Guest: Dana Milbank
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Meet the star witness, Valerie Plame Wilson.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve never questioned a spy before.
VALERIE PLAME WILSON: I‘ve never testified under oath before.
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OLBERMANN: She testifies she didn‘t recommend her husband for the fact-finding mission to Niger. She didn‘t have the authority. She said she always knew she risked exposure as a CIA agent by a foreign government, never dreamed she‘d be outed by her own government.
The big question behind the dazzle, why didn‘t the CIA or the White House investigate the loss of a CIA operative?
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REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D): Was any disciplinary action taken against Mr. Rove for failing to report his knowledge of the breach of Mrs. Wilson‘s identity?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, Mr. Chairman.
WAXMAN: No action was taken, or, no, you don‘t know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No action was taken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: More action in Gonzales-gate. Wednesday, it was Harriet Miers‘ fault. Yesterday it was Karl Rove‘s fault. Whose fault is it tonight?
Whose fault is it if Steven Colbert suddenly has problems booking Democratic politicians as guests on his show? Why does Rahm Emanuel want to keep his colleagues off Colbert?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE COLBERT REPORT,” COMEDY CHANNEL)
STEVEN COLBERT, HOST: Tonight‘s subject, throwing kittens in a wood chipper. I‘m against it. I think it‘s wrong. John, tear me a new one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, there are times when you have to find a way to dispose of kittens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And please meet Brenda the boric acid lady. A neighbor claims Brenda threw boric acid at him. Brenda says the stuff is harmless, so harmless she can do this with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Why are you do...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I‘m going to do it just, you know, to make sure of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you doing that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I want to prove a point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, but that‘s not healthy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn‘t bother me. Says environmental safe on the label.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And there‘s obviously nothing wrong with her.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As God as my witness, may He strike me dead.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The obscure 1952 Frank Sinatra movie in which he signs up for much more than he bargained for and is ultimately betrayed by those supposed to protect him is surprisingly a propos tonight, giving its title, “Meet Danny Wilson.”
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, meet Valerie Wilson. Today, as Republican anger over the newest White House scandal, Gonzales-gate, continued to build, and one network reported his firing was now inevitable, the CIA operative at the heart of what is probably Mr. Bush‘s most enduring scandal told Congress how the administration blew her cover and ruined her career.
First, Valerie Wilson, the outed intelligence officer telling her side of the story for the first time today, nearly four years after she went from being an unknown quantity to a household name. As you will recall, the subsequent investigation into her exposure led to the recent perjury and obstruction of justice convictions of Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney‘s former chief of staff, everyone else in the administration who had leaked her identity to the media still untouched, Mrs. Wilson today recalling how it felt to see her identity exposed and her career destroyed.
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WILSON: My name is Valerie Plame Wilson, and I‘m honored to be invited to testify under oath before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the critical issue of safeguarding classified information.
I‘m grateful for this opportunity to set the record straight.
My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department.
REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY: How did you react when you learned that your identity had been disclosed?
WILSON: I found out very early in the morning, when my husband came in and dropped the newspaper on the bed and said, He did it. And I quickly turned, and read the article. And I felt like I had been hit in the gut.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve never questioned a spy before.
WILSON: I‘ve never testified under oath before.
REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D): I want to ask you now under oath, did you make the decision to send Ambassador Wilson to Niger?
WILSON: No, I did not recommend him, I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I didn‘t have the authority.
In February of 2002, a young junior officer who worked for me came to me very concerned, very upset. She had just received a telephone call on her desk from someone, I don‘t know who, in the office of the vice president, asking about this report of this alleged sale of yellowcake uranium from Niger to Iraq.
Someone passed by, another officer, heard this. He knew that Joe had
already—my husband—had already gone on some CIA missions previously,
to deal with other nuclear matters. And he suggested, Well, why don‘t we
send Joe? And as I was leaving, he asked me to draft a quick e-mail to the
chief of our counterproliferation division, letting him know that this was
I said, Of course, and it was that e-mail, Congressman, that was taken out of context, a portion of which you see in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report of July 2004, that makes it seem as though I had suggested or recommended him.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Do you believe there continue to be people, individuals, in this administration who were involved in leaking the information about you?
WILSON: Yes, Congressman. As we know, for one, Karl Rove clearly was involved in the leaking of my name, and he still carries a security clearance to this day, despite the president‘s words to the contrary that he would immediately dismiss anyone who had anything to do with this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We‘re joined by a former CIA colleague and current close friend of Mrs. Wilson, Larry Johnson, also the former deputy director of the Office of Counterterrorism at the State Department.
Thank you for your time tonight, Larry.
LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I understand that you had dinner with Mrs. Wilson just last night. Let me name-drop, say I talked to her last week. She was very focused on her testimony today. Tell me what you thought and what she thought she was hoping to accomplish by it today.
JOHNSON: Well, a group of us, not just myself, but a couple of other former classmates took her out last night to ease her mind, and she came in relaxed today and did a terrific job, very poised, very eloquent, and demonstrated the kind of person that we‘ve known now for over 20 years, someone who is very serious, very patriotic, very business minded, and—but ultimately, a tough person, who‘s not going to just sit back and take these kinds of attacks so lightly.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps most significant in this, and it, and it obviously she overshadowed it for obvious reasons, being this is the first at-length discussion of all this from her. But, but in the hearing, we also got on the record that the White House on the record on the current status of Karl Rove, another witness who appeared after Mrs. Wilson, the director of the White House security office, confirming that no disciplinary action was ever taken against Mr. Rove, that he still has his security clearance, that the CIA never investigated what happened to this valuable asset of theirs in Valerie Wilson.
Is all that as outrageous to you as it appears to be to Valerie Wilson?
JOHNSON: The unfortunate thing, Keith, is the lists of outrages with this administration keeps growing by the day. You know, it‘s—you know, pick chapter and verse. Do we want to talk about wounded vets, betraying a national security asset like Valerie? Do you want to talk about firing eight U.S. attorneys? I mean, it just—you know, it‘s going on and on.
And so what is clear is a consistent pattern of incompetence, and a (INAUDIBLE), and a dereliction of duty, a fundamental dereliction of duty, instead of upholding your obligations to protect the United States, it seems as if they‘re hellbent on sabotaging everything that is good about America.
OLBERMANN: As to that litany of charges, we do have an hour here every night.
JOHNSON: I watch.
OLBERMANN: Is there any question now, after this, over whether, in leaking her identity, blowing her cover, that the administration officials did not just whatever damage they did to her and to her husband and to her kids, but to the agency?
JOHNSON: She was very circumspect in that respect, but made it very clear the damage was not just to her, the damage was to a network of intelligence officers and foreign assets. And it is extensive, you know, obviously the public will never be told the full dimensions of it, but there are those within the CIA that know exactly the harm that has been done. And that‘s one of the reasons it will probably never hopefully become public.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans called Victoria Toensing, the former counsel to Senate Intelligence, who‘s been very outspoken about this, but wasn‘t too good on the facts. She was adamant that nobody eve proved Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative, very, very adamant about that.
Why continue to carry this semantic debate going over the word “covert,” especially considering that Mrs. Wilson‘s book is being held up because the CIA will not even confirm that she worked for them before 2002, which would seem to be all anybody could ever need to know about how covert she was? The agency is still trying to be coy about her.
JOHNSON: I think it‘s time to do some drug testing on Victoria Toensing to find out what hallucinogens she‘s ingesting. I mean for pete‘s sakes, you have the CIA director, General Hayden, himself submit a statement that said Valerie was covert. Valerie testified under oath, in the aftermath of the “Scooter” Lewis Libby trial, where he got charged with perjury. She‘s under oath. She testifies under oath, I was undercover, I was covert. I was classified.
So here you have two people affiliated with the CIA that say she‘s covert, and Victoria Toensing, what does she know? She‘s never worked at the CIA, never been briefed by the CIA, and we take her opinion? The woman‘s a twit.
OLBERMANN: Yes, the prosecutor in the Libby case, Mr. Fitzgerald, made a statement on the courthouse steps saying there‘s no question she was covert.
In any event, Larry Johnson, formerly of the CIA and the State Department, and a friend and classmate of Valerie Plame Wilson. Great thanks for some of your time tonight.
JOHNSON: Thanks so much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, inside Gonzales-gate, as Washington does everything but place odds on when the attorney general will be gone.
Another document dump ahead, breaking news on that.
And another scandal involving Gonzales and the infamous warrantless domestic spying is gaining additional steam.
A difference political scandal, why some congressmen are being told to stay away from Steven Colbert and his show, Democratic congressmen.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: We did not get a third day of document dumpage in Gonzales-gate today, but the Justice Department reported at dinnertime tonight that all the documents requested of it by Congress will be released to the House and the public on Monday. That‘s presumably still more e-mails among key operatives in the attorney general‘s office and others, perhaps.
Plus, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the CBS White House bureau quoting Republican sources as saying, quote, “It is now inevitable that the attorney general will be fired,” this as a growing number of Republicans blast Gonzales, even as a group of Democrats calls for answers on yet another emerging scandal, about which more in a moment.
First, that GOP rebellion. Fired Republican U.S. attorney Bud Cummins, loyally toeing the line until today, now he is telling TPMMuckraker.com that Gonzales‘s reasons for firing the other seven were fabricated lies.
And it gets worse back in Washington. Senator Gordon Smith, “It would be helpful” to have a new attorney general. Congressman Dana Rohrbacher, “There needs to be a change.” Senator John Sununu not mincing words, “The president should fire the attorney general,” Tony Snow saying today Mr. Bush intends to keep Gonzales, but not committing to any length of tenure, and next week may bring revelations about a new scandal for the attorney general, four Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee writing to demand answers and documents by next Tuesday.
This new scandal has its roots in the Justice Department warrant-free wiretapping. Last January, Democrats asked the Justice Department watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility, OPR, to investigate whether anyone in Justice engaged in misconduct in implementation or execution of that warrant-free wiretapping.
As Gonzales admitted last summer, President Bush personally killed that OPR probe by denying investigators the security clearance they needed.
Now we are learning from a report in the National Journal that Gonzales himself was about to become a target of that ethics probe, and furthermore, that Gonzales knew he was in the crosshairs at the time he consulted with President Bush about whether or not the probe should continue.
All of which creates a new ethics problem for Mr. Gonzales, because either he kept secret from Mr. Bush the fact that he was a target, or he did tell Mr. Bush he was a target, in which case he and the president both knowingly obstructed an investigation in which the attorney general had a clear conflict of interest.
Before we get to the political implications, some context. In the 31 years since the OPR was created, no president has ever denied its investigators security clearance till now, and yet Mr. Bush simultaneously was deciding it was safe to give the exact same security clearance to the investigators pursuing whoever leaked news of his wiretap program, as well as to several private citizens sitting on his Presidential Privacy and Civil Liberties Board.
As promised, we‘ll get to the politics with Richard Wolffe, “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent, and our frequent guest here.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The question of the day, CBS saying it‘s inevitable he will be fired. Presumably that includes resignation. An ABC analyst predicted that this morning as well. What is Alberto Gonzales‘s current estimated professional lifespan?
WOLFFE: Well, if you talk to White House officials, as I do, they are adamant that the president is not going to fire him, and the president feels very loyal and very close to Gonzales and his family. And, of course, that relationship goes back a long way.
But if you talk, as I also do, to former White House officials and Republicans on Capitol Hill, it‘s quite clear that they see a mortal threat to his career, and to Gonzales‘s credibility. And really, it comes down to credibility.
So the expectation outside the White House is that he will go of his own accord, seeing that he‘s lost support dramatically on Capitol Hill, and seeing that he‘s a burden on the White House. But like I said, again, inside the White House, they‘re circling the wagons around him.
OLBERMANN: This National Journal report about the OPR being ordered not to tell Congress last year that it was the president that denied the clearance, the OPR investigators, then the Justice Department told Congress that the president denied clearance because of the risk to national security. Now we learn Bush granted the same clearance, on exactly the same material, not just to other investigators, but to civilians with an eye towards finding out who leaked the information to the public.
How is this going to—is this, is this going to magnify Gonzales‘s problems?
WOLFFE: Oh, absolutely. But it‘s not his biggest problem. His biggest problem is his credibility, again, when it comes to the U.S. attorneys.
But on this particular issue, we‘ve been down this road before. The whole idea of the eavesdropping program in its conception was to avert the idea of external probing and prying, specifically this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Now the White House says all of this is moot. I mean, they—it—the program now under the court approval, and they‘ve sort of institutionalized it, as they would say, so that it has this legal basis.
But there is this question about justice being seen o be done. There‘s a reason that phrase is important. Justice has to have a process whereby people can say, We have confidence in it, it‘s been approved, and that‘s obviously not what‘s gone on here.
OLBERMANN: Do you have any understanding, getting back to the U.S. attorneys, about the delay? There was some expectation we were going to see more e-mails today. Now that‘s going to be Monday. Is there any explanation, was it just procedural, was it the snow in the Northeast today? What happened ,and what are we looking for when we get that stuff on Monday?
WOLFFE: Don‘t have an explanation of why it was delayed. They‘re scrubbing this stuff very closely. And they‘re negotiating on Capitol Hill with the White House counsel, Fred Fielding, about what future documents to release. So I imagine it‘s caught up in that.
What we‘re looking for here now is particularly the genesis of this idea of firing all 93 attorneys. Initially, the White House said, it was very clearly only Harriet Miers‘ idea. Today, they‘ve backed away from that. And if Alberto Gonzales, who was White House counsel before Harriet Miers, if he was the genesis of this, then his public statements flatly contradict that, and he‘ll be in even serious—more serious trouble.
OLBERMANN: And the only other option for the White House, though, at this point, is that it‘s either, if it was not Gonzales, it was either Harriet Miers or Karl Rove? This is not a real good set of choices one way or the other.
WOLFFE: No, it‘s not, and it will get into questions of motives. I mean, Karl, at this point, who‘s already—had already testified before the grand jury twice, so he had his own particular problem with a certain U.S. attorney in Chicago. Now, the White House says it‘s ridiculous to suggest that he was trying to interfere in this case. He actually thought that the idea of firing all 93 was a bad one.
But this is where Congress is going to start digging into, and it‘s not pretty.
OLBERMANN: Is his Teflon coating going to maintain itself through the year 2008? Is there anything that sticks to Karl Rove? Is, is, is, is this survivable for him?
WOLFFE: Well, he‘s a presidential adviser. They will bring down the cloak of executive privilege on this very quickly, because in the White House, they know that Democrats are enjoying this. It‘s political spectacle. And they‘ll run it as far and as long as they want on Capitol Hill.
The question is, can a deal be done? This is Fred Fielding‘s specialty. Is it even possible to come up with a compromise, given the current political environment? I don‘t think it is. In that case, Karl avoids testifying, and they just shut the door.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and, of course, we‘re fortunate enough to have him here on COUNTDOWN as well. Great thanks for your time. Have a good weekend.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Big changes coming in the primary schedule, California moving up its voting day, other states sure to follow. Who benefits, who loses, and how does this affect YouTube?
And a special treat this Friday, Keith Olbermann‘s America, a dispute between neighbors, a television crew, and some boric acid in your face.
Also this woman, hellbent on teaching everybody a lesson. This‘ll be good. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: Actress Isabel Huppert turns 54 today. She was the co-star of the movie that introduced the entire topic of how much movies cost and make to mainstream America, Michael Cimino‘s “Heaven‘s Gate.” His budget overruns and endless takes contributed to the $36 million fiasco. But overlooked in the equation was the fact that Ms. Huppert was playing a woman supposed to be from Wyoming in the 1890s named Ella Watson, and she had an impenetrably thick French accent. It was her first American movie. Between her broken English and Kris Kristofferson mumbling the whole time, the audience was left with only one reaction. Huh?
On that note, let‘s play Oddball.
Speaking of late 20th-century film, we begin on a street corner far, far—three or four blocks down from here. Just one of hundreds of locations around the country with brand-new Star Wars-themed mailboxes. This one looks like R2-D2 in a miniskirt. Hey. Nice gams. Now deliver this message to Obi-Wan. It‘s all part of the U.S. Postal Service‘s celebration of the 30th anniversary of the movie, culminating later this month with the release of a Star Wars stamp. Yay! Finally, your chance to lick the backside of a wookie. Of course, the debate is raging over whether to go with the young, skinny Jabba the Hut or the older, fatter, toad-popping version.
To Orange County, Florida, and ah, look, a touch of the Irish this St. Patty‘s Day. A little green leprechaun with a radar gun. I‘d heard of an Irish speed trap, but I thought it was something else altogether. This little fellow, working the gun for the motorcycle cop, snagged dozens of speeders in the Orlando area today. Of course, the official St. Patrick‘s Day is not till tomorrow, and that‘s when the leprechaun goes back to his real job encouraging drunk driving.
Finally, we had a Vanilla Ice sighting, in case you were looking for him. We found him on the Internets, hooked up with TurboTax. Let me warn you people, this ain‘t pretty.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What‘s up yours, Vanilla Ice, welcome to the tax rap. We‘re giving away lots of cash to the lucky winner of a homemade rap demo about taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE). I scoop on (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE) around the world, (INAUDIBLE) for DeNiro, pay my taxes on time, do the budget, make the payroll.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Really, how hard can it possibly be to do Vanilla Ice‘s taxes these days? That‘s the E-C form, for sho‘.
Presidential primary season will tax all of us as never before. Condensed and advanced to just about a year before the inauguration, how that could mean all the candidates would live or die by the power of the Internet.
And who lives and dies by the power of Steven Colbert, the man with the ability to humiliate any politician? We‘ll show you why freshman Democrats on the Hill are being told to stay away.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of the day.
Number three, Ken Starkey, one of the alert uniformed attendants at the city waterworks in Trenton, New Jersey. The city council heard testimony that Mr. Starkey has been urinating into the filtration beds that purify public drinking water in Trenton. As the big sign on the bridge there reads, “Trenton Makes, the World Takes.”
Number two, Duncan and Sandy Gregson of Perth, Scotland. They took an Oriental rug home on approval from a dealer. They say they didn‘t like it, so they tried to return it two months later. The dealer said he didn‘t like it now. They‘d spilled some milk on it. By the time they were done in court, the Gregsons owed the dealer $35,000. They really were crying over spilled milk. Plus, that rug really tied the room together.
And number one, Shawn Cloete (ph) of Bradfontaine (ph), South Africa. This story sounds absolutely made up, but all the company names check out 100 percent. This appears to be fully legitimate. Mr. Cloete‘s ex-wife was ordered to pay him $2,700 for pain and suffering after their divorce because of her infidelity with another man. The other man worked at the Golden Way Chicken Farm. The cuckold, meantime, worked at a rival company, New Laid Farms. On top of which, the husband was hen-pecked.
OLBERMANN: Ever since the California gold rush, people have looked to that state for the next extreme trend, skate boarding, bungee jumping, Ronald Reagan. In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, California does it again, this time throwing the 2008 presidential campaign for a loop by moving its primary to very early February, a knock-out punch for any candidate who has not enough money nor momentum that soon.
And as our correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, reports, there is another born in California factor at work here, the Internets.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signing legislation Thursday, moving up California‘s primary from June to February.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA: California will have the influence that it deserves.
MITCHELL: California could be joined by New York, New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, and Texas, other big states considering February 5th primaries. With more than half the delegates at stake so early in the campaign season, candidates are trying to raise huge amounts of money quickly for expensive TV ads.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: It is Iowa, then Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, but then this gigantic primary day of February 5th, and you‘ve got to have enough money to compete in those first four contests.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: I‘m not sure that, frankly, it‘s good to have this whole nominating process over at the beginning of February.
MITCHELL: In Iowa, a state he skipped all together in 2000, John McCain boarded his Straight Talking express sooner than expected, trying to regain momentum after falling 20 points behind Rudy Giuliani in the latest polls.
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I can do is get things done.
MITCHELL: But even front runner‘s like Giuliani have another challenge this year, the YouTube election. Embarrassing video clips, often taken out of context—
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I don‘t feel no ways tired—
MITCHELL: That means candidates can no longer carefully craft their campaign image.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought this is the kind of man I want to be the father of my children and Rudy is such a great dad.
MITCHELL: This 14-year-old add, featuring Giuliani‘s second wife and now estranged son is circulating online.
CAROL DARR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: All of that old footage is just going to be used as grist for the mill, for funny, mean, embarrassing videos.
MITCHELL: And candidates are constantly reminded of past promises, a five-year old pledge from Mitt Romney to support abortion rights—
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will preserve and protect a woman‘s right to choose.
MITCHELL: -- a position he has now reversed.
KEVIN MADEN, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Information that adversely impacts your campaign can get out to a whole host of voters and a much larger audience than was ever really intended.
MITCHELL: But the Internet can also be a candidate‘s best friend. In this accelerated world, a way to raise money quickly and connect with a broad range of voters.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Because I believe in you.
MITCHELL: All this means second tier candidates have to keep their sense of humor.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: It‘s ten months away. I don‘t want to peak right now.
OLBERMANN: And so far, so good on that for Bill Richardson. Joining us once again to talk politics, “Washington Post” national political reporter, MSNBC political analyst Dana Milbank. Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening Keith.
OLBERMANN: So there you have it. There you have it. On February 2nd, the ground hog crawls out of his hole, and then three days later the front runner for president will do the same. The extreme front loading is going to affect the campaign, but which candidates get the advantage and which ones get the disadvantage?
MILBANK: The difference here is that with Ground Hog Day, the varmint actually crawls back into his hole, and we‘re going to be stuck with this guy for nine months after whoever it is is chosen. What essentially is forming here is a national primary, where all the delegates are assigned at this very early stage, on a single day. It makes it more like a national general election.
This should help the people with the best organization, typically the front runners, certainly should help Clinton, probably helps McCain, because of his sort of advantage on the ground, but you never really know, and there is also the possibility that it could be a very ambiguous, close vote on February 5th, throwing the whole thing into turmoil. Then you don‘t really have anybody rallying behind any one candidate in the end, the way the current process does.
OLBERMANN: Presumably, the most popular candidate in the polls could win and win big then. That was Howard Dean at one point. Then it was John Kerry. Is there a danger for either party, if a candidate wins to big a prize, too soon, without actually being road tested?
MILBANK: Well there sure is. I mean, just think about, not long ago there was a two month-long general election period. Now it‘s nine months. So suppose you pick your candidate in February. Then there is a terrorist attack in March and then by July you‘re in some other war. The candidate that you chose in February may be completely wrong for the actual election he or she finds themselves in later on.
So it‘s certainly a very dangerous way to go about things, to say nothing of the torture this is going to inflict on the voters for all of 2008.
OLBERMANN: Yes, on hearkens back to 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt, I believe, was nominated in August for a new party, for the Bull Moose, for the Progressives, didn‘t start his campaign until the middle of August, and finished a close second. It‘s too bad. It would now require probably 30 years to do something like that.
But could the compressed timeframe work for Al Gore, who is this, still, maybe, kind of, sort of, flirty kind of thing, could it help him make up his mind right away, at the very least?
MILBANK: I don‘t think it will help him, but I think it may help him make up his mind. He‘s not giving any indication, from the things he‘s saying to his waste line, that he‘s very serious about a candidacy. But this says the same thing to Gore. It says it to somebody like Fred Thompson. It says it to somebody like Chuck Hagel, that you have got to get in the race right now. And it‘s possible this means it‘s already too late, if you haven‘t been raising tens of millions of dollars, if you don‘t have hundreds of people working for you on the ground already. You‘re just not going to be in the game.
OLBERMANN: Yes, so the Olbermann/Milbank ticket is out of things here. One last thing, if you use the Google and enter the words Gore and Obama, you get all kinds of references to a Gore/Obama ticket, because obviously Gore won the popular vote once. Obama has this extraordinarily charismatic quality and others. Is that a Democratic dream ticket, or is that just fancy?
MILBANK: Well, it‘s dream and it‘s fancy. But this is the time when you can start dreaming those things and why not. The best one I have heard was Clinton/Clinton, where he is the vice president. And we‘ve heard about the Hagel/Obama, or the Obama/Hagel ticket, but the truth is you need a lot of name recognition. Now, I don‘t know about Olbermann/Milbank, but a unity ticket of Olbermann/O‘Reilly, I think, could work well.
OLBERMANN: I think Clinton/Bush would work much better than that. Dana Milbank of MSNBC and “The Washington Post.” As always sir, great thanks for your time. Have a good weekend.
How far would you go to prove you did not throw acid at your neighbor? Well, that ain‘t SPF 30 she‘s rubbing in. Meet Brenda, the boric acid lady, in the latest edition of Keith Olbermann‘s America.
And the great gloved one tries to go incognito at a European hotel.
Wait until you hear his pseudonym.
Details ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”: More and more reporters were pressing Gonzalez over whether or not he should resign, but he assured everyone the matter was out of his hands.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: All political appointees, such as U.S. attorneys, serve at the pleasure of the president.
I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.
Ultimately, I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.
I serve at the pleasure of the president.
STEWART: By the way, at the pleasure of the president, it‘s kind of a lousy talking point, but it‘s a great romance novel.
BENNY NEAL, LOCAL POLITICIAN: Hi, I‘m Benny Neal, candidate for clerk of court.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty eight years ago, Benny was in the buff.
The then 21-year-old posed nude for the April 1979 issue of Playgirl.
That‘s him with the beard.
Benny Neal‘s campaign slogan is “It‘s About People, Not Politics.” But we had some other slogans in mind, like “In The Buff and Tough” and “this Playgirl is All Business.” Or our favorite, “I Was Nude, But I‘m Your Dude.”
BUSH: He shook good morning, or should I say, top of the morning? I gratefully accept the bowl of shamrocks. May the lord keep you in his hand and never close his fist too tightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: At first it sounds like any other loopy local news story.
Some neighbors complaining about each other, police charge one of them. But in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, toss some boric acid into the equation and you have a feast. Toss one of the neighbors eating boric acid, rubbing boric acid all over themselves on television and suddenly you‘ve got another edition of Keith Olbermann‘s America.
This time we go to the Peach State of Georgia, perhaps soon to be called the Boric Acid State, and hurry we to a place formerly known as the hostess city of the south, Savanna. What reporter Don Legana (ph) found while reporting for the local CBS station, WTOC TV, was not southern hospitality, just an irate woman, intent on proving her innocence, no matter how crazy it made her seem. If you‘re hypnotized from the first second of this, trust me, this one is worth the wait.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Man and woman is arrested for throwing boric acid at her neighbors, in what police call a hate crime. Tonight, her side of the story. Don Legana caught up with the woman in the WTOC exclusive interview. So Don, what did she have to say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says she didn‘t do it, and she even wore a t-shirt saying she didn‘t do it, but police say she did. I have the police report. It‘s right here. And as you‘re about to witness, her version of what happened is, let‘s just say, different than police.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No I did not throw anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wednesday afternoon, Brenda Hughes received a visit from Savanna Chatham police.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was snatched back, my hands were cuffed and you were under arrest. I said, for what? What have I done?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brenda called police Wednesday when she claimed her neighbor, Kirk Paterson, made threats against her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He‘s hollering and screaming and acting like the wild man, I mean, just like a rabid dog or something, I‘m going to kill you. I‘m not going to say what he said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A second call came in from Paterson, claiming Brenda threw a white powdery substance on him and his son. It was a PIC Roach Killer, made from boric acid.
The police said they saw white powder on them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He must took it up off the ground because I don‘t know how he got it on them. I was in my house and my son said they were here doing something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn‘t throw it at them?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I did not. As god is my witness, may he strike me dead, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police report says Brenda made several racist remarks. The Patersons are African-American.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No I did not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But outside her home, which is decorated with colorful ornaments and language, her trash bag had the words black male scrawled across it. The say Brenda stated she used the acid to kill roaches and trash as she pointed to her neighbors home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This says trash and then it has black male on there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is trash. It‘s shrubs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, no, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that trash?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it‘s trash.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Brenda wasn‘t done proving points, as she showed us the boric acid on the lawn.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, oh my god, no. Did you just put that in your mouth?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I want to make a point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A point of what.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That he‘s a liar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you shouldn‘t be ingesting that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not? It‘s not going to do anything but make me sick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the label says it can make you sick.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well let‘s see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then we moved to an acid-covered windowsill.
No, no. Why are you doing—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to do it, to make sure that—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you doing this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I want to prove a point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, but that‘s not healthy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn‘t bother me. It says it‘s environmentally safe on the label.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brenda blames everything on her neighbors, who she says continue to torment her. I tried contacting the Patersons, but they were not home. Brenda has a message for them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t care. Just leave me alone. This is my home.
OLBERMANN: Just make me sleep. Speaking of crazy old ladies, there is Michael Jackson, and no, that was not some sort of hate speech leading off our round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. It‘s his latest disguise. In order to try and stay incognito, the gloved one has reportedly checked into a hotel in London as Mrs. Jackson. Of course, the two kids hidden under the veils and his ten person entourage will not give him away in the slightest.
Jackson is staying in 6,000 dollar a night presidential suite, according to hotel staff. He is being very, very difficult, demanding a personal waiter and bouncers at the elevator doors on his floor. Yet despite all the extra work, he reportedly has yet to tip any member of the hotel staff. Stay classy.
And the warning from the Arch Deacon of Trinidad and Tobago, lock up your men folk. And Elton John is coming. Arch Deacon Philip Isaac (ph) wants the singer banned from performing in his nation next month, for fear that he will tempt the local population into homosexually, telling the local newspaper, quote, his visit to the island can open the country to be tempted towards pursuing his lifestyle.
Fortunately for Mr. John, Sir Elton, the organizers of the concert he is slated to play disagree that he‘s a dangerous stud, so the residents will get to see him perform next month, and we could still get to see him reenact his performance after an unhappy visit to Taiwan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELTON JOHN, SINGER: You are a rude, vile pig.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my country, you know what I mean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Steven Colbert satirizes right wing politicians and water carriers, so why does Congressman Rahm Emanuel want his young left wing politicians to stay of “The Colbert Report?” Well, there are those occasional questions about stuffing kittens into a wood chipper.
That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to Sean Hannity, although this could have gone to the “Wall Street Journal” editorial board or Republican Joe Watkins, who repeated this lie today on the network, or a lot of other people. But Sean likes Worst Person honors. So tag, you‘re it. He repeated the tale that President Clinton fired a U.S. attorney because the attorney was investigating White Water.
In fact, that U.S. attorney, Charles Banks, a Republican, investigated White Water, decided in October 1992 that there was no there there, resisted pressure from the first President Bush‘s attorney general to prosecute anyway.
The silver to Frederick Von Anhalt, Zja Zja Gabor‘s husband, still insisting he did too sleep with Anna Nicole Smith and could be the father of her daughter, so insisted that he is now suing Bill O‘Reilly for 10 million dollars, because O‘Reilly called him a, quote, fraud, unquote. Gee wiz, Bill-O, now you‘ll get the chance to be on the happy side of the case being laughed out of court.
But our winner tonight, Glen Beck of CNN and ABC, explaining that Senator Clinton cannot be elected president because of her voice. Quoting, she is like the stereotypical, excuse the expression, but this is the way to, she‘s the stereotypical bitch, that stereotypical nagging, unquote. Beck says he would say the same thing about Condi Rice. Yes, except he didn‘t. Glen Beck, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: In the green room, Stephen Colbert greets all of his guests the same way. You know how this goes, right, he says. I play the idiot. The audience, except for the dimmer of the right wing bloggers, who link to Colbert‘s segments, and still insist he‘s not satirizing O‘Reilly, gets the joke, and invariably sympathizes with the guest.
In our number one story though tonight, not good enough for Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic caucus. He wants his colleagues, specifically freshmen Democratic congressmen, to stay away from Colbert‘s show. Particularly troubling to Mr. Emanuel, Colbert‘s self described 434 part series, “Better Know a District,” in which Colbert grills House members, using the illogical, elliptical, idiotic interviewing style of the man he calls papa bear.
Is Congressman Emanuel being protective or self productive? We report, you decide.
STEVEN COLBERT, THE COLBERT REPORT: First of all, Congressman Hare, is that your real name or is that some sort of hazing nickname they give the new guys?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that is my real name. Actually, my real name is Phil Hare.
COLBERT: It sounds like a made up name, Phil Hare. It‘s like Phil McCracken.
Let‘s say a few things that would really lose the election for you, if you were contested. But remember, you are not contested. There is no way that you could lose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
COLBERT: I enjoy cocaine because—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I enjoy cocaine because—
COLBERT: Try it without laughing, because then people will think it‘s a joke.
Describe your district in one word.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hard working is two words, isn‘t it?
COLBERT: That‘s two words, I‘m afraid.
You appeared on PBS Frontline to discuss the Meth epidemic. What are the ingredients in Meth?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can actually, believe it or not, Steven, download a recipe on the Internet.
COLBERT: What is that website?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were to Google or Live Search recipes for Methamphetamine, you could probably find it.
COLBERT: Got it, OK. Come on. Stand up for your rights as a Democratic Congressman and say that you are a Republican.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can‘t.
COLBERT: Just say you are Republican.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am just not a Republican. It‘s hard for me to -
COLBERT: Come on. Do it
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a Republican I would—
COLBERT: You said you joined the fraternity to meet girls. There are no girls in a fraternity, for the record, congressman. Whoever that was in the dress, I would hate to be the one to break it to you here, on television. That was a dude.
Unlike the Democrats, I don‘t label people. I don‘t pigeon hole people. By the way, people tell me you are black, but I don‘t see race. Are you black.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am black.
COLBERT: Chocolate thunder, I assume.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chocolate tastes good though.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you—That‘s part of the gay agenda?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know why chocolate is good, because if you eat brown chocolate or white chocolate, but it‘s still chocolate.
COLBERT: I am getting very uncomfortable with this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t want to smear my opponent, I just want—
COLBERT: I‘ll start. I‘ll do it for you. James Saxton is a notorious pedophile.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would rather talk about his record.
COLBERT: OK, you don‘t care that he is a pedophile?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no way of knowing—
COLBERT: And you don‘t care?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I would care if he was, but I have no knowledge that he is?
COLBERT: You don‘t even want to find out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we ought to stick to the issues in this election.
COLBERT: And let the pedophiles just roam free.
Would you care to debate me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
COLBERT: OK, welcome to Colbert and Yarmouth. I‘m Steven Colbert.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Yarmouth.
COLBERT: Tonight‘s subject, throwing kittens in a wood chipper. I‘m against it. I think it‘s wrong. John, tear me a new one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, there are times when you have to find a way to dispose of kitchens, and sometimes the only thing that you can do, if you don‘t have a shovel or garbage can, if there is a wood chipper handy, then you are going to have to use the wood chipper.
COLBERT: Wow, congressman, thank you for taking care of those kittens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was my pleasure.
OLBERMANN: And a final thought on that, from Becky, the Cleveland TV kitten.
That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,433rd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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