Guests: Sheldon Whitehouse, John Dean, Merle Savage
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Conflict of interest. The New Orleans judge who stopped the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf sold half his energy holdings last year then bought more Exxon stock and then sold the Exxon stock this week. Why Judge Martin Feldman should never have ruled on the case, should never have heard it in the first place. John Dean on the apparent violations of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.
Protecting the clean up. A veteran of the Valdez disaster‘s plan:
to parade respirators up and down the beaches of the Gulf to warn people they need protection. Merle Savage joins us.
The face of the GOBP. “The escrow fund isn‘t justice for the Gulf,” she tweets, “this is about the rule of law versus an unconstitutional power grab. She links to an article in which the writer again compares the president to Adolf Hitler.
And speaking of the half-governor and Twitter—what‘s up with the new page background, comrade?
Under the radar: Big banks and Wall Street reform deal—done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s over.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are poised to pass the toughest financial reform since the ones we created in the aftermath of the Great Depression.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Every one of those ideas which people told me over a year would never happen has now happened.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: But what about the jobless benefits bill? The Republicans Dickensian insistence: are there no prisons? Are there no work houses?
“Worsts:” Nice work, “Washington Post,” and fixed news madness reaches new heights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took the president a matter of hours a matter of hours to pick a new commander for Afghanistan. So, why is it taking months to plug the raging oil?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or cure cancer.
And “Fridays with Thurber”: the practical joker gone mad, “Shake Hands with Birdey Doggett.”
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The judge who, this week, declared the freeze on deepwater drilling illegal then refused to stay his ruling at least until Obama administration officials could appeal the decision surely must have recognized the inherent conflict presented by his portfolio of energy stocks when also this week—in our fifth story—he sold his holdings in Exxon.
In a moment, John Dean on ethical standards for federal judges or, in this case, the lack thereof. Plus, the Republican defense of BP begins with Sarah Palin claiming it‘s not a defense of BP and Obama is (INAUDIBLE) again.
But we begin with the latest details. Legal documents were released today revealing that U.S. District Court Judge Feldman sold his holdings in Exxon Mobil Tuesday, the very same day he blocked the Obama administration‘s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, this according to “The Wall Street Journal.” That means he still owned the stock on Monday when the hearing was held.
Exxon Mobil, among the companies using drilling rigs whose operations were suspended under the moratorium. According to the newspaper, as of the end of 2009, Judge Feldman did not appear to have owned stock in any other company affected by the moratorium. But he still have holdings in almost a dozen energy companies. Among them, Ocean Energy, the El Paso Corporation, Energy Transfer Equity, and Crosstex—all of which could be affected by his ruling, albeit not directly.
But even if Judge Feldman were to have recused himself, it is difficulty to say another courtroom might pose less of a conflict. An “Associated Press” analysis having revealed that more than half of all federal judges in the Gulf districts where the bulk of oil disaster-related lawsuits are pending, half, have financial connections to the oil and gas industry.
And if you think the Supreme Court might be a recourse, Mr. Dean informs us this morning that the Supreme Court justice responsible for the fifth circuit, for an emergency stay is Antonin Scalia, a great admirer and close personal friend of—that‘s right—Judge Martin Feldman.
Nevertheless, tonight, the Justice Department is still appealing the decision, asking a federal appeals court to put a hold on Judge Feldman‘s decision, not a blanket moratorium this time. Instead of more modest stay that would affect, quote, “only those deepwater operations that present safety concerns similar to those raised by the Deepwater Horizon event.” That would only be 33 rigs.
Meanwhile, in other news today from the Gulf, BP is saying that it is on target to complete drilling of a relief by mid-August, when it claims is the best hope of stopping the oil gushing to the Gulf altogether. That is at least six weeks however to worry about the hurricane season.
The National Hurricane Center tonight warning that the first tropical depression of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season having been formed already in the western Caribbean. BP is saying it would need about five days to move all of its equipment out of harms way if a storm threaten the area where the ruptured well is located.
As promised, let‘s turn now to Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, now FindLaw.com columnist, as well as the author of the book, “Conservatives Without Conscience.”
John, good to talk you. Thanks for your time tonight.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What kind of system is this that allows judges to hold stocks in companies they‘re going to rule upon?
DEAN: Well, theoretically, it‘s a system that prohibits that or at least puts the burden on the judge himself to not do that, to do anything that gives the appearance of an impropriety. And this judge was late in coming around to that decision, while he doesn‘t appear to own any directly, as you said, affected by his decision, he is certainly given the impression that he‘s a man who is very much in the hold and interest of the stock or—excuse me—of the oil companies.
OLBERMANN: Even if the rules allow stocks to be owned, is Judge Feldman somewhere instructed by the codes of his profession to still recuse himself just because of the appearance this presents?
DEAN: Well, he could theoretically recuse himself at any stage of these proceedings. He‘s refused to do so. He did unload some—his Exxon shares just before he went into court.
You know, it‘s interesting, Keith. He held that stock at the time the complaint came in. And it wasn‘t until just before the hearing that he unloads it. It much to me like he had made the decision that while I better get rid of this because I‘m going to rule in favor of the oil companies, because this is going to look pretty conspicuous if I‘ve got this stock. So, it‘s very troubling how quickly—or how close he‘s cutting to the line, because even that is a violence of the canon of ethics for the judiciary.
OLBERMANN: I was going to say, selling the fairly relevant stock in the middle of the hearing, in some ways, is that not worse than not recusing yourself to begin with?
DEAN: Well, it‘s a little bit telegraphing where you‘re going to come out, that he knew, in other words, if he ruled against the oil companies, he would have no conflict. I mean, he‘d be ruling against his own best interest in this case. So, the fact that he sent this letter amending his financial disclosure statement just before he has hearing is very troubling—very troubling.
OLBERMANN: To the government‘s appeal of the decision. If half of the judiciary in the area holds energy stocks of some sort, if the step up from this is and the emergency stay and the Supreme Court is Justice Scalia, who happens to be, as described, an admirer and close friend of this Judge Feldman, does the Justice Department have any chance at all of getting this moratorium upheld?
DEAN: Well, as I wrote in my Find Law piece, I don‘t think the Justice Department should bother. Scalia has gone out of his way to praise Judge Feldman. He‘s written articles in a law review to honor him. They are tennis partners when they get together. They have a clear, close personal rapport. And, frankly, Justice Scalia has never met a conflict of interest that he was troubled by.
OLBERMANN: Are there—are there implications to Judge Feldman‘s ruling that go beyond the Gulf and beyond this current issue with BP and the moratorium?
DEAN: Well, there are. It‘s a very broad—first of all, the order that came down prohibiting the moratorium affects a broad area, not only the Gulf, but the Pacific region, out here where I live. And, yes, we have a judge sitting in New Orleans who‘s very interested in the oil industry making decision that theoretically affect California. So, it is a very broad situation and I‘d assume not have a New Orleans judge deciding what happens to our coastline.
OLBERMANN: Is there any prospect that the—that the appeals court would be interested in this limited version of the appeal that was presented to it by the department—by Secretary Salazar and his attorneys?
DEAN: Well, we can certainly hope they are. You know, at the appellate level, I think they‘ll give a fair look that was given at the trial level. I‘m not—we don‘t know exactly what‘s in the record. There was a very powerful brief filed by the Department of Interior, a very persuasive brief. And the judge at the trial level just ignored that.
Hopefully, they‘ll get another shot because there are some very complex legal issues as to jurisdiction and what this judge was doing and whether he was following the statute. There are going to be raised at the appellate level. And so, there‘d be an emergency panel to look at that. And so, there is a chance. It‘s not over yet.
OLBERMANN: Following the statute and following the stock ticker—
John Dean, counsel on the Nixon White House, author of “Worse Than Watergate”—a pleasure, always, sir. Have a great weekend.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Supporting BP without actually saying that you are supporting BP has become the defining challenge of our times for the GOBP. And so, naturally, Republican icon, Sarah Palin, did so in the safe environs of Twitter by indirectly invoking Hitler.
“GOP,” she wrote, “Don‘t let the lamestream media”—you know, that‘s not as good a phrase as you think it is—“don‘t let the lamestream media suck you into their defending BP over Gulf spill victims B.S. This is about the rule of law versus an unconstitutional power act. Read Thomas Sowell‘s article.”
That‘s right—Palin urged the GOP not to get sucked into their defending BP without explaining how and then linked her followers to an article comparing President Obama to Hitler. That‘s right. Palin herself is now embracing the Hitler analogy.
We referred earlier this week to another Republican endorsement of Sowell‘s analogy. Republican Louie Gohmert of Texas, who in the same remarks on Tuesday both accused the Obama administration of being in bed with BP and who actually quoted the Hitler accusation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS: When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, and I‘m quoting from this editorial, “Leaning up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics. ‘Useful idiots‘ was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.”
This isn‘t in the article. This is my comment. But we have—we do have useful idiots today who are hard to say, wow, what we really need is for the president to be a dictator for a little while.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, no one has said that. Google turns up six references, all six are Gohmert. We do know about useless idiots, however, Gohmert, the author Thomas Sowell, who‘s a fellow at the Hoover Institution, which is funded by places like Exxon, the right-wing Koch oil family and which was created by the man who brought you the Great Depression, who actually met with Hitler in the ‘30s and was opposing U.S. entry into the Second World War until after Pearl Harbor.
You know which other politicians try to activate people who don‘t pay much attention to politics? All of them.
But as long as we‘re quoting Lenin and comparing politicians to their historical analogues, it did seem as though Palin‘s Twitter background had a vaguely familiar feel to it. Thank you. That was going to bother me all night.
Joining us now, MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, also a Pulitzer Prize-winnign columnist and associate editor of the “Washington Post.”
Gene, good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Comrade. The argument here—
ROBINSON: Quick, quick, let me—let me sell my BP stock before.
ROBINSON: It‘s taken care of now.
OLBERMANN: Yes. The argument here is that no private property, including $20 billion, can be confiscated without due process. But what Mr. Sowell wrote actually was, technically, it has not been confiscated by Barack Obama.
But this is distinction without a difference. I maybe old fashioned about this, but it seems if he did not do the thing that would make him Hitler, that‘s a pretty big difference, isn‘t it?
ROBINSON: Yes. That‘s—first of all, this is not like a technicality, right? I mean, the difference between yes and no is not a technicality. The defendant, your honor, the defendant is guilty. Technically, he did not commit the crime. In fact, technically, there was no crime, however the defendant is guilty.
This is—you know, I always thought Thomas Sowell had kind of—you know, he‘s always wrong, or almost always wrong as far I‘m concerned. Probably he had more intellectual integrity than that, and obviously, in that, I‘m wrong that is—maybe that‘s a distinction without a difference.
OLBERMANN: When you speak about intellectual integrity, obviously, the name Sarah Palin jumps right to the forefront.
OLBERMANN: Do we—do we know if she knows what she‘s gotten into by joining the compare Obama to Hitler crowd? Or did she—did she even read that much of the article that you can see that? Was it conscious things or just like most of her things unconscious?
ROBINSON: I‘m going to out on a limb and assume that this is something that‘s let it in one ear and out the other and then managed to get tweeted on the way. You know, it was attacking President Obama. Gee, what‘s wrong with that? That‘s—you know, don‘t you think that‘s a good idea? And she kind of jumps in.
But she does seem to be untroubled by the analogy. You would think that by now, she would have understood you have to read these things and try to understand them.
OLBERMANN: We just heard Gene Robinson‘s Sarah Palin impression, by the way—something to carry through us—carry the weekend for us here.
I think her point, and I‘m going into dangerous territory by trying to analyze this, but I think her point is that the GOP is not defending BP, it is defending, as she said, the rule of law against unconstitutional encroachments. But Palin never had a problem with, you know, unconstitutional encroachments or power grabs against individuals such as, you know, accused terrorists, people who might be innocent.
If it turns there is nothing illegal about what Obama was doing and, you know, I think BP has lawyers who probably could have stopped this if they wanted to, by Palin‘s own framing with that not mean that GOP actually is not GOPBP and they actually are defending BP?
ROBINSON: You know, obviously, yes. Of course, they are. I mean, you know, among those who have no problem with this escrow fund is BP—
ROBINSON: -- which set up the escrow fund of money that the company was going to have to pay out anyhow. I spent a half hour with Bob Dudley, BP‘s new chief of disaster relief and containment, this morning. Not once did he even mention, even bring up any sort of BP discomfort or displeasure with this fund.
So, in fact, the Republicans are way out on the limb by themselves.
They don‘t have the company out there with them.
OLBERMANN: In fact, a week before the deal was announced at the White House, reports are coming out of England that this was an offer that BP was making in exchange for which they would get some of—buying good publicity. So, this is—
OLBERMANN: Not only it‘s something they didn‘t—not only it‘s something that they did not oppose, it‘s something they proposed.
ROBINSON: And that they accepted willingly. There were—there were other things that could have been done that BP would have disliked and, in fact, were not required of the company. But, this arrangement is fine. And it was—they were not compelled to do this.
So, I don‘t quite understand why Republicans think this is a—this
is a winning political argument. I suspect that it is not a winning
political argument and I suspect that there are a lot of Democrats who are
who are happy to see them persist in this line of attack.
OLBERMANN: It wins in the sense that it wins you the money to get you renominated or get you to the election without having to put in any of your own cash before you get fired.
Gene Robinson of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC—have a good weekend and thanks for the impression, the submission to our impression contest.
ROBINSON: You are so welcome, Keith. Have a good weekend.
OLBERMANN: The crises in the Gulf ripple outwards, not unlike the way the oil itself is spreading, the explosion, the gusher, the sea ecology, the beach ecology, the flora and fauna. And now, even greater human health concerns—a plea from physicians to not repeat the risks that 9/11 responders were subject to. And now, 1,500 cases of depression reported in one part of Louisiana alone. Next.
OLBERMANN: Fifteen cases of depression reported in one part of Louisiana alone as mental health joins the physical risks there. This veteran of the Valdez cleanup joins us.
History may record his week as being not the one McChrystal left or the Gulf worsen, or the polls slipped, but the one in which the financial reform bill was shaped. Can he pass it? Senator Whitehouse joins us.
One of the watchdogs of the excesses of far right ousted for having an opinion. The saga of practical jokester gone mad, “Shake Hands with Birdy Doggett” on “Fridays with Thurber.”
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: They treated rescue workers responders and residents in the aftermath of 9/11. They saw what the toxic fumes and debris Bush administration officials deemed safe did to workers at ground zero. Now, they are warning that workers in the Gulf will suffer a similar fate.
Our fourth story: A group of doctors asking the Obama administration to do all it can to avoid the mistakes made after 9/11. The looming BP public health crisis with the veteran of the Valdez cleanup effort in a moment.
But first, “McClatchy” newspapers obtained a newsletter sent to federal health and safety officials, including Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, signed by 14 New York area doctors asking for the maximum level of protection to workers and residents in the Gulf.
“Failures to recognize the errors made from the response to the WTC disaster and further failure to benefit from their intended lessons may well lead to needless risk to human health in the Gulf and will amplify the human and financial costs associated with such risks.”
The group is also asking for laws to be enforced to the fullest extent, leaving as little as possible to the discretion of private industry and recommending that programs monitoring the health of cleanup workers not be run or sponsored by BP. For the thousands working to clean up BP‘s mess already exposed to toxic fumes and oil, it could already be too late. About 100 different illnesses have been reported with symptoms ranging from chest pains to nosebleeds to stomach ailments. And many health experts fear that almost 70 days in, this is just the beginning.
Joining me now, a veteran of the Valdez cleanup effort, author of “Silence in the Sound,” environmental activist, Merle Savage.
Thanks for some of your time tonight.
MERLE SAVAGE, ENVIRONMENTAL ACVITIST: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What is the, in your opinion, the biggest health threat the clean up workers are facing. Which of them—of these problems should be given priority?
SAVAGE: Well, I think the crude oil—breathing in the crude oil because the vapors from that is what‘s going to determine how it affects their health and the rest—you know, the fact that they‘re breathing it in is going to affect them tremendously.
OLBERMANN: You have suffered from health issues, stemming from your effort cleaning up after the Exxon Valdez. Can you describe your experience and how it might compare to what workers were dealing with now?
SAVAGE: It‘s exactly the same thing. I had a hard time dealing with it because it affects your breathing and we all thought it was the flu. But, everybody got it. We kept it. And when I went home, I continued to have the same problems with breathing and I was always sick—always.
OLBERMANN: The doctors who wrote this letter that “McClatchy” came up with, they want more government involvement. Is that—is that the answer here or is there something else might solve this?
SAVAGE: Well, we‘ve got a lot of people out there that‘s offering suggestions. But, it‘s not going anywhere, is it? Because the people in the Gulf are still getting sick and nothing is being done.
BP is not even letting anyone know that it is toxic unless—think about this. If you are given warnings at the gas stations for breathing the refined oil, don‘t you know that it‘s bad for your health? And BP is just not telling anybody. Of course, the government is not standing up and doing anything, either. And no one is.
OLBERMANN: So, you want to—you want to head down there and literally parade as the term was used, respirators to show that these necessities for the people who are just along the coastline?
SAVAGE: Yes. If I had to finance this, I would definitely go down there and wear a respirator and clothes that would be protection against it, because if you touch it, if it becomes—if you ingest it, anything—you need to be protected. And I would wear that. And I would walk the Gulf Coast and protest and I would do it alone.
OLBERMANN: Earlier this week, a fisherman in Alabama took his own life and Congressman Melancon of Louisiana says that one area agency has referred more than 1,500 people for counseling for depression already. Do you know—are we doing anything preventive or anything in terms of immediate care in terms of mental health?
SAVAGE: No. Nothing has been done because no one will actually indicate that we suffered from the Exxon Valdez. And if no one is stepping forward, we are left and a lot of people, a friend of mine passed away this past July. I do know of a lot of people where it‘s affecting them mentally.
OLBERMANN: If BP is not adequately training their workers or giving the proper equipment or even, as we heard earlier in the process, that they were threatening to fire anybody who brought their own respirators or protective gears or hazmat suits, what can workers do to protect themselves?
SAVAGE: Well, not go. I had a mother call me from Florida and her son was going with a friend of his. And after talking with me, he decided not to and I was thankful, because for $15 an hour, your life isn‘t worth it.
I would—well, I guess they‘re not letting them wear respirators. I don‘t know what to tell workers to do except don‘t go. The money isn‘t worth it. Believe me. I have suffered for 21 years.
OLBERMANN: Merle Savage, survivor of the Exxon Valdez cleanup, now working to make sure the same mistakes are made in the Gulf -- thank you for stepping up and thank you for speaking up.
SAVAGE: Thank you so much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Even when it comes to reform, Wall Street takes precedence over Main Street. The financial reform compromise is reached. The extension of jobless benefits is scuttled. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse joins us—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Wall Street reform accomplished, the deal made, anyway. The unemployment, though, you are still screwed. First, tonight‘s Tweet of the day from Only4RM, “on many levels, the most surreal thing you‘ll read today, Bachmann and her husband own a mental health care practice in Stillwater.” Physician, heal thyself. Let‘s play Odd ball.
We begin in Sabo City (ph), in the Philippines, where today‘s sad anniversary of Michael Jackson‘s passing was commemorated the only way we artists know how, with dance. These guys should look familiar to you. In 2007, they brought you video of a much larger group of inmates dancing to Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” at the Sago Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation center. Three yeas later, these men have done their time. Now, they are shaking their things on the outside, wearing their trademark tangerine jumpers by choice.
This group wowed an intimate gathering at Sabo CIty‘s capital compound with their Jackson-like moves. While back inside the jail, the rest of the chain gang held a one hour concert in the King of Pop‘s honor. Just 300 members of the public are expected to attend. No, I don‘t have any extra tickets. Boo-hoo.
To an aquarium in Oberhousen (ph), Germany—no relation—where Paul the octopus has foretold the winner of Sunday‘s big World Cup soccer match between Germany and England. The cephalopod named Paul was presented with two boxes, each containing food, one box bearing the German flag, the other has the English St. George‘s Cross flag. Being in Germany, one would think it would be an easy call for Paul. But he was born in England, apparently.
As you see, the octopus slinked to the box on your left, picking Germany all the way. Obviously final score, eight to nothing.
Two problems with this, a, the country he eats, aren‘t they the losers?. B, why are we soliciting predictions about an all feet sport from a a creature that is all hands?
Which brings us to the Internets, where World Cup fever has spawned a rash of dogs versus Vuvuzela posting on Youtube. The formula is simple. Owner wails on Vuvuzela, dog yaps at Vuvuzela, owner laughs at dog. Today, we found one dog who had simply had enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All right. Let‘s try that at your house. Nah. We‘ll let the Republicans soil your rug by blocking unemployment benefit extensions, again. Next.
OLBERMANN: Six hundred and forty nine days after the symbolic, if not the actual start of the Great Recession, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, today, Congressional lawmakers agreed on a financial reform deal. In our third story tonight, the compromise still has to pass both Houses of Congress against fierce Republican opposition. The landmark legislation may or may not serve as a real bookend to prevent a similar financial catastrophe from happening all over again. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse will join me in a moment.
First, early this morning, the House and Senate Conference Committee reached a deal after 20 hours of final negotiations. The congressman who moved the bill through the House, Barney Frank, got out in front of charges that the final version had been watered down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Every one of those ideas which people told me over a year ago would never happen has now happened. They have not happened 100 percent. In some cases, 88 percent. In some case, 94 percent. In some places, close to 100. Yes, there were modifications. But, in every case, the great bulk of these things will now become law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: President Obama, before departing for the G-20 summit in Toronto, was quick to herald what would be another major legislative victory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are poised to pass the toughest financial reforms since the ones we created in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Early this morning, the House and Senate reached an agreement on a set of Wall Street reforms that represents 90 percent of what I proposed when I took up this fight. The reforms making their way through Congress will hold Wall Street accountable, so we can help prevent another financial crisis like the one that we are still recovering from.
We‘ll put in place the toughest consumer financial protections in our history, while creating an independent agency to enforce them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The House is expected to approve the compromise package. But in the Senate, the bill will, once again, need to garner just enough Republican support to reach the filibuster proof super majority of 60. Prior to the House/Senate negotiations, just four Republicans voted for the financial reform bill.
Let‘s bring in, as promised, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. The senator also a member of the Budget Committee. Thanks, as always, for your time tonight, sir.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thank you, Keith. Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: There must have been many objectives underlining the legislation, including new consumer protection. But, in your assessment, does the bill truly offer the necessary reform of Wall Street?
WHITEHOUSE: I think it does. As the president said,,it is not 100 percent. But, given the Republican opposition to getting anything done, I think that the fact we got as far as we did is a very good thing. I think in all the fundamental areas, the bill will significantly strengthen our law and help protect against this kind of thing happening again.
OLBERMANN: Do you have the requisite Republican support to actually pass the thing in the Senate?
WHITEHOUSE: The votes will tell. I don‘t believe that they would have let it get out of the conference committee, if they didn‘t have those commitments.
OLBERMANN: Are we expecting something of the evolution of support that we saw in health care reform, where the less we are hearing about it, the more good news there is bubbling beneath the surface?
WHITEHOUSE: I think that‘s probably true. I think that‘s probably true.
OLBERMANN: The succinctness of your answer tells me that it probably is. Let me change subjects for the moment. The Republicans, once again, blocked the jobless benefits bill. How many Americans—do we know how many Americans will lose their unemployment checks because of that, and how soon?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, I can tell you about Rhode Island. We are a state of a million people. We have over 70,000 people who are unemployed and are receiving benefits. That‘s 70,000 families who, over the next couple of months, are going to roll out the end of their unemployment insurance and be left on their own.
The jobs aren‘t here for those people. We have 12.3 percent unemployment rate. We have been in double digit unemployment for over a year now. These are families that have gone through all the resources that they had, trying to hold it together through this long, long, long, cold recession.
Now, the Republicans have cut the lifeline of unemployment insurance, that for many of them is the only thing that stands between them and economic disaster, the only thing that‘s keeping their kids in shoes, the only thing that‘s keeping food on the table, the only thing that‘s keeping the electric and the rent paid.
OLBERMANN: November is midterms—
WHITEHOUSE: You know—
OLBERMANN: Go ahead.
WHITEHOUSE: I was going to say, what‘s particularly irritating about this is that the Republicans cut this lifeline for middle class families, unemployed through no fault of their own, in the same month that the first multi-billion dollar estate passed tax free through to the heirs of a tycoon because of the Bush tax cuts, which weren‘t paid for. So if you are concerned about the deficit, it‘s a very selective concern about the deficit when you are letting billionaires‘ estates go through to their heirs untaxed, and cutting off the lifeline for unemployed families.
OLBERMANN: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democrat of Rhode Island, a great point at the end there. Great thanks to you and for taking time out tonight to be with us.
WHITEHOUSE: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Some breaking news to report tonight out of Washington. The alert from the “Associated Press” reads, in full, as follows: “former Vice President Dick Cheney admitted to hospital after reporting discomfort.” More information as we get it. They are not even saying what kind of discomfort it was. Stay tuned to MSNBC for updates throughout the night.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, in the wake of the financial reform deal, she will take a look at the success rate, thus far, of the progressive agenda in the Obama administration.
Old cold eggs, and how to light an umbrella on fire without the holder knowing it. “Shake Hands With Birdey Doggett,” tonight‘s James Thurber selection. And in worst persons, the hosing of David Weigel.
OLBERMANN: “Shake Hands With Birdey Doggett,” tonight‘s Friday with Thurber. That‘s next, but First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to the boys and girl at Cluster Fox and Friends. This real happened, on television, with people watching.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took the president a matter of hours to pick a commander in Afghanistan. So why it is taking months to plug the leaking oil? Advice from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president has summoned and fired General Stanley McChrystal as commander in Afghanistan, and replaced him, of course, with General David Petraeus. But it‘s 67 days since oil started leaking in the Gulf. So many now wondering why it‘s taking so long to fix that spill.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joins us from Washington with his thoughts. Good morning to you, speaker.
NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good morning, good to be with you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you see a correlation between the two? Is it fair to draw a correlation between the two?
GINGRICH: No, No, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You wonder how Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocey, and President Gretchen Hussein Carlson got their jobs. My understanding is it was some kind of all America stupid contest. Not sure if somebody won, or if they just all handed in their papers blank or what.
The runner up is Darrel Bess. His crime was not heinous. It did not cause harm. It just led to this extraordinary headline on the website of the “Cincinnati Inquirer,” “Police, Man Was Naked With Stolen Cheese,” at the public library. They found Mr. Bess in the library men‘s room. no clothes, carrying a bag with two knives, some of library‘s DVDs, and a four-pound chunk of cheese, allegedly stolen from the cheese and sausage place in a nearby market. We‘ll just try this in a headline in TV format.
Good evening, Cincinnati. Police say suspect Darrel Bess was naked with stolen cheese. That‘s the way it is, Friday, June 21st.
But our winners, the management of “the Washington Post.” a Betsy Rothstein of Fish Bowl DC, and Tucker Carlson of the website “Daily Caller.” David Weigel, who has been a frequent guest on this program since he was with the “Washington Independent,” is now no longer affiliated with “the Washington Post.” Ms. Rothstein posted a series of Weigel‘s private emails from one of the private listservs that journalism—listerv run by Ezra Klein, who is also on this program often. Mr. Carlson then posted more of the private e-mails.
None were complimentary to the conservatives that Weigel has covered for his own blog, for the “Right Now” blog at the Post and for us. Today, Dave resigned from the Post. Rothstein and Carlson define what it is to not understand the concept of private. But at the heart of this is the post. Ben Smith of “Politico” quotes Post national editor Kevin Merida‘s web chat in April. He was asked if the Post would be, quote, adding more conservative/Republican voices to better balance what is now the predominantly liberal/Democratic leaning coverage.” Merida answered, we recently have added to our staff the well regarded David Weigel. I‘ve also mentioned columnist Katherine Parker and Charles Krauthammer.”
Somebody at the Post and most of the people critical of David Weigel today seem to be under the impression that to cover conservatives, you have to be one, and you cannot be critical of them, even in a private setting. Nonsense. Weigel was a blogger. He made no bones about it. Offered a subjective, but thoroughly reported view of the conservative world. On occasions, on this program, defended conservatives we he thought I had gone too far in criticizing them. We asked Dave Weigel to join us tonight. He didn‘t want to. He wanted to take the high road. It‘s too bad “the Washington Post,” and especially Fish Bowl DC and “The Daily Caller” did not.
We‘ll keep asking Weigel back, because he does a hell of a job, a unique one and an invaluable one. Rothstein, Carlson and the “Washington Post,” today‘s worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: This week‘s Friday with Thurber salutes the practical joker out after control. It was presented brilliantly by the great William Linden in one man show about James Thurber on PBS 30-odd years ago. It‘s from “Thurber Country,” published first in 1953. My battered Simon and Shuster edition is from about 1980. I abridged this just slightly a little bit for time. Please feel free to read the complete text at your leisure.
“Shake Hands With Birdey Doggett,” by James Thurber.
“John Birdey Doggett, known as Birdey to the few people who speak to him, must be 53 now. But he wears his years with a smirk and he is as bad a practical joker as ever. Other American cut-ups, in the grand tradition, began to disappear in October, 1929. And they are as had to find now as bison. But Dogett‘s waggedness has no calendar.
You must have run into him at some party or another. He‘s the man whose right hand comes off when you try to shake it. The late George Bancroft once pulled that gag at a movie. But that was so long ago, the picture must be a cherished item in the Museum of Modern Arts film library.
Even now, when everybody else was running the gamut of bomb fear from A to H, Birdey Doggett was at Grand Central with one roller skate, which he managed to attach to the shoe of a man sleeping on a bench. When the fellow woke and stood up, he described a brief desperate semicircle, clutched a woman shopper about the knees, dragged her and bundles to the cold floor, and was attacked by her muzzled Scottie.
Doggett, as always, was the first to lend a hand, helping the woman to her feet and then turning to the man, where the hell is your other skate, he demanded sharply. That‘s what caused all this trouble.
He took his skate off the victim‘s foot and disappeared into the crowd that had begun to gather. What‘s the matter over there, a small man asked him apprehensively. Doggett shrugged, they found a women with a ticking package, he said. The other man turned and left the station, missing the train he had told his wife he would take.
Doggett‘s pranks usually had the effect of involving people on the far edges, one or two of whom have been divorced as a result. A publisher I know thinks Doggett would make a good story. I disagree because I don‘t think there‘s anything good about the fellow. But I have done some checking up on him out of force of habit. His father, the late Carol Lamb Doggett, was a Methodist minister and his mother was a witch, born Eda June Birdey.
When her son was only 10, she taught him how to set strangers‘ umbrellas on fire. After an April shower, she would sally forth with the little hellian—they lived in Dayton—in search of a citizen with a floppy umbrella. After an April shower, Dayton men lower their umbrellas without bothering to roll them. Mrs. Doggett would hunt until she found a man waiting for a street car, his umbrella sagging open at his side. She would then surreptitiously fill the umbrella with paper, several dozen kitchen matches and perhaps one or two ping-pong balls.
As the streetcar approached, she would drop a lighted match into the umbrella. Now, hell hath no dismay like that of a gentleman whose wet umbrella suddenly bursts into flame. Instead of rolling the thing to smother the blaze or simply throwing it away, nine out of ten men, according to Doggett‘s statistics, will flail it around in the air, thus increasing the conflagration.
Many of Mrs. Doggett‘s victims were arrested for disturbing the peace or for arson. Birdey Doggett has never been much interested in the exasperating paraphernalia of the trick and puzzle shops. Oh, he still uses the wax hand. And he‘s tried out dribble glasses, Whoopi Cushions, the foul smelling stuff you put on chair bottoms to make people think they just say on a lighted cigarette, and other such juvenile props. But they never get a real hold on his fancy.
He likes the elaborate rib involving a lot of people. The more the better. He will take a sack full of cold poached eggs to some crowded Fifth Avenue store at Christmas time, and slip them, one at a time, into the pockets of shoppers‘ husbands. He dreams of pumping into a woman visitor in the ancient glass and crystal room of some museum, dropping an ordinary table tumbler on the tile floor, and sobbing sweet God, lady, you have broken the sacred chalice of King Alexander, and making her believe it, too.
He has pulled this gag over and over since 1924, but never successfully, with result that he has appeared 16 times in Jefferson Market count—court alone on charges of disturbing the peace.
What Doggett probably enjoys more than anything else is following a couple of women along Fifth Avenue or Madison, keeping discreetly out of sight, but well within earshot, until he hears one of the two ladies call the other by name. He says that women are fond of using each other‘s full name, as in, why, Mariame Sherdle, I‘ve never heard of such a thing in all my born days.
As soon as Ms. Sherdle, let us say, has been thus fully identified, Doggett will walk briskly ahead for several blocks, and then retrace his steps. This soon brings him face to face with his quarry, upon whom he will pounce with a delighted, why, Mariame Sherdle, fancy meeting you here. Uncross those lovely eyes and tell you how you‘ve been.
A young woman he once accosted like this in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania asked him to her house for cocktails in the hope that some member of her family would know who he was. But nobody was home. His hostess turned out to be a bore. So Birdey put knock out drops in her second martini. After she passed out, he stole a marble plaque of Kitchener from her mother‘s room and went away.
The next day, it arrived at the Sherdle‘s, beautifully wrapped, and bearing a card with the simple legend, Merry Christmas from the president of the United States.
John Birdey Doggett married a tapioca brain one afternoon 20 years ago, possibly because he had lost a bet. Nobody knows. He took her to his house and told her to wait in the living room while he went upstairs and quieted his two Great Danes. He put a record of a dog fight on a phonograph he kept in his bedroom and slipped quietly out the back door.
At 3:00 in the morning, he showed up in the living room with two match players, Lou Gettling, and Mitt Talbot. Who is this disconsolate female, Talbot demanded, fairly using an incurable antipathy to gain a chance in cutting. The bride drew herself up stiffly. I am Mrs. John Birdey Doggett, she said, describing for an hauteur—the name will not disdain. I forgot about her, lied Doggett. After all, we haven‘t been 20 or 30 years. We‘ve only been married 11 hours.
Mrs. Doggett, the former Anne Quiley, went home to her mother, Mrs. Paul W. Quiley, and never saw Birdey again. I join her in the fervent hope that he may some day choke on his candy dice and pass forever out of our consciousness.
He‘s a hard man to forget, though. I never start to get out of a chair, no matter where I am, without glancing at my shoes to see if I‘m wearing one roller skate, and feeling in my pocket for old cold eggs.”
“Shake Hands With Birdey Doggett.”
That‘s COUNTDOWN. portions written by James Thurber, for this the 67th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.
I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now, with more on Judge Martin Feldman‘s connections to the oil and energy industry—check your stock tickers—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Judge Marty Feldman, anybody notice that, yet? Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Of course, I didn‘t notice it until you just said it. But thank you. Appreciate it, Keith. Have a great weekend.
OLBERMANN: You too.
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