Guests: Kenneth Vogel, John Dean, Steve Clemons, Derrick Pitts, Joel
Hodgson, J. Elvis Weinstein, Trace Beaulieu.
HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you
be talking about tomorrow?
Smoking gun, as the Tea Party Express in Boston draws only 5,000, the
idea that it is independent grassroots—destroyed. “Politico” finds a
2009 memo, Republican consultants dreamt it up and planned it as a way to
raise money for their PAC and planned how to promote it on FOX News.
Independents who aren‘t, news that is propaganda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Tea Party Express, we
applaud you for uniting and for putting up with all the B.S. from the lame-
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But the memo shows, madam, it‘s all a con-game.
The Oklahoma politicians bent to create a state militia to fight
against the federal government, this little surprise from the Article II
Section II of the Constitution, “The president shall be commander-in-chief
of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the
several states”? Uh-oh! Our guest, John Dean.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: That old Beach Boy song, “Bomb Iran,”
you know, bomb, bomb, bomb—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Then, it was just funny.
Now, on Iran, he‘s just the “Ayatollah McCain.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: We keep pointing the gun. We haven‘t pulled a single trigger
yet. And it‘s about time that we did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: “Worsts”: Billo says he‘s proved nobody on fixed news ever
said you‘d go to jail if you don‘t buy insurance, except the FOX guy who
said it on Billo‘s show.
And the men who made talking during cheesy movies into high art—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know the penalty for acting without
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think everyone in this movie is acting without
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Our special guests: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis
Weinstein, and their new live show “Cinematic Titanic.” Time to go to bed!
Push the button, Frank.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you see, CAT scan man?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
We begin tonight in unprecedented fashion. Liberals, progressives,
Democrats, our top story tonight is not really for you, though you are
encouraged to rubber neck at the train wreck.
Tonight, our fifth story is a genuine and sincerely genuine attempt to
help tea party members around the country. “Politico,” a mainstream
political news Web site, today publishing a secret document it obtained
establishing definitively that some of the nation‘s top tea party leaders
are using you—using you to line their own pockets and propagate the
precise establishment politics that you hate so much.
Here it is. And the reporter who got it is standing by to talk with
us. It was written just days after last year‘s Tax Day tea parties
proposing the creation of the Tea Party Express, the group that launched
1,000 bus tours. The express charter was not written by a tea party
leader, nor even by a grassroots independent, but by a Republican operative
telling “Politico” the Tea Party Express could, quote, “give a boost to his
consulting firm‘s PAC,” political action committee, “and position us as a
The charter is worth quoting at length, bringing established tea party
leaders unto the express, quote, “will be a very, sensitive matter. We
have to be very careful about discussing amongst ourselves anyone we
include outside of the family, because quite frankly, we are not only not
part of the political establishment of conservative establishment, but we
are also sadly not currently part of the tea party establishment, i.e.,
Michelle Malkin, Eric Odom, Smart Girl Politics, TCOP, FreedomWorks, Newt
Gingrich, et cetera. We could probably pull off a phenomenally successful
tour without these big-ego establishment types.”
The document also talks about how to appear authentic. “We‘ve already
discussed doing a casting call among our Nevada supports and donors to
appear in at least one of our TV ads targeting Harry Reid—to buttress
our ‘authenticity,‘ their quote marks, in running ads in the state.”
One goal, electing Republicans, quote, “It is also worth considering
making a return run to Michigan. Former Republican Michigan governor, John
Engler, has recently stated that he believes the Republican Party will do
quite well in Michigan.”
But the big goal of founding firm Russo Marsh? Money—for them.
Sal Russo telling “Politico,” “We‘re hardly making any money at all.”
“Politico” reporting that after its scheme, the PAC quadrupled its
fundraising, paying almost half that money to the Russo Marsh consulting
firm itself and to Russo Marsh‘s sister company King Media Group.
The PAC‘s former political director telling “Politico,” quote, “We
stole the brand name to make money.”
None of which stopped Sarah Palin from shilling for the Tea Party
Express today in Boston.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: So, Tea Party Express, we applaud you for uniting and for
putting up with all the B.S. from the lame-stream media with some of the
ginned up controversy with the tea parties, false accusations of being—
this group being racist, being violent. Thank you to the Tea Party Express
for putting up with that and still uniting Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In a whole new way tonight, in the way of the three-card
Monty dealer, this woman is an idiot.
And if tea partiers still doubt they are being played, consider what
Palin said at the Tea Party Express rally about Tax Freedom Day, the day
signifying what portion of the year you work to pay your taxes. The later
it is, the higher your taxes are. This year it fell on April 9th—
meaning you worked 99 days just to pay your taxes. This year and last, as
the Tax Foundation itself shows, the earliest, therefore the lowest tax
days in decades.
Under Bush it was never earlier than April 14th. Meaning, you worked
at least 104 days for the government under Bush.
But here was Palin today—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Folks, we need your voice now more than ever. Americans now
spend 100 days out of the year working for government before we even start
earning money for ourselves, for our families, for our small businesses—
100 days out of the year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
As promised now, “Politico‘s” senior reporter, Ken Vogel.
Great thanks for your time tonight, Ken.
KENNETH VOGEL, POLITICO.COM: Hey. Great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Opinion aside, have I got the factual outline of your
story correct? Is there anything else we should add to get it straight?
VOGEL: Well, the firm, Russo Marsh, and its operatives have really
pushed back hard against this idea that they‘re making a lot of money off
of it. They say, yes, we received $1.9 million in payments from this PAC,
which is now the Tea Party Express, but a lot of that was for overhead. We
passed it through to television stations for ad buys. We passed it through
to e-mail list vendors, to rent lists.
But, of course, a lot of that then comes back to them because they‘re
using these ads and they‘re using these e-mails to direct people back to
the PAC to give them more money. And, in fact, the firm has not made
hardly any money from any other client other than this PAC since they‘ve
sort of unveiled this Tea Party Express branding.
And there‘s no doubt about it, this plan has been a wild success
beyond the sort of most ambitious expectations of these operatives. They
are in the conversation, both within the tea party and beyond, and they
have tapped the tea party for a sustainable revenue stream in a way that
many others have tried but have not succeeded.
OLBERMANN: The Russo Marsh operatives also have been insisting today
that they believe in the cause, but they have dropped some of their
previous policy priorities to fit in with the tea party, correct?
VOGEL: That‘s right. And they make no bones about it—they sort of
search for where the energy is on the right. And in some ways, they kind
of have a chameleon sensibility to them. In 2003, where the energy was,
they‘re out in California, mind you, was in the attempted and successful
recall of then-Democratic Governor Gray Davis. They were behind that.
They talked about after that ended, using the e-mail list and sort of the
status that they built up during that to launch sort of a conservative
Then during the 2008 presidential campaign, they went out and attacked
President Obama, then-candidate Obama, in ways that even John McCain ruled
out of bounds, invoking his controversial preacher—Obama‘s controversial
former pastor, Reverend Wright, and praising Sarah Palin.
And now, the energy‘s with the tea parties. And so, they‘re on that,
and they‘re doing quite well with it.
OLBERMANN: This document that you unearthed also said they were
counting on FOX News—not just to mention or n some journalistic sense,
cover, but to promote the concept, the Tea Party Express. Tonight, there
is a report that the Society of Professional Journalists is calling Sean
Hannity‘s charge or planned charge admission for a taping of his show at a
tea party event, which is going to happen tomorrow tonight, wrong,
incestuous and a clear conflict of interest.
Essentially, this is what the Tea Party Express was counting on?
VOGEL: I mean, they were counting on FOX News commentators to promote
their rallies, their bus tour, to kind of offset their lack of credibility
within the tea party movement, to give them an edge up. Of course, FOX
News has differentiated between its commentators and its news side. But
there‘s no question that this group that became the Tea Party Express saw
this as part of a business model.
OLBERMANN: I actually was being sincere when I said that the story
was for the benefit of the people in the tea party. But even if they don‘t
believe me—are there—are there actually tea party leaders who would
agree with me?
VOGEL: Oh, many of the, sort of, grassroots tea party leaders have
called for distancing themselves and their activists from these tea
parties. But some have even called for boycotts of their rallies.
But what‘s ironic here, Keith, is that this group has used the very
sort of tactics of Republican politics and has benefited from their years
in Republican politics to kind of circumvent the questions about their
credibility and their sort of grassroots standing within the tea party
movement. And they‘ve done so successfully in sort of a slick—slickly-
produced, you know, very well-scouted out bus tour manner that has left
them in kind of a unique position as the one group that has cracked the
code of being able to profit from and advance their own status from the tea
OLBERMANN: Ken Vogel, senior reporter for “Politico”—great work.
It‘s an unbelievable story. It‘s a remarkable story. Thanks for bringing
it to us and great thanks for your time tonight, Ken.
VOGEL: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: OK, Democrats, progressives, liberals, re-engage. This
next one matters to all of us.
Oklahoma Republican Gubernatorial candidate Randy Brogdon is now
backing off his endorsement of a plan to create a new state militia for the
express purpose of resisting the U.S. federal government. He said it would
instead be used to supplement the National Guard during emergencies.
Another right wing tea party mastermind behind this idea wrote last
year that his state senators are rock solid behind him. In a statement
today to COUNTDOWN, Senator Inhofe today said, he, quote, “does not support
an Oklahoma state sanctioned militia and thinks tea partiers should focus
their efforts within civil society on issues where they can make a
Also asked to respond, Coburn‘s spokesman saying, that‘s the worst
question of the week.
Thanks for watching, staff of Senator Coburn.
Let‘s turn now to the former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean,
also author of “Worse than Watergate” and “Conservatives Without
Conscience” and, of course, a columnist at Findlaw.com.
John, good evening.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Candidate Brogdon initially said that the
Second Amendment, quote, “deals directly with the right of an individual to
bear arms, to protect themselves from an overreaching federal government.”
Is that—does he have a special super-notated copy of the Constitution
the rest of us haven‘t seen?
DEAN: Maybe he was standing upside down when he read it, Keith, I‘m
not sure. Obviously, he seems to have gotten it straight now and has
Absolutely not. The militia was an idea that the founders thought
should be in each state. If the national government needed them, there
they would be, rather than having a standing army. Not that they should
create them under this.
OLBERMANN: The Constitution actually says—let me read it, that
part, but not the whole thing, but just this relevant part. “President
shall be commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and
of the militia of the several states.”
So, if they want to do this and they want to be strict
constitutionalists, this militia that they create to resist the federal
government will be under the guidance of President Obama?
DEAN: Exactly. In fact, there is statutory authority for that. That
is the—that is the contemplation of the Constitution that the president,
as commander-in-chief, could indeed call on the state militia and have them
indeed follow his orders. I‘m not sure that what was initially envisioned
had Mr. Obama in charge of their operation.
OLBERMANN: Kind of a surprise for those behind this.
Here‘s a question that I‘ve heard asked a lot in the last two days
since this story broke out of Oklahoma. Is just proposing the creation of
some sort of armed force to defy U.S. law, is that itself illegal? Is
there a line somewhere between expressing it and trying to activate it in
some sort of governmental fashion as was proposed in Oklahoma?
DEAN: Sedition, which is sort of the words, the thoughts, the evil
plans, if you will, per se, are certainly not illegal, have not been in a
long time. We‘ve had sedition statutes in the past. They‘ve been severely
criticized. They‘re not a wise idea.
But indeed where you cross the line is when you go from sedition to
treason and that‘s putting them in place.
OLBERMANN: And how does that interact—we know that the idea of the
militia, the state militia, is constitutional. It‘s in the Constitution.
It has never been amended out for any reason.
What would cross the line and make a proposed militia illegal?
DEAN: Well, indeed to use that militia to take on the federal
government. That‘s, of course, what happened in the Civil War. We‘ve had
sedition before, where it has become treasonous and indeed that‘s the
result. You find yourself at war with the federal government. You find
yourself in a civil war situation. That indeed also is treason.
So, I think the line is pretty clear, and hopefully, these people have
not contemplated crossing it and they‘re backing down.
OLBERMANN: How close do you suppose we got to any of that with, say,
Governor Faubus in Little Rock in ‘57, I guess it was, or Governor Wallace
later on, or any of the other southern governors in the great decades of
civil rights reform?
DEAN: Well, pretty close. When you‘re defying an order of the
Supreme Court and the president has decided he wants to execute that order
as Eisenhower did with Brown v. Board of Education in ‘54, and when he
started implementing the law and the southern governors started resisting
it, it was right at the border. Of course, they did not use their troops,
and when the federal troops came in and ushered students in to school, that
solved the problem.
But it was about as close as you can get without being in an
insurrection position. Hopefully, we‘re not going there again, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Yes. The backing away from this seems to be encouraging,
at least, if nothing else out of Oklahoma is at the moment.
John Dean, columnist for Findlaw.com, author of “Worse than
Watergate,” and many great books—thank you, John.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Could any politician be desperate enough for re-nomination
to propose at a Senate hearing another preemptive war against a Middle
Eastern country? John McCain just did, and this time, he isn‘t just
singing “Bomb, bomb Iran.”
OLBERMANN: Anybody seriously doubting we picked the right president
year before last? The runner up announces it‘s time to pull the trigger on
Iran. At a Senate hearing he says this, “The first man on the moon hates
the new NASA, the second man on the moon loves it.” Presumably, the second
man had more time to think about it.
Is it actually possible this woman is too nuts even for the tea party?
And from the primordial ooze it was, Mystery Science Theater to the urbane
sophisticated ooze that is “Cinematic Titanic.” Three founding fathers
join us later on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Senator John McCain, former presidential nominee in a
current bid for re-nomination to that Senate, has today officially evolved
from “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” to pull the trigger.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The emergence of the “Ayatollah
Just one day after President Obama‘s nuclear security summit, McCain
has undercut the president of the United States and policy towards Iran and
called for unilateral action. In his opening statement at a Senate hearing
on Iran today, McCain observed that the U.S. has backed off of taking
direct action against that nation despite its potential nuclear threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: So, make no mistake, if Iran achieves a nuclear weapons
capability, it will not be because we couldn‘t stop it, but because we
chose not to stop it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator McCain ended his opening remarks there, then
remembered that he wanted to place into the record various statements from
the Obama administration about Iran, and it is here that the senator made
what appeared to be unscripted remarks about pulling the trigger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Time is running out. The deadline is near. Robert Gibbs,
December 3rd—well, we‘re going to have consequences if they don‘t turn
around. December 20th, 2009, the list goes on and on, of the threats that
we have—that we have made to the Iranians and so far, no action.
George Shultz, my favorite secretary of state in all the world once
said, his marine drill instructor told him, “Never to point a gun at
somebody unless you‘re ready to pull a trigger.” We keep pointing a gun.
We haven‘t pulled a single trigger yet. And it‘s about time we did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Testimony from that hearing about Iran‘s nuclear
capability was fairly clear, both Pentagon and military officials said that
Iran is at least a year away from enriching enough uranium to build a
nuclear weapon, and three to five years from producing an actual nuclear
As for new sanctions against Iran, McCain disputed Bill Burns in the
State Department who testified that China would not agree to meaningful
sanctions against Iran. Senator McCain also said that Russian would not
agree to meaningful sanctions either and that Russia has been playing rope-
a-dope with the U.S. Finally, McCain asks, why doesn‘t the U.S. and its
allies simply act unilaterally, at least to place some sanctions that could
have some effect on Iranian behavior rather than waiting for the United
Nation Security Council.
You may recall that during his presidential run, the senator sang a
little ditty about bombing Iran. Back then it was just a joke, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: You know that old Beach Boys song, “Bomb Iran”? You know,
bomb, bomb, bomb—anyway. I think Iran is a great threat. The Iranians
are continuing their efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to the director of the American strategy
program at the New America Foundation and author of the foreign policy
blog, “The Washington Note,” Steve Clemons.
Steve, thanks for your time, again, tonight.
STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Game-plan this for Senator McCain‘s benefit. We pull the
trigger on Iran and what happens afterwards?
CLEMONS: Well, I think first thing that happens is—that what we‘ve
been hearing “death to the dictator” goes right back to “death to America”
again. The CIA was involved in overthrowing a democratically-elected
leader in Iran in 1953, and I think to many Iranians, this will look like
it again. And if we bomb Iran, every major intelligence and military
expert I know says it‘s only a delaying tactic. So, you end up with a much
angrier Iran with nuclear weapons down the road.
So, while you can delay and you can pre-empt some of the activity we
see now, it‘s a sure fire way of creating either a terrorist super highway
right up to the edge of Israel, and an Iran that begins to flex its muscles
globally on a lot of other fronts.
So, I think it‘s a very, very nasty picture that John McCain is
talking recklessly about.
OLBERMANN: He seemed to be hinting afterwards that he meant this
metaphorically—to do something, rather than just to exclusively mean
this, this meant a strike against the nuclear facilities in Iran. Did he
mean it metaphorically, or was this—was there a dog whistle to the
nuclear cowboy crowd at minimum here?
CLEMONS: Well, I think, with all due respect to Senator McCain, this
is what we used to see at the forefront of the George W. Bush
administration, less so in the latter part of the Bush administration, but
a lot of swagger, you know, a lot of attitude, toughness. Not thinking
like allegedly one of John McCain‘s former heroes, Richard Nixon, would
have approached this with a lot more complexity, depth, trying to think
about how you shape the global order in a, you know, “Nixon goes to China”
moment. John McCain is talking about sort of bilaterally hitting Iran on
the head and abandoning all of our allies.
And I‘ll tell you, if we bomb Iran, it may create just exactly the
kind of glue that would bring Russia, China and Iran together. The three
of them, a global economic energy superpower like we‘ve never seen before
that breaks the back of Europe and the United States and Japan.
So, bombing Iran could have untold, unbelievable unexpected
circumstances. It doesn‘t mean you want to appease them, but you certainly
don‘t want to be reckless like this and talk about pulling a trigger or
singing jingles about bombing Iran.
OLBERMANN: So, assuming Senator McCain doesn‘t want a Chinese,
Russian, Iranian superpower—let‘s just say that for the sake of
argument, short of bombing Iran and the officials of this nation keep
saying all options are on the table—what other options are there other
than increasingly tougher sanctions combined with diplomacy?
CLEMONS: Well, you know, there are three options. There‘s the one
option, which is to appease everything Iran is doing and I think a lot of
people don‘t buy that. A second option is bomb them, take military action
and I think that actually ends a lot of—neither of those are real
The third is to do a lot more of what Barack Obama did this week,
which is to shore up again a global commitment to non-proliferation regime
and to working together in a way that leaves Iran, which I think on some
levels besides wanting to be respected by having nuclear weapons, craves
inclusion. And I think by leaving them somewhat outside of this new
building momentum that I think Barack Obama has put together, you create
pressure on Iran in other ways.
I also think and it‘s not often discussed that doing things to like
further the Israeli/Palestinian two-state process and also diminishing our,
I guess, overextension in places like Afghanistan, are sure-fire ways to
remind Iran that we are shaping the global order in a very productive,
constructive way, and they are outside of that. And we rob Iran of running
That is the real way to confront Iran‘s pretensions and to develop
what could be an opportunity for mutual respect. That—Barack Obama has
a long way to go on that, but I have to say, the nuclear summit he‘s been
doing has been helping a lot.
OLBERMANN: Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation and author of
the foreign policy blog, “The Washington Note”—thanks as always, Steve.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Never mind “Dancing with the Stars.” Now, humanity‘s
first two men on the moon are wrestling over America‘s future in the stars.
OLBERMANN: Neil Armstrong hates it, but Buzz Aldrin loves it. Next.
First, on this date in 1917 was born Marvin Miller, who as head of the
baseball players union, liberated them, made them billions and made the
owners billions, and unbelievably is not in the Hall of Fame as he should
be by special election right now.
And Twitter, one week anniversary—wait a second. Followers,
39,959. Number of pictures of myself tweeted today? None.
To follow me, it‘s @KeithOlbermann. Our tweet of the day from
@whisper1111. “Sarah Palin only wants to be president for opportunity to
club the presidential seal.” Let‘s play Oddball.
How‘s that clubby sealy thing working out for you? To Pan Chi (ph),
India, and the fun-filled execution of a popular tradition, walking across
burning coals. No, that‘s running. Owie, owie. Here are the prevalent
tenets of fire walking, in no particular order: it is a show of devotion to
a Hindu deity. Devotees fast for seven days before walking across the
burning embers. So hopefully they are too hungry to notice. Practitioners
believe that fire walking helps reduce their problems. Which is fine, but
how come these people are all running.
To a glacier in Iceland, hello, where a volcano is erupting. It‘s not
another Mayan‘s 2012 joke, it‘s the real thing. Run for your safety, if
you‘re on the glacier. Actually, as unusual as this, there‘s no evidence
it marks any end of days, except the end of Wednesday.
However, the eruption spewed plenty of smoke and steam and melted a
whole lot of ice. When are these glaciers going to catch a break? Eight
hundred residents were evacuated. An official said no lives nor property
were in danger. >
Derrick Pitts on the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on the
astronauts going astro-nuts. Such an old joke, it just struck me as
stupid. Buzz Aldrin approves, Neil Armstrong says that‘s one small step
towards mediocrity, next.
OLBERMANN: On the heels of three veterans of the Apollo Moon missions
calling the president‘s proposal for future space exploration devastating,
Mr. Obama will defend his plan for NASA‘s future at Cape Canaveral
tomorrow. But, in our third story in the COUNTDOWN, Buzz Aldrin is already
defending it, pitting, oddly, the second man to walk on the Moon against
the first man to walk on the Moon.
Derrick Pitts joins me in a moment. Responding to the Obama
administration‘s plans to deep six missions to deep space, Apollo
commanders Neil Armstrong, James Lovell and Eugene Cernan writing in this
letter, as you see, “without the skill and experience that actual
spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long
downhill slide to mediocrity.”
A second group of NASA veterans is sending a separate letter to the
White House, expressing its disappointment with the plan. The White House
responding to the criticism with a few—it would retain part of the
otherwise canceled Constellation Moon Program, reviving its space capsule
Orion, sending it unmanned to the International Space Station, to server as
an emergency vehicle. Also to speed development on a rocket that could go
to Mars, then put six billion into space taxis, and 40 million into
retraining soon to be unemployed Space Center workers.
Today, the second man on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, reiterated his support
for the president‘s plan. The White House releasing his remarks: “the
simple truth is that we‘ve already been to the Moon some 40 years ago. The
president‘s program will help us be in this endeavor for the long haul.”
Joining me now, as promised, the chief astronomer for the Franklin
Institute in Philadelphia, Derrick Pitts. Good evening, Derrick.
DERRICK PITTS, FRANKLIN INSTITUTE: Hi, Keith. How are you?
OLBERMANN: Not bad, yourself?
PITTS: Nod bad, thank you.
OLBERMANN: Good. So now we have a NASA family feud, Babe Ruth
arguing with Lou Gehrig. Who‘s right here?
PITTS: The fact of the matter is that if we look at what‘s actually
happening with this program, Keith, and look at the kind of experience we
have, the guys are right that they shouldn‘t let the program wind down to
nothing. But the Obama plan actually represents a couple of things.
Number one, it represents and acknowledges, if you will, a kind of
maturation of the space program, because it proposes outsourcing certain
kinds of services that make sense to outsource, like letting the commercial
space segment carry astronauts and cargo up to the International Space
If you really think about what he‘s proposing here, he‘s suggesting
that actually NASA be allowed to do the heavy lifting. And by that I mean
allowing NASA to pursue the high frontier, you know, this idea of going to
an asteroid and then going on to the moons of Mars and then on to Mars
itself. That‘s where NASA really ought to be.
So his program is really taking this program as we know it into a
different realm, a step further. And the Aldrin-side guys are right about
OLBERMANN: The heavy lift idea, to the point of the heavy lift rocket
the NASA veteran Chris Craft told the AP, “we need a heavy lift rocket
like we need a hole in the head.” Is Craft right or is that how we get to
Mars with heavy lifting?
PITTS: I have great respect for Chris Craft. Unfortunately, the fact
is if we want to build spacecraft in low Earth orbit that are going to be
outfitted properly to take us to Mars, we‘re going to need the equipment up
there, we‘re going to need a heavy lift vehicle.
We have to think about the Space Shuttle program‘s retirement. The
Space Shuttle program is not being canceled. It is not being stopped. It
is coming to the close of the program. And the reason why is because
International Space Station construction is complete. So we need a
different vehicle to allow us to take this—these heavier materials up
that are going to build the spacecraft that take us out to the asteroids or
take us on to Mars.
OLBERMANN: The other specific in here, the Constellation Program; it
was behind schedule; it was over budget. Was it right to essentially
abandon it? And does that mean we are going to give up hope for, say, the
Millennium for returning to the Moon?
PITTS: I don‘t think so at all. If you look at the program, let‘s
ask the American taxpayer what would they prefer. Would they prefer that
we throw dollars away, throw good money after bad in a program that really
could be retrofitted to do better work for us? Or is it better to cut it
off now when you look at what the annual budget of the United States is
anyway? If we can save some money, let‘s save some money and put it where
it really can be put to good use.
I think the rest of the program, as being described, once it really
gets fully fleshed out and we see what all the details are, will allow for
the possibility of sending people back to the Moon without much difficulty
at all. It‘s—I think it‘s in there. It‘s just not the big target,
Keith, because—like Aldrin said, we‘ve been to the Moon. What would be
more exciting, though, than to send astronauts to an asteroid and then work
toward sending them to Mars. It‘s very much like rekindling that great
dream of the ‘60s to put people on the Moon as a big target and a big goal
OLBERMANN: I thought we already sent Tommy Lee Jones to an asteroid,
but that was just—
PITTS: Unfortunately he came back.
OLBERMANN: Oh, boy.
OLBERMANN: Quickly, how much of this do we never appreciate, that
this is about these industries, the space industries in Texas and Florida?
PITTS: Well, the space exploration industries really have a huge
infrastructure built up, and that infrastructure is extraordinarily
important. One of the things we did that was a big mistake was we sort of
threw out all the plans to the Saturn V launch vehicles. We should never,
ever make that mistake again.
At the same time, all the talent that we have built up in these space
centers, we need to utilize that talent to help us move toward these new
goals. There are commercial space endeavors that are coming online that
are going to help out in this. And I think that that—that great support
should be spread across the whole panoply, so that everybody can use it.
OLBERMANN: Threw out the plans. Derrick Pitts of the Franklin
Institute in Philadelphia, it is always a learning experience and a lot of
fun. Thank you, Derrick.
PITTS: My pleasure, Keith. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: It‘s nice to be cutting edge. To be cutting edge for 22
years, though, is startling. The creators of “Cinematic Titanic” and
“Mystery Science Theater 3000,” in the not too distant future, will be
It‘s nice to be Fineus T. Bluster (ph). To be Fineus T. Bluster for
14 years is startling. Bill-O proves something never happened on Fox,
completely missing the time it happened on his own show.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest,
apropos of the Oklahoma militia story, Homeland Security Secretary
Napolitano about the dangerous rise of extremism in the United States.
OLBERMANN: There are now 22-year-old episodes of “Mystery Science
Theater” that are still on television‘s cutting edge. The show‘s creators,
now the forces behind “Cinematic Titanic,” join me to say wise ass things
about me during a commentary. Not really, but they‘ll be here.
That‘s next, but first tonight‘s worsts persons in the world.
The bronze to Orly Taitz. The original birther has been repudiated by
the Pleasanton, California, Tea Party. It had invited her to its clan
meeting tomorrow, but according to founder Bridget Nelson (ph) , the group
had been getting calls from candidates like crazy. “It‘s not worth it;
she‘s too controversial; this is not what the Tea Party is about at this
Wow! Too controversial for the tea party. Worse yet, I‘m dropping
her as Limbaugh‘s nickname.
The silver medalist, Sean Hannity. “One of the things I fear the most
is Barack Obama catering to the world‘s dictators is the—literally the
Neville Chamberlain of our time.” Let me tell you a couple things about
Neville Chamberlain. Neville Chamberlain believed that only conservatives
had a monopoly on truth. He believed in suppressing dissent and
disagreement from moderates and liberals. He tried to purge those people
from his own government and party who disagreed with him. He was an
isolationist who believed his country could do whatever it wanted to and
face no consequences in the world. And he was supported by every damned
Republican in this country.
Since you don‘t know what‘s happening in the world today around you,
Sean, you could at least try to get yesterday right. Try Wikipedia, Sonny.
Our winner, Bill-O the clown. After Senator Coburn spanked him and
Fox News for leading an Oklahoma woman to believe she could go to jail if
she didn‘t buy health insurance, O‘Reilly condescended to tell the senator,
“you don‘t really know anybody on Fox News because there hasn‘t been anyone
that said people would go to jail if they don‘t buy mandatory insurance.
We researched to find out if anybody has ever said you were going to go to
jail if you don‘t buy health insurance. Nobody has ever said it. But it
seems to me you used Fox News as a whipping boy when we didn‘t qualify
there. You were wrong to do that, senator, with all due respect.”
O‘Reilly‘s crack research team as usual. Glenn Beck, Fox News,
November 12th: “if you don‘t got into their government health care, there
will be jail time.”
Dick Morris, Fox News, November 9th, “one of the provisions in the
Pelosi bill is you can actually go to jail for not having health insurance,
250,000 or five years in prison.”
Andrew Napolitano, Fox News, November 10th—I don‘t do an impression
of him—“the government may fine you, prosecute you and even put you in
Greta Van Susteren, Fox News, to Congressman Shadegg, October 7th,
“can you imagine the sheriff going out and running you in, throwing you in
jail? I mean, it is theoretically possible under what you tell me.”
And Beck again, November 13th. Beck, “I don‘t have universal health
care.” Host, “well, you will soon.” Beck, “or I‘ll go to jail.”
The host in that conversation was O‘Reilly. It was on his show. “We
researched to find out if anybody ever said you were going to go to jail if
you don‘t buy health insurance. Nobody has ever said it.”
In other words, Bill couldn‘t find a quote from his own show with both
hands. Bill-O the clown, back from retirement and proving he can still
bring the stupid, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: On December 17, 1990, a guest critic in the “Los Angeles
Times” wrote about the work of our next three guests. “Wrapped in the
guise of a kid shows, Joel Hodgson, the human, regularly reads mail from
youngsters who send him drawings of the robots. ‘Mystery Science Theater
3000‘ contains some of the hippest, deepest satire of the generation.”
Never mind the show, what a brilliant review that was by me.
It began with a guy and his puppets poking fun at awful movies on a
UHF Minnesota television station in 1988. Now it‘s on “Time” magazine‘s”
list of the 100 best TV shows of all time. “Mystery Science Theater 3000,”
its creators now present their original snark, live in a kind of riff on a
riff on MST3K. It is called “Cinematic Titanic.”
The concept of the original show, seen here by the wonders of video
VHS, by way of Youtube—it‘s a little cleaner in the original first
generation as I recall—was simple and ingenious. Man in space forced to
watch bad movies with the robot puppets he invented. The three sat in
silhouette in front of a truly awful movie, and thankfully they never shut
The Mystery Science Theater program has been off the air for a while,
but now Joel Hodgson has gotten the band back together to riff on bad
movies again, this time in front of live audiences. You‘re looking at
footage from one of their live DVD‘s. The film in question a spectacular
called “East Meets Watts.” That‘s the “Cinematic Titanic” crew doing its
material on either side of the screen. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tim, I wish I could find a Chinese laundry
somewhere in San Francisco.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The letter said, meet me at the gravel pit in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, it‘s too bad the Bay Area didn‘t have any
beautiful locations they could shoot at.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don‘t touch that!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, (EXPLETIVE DELETED), he walked right into a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: “East Meets Watts” and all the “Cinematic Titanic” titles
are available for download and on DVD at CinemaTitanic.com right now.
We‘ve said “Cinematic Titanic” 31 times. Live tours in Massachusetts
tomorrow, New Jersey Friday and Saturday, and New York. In order left to
right, Trace Beaulieu, of course, Joel Hodgson in the middle, and J. Elvis
Weinstein of “Cinematic Titanic.”
Gentlemen, it‘s 20 years overdue. It‘s a pleasure to have you here.
OLBERMANN: I have been a fan almost since the original days. And I‘m
sure every fan you‘ve ever had said the same thing when they first saw it.
They said, what the hell is this? And then complete submersion. How long
does it take, do you think? How quickly does a fan become a fan?
TRACE BEAULIEU, “CINEMATIC TITANIC”: It‘s different for everybody.
Until you hear your joke, and your joke is in there somewhere.
OLBERMANN: And how many jokes—do you ever do like a word count, or
a sell count on how many jokes there are per episode?
JOEL HODGSON, “CINEMATIC TITANIC”: It hangs around 600 usually. The
first season we were at 300, and then the second season we got—you know,
once we were getting paid to do it, it got to be about 600.
J. ELVIS WEINSTEIN, “CINEMATIC TITANIC”: We saved those.
HODGSON: Doubled our output.
OLBERMANN: Jay Elvis.
OLBERMANN: I thought this was true from the little thing I wrote
oddly enough in the “Los Angeles Times” 20 years ago. I still think it‘s
true, that people see this as, well, you‘re having fun with bad movies. Do
enough people, in your estimation, really appreciate the deep satire and
sometimes even the political satire, but more broadly the social satire
that you‘ve worked into every one of these things?
WEINSTEIN: Ego wise, I‘d say, no, of course they can‘t possibly
appreciate the deep satire that we do. As Trace kind of said, it‘s people
find their jokes. Some people actually scold us when we get political now,
because they don‘t want that from us. But I think with 600 jokes, there‘s
you‘ve got to go for a lot of different levels of joke.
OLBERMANN: Did you ever—have you ever found that with that volume
of humor, that people just tend to—as you said, they like the ones that
are their jokes. And if they don‘t like the other ones, don‘t get them,
aren‘t politically inclined, whichever way that might be tilting, they
don‘t notice. Basically, you get graded on the ones they laugh on,
HODGSON: Yes. If you wait long enough, one you like will come along.
There‘s not enough heat on the jokes. It‘s like in a traditional sitcom,
you‘ve got to have a joke to go to commercial. We never had to do that.
BEAULIEU: No. It‘s a perfect democracy. Every joke is equal.
WEINSTEIN: We‘re never just hanging on that one scene-closing joke.
OLBERMANN: Do you—
HODGSON: The scene never closes. It just keeps going on.
OLBERMANN: Do you miss the robots? Because it seems like the fans
have adjusted to not having—
HODGSON: Well, yeah. You know what? That‘s something I just made up
one day. It‘s not real. And I hate to tell you, but Trace was crow and—
HODGSON: If you listen close enough, it‘s kind of like he‘s crow.
And if you listen close enough, he‘s Tom Servo.
HODGSON: So you‘ve just got to pretend.
WEINSTEIN: Fans actually build their own and bring them to our shows
for us to sign and meet. So it‘s—so we don‘t actually miss them because
we‘re constantly acquainted with them.
OLBERMANN: Bless them and make them official?
BEAULIEU: I don‘t miss them because now we can keep our arms down by
OLBERMANN: How rigorously physical was that?
BEAULIEU: It was keeping your arms up.
BEAULIEU: And neither of us are very good at upper body strength, so
OLBERMANN: It‘s a workout and a job.
WEINSTEIN: And you have to do everything backwards too because you‘re
looking at a monitor.
BEAULIEU: Backwards and in Chinese, just to make it harder.
OLBERMANN: Can the live audience—when you do it in this
environment where you‘re seated at the desks with scripts in front of you,
and lamps—does the fact that it‘s live—can the audience screw you up
by laughing too much, by enjoying it too much?
WEINSTEIN: That‘s certainly in the good problems to have category,
right? I mean, that‘s part of the learning process we‘ve had with doing
the live shows. Sometimes three jokes are going to get wiped out because
of a laugh, and you have to be ready to accept that and find that right in
point back in.
HODGSON: It‘s less work for us when they laugh. It‘s like, flip the
OLBERMANN: Certainly—and I know you‘ve been asked this for the
whole, you know, 22 years off and on. But certainly no film director—
maybe there have been three who have ever tried this—have set out to
make the worst movie of all time. So there must be some mixture between
offense by the people who have actually produced these things, and is there
are there some people who become fans of seeing their product
resuscitate or repurposed, as the kids would say today?
WEINSTEIN: I think there are. We did a movie called “The Alien
Factor,” for “Cinematic Titanic,” and one of the cast members and—slash
crew members of the movie showed up to one of our shows in L.A. And he
talked to us afterwards. He was super excited that it was just seeing the
light of day.
OLBERMANN: Is it remarkable too—I‘m presuming there is a fresh
supply of this stuff still out there, and it‘s been there all this time.
Is it amazing—because, you‘re watching on television, you have no idea
that people actually would sell some of these movies and expect people to
pay their way in to see them without three guys sitting there making fun of
them. It‘s just remarkable. Somebody said, we can get away with this.
HODGSON: Basically they did it with really good posters. Because
back in the day, you didn‘t know what you were going to see. So, you know,
you‘d go into a dark room and then whatever happened, happened. So you
didn‘t—you didn‘t have the same stress.
BEAULIEU: A lot of them were at drive-ins, too. They just pumped it
into that market.
OLBERMANN: Do you think you guys invented DVD commentary before there
were DVDs and the Internet and all the rest, snark in general?
BEAULIEU: Both of those, snark and DVD commentary, we inventoried
OLBERMANN: And like Twitter and stuff like that?
BEAULIEU: I don‘t know what that is.
OLBERMANN: Did you get any money out of inventing all these things?
OLBERMANN: Are you getting money out of inventing this?
OLBERMANN: So I can‘t go for free on Saturday night. I better pay my
WEINSTEIN: You‘ll get the pass since you wrote that thing in 1990.
OLBERMANN: No, no.
WEINSTEIN: Since you wrote the thing in 1990.
OLBERMANN: You‘re just getting around to it.
HODGSON: We use that quote, by the way.
OLBERMANN: Really? Is that amazing?
HODGSON: For sure.
BEAULIEU: Does that mean we have to pay him?
OLBERMANN: No, that would be payola.
BEAULIEU: And no one does that.
Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and J. Elvis Weinstein of “Cinematic
Titanic,” Northampton, Massachusetts tomorrow, Princeton on Friday, New
York City on Saturday. We‘ll see you then. My pleasure to have you here,
WEINSTEIN: Our pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for all the laughs. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the
2,540th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in
Iraq. And they didn‘t speak during my commentary at all. I‘m Keith
Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Over the top of the camera. Now in the wake of the Oklahoma militia
story, to discuss the rise of extremism in the U.S. with her guest Homeland
Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel
Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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