Guests: Ezra Klein, David Weigel
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you
be talking about tomorrow?
The eye doctor sticks his thumb in the eye of the Senate minority
leader, and Democrats are delighted by the nomination of Rand Paul in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: Bring it on and please,
please bring President Obama to Kentucky. We‘d love for him to campaign
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.
(INAUDIBLE), voters of both parties revolt last night—Senate
Republicans are just revolting today, again blocking a vote on reforming
the big banks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Republicans decided to come down
on the side of big money. We will not give up. We will be back tomorrow
to fight on the side of the little guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Democrat Eric Massa quits the House. John Boehner wants
to know who knew what, when. Republican Mark Souder quits the House.
Boehner says, Souder? Souder who?
And as the “show me your paper” state answers a Los Angeles boycott by
threatening to cut off L.A.‘s electricity, the first lady witnesses the
true tragedy of Arizona 1070. What the little girl says her mother said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: She says that Barack Obama‘s taking everybody away
that doesn‘t have papers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: “Worsts”: So it turns out you can‘t teach high school
students how to use geometry to assassinate the president.
And even a chicken lady can‘t get away with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They (ph) never set up that system.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m not backing down from that system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the biggest blow back yet to the B.P. oil spill crisis
in the Gulf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: America needs a safe, clean and renewable
energy. Not more oil spills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Our special guest tonight: Robert Redford.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
It was only a few weeks ago that a Republican who switched parties was
still leading his challenger in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary by more
than 20 points. A mere 13 months ago, that right-wing extremists, having
organized their very first Tax Day tea parties.
But tonight, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Arlen Specter is a
Senate veteran with an end day to his 30 years of service on Capitol Hill,
having lost his bid for reelection to an actual Democrat, Congressman Joe
While in the Bluegrass State, eye surgeon Rand Paul now running for
Kentucky‘s open Senate seat as the Republican nominee, not for the people
of Kentucky necessarily, but more for tea partiers nationwide. Last night,
Dr. Paul saying Kentucky—you know the place he‘s running to be the
senator from—only once. He said tea party nine times.
A candidate so far to the right of the GOP mainstream, he opposes all
federal bailouts of private industry and, at least back in 2009, he
advocated imposing a $2,000 deductible for Medicare. Good luck selling
that at a town hall meeting in Kentucky.
The chairman of the Democratic National Committee is calling Dr. Paul
precisely the kind of candidate that Democrats need. Quoting Tim Kaine,
“Rand Paul‘s positions fail to resonate beyond the far-right Republican
segment of the electorate that supported him.”
In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, Congressman Sestak defeating Senator
Specter by making the point of running to his left, and emphasizing that
Senator Specter has spent 29 of his years in the Senate as a Republican.
Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Lieutenant Governor Halter is forcing a runoff
election with Senator Blanche Lincoln in three weeks‘ time. The candidates
separated by fewer than 7,000 votes. Lieutenant Governor Halter receiving
the support of organized labor, Senator Lincoln spinning the runoff as
triumph but lamenting the influence of, quote, “outside groups,” at least
those who are not supporting her, ordering them to go home.
In response, labor officials telling TalkingPointsMemo.com, “There‘s
nothing outside about people who are members of unions in Arkansas. I
don‘t know what she‘s talking about.”
An overnight snap poll for Research 2000/Democracy for America is
giving Lieutenant Governor Halter a two-point lead, 48-46 over Lincoln.
Forty-six percent in that poll also saying Senator Lincoln is on the side
of the lobbyists versus 42 percent believing she‘s on the side of
Democratic voters. Eighty-seven percent believe health care reform was
important, 52 percent saying the reform law passed by Congress which the
senator did not exactly encourage, does not go far enough.
In Pennsylvania, according to the recent Research 2000 poll taken for
Daily Kos before the primary, Congressman Sestak polled better against the
Republican nominee Pat Toomey than did Senator Specter, down five points.
In Kentucky, Democratic nominee Jack Conway polling within the margin
of error against the flavor of the month, Dr. Paul.
Despite all that, Republicans today are spinning all primary results
as their first step back towards taking back Congress in November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY LEADER: I do think that we will
reclaim the majority. But last night is evidence of the fact that we‘ve
got a lot of work to do and we just can‘t get ahead of ourselves.
REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: And here‘s hoping that this Congress
and this administration heeds the voice of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now to heed the voice of our political analyst,
Richard Wolffe, the author of “Renegade: The Making of a President.”
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Despite the running hot and cold talk of anti-incumbent
fervor and fever, is there any real equivalence between the purgings that
the GOP has now experienced on the right of their own party and the forces
that drove Democratic primary voters to choose Sestak and to—at least to
the point of having a runoff, Lieutenant Governor Halter?
WOLFFE: Well, purging is a good term for it because you‘re seeing a
consistency and an ideological approach on the Republican side that isn‘t
as consistent but is still ideological to a degree on the Democratic side.
There is something ideological going on here, let‘s face it.
In Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln has run into trouble because of her
opposition from labor unions. They don‘t like her positions. But there is
nothing that is that consistent, nothing even that successful. Remember,
she‘s still ahead the first round stage, and that may well be the saving
grace for Democrats because you‘ve got on the other side this very uniform
litmus test approach that‘s going on, pushing Republicans out of the
mainstream, away from independent voters who decide these things.
On a Democratic side, much more of a patchwork—what we‘re seeing
across the country is that people want local candidates speaking about
local issues, and that‘s exactly why the Pennsylvania 12th district was so
important. This was not a regular litmus-tested Democrat who won there.
OLBERMANN: Does the local issues thing apply in Kentucky? I mean,
Tim Kaine seemed to be relishing the idea of getting Rand Paul, who focused
on the tea party in his acceptance speech last night, not on Kentucky.
There was a lot made of turnout last night in Kentucky, even though,
usually in the primaries in Kentucky, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a
ratio of about three to two. Do Democrats have an actual shot of winning
Jim Bunning‘s seat in Kentucky?
WOLFFE: Yes, they do. Jim Bunning squeaked by in both his elections.
The race is really close now. And, yes, if this comes down to Kentucky
politics and Kentucky issues, then what are people going to make about Rand
Paul, for instance, saying that he doesn‘t support corporate taxes of any
kind? Wanting to talk about the Department of Education.
You know, you can campaign on your ideological tests about the
deficit, the federal deficit. But this is a moment where people are
concerned with themselves, their own pocketbook issues, and it‘s got to be
micro. This is a patchwork approach to politics, running the national
issues, whether it‘s tea party or Nancy Pelosi, it‘s just not working.
OLBERMANN: All right. What about health care? Was that what happen
in Arkansas in this first stage before we get to our second primary?
WOLFFE: To a degree it is. But Blanche Lincoln is this establishment
figure. Again, you got this voter distrust of the establishment. And, you
know, labor union support is still strong in Arkansas. There‘s a populist
piece of it that she didn‘t get, and I think the polling there when it
talks about support for lobbyists and looking after voters‘ interests, she
fails on those key tests.
Now, the momentum is clearly going to be there. If you don‘t make 50
points when you are the incumbent in this kind of race, you‘re weakened.
There‘s blood in the water.
OLBERMANN: And in the Pennsylvania 12th, despite how that turned out,
House Republicans saying the first indication they have that they might
reclaim the majority in the House in November. Did they get a different
result? Were they handed some other broadcast?
WOLFFE: You know, if they want to feel confident on the back of a
losing race in a district that Barack Obama lost and John Kerry won, then,
you know, their strategy is on another planet. And it is not the path of
victory for them.
But, hey, again, this may be the saving grace for Democrats.
Republicans just don‘t see it coming because they‘re so confident in
OLBERMANN: The GOP, too big to fail. I think that‘s early
MSNBC‘s Richard Wolffe, the author of “Renegade”—as always, many
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If last night was, by almost all accounts, a good time for
mainstream Democratic ideas, it should follow that passing the Wall Street
reform bill would only serve to help Democratic candidates win in November.
Small problem in making that happen.
This afternoon, Senate Democrats failing to get the 60 votes they
needed to move the Wall Street reform bill to the floor for debate, largely
because two Democrats helped block it. That bill falling short in this
afternoon‘s cloture vote, 57-42. Two Republicans voted with the Democrats,
Senators Snowe and Collins of Maine.
As we mentioned, the two Democrats joining with the Republicans to
block it, Senators Feingold and Cantwell. Senator Specter is still in
Pennsylvania after last night‘s election did not vote. Majority Leader
Reid is also voting no but only for procedural reasons so he can call
another procedural vote later on. It‘s in “Robert‘s Rules of Order” if you
need more info.
As to Senator Cantwell, this week having been threatening to block the
bill if her amendment that would reinstate a Depression-era law preventing
banks from owning other kinds of financial firms did not get a vote.
Over the weekend, Senator Feingold up for re-election in Wisconsin,
having said that he would vote against any bill that did not providing
enough strong regulation, earlier this month, comparing the Wall Street
reform bill, official title the Restoring American Financial Stability Act,
to Bush era frippery. Quoting him, “Naming a bill does not make it a good
bill as we found from ‘No Child Left Behind.‘ It‘s got to be the substance
and I‘m concerned the name is greater than what it really does at this
Earlier tonight, the majority leader is blaming not the Democrats but
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Today, as a vote demonstrated, Republicans want to do the
bidding of the big bank executives who have been calling in the last 48
hours. They‘ve called me. I know they‘re calling. They want to let Wall
Street off the hook, not hold it accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To analyze the moving parts here, let‘s turn to Ezra Klein
of “Newsweek” and “The Washington Post,” who blogs about economic and
domestic policy for the newspaper, including in his new morning rundown
Ezra, good evening.
EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: How are you?
OLBERMANN: Well, I‘m confused about this. I mean, making—
KLEIN: Aren‘t we all?
OLBERMANN: Once again. Making sure we don‘t have a repeat of the
recession we‘re in today, never mind a near depression or an actual one,
making sure there does not need to be another bailout, running on a
platform to emphasize that—would that sort of help the Democrats in the
November midterms? Or is that too national to be of concern to the people
who are suffering from the current economic conditions street by street in
KLEIN: If they can explain it, it will help them. Financial
regulation reform has been a remarkable political moment because it is some
of the only legislation I can remember—at least in the Obama era—that
has gotten much stronger as it has sat there. Normally, these things
weaken when they sit out in the Senate. They get chipped away out by
amendments. They get attacked by the minority and sort of smeared on, you
know, some other cable channels.
But this one, it‘s been sort of like the incredible hulk of
legislation. The longer it‘s been out there, the angrier people get. And
the angrier people get, the stronger it gets.
And so, the bill at week two and week four and week six has been
better than before. So, it seems to me that the politics pretty clearly
seem to be that you make this bill stronger and the senators are sensing
that from their home states.
OLBERMANN: With the stipulation that—I would never doubt Senator
Feingold‘s intent on this, nor, in fact, Senator Cantwell‘s idea on this—
is this reform to some degree like health care reform before it, endangered
of being the victim of—as they said of the—the perfect might be the
enemy of the good? You get two Democrats blocking the bill. How much more
compromise needs to happen to get them on board to pass this, at least to
get this past cloture?
KLEIN: I don‘t believe so. So, on health care reform, what was going
on was, you know, these amendments were very controversial. And if they
came in, there were words that could sink the bill; if they took them out,
there were words they could sink the bill. It had to do with the senators
What Reid is worried about here is time. Next week, the Senate wants
to do an expansion or elongation of jobless benefits and then more
supplemental. And so, they want to finish this bill this week so they can
move on to those next week and they go home by Memorial Day.
These are important amendments that Feingold and Cantwell want to put
out there. And if it means the Senate has to work past Memorial Day—
well, I‘m sorry, my heart bleeds for them, but this is important stuff
So, I actually don‘t think so. We‘re dealing with a situation where
the amendments are so controversial that they could sink the bill. We‘re
dealing with the situation where time is so compressed that the leadership
wants to move on from the bill. And I think those two are quite different.
OLBERMANN: The Republican opposition, save for the two Maine
senators, it seems like a cliche that this is something on behalf of the
status quo for the banking industry, but that seems like the only
explanation. Is it the correct one?
KLEIN: Well, I never like to underestimate how much Republicans do
things, not based on policy—and Democrats too—but based on electoral
politics, right? I think Republicans have been a little bit confused by
this one, because what you normally do, what you did on health care is you
oppose the bill and thus you make it look extreme and you get people fired
up against it and you make it into a political loser for Democrats, even if
they pass it.
In this case, they‘re sort of against the bill but they haven‘t been
able to make it into a political loser. So, they‘re caught in a place of
semi-opposition where they‘re not being loudly opposed and some of them are
actually crossing over. But if they all embrace it, then it‘s a huge win
for the Democrats so they can‘t really do that either.
What has been notable, I think, about Republicans on financial
regulation is that after Mitch McConnell‘s original bailout speech, they‘ve
pretty much been quiet.
OLBERMANN: And what happens now with Senator Dodd‘s drop back on his
plan to scale-back Senator Lincoln‘s idea which would really regulate
scale-back derivative trading? Is the Lincoln amendment a viable thing?
Is it dependent on what happens in the runoff in Arkansas? What are the
KLEIN: The politics of that is very rich. The Lincoln amendment
which will make it so banks couldn‘t have derivates swaps desk and would
have to spin off, that has been opposed by the White House, opposed by
treasury, opposed by pretty much all the big players and by Chris Dodd for
that matter. But they‘ve not been able to take it out because it‘s bad
politics to make the derivatives portion seem weaker, whether or not you
agree that it‘s a good thing or not, and because Lincoln is vulnerable.
Now, she‘s in a runoff.
The place where I advise you to look is conference committee. So you
could see that moved around in conference committee. But right now, we
just don‘t know.
OLBERMANN: Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek” as
always, making this stuff intelligible to us—great thanks, Ezra.
KLEIN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The sleazy saga of Eric Massa and his resignation had the
House minority leader demanding a full investigation. The sleazy saga of
Mark Souder and his resignation and his mistress‘ resignation? Not so
much. It doesn‘t tickle his fancy, no doubt.
OLBERMANN: It is the question he asked when a Democratic congressman
resigned after improprieties with his staffers. After a Republican
congressman resigned after improprieties with his staffer, what did this
man know and when did he know it?
It was just supposed to be a photo op, a little girl from Maryland‘s
second grade class and the first lady and then the little girl said
something about how her mother didn‘t have papers and how her mother had
told her Obama was going to take away everybody who didn‘t have papers.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez on the human tragedy we saw today over
Arizona S.B. 1070.
The teacher uses presidential assassination as a practical
illustration of geometry. Superintendent of the school says he‘ll talk to
the teaching, nothing else. Then the world chimes in. Tonight, the
superintendent decides on something else.
And his new ad concludes thusly, politicians in Washington have a
choice: keep bowing to the demands of big oil or stand up to the American
people. You can tip the balance. Tell President Obama to lean toward a
clean energy future. Our special guest tonight: Robert Redford.
OLBERMANN: Amid yesterday‘s primary fury, one congressman announced
his resignation because of an extramarital affair with a female staff
And in our fourth story tonight: there is an apparent gap between the
time that at least one Republican leader learned of the affair and when
appropriate action was taken.
The congressman, Mark Souder of Indiana, had been confronted by senior
members of his staff, according to “The New York Times.” After initial
denial, Souder eventually admitted the relationship. And on Monday, House
Minority Leader John Boehner reportedly referred the matter to the House
Ethics Committee after a discussion with Souder that same day.
Yesterday, Souder announced his resignation, effective this Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK SOUDER ®, INDIANA: I sinned against God, my wife and my
family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff.
In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is
seized upon, twisted for political gain. I‘m resigning rather than put my
family through a painful, drawn out process of which any legal question
would have been clearly resolved and I would have been exonerated. But the
political price to pay and the person price of my family was not worth it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the obligatory context, Congressman Souder had made
this video in which he advocated for abstinence education. This is a
staged interview with the female staffer with whom he had the affair.
Souder had also consistently pushed family values.
Back to the timeline. Today, House Minority Leader Boehner said the
affair was confirmed to him on Saturday after he had heard rumors a day or
two before that, that may different from “The Times‘” account. Souder
informed Congressman Mike Pence of the affair last Wednesday, according to
our next guest, Dave Weigel of “The Washington Post.” Congressman Souder
resigned six days after that notification of Pence.
An ethics inquiry of a congressman normally ends when that congressman
resigns, but that did not stop the GOP from insisting on a continued
investigation of Congressman Eric Massa, even after he resigned following
allegations that he sexually harassed staffers. Back then, Republicans
were interested in what Democratic leaders knew and when they knew it.
Let‘s bring in, as promised, political reporter of “The Washington
Post,” author of the blog “Right Now,” David Weigel.
Dave, good evening.
DAVID WEIGEL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Can you amplify on this timeline issue first? Congressman
Pence learned of the affair last Wednesday. Why the information did not
reach Minority Leader Boehner until Saturday or maybe Monday?
WEIGEL: Well, this came up at a press conference with Pence today.
It was actually Luke Russert of NBC who posed this question. And Pence
gave us that timeline. He followed up later, his office contacted me later
and said, what happened was Souder explained some of the situation but not
all of it. Not the part about a staffer until the weekend. And that‘s
when Pence and apparently, also Boehner went to the ethics committee.
That was the sticking point, whether or not this was a staff member.
That‘s the part that makes it illegal. An affair, actually, despite what
happened with Bill Clinton, not illegal. Something with a staffer, that
was the problem. That‘s what moved them.
OLBERMANN: And also, I mean, there are, to some degree, degrees about
this. There‘s a difference between the allegation of sexual harassment
which forced Congressman Massa of New York out of office and a consensual
affair which appears to be the case with Congressman Souder, whether it was
staff or not. But the minority leader and minority whip insisted that the
investigation surrounding Massa should continue even after Massa was no
longer a member of the House.
I mean, do they look like hypocrites if they don‘t take the same
stance now about Souder?
WEIGEL: Well, Democrats are hoping that they do. I mean, they
haven‘t decided quite yet how to move, but they are not happy with the way
the Massa thing turned out. They thought they solved the problem, the guy
was gone. This whole “Watergate, when did they know it, what did they
know” thing, they‘re not happy. But they‘re not moving because this is a
little bit—this is a little bit different.
But it—you know, you‘re right—you‘re right about parts of this.
It‘s interesting, because we don‘t know everything about what happened with
Souder yet. This assistant, the part-time staffer who did these interviews
with him—one of the interviews, they talk about other reporting they‘ve
done and trip to the border to monitor things. It‘s really unclear how
much—how much contact he had with her, when he had it.
So, they tried to triage and get rid of this right away. I mean, this
is another example of Republicans being better at politics in some ways
than Democrats. But, you know, they‘re kind of lucky this happened on
election day. Otherwise, we would be asking more questions.
OLBERMANN: Well, you also wrote today of this little sort of side,
bizarre show here, the response by a conservative group called Concerned
Women of America. And they put a statement that reads in part, “If Mark
Souder is capable of sexual misconduct, it could happen to anyone. The
frat House environment on Capitol Hill does nothing to encourage
That‘s the just oddest tone to follow up something like this that I‘ve
ever heard. What—how would you characterize that approach to this?
WEIGEL: It‘s not as uncommon as you think. I mean, it was jarring
because that‘s not what is said when Democrats engage in this behavior.
But conservatives are often forgiving of really holy rolling, crusading
Republicans who find themselves falling off the wagon—whatever the
metaphor is for this particular sort of escapade. I mean, David Vitter is
still in the Senate. John Ensign is still in the Senate.
Vitter, larger part than Ensign, is in there because he moved to the
right after kind of revealing that he had dealings with a prostitute. And
he was forgiven by James Dobson and the rest of the movement because he‘s
been such a warrior on some of the issues they care about.
Souder was—as you point out on this video, warrior for pro—you
know, all abstinence education, abstinence only education, war against—
the war on drugs, very, very socially conservative. When he ran a
subcommittee that‘s what all his hearings were about. So, there was this -
they‘d like to forgive him. I mean, I think the movement‘s a little bit
disappointed that he can‘t survive.
But what they‘re probably—what will end up happening is there will
be a more conservative member who ends up getting his seat in Indiana, very
little in the way of repercussions.
OLBERMANN: Well, and by the way, we have a ruling from the head
office here, the phrase you‘re looking for is: “Falling off the wagon and
then rolling in the hay.”
Dave Weigel of “The Washington Post”—thanks, Dave.
WEIGEL: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The newest face of the crime that is now the law in
Arizona, the first lady hears a Maryland second grader explained that her
mommy says Obama is taking everybody away that doesn‘t have papers. And
her mommy doesn‘t have papers. Congressman Luis Gutierrez—ahead on
OLBERMANN: If your heart did not break a little when you heard this
or if it does not break a little when you see this next—check to see if
it‘s still there. Michelle Obama and the Maryland second grader who‘s
worried about her mommy because her mommy doesn‘t have papers.
And in the wake of his new ad calling on YouTube, tipped the balance,
tell President Obama to lead America toward a clean future. Our special
guest: Robert Redford.
OLBERMANN: At this hour, the White House hosting the state dinner for
the president and the First Lady of Mexico. And while tonight the focus
will be on the spectacle sure rounding such a state visit, earlier the
attention was on Arizona‘s show me your papers law. Our third story in the
COUNTDOWN, as two presidents denounce that law, the real-life implications
of the anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic act playing out not in the White House
garden, but at an elementary school in Silver Spring, Maryland. A second
grader asks Mrs. Obama if her mother will be deported.
At a joint news conference earlier, the president calling the Arizona
law a, quote, “misdirected expression of frustration” at a broken
immigration system. While Mexico President Felipe Calderon chastised it as
discriminatory, strongly rejecting the state‘s attempt to, what he called,
Meanwhile, at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in nearby
Maryland, the First Lady, along with the First Lady of Mexico, Margarita
Zavala, attending an event promoting exercise and healthy eating habits.
As the first two ladies sat down for some comments and questions with the
students, one of the second graders shared her anxiety over the anti-
immigrant fervor with the First Lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom said that I think that she—she says
that Barack Obama‘s taking everybody away that doesn‘t have papers.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Yeah, well, that‘s
something that we have to work on. Right? To make sure that people can be
here with the right kind of papers. Right? That‘s exactly right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mommy doesn‘t have papers.
OBAMA: Well, we have to work on that. We have to fix that.
Everybody‘s got to work together in Congress to make sure that happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.
Thanks, again, for some of your time tonight, congressman.
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you so much for having me.
OLBERMANN: Just the proverbial little child shall lead us; did we
just witness a key moment in this debate?
GUTIERREZ: You know, I‘m going to tell you something. I have a funny
feeling that you can be a member of Congress and get arrested in front of
the White House and the message doesn‘t get through. You—I mean, so
many things. You can have 200,000 people on the mall. You can have
millions of people march on the street. And it doesn‘t get through.
And yet a seven-year-old little girl can kind of synthesize
everything, right, both what is wrong and why we need to act.
OLBERMANN: What needs to happen as a result of that? Does it need to
be discussed? Do people need to see the tape? Or is there something to be
done with her story, what she faces, and obviously what her mother faces?
GUTIERREZ: Look, she‘s part of the reason we need comprehensive
immigration reform. But, Keith, I‘ve visited 30 cities. We named the
campaign Familias Unitas, United Families. Why? Because of the
destructive nature that our broken immigration system has on our families.
Now, there are many politicians that tout family values. Well, what‘s
family values in regard to our immigration policy when you listen to that
little child? That little child says, don‘t take my mommy away. You know?
And I‘ve come here. You‘re the First Lady of the United States. And
what‘s on her mind? Education? No. A new house? No. A car? No.
What surrounds that child‘s every day life is am I going to lose.
And, Keith, I think she helps us tell a story because I fail to believe—
I just can‘t believe that the American public, if it understood there are
5.5 million American citizen children whose parents don‘t have documents,
and that her story, unfortunately, Keith, is not unique, time and time
So, you know, I love the grace with which the First Lady responded.
That‘s tough. That‘s got to be tough as a mother, a loving mother of her
two beautiful daughters. It‘s got to be tough for the First Lady. But at
the same time, we have to say President Barack Obama made a promise. He
said I will lead you out of the shadows into the light of day. I will end
the exploitation, and I will stop the separations of your family. He
needs, I think, to do more.
Having said that, look, John McCain doesn‘t help very much when he
walks away from the table. And, you know, the fact that the president is
trying. I think he needs to try harder and work harder at it, because
that‘s what an extraordinary president does. But let‘s face it,
Republicans who are always talking about family values and the essence of
family, right—well, that‘s that little kid, her love, her unity with her
mother. I think they‘re really lacking in not responding to her.
OLBERMANN: Yep. That‘s who you‘re walking away from. While I have
you, I must ask you about the boycott of the boycott. The call for the
boycott of Arizona, you were part of that to some minor degree. I was.
Many important leaders were. Los Angeles announced it would do it last
week. And the city gets a quarter of its power from three plants in
Arizona. Now the Arizona Corporation Commission is threatening to turn off
the flow of Arizona electricity to Los Angeles in response. Can they do
that? Is there something Congress can do to step in?
GUTIERREZ: You know something? I certainly hope there‘s something we
can do about it. Look, the free flow of ideas should be the free flow of
ideas. Energy and energy policy should not be something that is used
against the population. It should not be a whipping—not be used to whip
the people of Los Angeles because they‘ve expressed their opinion on the
The issue is one that many of us believe in. Are we going to bring
darkness where we need light? I think not. I don‘t think that‘s the
OLBERMANN: Good imagery there too. As a guy who was living in
California in 2000, the last thing the state of Arizona needs to do now is
look like Enron did in 2000, with rolling blackouts.
GUTIERREZ: What a great comment. Yes.
OLBERMANN: That‘s where that idea comes from.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Luis Gutierrez, the Democrat of Illinois,
always a pleasure, sir. Thanks for your time.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The Gulf disaster, he says, in a new commercial, is more
than a terrible oil spill. Tell President Obama to lead America toward a
clean energy future. Our special guest tonight, Robert Redford.
Don‘t know much about geometry, but apparently it turns out you can‘t
use it to teach students how to assassinate the president. I‘m sure the
red eyes are just a bad photo.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, they dissed him and his
dad for years. Now, today, he is the pride and joy of the Republican
party. Her guest, Dr. Rand Paul.
OLBERMANN: Literally a day late, the school system does something
about the teacher who showed his class how to use geometry to assassinate
the president. Worsts, then Robert Redford on green energy.
First, no, that is not your water coming to a boil. It‘s our nightly
checkup on the something for nothing crowd. It is Tea Time. A good thing
this group is cleaning up its act. It‘s not racist. That is a figment of
my imagination. I look at the blog of the chairman of the Tea Party
Express showing his inclusiveness over the plan approved by the local
community board to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.
Here is Tea Party Express Chairman Mark Williams showing that Tea
Party tolerance. Quote, “the monument would consist of a mosque for the
worship of the terrorist monkey God. Repeat, the terrorists monkey God.
If you feel that fits a description of Allah, then that is your own deep
emotional baggage, not mine. Talk to the terrorists who use Allah as their
excuse, and the Muslims who apologize for it, and rationalize them,” end
parenthesis, “and a cultural center to propagandize for the extermination
of all things not approved by their cult.”
Your Tea Party dollars in action. Then there‘s the story from Hawaii.
An eleventh grader is assigned a project on propaganda, and he produces
this. Not the most complimentary of things to the Tea Party. But it turns
out the kid‘s partners in the project produced pro-Tea Party literature and
conducted talks with other students in the class. The point was
propaganda. Not according to Tea Party Hawaii. “The very content of the
poster exemplifies the student‘s gross lack of understanding about what the
party is all really all about.”
So wrote the tea party‘s president even as his knee jerked his pen out
of his hand. Dissent is patriotic, they like to remind us, their dissent.
Not anybody else‘s, even if it really isn‘t dissent.
OLBERMANN: In a new advertisement, he calls the disaster in the Gulf,
quote, “the product of a failed energy policy, one that puts oil company
profits ahead of people and the environment.” Robert Redford, our special
But first tonight‘s worst persons in the world. The bronze to Little
Miss Bendy Straws, appearing on Fixed News a little after 9:00 pm Eastern
last night to discuss the special election in the Pennsylvania 12th, where
the aide to the late Jack Murtha, Mark Critz, faced Republican Tim Burns
for a seat in Congress right now. Her enabler, Mr. Hannity, said, “if
Burns pulls this off tonight, what would that say to you?”
She replied, in her usual inimitable gibberish, “I think Burns will
pull this off tonight. And just like the Rand-slide that we were just
talking about, you‘re going to see Burns having this representation of a
smaller, smarter government, getting the economy back on the right track
with some limited overreach of the government. That‘s what Burns stands
for. We need someone like Tim Burns in there. And you‘re going to see
that via vote today with the electorate.”
Critz 53 percent, Burns 44 percent, a Critz-slide. That woman is an
The runner up, the chicken lady. This just keeps getting better and
better. Nevada Republican Senate Wannabe Sue Lowden can‘t stop, can‘t
stop, can‘t stop.
(BEGNI VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said, the olden days, you took a chicken to
the doctor, I‘m not backing down from that system.
SUE LOWDEN ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: No, I never said from that
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you did.
LOWDEN: I never said from that system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: OK, roll ‘em.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOWDEN: In the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a
chicken to the doctor. They would say I‘ll paint your house. They would
do—that‘s the old days of what people would do to get health care with
their doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I‘m not backing down
from that system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Just in case you missed that, let‘s edit the highlights
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOWDEN: I‘m not backing down from that system.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said the olden days, we took a chicken to the
doctor, I‘m not backing down from that system.
LOWDEN: No, I never said from that system. I never said from that
LOWDEN: I‘m not backing down from that system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So, Sue Lowden, the chicken lady, just became Sue Lowden
the liar lady.
But our winner, Phil Hammons (ph), the superintendent of schools in
Jefferson County, Alabama. He‘s the guy who, at first, dismissed the idea
that one of his teachers had done anything untoward by teaching his
students math using a practical example. The kids in Gregory Harrison‘s
geometry class in Corner High School were joking about President Obama, so,
according to senior Joseph Brown. Mr. Harrison started “talking about
angles and said if you‘re in this building you would need to take this
angle to shoot the president.”
Secret Service was notified, found no threat. The superintendent, Mr.
Hammons, initially responded by saying he‘d have a long talk with Harrison.
Now, finally, he‘s put Harrison on administrative leave. The point about
Obama is obvious. But here‘s a bigger point. What in the hell is a
teacher in a public school doing illustrating a geometry lesson by talking
about how to assassinate anybody? And why in the hell isn‘t that obviously
unacceptable to the school superintendent? Phil Hammons, the
superintendent of schools of Jefferson Country, Alabama, today‘s worst
person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Amid growing outcry over how the government and BP have
kept people out of the loop, we learned today that the Gulf oil spill is
now confirmed to be in the loop. The spill having now reached the so-
called Loop Current, the current that carries water to the Florida Keys and
the Gulfstream. In our number one story tonight, both Republicans and
Democrats today are saying the Obama administration has not released enough
information, has not taken enough action before or after to prevent and
clean up this disastrous spill. Robert Redford joins us presently.
Today, ten environmental groups called on President Obama to take the
reins in the Gulf and no longer let BP run the monitoring or testing there,
and to release all the findings so far. Mr. Redford, with the Natural
Resources Defense Council, asking the president to get tough with big oil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: The Gulf disaster is more than a terrible oil
spill. It‘s the product of a failed energy policy, one that puts oil
company profits ahead of the people and the environment. America needs a
safe, clean and renewable energy, not more oil spills. That means
politicians in Washington have a choice: keep bowing to the demands of big
oil or stand up for the American people.
Tell President Obama to lead America towards a clean energy future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: BP is preparing to try a new capping method, it says,
called top kill that would smother the surge in heavier material, and then
seal it with cement. The administration has down-played reports of an
underwater plume resulting from the spewing oil, telling “Huffington Post”
it believes most of the oil to be on the surface, and the researchers who
have found it, reportedly, have been told to stop speaking to the media.
The blog “Fire Dog Lake” has now turned up a 2000 field test by the
MMS, along with big oil, including BP. It shows they knew deep water
spills could lead to massive, submerged plumes of oil, because oil and gas
behave differently at depths of great pressure and low temperature. We
learned today that MMS specifically warned BP about the Deep Water Horizon
To quote, “exercise caution while drilling, due to indications of
shallow gas.” Gas which could end up igniting to deadly effect. So much
so that it‘s Republicans now calling for more government spending and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN MICA ®, FLORIDA: We‘re here to get the facts. I‘m not
going to point fingers at BP, the private industry, when it‘s government‘s
responsibility to set the standards, to do the inspections. I haven‘t
gotten into the lack of inspections that they didn‘t conduct and should
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As promised, we‘re now joined by long time environmental
activist, Robert Redford, a trustee of the board of the National Resources
Defense Council, also an Oscar winning director, and a genuine old school
movie star. Mr. Redford, it is a pleasure. Thanks for some of your time
REDFORD: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: In your ad, you‘ve asked Americans to tell the president
to lead America towards a clean energy future. Expand upon that. What is
each in that equation supposed to do, in your opinion?
REDFORD: Well, the voters sent President Obama to Washington to be a
bold and visionary leader, and to do things that weren‘t being done or
couldn‘t be done by others before him. And I think that‘s what they want.
And they need more of that from him. He showed what he could do with the
health care bill when he put his energy behind it.
But in this case, I think, you know, we don‘t need a disaster manager.
We need a leader, somebody that‘s going to look ahead and see problems
before they arise, before they become catastrophes that cost money, lives
and well being and so on.
OLBERMANN: What does the viewer at home or the viewer of that spot
that you did do to affect that—get that message across to this
president, besides the votes they‘ve already cast or the votes they will
REDFORD: Well, first of all, I think this is a great time—there‘s
kind of a wisdom around D.C., you know, a political wisdom that—
particularly with people that are more interested in preserving their seats
that this is not a time to have a bill, an energy bill. There‘s too
much going on. There‘s immigration. It‘s a midterm year and so forth. I
think wrong. I think now is exactly the time, because the American people
are really focused on this.
My voice is just one of many. I mean, the American people are raising
their voices. Otherwise, you wouldn‘t see all this jumping around by the
politicians trying to get on board a bandwagon that says we‘ve got to do
something. I think this is a great time. I think when you ask what people
can do, I think the more they raise their voices, because they‘re focused
on this—and what a great time for Obama to act, what a great time to get
a bill passed, although they say it can‘t be, because the American people
are focused. And they want it. I believe that.
OLBERMANN: Yours of these voices is an informed voice. Can you
explain where you would stand on this newest call for what would seem to be
an automatic process here, that the government should be taking over the
complete operation in the Gulf and not leaving this to BP to clean up its
own spill, that it hasn‘t even stopped yet?
REDFORD: Well, yeah, you said it. The fact is that—it‘s pretty
obvious you can‘t expect BP to police themselves, nor most of the oil
companies. Look at Valdez, and look at Santa Barbara, Whitney, so forth.
In all those cases, they were policing themselves and look what happened.
That‘s a gone issue. I think there has to be more transparency. There
isn‘t. I think the American people deserve more transparency. I think the
government, including the administration, and certainly BP—although I
wouldn‘t count on it—but I think there has to be a lot more transparency
for us to get the facts of what‘s really happening. What about the tests
and so on?
OLBERMANN: You drew a line in this spot between the spill and the
failed energy policy. And I think that does kind of cut to the chase here.
And a lot of people aren‘t seeing that forest through the trees. When you
talk about the failed energy policy, is that 2008‘s failed energy policy or
is it 2010‘s failed energy policy.
REDFORD: Well, I‘m actually talking about a failed energy policy that
goes back 30, 35 years. I think we‘ve had either a non-policy or a poor
policy all that time. In the early ‘70s or in the ‘70s, there was an
attempt to get a policy that would get us off fossil fuels and focus on
clean renewable energy. It didn‘t pass. And I think we‘re now paying that
So I think now is the time. We could have been a world leader in
energy had we seized the reins then. You know, they say it‘s never too
late, but, boy, time‘s running out, that‘s for sure.
OLBERMANN: When Senator Salazar was named the new secretary of the
Interior when the Obama administration started, you were quoted as saying
you think very highly of him. What did you think of his reforms or the
lack of reforms he effected prior to this spill? It seems he‘s been
playing catchup here. Is that a fair assessment? People tend to throw out
the names of potential scapegoats every day at something like this, but is
there blame to be placed on his doorstep?
REDFORD: Oh, there‘s no problem placing blame. It‘s all over the
place. But the problem is where it goes. Look, I have to—I‘m slightly
prejudiced about Secretary Salazar because he did something I thought was
very bold and smart and quick and that is the—my interest is very strong
in wilderness areas and protecting wilderness and western lands. And there
was a sneaky move made by Bush the night of the elections, when he thought
nobody was looking or the administration thought nobody was looking. They
tried to open up 350,000 acres for oil and gas leasing in and around
national parks and monuments and wilderness areas.
So Salazar stopped it. And I will be grateful to him for that. Then,
of course, what you see recently, you know, whether or not anybody is slow
to the game or not, I don‘t know. We see that he‘s focused on the Mineral
Management Services Agency and their failure, and certainly they‘ve proven
to be not only corrupt but ineffectual. And he‘s already taking a look at
that to decide what needs to be done to reform that agency within the
government. So those are two moves that I think are good and the rest of
it, I don‘t know.
OLBERMANN: What do we do about drilling in the immediate future? Do
we need to shut down until there are more emergency plans in places for
things like this when they happen next time?
REDFORD: I think so. I think it‘s pretty obvious. Let‘s face it,
the fact is we‘ve been living with an energy policy recently, in the last
few years, that was designed by Cheney. And he did it behind closed doors,
in secret, with energy company executives, without the press being able to
witness, without the public knowing what was going on. So transparency has
been an issue for a long, long time.
OLBERMANN: Robert Redford, actor and environmental activist, my
apologies, I guess we had a technical glitch there. In any event, we thank
you for your time.
REDFORD: You‘re sure welcome.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for the 2,575th day since the previous
president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good
night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>