updated 12/13/2010 10:35:14 AM ET 2010-12-13T15:35:14

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Jay Inslee, Daniel Ellsberg

           

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

The new analysis: the president‘s tax cut deal could raise taxes on one of three American workers.

The Bernie-buster:

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  You can call what I‘m doing today whatever you want.  You can call it a filibuster.  You can call it a long speech.

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OLBERMANN:  The junior senator from Vermont takes the Senate floor and keeps it to protest the tax deal—but truly, to protest the institutionalized destruction of the middle-class.

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SANDERS:  Imagine that in an eight-year period, top 400 wealthiest people, each saw an increase on average of a $1 billion a piece.  Does anybody in America really believe that these guys need another tax break?

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OLBERMANN:  Extended highlights of history in the making, the start of the weekend with Bernie.

The blowback to the tax deal blowback.  The president calls on another president, and then leaves.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have been keeping the

first lady waiting for about half an hour.  So, I‘m going to take off.  But

--

           

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  I don‘t want to make her mad.  Please go.

OBAMA:  You‘re in good hands.

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OLBERMANN:  OK.  Bye, see you.

Suck it up and pass it?  Agreeing, Gene Robinson.  He joins us.

Also agreeing—Michele Bachmann, because unfunded tax cuts don‘t really add to the deficit, you say.

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REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  It‘s a deficit to government, but it‘s not a deficit to people who get to keep their money.  So, it‘s how you frame it.  I don‘t think letting people keep their own money should be considered a deficit.

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OLBERMANN:  Indicting Julian Assange—mixed reporting on that.

Defense on the House floor—

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REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS:  Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths—lying us into war, or WikiLeaks revelations, or the release of the “Pentagon Papers”?

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OLBERMANN:  Our guest tonight about WikiLeaks, the man behind the release of the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg.

Thurber, and the universal dream to run away, “A Note at the End.”

And “Worsts”: can you say Secretary of Culture Hunt—without making a blooper?

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS:  Well, right you are, Mr. Mehoffer.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.  This is Friday, December 10th, 697 days until the 2012 presidential election.

And today, we saw history on the floor of the Senate.  It started at 10:25 in the morning and kept going until 6:29 p.m. -- 81/2 hours and change.  Reportedly, the number of people watching it crashing the computer servers of the United States Senate—a filibuster historic both because of the cause for which it was waged—and in our fifth story—because it was not technically a filibuster, but something new and unique, a Bernie-buster.

Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, self-professed socialist, the first senator to vow opposition to the president‘s tax cut deal with the Republican Party.  Speaking to an empty chamber but an enthralled nation, this was the leading trend on Twitter in this country and the second leading one worldwide.

Turning his opposition to this bill into an epic essential lesson about the history of the nation‘s middle-class, its families and children and about the generational transformation we have witnessed under presidents, Republican and Democratic, in which the rich have not just grown richer but have redefined the concept of rich.  While the future of America‘s children has been mortgaged and collateralized and securitized and outsourced and leveraged and downsized into nothing.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, along with nominal Democrat Mary Landrieu, helping out by spelling Sanders for brief breaks.

Mr. Sanders began with a simple declaration:

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SANDERS:  Mr. President is I think, as everyone knows, the president of the United States, President Obama, and the Republican leadership have reached an agreement on a very significant tax bill.  In my view, the agreement that they reached is a bad deal for the American people.  I think we can do better.  And I am here today to take a strong stand against this bill, and I intend to tell my colleagues and the nation exactly why I am in opposition to this bill.

And you can call what I‘m doing today whatever you want.  You can call it a filibuster.  You can call it a very long speech.  I‘m not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle.  I am simply here today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides.

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OLBERMANN:  As the day went on and Sanders spoke, always speaking in the background, new details emerged.  Senate Leader Harry Reid had announced last night that the bill would go up for at least a test vote on Monday afternoon and now, there is, in fact, an actual bill to discuss.

And so, this morning, we learned the estimated cost, $858 billion, over the next 10 years; $70 billion more than the much-hated deficit-ballooning stimulus package.  The vast majority of the $858 billion, the $675 billion, required for extending the Bush tax cuts.

At 7:50 this morning, :the “Reuters” news service moved a story quoting small business owners saying that tax breaks will not create new jobs.  At 3:24 in the afternoon, Senator Sanders was still talking and talking about the Republican proposal to kill the estate tax altogether, a proposal some still hope to win in this tax cut deal, and the windfall that will represent for the owners of Wal-Mart, the Walton family.

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SANDERS:  Eighty-six billion dollars, that‘s what this family is worth, one family, $86 billion.  They‘re doing pretty good.  If we abolish the estate tax, as a Republican premise would have us to, the Walton family would receive an estimated $32.7 billion tax break if it was repealed, one family, $32.7 billion.  This is patently insane.  This is insane.

We have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world.  We have massive unemployment.  I am trying to get senior -- 50-plus million people a $250 check.  By the way, a $250 check because we have not seen a COLA for the seniors and the disabled vets.  That would cost in one year about $14 billion.

The Walton family, itself, would get more than double in a tax break what some of us are fighting for, for over 50 million seniors and disabled vets.  So, we can‘t afford to give $14 billion to help some of the people in the country who are struggling the hardest, we can‘t do that, but somehow we can afford to give $32.7 billion in tax breaks to one of the richest families in this country.

If that makes sense to anybody, please call up my office, because it doesn‘t make sense to me and I think it does not make sense for the vast majority of the American people.

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OLBERMANN:  The future of the Walton family is less of interest to Senator Sanders than the families of working class Americans who have seen the manufacturing foundation of their American crumble.

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SANDERS:  Entry-level automobile workers at General Motors and Chrysler now earn half as much, half as much as their peers just made one year ago.  Instead of making $28 an hour, a middle-class wage, they are now making $14 an hour.  And this is in the automobile industry, which has always been the gold standard for manufacturing jobs in America.

And if workers with the union in the automobile industry are making $14 an hour, what do you think that workers in New Mexico are going to be making without a strong union?  So, what you are seeing is a dissolution of the middle-class, wages are going down—and in this remarkable example, a 50 percent reduction, and the older workers making good wages and the new workers half of the wages.

Is this the future of America?  Is this what our kids have to look forward to that they are going to be earning half of the wages that their fathers made, that their mothers made?  Is that the future?

And in the midst of all of that, they run up a huge national debt and send their jobs to China and we give tax breaks to billionaires?  Is that the future that kids have to look forward to?

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OLBERMANN:  If there were any doubt that sending not just our jobs but our IOUs to China will return to haunt President Obama, the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer this morning became just the latest Republican to preview the 2012 attack line, writing that Obama‘s deal, quote, “will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years.”

As to the jobs, Senator Sanders said today, American manufacturers have found it cheaper and therefore more profitable to send China U.S.  jobs.  He said he did not mean to single out G.E., this network‘s parent company, but to illustrate his larger point, he brought out an old quote from before the recession from the CEO.

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SANDERS:  When I am talking to G.E. managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China—five Chinas.  You need to be there.  You need to change the way people talk about it and how they get there.  I am a nut on China.

Gee, when G.E. recently had a couple of years ago some really difficult economic times, and they needed $16 billion to bail them out—I didn‘t hear them going to China, China, China, China, China.

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OLBERMANN:  Other U.S. companies were singled out for growing.

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SANDERS:  What the American people should know now is that while we bailed out Wall Street, because they were, quote-unquote, “too big to fail,” three out of the four largest financial institutions, all of whom were bailed out very significantly, are now larger today than they were before the bailout.  Incredibly, since the start of the financial crisis, Wells Fargo has grown 43 percent bigger; JPMorgan Chase has grown 51 percent bigger; and Bank of America is now 138 percent larger than before the financial crisis began.

Can you imagine that?  We bailed these guys out because they were too big to fail, and now three of the four largest ones are much larger than they were.

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OLBERMANN:  Eighteen minutes later, “The Huffington Post” posted an analysis of the new tax bill, concluding that the new tax cuts combined with an expiration of some of the Obama stimulus tax cuts will yield a net loss, meaning a tax increase for about 5 million government workers and any worker in the country making less than $20,000.  All told about one-third of American workers, 50 million of them -- 50 million—will get a tax hike as part of an alleged tax cut from President Obama and the Republican Party.

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SANDERS:  What I‘m asking the American people is to stand up, let your senators, let your congressmen know how you feel.  Do you really believe that millionaires and billionaires who have done phenomenally well in recent years need an extended tax cut at a time when their taxes have been lowered substantially in recent years?  Do we really need to give tax breaks to the rich in order to drive up the national debt so that our kids and grandchildren will pay higher taxes and in order to pay off that national debt afforded the tax breaks for the rich?

If you don‘t believe that, and if you don‘t think that‘s right, let the president of the United States know about it, let your senator know about it, let your congressman know about it.

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OLBERMANN:  With us tonight, one congressman who knows about it, Democratic Representative Jay Inslee of Washington.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

REP. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON:  You bet.  Thank you.  Thanks for being on the job.

OLBERMANN:  You have been whipping the Democratic Caucus to vote this deal, how come?

INSLEE:  Well, we spoke loudly that this deal should not come to the floor of the House because it‘s a bad deal for three reasons.

Number one, it‘s just a bad deal.  We got taken to the cleaners for this negotiation and we‘re not going to stand for it.

Second, this perpetuates the Bush tax cuts.  This perpetuates the Bush trickle-down economics.  This deal, you might as well build a statue to George Bush on a white steed on Capitol Mall to perpetuate the failed policy of that terrible administration.

And third, this thing over the long term really does not strengthen our country.  We are adding $850 billion of debt without educating one student, without building one bridge, without inventing one new technology.

For those three reasons, the House Democratic Caucus spoke very loudly the other day, taking an unprecedented step of saying this deal should not come to the floor of the House.  It‘s not a good deal for this country.

OLBERMANN:  The extraordinary statement, speech, Bernie-buster, by Senator Sanders today, 8 ½ hours about this, which was an extraordinary.  Anybody who saw any of it realize it was essentially a year‘s education in recent American history.

INSLEE:  Bernie should get be paid for the hour.

OLBERMANN:  But—it was—all of it compelling, but what do you think it accomplish if anything?

INSLEE:  Well, I think it‘s the recitation of what we‘ve been going through and it‘s the reason when I walked up to buy a Christmas tree at our grocery store here in Washington state, six people stopped me and said, look, don‘t let them force this, don‘t let them take hostages to force us again to enter into bad bargain where millionaires get 1,000 times more benefits from this package than working families.

And Bernie was right to say that people ought to register how they feel, and you can go to notaxdeal.com, that‘s notaxdeal.com, if you‘d like to the register your position on this, but people have an intuitive understanding what we‘re doing here is digging ourselves further in debt, and not standing up to the hostage-taking of the Republican Party.

And, you know, here‘s an interesting point, not following the bipartisanship that we do, people want bipartisanship.  They want consensus.  We have consensus to extend the middle-class tax cuts at least a certain period of time during this hard economic time.  But instead of embracing that consensus, the Republicans took that consensus hostage to go forward with these incredibly pathetically unfair tax breaks both in the estate tax and the higher income tax breaks.  And that is not what the American people are for.

Now, people who said this is the best deal we can have, wrong, and I‘ll tell you why.  The American people are with us in this regard.  When you go out there to poll, by two to one margins, Americans believe that we ought not to finance this deficit spending with further tax cuts for the wealthy and follow the Bush administration trickle-down economics.

They knew it did not produce one single net job during the Bush administration and they know that we cannot borrow our way and tax cut our way to prosperity.  We have got to build our way to prosperity, and this doesn‘t do that.  So, we need to change it dramatically.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington, one of those leading the House fight against the tax deal—great thanks.  Have a good weekend.

INSLEE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Now, the blowback to the blowback.  President Clinton takes over the news conference at the White House this afternoon so that President Obama can go to the White House Christmas reception.

And Gene Robinson says to pass the bill anyway—he joins us next.

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OLBERMANN:  It‘s “Presidents Day” at the White House as the blowback to the blowback continues.  Gene Robinson joins us.

Which has killed more people—asked Congressman Ron Paul—lying us into war or WikiLeaks or the release of the Pentagon Papers?  We‘ll ask Daniel Ellsberg about that.

The secretary‘s name is Jeremy Hunt, and his portfolio is culture and two BBC announcers conflated to of those words to disastrous results.

And “Thurber” twofer to celebrate his birthday a week ahead—here on

COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  The battle between the White House and the House Democrats, the president may have created a bizarre and to some perhaps, an unwelcomed bit of optics today, by walking President Clinton into the White House briefing room—in our fourth story—literally handing over the conference to him.

After the two leaders met in the Oval Office today, they made an unscheduled visit to White House briefing room—having to find the key first reportedly—President Obama made brief remarks and then turned the podium over to the former president, who endorsed Mr. Obama‘s deal with the Republican leadership.

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CLINTON:  The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs, and to minimize the chances that it will slip back.

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OLBERMANN:  About 10 minutes after that, President Obama reminded reporters that he was late for the White House staff Christmas party and he exited stage left—leaving the news conference to President Clinton.

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OBAMA:  I have been keeping the first lady waiting for about half an hour.  So, I‘m going to take off.  But—

CLINTON:  I don‘t want to make her mad.  Please go.

OBAMA:  You‘re in good hands.

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OLBERMANN:  During the 20-plus minutes that followed, the former president was asked if his appearance might bother Democrats who worried that President Obama, like President Clinton in his day, is triangulating.

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CLINTON:  I have an enormous amount of respect for the Democrats in the House, and I‘ve already told you that I regret that so many of them lost, I think some of our best people lost, and I get where they‘re coming from.  I can only tell you that my economic analysis is, that given all of the alternatives that I can imagine actually becoming law, this is the best economic result for America.  And I think that it is enormous relief for America to think that both parties might vote for something, anything that they could both agree on.

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OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to “Washington Post” associate editor, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Eugene Robinson.  Also the author of “Disintegration: Splintering of Black America.”

Gene, good evening.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  What about the optics of that after everybody sort of rub their eyes a few times?  See you, talk to this guy.

ROBINSON:  Kind of, kind of strange to have a former president there once again commanding the briefing room at the White House.

Two ways to look at it.  One, it‘s just kind of, I think, unprecedented.  I don‘t know—I can‘t think of that having had happened before and kind of weird.  The other way you could look at it is, you know, one of the Barack Obama‘s problems is not insecurity.  And he seems perfectly secure in kind of leaving the podium to Bill Clinton.

OLBERMANN:  What impact did President Clinton‘s appearance have on this entire debate, do you suppose?

ROBINSON:  I think it actually gives cover to some Democrats who believe that ultimately, they‘re going to end up holding their nose and voting for this thing, who don‘t like it, who recognize all that is ugly and wrong and twisted about some of the provisions in this piece of legislation or this package of legislation, but who ultimately—who may not agree with President Clinton that this is a great thing for the economy, but who may agree that they‘re likely not to get a better deal, and in fact, likely to get a worse deal.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of people who are going to hold their nose and support this, your column today, you argue that the Democrats should reluctantly accept this deal.  Your prime rationale for that being what?

ROBINSON:  My prime rationale is essentially, that, you know, this is a fight that should have been had a year ago, six months ago, three months ago, and I believe that Democrats could have and gotten a much better deal for working Americans, for middle class Americans, and could have gotten rid for the tax cuts for the rich.  It was postponed, and it was not brought up until after the election, and we all know what happened in the election.

And the fact is that the Republicans will run out the clock.  If the Democrats defeat this, the Republicans will run out the clock until the new Congress, and I am - I start thinking of William Butler Yates, and, you know, rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem.  I mean, the new Congress is going to be very different, and any sort of—you know, I just don‘t think that you‘re going to see Senate Democrats, God bless Bernie Sanders, but I don‘t think that solidarity that you saw today is going to continue for more than a few weeks, perhaps in the new Congress if indeed if they can get it together at all.

I think that the Senate Democrats will cave and in the end will get a much, much worse deal on unemployment insurance extension, on the tax cuts perhaps, on the estate tax—they may try to get rid of it altogether.  It could be really ugly.

OLBERMANN:  Gene, you know my affection for you, but I think that you‘re mistake.  The Bush tax cuts are going to be kicked down the road.  This same entire scenario will play out in two years.  They‘ll push to roll over the payroll holiday next year.  Taxes are going up for families making $40,000 or less, and individuals making $20,000 or less.

And this “Huffington Post” analysis says that the taxes of 50 million low-paid Americans will go up even if it‘s just a few dollars, they don‘t have a few dollars.  And how in the hell can this be better than nothing?  I think it‘s worse than nothing.

ROBINSON:  You know, Keith, you and I don‘t disagree on very many things, and you know, I‘m not huge about Yankees, but other than that, we‘re pretty close.  That column was physical painful for me to write.

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ROBINSON:  But that‘s my honest view.  I just honestly can‘t see the Democrats getting a better deal for the American people out of the new Congress coming in.  And it shouldn‘t be that way.  We shouldn‘t be in this position.  This is—this is unjust what‘s happening.  It‘s wrong.

And we should do everything we can to stop it.  But I don‘t—you know, I know why we should stop it, but I just don‘t know how.

OLBERMANN:  You‘re right certainly about one thing which we agree entirely, the fuselage is the misbehavior of all Democrats over the summer is origin point of this, but after that, I don‘t—I did the “Special Comment” the other night, I had that same physical sensation writing it.  I‘m just—I wish somebody had done something smarter earlier on.

In any event, Gene Robinson of “The Washington Post”—I still love you, take care.  Have a good weekend.

ROBINSON:  You, too, Keith.  See you later.

OLBERMANN:  See you.

As rumor swirls of an attempt to charge Julian Assange of WikiLeaks as a spy, here in this country, the comparisons continue to the release of the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971.  My guest tonight: the man behind them, Daniel Ellsberg.

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OLBERMANN:  Indictment of Julian Assange and the reaction to Wikileaks from Daniel Ellsberg ahead. 

First, the Tweet of the day, which references our report last night that the Nielsen Book Scan system, Sarah Palin‘s new book is selling 84 percent fewer copies at this point in its release than her first one was at the same point in its release, and that the paperback of “Going Rogue” has been out since September, but it‘s only sold 20,000 copies.

From John Lee Pettimor: “the morons who bought the first book probably haven‘t finished it yet.”  They think I‘m complimenting her when I say that woman is an idiot.

Let‘s play Oddball.

Edmond, Oklahoma, hello.  A woman was so scared by what she found in her toilet, she dialed 911. 

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What is going on there, ma‘am? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have some kind of animal in the toilet of my bathroom. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Like—what does it look like? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, it is gray.  That‘s all I can tell you.  I didn‘t look real good because it scares me to death. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not like one of your animals, a cat or something? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, my cat is in my office behaving herself. 

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OLBERMANN:  The police were dispatched and arrived with the culprit still in the house, squirrel!  The officers, yes, multiple officers, grabbed some snake tongs and a small dog kennel, and the hunt was on.  Took about five minutes to finally coral the wet animal before it was released in a park across the street.  Nobody is sure how the animal wound up in the potty, but this is not the first time this squirrel has tried in vein to enter a house. 

Face plant.

To our friends in CNN, where anchor Ali Velshi is really trying to flush out his story too. 

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ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR:  All right, in London, the government has just voted to raise the cap that universities charge for tuition.  Thousands of angry students are outside parliament protesting. 

On Capital Hill, House Democrats have voted not to bring up the tax package that President Obama negotiated with Republicans. 

Wait, we didn‘t just put that on TV, did we?  It‘s a good thing it‘s a taped show.  We will just edit that out. 

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OLBERMANN:  Sorry, Ali.  It is live coast to coast. 

In their defense, they did go on to talk about stomach parasites, which I guess explained why that clip was loaded.  It is Friday, so we will skip the ratings jokes. 

Time marches on. 

Daniel Ellsberg on the Pentagon Papers and Wikileaks next.

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OLBERMANN:  Conflicting reports tonight on whether the U.S. will soon indict Julian Assange on spying charges.  But in our third story, one Republican congressman, Ron Paul of Texas, argues that the public‘s hostility toward Wikileaks is misguided.  In fact, leaks provided the citizens of the nation a great service. 

Remember the Pentagon Papers.  The man behind the release of those documents, Daniel Ellsberg, will join us in a moment.  An attorney for Assange expecting indictments soon, telling ABC News “any prosecution under the Espionage Act would, in my view, be unconstitutional, and puts at risk all media organizations in the U.S.”

Earlier this week, the attorney general, Mr. Holder, confirming he ordered a criminal probe, claiming the least put the country at risk.  But in a sign Justice Department is perhaps struggling with how to proceed, one official tells NBC News today that legal action against Assange, quote, “is not imminent.” 

This as the House Judiciary Committee plans its first hearing on Wikileaks, scheduled for next week, and while lawmakers from both parties have expressed interest in giving the government new authority to prosecute the leaks. 

Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas taking to the House floor in support of Assange and Wikileaks. 

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REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS:  The hysterical reaction makes one wonder if this is not an example of killing the messenger for the bad news.  Despite what is claimed, information so far released, though classified, has caused no known harm to any individual, but it has caused plenty of embarrassment to our government. 

The truth gained from the Pentagon Papers revealed that lies were told about the Gulf of Tonkin attack.  Just as with the Vietnam War, the Iraq War was based on lies.  We were never threatened by weapons of mass destruction or al Qaeda in Iraq, though the attack on Iraq was based on this false information. 

Do the American people deserve to know the truth regarding the ongoing war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?  Why is the hostility mostly directed at Assange, the publisher, and not our government‘s failure to protect classified information?

Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths: lying us into war or Wikileaks revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers? 

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OLBERMANN:  Joining me now, as promised, the man behind the release of the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, the subject of the documentary “the Most Dangerous Man in America.” 

Pleasure to have you here, sir.  The State Department said that Assange has a political objective, and that precludes him from being considered a journalist.  So a political objective, that means they would have to prosecute the Democratic party or Fox News or the League of Women Voters?  Is this just an excuse. 

DANIEL ELLSBERG, LEAKED PENTAGON PAPERS:  I would say it is an excuse.  And by the way, that is a fascinating clip that you just did.  I agreed with everything he said.  He said it very well.  I couldn‘t say it better. 

It‘s not the first time with Ron Paul.  I often disagree with him on domestic policy.  On foreign policy, on the Constitution, on homeland security, on intervention, he speaks very well.  And I think what he just said was exactly right. 

OLBERMANN:  If the U.S. indeed indicts Julian Assange, what does that mean for the First Amendment? 

ELLSBERG:  Well, there have been a number of indictments already before.  Mine was the very first.  Before me, nobody had been indicted for giving information to the American public, for disclosing under the Espionage Act or any other act.

But since then, before Obama, there were two others.  One of those Obama—President Obama dismissed against the APAC former employees.  Obama actually has—this—if he indicts in this case, he will have indicted five.  Already, he has indicted four more than all previous presidents put together. 

So he‘s already—his Justice Department is already considering the Espionage Act as if it were an Official Secrets Act, a British Official Secrets Act, which it was not intended to be.  But as I say, other Justice Departments have tried that before. 

The real difference would be if there is a conviction in any one of these cases, and it is upheld by the Supreme Court, which takes the case.  This has never happened.  If that happens, then we have an Official Secrets Act, formerly called the Espionage Act.  And that would be very serious. 

It will mean that unauthorized disclosures of the kind that appear every other day in “the New York Times,” creditably—it‘s what makes “The New York Times” indispensable, I would say, one of the major factors.  Those will dry up very considerably.  People like Bob Woodward, who would be indictable under this, or Sy Hersh, may well go to jail when they are brought in front of a grand jury and ordered to tell who their sources were for the classified documents they have directly quoted, or the “Time‘s” reporters.

But a lot of them won‘t.  And we‘ll have a lot less knowledge of exactly what we are doing and what we have plan in the way of foreign policy.  And we have too little now.  That led to Iraq.  It led to Vietnam.  Those weren‘t caused by too many leaks.  Those were caused by the absence of leaks beforehand. 

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of them, you have a wish list of Wikileaks, a few items that you‘d specifically like.  Can you go into some briefly? 

ELLSBERG:  Well, one of them, which I have had for some time, I would like to see the current classified estimate of the strength of the Taliban we are facing in Afghanistan, the order of battle they call it, and to compare that to last year, before President Obama‘s escalation.  We‘ve had a year now.

My guess is strongly that it will show them to be larger than they were before.

OLBERMANN:  Of course.

ELLSBERG:  It raises the question of how much is it worth to us to strengthen the Taliban in the future, and does that really improve our security or weaken it? 

The other thing I‘d like to see is the Pentagon papers of Afghanistan and Iraq.  We don‘t have those.  The current Wikileaks people didn‘t have access to those.  High-level, top-secret decision papers and estimates.  I‘d like to see those of—and of Yemen and of a number of places actually, Somalia, where we are intervening, Yemen, I said, Pakistan very definitely. 

I mentioned Bob Woodward.  His latest book comes very close to being the Pentagon Papers of this latest escalation.  I really learned a lot from it.  He—it seems to cite dozens, if not hundreds, of classified top secret documents of the kind I would like.  I would like to see the whole document. 

So if Woodward doesn‘t put them on the web with minor redactions that he considers necessary for security—and indeed, if this indictment occurs, he would face prosecution if he did—he would face prosecution for his latest book.  So he could send them to Wikileaks. 

OLBERMANN:  Daniel Ellsberg, the upcoming documentary is called “The Most Dangerous Man in America.”  What a title to have.  An American hero would be another title.   A great pleasure to meet you.  Thank you for coming in.

ELLSBERG:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  How to avoid being indicted in Nigeria; pay a small fine, like half a billion dollars.  Worsts persons ahead. 

And if you ever wanted to run away from it all, what is stopping you?  James Thurber knows, dentists and eye doctors appointments.  A note at the end coming up. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, what House Democrats are planning for the tax cut battle next week.  Her guest is Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Fridays with Thurber and “The Glass in the Field” and a note at the end, next. 

First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for today‘s nominees for the worst persons in the world.

The bronze shared by the Saudi newspaper “Al Hayat” and that country‘s news website SABQ.org.  They printed and posted this story: “in his latest effort to find common ground with Republicans in Congress, President Barack Obama said today that he was willing to agree that he is a Muslim.  In agreeing that he is a Muslim, Mr. Obama is sending a clear signal that he is trying to find consensus.  My place of birth has been and always be negotiable.” 

“Al Hayat‘s” headline: “Obama doesn‘t mind coming out as a Muslim if that will satisfy the Republicans.” 

The article they took as news was written by our friend, satirist Andy Borowitz for his humor site, “The Borowitz Report.”  Oops.

Runner up, Dick Cheney.  You will recall the threat by Nigeria to indict him and the other leaders of Halliburton for bribery there by then Halliburton subsidiary KBR, 180 million dollars to get government contracts worth six billion.  The “Global Post” quotes officials in the Nigerian government who say Halliburton has offered to make a plea bargain with Nigeria‘s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.  No jail time for Cheney or the three other Halliburton executives charged, just a fine of 500 million dollars. 

But our winners, James Naughty (ph) -- James Naughty and Andrew Mar (ph) of the BBC.  Within hours of each other, each of the announcers tried to mention the British government‘s secretary of culture Jeremy Hunt.  Culture Hunt.  If you can‘t imagine the blooper they each made, consider the young sportscaster who once tried to read this nine-second kicker, when he actually only had six seconds left.  “Finally, country music singer Roy Clark has won the top gun division at the Annual Grand National Quail Club hunt in the Mecca of Quail hunting, Enid, Oklahoma.  That was me, RKO Radio Network, 1981, culture hunt, quail club hunt. 

James Naughty and Andrew Mar of the BBC, today‘s worst persons in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  James Thurber‘s birthday week—he was born on December 8th, 1894 -- just concludes.  And though he was revered as an artist in England in a way he never was here, though he often visited Bermuda, though he had a claim to France, both from serving there briefly as World War I ended, and then going back and living there for a while, Thurber, was quintessentially American.

Not that he didn‘t dream of it being otherwise.  Our main course tonight, his version of the universal dream of running away, “A Note at the End,” published originally in “My Life and Hard Times” in 1933.  We will preface it with something “Fables For Our Time” and “Famous Poems Illustrated” from 1940. 

I am reading, as usual, from the “Library of America, Thurber, Writings and Drawings,” edited by Garrison Keeler, the biggest bang for your Thurberian buck. 

First “The Glass in the Field” by James Thurber. 

“A short time ago some builders, working on a studio in Connecticut, left a huge square of plate glass standing upright in a field one day.  A goldfinch flying swiftly across the field struck the glass and was knocked cold.  When he came to, he hastened to his club, where an attendant bandaged his head and gave him a stiff drink. 

“What the hell happened?” asked a sea gull.  “I was flying across a meadow when all of a sudden the air crystallized on me,” said the goldfinch. 

The sea gull and a hawk and an eagle all laughed heartily.  A swallow listened gravely. 

“For fifteen years, fledgling and bird, I‘ve flown this country,” said the eagle, “and I assure you there is no such thing as air crystallizing.  Water, yes; air, no.” 

“You were probably struck by a hailstone,” the hawk said to the goldfinch. 

“Or he may have had a stroke,” said the sea gull. 

“What do you think, swallow?” 

“Why, I—I think maybe the air crystallized on him,” said the swallow.  The large birds laughed so loudly that the goldfinch became annoyed and bet each of them a dozen worms that they couldn‘t follow the course he had flown across the field without encountering the hardened atmosphere. 

They all took his bet; the swallow went along to watch.  The sea gull, the eagle, and the hawk decided to fly together over the route the goldfinch had indicated.  “You come, too,” they said to the swallow. 

“I—I—well, no,” said the swallow.  “I don‘t think I will.” 

So the three large birds took off together and they hit the glass together, and they were all knocked cold.

Moral, he who hesitates is sometimes saved. 

Now to “A Note At the End.” 

“The hard times of my middle years I pass over, leaving the ring bells of 1918 with their false promise to mark the end of a special sequence.  The sharp edges of old reticences are softened in the autobiographer by the passing of time.  A man does not pull the pillow over his head when he wakes in the morning because he suddenly remembers some awful thing that happened to him 15 or 20 years ago.

But the confusions and the panics of last year and the year before are too close for contentment.  Until a man can quit talking loudly to himself in order to shout down the memories of blunderings and gropings, he is in no shape for the painstaking examination of distress and the careful ordering of event, so necessary to a calm and balanced exposition of what exactly was the matter. 

The time I fell out of the gun room in Mr. James Stanley‘s house in Green Lake, New York, is, for instance, much too near for me to go into with any piece of mind, although it happened in 1925, the ill-fated year of horses, horses, horses and Valencia.  There is now, I understand, a porch to walk out onto when you open the door I opened that night, but there wasn‘t then. 

The mistaken exits and entrances of my 30s have moved me several times to some thought of spending the rest of my days wandering aimlessly around the south seas like a character out of Conrad, silent and inscrutable.  But the necessity for frequent visits to the oculist and dentist has prevented this. 

You can‘t be running back from Singapore every few months to get your lenses changed and still retain the proper mood for wandering.  Furthermore, my horn-rimmed glasses and my Ohio accent betray me, even when I sit on the terraces of little tropical cafes wearing a pith helmet, staring straight ahead, and twitching a muscle in my jaw. 

I found this out when I went wandering around the West Indies one summer.  Instead of being followed by the whispers of men and the glances of women, I was followed by bead salesmen and native women with native postcards.  Nor did any girl looking at all like Tanda Laya (ph) in white cargo come forward and offer to go to pieces with me.

They tried to sell me baskets. 

Under these circumstances, it is impossible to be inscrutable.  And a wanderer who isn‘t inscrutable might just as well be back at Broad and High Streets in Columbus, sitting in the Baltimore Dairy Lunch.  Nobody from Columbus has ever made a first-rate wanderer in the Conradian tradition.  Some of them have been fairly good at disappearing for a few days, to turn up in a hotel in Louisville with a bad headache and no recollection of how they got there.

But they always scurry back to their wives with some cock and bull story of having lost their memory or having gone away to attend the annual Convention of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. 

There was, of course, even for Conrad‘s Lord Jim, no running away.  The cloud of his special discomfiture followed him like a pup no matter what ships he took or what wildernesses he entered.  In the pathways between office and home, and home and the houses of settled people, there are always ready to snap at you the little perils of routine lives.

But there is no escape in the unplanned tangent, the sudden turn.  In Martinique, when the whistle blew for the tourists to get back on the ship, I had a quick, wild and lovely moment, when I decided I wouldn‘t get back on the ship. 

I did though.  And I found that somebody had stolen the pants to my dinner jacket. 

“A Note At the End” by James Thurber. 

That‘s December 10th, 38 days since Republicans took control of the House.  Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs? 

I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

And now with a look at what House Democrats can do next week about the tax cut compromise, freshly back in town after a quick excursion outside of it, ding-dong, ladies and gentlemen, ding-dong, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Hey, doesn‘t that go ding-dong, the witch is dead. 

OLBERMANN:  That too or it‘s just—just it is a doorbell.  Over to you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Fair enough, Mr. Stolen Pants.  Have a good weekend, Keith.

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