Guests: Kate Sheppard, Dick Harpootlian, David Weigel>
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Day 53, day two of BP‘s bid to buy good publicity. The new report tonight: BP‘s plan to put its second quarter dividend, $2.5 billion, into escrow.
The speaker of the House likes part of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: They should not be paying dividends until they make these people whole. And make a better effort to do it in a timely fashion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: BP‘s latest absurdity, the rate of spill is so much greater than anyone could have anticipated, Thad Allen now says it will be July before they have enough tankers to carry off the captured oil. In other words, they got the rate of spill phenomenally wrong.
The incredible shrinking Dick Cheney. Why so silent on the ultimate repudiation of his industry? Perhaps the infamous 2001 Cheney secret energy task force report or blueprint for Cheney‘s Katrina?
Mole, plant, fluke? Alvin Greene, day two.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Did you have campaign rallies?
ALVIN GREENE (D), SOUTH CAROLINA SENATE CANDIDATE: Nothing formal, just informal rallies—just informal meetings, rather.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What the Sam Hill is going on in South Carolina? Answers, including the critical one about following the money, and Mr. Greene‘s legal defense lawyer from former state Democratic chair, Dick Harpootlian.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 43rd president of—oh, boy.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Thanks for tuning in to my inaugural address on Facebook.
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OLBERMANN: “Fridays with Thurber,” a man, the hotel room, and something missing—“Guessing Game.”
And “Worsts”: Remember Beck‘s fake apology for having insulted Malia Obama? Remember his plea: leave the families out of it? That was so two weeks ago.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: His mother was a revolutionary. His grandparents, they went to the communist little red church just outside of Seattle.
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OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: Something is wrong, very wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
At every stage in this spill, BP and the federal government, including explicitly the president, have told us that measuring the rate of the spill did not matter because they were responding with maximum resources anyway.
Tonight, in our fifth story—it will take them weeks to get new resources to the scene, resources they did not know they would need because they did not measure the spill rate.
BP now is saying it is postponing the swapping out of the current containment cap scheduled for next week. The current one is sucking up about 15,000 barrels a day, still spilling untold thousands of barrels more. The new one, and it‘s higher capacity, it goes from next week to next month.
Why? Because 53 days into this, only now are they bringing in additional ships from as far away as the North Sea, which may or may not have enough capacity. Unlike the two vessels on-site which we know fall woefully short of the 40,000 barrel estimate we just got yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADM. THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: First of all, I think we‘re still dealing with the flow estimate and we‘re still trying to refine those numbers. One portion of the work, as we‘ve just indicated, came up with a higher flow rate. As it stands right now, the actually production capability at optimum for the Discoverer Enterprise and Q4000, if they‘re operating at maximum efficiency is 18,000 and 10,000 respectively. So, that‘s 28,000.
We have directed BP to provide us a plan to increase capacity and also increase redundancy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Astoundingly, Congressman Ed Markey is still waging a war with BP to get permission to launch an actual reliable monitoring effort at the riser—an effort specifically requested by the U.S. government‘s flow rate team. Requested—despite assurances the government is in charge. Requested, but not yet replied to. This, despite the fact that BP‘s own spill response plan called for immediate monitoring of the flow rate.
And the researchers tell the “Associated Press” the new estimate of 40,000 barrels doubling the last estimate but quadrupling the impact because the oil now has the potential to stick together over much larger distances, jeopardizing more animals, more fishing waters, more coastline. A group of Alabama fire chiefs meanwhile reportedly allege that BP is profusely keeping trained responders away from slick sites. This is a charge BP denies.
BP, of course, having a massive financial incentive to block not just monitoring of flow rate but also of the spill‘s effects—all of which are used to calculate financial penalties. Penalties which would be part of a total cost, more than one analyst is now pegging at tens of billions of dollars—on top of course of the value BP has lost on the stock market.
The British prime minister, Mr. Cameron, today telling BP‘s chairman it is, quote, “in everyone‘s interest that BP continues to be a financially strong and stable company.” British to American translation: too-big-to-fail.
Pressure nevertheless continuing to mount on BP today, to cancel, delay or at least put in escrow its upcoming dividend payments to stockholders. House Speaker Pelosi suggesting there might be other parties first in line for BP‘s checks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: BP has a responsibility to make good on the law in terms of its obligations to the workers and to the businesses in the region, and to do it in a reasonable time. I have said that, you know, to see BP doing—spending all this money on advertising and boasting of their dividends that they‘re paying, they really have an obligation to first—and I think it would be good public relations for them, though they didn‘t ask me—to pay these workers and these businesses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: More than one report out of Britain tonight suggesting BP is, in fact, on the verge of suspending its second quarter dividend payments, nearly $2.5 billion to its stockholders.
Let‘s turn first to MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also the author of “Renegade: The Making of a President.”
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president is going to meet with executives from BP on Wednesday, we believe Mr. Hayward, the day after he spends another two days in the Gulf. Was this news on dividends what he wanted to hear? Or is there more?
WOLFFE: Well, I suppose it‘s helpful, although I think there‘s still some doubt about what they‘re actually going to do with this cash. You know, what the president wants to do, first of all, is show his displeasure with the whole range of things that BP has been doing. But especially, honestly, it‘s what BP does with this money rather than just not paying the dividends. So that comes down to compensation for businesses. Obviously, what they‘re also talking about is compensation for broader economic impact, especially the oil rig workers whose production is suspended because everything‘s been suspended, at least temporarily.
So, you know, there are so many other things that this president needs to get to in these discussions with BP. And let‘s face it—a lot of the meeting that he finally has with these executives is not really going to be about a channel of communication or negotiation, it‘s going to be him going in there saying, this isn‘t good enough. And by the way, you need to step up.
OLBERMANN: What about the internal stuff within the administration
and within what it could actually have an impact on? This other best-case
scenario now of at least another month of this because they‘re going to
have to move the replacement of the cap until not next week, but next month
And that seems to be a direct result of nobody saying 53 days ago, we need to know how much is coming out, we need to measure this and work off this number right now.
If the president really is in charge, if he‘s saying there‘s nothing more he can do, why are government scientists, A, going through Congressman Ed Markey, a fine individual—why are they going through him to seek, not even to get, but just to seek the real flow monitoring that we didn‘t get 53 days ago, 53 days later?
WOLFFE: Yes. It is deeply troubling.
I have to say, though, in my discussions with the White House, over the course of this whole disaster, something that I reported on the “Daily Beast” not so long ago, is that they‘ve had the he can expectation from the beginning that this flow would not really be stopped until this relief well gets drilled, which is August.
So, it is going to be a long and messy period, and that all the various measures, whether they have the tankers in place or not, are really not going to be able to stop completely the flow and the disaster that‘s unfolding. So, that‘s one piece of it. But it is troubling about the tankers. The flow rate is important.
I would say, though, perhaps even more troubling is that there are people who are on the coastline in the Gulf who still don‘t know what‘s going on with the dispersants which could have just as big an impact on the environment.
So, there are so many unknowns at this point. There are so many frustrated, unanswered questions that it‘s going to take a long time to unpick it.
OLBERMANN: Is the trip Monday and Tuesday potentially a big unknown for the president? Because without something more substantive, forcing BP to monitor flow immediately, firing Ken Salazar, something, how much risk does the president face of having his events along the Gulf, photo-ops and the more substantial things blow up in his face public relations-wise?
WOLFFE: Well, he may show empathy and that I guess is important because all the pundits have been asking for him to show some emotion. But the danger is that it looks reactive.
At this point, he needs to show control and a longer term plan, as well as the whole kicking people‘s rear end thing.
So, you know, what kind of economic recovery plan, what kind of mobilization effort does he—does he have in mind here? So, if it‘s a photo, that‘s good, it does show an engagement. But there needs to be something more policy-driven, which is in this president‘s wheelhouse. That‘s the kind of communication that really needs to flow from here.
OLBERMANN: Point well taken.
MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also the author “Renegade: The Making of a President”—thanks as always for your time. Have a good weekend, Richard.
WOLFFE: And you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Of all the people left, right and center, who have chimed in on this issue, one voice has remained mysteriously silent, as “Newsweek” magazine observes. A voice belonging to a man known for pushing back powerfully against his critics, albeit only with friendly interlocutors, a man known for certitude in his areas of expertise and who can clearly claim oil as one of those areas, perhaps his only true area of expertise. So, where in the Gulf is Richard B. Cheney?
The former vice president has been credited here and elsewhere with at least partial ownership of this spill, Cheney‘s Katrina, thanks not only to his former company, Halliburton‘s involvement in the cementing or lack thereof of the well just prior to the blowout, but also due to his tenure as vice president, which he notoriously led a secret effort to rewrite U.S. law on oil and energy regulation. The Bush administration rewriting energy law largely in accord with what executives from BP, Halliburton and others desired, blocking safety regulations that might have prevented or at least ameliorated this deadly accident.
Let‘s turn now to Kate Sheppard, environmental reporter for “Mother Jones” magazine.
Thanks for your time tonight, Kate.
KATE SHEPPARD, MOTHER JONES: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You looked at this issue of Cheney‘s culpability from “Mother Jones” yesterday. Let‘s start with that, you know, famous or infamous 2001 energy task force secret meeting. We‘ve all assumed it‘s related to the oil spill of 2010. Is it in fact? And if so, how is it related?
SHEPPARD: Well, there are a lot of unanswered questions here about how it‘s related. What we do know is that, basically, within the first few days of taking office, the Bush administration, you know, gave Cheney the right to make this task force. He was allowed to call all his best buddies from his days in the oil industry over, and not just oil, but coal and gas and all these other fossil fuels.
But he called them over and they had all these series of meetings here over months to come up with a policy plan that would go on to guide the next eight years of this administration. You know, this was—this task force document they put out was basically a wish list for the oil, gas and coal industries. It was, you know, asking for ways to weaken regulations, asking for numerous incentives to, among other things, drill offshore, to weaken regulations so that it‘s easier for companies to drill offshore, to ignore environmental policies so that they can have more access to these resources.
And, basically, this is just the blueprint that would guide the next eight years of the administration. I mean, we don‘t know exactly who was in a lot of these meetings. We have some idea now. We‘ve gotten a list of some of the people who were involved but—and we don‘t know exactly what they asked for. But we did see the consequences of that deregulation and incentivizing over the next eight years.
OLBERMANN: We don‘t know also whether the president‘s panel that he‘s assembling about this event in the Gulf this year is going to look at the energy task force of 2001 and the subsequent legislation. But you‘re reporting that Congress might do that in terms of trying to put the pieces of the crisis together, including the entire back story.
What exactly would they do regarding the Cheney task force if they‘re bringing that into the investigation?
SHEPPARD: Well, so, there‘s an effort underway in both the House and Senate to give this oil spill commission subpoena power, which basically would allow this commission to call forward individuals to testify, to demand documents and any kind of records that might be helpful here. I mean, the Supreme Court basically ruled in favor of the Bush/Cheney administration and allowed them to keep a lot of this secret.
But, you know, we don‘t know what BP met with them. We don‘t really know what BP themselves asked for, other than that they gave detailed policy requests.
But, you know, there‘s no reason we can‘t get more from BP now. We‘re having—we‘re in the middle of a numerous congressional investigations, we have the spill commission, we have a criminal probe here. There‘s no reason we can‘t get more from BP about what they asked for and possibly got from the last administration.
OLBERMANN: Is there a literal or figurative statute of limitations here in the sense that, you know, Ken Salazar did not do very much to change what was inherited from Bush and Cheney, and Bush and Cheney obviously had started this. But is it not fair to say, you know, sorry, Mr. President, sorry, Mr. Secretary of the interior, you chose to stay on this road.
SHEPPARD: Well, I think you‘re absolutely right. I mean, the Obama administration could have done more here, interior. But I think, you know, it‘s really clear that the blueprints for this, the ground work was laid over this nearly a decade before the Obama administration even took office.
So, I think to really understand where we are now and why we got in this situation we have to understand what happened over the last, you know, the eight years before this—before they took office. So, I don‘t think the statute of limitations has run out here. I think—I think it‘s really important to understand that history and I think that will—should be a big focus of both the congressional and the spill commissions‘ investigations.
OLBERMANN: Last quick question. The energy task force of 2001, do we doubt that they discussed the potentiality for deep water drilling disasters like this one?
SHEPPARD: Oh—I mean, in the documents they put forward with their policy recommendations, there‘s numerous suggestions that we should expand offshore drilling, that we should move into the deep waters. You know, there were recommendations from oil companies that were included a wholesale, that were saying we should incentivize offshore drilling. So, you know, it‘s all over the place in there.
OLBERMANN: What could possibly go wrong? Kate Sheppard, environmental reporter for “Mother Jones” magazine, thanks again for your time tonight. Have a good weekend.
SHEPPARD: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: From Dick Cheney‘s version of the China syndrome, to Alvin Greene‘s adaptation to being there. The day after the interview and a breaking news bit tonight, a charge from the senatorial candidate that Mr. Greene defeated that in at least 25 voting precincts, Mr. Greene received more votes than were officially cast.
OLBERMANN: Never mind following the money, follow the votes. Alvin Greene got more than were cast? His mystery continues.
Great. He‘s got a new job. Honorary president of Facebook. How dare you, sir. And face of evil, tonight‘s third worst person in the world.
And “Fridays with Thurber” and guessing game—ahead here on
OLBERMANN: Breaking news in the increasingly bizarre case of South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate, Alvin Greene. An unofficial review of ballots, reports “Politico,” shows that at least 25 precincts, Mr. Greene received more votes in them than were officially cast.
And in our fourth story tonight: more evidence as well that a second Democratic primary challenger in South Carolina may have been a plant by Republicans.
The candidate, Mr. Greene defeated, Vic Rawl, has assembled a team to review ballots from Tuesday‘s primary, and this again according to “Politico.” The review is not complete, but one other red flag says the Rawl campaign manager, Walter Ludwig, is a significant difference between the absentee ballot results and the election day ballot results. Of the state‘s 46 counties, half have a disparity between them of more than 10 percentage points, says Mr. Ludwig.
In Lancaster County, for example, Mr. Rawl won absentee ballots by 84 percent to 16 percent. That‘s 68 point spread, but Greene won the election day voting in that same county by 17 points.
In Spartanburg County, Greene received more votes than were cast in 25 precincts there, according to Mr. Ludwig. And in 50 other precincts, votes appear to be missing from the final count.
Quoting Ludwig, “This may add up to nothing. This all could be a clerical error. We don‘t know. But we thought it was worth looking into.”
Mr. Greene, last night on this news hour, defended the legitimacy of his candidacy, claiming that the money for his filing fee came from his own funds, and as for the campaign itself and the felony obscenity charge against him—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What was your campaign like? Did have you a lot of campaign meetings?
GREENE: I had quite—I had just a few meetings. Not many.
OLBERMANN: Did you have campaign rallies?
GREENE: Nothing formal, just informal rallies—just informal meetings, rather.
OLBERMANN: Did you go door-to-door to meet the voters? How did they find out who you were?
GREENE: I just conducted a simple old-fashioned campaign, you know, all across the state of South Carolina.
OLBERMANN: The charge of felony obscenity last year, would you care to address that with this opportunity to do so?
GREENE: I have no comment on that.
OLBERMANN: Can you say whether or not a public defender was assigned to you?
GREENE: That, I‘m not commenting on.
OLBERMANN: Do you think that between now and the campaign, the vote when you‘re campaigning against Mr. DeMint, that at some point, you‘re going to have to address that question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In a separate interview, when Greene was asked, “Including the $10,400 filing fee to become a candidate, would you say you spent less than $12,000 on your campaign?” His answer was, “A whole lot less.”
Meantime, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn had claimed that as many as three Democratic candidates in South Carolina‘s primary Tuesday may have been plants, including his own opponent in the Democratic primary. Today, that candidate, Gregory Brown, could not give a straight answer about this revelation that he employed a consultant from the GOP.
According to “Talking Points Memo,” Brown‘s campaign paid Stonewall Strategies nearly $24,000 for marketing and marketing materials. The firm is run by Preston Grisham. Mr. Grisham is a former aide to Republican Congressman Joe “You lie” Wilson. And Grisham was campaign manager for Wilson from 2002 to 2009.
Mr. Brown first told “TPM” that he was not aware of Mr. Grisham‘s connection with Congressman Wilson. Then Brown said he was aware but did not think Grisham had had a prominent role in Wilson‘s campaign.
Let‘s bring in now as promised, former Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina, Dick Harpootlian. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
DICK HARPOOTLIAN, FMR. SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN:
OLBERMANN: First, this review, if these results are as bizarre as they seem, what might account for that, do you think?
HARPOOTLIAN: Well, in terms of the election results, there‘s no telling. I mean, I‘ve sampled some of them. Some of them make perfect sense, some of them as you have seen don‘t.
What concerns me, however, is we have a guy spending $10,400 to file for the United States Senate who just a few months before had told the judicial officials he was indigent. He‘s on unemployment. Where did the money come from?
And this is not the first time we‘ve seen or had questions about where somebody—an unknown gets money to pay their filing fee. I as a prosecutor convicted a guy about 15 years ago, a Republican for doing the same thing in the Republican primary. So this is not unique. We‘ve seen it before.
OLBERMANN: The subject of this—is there—what kind of clerical error—I‘m sorry I‘m just so befuddled by this. What kind of clerical error could lead to indication that in 25 different precincts, one candidate received more votes than were cast? Is that possible?
HARPOOTLIAN: That‘s an old Southern tradition.
HARPOOTLIAN: We learned it from Chicago. But I think in—you know, I‘d have to look at these results, but I find it hard to believe that that‘s going to be validated. Most of these folks—I mean, it‘s an electronic system, perhaps it was a glitch in the software. But I‘m afraid the problem here is not going to be in how the votes were tallied, it‘s going to be how he got into the Democratic primary if, in fact, somebody put him into the Democratic primary and if, in fact, that was motivated by Jim DeMint or someone on Jim DeMint‘s behalf.
OLBERMANN: What would the logic given that Jim DeMint was presumed to have a cake walk into re-election? What would the logic be of doing something that could be as screwy looking as this? Because, obviously, it‘s screwy looking now and there could be an incredible story behind it that would only bubble over and hurt Mr. DeMint and other South Carolina Republicans.
HARPOOTLIAN: Well, I‘m not sure he was directly—I mean, he would be directly responsible for it. But remember, we‘re the state of Lee Atwater, the state where George Bush mugged John McCain in 2000 with push calls on illegitimate children, biracial illegitimate children. It‘s a Republican tradition in this state to do these sort of weird, crazy things.
So, why would DeMint do it? Probably DeMint didn‘t do it, but somebody may have done it on his behalf, if they‘ve seen the poll numbers I saw over the last three weeks, which is DeMint had a 50 percent re-elect rate. Vic Rawl in a—who apparently nobody really knew was at 43 points against his 50. DeMint wasn‘t going to have a cake walk.
Remember now, this is a year where people are voting against incumbents, and in South Carolina, they realize you can‘t change the Senate if you don‘t change the senator. So, I think DeMint saw the handwriting or somebody saw the handwriting on the wall. I‘m not going to accuse Jim DeMint—but some Republican operatives saw this as a chance to mess with the Democratic nominating process.
I think they wanted to cause Vic Rawl some trouble, make him spent a lot of money. But it went way beyond that.
OLBERMANN: And this connection here between Gregory Brown, who ran against Mr. Clyburn in the primary, connection to Mr. Brown and Stonewall Strategies and Preston Grisham who was Joe Wilson‘s campaign manager, does that strike as unusual even for South Carolina politics?
HARPOOTLIAN: No, it‘s very usual. We‘ve seen it—you know, this is getting national attention, but we‘ve seen this cycle after cycle after cycle. This is a tradition. You know, look, many—most of the Republicans—the older Republicans in South Carolina today were Democrats 25 years ago who left the Democratic Party because they didn‘t believe they could beat an African-American in a primary. That‘s Republican dogma. That‘s the idea that if you get African-American opposition in a primary, a white Democratic can‘t win.
OLBERMANN: Dick Harpootlian, former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman—great thanks for the explanation and the background and have a great weekend.
HARPOOTLIAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: If Mr. Greene does not withdraw or he is not elected to the U.S. Senate, perhaps he could move on to challenge the self-declared president of his own Facebook page, George W. Bush. You heard me.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: President Bush on Facebook, on a video posted on Facebook? He does a Sarah Palin impression? First, the Tweet of the day from Clapso (ph). This is pretty good for his sixth career Tweet. “Alvin Greene is a real go-getter. Most politicians wait until after they get elected to commit their felonies.” Ouch.
Let‘s play Oddball.
Flint, Michigan, and our friends at NBC affiliate WEYI will explain this for us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, here it comes around the weather center.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god! He‘s going that way! He‘s going in the director‘s room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sweet Jesus.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where‘s he going now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s going upstairs. Oh, mother of Mary. Boy, could we be in trouble. We‘ll see how this will turn out. Let‘s get your forecast real quick, so at least get ahold of your seven-day forecast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It‘s a raccoon. Nice gloves. Twenty minutes later, Rusty skedaddled, another victim of news room cutbacks.
To London, England, where more than a thousand people, ultimately six finalists vying for one job, city‘s official ale taster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He or she will be provided with a weekly beer budget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Say no more. The position dates back to Medieval times, when the taster determined the alcohol level of local brews and the corresponding tax. This year‘s competition is more of a publicity stunt by the ale industry, but nobody cares. The testers had to correctly identify samples in a blind taste test. And the winner, blind in a different sense, Steve Williams.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it‘s a great privilege to now be able to spread the beer word to a much wider group of people. And I do blog about beer, but a few hundred come and visit that one. Now I‘ll get a chance to spread the oracle to a few thousand people. So that‘s brilliant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I don‘t want to see you spread the oracle, sir. Put the oracle back where it belongs.
George Bush on Facebook; doesn‘t that make it Bush Book or Face Bush?
OLBERMANN: What do you do after you‘ve been president of the United States? Jimmy Carter became an international ambassador. Bill Clinton a kind of entrepreneur of charity and good works. George W. Bush, self-proclaimed president of his own Facebook page. Our third story, his page is up, along with a video referencing his third inauguration. The first two had far fewer references to his book being available for preorder, and requests for donations.
Addressing the good people of Earth, or at least the 150,000 plus who like him on the Facebook, Mr. Bush‘s first video posting shows the former president sitting in front of a back drop of books and some kind of arty thing on the right there. Here now a portion of the former president‘s message to the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks for tuning in to my inaugural address on Facebook. I‘ve been touched by the outpouring of interest. I am pleased to report that Laura and I are happy, healthy and home here in the great state of Texas, or as I call it, the promised land.
Serving as president was the honor of a lifetime, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to represent the nation I love. Retirement isn‘t so bad, either. The day after I left office, I started writing my book, which will hit the shelves on November 9th.
Along with former President Bill Clinton, I‘m raising money for earthquake relief in Haiti. And I‘m working on my presidential center at Southern Methodist University here in Dallas. As I tell people, I may be done with politics. But I am not done with policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So now you don‘t have to join Facebook. Joining us now, Dave Weigel, political reporter of “the Washington Post.” Good evening, Dave.
DAVID WEIGEL, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So you give an inaugural address on Facebook here, with a little couple one-liners in there. Is this suggesting—a suggestion that Mr. Bush is using this Sarah Palin model for his Facebook blueprint?
WEIGEL: I think that‘s unfair. George Bush at least waited for a full term to go by before he launched his Facebook account. But he‘s copied that model a little bit, in that he‘s having a one-way conversation, although a less interesting one way conversation than Palin is having with her fans. His media strategy has been curious, because Republicans love to impugn Democrats for ever bringing up the fact that George Bush was president. They say, you know, it‘s unfair to blame anything going on now on Bush.
But Bush has been meticulously out of the public arena. You see him selling his book or promising things he might do. He‘s really not talking about his legacy here. He‘s trying to start something brand-new and Palin-like.
OLBERMANN: What happened to his concern about his legacy? As we saw with President Carter, President Clinton, an ex-president can do a lot of good and often in a bipartisan way. Mr. Bush‘s work in Haiti got 13 words in this inaugural address, and five of the 13 words were “along with President Bill Clinton.” What happened to taking an opportunity to improve the legacy?
WEIGEL: Well, he‘s done a little bit of that with the George Bush Freedom Institute. And I can‘t see your face, you might be smirking when I say that word. But the first big event he had for the—with this was a bunch of dissidents from countries like Syria and Venezuela, and people who all came to meet the American media and talk about how much they miss having George Bush as president, because he was so good to dissidents.
It‘s very under the radar when he talks about his legacy. The rest of it—when he first introduced this, in his speech, he sort of—opening the library, sort of apologized for having had to put the bailout through. But, you know, it‘s—it‘s—he‘s still figuring out what he wants his legacy to be, you‘re right. There‘s not a giant project here. It‘s a lot of tinkering.
OLBERMANN: And also as you imply here, it seems like a random order here because he mentioned this; I‘m out of politics, but not out of policy. And then went on to say one of his initiatives is education reform, which is, of course, regarding the Bush administration, would be the saga of No Child Left Behind, which the most generous evaluation of that would be kind of mixed, kind of.
WEIGEL: Well, he‘s able to finally be decoupled from the Republican Congress and the Republican party that, by the end, every account we have says he didn‘t really like that much. The conservative movement has no stomach for No Child Left Behind. And a lot of them don‘t have any stomach for Iraq and Afghanistan. But he‘s going to try and move this ball down the field. And he‘s got the very small number of people—I think larger than the number of people who advise Sarah Palin on policy, but a small number of people who still believe in the George Bush vision of policy, of big compassionate conservatism, working on this project.
If you compare it to what Bill Clinton had a year out of office or—it‘s more—I think it‘s more like what Ronald Reagan did. Although, to his credit, George Bush is not going out of his way to bash Barack Obama. There‘s just too much legwork to do to fix his legacy before he can start doing that.
OLBERMANN: On that point, I noticed it sure looked like President Bush was using a teleprompter for a Facebook reporting. That‘s another story for another time.
WEIGEL: I thought only Barack Obama did that.
OLBERMANN: Dave Weigel of the “Washington Post,” great thanks. Have a good weekend.
WEIGEL: You too. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: Tonight, Mr. Thurber has advised he‘s left something in a hotel, but what? His story “Guessing Game.”
Lonesome Rhodes‘ apology about bashing Obama‘s family is now, to use a vintage word, inoperative.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, a special hour on the BP oil disaster.
OLBERMANN: “Guessing Game” by James Thurber. That‘s next, but first, get out your pitch forks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to, well, me. Wednesday, I reported that Bill-O had dropped so far off the radar—off the radar O‘Reilly, if you will—that he had signed on to a shill for News Max economic event at which they may again sell their 1,495 dollar Money Matrix Insider Program, in which, to quote some of my words, “he has been reduced to hyping pyramid schemes, fading out. He is doing the television equivalent of cutting yourself, was too good for this, or at least not bad enough. Should instead go back to bashing undocumented immigrants and announcing you won the Peabody Reward from the Paris Business Review of Frenchmen for your boycott. That he was still taken seriously, semi seriously, just barely seriously. That he should leave this crap to Matthew Lesko and G. Gordon Liddy and the Sham Wow you guy.”
We‘ve heard from the lawyers. O‘Reilly‘s? No. News Max‘s lawyers. Their site says that their product is not a pyramid scheme, and that I should not have said they were guaranteeing you a potential reward of 137,000 bucks. As the News Max sales pitch clearly states about rich people, “today, you have the opportunity to join them, and your take could be as much as 137,000 dollars, or more in the next year alone, as you break into the biggest vault the world has ever seen. It is possible for you to grab 137,000 dollars, or more, in the next year alone. With only a tiny grub steak to start with and the right circumstances, fortunes can be made with as little as 50 dollars to 250 dollars. And with the incredible force of leverage, you can turn that 250 dollars instantly into 100,000 dollars of investment power. The door has been flung wide open and shrewd investors with as little as 50 dollars to 250 dollars can play in this market and increase the chance to grab huge pay outs. I‘m talking potentially six and even seven figures here. It‘s not a dream. It‘s a real opportunity.”
So let me retract what I said about News Max‘s product. It is not, repeat, not, a pyramid scheme. Their ad sounds more like a get rich quick pitch, which would make Bill O‘Reilly the carnival barker hired to help them scalp the suckers. I‘m sorry, investors—investors for the get rich quick pitch.
Runner up, Chris Wallace of Fox, saying his place, its own kind of get rich quick pitch, should get Helen Thomas‘s front row seat in the White House press room. “This is actually kind of interesting because I think it would be the final sort of back payment for Helen Thomas if this were to happen, because obviously she was very far to the left wing. And if her seat were to be taken by Fox News, it would be kind of poetic justice.”
Wallace thus implying that a far right entity that occasionally says indefensible and even racist things should replace a far left entity that occasionally said indefensible and even racist things. When his implication was pointed out to him by a Fox interviewer, he said, “I just realized that‘s probably not the way to go on this. We‘re fair and balanced. That‘s the point.”
Chris, good luck with the rest of the toothpaste.
But our winner, Lonesome Rhodes Beck; a timeline here, after months of attacking the president‘s family, on May 26, he complains about author Joe McInnis moving near Sarah Palin‘s house, “leave the families alone.” And on the morning of May 28th, he promptly attacked the president‘s daughter, did an impression of her and implied she was stupid. On the afternoon of May 28th, he issued a fake apology for the attack on Malia Obama, in which he then attacked the president for using his family as a shield.
Today, here was Beck on President Obama‘s parents and grandparents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: His mother was a revolutionary. His father wasn‘t. A revolutionary. His grandparents, they went to the communist little red church just outside of Seattle. They had communist friends. So it‘s almost like Marxism has been bred into him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And he also went off on the First Lady. But we need to leave the families out of it. I was criticized for saying Mr. Beck needed another intervention, as if I was mocking his last one. I was not doing so. But this kind of utter blind hypocrisy can only be enacted by somebody who has literally forgotten what he himself said just two weeks ago. Mental impairment must be a factor or mental damage. Somebody has to help this man, because right now, otherwise, he remains the subject of international ridicule.
OLBERMANN: We interrupt the news to learn you some literature. As ever on Fridays, let me close with another selection from the canon of James Thurber, humorist, reporter, essayist, cartoonist, the renaissance man of American humor in the 20th century. It was to my late father I first read these stories. He suggested I read them to you.
Tonight‘s story comes originally from “The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze” from 1935. I‘m reading it from “The Works of James Thurber, 92 stories,” published by Long Meadow in 1985. And I‘ll dedicate it, the title, anyway, to Alvin Greene of South Carolina.
“Guessing Game” by James Thurber.
“An article was found after your departure in the room which you occupied. Kindly let us know if you have missed such an article. And if so, send us a description and instructions as to what disposition you wish made of sane. For lack of space, all lost and found articles must be disposed of within two months. Lost and Found Department, Hotel Lexington, Lexington Avenue and 48th Street, New York, per RE Daily.
Dear Mr. Daily, this whole thing is going to be much more complicated than you think. I have waited almost two weeks before answering your postcard notification, because I have been unable to figure out what article I left behind. I‘m sorry now I just didn‘t forget the whole business. As a matter of fact, I did try to forget it, but it keeps bobbing up in my mind. I‘ve gone into an alphabetical rut about it at night. I lie awake, naming articles to myself. Bathrobe. Bay rum. Book. Bicycle. Belt. Baby. Et cetera.
Dr. Prill, my analyst, has advised me to come right out and meet you on the subject. So far, I have been able to eliminate for certain only two articles. I never remember to take pajamas or a hair brush with me, so it couldn‘t be pajamas or a hair brush you found. This does not get us very far.
I have, however, ransacked the house, and I find that a number of things are missing, but I don‘t remember much of them, if any, I had with me at the Lexington that night. The vest to my blue suit, my life insurance policy, my scotch terrier Genie, the jack out of the automobile tool case, the bottle opener that‘s supposed to be kept in the kitchen drawer, the gloss top to the percolator, a box of aspirin, a letter from father giving my brother‘s Williams new address in Seattle, a roll of films, exposed, for a two way Kodak, my brief case, missing since 1927, et cetera.
The article you have on hand might be any of these, with the exception of the brief case. It would have been entirely possible for me, in the state of mind I was in that Friday, to have gone about all day with the automobile jack in my hand.
The thing that worries me most is the possibility that what I left in my room was something the absence of which I have not yet discovered, and may never discover, unless you give me some hint. Is it animal, vegetable or mineral? Is it as big as I am? Twice as big? Smaller than a man‘s hand? Does it have a screw-on top? Does it make any kind of regular ticking noise when in operation? Is it worth new as much as 100 dollars, 1,000 dollars, 50 cents? It isn‘t a bottle of toothache drops, is it? Or a used razor blade? Because I left them behind on purpose.
These questions, it seems to me, are eminently fair. I am not asking you to—some of the others I could think of, such as does it go with the pants and coat of a blue suit? Can it bark? Can I lift the wheel of an automobile off the ground with it? Can it open a bottle? Does it relieve pain? Is it a letter from somebody? Does anybody get any money out of it when I‘m dead, providing I keep the payments up?
I think you should let me know whether you are willing to answer yes or no to my first set of questions, as in all games of this sort, because if you are just going to stand there with a silly look on your face and shake your head and keep repeating, can‘t guess what it is, can‘t guess what it is.
To hell with it. I don‘t care if it‘s a diamond ring. I take it for granted, of course, that I really did leave an article in the room I occupied. If I didn‘t, and this thing turns out to be merely a guessing game in which the answer is Robert E. Lee‘s horse or something, you‘ll never be able to answer your phone for a whole year without running the chance of it being me reserving dozens of rooms in a disguised voice, and under various assumed names, reporting a fire on the 23rd floor, notifying you that your bank balance is overdrawn, pretending, in a husky guttural, you are the next man the gang is going to put on the spot for the shooting of Joe the Boss over in Brooklyn.
Of course, I‘m a little sore about the thing the way it is. If you had been a guest at my house, and had gone away leaving your watch or your key ring behind, would you send you a penny postcard asking you to guess what you left behind? I would now, yes. But I mean before this all happened.
Supposing everybody did business that way. Supposing your rich and doting uncle wired you, I‘m arriving Grand Central some time next month. Meet me. Or worse yet, supposed they, instead of issuing a summons naming a definite crime or misdemeanor, the court sent out a postcard reading, I know what‘s going to happen to you. We‘d all be nervous wrecks.
The only thing I see to do right now is comply with your request for a description of the article I left in the room. So it is a large and cumbersome iron object, usually kept in a kitchen drawer, entitling my wife upon my death to a certain payment of money. It barks when in operation. And unless used when the coffee reaches the boiling point will allow the liquid to spill out on the stove.
It is signed by my father‘s name, is sensitive to light, relieves neuralgic pains, and is dark blue in color.
I have, of course, the same suspicion that you seem to have, namely that maybe the object wasn‘t left behind by me, but by somebody else who occupied the room before I did or at who occupied it at the same time I did, without either one of us knowing the other was there.
And I‘ll tell you why. The night I was at your hotel, the room clerk took a message out of my box when he reached for my key. The message was for a Mr. Donovan. I looked at and said it didn‘t belong to me. You haven‘t a Mr. Donovan with you, he asked? I said no, but he didn‘t seem convinced. Perhaps whatever was left behind in the room was left behind by Mr. Donovan. I have an idea that, after all, Mr. Donovan and I may have occupied the same room, since his mail was in my box. Perhaps he always arrived just after I had left the room, and got out each time just before I came back.
It‘s that kind of city. I‘m glad, anyway, that I have two months before the article is returned to the insurance company or sent to the pound or whatever. It gives me time to think.
That‘s COUNTDOWN, portions written by James Thurber. Our best wishes to our stage manager, Jackie Pulaski, who escapes us tonight for maternity leave. Play the kid lots of good movies. Rachel‘s one hour special on the first 53 days of the Gulf disaster is next. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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