updated 8/17/2010 11:55:44 AM ET 2010-08-17T15:55:44

Guests: Rudi Odeh-Ramadan, Alex Wagner

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KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The great phony, flatulent, hypocritical, fake protest against a New York City Islamic cultural center—now, Gingrich plays the Nazi card.

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NEWT GINGRICH ®, FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER:  Nazis don‘t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

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OLBERMANN:  How fake is this?

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LAURA INGRAHAM, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR:  I say the terrorists have won with the way this has gone down.  Six hundred feet from where thousands of our fellow Americans were incinerated in the name of political Islam, and we‘re—and we‘re supposed to be—we‘re supposed to be considered intolerant if we‘re not cheering this.

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OLBERMANN:  This was after she was cheering this last December.

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INGRAHAM:  I can‘t find many people who really have a problem with it.  Bloomberg is for it.  You‘ve got rabbis in New York saying they don‘t have a problem with it.  I like what you‘re trying to do.

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OLBERMANN:  And the president weighs in, twice.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.

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OLBERMANN:  Tonight, my “Special Comment” on the fraudulently renamed Ground Zero mosque and the religious intolerance that waits to explode in this country.

Rand Paul‘s new campaign pitch to the voters of country: The EPA is shoving regulations down your throat.  I‘ll protect you from those regulations that keep Kentucky miners alive.

End game in Iraq, not the end game in Afghanistan—end game scheduled for the now outgoing defense secretary.

“Worst”: The campaign of a Republican candidate for governor of Wisconsin tweets a response to the president‘s stance on high-speed trains.  It is a link to -- 

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OLBERMANN:  Oh, boy.

And tonight‘s “Special Comment” on the fake hysteria, but the real danger of intolerance at 45 Park Place, New York, New York—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Seventy-two hours since the president defended the Constitution and the rights of those who would build an Islamic community center a few blocks from Ground Zero—in our fifth story—the president‘s shrillest political opponents, having gotten it wrong on principle and on the facts, now say the president is out of touch.  While sadly the leading Senate Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, has blinked.

And at the end of this news hour, a “Special Comment” on the inaccurate description, Ground Zero mosque, and what it means for all of us.

Today, the right wing group, Stop Islamization of America, announced a rally against the proposed Islamic community center.  The date of that event, September 11th, again raising the question: who exactly is displaying the insensitivity in this debate?

The motley crew of speakers at the 9/11 event will include former U.N.  ambassador John Bolton, thoroughly discredited blogger, Andrew Breitbart, and Geert Wilders, a Dutch parliamentarian so extreme that even Glenn Beck called him a fascist.

The other confirmed speaker, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who today offered what might be a preview of this filth.

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GINGRICH:  Nazis don‘t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.  We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.  There‘s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.

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OLBERMANN:  Gingrich‘s less hysterical comrades in outrage, apparently agreeing on how to attack the president, since they do not dispute the constitutional principle for which he spoke in support, from the chairman of National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senator John Cornyn, “It demonstrates that Washington, the White House, the administration, the president himself, seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of America.”

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, in a campaign e-mail: quoting, “President Obama‘s support of building the mosque at Ground Zero is a slap in the face to the American people.”

And from Tea Party favorite, Nevada Senate candidate, Sharron Angle:

“By supporting the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero, President Obama has once again ignored the wishes of the American people, this time at the expense of victims of 9/11 and their families.”

And the position taken today by Angle‘s opponent may signal a degree of timidity on the part of all Democrats running for election, since her opponent is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Quoting Reid‘s spokesman, “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion.  Senator Reid respects that but thinks the mosque should be built someplace else.”

As we will discuss later, Senator, it is being built someplace else.

As for what the president actually said, a portion of his remarks from Friday, when he, like President Bush before him, hosted an Iftar, marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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OBAMA:  Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain places, particularly in New York.  Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan.  The 9/11 attacks were deeply traumatic event for our country, and the pain.  And the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable.  So, I understand the emotions that this issue engenders and Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear: As a citizen and as president, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.  And that includes—

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OBAMA:  -- that includes the right to build a place of worship in a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.  This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.

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OLBERMANN:  The next day, during his visit to the Gulf Coast, the president said, quote, “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there.  I was commenting very specifically on the right people that have dates back to our founding.”

Let‘s turn first to Rudi Odeh-Ramadan, first responder on 9/11, now the executive director of the Clinical Trials Office at Columbia University.

Great thanks for your time tonight.

RUDI ODEH-RAMADAN, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Critics of this site cite the proposed insensitivity of Muslim American.  In light of the pain felt by those directly affected by the 9/11 attacks—as a Muslim American and as a first responder who was there as all this horror unfolded nearly nine years ago, what is your reaction to their reaction of this?

ODEH-RAMADAN:  As a Muslim American, and as almost all Americans on 9/11 felt, we felt the same horrors, the shame hardships that all Americans felt.  As Muslim Americans, our feelings were not different.  It‘s extraordinarily disappointing to hear now, many years later, that there are some New Yorkers or—and Americans assuming that Muslim Americans don‘t have the same feelings and the same hardships that all the Americans went through on 9/11.

Many Muslim Americans perished during 9/11 in those same buildings.  Many Muslim Americans responded as first responders with the FDNY, the NYPD‘s medical teams.  And it‘s extremely disappointing, because I, as a Muslim American, do the not—the acts—the atrocious acts that the attackers carried out on 9/11 do not represent the Islam that I know or the Islam that Muslim Americans know.  These were the acts of terrorists, of extremists.

OLBERMANN:  Is that the worst part of this for you?  Because that seemed to be reflected by what Mr. Gingrich said today—I mean, this blurring of the line between this fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of people of your faith, who may or may not have really been of your faith, (AUDIO BREAK) else, and it‘s as if there was no distinction whatsoever.

ODEH-RAMADAN:  That is—that is exactly right.  With some of those opposing the community center, they are—they are lumping all Muslim Americans, all Muslims in the same category as those attackers.  And those attackers, once again, do not represent the Muslim faith or the Muslim religion that I know.

OLBERMANN:  Even those who acknowledge the constitutional principle of religious freedom, even at this time, they seem to be suggesting that—well, theoretically, this should be our law and our policy.  On the other hand, in practical—speaking practically, the people behind this community center ought to move it a few more blocks away from Ground Zero, that they should voluntarily choose to move this site.

Does that make any sense to you?

ODEH-RAMADAN:  That does not make sense.  This is a community center.  It‘s exactly that, a community center.  And it is a couple blocks from Ground Zero, yes.

But to say you don‘t have the same rights, the same constitutional rights as all Americans do to practice freedom of religion and that we should move or they should move this community center away from Ground Zero is basically placing collective guilt on all Muslim Americans.  And that‘s not correct.

OLBERMANN:  Now, how far is good enough?  Since there is one four blocks away—is that OK?  And does that have to move?  Do the churches have to move, that are right across the street?

ODEH-RAMADAN:  Exactly.  You know, that‘s the point.  The idea of moving it, what does that really represent?  Again, to move, you know, to 10 blocks down the street, what does that—what does that really mean?  And again, it‘s a signing of collective guilt that all Muslim Americans were for the acts of 9/11.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, your thoughts about the president‘s comments on Friday, and again, what he said on Saturday.

ODEH-RAMADAN:  Yes, I thought President Obama‘s comments were accurate and correct, and what President Obama was responding to and remarking to is the beauty of this country, the separation of church and state and basically upholding the rights, the constitutional rights of all Americans.  Not just Muslim Americans.

So, I think President Obama‘s comments were right on and I fully support his comments.  And again, what President Obama was protecting are the constitutional rights of all Americans, not speaking specifically about Muslim Americans.

OLBERMANN:  Amen.  Rudi Odeh-Ramadan, 9/11 first responder—great thanks for your time tonight.

Let‘s turn to White House correspondent for “Politics Daily,” Alex Wagner, who‘s here in the studio with me.

Good to see you, Alex.

ALEX WAGNER, POLITICS DAILY:  Thanks.  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  The Republican reaction, former Bush adviser, Mark McKinnon, said President Obama did the right thing.

Name Republicans, particularly those seeking office, quiet as church mice, to make no pun there.  Is this nonetheless, are they saving their fire?  Is this a GOP midterm issue?  Is there a plan here?  Do they really want to go to this?

WAGNER:  I think it‘s absolutely part of a broader sort of midterm election strategy.  In the last 48 hours, you‘ve heard a lot of knife sharpening on the side of the right.  They say they‘re going to use this as kind of a wedge issue for Democrats leading up to November, that they‘re going to put them in the hot seat and make them publicly say whether they support or disavow the building of the community center/Ground Zero mosque.

I think, you know, what‘s striking is how far the right has come since the days of even George Bush, who, you know, in the aftermath of 9/11 said, look, we have to understand that al Qaeda is not Islam.  And now, you have a party that is really embracing a very vitriolic, divisive stance.

OLBERMANN:  How far do they want to go with it?  Because it is a tinder box.  Anti-Muslim violence has been (AUDIO BREAK), it‘s been threatened, it‘s never conflagrated in this country, in all this time since.  To everyone‘s credit, there have been instances—and I‘m sure many people don‘t see it that way—but there have—there have been instances but nothing constant and nothing accepted.  But it‘s always been there.

Are they willing to actually light a match to it, just to get elected?

WAGNER:  Well, I mean, I think the Republicans in the last few weeks and months have been very unafraid to use divisive issues and divisive rhetoric.  I mean, you look at immigration, right?  I mean, there they‘re talking about repealing the 14th Amendment.  Here, they‘re calling into question First Amendment rights.

I don‘t know what‘s going to happen as far as Muslim violence, but I do think it‘s a testament as to just how far the GOP is willing to go, that they‘re doing this.

OLBERMANN:  And how far are the Democrats willing to go?  What about Harry Reid‘s comments which were shocking to say the least, to many people who have supported him, and in particular have seem him kind of steel up (ph) in the last few months?

WAGNER:  Yes.  I mean, well, Harry Reid is running against Sharron “Live free or die” Angle.  So, I think he‘s particularly concerned, as many other Democrats are, for the fall about being branded kind of socialist, communist reds.  And so, this is sort of their position trying to dial it back to the center by doing against what Harry Reid did.

OLBERMANN:  But to come out and say, it should be built somewhere else, that is—that probably as strong language as a Democrat could get away with without losing his base, isn‘t it?

WAGNER:  Absolutely.  I mean, and again—you know, I think, Obama spoke to this on a little bit on Friday.  These are constitutional rights.  Freedom of religion is in the Constitution.

OLBERMANN:  Are there other Democrats willing to go to that edge?

WAGNER:  I don‘t—I mean, I think what remains to be seen is how fruitful this is going to be as an issue for November.  I mean, on one hand, are voters are going to care?  I mean, we know that they‘re concerned about the economy, that‘s the number one issue.

Is the building of a mosque in Lower Manhattan going to swing voters in Ohio?  I don‘t know.  And in the process, does the Republican Party really want to be seen as the party that is challenging fundamental constitutional rights?  If it doesn‘t work for them, what have they lost in the process?

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, the president‘s remarks on Friday night and the subsequent ones on Saturday—did he, indeed, clarify what he said, or was he saying the same thing twice with two different sets of emphasis for two different audiences?

WAGNER:  Yes.  You know, I think what Obama—there are two issues at (AUDIO BREAK).  One is: is it allowed?  Two-thirds of the country thinks it is—it is inappropriate.  Two-thirds of the country also thinks it should be allowed.

And I think what Obama did was parse those issues into two separate sets of remarks, one on Friday, one on Saturday.  It probably would have behooved him to have one singular statement and sort of make his opinion very clear.

OLBERMANN:  Alex Wagner, White House correspondent for “Politics Daily”—thanks for coming in.  Thanks for your thoughts.

WAGNER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Rand Paul on the EPA shoving regulations down mine owners‘ throats.  Yes, the way that mine owners shove miners down the mines.  Next.

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OLBERMANN:  And Paul escalates his campaign to make Kentucky safe for mine owners.

As we prepare to pull combat troops out of Iraq this week, is he preparing us to stay longer in Afghanistan?

He is now sunk to essentially promising miracles at his speech/rally/book party.

It‘s not a mosque, it‘s not at Ground Zero, nor as close to it as the

Catholic or Protestant churches are, but that‘s not stopping the hysteria -

a “Special Comment” tonight on COUNTDOWN.

           

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OLBERMANN:  One “mission accomplished” banner, 4,415 military fatalities, at 7 ½ years after the previous administration led us into the war under pretenses and intelligence that proved to be undeniably false.  The end of the Iraq war now is finally in sight, at least from the combat operations standpoint.

Our fourth story: the time remaining in a conflict that has dragged on for the better part of a decade, most accurately measured tonight—not in months, nor in weeks, but in days.

At Camp Liberty in Iraq, soldiers are lowering the flag of the last combat bridge in that country.  One soldier fighting the war since 2003 is telling our embedded chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, that the conflict he lived for most of his 20s, that appeared to be endless.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I never dreamed I would be one of the last ones out, sir.  In all honesty, when it started up, it felt like it wasn‘t ever going to stop.

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OLBERMANN:  Soldiers from the 4th Striker Brigade combat team 2nd Infantry Division, departing from Baghdad over the weekend to make that long and long overdue trip home to Fort Lewis, Washington, having spent almost a year in the Iraqi capital.

By the end of the month, some 50,000 American troops will be left in Iraq, down from a maximum force strength of around 170,000, reached during the so-called “surge.”  Under a security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, the rest of the troops are to be out of the country by the end of next year, 2011.

Another 2011 departure mapped out today, Defense Secretary Gates, telling the magazine “Foreign Policy” that it is almost certain that he will retire somewhere in 2011, long having made no secret of his desire to do so.  Of course, he had planned to retire before, President Obama having convinced him to stay on after the Bush years, citing the need for continuity in the midst of two wars, one which is now winding down.

As for the war that is now ramping up, Secretary Gates is saying he wants to make sure that the Afghanistan strategy is well under way before he hands off to a successor.

Carrying out that Afghanistan strategy, now in the hands of General David Petraeus, previously responsible for the Bush administration‘s escalation of U.S. troops in Iraq.  General Petraeus on “Meet on the Press” is saying he supports the beginning of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan next July, conditionally, of course—adding that he sees progress, if not necessarily steady progress.

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GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR., U.S. FORCES AFGHANISTAN:  More of a rollercoaster of ups and downs and setbacks as well as successes.  And that‘s hard for our leaders at times, for our counterparts.  It‘s hard for the people, but it‘s a time where you just have to keep your shoulder to the wheel and continue to push.

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OLBERMANN:  Rand Paul remaining in the pockets of the corporations as he runs for the Senate from Kentucky, and now admitting he does not know what Harlan County, Kentucky, is famous for—ahead.

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OLBERMANN:  “Special Comment”: the Ground Zero mosque that isn‘t a mosque and isn‘t at Ground Zero.

First, the sanity break and the tweet of the day from Twavel Tweets.  “Note to half Governor Palin, latest survey of momma grizzlies shows overwhelming support for gun control and a ban on hunting.”  Now, they will have to explain to her that she is being metaphorical and they‘ll start by explaining to her what metaphorical means.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

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OLBERMANN:  Fittingly, we start in a private zoo in Taiwan.  These two cute cubs are what are called ligers and they‘re very rare.  What is a liger, you ask—it‘s like a lion and a tiger mixed, (INAUDIBLE) for its skills and magic, Sigmund Freud line on.

Ligers have been known to live up to 20 years, but rarely do they have magic powers.  Crossbreeding animals is also illegal in Taiwan and the zoo owner could be fined as much as $1,500.  Still, that is a small price to pay to make his wildest dreams come true.  Gosh.

To Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Georgia, where Ted Batchelor is at the plate and evidently he‘s—you know when they say, who‘s hot, who‘s not, he‘s—yes, he‘s often running.  He owns several Guinness records for being lit on fire.

This is the first time he‘s recognized for his on-base percentage.  He slides into home and is called out by Phil Cuzzi.  Ted complained, but he was eventually thrown out after the argument got too heated.

London, England, hello!  The athletes have really let themselves go

here.  No, it‘s the annual Sumo Suit Athletic Championship where

challengers don a rubber suit to compete in several grueling events, the

100-meter waddle, the not so high jump, the belly flop, and the big finale

the 400-meter.  That‘s how big the waist is.  Actually making pretty good time in the 400-meters.  Anyway, these crapulent contestants fight the suit in an attempt to bring home the grand prize, oddly enough, that‘s Michelin man outfit.

           

Rand Paul, the corporate candidate for senator from Kentucky, “Fed up,” he says, with the regulations he says being forced down the owner of the mines‘ throats.  A comment on that from a woman who lost her brother in a Kentucky mine accident—next.

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OLBERMANN:  Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul this weekend at a rally for big coal said that miners in that state should no longer be protected by federal safety rules—rules that have saved Kentucky miners‘ lives for decades.

Our third story tonight: Mr. Paul saying that President Obama is pushing safety rules, quote, “down our throats.”  The sister of one dead Kentucky miner responds presently.

But Mr. Paul has a history of responding to deadly incidents by suggesting they were unavoidable and that stricter regulation would not have prevented nor mitigated them.  After the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11, Mr. Rand said he would deny rig workers the protection of additional safety rules, comparing the blast to the Dotiki coal mine collapse that killed two Kentucky miners in April, criticizing Washington for trying to find out why both events happened. 

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RAND PAUL ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN KENTUCKY:  What I don‘t like from the president‘s administration is this sort of, you know, I‘ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.  I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.  I‘ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. 

And I think it‘s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it‘s always got to be someone‘s fault.  Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen.  I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic.  And I‘ve met a lot of these miners and their families.  They‘re very brave people that do a dangerous job.  But then we come in and it‘s always someone‘s fault.  Maybe, sometimes, accidents happen. 

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OLBERMANN:  Maybe, sometimes, accidents happen.  The Deepwater Horizon Blast, the Dotiki Coal Mine collapse, and yes, the West Virginia blast that killed 29 miners—Mr. Paul quoted in a new “Details Magazine” article, responding to a question about that blast, saying, quote, “is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?” 

This despite the fact that the mine‘s owner, Massey Synergy, racked up 130 violations even after that blast, and almost half of them were found at just one mine, in Kentucky.  “Huffington Post” reporting that this mine still had violations on methane venting, the same problem that led to the West Virginia disaster. 

But perhaps just as much of a slap in the face to Kentucky, Mr. Paul did not know why Harlan County, Kentucky is famous.  You may not either, but you are not running for Senate in Kentucky with the backing of big coal.  Mr. Paul first guessing to the “Details” reporter, quote, it‘s famous for, like, quote, “the Dukes of Hazard.”  He then guessed wrongly the Hatfields and the McCoys. 

Despite his ignorance, Mr. Paul lectured Harlan County that their miners should not be protected by federal rules because, quote, “you live here, and you have to work in the mines.  You have tried to make good rules to protect your people here.  If you don‘t, I‘m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.”

Mr. Paul may want to know Harlan County tried that already.  Miners fought died and fought for good rules in the ‘30s, rules against 12-year-olds working, against 16-hour days without any safety rules; and the local governments, owned by the miners, beat them up and killed them.  Washington stepped in to protect them with rules. 

And that, Mr. Paul, is why Harlan County, Kentucky, is famous as Bloody Harlan. 

As promised, we‘re joined now by Teri Blanton, whose brother, Ricky, died in 1999 of injuries sustained during a rock fall in an underground Kentucky coal mine.  Miss Blanton, great thanks for your time tonight. 

TERI BLANTON, BROTHER DIED IN COAL MINE ACCIDENT:  Thank you, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  And thank you kindly for bearing with our audio problems that the audience can also see.  Mr. Rand said Saturday that Washington is shoving rules down our throats.  How do you respond to him? 

BLANTON:  Well, I respond with everyone should have to have to—I‘m getting feedback on my voice here. 

OLBERMANN:  Just put the phone down. 

BLANTON:  OK. 

So everyone should have to abide by rules.  And asking the coal industry to abide by the Clean Water Act is not—it‘s not outrageous.  Shouldn‘t they have to abide by laws that other industries have to abide by? 

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Paul says, whatever rules they are should be decided locally and not by the federal government.  Why not do it the way he says?  Why not do it locally?  Is he not right that people in Kentucky know the rule, the issues better than Washington does? 

BLANTON:  No, he‘s not correct.  If you‘ll look at the state of the waters in Kentucky, our waters are devastated.  Mountaintop removal is destroying central Appalachia.  We live in the oldest mountains on Earth, and yet we call it cheap when we blow them up and reduce them to rubble.  In Kentucky alone, we‘ve lost over 200 mountains.  And Rand Paul‘s statement was, oh, who‘s going to miss a few little knobby hills.  But over 200 mountains with 2,000 miles of headwater streams devastated by this type of mining. 

And what we need is leaders that will lead us into a new power energy.  And I would just like to say that, you know, our miners—our miners are important, and they fueled the whole industrial revolution.  And as we move forward to a new energy revolution, shouldn‘t the miners be a part of that new energy.  And we need leaders that will stand up and do that, not leaders that would say that following the laws is outrageous. 

OLBERMANN:  Ms. Blanton, to listen to Rand Paul speak, he would suggest that you‘re in the minority in Kentucky, that most Kentucky voters are really gung ho about coal mining just the way it is.  Is he right or is he wrong? 

BLANTON:  I would say that he‘s wrong.  You know, there is those loud voices, because in central Appalachia or in Appalachia, Kentucky, those are the only jobs available.  And across the state of Kentucky, there‘s less than 17,000 miners that work in the industry.  And in 1993, when Rand Paul first came to Kentucky, we have 50 -- over 50 percent less coal miners today than we did when Rand Paul came to Kentucky in 1993. 

So I would have to disagree with him, and lots of people are standing up and taking notice that we need to protect these mountains.  They‘re the oldest mountains on Earth. 

OLBERMANN:  Last point—and I know it will sound sort of trivial, but what do you—what do you think Kentucky would make of Rand Paul guessing that Harlan County is famous for the Dukes of Hazard? 

BLANTON:  Well, I think what he actually said was, I don‘t really know what Harlan is famous for.  I know it‘s famous for something, but I don‘t know what it‘s famous for.  And I know that Hazard is famous for—isn‘t that the Dukes of Hazard.  And the Dukes of Hazard was actually filmed in Georgia, not Hazard.  And the spelling isn‘t even correct. 

But if you‘re going to represent my state, then shouldn‘t you know its history?  And he‘s going to go talk to the people of a county, shouldn‘t he knows its history?  So this is a man that wants to represent the state of Kentucky, but he doesn‘t know its history.  We need leaders that will lead us into a brighter future. 

OLBERMANN:  Teri Blanton, fellow with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, our great thanks.  Our belated condolences on your loss.  And thank you for your time tonight.

BLANTON:  Thank you, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  A funny thing about Iraq, where we went to bring freedom to a people.  You know the people there are Muslims, but they can‘t have the freedom to build a place of worship in New York City.  A Special Comment tonight. 

How these dancers from a 1990s Detroit music show are suddenly part of the Wisconsin gubernatorial race, because of Twitter. 

And at the top of the hour on “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW,” why obstructionist Republicans may not be the real villains behind the massive unemployment.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight‘s Special Comment on the falsity of even calling

it “The Ground Zero Mosque,” next.  >

But first, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons. 

The bronze to Bubba the Bear, not really a person, but give me a break.  He‘s running roughshod over Incline Village, Nevada.  That‘s the Lake Tahoe area—where to the last year alone, Bubba has allegedly broken into 50 homes, causing more than 70,000 dollars worth of damage, much of it from where he punches through the garage door of your house.  One homeowner confronted a bear matching Bubba‘s description, pulled out his .44 Magnum, shot the bear between the eyes, and the bullet bounced off Bubba‘s head.  He also leaves little gifts for the homeowners he visits, described as stinky basketball-sized deposits. 

No segue here.  Our runner-up is Lonesome Rhodes Beck, who two weeks out from desecrating the memory of Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream” Speech in Washington is getting a little, well, Messianic is a good word.  These are clips from his last three shows. 

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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  The hotels in Washington, not all of them, but anything that is right around there, we understand, is gone.  There‘s no more rooms available.  It‘s almost like, at this point, you‘re the baby Jesus. 

Sleep in your car.  I‘m not kidding you.  Sleep in your car.  If the people show up, I think it‘s going to provide a shockwave to this nation, I do.  I think the people that are there, something miraculous is going to happen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So he‘s morphing into a televangelist? 

But our winner, Jill Bater (ph), a spokesperson for Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker.  Walker is trying to ridicule the Obama administration‘s proposed stimulus project, the high-speed rail line there while the president was In Milwaukee.  Bater re-Tweeted a message from a BrickM, “HA@HotAiBlog commenter, Pres. Obama‘s response Scott K Walker‘s NoTrain.com.  Then there‘s a Youtube link”—

Yes.  In response to a high-speed train program, a nearly all-black group of people dancing to a song called, “Come on, Ride It, the Train.”  When Wisconsin Democrats and the state Democratic black caucus descended on Walker‘s spokespersons racially tinged re-Tweet, she deleted it and promptly made it worse by offering this explanation: “I apologize.  Was just alerted my RT”—re-Tweet—“wasn‘t what I thought it was.  Here‘s what I thought when I was resending, et cetera.”

Except the first person who first Tweeted the ride train video, you‘ll recall, named BrickM.  BrickM turns out to be Michael Brickman, who identified himself as working in communications for Scott K. Walker.  So she went from one of the spokespeople for the Republican candidate for governor of Wisconsin re-Tweeting a racially tinged video to two of the spokespeople for the Republican candidate for governor of Wisconsin re-Tweeting a racially tinged video. 

Jill Bater, communications director for the Walker campaign in Wisconsin, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally, as promised, a Special Comment tonight on the inaccurately described “Ground Zero mosque.”

“They came first for the Communists, and I didn‘t speak up because I wasn‘t a Communist.  Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn‘t speak up because I wasn‘t a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I didn‘t speak up because I wasn‘t a Jew.  Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Pastor Martin Niemoller‘s words are well known but their context is not well understood.  Niemoller was not speaking abstractly.  He witnessed persecution, he acquiesced to it, he ultimately fell victim to it.  He had been a German World War 1 hero, then a conservative who welcomed the fall of German democracy and the rise of Hitler and had few qualms the beginning of the Holocaust until he himself was arrested for supporting it insufficiently.

Niemoller‘s confessional warning came in a speech in Frankfurt in January, 1946, eight months after he was liberated by American troops.  He had been detained at Tyrol, Sachsen-Hausen and Dachau for seven years.

Niemoller survived the death camps.  In quoting him, I make no direct comparison between the attempts to suppress the building of a Muslim religious center in downtown Manhattan and the unimaginable nightmare of the Holocaust.  Such a comparison is ludicrous.  At least it is, now.

But Niemoller was not warning of the Holocaust.  He was warning of the willingness of a seemingly rational society to condone the gradual stoking of enmity towards an ethnic or religious group warning of the building-up of a collective pool of national fear and hate, warning of the moment in which the need to purge outstrips even the parameters of the original scape-goating, when new victims are needed because a country has begun to run on a horrible fuel of hatred, magnified, amplified, multiplied by politicians and zealots, within government and without.

Niemoller was not warning of the Holocaust.  He was warning of the thousand steps before a Holocaust became inevitable.  If we are at just the first of those steps again today, here, it is one step too close.

Yet, in a country dedicated to freedom, forces have gathered to blow out of all proportion the construction of a minor community center; to transform it into a training ground for terrorists and an insult to the victims of 9/11 and a tribute to medieval Muslim subjugation of the West.

There is no training ground for terrorists.  There is no insult to the victims of 9/11.  There is no tribute to medieval Muslim subjugation of the West.  There is, in fact, no “Ground Zero mosque.”  It isn‘t a mosque.

A mosque, technically, is a Muslim holy place in which only worship can be conducted.  What is planned for 45 Park Place, New York City, is a Community Center.  It‘s supposed to include a basketball court and a culinary school.  It‘s to be thirteen stories tall and the top two stories will be a Muslim prayer space.

What a cauldron of terrorism that will be: terrorist chefs and terrorist point guards.  And truly those will use the center have more to fear from us than us from them.  For there has been terrorism connected to a mosque in this country this year.

May 10th., Jacksonville, Florida; a pipe bomb at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.  The FBI thinks the man in this surveillance video could be the bomber.  It went off during evening prayers, and it was powerful enough to send shrapnel flying 100 yards.

Fortunately, the bomber didn‘t know where to place it, so the 60 Muslim worshipers were uninjured.  If he‘d put it inside and not outside, they‘d have been dead.  And you probably would‘ve heard about it on the news.   Or maybe not.

Maybe those exploiting 45 Park Place would still shake their fists and decry terrorism by extremists who happen to be Muslim, and never face the shameful truth about our country: as the Jacksonville mosque bombing shows, since Sept. 11, Muslims have been at far greater risk of being victims of terrorism in the United States than have non-Muslims.

But back to this Islamic Center.  Its name, Cordoba House, is not a tribute to medieval Muslim subjugation of Spain.  Newt Gingrich has been pushing that nonsense that “Cordoba” is a Muslim dog-whistle for “triumphalism.”  “It refers to Cordoba, Spain, the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world‘s third-largest mosque complex.  Today, some of the mosque‘s backers insist this term is being used to ‘symbolize interfaith co-operation‘ when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest.”

Those “Muslim conquerors” are a figment of Mr. Gingrich‘s lurid imagination.  In Spain, in Cordoba, though the Muslims established multi-cultural, non-denominational institutions of learning, they were under constant attack from Christians, and from a series of internal all-Muslim Civil Wars.  The Muslims lost Cordoba, and the Christian church they transformed into the “world‘s third-largest mosque complex?”  It was turned back into a Christian Cathedral in the 13th Century.  And it has been that, ever since.

And is there not a logical extension to Mr. Gingrich‘s conclusions about Cordoba and “triumphalism?”  Virtually every church, every synagogue, indeed every mosque built on this continent stands where a Native American lived, or died, or was buried, or saw his world, his religions included, wiped out, by us.

What are we then, Mr. Gingrich?  And by the way, a point Mr. Gingrich has not even whispered as he has shouted fire in a crowded theater: when the historical implications of Cordoba were made clear to the backers of this project, the property developer, Sharif Gamal, changed the name.  They already compromised.

“We are calling it Park 51 because of the backlash to the name Cordoba House,” he told the “Financial Times.”  “It will be a place open to all New Yorkers and that is a very New York name.”  A very New York name.  Like “Ground Zero.”  Except this place, Park 51, is not even at Ground Zero, not even ‘right across the street.‘  Even the description of it being “two blocks away” is generous.

It is two blocks away from the northeast corner of the World Trade Center site.  From the planned location of the 9/11 memorial, it is more like four or even five blocks.  You know what is right across the street?  I went there yesterday to refresh my sense of the World Trade Center, in which I worked nearly 30 years ago.

At Church and Veezy, so close that the barbed wire of Ground Zero obscures its spire?  St Paul‘s Chapel.  Been there since 1766, where Washington went the day he was inaugurated, where the first responders came for relief nine years ago.  You know what‘s also closer to Ground Zero than this Muslim Community Center?  Church of St. Peter, at Church and Barclay Streets.   As the sign says, New York‘s Oldest Catholic Parish.

People hear “Ground Zero Mosque” and they think Mecca in the backyard and a loud call to prayer and they take umbrage.

“We got no more than a few inches of skin and a couple of pieces of bone.  Ground Zero is the burial place of my son,” said Joyce Boland at the public hearing about the Center.  “I don‘t want to go there and see an overwhelming mosque looking down at me.”

I honor her pain, and her fear, but Mrs. Boland has nothing to worry about.  Unless she walks directly to it, she‘ll never see it.  This is what you see from where the Center will be.  Another nondescript building across the street.  This building and others like it will block views of the Trade Center, and views from the Trade Center.

It certainly will stand out on the north side of Park Place, but amid the canyons of lower Manhattan, it‘ll just be a distinctive building that if you happen to wander down a side street near the Trade Center, you might see.  You know what you‘ll see there now?  This, the Burlington Coat Factory, abandoned since 2001 when the landing gear from one of the planes fell 90 stories and went through the roof.  For nine years, nobody‘s been willing to buy that building, just to knock it down and build a new one.

It sold for four million 850 thousand dollars.  In New York City real estate, that is spare change.  And you know why it‘s spare change?  Because walk around Ground Zero any day of the week and it‘s packed, with tourists and our version of pilgrims.  But walk two and three blocks away and not so packed.  Not packed at all.  Empty stores.  Boarded-up windows. 

Nine years later, and two and three blocks from the action and it‘s a ghost town.  What was that about government not getting in the way of private business?  What was that about letting the private sector spur new jobs in blighted areas?  Oh, and what was that about Iraq?

Why did we go into Iraq, again?  I don‘t mean the real reasons or the naked, vengeful blindness that enabled the forging of a nonexistent connection between Iraq and 9/11.  I mean, the official explanation: to free the world, and especially Iraq‘s citizens, of the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.  That‘s its supporters‘ defense of the invasion, to this hour.  Well, who lives in Iraq?  Muslims.

I hate to reveal this to anybody on the Right who didn‘t know this, but when they say Iraq is 65 percent Shia and 32 percent Sunni, you do know that Shia and Sunni are both forms of the Muslim religion, right?

We sacrificed 4,415 of our military personnel in Iraq to save Muslims, and there are thousands still there tonight to protect Muslims, but we don‘t want Muslims to open a combination culinary school and prayer space in Manhattan?

From the beginning of this nation, we have fought prejudice and religious intolerance and our greatest enemy: stupidity, exploited by rapacious politicians.  It‘s just 50 years now since Americans publicly and urgently warned their country-men not to support a Presidential candidate because he was a Roman Catholic.  He would bow to the will not of the American people, but the Pope.  He would be a “Papist.”  He would be the agent of a foreign state.

His name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  Despite the nobility of our founding and the indefatigable efforts of all our generations, there have always been those who would happily sacrifice our freedoms, our principles, to ward off the latest unprecedented threat, the latest unbeatable outsiders.  Once again, at 45 Park Place, we are being told to sell our birth-right, to feed the maw of xenophobia and vengeance and mob rule.

The terrorists who destroyed the buildings from which you could only see 45 Park Place as a dot on the ground wanted to force us to change our country to become more like the ones they knew.  What better way could we honor the dead of the World Trade Center than to do the terrorists‘ heavy lifting for them?  And do you think 45 Park Place is where it ends?

The moment this monstrous betrayal of our America gained the slightest traction, the next goal was unveiled.  ‘No more building permits for any mosques in this country,‘ brayed a man from the euphemistically-named “American Families Association.”  Of course, he said, maybe the permits could be granted if the congregation, quote, “was willing to publicly renounce the Koran.”

“They came first for the building permits.”  But back to Downtown.  Does the name “Masjid-Manhattan” mean anything to you?  Let me take you, in conclusion, to 20 Warren Street.  Not much to look at, not from across the street, not from up close.  That open door is the only thing that distinguishes it from the rest of the grill-fronts of the neighborhood.

That, and the yellow sign there: “Entrance To Islamic Center.”  It‘s in the basement.  It is a Muslim house of worship, Masjid-Manhattan.  It lost its lease in a larger building down the street, two years ago.  The new facility is so small that only about 20 percent of worshipers can use it, at a time.   But “Masjid-Manhattan” opened in early 1970.  Four blocks away, the World Trade Center opened, in December 1970.

The actual place that is the real-life equivalent of the paranoid dream contained in the phrase “Ground Zero Mosque,” has been up and running, since before there was a World Trade Center, and for nine years since there has been a World Trade Center.

Running, without controversy, without incident, without terrorism, without protest.  Because this is America, damn it.

And in America, when somebody comes for your neighbor, or his Bible, or his Torah, or his Atheists‘ Manifesto, or his Koran, you and I do what our fathers did, and our grandmothers did, and our founders did; you and speak up. 

Good night and good luck. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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