Guests: Richard Wolffe, Arianna Huffington, Jonathan Alter
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Gone, but not forgotten. Republican leaders furious at the timing of Don Rumsfeld‘s firing. Why, if he was going to off him, they ask, did the president wait?
And more legal action against Rumsfeld, again in Germany, again about torture in Gitmo. But this time, with a twist, the scapegoated commander at Abu Ghraib will testify against the secretary emeritus.
The next Republican to achieve emeritus status, Ken Mehlman, out the door at the Republican National Committee. If the party is purging its campaigners, why is Karl Rove suffering no more than a few jokes?
Day three of a bipartisan D.C., day three out of a series of just three? How soon before the happy, happy joy, joy vanishes? And will this prove to have been the biggest compromise?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), ASSISTANT MINORITY LEADER: I do want to say thanks personally to the president and the vice president for their conciliatory gesture by wearing blue ties today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And why did the Democrats win? The right-wing spin, the victorious challenges were centrist, even slightly conservative. The Arianna Huffington answer, Nonsense. The Democrats who won, won because they protested Iraq, and they better act on those protests. She will join us.
Oddly, the most straightforward explanation may have come from this man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They ran good campaigns, and they talked about issues that (INAUDIBLE) that the people care about, and they won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the LAPD in trouble, and on tape again.
Frat boys suing Borat.
And Denise Richards hits old ladies with laptops.
If you think that was funny...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Perhaps I need to do a better job of explaining.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART,” COMEDY CHANNEL)
JON STEWART, HOST: Is there some sort of noise that you could think of, maybe a vocalization, that would convey your excitement...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TONIGHT WITH JAY LENO”)
JAY LENO, HOST: The only Republican now with a man date is Congressman Mark Foley.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Get out of your car, cut off your Slawson (ph), get back into your car.
The week that was for the political yuckmeisters.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART,” COMEDY CHANNEL)
HOWARD DEAN, CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Boo-yah!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Karl Rove insisting Tuesday‘s election results were just temporary, John McCain insisting this is the perfect time to start running for president, some Capitol Hill Republicans insisting if Donald Rumsfeld had been fired last week, their election results would have been just ducky, and some jurists in Germany insisting Mr. Rumsfeld and those he left behind in the administration are subject to prosecution for war crimes.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, are Republicans still preaching bipartisanship because it‘s an easy way to avoid having to admit they are Republicans?
It at least sounded like a brave new world today in the Oval Office, President Bush offering praise to the Senate‘s top two Democrats, leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and assistant leader Dick Durbin of Illinois, Vice President Cheney making the photo call if not actually opening his mouth, public statements failing to—or rather, falling to the president and the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I congratulated them on great victories, the—I know that they were proud of their team‘s efforts, and they ran good campaigns, and they talked about issues that (INAUDIBLE) that people care about, and they won. And my attitude about this is that there is a great opportunity for us to show the country that Republicans and Democrats are equally as patriotic and equally concerned about the future, and that we can work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DURBIN: This is a day for looking forward, as we should, instead of looking backwards to past battles and past elections. And I do want to say thanks personally to the president and vice president for their conciliatory gesture by wearing blue ties today. From our side, we think that is a symbolic indication, and we‘re off to a good start.
BUSH: (INAUDIBLE) notice, Senator. Thank you all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Despite the niceties, the White House apparently already on a collision course with the Democrats over the president‘s priorities for the lame duck session of Congress ahead, including the renomination of U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, and the authorization of domestic eavesdropping.
After today‘s meeting in the Oval Office, Senator Reid even raising the possibility of subpoenas, albeit gently raising it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I don‘t want to frighten anyone about investigations. Congressional oversight is not a negative, it‘s not a negative term, people talk about investigations. There will be times, on rare occasions, when subpoenas will have to be honored, but rarely. If Congress does its job, and does congressional oversight as has been done for more than 200 years, it‘s good for everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Karl Rove, meanwhile, with some inner turmoil of his own, the White House strategist telling “TIME” magazine in an interview posted on its Web site that Iraq did not play a critical role in the results of Tuesday‘s election, it being his idea, you will recall, to make Iraq the central theme of the Republican campaign, Mr. Rove, math whiz, suggesting that corruption and scandal actually figured more prominently.
“Iraq mattered,” said Mr. Rove, “but it was more frustration than it was an explicit call for withdrawal. Abramoff, lobbying, Foley, and Haggard added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass.” The overall meaning of Tuesday‘s vote? “I see this as much more of a transient, passing thing.”
Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent at “Newsweek.”
Good evening, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How do we explain the show for the cameras both today and yesterday? Should we enjoy the pleasantries while they last, because on Monday, when Congress goes back into session, it will be the first day of the rest of our partisan bickering lives?
WOLFFE: Keith, you‘re being so hard on them. I‘m sure they could string it out until Tuesday, at least.
You know, look, this is a great performance. Everybody knows what they need to say right now. And by all accounts, people are genuinely trying to look like they can play nicely, even obviously complimenting each other‘s neckwear, an important part of bipartisan compromise, obviously.
Look, people don‘t know. In the White House, outside the White House, they know that it will be, to echo Karl Rove, a transient thing. They just don‘t know whether it‘s days, weeks, months. I imagine people that people will play nice through the State of the Union. But pretty quickly, as we get into these investigations, it‘s going to be falling-apart time. And the White House says, look, they can compartmentalize, they can still get on while these investigations are underway. I‘m skeptical.
OLBERMANN: This interview, Karl Rove, you just referred to it, the one he‘s just done, where he said this is transient. And I swear this is true. John Dean, who studied these guys in his book, “Conservatives Without Conscience,” we traded e-mails yesterday. He said, based on his research, you could count on the current leaders to rationalize Tuesday by saying it was a fluke of some sort. Pretty good unintentional prediction by John. No doubt Rove believes what he said. What about the president? What about the Republican rank and file?
WOLFFE: Well, the president was taking his cues from Karl Rove. And clearly, they were much more optimistic than, for instance, congressional leaders about where this was going to come out.
So the smart people—and Karl Rove is a smart guy, he says things in public that maybe aren‘t what he thinks in private. And the smart people like Karl, like Ken Mehlman, are spending their time looking at these results, looking at the turnout, looking at their own statistics before the election, trying to figure out what happened.
Their best position right now is that there were multiple stories out there. In some cases it was immigration, some cases it was the war, some cases it was scandal. But, you know, Karl‘s grand sweep of history is that the country is turning Republican. I don‘t think one election is going to disabuse him of that notion.
OLBERMANN: Explain this one, then, too, if you would, Mr. Bush planning to meet with the Iraq Study Group on Monday. Until today, that included Mr. Rumsfeld‘s designated replacement, Mr. Gates. Mr. Gates, however, because of his resignation from the commission, will not be in attendance at Monday‘s meeting. How exactly does that make sense?
WOLFFE: Well, it‘s not unusual for people to go to ground when they‘re getting ready for confirmation hearings. I don‘t know whether it was a photo-op ready for this study group. But, you know, they may be uncomfortable with him trying to play both roles. Of course, as you point out, it makes perfect sense that here is a guy with Iraq experience through the study group, and obviously he‘s going to be job number one at the Pentagon, is going to be Iraq.
But I think a lot of it is to do with the very strange world they enter in the preconfirmation period, when, of course, Iraq is going to be the number one subject.
OLBERMANN: And while you‘re explaining things, John McCain is apparently, according to the Associated Press, going to launch an exploratory committee for the 2008 presidential run next week. Why would this be the moment to do that?
WOLFFE: I‘m shocked, Keith. He‘s been running already. I mean, this exploratory committee stuff is fooling no one. John McCain has been recruiting folks on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan. He and Mitt Romney have been having a sort of battle of operatives on the ground, even as they pretended to campaign, albeit genuinely, of course, for people in the 2006 elections. So these guys are already running. And it‘s a formality, it really is.
OLBERMANN: However, the Associated Press says that McCain‘s aides say the senator will discuss a presidential bid with his family over the Christmas holiday. Does not mean he hasn‘t made up his mind already.
WOLFFE: Oh, of course. That‘s the next photo-op.
OLBERMANN: Right. Merry Christmas, I‘m running.
Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek.” As always, sir, great thanks.
Have a good weekend.
WOLFFE: And you.
OLBERMANN: As to reasons behind the Democrats‘ stunning victory in Tuesday‘s election, what Mr. Bush himself has called a thumping, let‘s call in Arianna Huffington, political gadfly, editor of the blog The Huffington Post.
Good to talk to you, Arianna. Thanks for your time tonight.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Good to talk to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There has been a lot of talk since Tuesday about the election having been won—the Republicans have said this a lot—because the Democrats were able to stake out the political center, the purple state argument. And you have written that‘s complete nonsense. Can you summarize why?
HUFFINGTON: Because, Keith, there were three reasons why Democrats won, and they are Iraq, Iraq, and Iraq. And that‘s not a matter of opinion, it‘s a matter of fact. Just look at races everywhere. Just look at Pennsylvania, where you had Lois Murphy, who was considered to be a shoo-in. She ran it by the book, centrist campaign, and she lost. She did not even mention Iraq on her Web site, where she mentions all the issues that she‘s running on.
Then you had Patrick Murphy, a war veteran, who was considered a long shot, and he ran on Iraq, unequivocally against the war, and he won. And that is across the country. In New Hampshire, in Kentucky, in red states and blue states, Iraq was the big issue. And Jack Murtha is a hero who put it on the table for the Democrats.
OLBERMANN: Was it he who started this, or was it Russ Feingold being the lone guy who voted against the PATRIOT Act, or was it Murtha almost a year ago on the—at the House floor, or was it Bill Clinton calling out Chris Wallace? Do you have a starting point for what happened on Tuesday?
HUFFINGTON: Oh, yes. The starting point is clear. I mean, Russ Feingold was great. But the thing that made Murtha the starting point, when last November, almost a year ago, he basically said, I was wrong for voting for the war. The thing that made that so significant is that Jack Martha was a hawk. Everybody knew that Jack Murtha had great contacts, in the military everywhere, that he had been a friend of the military forever, that he was a veteran. When he spoke out against the war, when very soon after, he called it a civil war, it was a very significant moment.
And, in fact, you may remember that many people in his own party, including Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer, were aghast. Now, Rahm Emanuel told “The New York Times” yesterday that why he was absolutely filled with foreboding about this at the time, now he recognizes it as how significant it was for the victory that the Democrats are now enjoying.
OLBERMANN: So if it is, as you put it, Iraq, Iraq, and Iraq, it would seem the Democrats have a large obligation to deliver about Iraq, even if they don‘t have the power on their own to bring the troops home sooner rather than later, they‘re going to need (INAUDIBLE) fight hard and fight loudly, will they not?
HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. But they have significant power, Keith.
They have the power of the purse and they have the power of investigations. And they should use both. And the third step, the third thing they should do, is make sure that Jack Murtha is elected majority leader, the number two spot that he‘s vying for.
You know, when Jack Murtha came out against the war almost a year ago, we got in touch with him on The Huffington Post and asked him to blog. And it‘s been really amazing to see him blogging 24 times, and every time he has something to say. He wouldn‘t just say it out there in the country, he would say it on a blog, which meant that everybody immediately had access to it. He understands modern communication. He is a real leader, and it‘s really moving to see how one man can make such an enormous difference that he did make.
OLBERMANN: What do you make, finally, of this Karl Rove interview with Mike Allen at “TIME” that underestimated corruption, it wasn‘t about Iraq, if it had been about Iraq, Ned Lamont would have won, and that the events of Tuesday are just transient?
HUFFINGTON: This is Karl Rove, once again, being Karl Rove, and trying to take this issue away, to take it off the table. He won‘t be able to succeed, because what happened to Ned Lamont is, in fact, the exact opposite. Ned Lamont won the primary because of Iraq, and he lost because he did not fight hard enough on Iraq.
Remember, after he won the primary, he decided to sound senatorial, to, quote unquote, “tone down the rhetoric,” to speak about other issues. And he left a vacuum into which, very cleverly, stepped Joe Lieberman, who started talking like Jack Murtha. He really started going on about how we needed to not be as involved in Iraq, that, yes, of course, we had bring our troops home.
So he muddied the waters in terms of the message.
OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington, founder and editor of HuffingtonPost.com. Great thanks, as always, for joining us. Have a good weekend.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The Iraq Study Group appears to be the one way the president can find a face-saving way out of the quagmire that is Iraq. But what exactly is its exit strategy?
And he was meant to help the Republicans win on Tuesday. Instead, Ken Mehlman will now be losing his job. Is the GOP starting to come apart at the seams?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the question of what next in Iraq cannot turn into action soon enough. Twenty-six U.S. troops have been killed there in just the first 10 days of November.
What‘s next for outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may be a war crimes tribunal. More on that presently.
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda in Iraq has put out another audiotape, one claiming it has 12,000 fighters there, and it encourages President Bush, quote, “not to hurry up in escaping,” not being taken too seriously.
The man chosen by the president to replace Mr. Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, has resigned from the Iraq Study Group in anticipation of his new position. Mr. Gates will have dinner tonight with President Bush, President H.W. Bush. One of the secretaries of state from the first Bush administration, James Baker, is already co-chair of that bipartisan Iraq Study Group, and replacing Mr. Gates will be another, former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger.
Everything old is new again. But leaders from both parties are increasingly looking to these old hands to provide the new options in Iraq.
Our chief foreign affairs correspondent is Andrea Mitchell.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
It‘s a tried and true Washington solution, a bipartisan commission to help elected officials deal with an impossible problem like Iraq.
GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think that offers the option, including the political cover, that will be needed to move away from the current policy. But one thing is clear, there has to be a change in policy.
MITCHELL: In a unique position to implement the recommendations, the president‘s new defense nominee, Bob Gates, a member of the Iraq Study Group who recently visited Baghdad for a firsthand look. Gates is also a veteran of the first Bush administration, as is James Baker, the study group‘s co-chairman.
On Comedy Central‘s “Daily Show,” Baker recently told Jon Stewart the panel‘s power is in its independence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART,” COMEDY CHANNEL)
STEWART: So you can speak freely?
JAMES BAKER, CO-CHAIR, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: I can speak very freely.
And we will. And there‘ll probably be some things in our report that the administration might not like.
STEWART: May I send you a note that you could give to them?
BAKER: You may. Yes, indeed, I‘ll be happy to have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL (voice-over): But there are no easy options. Officials say the group may propose a regional summit with Iraq‘s neighbors, Iran and Syria, to get them involved. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney oppose such talks.
Economic investment by Iraq‘s neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, eventually, but not right away, a phasedown of U.S. troops. And political reconciliation among Iraqi factions, with Iraq‘s government taking more responsibility, and the U.S. stepping back.
STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: And the question for all of us is, how can we do a better job of supporting them in their efforts to do what they have set for themselves?
MITCHELL: It is a rejection of the more ideological approach of Rumsfeld and his former advisers, like Ken Adelman.
KEN ADELMAN: There‘s no question that Bob Gates will bring a more realistic approach to Iraq. He does not have the burden of having done a bunch of mistakes over the last three or four years, he doesn‘t have the burden of, you know, being a very criticized secretary of defense.
MITCHELL (on camera): James Baker says his study group will deliver a consensus report without dissenting opinions, bridging the gaps between Republicans and Democrats. And in this town, that in itself will be very unusual.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: And to the charges against Mr. Rumsfeld, alleging that the prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo can be traced directly to him, as well as to a bevy of present and former Bush administration officials, “TIME” magazine now reporting the legal documents to be filed next week in Germany seeking a criminal investigation and prosecution of Mr. Rumsfeld, the thrust of it that the abuses at Abu Ghraib went all the way to the top of the chain of command through the secretary of defense, that assertion in a written statement coming from former brigadier general Janice Karpinsky, former commander of U.S. military prisons in Iraq, the one who took the fall in that case.
The complaint will include Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet, and others. Germany permits universal jurisdiction for alleged war crimes anywhere in the world. Once Mr. Rumsfeld leaves his post, he will lose his legal immunity.
This pales in comparison to charges of war crimes, but Rumsfeld and his bosses are also facing the wrath of fellow Republicans, some of them wondering why on earth the president waited till after the election to get rid of him.
And it may be halfway through November, but every day is Halloween for this furry friend. Trick-or-treat. Oddball ahead.
OLBERMANN: One of the great voices of broadcasting was born on this date in 1919. The late George Feniman (ph) not only did a billion TV commercials, not only served as Groucho Marx‘s sidekick on the game show “You Bet Your Life,” he even married (ph) an early episode of “The Simpsons.” But today, almost a decade after his passing, he‘s still part of the American culture. As the announcer for the second TV version of “Dragnet,” it was his voice you heard when the show began with the unforgettable line, “The story you are about to see is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”
Let‘s play Oddball.
Might be of use for this segment. We begin in Cascades Township, Michigan, where we‘ll just call this deer John to protect it from unnecessary embarrassment. Think we can all figure out the facts of this story on our own. Clearly, the animal got drunk on Halloween. His deer friends stuffed a pumpkin on his head while he was passed out. Same thing happened to our director, Brian Nailsman (ph).
Problem is, he can‘t seem to get the thing off. Local wildlife officials say they‘re not—they are going to help, they‘re not going to help. To make matters worse, hunting season is coming up, and he is going to be the easiest target in the forest. Luckily, there is one man out there who could save the day if we could just find him in time. They call him the Bear (INAUDIBLE).
To Solon (ph) Springs, Wisconsin, where this group of old ladies just witnessed a guy getting sideswiped by a car. No, apparently, that was a typo. Just Jo Stewart‘s Laughing Club. They meet on the street corner every Thursday morning to yuck it up in public places. Seventy-year-old Jo Stewart says it‘s the laughter that keeps her so healthy and vibrant, and she‘s sharing the gift with anyone who wants to join her little group. All you have to do is show up, do 10 bong hits with Jo, and you laugh until your ribs hurt.
Speaking of a good laugh, Republicans are claiming the Democratic wave of victory Tuesday shows that voters are getting more conservative. That‘s why Ken Mehlman is out? That assessment one of many comedic opportunities this election. The late night hosts took advantage of all of it. We‘ll round up the best of the political humor ahead.
Now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, the football team at Marshall University. You may have seen the recent film, “We Are Marshall,” about the plane crash in 1970 that killed nearly the entire team there on its way back from East Carolina University. Today, the 2006 Marshall team was flying to East Carolina for a game tomorrow. They all had to be evacuated prior to takeoff when smoke appeared in one of the engines. Nothing serious, nobody hurt. It‘s merely too strange for words.
Number two, Sheriff Mike Rackley of Dallas County, Missouri. After prisoners at the jail there damaged the place during a botched breakout, Sheriff Rackley showed them. He repainted the place in a new design scheme, pink walls with blue teddy bears on them. Day care for adults, he calls it.
And number one, and this may be the all-time number one, John Rodstrom, commissioner of Broward County, Florida. He was a stamp collector when he was a kid, so Tuesday, as he sorted through the absentee ballots that were mailed in, he could not believe his eyes. The 87 cents‘ worth of stamps on one ballot—they think they‘re legitimate stamps—consisted of four examples, one from World War II, two more stamps from the ‘30s, and a 1918 inverted Jenny (ph).
If you have a stamp collector watching with you who‘s just passed out, call a doctor now. There are only 100 inverted Jennies known in stamp collecting. They have a picture of a plane printed upside down. They‘re worth about half a million dollars each.
The ballot on which one of them was stuck was unsigned, so only somebody crazy or incredibly stupid would have used one to mail in an absentee ballot.
Wait, doesn‘t Ann Coulter vote in Florida?
OLBERMANN: Before the elections, Republicans were unlikely to admit Iraq is in a state of civil war, today they seem to admit their own party is in a state of civil war.
In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, how did the perpetual majority suddenly fall and what does the GOP stand for at the moment? And who‘s going to replace Ken Mehlman?
In 1994, Republicans had built a big tent by folding in more and more factions, now those factions seem to be at each other‘s throats, and blaming each other for Tuesday‘s losses, claiming the mantle for the future. Waiting until Wednesday to can Don Rumsfeld did not heal the decision.
“For them to toss Rumsfeld one day after the election was a slap in the face to everyone who worked hard to protect the majority,” one aide to the House leadership told the newspaper, “The Hill.”
In addition to that leadership, another Republican departing his post will be the RNC chair, Mr. Mehlman, so widely portrayed as the Mr. Wizard of voter turnout. On Wednesday, Mehlman joined a weekly meeting of dozens of top conservatives who, according to the “L.A. Times” said they lost on Tuesday because the party was not conservative enough, and should focus more on things like cutting taxes and preventing gay marriage, which must come as a surprise to FOX News who were floating the idea that conservatives actually won on Tuesday.
At the risk of introducing facts into this debate, and since the
actual victories don‘t seem to have settled the matter, let‘s look at the
exit polls. Did the base really abandoned Republicans for not being
conservative enough? In 2004, 72 percent of white Evangelical Born Again
Christians, voted Republican, this year it was 71 percent. It wasn‘t the -
if the base wasn‘t punishing the GOP for conservative drift, is there any evidence, other than a FOX News banner, that the non-base vote, also known as the rest of the country, went conservative Tuesday?
Let‘s look at the numbers for these “fringe” groups. The middle class, 52-45 for the Democrats; suburbanites 50-48 for the Democrats;
Independents 57-39 for the Democrats; Moderates 60-38 for the Democrats;
Hispanics, 69-30 for the Democrats.
Oh, and there is a frickin‘ socialist in the senate too, by the way.
Here to help figure out the Republican identity crisis is MSNBC contributor Jonathan Alter, also, of course, senior editor at “Newsweek.”
Jonathan, thanks for your time again tonight.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We‘ve talked about the warring GOP factions. In essence, everyone wants to insure their ideology doesn‘t take the fall. The uber-con Grover Norquist chalked it up to individual losses. He told the “Financial Times,” let me read this exactly, “Don Sherwood‘s Pennsylvania seat would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress had not whined about being throttled. The lesson should be, don‘t throttle mistresses.”
I mean, that could have been worse. He could have said the lessons should be don‘t whine about being throttled, but should what he did say be the lesson—vote Republican, we‘re the party of non-mistress throttlers?
ALTER: You know, I‘ve known Grover since, and been arguing with him since we were in college together. I mean, this just shows how to out to lunch they are. Their big tent got blown over by Tuesday‘s hurricane. The idea that somehow it was just scandals that did them in, just the Don Sherwood‘s of the world -- 20 incumbent lost, Keith, 20 Republican incumbents and they had—and not all of them were embroiled in scandal.
And there were, you know, another 30 that won by the skin of their teeth, are in serious danger the next time around. The conservative movement, as Pat Buchanan, who I rarely agree with, says, has atrophied almost to the point of extension in the last 40 years. It started in 1966, with those mid-term elections, when the made big gains after the Goldwater debacle and it‘s running out of gas. Does that mean conservatism is dead? Of course not. But this particular movement that Grover say represents, is in big, big trouble in this country.
OLBERMANN: Did the GOP, in your assessment of the data that we have, lose Tuesday, because it failed to carry out its goals or because it succeeded and the voters looked at that and went “no, I don‘t think so?”
ALTER: I think it was the latter, I mean, they succeeded in, you know, getting their Iraq war and the American public didn‘t like it, and this was, in some ways, a referendum on that war, and the leader of their party, a conservative icon, President Bush, was a referendum on his performance, which was found wanting. And there were other issues, though, this notions that somehow the conservatives had been corrupted. Sort of like, you know, the animals in “Animal Farm” when they go up into the people‘s house and start, you know, dancing around and acting like people, that conservatives did imitate the worst of old-fashioned pork-barrel politics. The ones who survived mostly did so by doing that.
The problem with going back to the core principles, which what they‘re planning to do now, is that those core principles of lower taxes and smaller government, it‘s not a governing idea, it‘s a critique, but not a governing idea. If it was they would have done that when they got in, but they realize they couldn‘t perpetuate their power with those conservative ideas. Meanwhile, you know, the neocons have been totally discredited, and the theocons are kind of dispirited. So, their coalition is in great, great peril.
OLBERMANN: Obviously before we know it, we‘ll be in the primaries, goodness, we might be in the primaries tonight with the “Associated Press” story about John McCain forming an exploratory group in 2008 that will be announced next week. When all this actually starts, if it‘s next week or next month or next year, the activist and not the moderates will be out there in play and making a lot of noise, and there will not be a nominee coming out of the Bush administration. What are the primaries going to tell us about the Republican Party‘s new identity, if any?
ALTER: Well, they‘ve become important because, you know, the nominee then shapes the future, so you know, I think one reason McCain has a good chance is because he really is not a base politician, he‘s kissing up to them a little bit now, in order to kind of get through customs as a conservative, but he goes more with the traditional view of American politics, of tacking to the center, the opposite of Karl Rove‘s idea.
And I think the base strategy that Rove used is, we‘re going to see it as a great exception. Usually presidents govern from the center and the problem is the Republican primaries are still so dominated by hardcore conservatives that these candidates, whether for president other offices, get whipsawed. They know that in order to win in November, they should tack toward the center, but if they do too much before their primaries they‘ll get wiped out by a conservative in the primaries. So, these incumbents are in political parole looking ahead to the next election.
OLBERMANN: And we‘ll when John McCain gets slapped around for having slapped around John Kerry the last week before the election, probably come after the primaries. We‘ll see how that turns out.
Senior editor Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek,” as always, great thanks, have a great weekend.
ALTER: Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, deja vu for the LAPD. Another police beating there, caught on camera. Also in trouble with the law, Borat. Two frat boys claming his producers plied them with alcohol, and that‘s why they made racist and sexist jokes on camera because obviously frat boys never get drunk and offensive on their own time, right? That‘s ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: An all-too familiar story with a modern twist, L.A. police caught on tape beating a suspect, but this time the department found out about it through YouTube.
And putting the tee-hee in D.C., the elections providing all kinds of political funnies for the late night comics. The best of all that ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It is not the norm in Southern California in a community so vast there are thousands peace officers above all reproach, genuine heroes, true public servants, but there are also inventively and in every generation there, the other kind.
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, for a year when I lived there on the L.A.-Beverly Hills border I would do my shopping late at night and walk home. Took me several weeks to understand why the minute I crossed the dividing line a police car would shine an incredibly bright light on me and then almost instantly turn it off. Then I happened to see one shining the light on another pedestrian and not turn it off. I was white and the other guy was not.
It‘s happened again in Hollywood, only this time the trouble has made its way to you via YouTube. And now, as our correspondent Stephanie Stanton reports, it has captured the interest of a far more traditional organization, the FBI.
STEPHANIE STANTON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some civil rights activists are calling for the arrest and prosecution of two police officers caught on video punching 23-year-old William Cardenas in the face before he was handcuffed and taken into custody for resisting arrest.
WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE CHIEF: There‘s no denying the video is disturbing.
STANTON: The cell phone video, taken by a neighbor last August, is now the subject of an FBI investigation after it was given to a police watchdog group that posted it on the popular internet website, YouTube.
JOAQUIN CIENFUEGOS, COPWATCH: Unless me make it accessible and more people know about it, they actually will just sweep it under the rug.
BRATTON: As to whether the actions of the officer were appropriate in light of what he was experiencing, the totality of circumstances, that‘s what the investigation will hopefully determine.
STANTON: Police say Cardenas is a gang member, also wanted for buying a stolen pistol. The officers claimed they were forced to subdue him after he resisted arrest. Now those officers have been placed on desk duty while federal officials determine if they‘ve violated any LAPD policies or procedures.
Stephanie Stanton, NBC NEWS, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: On to our nightly roundup of celebrity and tabloid news. And Borat insinuating himself even further into the American cultural landscape by getting sued. Two fraternity boys in South Carolina have filed a complaint alleging they were duped by the filmmakers into getting drunk and behaving like morons sewing racist and sexist comments. Might as well call it the “Mel Gibson defense.”
The plaintiffs have remained anonymous, however, to spare themselves further publicity—super idea, as the movie in which embarrass themselves is moving into a much wider release this weekend. Anyway, the two dudes identified in the movie as frat members from a South Carolina university say they were loosened up the movie‘s production crew in a bar and told that the documentary would only be shown outside the United States. Oops.
And Denise Richard‘s laptop computer crashed a few seconds after she tossed if off a hotel balcony. In fact, she threw not one but two laptops from a balcony at the River Rock Casino Resort in British Columbia, because, reportedly, she was annoyed with photographers trying to take her picture. Lock and load! Miss Richards spokeswoman said, “Based on the actions of the paparazzi they are lucky their laptops were the only things that were thrown off the ledge.”
The laptops did not hit the photographers, but rather two elderly women in the lobby below. They were injured, just bruised, Miss Richards was filming a scene for the appropriately named film, “Blond and Blonder.”
Its masterminds would argue just how connected or how intentional, but even they would agree the fates of FOX News Channel and the Republican Party are inextricably intertwined. So, guess who else is having a crappy week?
No counting Tuesday‘s election coverage, Bill O‘Reilly‘s ratings are down another five percent just from last week. COUNTDOWN‘s coincidentally are up another 32 percent. And look at that cliched, but coveted 25 to 54-year-old audience from last night. The O‘Really? Factor, 405,000;
COUNTDOWN 321,000; CNN 210,000; Nancy “I know what you did last summer” Grace, 200,000.
That‘s right, we were doing 79 percent of Bill-O‘s business. And it was worse the hour before, at 7:00. Wolf Blitzer, 327,000; Chris Matthews, 302,000; Shepard Smith on FOX, 262,000. FOX, third place. He will be punished severely!
And lastly, the actor who made his name in Westerns, both classic and later comedic, has died. Jack Palance, after sever burns during World War II service required literally dozens of operations, Mr. Palance started as the menacing hired gun in the classic 1953 western, “Shane,” but he would play dozens of roles in a 44 year career, and he was blunt in his assessment of it. Once telling a reporter “Most of the stuff that I do is garbage.”
And he also said that most of the directors with whom he worked were incompetent, but his look and his voice made him unforgettable. And his cowboy self-parody in “City Slicker” won him an Oscar in 1992. It was, in accepting the award that Mr. Palance dropped to the stage to perform one-armed push-ups.
Jack Palance died of natural cause at his home at Montecito, California surrounded by family. He was 87 years old.
Also tonight, the odd couple, one of many things that provided comedy fodder for the late night hosts this election. We‘ll recap the political funnies of the week, ahead. But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”
The Bronze to Alvin Dean, arrested for speeding around a parking lot in Stock Island, Florida with a suspended license, while carrying drugs, and the parking lot was at the county jail.
I‘m going to go out on a limb here, but I‘m thinking somewhere deep in his subconscious, Mr. Dean might have wanted to get caught.
Our runners up, the Houston-based landscapers, Garden Guy, the not only informed a prospective customer that the “Need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals,” but they also express their homophobia in an email. The recipients sent it to friends, and if it hasn‘t shown up in your inbox, it will. A co-owner says the firm is sorry and “We meant no hate.” Sad part is, she probably thinks they didn‘t.
But the gold tonight to FOX News. Wow, are we kicking them when they‘re down? You bet your ass!
After all that Bill-O non-sense about the attack on Christmas last year and then it turned out FOX was selling Bill O‘Reilly holiday ornaments instead of Bill O‘Reilly Christmas ornaments. Guess what? The invitation are out for the 2006 News Corp FOX holiday party, and Christmas party, holiday party. Guess Bill-O can‘t attend.
Do you think that was the idea?
Those damned secular progressives at FOX and News Corp., today‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”
OLBERMANN: It‘s hard to say which joke about the elections was funniest. Could have been comedian Rush Limbaugh—I‘m sorry, Admitted Liar Rush Limbaugh, welcoming the Democrats as “Liberators” because they had relived him of the burden of lying to his audience, giving them propaganda even he didn‘t believe.
Could have been President Bush serenely telling the American public that he had flat out lied last week when he said Defense Secretary Rumsfeld would serve out his terms and then minutes later telling them with a straight face that Vice President Cheney would serve out his term.
Regardless, in our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, it was quite a week for the funny men, even the ones that are two deadpan to get the big guffaws like Stephen Colbert or Mr. Bush.
Cherish these highlights, it may be four years again before you get a one-party government giving back the entire legislative branch to the opposition.
CONAN O‘BRIEN, “LATE NIGHT”: Anybody use an electronic voting machine yesterday? Did you come across an electronic voting machine? No, that was a video game, sir. Was there an Italian plumber on the screen? All right.
(SINGING): Love is a bringing thing.
JAY LENO, “TONIGHT SHOW”: Woo, what an election. The GOP Is now DOA.
Oh, my god.
DAVID LETTERMAN, “LATE SHOW”: How about that race in Virginia, still too close to call. Still too close to call in Virginia and believe me this is where the Republicans shine, the crooked recount. This is.
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS: They can feel it. The can feel it, they can taste it, they can smell it, and they are starting to drink it.
JON STEWART, “DAILY SHOW”: What is victory urine?
LETTERMAN: Wait a minute. And this is Arnold Schwarzenegger and his staff celebrating his reelection to governor of the Golden State. Let‘s go live now, via satellite to Sacramento. There they are.
STEWART: Let‘s begin with the other big news out of Washington. Twenty-three years ago, two men shook hands. No one then could have guessed how closely their fates would be intertwined. Or that this week would be kind of a crappy week for both of them.
O‘BRIEN: Donald Rumsfeld announced he is stepping down.
Yeah, Rumsfeld said “I made the decision after it became clear that I couldn‘t do my job effectively, and then I waited three years.”
LETTERMAN: Our show tonight, Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of state.
This is from Edward Coleman, Elko, Nevada. “Is there anything that you won‘t miss about the job?” Anything you won‘t miss—Secretary?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hmm, I‘d have to say dodging Cheney‘s bullets in the Cabinet meeting. You just got owned, Dickey C.
CRAIG FERGUSON, “LATE, LATE SHOW”: So, let‘s take a look back at some of the highlights of Donald‘s career.
QUESTION: Actually, General Myers made similar references to the failings of the insurgency including...
It came out. You haven‘t made changes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush had a date today with our speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, they went to lunch. Madam Speaker dined on chicken cordon bleu and asparagus, while the president enjoyed his usual Lunchables and a big plastic mug of Sunny-D.
LENO: Mr. President, thank you! Now the day before the election, you predicted the GOP would keep the majority in both houses. Did you know majority means over 50 percent?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I did not know that.
LENO: Did you know there are 50 states?
BUSH: No, I did not.
LENO: Now, I heard that before the election, you were campaigning in Texas.
BUSH: Which is different from Vietnam.
LENO: Yes, it is.
STEWART: You‘re you excited today, is there some sort of noise that you could think of, maybe a vocalization that would convey your excitement over your victory, and go ahead and make that noise and I promise I will not replay it.
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: Would it be something like—would it be something like boo-yeah!
FERGUSON: And I think, though, President Bush is taking the Republican defeat very hard. There have been rumors that he‘s drinking again.
BUSH: Perhaps I need to (INAUDIBLE) explain—that we‘re constantly adjusting—and to presh prospection with the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s been a tough 24 hours.
O‘BRIEN: I know, yes sir, I imagine it would be hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I thought Britney really loved K-Fed.
O‘BRIEN: Yes, they seemed meant for each other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really did. I thought those two had something special.
O‘BRIEN: Yeah, something special. Well sir, no, I‘m talking about, of course, the elections.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yeah, how‘d those turn out?
O‘BRIEN: Well, I hate to tell you, it‘s not good. Yeah, your party has lost control of the House of Representatives, and the Senate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, man. Do we still control FOX News?
O‘BRIEN: Yeah, yeah. We still have that.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, that‘s comforting. As General Powell once said, maybe it applies to FOX, “You broke it, you bought it.”
That‘s COUNTDOWN, for this the 1,287th since the declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.
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