his performance over the last few days with Judge Sotomayor. I mean, here‘s a guy who‘s built his reputation in part on attacking the left for things like pushing the racism button. He goes out and does it and then regrets it and has to recant.
You know, if he‘s the practiced, polished candidate and Sarah Palin is the rookie, then, you know, 2012 is going to be a great spectacle.
OLBERMANN: And, by the way, and we‘ll get to this later, Gingrich reintroduced that whole racism element yesterday again.
Last point here: is it—cynical as it seems—is the GOP hoping to retain the energy and the money of the people who support Sarah Palin without having to take Sarah Palin as part of the bargain?
WOLFFE: Well, there‘s clearly a tension here between sensationalism and substance. But if there is a smart Republican out there, they really need to be looking at those independents. There are more independents now than there are Republicans, self-identified. Those are—for a large part of them—disillusioned Republicans. Whoever can speak to them is the person who will be a formidable Republican nominee in years to come.
I don‘t think we have seen that Republican candidate yet. But when they emerge, that‘s the one Democrats have to be worried about.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, author of “Renegade: The Making of a President”—you always look good in that suit. Much thanks for your time tonight.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: After all this, it remains unclear whether it even matters if Palin or Gingrich is the one doing the actual speaking tonight. But Palin‘s camp now is claiming that a speech of hers last week was not largely plagiarized because she credited two lines to her source—Newt Gingrich. Discussing Ronald Reagan last Wednesday, Governor Palin quoted Gingrich twice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Recently, Newt Gingrich, he had written a good article about Reagan. He said, regarding your dad, Michael—he said that we need to learn from his example that courage and persistence are keys to historic achievements. What Newt had written in this article, he wrote, “Remember how refreshing it was with his outrageous directness that Americans loved and craved and deserved that Reagan dealt with, with then the troublesome Soviet Union.” Remember this? His vision for the Cold War, “We win, they lose.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The only problem, the article was written by Newt Gingrich and a coauthor, Craig Shirley.
The only other problem? All the apparent un-attributed lines, according to “Huffington Post,” it included this one from Gingrich and Shirley, quote, “Reagan replaced the entire vision of detente with two vivid words, ‘evil empire.‘” Palinized?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Speaking of detente, he used two words, evil empire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Quote, “Reaganism is about real change both at home and overseas, and that real change requires upsetting entrenched the interests.” Palinized?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Reagan knew that real change—real change requiring shaking things up and maybe taking off the entrenched interest thwarting the will of the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And for that, let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell, also, of course, a contributor for HuffingtonPost.com.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Why should Republicans really have gone through this rebirthing exercising here over whether or not Sarah Palin was going to speak tonight, since the other option was to get the original version of her script anyway written by or read by the guy who wrote it?
O‘DONNELL: Well, Sarah Palin has become a symbol, Keith. She is the most—the most visible symbol you can hold up in Republican to say, “I am a conservative, I am aligned with a conservative.”
John Cornyn needs Sarah Palin tonight at that fundraiser because he‘s run into some troubles. He has the thankless job of trying to elect Republicans to the United States Senate. He‘s a Texas conservative Republican, himself, but when he recently endorsed Florida Governor Charlie Crist in a Republican primary for the next Senate seat in Florida, he got himself into some real trouble with what you could now call the “Palin wing of the party.” And, so he needs to have Palin beside him, get a picture taken with Palin beside him tonight.
And also, at these fundraisers, a lot of the donors -- $1,000, $2,000 donors—who show up there, they want a celebrity. They want a star.
There is no other celebrity in the Republican Party right now. Now, she is the Paris Hilton-type of celebrity, which is to say unearned celebrity in any sort of governmental sense, governor of—in effect—the smallest state in terms of governing demands. And so, she‘s it.
She‘s the best they can do in terms of, you know, if you pay us 1,000 bucks, stand beside her, just get your picture taken.
OLBERMANN: To this original point here of plagiarism, can you litigate that for us? Is guilty, not guilty, guilty by reason of—she likes to crib from other people‘s work? What‘s the—what‘s the answer to the charge?
O‘DONNELL: Well, good enough to get her kicked out of Harvard or any other real academic institution. But, in the world of politics, plagiarism is a very tough charge to make stick.
Now, Craig Shirley had an amusing exchange with “The Huffington Post” today in which he suggests this is the handler‘s fault. I mean, he‘s clearly suggesting that there‘s a problem here, and there was. I mean, there‘s no question Sarah Palin did not write that speech. Her writers did. The writers know, or the writer sitting up there in Alaska, knows very well that this is plagiarism—that he dug into the book, dug into the article, and stole all that stuff. There‘s a lot of paraphrasing in it, but there are some very direct word-for-word lips and that is officially plagiarism.
OLBERMANN: So, that‘s the handler‘s fault and presumably, it‘s—whoever lit that stage there and made her look like she‘s gone punk and dyed part of her hair purple. So, we‘ll give her a pass on those.
But the problem here is, at some point before 2012, if she‘s a viable candidate for anything other than what she has now, does she not have to render herself capable intellectual thought on a national level? And, more so, does she really have to stay away from a guy who—I mean, even the idea of being reminiscent of the writings or the sayings of a guy who might be her rival—as odd as that might seem to say out loud—for the 2012 nomination in Gingrich?
O‘DONNELL: Well, there is no one happier about this story than Newt Gingrich. And his spokesman is saying, “We‘re very happy that Sarah Palin used Newt Gingrich‘s material for her speech.” They are thrilled.
And, yes. This just deepens her problem is that there is no there there. There is no substance there. The party knows it. Even the party faithful know it, because they know that she would—in their terms—be faithful to their most simple and most serious demands, which are fidelity on the abortion issue and these simple “yes or no” questions that they want in their candidates.
But she is a “bridge to nowhere” for the Republican Party and there‘s not a thinking Republican who does not know that right now.
OLBERMANN: And here‘s the other thing—the temporal one, the idea of evoking a time that never actually happened. There is an irony here. The Republican face of this decade has apparently cribbed from the face of the ‘90s, who was praising, you know, the face of the ‘80s. You know, we have an ideological split in the Republican Party, a geographical split. We have a temporal one, too.
How do you build a forward-looking party that spends 2/3 of its time looking back?
O‘DONNELL: This is the problem and this is not really the way Newt did it in the early ‘90s when he built that party. He was looking forward. He was offering a contract with America. Forget the specifics—whether it was real or not—but he certainly was advancing a future agenda.
And one of the big problems with Reagan is that he‘s a mirage, too, historically. I mean, they look back and they don‘t—they don‘t admit that he ever raised taxes, which he did, both as governor and as president.
And there are all these things within the Reagan biography that don‘t fit -
the faked sainthood that they have granted the Reagan political career in retrospect.
And so, as long as they‘re looking backward like this, it is great for the Democrats.
OLBERMANN: Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSNBC and “Huffington Post”—who always write your own stuff. Thank you, Lawrence. Have a great evening.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Keith
OLBERMANN: As America‘s newspapers, magazines, and radio and broadcast television news organizations shrink, become more expensive and apply for endangered species status, we appear destined to become a nation that tweets the click from cable news that somebody just saw on YouTube about the blog that references Facebook and MySpace.
The latest duel over healthcare reform as President Obama and Senator Grassley debate. Howard Dean on which side is actually doing something about it, the subtext about texting—Obama‘s speech on YouTube versus Grassley‘s response on Twitter.
I‘d tweet. I‘d have to find somebody who‘d pay to read my tweets.
You do that and then I‘ll tweet.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans actually accuse a Democratic president of stalling on health care reform. No, in this universe. Chairman, governor, doctor, Howard Dean, next.
Bests: The lawsuit seeking damages for the misleading advertising of Crunch Berries cereal.
Worsts: When the Democrat leaks, it‘s national security, people should go to jail. When the Republican leaks, it confirms the value of enhanced interrogation, and even, enhanced interrogation actually saves lives.
And the man who allegedly killed Dr. George Tiller says there are more attacks planned on abortion targets. Shouldn‘t we be subjecting that man to enhanced interrogation techniques?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The 21st century politics had not embraced 21st century technology already, it now has in the battle over who‘s really working hard to effect health care change? Gone are stump speeches and press releases and rallies, in our fourth story tonight: It‘s the president and his YouTube video versus the Iowa Republican senator and his Twitter account. President Obama, while in France for D-Day ceremonies, nonetheless continuing his weekly Saturday address on YouTube and this one was about health care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We cannot continue this way. If we do nothing, everyone‘s health care will be put in jeopardy. Within a decade, we‘ll spend $1 out of every five we earn on health care—and we‘ll keep getting less for our money. And that‘s why fixing what‘s wrong with our health care system is no longer a luxury we hope to achieve. It‘s a necessity we cannot postpone any longer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: After hearing that, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Charles Grassley, who may be a key player in passing health care reform, decided to tweet about it. “Pres Obama you got nerve while you sightseeing in Paris to tell us ‘time to deliver‘ on health care. We still on skedul/even workin weekend.” And then, “Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris, you said, ‘Time to deliver on health care.‘ When you are a ‘hammer‘ you think everything is a nail. I‘m no nail.”
Are you forgetting tweets read aloud make you tweeters sound stupid?
Meantime, a group of Senate Republicans—all of whom get health care for life—sent an open letter to the president, saying they are opposed to a government-run insurance program competing against private plans. The letter? You didn‘t just Facebook it?
Let‘s turn now to Dr. Howard Dean, of course, former presidential candidate, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also the author of a new book, “Howard Dean‘s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform.” He‘ll be online live tomorrow night to discuss it.
Doctor, thank you for your time tonight.
HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on.
OLBERMANN: There are more than 46 million people without health insurance and medical problems contribute to nearly 2/3 of all bankruptcies. Any chance, this time around, that the partisan politics can be defused here, or these tweets from Senator Grassley a bad omen?
DEAN: Well, I think they‘re actually good omen, because I don‘t think the Republicans ever intended to contribute in a positive way to health care anyway. And now, we‘re going to find out.
Look, the fact of the matter is, this is not just about the 46 million people who don‘t have health insurance. This is about the future of the American economy. We‘re not just losing jobs to China, we‘re losing jobs to Canada—because their health care system is better for business than our health care system is.
We‘ve got to get the costs under control. That‘s what the president wants to do. He wants to do it by saying to the American people, “If you like what you have, you can keep it, but we‘re going to offer you something that you may find better and less expensive.” And for the Republicans and the insurance industry to stand in the way of that, I think, indicates that they are really much more interested in themselves than they are for the future of the country.
OLBERMANN: Is there anything substantial in the criticism in this letter that was sent today, suggesting that there should not be a government-run insurance program that would compete with private plans that are out there? Or is it ...
DEAN: Of course not. Look, we‘ve been—Keith, we‘ve had a private system in this country for 40 years. The costs have increased two to three times the rate of inflation, every one of those 40 years. Now, we‘ve had a public system for people over 65 for about 45 years. That cost goes up about 15 percent above the rate of inflation. It‘s too much, but it‘s much better than the private costs.
So, the fact of the matter is, the American people ought to be able to choose. We can‘t trust the Senate or the House to do this any more. And what the president wants to do and what the progressive members of the House and the Senate want to do is give the choice to the American people. We will create both.
You can sign up for a public plan, like Medicare, or you can sign up for a private plan. You get the choice. You get the choice.
And that‘s what the Republicans, Keith, that‘s why they‘re in trouble here. They want to keep the choice for themselves. They want to make the choice for you. But we think it‘s time now that the American people get to make the choice themselves.
OLBERMANN: How do they get away with the—with the introduction, the scare tactic that the private insurers will necessarily go out of business or return to a single payer or be socialized medicine, or, Lord knows, we‘re invaded by another country because of our health care program. The president obviously disagrees with that.
How do—how do you overcome, once again, scare tactics, worst-case scenarios being painted as necessary outcomes?
DEAN: Well, I think the president is doing pretty well at that. If you like what you have, you can keep it. The only way we‘re going to get to a single payer is if that‘s what the American people want.
If health insurance goes out of business—look, we had some health insurance leave our state when we forced all the insurance companies to issue health insurance regardless of the health of the individual and when we forced them to not charge more than 20 percent more for their sick patients than they could for their healthiest patients. And the bad ones left the state. And that was a good thing.
We need to get some of these health insurance companies to behave themselves, and the best way to do it since it‘s the only way to do it we‘ve discovered in 40 years is to offer an option. Let the American people choose. That‘s all the Democrats are asking. Let the American people choose. And let‘s get this done this time.
OLBERMANN: I can‘t resist, within the process discussion, a process about the process question. My family doctor from, like, nearly my birth, about 1998, he still practiced at 85 or so. He still went in once a week for a class on new medical developments or new information technology. He was very much into that. He‘s passed away, but I have no doubt if he were alive today, he would have a Twitter account.
In terms of the political fight here, do we not see just sort of a milestone that‘s worthy of notation here, the president is on YouTube and the Republican critic is on Twitter?
DEAN: Well, it‘s not so much that as the personal nature of the attack. The Republicans can never get past this. They always stoop to that when they‘re in the wrong. And they are in the wrong.
We need something really different, like the president has suggested. But we don‘t need to change any facets that the American people are uncomfortable changing. That‘s why the president‘s plan says, “If you like what you have, you can keep it. The government will help you make health insurance more affordable but you will have an option of a public plan.”
I can understand—I understand why the insurance companies are against this, because they would have to clean up their act. But I don‘t understand why the Republicans—I thought the Republicans were interested in giving more choices to the American people, but apparently, they‘re not. And that is wrong. And if we have to pass this thing with 51 votes, we should do it.
Look, everybody thinks bipartisanship is a wonderful thing and I do too, but bipartisanship comes second to doing the right thing, and bipartisanship is not worth it if we have a crummy bill. I don‘t want to see a crummy bill. And my definition of a crummy bill is a bill that does not allow the American people to make the choice between a public health insurance option and the private plans they have now.
OLBERMANN: The former DNC chair, Dr. Howard Dean, author of “Howard Dean‘s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform”—as always, sir, great thanks for your time tonight.
DEAN: Keith, thanks again for having me on. We‘ll see you soon.
OLBERMANN: Always a pleasure.
Also—yes, Bret Michaels, you have a question about your cued exit of the stage? Well, all right, try to leave before the big sign comes down and crushes your head. No?
And the Republican governor who may not exactly know what he‘s getting when he chooses this guy as the role model for his party—not Sacha Baron Cohen, the guy in the seat.
Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Bests in the moment. And, “Judge, there are no Crunch Berries in my box of Cap‘n Crunch with Crunch Berries.”
First, on this date were born Flank Lloyd Wright and James Darren from the “Time Tunnel” and Eddie Gaedel, the 3‘7” pinch hitter of the 1951 St. Louis Browns.
But we singled out for birthday honors actor comedian and as a loyal viewer of this show as we are blessed to have, Jerry Stiller. And regards also to his wife, comedienne and actress, Anne Meara, and their son who I think went into acting as well if I got that right.
Let‘s play Oddball.
Preferably enough, we begin with the most interesting thing to happen at the Tony Awards since—well, ever. Last night, Bret Michaels, front man for the ‘80s glam band Poison and connoisseur of women‘s tongues from the TV show “Rock of Love” was lip synching with his band mates on the stage at Radio City Music Hall down the block. And then their number ended and the wood curtain came down.
Exit stage left.
Hey, pal, Joey. We‘ll slow this down and zoom in. Just like in professional wrestling, you mug for the crowd and you pay. Michaels suffered a busted lip and a fractured nose. His publicist says he‘ll be fine. His doctor has ordered no face sucking until the sutures come out. So there goes the Swine Flu epidemic.
To Roland Garros in yesterday‘s Open Finals at the French. Roger Federer defeating Robin Soderling in straight sets after this loony fan defeated security with a straight shot onto clay. It only took ten seconds for court security to pick up what was going on out there. After trying to fit Federer with his hat—that‘s how you spread lice. After that, the fan eluded security, stumbled over the net. And that‘s when he got Bret Michaels-ed. Right about—hello.
The fan was dragged off. Play continued. And as NBC announcer John McEnroe noted, at least the man had his clothes on.
Finally, in Germany, where the director of the Asherbland (ph) Zoo has revealed his secret tiger cub to the public. It‘s not a metaphor for anything. It‘s a real, white Bengal Tiger that he kept in that basket apparently. Two months old, the kitty weighed just 28 ounces at birth and was left for dead by its mother. Zoo Director Ditmar Risky (ph) said he did not want to announce the cub‘s existence to the public in case it did not survive.
Now Ditmar is asking all Germans to come to the zoo and visit the cat and then continue on to the primate house to touch his monkey. I know, that Dieter. That‘s really all we had.
An unlikely ally in the endless saga of Judge Sotomayor and why you don‘t do that reverse hex theatrical thing, and say to a Supreme Court nominee, break a leg.
And the terrorist accused of this says there is more to come. So why aren‘t we treating him as a terrorist? These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best political upset, Sweden‘s Pirate Party. It swept to an unexpected seven percent of the votes over the weekend in the European Parliamentary elections, meaning it won a seat in the European parliament. The Pirate Party platform, abolish patents, reduce surveillance on the web, and deregulate copyright. “This is fantastic,” said Pirate Party leader Christian Angstrom (ph), who then added, “let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that if the British empire and its commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say this was their finest hour.”
Number two, best speeder, Ryan Meaus of Hazelton, PA. Police pulled him over for swerving through traffic. He told them he was speeding in hopes of catching another driver who just robbed him of three bags of marijuana. The pot rip-off fiend, Mr. Meaus, was clocked at well over four and one half miles per hour. I made that up.
And Number one, best pointless lawsuit, Janine Sugawara, who had filed a federal class action suit in Eastern California against the manufacturers of Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries, seeking damages for fraud, breach of warranty, and violation of the California Unfair Competition Law and Consumer Legal Remedies Act. Ms. Sugawara‘s beef? She had purchased the cereal for four years on the assumption that each box would contain a kind of fruit flown as a Crunch Berry, and was surprised to have learned recently that there are no Crunch Berries.
The case was dismissed. Ms. Sugawara said she‘d have no comment on the ruling until she had a chance to talk it over with her lawyer, Count Chocula.
OLBERMANN: Where the theatrical reverse jinx expression “break a leg” comes from is unclear. It might have been 17th century British actors bending down to pick up coins thrown in appreciation by the audience, thus breaking their leg, at least in terms of a sight line. It might have some bizarre connection to Lincoln‘s assassination by actor John Wilkes Boothe, and Wilkes Boothe breaking his leg as he leaped from the president‘s box.
In our third story tonight, whatever the truth, don‘t say it to a Supreme Court nominee. Fortunately, in a manner of speaking, any figurative stumble today came only from Sonia Sotomayor‘s opponents. Unfortunately, she took care of the literal stumbles.
The judge met with six more senators today, including Senator Charles Grassley. The judge tripped this morning at Laguardia Airport, and suffered a small fracture in her right ankle, but she was treated at a nearby hospital and kept her full schedule. No word yet on whether Republican senators are accusing her literally of favoring her left side.
Meantime, former first Lady Laura Bush this morning, obviously not getting or paying attention to any GOP talking points, when asked about Judge Sotomayor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA BUSH, FMR. FIRST LADY: I think she sounds like a very interesting and good nominee. You know, as a woman, I‘m proud that there might be another woman on the court. And so we‘ll see what happens. I wish her well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Then there‘s Newt Gingrich, valiantly talking out of both sides of his mouth again and managing to walk his original she‘s a racist comment all the way back to its beginning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: When I did a Twitter about her, having read what she said, I said that was racist. But I applied it to her as a person. The truth is I don‘t know her as a person. It is clear that what she said was racist. And it‘s clear—or, as somebody wrote recently, racialist, if you prefer. And it‘s clear that she didn‘t just say it once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You got both words wrong, Sonny. If this man, meanwhile, shot a doctor for religious and political reasons, he is, by definition, a terrorist in the 21st century meaning of the word. If, as he said from prison, there will be other attacks, why are we still not treating this case as terrorism?
And the Republican most offended by leaks about classified briefings leaks about a classified briefing. Worsts ahead.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell; can anybody tell why the Obama administration was supporting it in a just rejected Supreme Court case?
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, war profiteer-gate. A bipartisan commission charged with investigating waste and fraud in wartime spending in Iraq and Afghanistan has reached a conclusion startling even for those of us who already realized the primary reason to go to war in Iraq was so we could have a war in Iraq. The Bush Pentagon‘s oversight of private contractors, what we paid them, how they got their deals, what they did with the money, it was so lax that the government never established a central data base just listing who they were. The Halliburton spinoff KBR was awarded a contract last September to remodel the dining hall at Camp Delta in Iraq. It was then discovered that the dining hall at Camp Delta had just been remodeled by KBR. Nobody had filed the paperwork. KBR got a contract to remodel the same dining hall twice.
Number two, the war against terror or India-gate. A news agency in India reports that Pakistan received seven billion dollars from the Bush administration to fight terrorism, specifically the Taliban, especially along the Afghanistan border, and diverted untold portions of it, at least 660 million, to instead openly ordering new aircraft and missiles for its armed forces along the Indian border, where the only thing being sneaked into Pakistan were Bollywood movies.
And Number one, Gitmo-gate. Until now, Lakhdar Boumediene was just a name in a landmark lawsuit, the one that let those we kidnapped and stashed in Gitmo finally challenge their circumstances in court. Boumediene is back home in France after seven years of detention. He has talked to ABC. He was acquitted in Bosnia of charges of plotting to blow up the U.S. and British embassies in Sarajevo. But instead of being freed, he was turned over to the U.S. military.
From the day they got him to Gitmo, January 17th, 2002, he says that not once did his interrogators ask him about that alleged plot, only about what he knew about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. “If I tell my interrogator I am from al Qaeda, I saw Osama bin Laden, he was my boss, I help them, they will tell me, oh, you are a good man. But if I refuse, I tell them I‘m innocent. Never was I a terrorist. Never, never. They tell me, you are not cooperating. I have to punch you.”
Boumediene says it was much more than punching. He said he was kept awake for 16 days straight. He said he was forced to run and to keep running, and if he stopped or fell, he would be dragged. He said his legs were shackled to a chair and then guards pulled him up from under his arms.
He said that during a hunger strike, our guards shoved his food IV up his nose and poked a hypodermic needle into the wrong part of his arm. “Over there,” meaning Gitmo, he said, “you lose all the hopes. You lose all hope. Any good news they don‘t want you to be happy.”
Boumediene says he worked for the Red Crescent, the term used by about one fifth of the national Red Cross organizations worldwide. We, those acting in your name and mine, called Boumediene a terrorist. Two weeks after the Bosnians acquitted him of plotting to bomb our embassy there, then they handed him over to our military, then George Bush gave his first State of the Union Address. “Our soldiers,” Bush said, “working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy.”
Which one of those two men deserved to be in prison for seven years?
OLBERMANN: The alleged terrorist charged with assassinating Dr. George Tiller says more violence is planned. If Mr. Bush were still president, wouldn‘t we be water boarding Scott Roeder to find out what and where?
That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst person in the world.
The bronze to Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota, decided to get hip while giving the keynote at the College Republicans National Convention Friday night by invoking the stunt at the MTV Music Awards. “Eminem was mad. So, just like Eminem getting dumped on, we‘ve got to kind of regroup. We‘ve got to continue to fight. And we‘ve got some things worth fighting for.”
Governor, homophobic, misogynistic and violent lyrics? Nice role model choice for any political party, gov. Eminem? Well, then again, Republicans.
The runner-up tonight, Pastor Kent Pogano (ph) of New Bethel Church of Louisville, Kentucky. He scheduled a new charity event for Saturday the 27th featuring online posters in a red font that resembles splattered blood. The event? Open Carry Church Service. Ah, yes, Pastor Pogano wants his flock to stop by the church wearing unloaded gun in their holsters. He‘s going to have a hand gun raffle. And he‘s going to open the floor to presentations by owners of firing ranges and gun shops. The goal, he says, “trying to think a little outside the box in order to promote responsible gun ownership and Second Amendment rights.” He compared firearm ownership to any other sport like bowling. About Jesus and that stuff he said about putting down the sword and loving enemies and turning cheeks and stuff, Pogano added, Jesus? Jesus who? Now, I made that quote up, but something does seem to have been lost in the translation, does it not?
Our winner, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the Republican of Michigan. The House Intelligence committee held a classified briefing last week. We know about the secret briefing and what was discussed in strictest confidence because Hoekstra told “the Hill,” quoting its article, “Hoekstra did not attend the hearing, but said he later spoke to Republicans on the subcommittee who did. He said he came away with even more proof that the enhanced interrogation techniques employed by the CIA proved effective. I think the people who were at the hearing, in my opinion, clearly indicated the enhanced interrogation techniques worked, Hoekstra said.”
So what should happen to a member of Congress who leaks the details of a classified intelligence briefing? On August, 2006, after the available on public websites info about Bush warrantless wiretapping was leaked, one Congressman said this, “the Justice Department is going after those who violated their oath of office by giving classified information to reporters. Those reporters will be sitting in jail by the end of the year, until they reveal their sources.”
Which Congressman issued that almost psychic warning to Pete Hoekstra about how wrong he was to leak details of last week‘s classified briefing? Why, it was Congressman Pete Hoekstra. When they do it, they should go to jail. When he does it, he‘s right. Actually, the correct word would be hypocrite. Congressman Pete Hypocrite, today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: After an act which seems to define the term terrorism, an act committed for political and religious reasons, the alleged perpetrator has now threatened more violence. The Number one story in the COUNTDOWN, as the man accused of killing Dr. George Till in the vestibule of his church warns of potential acts of terrorism against abortion providers, why, with a domestic terrorist in our grasp, why are we not treating him as such?
Why is the far right not calling for him to be water boarded to tell against whom the next gun or bomb will be directed? This weekend, hundreds gathered to mourn Dr. Tiller at a funeral service in Wichita. Meanwhile, Scott Roeder, Tiller‘s accused murderer, called the Associated Press from his cell in the Sedgwick County jail. “I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal.”
Roeder would not elaborate. Roeder‘s warning comes just days after a federal investigation was launched as to whether Mr. Roeder had accomplices. Tiller family attorney Dan Monnat hedging on whether to dignify Roeders actions and threats, added, quote, “I am hopeful that state and federal authorities, including Homeland Security, will give Mr. Roeder and his information a deserving response.”
Roeder also complained to the Associated Press about the deplorable conditions in solitary, expressed worry about catching pneumonia, and wants his sleep apnea machine. The president of Operation Rescue, Troy Newman, still trying to distance his anti-abortion group from Roeder, telling the AP, quote, “this guy is a fruit and a lunatic.”
Now time to call in Denise O‘Donnell, former U.S. attorney, responsible for the prosecution of James Kopp in the murder of Dr. Barnett Slefian (ph). She is currently serving as New York State‘s deputy secretary for public safety. Ms. O‘Donnell, thanks for your time tonight. Good evening.
DENISE O‘DONNELL, NEW YORK STATE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF PUBLIC SAFETY:
OLBERMANN: How should the Justice Department, federal law enforcement regard those statements made by Mr. Roeder?
O‘DONNELL: Well, I think the law enforcement community looks at his actions more than his words. Assuming that he is the person responsible for this terrible tragedy, he is living proof that there are domestic terrorists out there who will commit acts of violence against providers of reproductive services in the country. The law enforcement community knows that. We saw that in the tragic death of Dr. Slefian. We see it again in another tragedy with Dr. Tiller‘s death.
So a terrorist tries to spread terror, tries to frighten individuals and communities. And it‘s not surprising that this individual would spread more terror in the community.
OLBERMANN: Is it surprising to you that the Justice Department is not calling this an act of domestic terror or treating it as an investigation into terrorism? It does seem, in fact, to be definitionally terroristic behavior.
O‘DONNELL: Well, I think that‘s a matter of semantics. The Freedom of Access to Clinics Act is the act we use to prosecute James Kopp. We considered him a domestic terrorist. But this is a specific act passed by Congress aimed at prosecuting individuals who commit acts of terror because of someone practicing a right or blocking access to a clinic that provides reproductive services.
So I don‘t—I believe the Justice Department and the law enforcement community is treating this as an act of domestic terrorism.
OLBERMANN: Nevertheless, in terms of public understanding of what happened, and what he has said, and what he has done, the semantics as we obviously saw during the last administration, hugely important, given its handling of detainees who were soon to be involved in violence that was, you know, based on religious and political grounds, and which, we were told, were attempts to circumscribe American freedoms.
If Scott Roeder had an Islamic name and was promising to attack more Americans or knew of attacks planned against more Americans, wouldn‘t people at one end of the political spectrum now be saying, in that sort of hyperbolic example, we should use enhanced interrogation techniques to find out what he has planned or what he knows about?
O‘DONNELL: Well, I don‘t think this is really an issue about torture. This individual has been charged. He‘s not being interrogated by the police. But what is important is that the law enforcement community is taking this very, very seriously. I can tell you in New York, Governor David Paterson and I immediately called the state police to respond. They contacted 196 clinics in New York within a 24-hour period.
Our law enforcement community is on guard, working with clinics to ensure their safety. I worked with Eric Holder when he was deputy attorney general during the killing of Dr. Slefian, and he was instrumental, as was Attorney General Janet Reno, in making sure that clinics and doctors were protected. U.S. marshals were sent out to protect doctors.
At various times, we had marshals flying doctors in to keep the clinic open in western New York. I think the response from the law enforcement community is very strong in support of the right to choose and the right for reproductive services, and that we recognize that this is a case or an issue that engenders, at times, a terrible response from domestic terrorists, who are trying to really inflict their own views upon the rest of the country.
OLBERMANN: Is there any way to tell—based on the profile of the people who do this form of terror, is there a way to tell whether they would indeed know about other acts being planned? Or is it just as likely that this man was boasting or even wishful thinking/hallucinating on the subject of what might come next?
O‘DONNELL: Well, you know, I don‘t think we can tell. I‘ve read that the Justice Department has begun its own investigation to determine whether he was acting alone or had any assistance. In the Kopp case, we had a very long investigation, and found that Kopp was assisted not at the time of the incident, but afterward in his escape.
So I think that the federal authorities are very focused on whether there are other individuals involved in this particular incident.
Otherwise, we have to be on guard all the time about this kind of terrorism
terrorist activity involving reproductive clinics.
OLBERMANN: The deputy secretary for public safety of New York state, the U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted James Kopp for the murder of Dr. Slefian, Denise O‘Donnell. Great thanks for your insight and for your time tonight.
O‘DONNELL: OK. Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,230th 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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Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>