Guests: Erich Pica, Rep. Barney Frank, James Risen, Richard Wolffe
HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you
be talking about tomorrow?
Amaze your friends, confuse your enemies. OK, just confuse everybody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we‘re announcing
the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration. And this is not a
decision that I‘ve made lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president attacked by the right for not drilling
enough, attacked by the left for drilling at all, attacked by both sides
for contradicting himself from the campaign.
And for what? The maximum yield on this: 63 billion barrels of oil.
We use 7 billion barrels of oil per year. The likely return on this, a
fraction of that may be as little as two weeks‘ supply. Drill, Barack,
The Republican who is for protecting the consumer from the big banks
before he was against it, Senator Corker, flip-flops, now opposes the
reform bill he said last week he supported. Our special guest: Congressman
“They were subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance”—the
federal judge‘s ruling today against the Bush administration wiretaps of an
Islamic charity and two American attorneys. Wiretapping which the Obama
administration is defending under state secrets laws.
The tea party Senate candidate in Florida suggests, “I don‘t love this
country and should be traded from it.” Tonight‘s “Quick Comments.”
“Worsts”: That was quick—a right wing radio freak defends the
Hutaree on grounds of faith and freedom of speech.
And Sarah Palin‘s interview with LL Cool J for fixed news. It was
news to him. It turned out it was lifted from somewhere else. FOX turns
tail and runs.
And, baseball player hits ball, baseball player‘s hit ball hits
baseball player‘s own mother?
All the news and commentary—now on tonight‘s seventh anniversary
edition of COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is COUNTDOWN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
President Obama today stunning supporters and getting only a faint
cough from his opponents, announcing he has approved a limited offshore oil
and gas exploration increases much of the eastern seaboard from Delaware
down through central Florida, also along other parts of the outer
continental shelf. Drill Obama, drill.
This while the administration insisted new mileage standards will save
an estimated 1,800,000,000 barrels of oil—the proverb about trying to
please everybody and ending up pleasing nobody seems appropriate, even
though it too pleases nobody.
At a military base outside Washington, President Obama declaring that
he has cleared the way for expanded oil drilling along the Atlantic coast,
the eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Alaskan shoreline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth
and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need
to harness traditional sources of fuel, even as we ramp up production of
new sources of renewable homegrown energy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It is a change in policy from when then-Senator Obama
started running for the White House, when he first supported the moratorium
that prevented oil companies from drilling off Florida‘s coast, and then in
autumn of 2008, signaled willingness to consider some drilling. Now,
President Obama is claiming it was a tough decision that had to be made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is not a decision that I‘ve made lightly. Ultimately, we
need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between
business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim
drilling is a cure-all and those who would claim it has no place—because
this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we
fight the same old battles over and over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The policy is not going to gain much of anything in terms
of actual oil production. The maximum yield for these areas: 63 billion
barrels. We consume more than 7 billion barrels a year. So, if every
spoonful of oil they think could be there is there, he did this to get nine
years‘ supply, likely way less than half the oil is really there. And to
start at least, there is only a five-year window to drill. This could be
the actual yield, might equal as little as a month‘s domestic consumption.
Maybe just two weeks.
So, what might be president actually be hoping to get in return for
this controversial decision? Earlier in the month, Republican Senator
Graham hinting that the president was going to need to make a grand gesture
if he wanted Republican support on energy and climate change to any degree.
Today, John Kerry, without endorsing the specifics of the president‘s
proposal today, is saying that offshore drilling could help get 60 votes
for climate legislation. But for which climate legislation exactly?
This morning on CNBC, the energy secretary, Ken Salazar, backing away
from cap-and-trade, saying, quote, “I think the term cap-and-trade is not
in the lexicon anymore.”
His drilling proposal certainly hasn‘t won the president any
Republican n votes in the House. Minority Leader Boehner today is saying
in a statement that the plan does not go far enough, quote, “Opening up
areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but
keeping the Pacific coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising
resources off the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense.”
Except that makes no sense. President Obama did open new areas for
drilling in Alaska‘s Arctic Sea, only Bristol Bay remains protected—the
most environmentally fragile waters of the Frontier State.
Speaking of which, the former half-governor of Alaska today saying in
a tweet—you guessed it—“Drill, baby, drill.” And actually, it was
only her first tweet, supposedly after reading the Republican talking
points or at least Congressman Boehner‘s statement, Mrs. Palin posting an
apparent self-tweeting correction, quote, “Rep. Boehner spot-on Obama goal
equals cram through job-killing, energy-depleting burdensome cap and tax
scheme on the heels of Obama‘s new pro drilling msg.”
Environmentalists—no happier. The executive director of Greenpeace
asking, quote, “Is this President Obama‘s clean energy plan or Palin‘s
drill, baby drill campaign?” The executive director of the Sierra Club,
“What we need is bold decisive steps towards clean energy, not more dirty,
expensive offshore drilling.”
Lots to talk about thus, with our own Howard Fineman, senior
Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Republicans obviously think this does not go far enough.
Progressives feel betrayed to one degree or another. The actual amount of
oil could be ridiculously small.
Hasn‘t this president traveled this no-man‘s land before, the
FINEMAN: Yes, he has, and he almost got lost in it.
They held this very close, Keith, at the White House. So, this really
was a surprise to everybody around town, because the administration knew
they wanted to try to control the message to avoid the very problem that
you‘re talking about.
What‘s of interest to me here is that Barack Obama has prospered with
big picture, with big concepts, for example, on health care. But the
equivalent, if this were the health care bill, this would be like
introducing the health care bill by saying, “You know what? Let‘s start by
redecorating all the doctors‘ offices.” I mean, this—this is small ball
for what is supposed to be another big picture plan here on energy. That‘s
why it‘s kind of puzzling.
OLBERMANN: In terms of the energy independence, which is at least the
public goal of this, is there—is there really any there there? I mean,
from the Boehner perspective, it would—it would seem as if this does not
go anywhere near far enough towards meeting Republican objectives, let
alone producing any large supply of oil.
FINEMAN: No, it doesn‘t. I mean, I think it‘s largely symbolic.
He‘s saying, you know, yes, I believe in extraction. So, I don‘t want you
to think I‘m against extraction—and by that philosophical statement, if
nothing else, because it will be years before any of this would be
developed, as you pointed out, he‘s trying to get Republican votes I think
in the Senate.
I think Lindsey Graham has said, “Look, I need some stuff for my guys
to get any of them to possibly participate in a bill in the Senate.” A
bill had passed the House. Nothing has happened in the Senate. They‘re
taking a lead from Lindsey Graham here, but it may be a fool—another
fool‘s errand in terms of getting Republican support.
OLBERMANN: The terms about what the president might be hoping to
leverage here and what Secretary Salazar said cap-and-trade is not in the
lexicon anymore, did he mean the phrase or the actual legislation that
would either be cap-and-trade or have the same effect as cap-and-trade?
FINEMAN: Well, the real big deal here, Keith, is still the question
of carbon pollution, of CO2 pollution, which comes from coal-fired power
plants. It comes from industry. It comes from cars, et cetera.
If there‘s going to be a serious effort to both make us more
efficient, in terms of energy, more independent but also greener, you‘re
going to have to do something about the social cost of carbon-based
Now, you can call it whatever you want it. You can have whatever kind
of mechanism you want. That‘s the key thing here, and that‘s the problem
politically for the president, that this thing today about drilling
offshore really doesn‘t deal with at all.
OLBERMANN: Is—do you suppose, and I know we‘re at guesswork stage
here because nobody‘s figured this one out here, but is the calculation
look through all the yelling from both sides about health care reform, the
president got his victory, and he got some health care reform—
OLBERMANN: -- that perhaps all of this—and really, the over—
this is the first time in a long time that the overwhelming response out of
Washington has been, huh? Rather than, we hate this. We‘re going to
OLBERMANN: There‘s now going to be an oil party with people dressed
up as gasoline pumps. Will it all be forgotten if he gets any kind of
climate legislation into law?
FINEMAN: Well, it‘s a big if. It‘s just as big an “if” as health
care was. And don‘t forget, it only passed by three votes in the end. The
big sticking point here is coal, as I look at it. And maybe it‘s because I
began in Kentucky. I used to cover the coal industry.
But we still get almost half our electricity from coal. Coal is a
huge pollution problem. In states where the Democrats need support, where
Obama needs support, you‘ve got Democratic senators, whether it‘s Bobby
Byrd in West Virginia or Casey or Specter in Pennsylvania, or Bayh in
Indiana, who are going to vote “no” if there‘s any kind of tax on carbon-
based pollution. That‘s the big problem that Obama is going to have to
deal with if he‘s going to get a bill.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—as always, great
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For more on reaction to the president‘s proposal, let‘s
turn to Erich Pica, who is the president of Friends of the Earth.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
ERICH PICA, FRIENDS OF THE EARTH: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Obama move here does a lot to a longstanding
moratorium on oil and gas drilling off of much of the east coast. Your
reaction to hearing the news today was what?
PICA: Well, we‘re—from Friends of the Earth‘s perspective, we‘re
seriously disappointed with the president. He‘s turning his back on 25
years of what we believe is sound energy and environmental policy for maybe
blowing a kiss to the Republicans and Senator Graham on this drilling
OLBERMANN: If it—if there is the political calculation behind this
more than the—than the, you know, 7 billion or 8 billion barrels of oil
that might be—that might come out of it, or even if that number were 70
billion, if it‘s more about getting enough Republican support to pass
significant legislation in terms of climate change, in terms of energy and
emission standards, is it—is it in any way, to your mind, worth the
PICA: We have to see a bill first. I mean, this—the president is
essentially, unilaterally, disarming himself. We saw two or three weeks
ago where he pledged to do new nuclear power in Georgia, we saw this only
on gas development pledge he‘s making and then he starts to talk
significantly about coal. And so, he‘s got the trifecta of the Republican
And we don‘t see what we‘re getting out of it. We are basically
empowering these dirty energy subsidies, these dirty energy sources, and
we‘re not getting strong commitments on renewable energy, on energy
efficiency, on solar. And we need to make a significant step forward in
these technologies to solve global warming and to reduce our energy
dependence. And he‘s just not stepping up right now.
OLBERMANN: Well, under those circumstances of not stepping up and not
presenting a bill that would at least encourage you that there‘s some light
at the end of this tunnel he‘s just decided to go into, what is Friends of
the Earth planning to do to fight this proposal?
PICA: Well, already there is a letter sent to Majority Leader Reid,
10 senators said if there‘s additional drilling in this climate energy
bill, that we would likely oppose this bill. So, that‘s one part.
The other part is that we‘re sending actual letters out to our members
right now saying, sign a petition: tell senator—President Obama that
this is unacceptable energy policy that he‘s putting forth.
And then thirdly, it‘s just talking to you, and I‘m glad you‘re having
us on the show—but talking to other media outlets and blowing the
whistle on this, how much of a fraud that this proposal is.
OLBERMANN: How about the new increased mileage standards that the
administration claimed today is going to save a billion eight in terms of
oil, which is, of course, about 90 days worth of domestic consumption.
Does way against or mitigate against what you see as a bad day?
PICA: That‘s a really good proposal he made, and we‘re highly
supportive of it. But we look at it and say, why do we have to have these
two linked? I mean, this is a proposal to move—to make cars more
efficient and cleaner, and something that we should be doing regardless of
oil and gas drilling or nuclear power. And so, we support it. Kind of
questioning why he‘s packaged all this together, because this is a very
green victory when we start implementing these new fuel economy standards.
OLBERMANN: Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth—great thanks for
your time tonight, sir.
PICA: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Unless you‘re returning to shore from a year on a drilling
platform without a radio, you already know that the likelihood of
Republican support for anything is far harder to find than that oil. A GOP
senator today reneges on his support for banking reform that would protect
you instead of the banks. House Financial Services Committee Chairman
Barney Frank joins us.
And what amounts to a plagiarism scandal at FOX News involving Sarah
Palin and LL Cool J now also involved Sarah Palin and Toby Keith—ahead.
OLBERMANN: Democrats needed one Republican senator to support banking
reform that would have protected you instead of the banks. Last week they
had him, today he‘s flip-flopped. Congressman Barney Frank on that.
A federal court judge rules the Bush administration‘s illegal domestic
wiretapping was illegal domestic wiretapping. Explain for us by Pulitzer
Prize winner James Risen of “The New York Times.”
A candidate for the U.S. Senate implies “I don‘t love this country and
I should be traded to another country.”
And the foulest foul ball in 50 years, the Minnesota Twins outfielder
who lined one off his own mom. Why does this sound so familiar to me?
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The one Republican senator most likely to help Democrats
pass new law to reform the way our banks work and do not work now says he
absolutely cannot support the bill in question.
Our fourth story tonight: the bill‘s intent is to prevent another
devastating financial meltdown. But Tennessee‘s senator, Bob Corker, says
he cannot support it because it gives consumers too much protection.
The House bill shaped by Democrats, including our next guest,
Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, establishes exactly what
President Obama called for—an independent agency to protect consumers
against predatory banking practices. The Senate bill authored virtually
single-handedly by Banking Chairman Chris Dodd of the Senate locates the
consumer protection agency inside the Federal Reserve, which is primarily
responsible, not for consumers, but for protecting the system.
Senator Corker in today‘s “Wall Street Journal” says the agency Dodd
proposes still has too much power to protect consumers. In a speech today,
Corker explained his opposition. According to the newspaper “The
Tennessean,” Corker objects to Dodd‘s proposal that banks would have to
hold on to, not sell to another institution, at least 5 percent of any
loans they make—which would give them at least some incentive to ensure
that the loans were repayable because they would lose money when they were
Even though Dodd‘s proposed consumer protection agency would be part
of the Federal Reserve, Corker also wants banking regulators, those charged
with protecting the banks from themselves, to have veto power over any
consumer protection agency, quote, “I don‘t want an overzealous consumer
protection agency. We need balance. Right now in the bill, there‘s too
much independence and too little coordination between the regulators and
the consumer protection side.” He said this out loud.
And while Dodd‘s talks with ranking banking member, Richard Shelby,
broke down, Corker says he is still optimistic about negotiating changes to
the bill before it is taken up by the full Senate potentially as early as
this month or next.
Joining us now as promised, chairman of the House Financial Services
Committee, Congressman Barney Frank.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES CMTE. CHAIRMAN:
Glad to, Keith. It‘s a very important issue, obviously.
“The Wall Street Journal” writes, Democrats need support from at least
one Republican to pass the measure in the Senate. Are Republicans already
backing off on repealing health care, seemingly getting away from that
crazy idea—why not let them filibuster on behalf of the banks, if that‘s
what they want to do?
FRANK: I agree with you. This is a “bring it on” moment.
Senator Dodd—let me say, senator Dodd is doing an excellent job,
and the bill he wrote originally was a very good bill. He has gone every
possible step to accommodate them. And what happened with this, Senator
Corker was trying to negotiate with Senator Dodd. He was overruled by the
Let‘s be very clear. Senator McConnell and Shelby told Corker, no.
They have, I think, a fantasy that they‘re going to vote 41 Republicans
stand up and say, there should be no reform.
Understand, Keith, that when the House voted on this bill last
December, and the bill that came out of the House is a good bill. It‘s not
everything I wanted, I would have liked to have a little more strength, but
we did a pretty good job.
Our problem was, frankly, that health care was dominating the news, so
we were kind of left alone with the lobbyists. We still did a pretty good
But what—they wanted—when we wrote on that bill in December,
every single Republican—I‘m not exaggerating, Casey Stengel used to say,
you can look it up—every single Republican in the U.S. House of
Representatives voted to kill every single form of financial reform. They
didn‘t say, make it better. They didn‘t say better balance. They said
nothing. Nada. Kill it all.
Now, Shelby and the House minority leader, John Boehner, went before
the American bankers a couple weeks ago and promised them that they would
use parliamentary tactics to kill the bill. That‘s when Boehner
outrageously said to these bankers, don‘t let these punk staffers push you
around, the very hardworking people we work with.
So, I agree with you completely. Let‘s call their bluff. I don‘t
think the American people want to see a consumer agency that has to check
with the banks‘ supporters before it does anything.
And the other issue you mentioned, we call it securitization. Thirty
years ago when you borrowed money, you borrowed money from the person who
expected you to pay him back, and he or she was pretty careful about
lending it. Then they came up with this scheme whereby I lend somebody
money, I lend 1,000 people money, and I sell the right to be repaid by
other—to other people. That gives me no real incentive to have the
So, we‘re asking for a fairly small, 5 percent to 10 percent hold. By
the way, if I buy insurance from a company and that company gets worried
and wants to get reinsurance, they cannot reinsure the whole risk. They
have to have what we call a risk retention.
So, what you have is the Republicans apparently deciding as a party
that everything worked wonderfully and there should be no reform
And last point, (INAUDIBLE), I have a contest going on. I want
someone to tell me an example in American history, in the financial area,
where we overregulated on behalf of consumers. I can‘t think of one,
OLBERMANN: Well, this begs that point, and you included it in that
great summation of what‘s going on here. But I‘d like to emphasize this
one idea here about where that consumer protection agency is. What happens
if there‘s a version created that is not the way you have outlined it?
FRANK: Well, first of all, that‘s not going to happen until we have a
vote in the Senate. And I am committed—you know, my Republican
colleagues go off and on like a light switch. They wanted the health care
bill negotiated in public.
Well, I want in charge of the health care bill, but I have a lot to
say about the financial bill. I‘m giving them their wish. We will have a
If a bill comes out where the Republicans and over Chris Dodd‘s
objection—and let me make a point about Chris Dodd, who‘s been very
unfairly criticized in some places. He‘s doing the best job that I think
he can do.
If he—if you get 41 Republicans filibustering, then we‘re going to
sit in public and have a nice conference and you can all cover us, and let
the Republican members of that conference from the Senate vote to kill this
independent agency, because we‘re not going to—we‘re not going to
provide cover for them. I‘m not in the business of helping make up
Republicans so they can pretend to be what they‘re not.
OLBERMANN: Yes, that quote—I mean, Senator Corker would be
described in New England as a corker, even if his name wasn‘t that, based
on this --
OLBERMANN: -- on this quote. He said this aloud. How do you get re-
elected to anything higher than dog catcher defending the banks against the
FRANK: Well, I think they made a mistake.
Here‘s the deal—they got a little overconfident. Last year, when
we were doing this fight—and our bill is a pretty strong. I wish it was
a little tougher on derivatives, although we do some make great strides
there. Everybody was talking about health care. So, you know, they got
away with opposing it.
Here‘s their argument now. It‘s big government, you can‘t trust.
There‘s an interesting thing going on here, Keith, with the
Republicans. First they ran the government for six years. They had the
president, the House and the Senate. They messed things up. In the
financial area, they didn‘t regulate. They allowed all these terrible
things to happen.
Now that we‘re trying to fix it they say, oh, you can‘t trust the
government. Well, I couldn‘t trust the government they ran, but now they
can make it better. I don‘t think it‘s going to work. I think the public
will them—and let me say this, I don‘t think all 41 Republicans are
going to stand up and try to kill independent financial reform.
OLBERMANN: One would think not, but we‘ve seen worse before.
Congressman Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services
Committee—always a pleasure. Thank you for your time.
FRANK: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: James Risen of “The New York Times” on a crucial ruling
against the Bush administration domestic spying program and against the
Obama Justice Department which is trying to defend it—coming up here.
OLBERMANN: A federal judge with a huge ruling today against Bush
administration warrantless wiretaps.
First, on August 17th, 1957, Richie Ashburn who got to the Baseball
Hall of Fame, largely by virtue of his ability to keep fouling off pitches
he didn‘t like until he got one he did like, fouled one off into the stands
of Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. It struck of all people, Alice
Roth, the wife of the sports editor of the “Philadelphia Bulletin”
They had to carry Mrs. Roth and her broken nose off on a stretcher.
And while they were so doing, Ashburn, who is still at the plate and still
fouling pitches off, hit Mrs. Roth with another foul ball.
And then on June 17th, 2000, Chuck Knoblauch of the New York Yankees
picked up a ground ball and threw it wildly towards first base. It instead
hit a fan sitting behind he dugout, breaking her eyeglasses. That fan, of
course, was my late mother.
All of this is mentioned because in Tampa this afternoon, in an
exhibition game against the Yankees, Minnesota Twins centerfielder Denard
Span kind of did a half-Ashburn/half-Knoblauch.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
Mr. Span of the Twins shoots a foul ball into the stands and hits a
fan wearing a Denard Span uniform. I know. What are the odds? Well, it
gets worse. The woman wearing the Denard Span uniform is his mom, Wanda
Wilson. She was OK. That‘s why Span ran into the stands. He had to take
himself out of the game, he was disturbed enough, although she was fine.
Even this is not as bad as it gets. Hall of Famer pitcher Bob Feller
says when he was only 20 years old, he threw a pitch in Chicago, in 1939.
It was fouled off and it hit his mother in the stands, and that was on
And we showed you this last night. It has apparently been shown
everywhere. It happened. It‘s funny, but it deserves, if not an apology,
then at least a little explanation. This was Melanie Lawson, anchor at the
ABC station in Houston, slipping out of her chair as she reached over
towards the weather man.
I don‘t know Ms. Lawson, but a good friend does and he advises me
today that part of the physics of what we saw and laughed at is something
she would never make a big deal of. Melanie Lawson has multiple sclerosis,
has used a cane for many years, and she still laughed at herself when that
happened. so my apologies to her and to you for not having known that
first. My friend writes that she is an inspiration for me and many others
here in the Houston area, and now she‘s an inspiration for me too.
An actual candidate for the Republican nomination for the Senate of
this nation suggests that there are three Americans who disagree with him
politically who do not love this country, as a result. And one of the
three is me. Tonight‘s comment ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Tonight, the United States government, following
guidelines set by the Bush administration‘s Terrorist Surveillance Program,
has been found guilty of illegally eavesdropping on two American lawyers
and an Islamic charity. Our third story, there was a ruling from a federal
court in San Francisco that could be the most significant yet in unraveling
the invasions of privacy instituted by President Bush.
The lawsuit was filed in 2006 by an Oregon branch of the Saudi based
al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, and two American lawyers named Asim Ghafoor
and Wendell Belew. The plaintiffs claim that phone conversations they had
in 2004 were illegally wiretapped by the National Security Agency, the NSA,
after the Islamic charity was deemed a supporter of terrorism by the
Treasury Department. They argued that the government violated the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, because they did not first obtain a
The Justice Department, under both Presidents Bush and Obama, argued a
warrant to eavesdrop was not necessary, claiming that the government‘s
state secrets trumped the FISA law.
Today, US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker delivered his verdict in
favor of the Al-Haramain Foundation and the two American attorneys, writing
in his 45 page ruling that, quote, “FISA takes precedence over the State
Secrets Privilege in this case. Under defendants‘ theory, executive branch
officials may treat FISA as optional and freely employ the state secrets
privilege to evade FISA, a statute enacted specifically to rein in and
create a judicial check for executive branch abuses of surveillance
authority.” The lawyers and the foundation are each seeking a million
dollars in damages. The Justice Department says it is reviewing the
Joining me now, as promised, James Risen of “the New York Times,”
Pulitzer Prize winner for his investigative reporting on the Bush
administration‘s domestic spying program. Thank you for your time tonight,
JAMES RISEN, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: You have followed this issue so closely and done such
extraordinary reporting on it. Contextualize this for us. What is the
significance of this ruling today?
RISEN: I think the most important thing is that by declaring this—
the eavesdropping an illegal act, that in other words, it was—the Bush
administration had no right to evade FISA, it raises serious questions
about the whole underpinnings for the whole Bush war on terror. You could
argue that virtually all the programs that the Bush administration used,
rendition, torture, wiretapping, you know, setting up secret prisons, all
were, in one form or another, an evasion of Congressional power.
By saying that the Bush administration had no right to avoid
congressional mandates and congressional legislation, that raises real
questions about whether everything that the Bush administration did on
counter-terrorism was illegal.
OLBERMANN: Practically, does that mean anything at this point?
RISEN: I think it raises—the really interesting question here is
this was the last major lawsuit pending on the NSA program, because all the
cases against the telecommunications companies had been thrown out by the
telecom immunity, in the 2008 legislation to update FISA, that President
Obama voted for when he was in the Senate. But this one was targeted
against the NSA, against the government, rather than the telecommunications
companies. By declaring this illegal, it raises questions in my mind about
whether individual government officials in the future could be held liable
for having acted in a criminal way.
OLBERMANN: Is there any reason to suppose, ultimately, this case will
turn out any differently than the last time there was an attempt made to
sue the NSA by the ACLU?
RISEN: That case in Detroit, as you may remember, the whole program
was declared unconstitutional, and an appeals court ruled that it was—
that the people who brought that case lacked standing. But no one ever
challenged the underlying ruling by the judge that it was unconstitutional.
It‘s unclear that anybody can argue, in this case either, that by declaring
it criminal—that the program was a crime, that you could not make a
further—you know, demand a further criminal investigation of what the
Bush administration did.
And it‘s unclear whether the Obama administration really wants to
fight that battle. They‘ve argued this more narrowly on the state secrets
privilege. And they‘ve never tried to defend the Bush administration on
the actual NSA program.
OLBERMANN: They also did something interesting here, which also gives
context to this. It may be a little bit different. The Holder Justice
Department broke with the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department and gave the
judge this classified description of why the case should be dismissed, and
the judge still ruled in favor of the plaintiff. Does that tell us just
how flawed—at least for historical purposes, does it tell us how flawed
the Bush domestic spying program really was?
RISEN: Yes, well, it raises real questions, because there was a
document that the al-Haramain people had been given by mistake that
revealed that they had actually been wire tapped under this program. That
was not—they were not allowed to use that.
But the Obama administration, the way they broke with the Bush
administration on this was by saying we are going to abide by the court‘s
ruling. The Bush people were never going to—they were essentially
planning to ignore whatever the court said in this case, if they were still
in office. The Obama people are now going to abide by it. The question is
they may not appeal this case, this ruling, which would leave on the books
the idea that the NSA program was illegal.
OLBERMANN: Does it also, the way they defended this, the way Holder
defended this, using state secrets—does that stay on the books too?
Will this be the last time they use state secrets?
RISEN: Probably not. I‘m sure they have defended that more
vigorously they have the NSA program itself, because they like that as
something they can use in other case. But this—it raises real
interesting questions about state secrets too, the limits of state secrets
and how far they can push that in trying to shut down criminal cases
against the government.
OLBERMANN: James Risen of “the New York Times,” great thanks for
putting this in context for us, and again great thanks for your time
RISEN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The fake implication by Sarah Palin and Fox that she had
done an interview with LL Cool J for her new TV show. Turns out she also
didn‘t do an interview with Toby Keith, even though they were implying
And worsts, the alleged terrorists Hutaree get their day in court
tomorrow, guess what they‘re expecting the court to do for them in court.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the state attorney
general who will not sue to stop health care reform, and the Republicans
trying to impeach him. The night the brains went out in Georgia.
OLBERMANN: Our seven edition of worsts ahead. First, tonight‘s quick
Mark Rubio, the Tea Party candidate for the Republican nomination for
the Senate from Florida, has yet to be mistaken for one of the bright young
lights of American politics. Mr. Rubio gave a speech today in West Palm
Beach at which he endorsed offshore drilling, condemned amnesty to illegal
immigrants, and, according to the “Palm Beach Post,” closed with a thought
he said originated on “The Glenn Beck Show.” No, he did not start weeping,
not even speaking in tongues.
He said, regarding immigration, quote, “there are millions of people
in America that hate our country, so why can‘t we just do a trade? We‘ll
send you Sean Penn, Jeanine Garofalo and Keith Olbermann, and you can send
us people that actually love this country and want to help us build it.”
Mr. Rubio, you have long behaved like a teenager who has borrowed his
father‘s suit. I think you don‘t understand this country. I think you
imperil this country. I think your stupidity is an indictment of the
education system in this country. And I‘m sure you feel exactly the same
way about me.
But what I would never claim about you is that you do not love this
country. I would never even claim that in your own way, you have not
believed you have tried to build it. You have the right to criticize
anything you want about me, or anybody else with whom you disagree
politically. But when you question whether or not I love this country, you
have crossed a line. You have inadvertently revealed that you don‘t see
those with other viewpoints as merely disagreeing with you. You have
inadvertently revealed that you dismiss them as not loving this country.
This, in turn, proves that if you are elected to office, you will not
in the slightest be representing, nor even defending, the people of your
state who did not vote for you. And that, perhaps, is the greatest crime
against this country of which any politician can be guilty.
Mr. Rubio, I am the great grandson of immigrants, as you are the son
of immigrants, who came to this country for its opportunity and its
freedom. And I know one thing for sure: my ancestors and yours were trying
to get away from people like you.
OLBERMANN: Mama says knock you out. LL Cool J defeats Sarah Palin in
one round. Now it turns out she didn‘t interview Toby Keith either.
That‘s next, but first tonight‘s worst persons in the world, a special
seventh anniversary of COUNTDOWN edition.
See all the special stuff we‘re doing tonight for it?
The bronze to Chris Baker. This is the Minnesota scorched Earth
hacker filling in for Lonesome Roads Beck. You knew it had to happen and
it did. On national radio, the Hutaree militia was defended by this
turkey. “With everybody demonizing the militia coming up in the program,
let me give you a real glimpse of who your enemy is,” he said. “It‘s not
the militia, OK? You know this is nothing more than an attack on faith and
an attack on free speech.”
Now you know why Mr. Baker is a fill-in. Even Beck isn‘t dumb enough
to claim domestic terrorism is just faith and free speech.
Our runners up, the good old Hutaree themselves, led by that
misunderstood faithful free speech advocate, who just incidentally wanted
to kill cops and topple the government, David Brian Stone, also known as
Joe Stonewall and Captain Hutaree.
Whatever else they are, Mr. Stone and his fellow alleged terrorists
are excellent at irony. After being charged with sedition against the
government they viewed as some kind of front for the anti-Christ, they have
requested the services of free government attorneys.
But our winner, and it‘s only because it‘s the anniversary of the
show, Bill-O the clown. First, there‘s this anniversary note. He gave an
interview to author Marvin Kitman, who wrote the biography O‘Reilly tried
to suppress, “The Man Who Would Not Shut Up,” in which he said COUNTDOWN
didn‘t matter because it would be canceled and I would be fired before
Kitman‘s book came out. Kitman‘s book came out January 3rd, 2007. Another
bold and fresh prediction.
But something new from Bill-O, something simple, gently underscoring
how nuts he really is. “You turn on MSNBC and you see these people
attacking personally. They‘re throwing all kinds of stuff around. People
go, it‘s unpleasant. I‘m not going to watch it. And they don‘t.”
OK, this is the highest rated cable news show not on Fox, blah, blah,
blah. But Bill‘s implication here is he doesn‘t attack people personally,
exempt he has also said this: “MSNBC made the key mistake of hiring bad
people. It‘s as simple as that. They‘ve got a bunch of guttersnipes on
So I attack personally and he doesn‘t, and then he attacks us as bad
people and guttersnipes. Now everybody occasionally falls into utterly
self-contradictory, mutually exclusive, embarrassing claims like that. But
there‘s usually some space between the points of contradiction, a year, a
month, something. How long before O‘Reilly contradicted himself? In the
transcript, it looks like about 42 seconds.
Bill-O the clown, without whom today‘s seventh anniversary of
COUNTDOWN would not be possible, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin‘s Fox News show “Real American Stories” debuts
tomorrow, April First, sharing the real American stories of LL Cool J and
Toby Keith, which, it turns out, comes as a big surprise to LL Cool J and
Toby Keith. Our number one story, the whole thing is an April Fool‘s joke,
although evidently an unintentional.
As a Fox News press detailed, the show is, or at least was to tell
real life tales of overcoming adversity, and would include special guests,
like country singer Toby Keith, rapper and actor LL Cool J, and the former
chairman and CEO of General Electric, the parent company of NBC Universal,
Jack Welch. You can never get him for an interview.
“Mr. Cool J and Mr. Welch,” read the release, “will both speak about
their success in this country in a segment entitled, ‘In Their Own Words,”
prompting the “Weekly Standard‘s” Mary Katherine Ham to fawn “the more time
LL Cool J spends in a Fox News studio, the closer I get to meeting him and
for that I owe Sarah Palin many thanks.”
Ham, I don‘t think so. Ms. Ham can save the thank you note for
another time. LL Cool J will not spend time in a Fox News studio any time
soon, because he already did, 18 Months ago. Mr. Cool J Tweeting, “Fox
lifted an old interview I gave in 2008 to someone else, and are
misrepresenting to the public in order to promote Sarah Palin‘s show.
Fox News announcing it would pull the interview from the show, and
being real nice about it. “‘Real American Stories‘ features uplifting
tales about overcoming adversity and we believed Mr. Smith‘s interview fit
that criteria. However, as it appears that Mr. Smith does not want to be
associated with a program that could serve as inspiration to others, we‘re
cutting the interview from the show. We wish him the best in his fledgling
Now, Fox has another problem on its hands with the same show. Toby
Keith slated to explain the inspiration behind his song “Courtesy of the
Red, White and Blue,” you know, with the lyrics, “we‘ll put a boot up your
ass, it‘s the American way”—his publicist telling the “New York Times,”
“I had no idea this was going to be on Sarah Palin‘s special. Fox has
never contacted me, not now, not when they were putting this together, not
at all. I have no idea what they‘re using.”
Now it turns out it was for an interview—they‘re using an interview
they did a year ago with him. Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst,
the author of “Renegade, the Making of a President,” Richard Wolffe.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, “RENEGADE”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I can‘t recall the last time Sarah Palin surprised me.
But how could anybody screw up something so obvious as the marriage between
Sarah Palin and Fox News?
WOLFFE: You know, Keith, your question is refreshingly quaint. It‘s
almost like you believe the words “Real American Stories” has something to
do with reality. That‘s like saying fair and balanced has something to do
with fairness and balance. The idea here is, if you need some explanation,
is this a story of overcoming adversity, of a triumph of inspiration. It‘s
a bit like being a one-time flute player and part-time sportscaster in
Anchorage, and going on to serving half a term as governor and still
hosting your own TV show and leading a political movement. This show is a
triumph over adversity and, if needs be, reality. It is itself
OLBERMANN: A triumph over reality, I agree with you on that point. I
think they‘re showing video of her swimming the English channel. That‘s
Sarah Palin. We‘ll get to LL Cool J in a second. But this budding Toby
Keith thing, is that the real problem here? I mean, wouldn‘t the
supporters of either of them be mystified that these two people would have
WOLFFE: You would think so, although it‘s interesting seeing the “New
York Times”—it is, as some might call it, the lame stream media. “The
New York Times” has quoted his publicist as saying they never got an e-mail
from Fox News. So it‘s a surprise even to the publicist, let alone the
interviewee. Toby Keith is an interesting guy. He obviously is on the
conservative side of things. He‘s called himself a conservative Democrat,
says he‘s a friend of James Jones, the national security adviser, also a
friend of Bill Richardson. So this guy is all over the place.
OLBERMANN: Yes, well, apparently he‘s not being interviewed by Sarah
Palin. They‘ve now admitted that she didn‘t do any of these interviews.
She‘s just the front person for the show. About LL Cool J, Fox used that
standard dismissive “we wish him luck” nonsense in the press release. But
didn‘t we just watch a fascinating dynamic in play? First, Fox found him
inspirational and he was one of the headliners for this—I almost said
unraveling of Sarah Palin‘s first show, but it‘s already unraveled. Then
he called them on this corner cutting, and suddenly he‘s not inspirational
anymore; he‘s just a fledgling actor.
WOLFFE: No, not inspirational. You‘ve got to hand it to the comics
at the Fox press office. They actually could have their own show. It
would be like “30 Rock” because they cut it up every single night. And
it‘s just a laugh a minute. It‘s just—it‘s funny in how they try and
stretch this stuff to pretending like the stories hang together.
OLBERMANN: One interesting thing, the only press releases I‘ve ever
seen where the quotes are anonymous. Nobody wants to put their names—
they don‘t have the courage to put their names to this crap. It‘s
hilarious. One journalistic question here, not that Fox believes it‘s
bound by journalistic rules, but if she says I interviewed LL Cool J, or
they say she interviewed LL Cool J, obviously that would be beyond the
pale. But if you don‘t say it in the promos, you simply implying it, is
that legitimate, even at Fox News?
WOLFFE: The promo is one thing. But the idea that she talked to
people, that they are guests in a lineup isn‘t just about a marketing trick
here. In particular, you know, “the New York Times” has latched on to
something that was in Fox nation, which apparently does have something to
do with Fox News. It takes this whole idea of promotion to another level.
So, yeah, it would be nice if the “Real American Stories” were somehow
OLBERMANN: Whose great idea was it, by the way, to launch a Sarah
Palin TV show on April Fools‘ Day?
WOLFFE: You know, every day is April Fools‘ Day. It‘s a bit like I
wish it could be Christmas every day. But it is April Fools‘ Day all the
time on Fox News, especially for people who watch it.
OLBERMANN: Last question, is she going to use a teleprompter?
WOLFFE: You know, only dead fish go with the flow, and only dead fish
OLBERMANN: I‘m reading a teleprompter and I remember the day you did
this show, you did too.
WOLFFE: And I was pretty dead too.
OLBERMANN: So, Richard Wolffe --
WOLFFE: That wasn‘t a joke.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, great thanks as always.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN this for the 2,526th day since the
previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith
Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now with the story of the bid to impeach a state attorney general who
will not sue over health care, plus the latest on drill B. Obama, drill,
ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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