Guests: Wesley Clark, Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The National Counterterrorism Center reports we‘ve let al Qaeda grow again in Pakistan. Gee, didn‘t we use to have all our resources next door in Afghanistan? It is stronger at any time since 2001. So the president repudiates the National Counterterrorism Center report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September 11. It‘s just simply not the case. I think the report is since 2001, not prior to September 11, 2001.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, you would know. Or maybe not. Consider the Bush promise to remove anyone in the administration found to have leaked Valerie Plame‘s identity. No one has been removed, even though tonight we have something of an admission.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I‘m aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Secretary Chertoff tries to rename his gut feeling an informed opinion. We‘ll call it not gut feeling but gutless in tonight‘s special comment about the guess work of Mr. Chertoff and the counterterror disasters of Mr. Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I guess I‘m like every other political figure, everyone wants to be loved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, you‘ve come to the wrong place.
He probably hasn‘t. Michael Moore joins us on “Sicko” and interviews elsewhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOORE, FILM MAKER: I mean, I wish that CNN and the other mainstream media would just for once tell the truth about what‘s going on in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the truth about Miss New Jersey. These are the photos with which she‘s being blackmailed by someone calling himself the committee to save Miss America? That‘s all you‘ve got? It‘s the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown. A special comment, all that and more—uh, Moore, now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening from New York. Just last month a high school student in Germany, faced with having to repeat his sophomore year because of a bad report card, convinced two friends to break into his classroom and try to steal that report card from his teacher by threatening her with an iron bar.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN. That plan collapsed due to its fatal flaw, it never dawned on the kid that people would realize his motive was so obvious.
Unfortunately it does not work this way in Washington, where President Bush has just done the same thing with his report cards and managed to change the f‘s he was getting on the war in Iraq and counterterrorism.
The Bush administration‘s heavy hand, clearly evident in the final version of the Iraq interim progress report that was released today to Congress, instead of simply stating whether the Iraqi government has met any benchmarks, a clear no in all 18 areas as described in the first draft of the report revealed last week, the administration now claiming progress, however that is defined, has been satisfactory on 8 of the 18 benchmarks, eight not satisfactory, two, a mixed bag.
Congress already telling the White House what it thinks of the Iraq report. The House earlier tonight approving legislation that would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq beginning in 120 days.
Now, imagine what the final draft of the al Qaeda intelligence assessment is going to look like once the White House is finished with that.
As we reported last night, a threat assessment compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center with the ominous title, al Qaeda better positioned to strike the west. Concluding that the group has significantly rebuilt itself to what the Associated Press describes as a level it has not enjoyed since just before the 9/11 attacks. Even though his own government concluded that, Mr. Bush managing to refute it at the White House this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September 11. That‘s just simply not the case. I think the report was since 2001, not prior to September 11, 2001.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: At least that‘s what it might say when his national security advisers have finished altering the report card.
Mr. Bush also repeating the lie that the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks were and are in any way connected to Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September 11. And that‘s why what happens in Iraq matters to security here at home.
QUESTION: On that point, what evidence can you present to the American people that the people who attacked the United States on September 11 are in fact the same people who are responsible for the bombings taking place in Iraq? What evidence can you present? And also, are you saying, sir, that al Qaeda in Iraq is the same organization being run by Osama bin Laden himself?
BUSH: Al Qaeda in Iraq have sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And the guys who perpetuated the attacks on America, obviously the guys on the airplane are dead and the commanders, many of those are dead or in captivity like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
But the people in Iraq—al Qaeda in Iraq has sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And we need to take al Qaeda in Iraq seriously like we need to take al Qaeda anywhere in the world seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of course the allegiance to Osama bin Laden was only sworn in 2004. And of course al Qaeda in Iraq is only in Iraq because of the power vacuum that was created by the U.S. invasion and ongoing military operations there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Your critics say you failed to send enough troops there at the start, you failed to keep al Qaeda from stepping into the void created by the collapse of Saddam‘s army, failed to put enough pressure on Iraq‘s government to make the political reconciliation necessary to keep the sectarian violence the country is suffering now from occurring.
So why should the American people feel you have the vision for victory in Iraq, sir?
BUSH: Those are all legitimate questions I‘m sure historians will analyze. I mean, one of the questions is should we have sent more in the beginning?
Well, I asked that question. Do you need more? To general Tommy Franks. My primary question to General Franks, do you have what it takes to succeed? And do you have what it takes to succeed after you succeed in removing Saddam Hussein? His answer was yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: An honor to be joined once again, by our analyst, retired four-star army general Wesley Clark, also of course, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and a former Democratic presidential candidate as well.
General Clark, thanks again for being with us tonight.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), MILITARY ANALYST: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The title alone of that new intelligence report, al Qaeda better positioned to strike the west. Obviously the phraseology reminds anyone who hears it of 2001‘s report, “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.,” followed by another report tonight from the A.P. about al Qaeda efforts to get operatives here, how serious that is hard to say. But how can the president play the fear card for so long and simply dismiss what was reported today? How can he have it both ways?
CLARK: Keith, he can‘t. The truth is al Qaeda has not only reconstituted its base area, this time along the border in Pakistan next to Afghanistan, but its also used our mission in Iraq as a huge recruiting magnet. Every time we‘re seen on television, we generate anger among the Islamic populations. And we feed the al Qaeda recruiting machine. It‘s the inevitable accompaniment of the war strategy that President Bush chose.
OLBERMANN: Were he to listen to them, U.S. intelligence officials would tell Mr. Bush that the group that identifies itself as al Qaeda in Iraq didn‘t exist before the invasion, before the U.S. invasion, it did not pledge its loyalty to Osama bin Laden until October of 2004, and to this day it‘s not controlled by bin Laden or bin Laden‘s top aides.
Do you think the White House has reached a watershed at which this is no longer debatable? That the president‘s actions in Iraq have actually made this nation more vulnerable to terrorism and not less?
CLARK: Well, I do believe that the strategy in Iraq and the way it‘s been executed and the president‘s fear to face the facts and the administration‘s blindness on homeland security—and all of this, and the alienation of our allies, yes, we‘re more at risk as a result of Iraq than we were prior to the invasion of Iraq. There‘s no doubt about it. We‘re not winning the battle against al Qaeda.
Keith, to win against al Qaeda you have to cut off the flow of recruits and then take the organization apart step by step. But instead of cutting off the flow of recruits we‘re incentivizing recruits to flow to al Qaeda.
OLBERMANN: General, despite all of this the president‘s prescription today was not a surprise one, stay the course. Whenever possible, placing all the decision making and the blame with the generals. He threw General Franks under the bus there. And when other generals, like General Casey, were against the escalation of troops Mr. Bush simply got rid of them.
Senator John Edwards said tonight the whole Iraq policy borders on the delusional. Do you agree with that assessment?
CLARK: Well, I do. I think this is an administration that‘s really walled itself off inside the White House. I think you‘ve got a president who is fighting for his personal survival. I don‘t know how he‘s surviving without the flow of accurate information but he is.
And he continues to say things and deny the obvious. I‘m sure there is some heated discussions among his aides. But I think they understand he desires to be kept insulated. And from what I‘ve talked to with members of Congress and others who have seen him in recent weeks and recent months, he has done everything he can to sort of wall himself off from what we believe is the truth.
OLBERMANN: Big picture, we‘re engaged in a war that has pretty much been proven to have served as the best recruiting tool that Osama bin Laden could have hoped for to the detriment of another war in which we had been close to catching him in an area where he‘s now supposedly reconstituting his organization, basically.
The Homeland Security Secretary of this nation is making decisions, announcing them based on his gut feelings. What exactly do you think the president is counting on to keep this nation safe? Is it dumb luck? Is it a Ouija board somewhere?
CLARK: Well, I think that—I believe Secretary Chertoff when he says he has no specific information on plots. I do feel that in many parts of the country, I don‘t know everywhere—but in many parts of the country the FBI and the local police, perhaps working with the Central Intelligence Agency have done a really good job of looking at potential threats and working with people in this country.
So far there‘s not the degree of alienation among the Islamic population in this country that there is in let‘s say Britain or in Germany. And that‘s a very positive thing thus far in America.
But I think, basically, this is an administration which politics trumps policy, in every field and especially in national security. And so I can‘t help but think that the Bush administration is looking to get through the summer, they never launch anything new before Labor Day. After Labor Day trot out something else to try to extend this for another 15 months and get him out of office.
OLBERMANN: General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, now MSNBC analyst. Let me echo as a first hand—with first hand experience of dealing with the FBI and local police counterterrorism force, let me echo and second what you said about how great a job they‘re doing. Thank you, General Clark.
CLARK: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The other headline the president made today, a tacit admission that someone in his administration was responsible for leaking Valerie Plame‘s name. But as David Fry used to say in his impression of Richard Nixon, those who are to blame lose their jobs. Those who are responsible do not.
So will Michael Chertoff lose his? A special comment today, the gutlessness of claiming your gut is telling you there will be terror.
Michael Moore joins us on the movie “Sicko,” on the two-round knockout of CNN, on presidential responsibility, if any. You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Countability does not exist in a vacuum, it begins with transparency and it ends with enforcement. In our fourth story tonight, from beginning to end, a president who campaigned on personal accountability for average Americans now virtually killing the concept entirely for his administration.
It‘s Tombstone placed today, in the form of an empty chair, the chair in which former Bush counsel Harriet Miers was compelled by law to seat herself today to testify about the U.S. attorney scandal. If her rejection of a subpoena constituted a slap in the face to Congress. The Justice Department opinion that Mr. Bush can give his aides immunity from Congress must have, or should have, felt like a declaration of war.
But the end of accountability did not end there. We learned from the Washington Post that Mr. Bush has dodged accountability on Iraq by giving America false hope after his own CIA chief secretly told the Iraq Study Group that the failure of the Maliki government there is quote, “irreversible.”
And in the matter where Mr. Bush voided the accountability prescribed by judge and jury,the Libby case, Mr. Bush today he revealed he never sought accountability for the Plame leak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: First of all, the Scooter Libby decision was, I thought, a fair and balanced decision.
Secondly, I haven‘t spent a lot of time talking about the testimony that people throughout my administration were forced to give as a result of the special prosecutor. I didn‘t ask them during the time, and I haven‘t asked them since.
I‘m aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person. And you know, I‘ve often thought about what would have happened had that person come forth and said, I did it. Would we have had this endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter?
But it‘s been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House.
And it‘s run its course. and now we‘re going to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And that‘s all that matters. We‘re joined now by an accountability advocate Rachel Maddow whose show, of course, airs weeknights on Air America.
Rachel, good evening.
RACHEL MADDOW, RADIO SHOW HOST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Backing up to the congressional snub, first. If the Department of Justice says the president can grant immunity, can Congress expect the Department of Justice to enforce its contempt findings?
MADDOW: That‘s exactly the right question to ask. And it‘s a $64,000 question at this point. Because what we‘ve learned about the Department of Justice in the past year is that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has continued in his leadership of the Department of Justice as if he‘s still the president‘s personal lawyer, as if he‘s still the White House counsel or even Bush‘s lawyer back in Texas.
And the Department of Justice has, therefore, become under Gonzales‘ leadership kind of an extension of the White House, a way to get its interests across.
If Congress is looking for support from the Department of Justice on contempt citations, and the Department of Justice instead decides to just help out the White House and ignore the law, then Congress is going to have to decide if and how they‘re going to bypass Justice.
Are they going to have to pull in some sort of independent counsel in order to get this into the courts? Are they going to have to encounter—bring on some sort of private counsel?
We‘re not sure what they‘ll have to do. But if Justice won‘t help out of loyalty to the president and won‘t help hold the president accountable, Congress is going to have to bypass them.
OLBERMANN: To the commuting of the Libby sentence, Mr. Bush said he was so familiar with the case he did not need any input from the Justice Department. Now he says he‘s not sure whether anybody in the White House leaked Valerie Plame‘s covert status.
He called this a fair and balanced decision which is an interesting phrase choice there, but can you reconcile those statements for us?
MADDOW: Well, it‘s fair and balanced to the extent that it was designed to people who watch FOX, obviously.
But what‘s interesting about that statement is it seems very clear that Bush‘s familiarity with the facts of the case is kind of unrelated to his decision to commute Scooter Libby‘s sentence because his decision to commute Scooter Libby‘s sentence was not about the case it was about the identity of the convict.
His explanation of why he commuted Scooter Libby‘s case—Scooter Libby‘s sentence was all about Scooter Libby‘s honorable service as a public servant and it being too severe on the basis of what else he‘s done with his life. It wasn‘t about the terms of the investigation which Scooter Libby was found to have obstructed, nor was it necessarily a protest of the conviction of Scooter Libby by that jury. It was just about who Scooter Libby is as a person, which brings us back to the issue of accountability.
OLBERMANN: For the entire run of this, Mr. Bush had hid behind this ongoing legal action argument to decline any detailed comments about the leak. Libby‘s free, now he says well, it‘s run its course, time to move on.
Other than noting in his State of the Union Address Richard Nixon told the country one year of Watergate is enough, what can or should the media be doing to hold him accountable for his own words?
MADDOW: I think the media should bring the focus back to the seriousness of the investigation that Scooter Libby obstructed. We don‘t know about whether there was a damage assessment at the CIA or in the intelligence community more broadly about what harm was done by the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson, or the harm done within CIA, the harm done to her overseas contacts, the harm done to the weapons of mass destruction brief within the intelligence community more broadly.
If Bush, as he said in his commutation explanation, if he does not have a beef with the conviction of Scooter Libby, with the jury‘s verdict there, then the obvious next step is for him to ask that the investigation into that leak and the harm caused proceed in an unobstructed way given that Scooter Libby had obstructed it previously.
I think we need to get back to the real harm done by Scooter Libby and then start asking him how high up in the administration he‘s going to allow that investigation to proceed.
OLBERMANN: Wrapping this up, Rachel, to what extent is Mr. Bush really just cashing a blank check handed to him by Democrats when Nancy Pelosi said no, no, impeachment isn‘t even to be considered?
MADDOW: Well, more and more Democrats are departing from Nancy Pelosi‘s view on that. Just this week, Senator Barbara Boxer, for example, joined the kind of growing chorus of Democrats saying that she doesn‘t want impeachment to be off the table.
Impeachment should never be motivated by personal or political animosity against the president but has to be motivated for love of the constitution. And I think a lot of Americans, left right and center, love the constitution more than any of their feelings about George W. Bush.
OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow of Air America. As always, Rachel Maddow, great thanks.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of the buck never stopping anywhere, Michael Chertoff‘s says his gut feeling about increased risk of terrorism might have been better phrased as an informed opinion. Yeah, that‘s another phrase that should have gotten him fired immediately.
A special comment tonight on the Homeland Security Secretary who guesses.
And for the second time in five days at the running of the bulls in Pamplona, the bulls have figured it out. That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Twenty-five years ago today, six musicians, intent on launching a career as a blues band with some Bo Diddly rock influence, stepped on the stage at the Marquee Club in London to test the group‘s new name. They were Dick Taylor, Ian Stuart, Tony Chapman, Brian Jones, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Day zero for the Rolling Stones.
On that note, let‘s play “Odd-Ball.”
We begin in Spain with amazing action on this, the sixth day of running of the bulls in Pamplona. And tonight, there are at least 13 in the hospital wondering why that one big bull didn‘t want to go along with the program and just mosey on down in the stadium to be killed for the entertainment of the crowd.
This one decided he wouldn‘t go gently into that good night, turned around and faced his antagonists and said how do you like me now, brown cow?
At this point those who messed with the bull got the horns. And all seven people were gored, six others hospitalized with injuries. And three people are in serious conditions. And this cow is your 2007 running of the bulls M.V.P.
To flower Mound, Texas where 800 people gathered at a ranch with 800 cokes and 800 packs of Mentos. You can see where this is going. Oh, yes. It was a successful attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most sodygeysers (ph) in one place at one time. Yes, there was a previous record to be broken, 5,28 people set two months ago. No word on how many were trampled when the geysers erupted. They probably should have thought about rain coats, other than that one guy in the front.
Not only the group get the Guinness record, but it spilled so much soda on the ground that nothing will grow there for 1,000 years to come.
Finally to Afghanistan where elections are coming up and one political party has unveiled a new strategy, it‘s a robotic campaign worker. The A.K. Robot can go out and press the flesh with the voters, handing out pamphlets and talking about the party‘s accomplishments.
So don‘t be surprised if you see some of these in your neck of the woods this election season.
Technology like this can be particularly useful to the Giuliani and McCain campaigns here at home because a robot campaign worker can be programmed to avoid prostitutes, lewd behavior and/or illicit drugs.
Other campaigns tonight, how Michael Moore has revivified national healthcare with a documentary. He is our special guest tonight.
And the campaign for Miss America gets ugly. The pictures used as blackmail against Miss New Jersey look pretty tame—well, no, maybe not now. These stories ahead. But, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top Three Newsmakers of this Day.”
Number three, Natalie Jacobson announcing that next Wednesday she‘ll be ending 35 years at the news anchor desk in Channel 5 in Boston. Quite simply one of the two or three best local news anchors there have ever been. It is a shame no network turned to her to try to break the gender barrier.
No. 2, Roberto Bernocco. He has completed his science fiction novel “Fellow Travelers.” Three Hundred Eighty Four pages available online. So? He wrote it on his cellphone while taking the train to and from work. His phone is one of those T-9 typing systems that predicts what you‘re trying to write? So, if the plot seems a little, well, predictable, now you know why.
And No. 1, the Chinese government. Were you appalled it had executed the former head of its Food and Drug Administration? You might want to revisit that emotion after word from Beijing. The police have shut down a bunch of vendors who were serving a local delicacy, steamed buns featuring powdered seasoning and fatty pork, but completely lacking, well, buns. Instead of flour or wheat or bread, the buns proved to be made out of chopped cardboard.
OLBERMANN: The idea was radical that everyone, rich or poor, deserved to see a doctor. And so, in 1883, the new nation of Germany became the first to have national health insurance. This was under the leadership of Otto Von Bismark. Bismark, as in the battleship, the capital of North Dakota and the herring. And in our third story of the COUNTDOWN, as in national health insurance we still don‘t have here 124 years later.
It is however a topic again, at least in part thanks to Michael Moore‘s movie “Sicko.” It doesn‘t so much as plead for those who no insurance as show how those with insurance can still find themselves tragically uncovered and even bankrupt. Moore also taking on often repeated myths, like how socialized medicine in Britain lowers the pay of doctors, driving them out of business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOORE, “SICKO”: Do you work for the government?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MOORE: You‘re a government-paid doctor. So working for the government, you probably have to use public transportation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I have a car that I use and I drive.
MOORE: An old beater? You live in a kind of rough part of town?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I live in a terrific part of town. It‘s called Greenwich. It‘s a lovely house, a three-story house.
MOORE: How much you pay for that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 550,000.
MOORE: Pounds, so a million dollars?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.
MOORE: So doctors in America do not necessarily have to fear having universal health care?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I think if you want to have two or three million dollar homes and four or five nice cars and six or seven nice televisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Even in the words of Fox noise, “Sicko” is socko, a documentary still managing to earn 12 million dollars and a top 10 spot in less than three weeks. No doubt helped along by Mr. Moore‘s withering encounters with media critics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I saw the film and it‘s a powerful—
MOORE: I saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta over there embedded with the troops at the beginning of the war. He and the others of you in the mainstream media refuse to ask our leaders the hard questions and demand the honest answers. And that‘s why we‘re in this war. We‘re in the fifth year of this war because you and CNN, Doctor Gupta, you didn‘t do your jobs back then and here we are in this mess.
What if you had actually done the job on that? That‘s why anybody who hears anything of what you say now about universal health care should question what you‘re saying, what you‘re putting out there. You didn‘t do the job for us with the war. You‘re not doing it with this issue. I just wonder when the American people are going to turn off their TV sets and quit listening to this stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or at least tune to another channel. Michael Moore joins us from Bel Air, Michigan tonight. Mr. Moore, congratulations on your film.
MOORE: Thank you. and I just want to say that Dr. Gupta phoned in a prescription for me after that encounter.
OLBERMANN: I‘m not going to ask for what. But seriously, Wolf Blitzer‘s beard looked like it was about to molt during that encounter. You were really ticked off. Did you get—you got this apocryphal prescription. Did you get an apology for that CNN report on the movie that made you so angry?
MOORE: No, and I‘m still waiting for it and frankly, I‘m not going to give up until I get one. They are the most trusted name in news, as you might have heard. And so their report was filled with so many inaccuracies, I have all of the evidence and the facts up on my website. Anybody can go and see where they were wrong. And I‘m going to wait.
You know what, I believe that they will do the right thing and they will issue an apology for the mistakes they made. So it‘s actually really, to me, a big distraction to talk about all of that, you know, nit picking stuff that he was after when we have a much larger issue. I think what really got me going in terms of the other day is that I just feel, Keith—
and, of course, you talk about this all the time on your show. And your commentaries have been incredible about the war. Here we are in the fifth year of this thing and I‘ve seen very few media outlets issue an apology for not doing the job they should have done, because in some ways I feel the media is more responsible for this war than Mr. Bush.
I mean, on some level you can say, you know, Bush doesn‘t know any better. But the media does. And if the media had done its job and really demanded the answers from these people, the public might not have gotten so behind it and we could have prevented it. So there‘s a complicity involved here with our media and I‘m still, after all these years with the war still going on, still very upset about the fact we‘ve lost so many lives. And people simply won‘t take responsibility for their actions.
OLBERMANN: Agreed. And we pointed out here before, we all suspended our disbelief, and a lot of us did it for very patriotic reasons. But there was a point at which you have to stop and say this is literally that “Emperor‘s New Clothes” story. It‘s being re-enacted for us in so many areas in the war, as you point out, in this entire debate over health care.
You just used a great phrase here, that we seem to be distracted by nit picking. This is the way things like should there be a war, should there be a Department of Homeland Security, should there be universal health care; these are the way these things get sidetracked, isn‘t it?
MOORE: Right, yes. We talk about all the stuff that‘s not—listen, I got to hand it to the health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry, they do a great job of getting us sidetracked. They spend billions of dollars on P.R. every year. And believe me, as the next movement now begins to get universal health care in this country, you can bet that they‘re going to throw everything they can at this.
But I think it‘s a little too late for them, because in the 14 years since Mrs. Clinton tried to do something about this, 14 years of people suffering through a very broken system, people losing loved ones as a result of not having insurance—the number one cause of bankruptcies now in the country is due to medical bills.
Do you realize that nobody in Canada or Britain or France or any of the other 24 top industrialized countries, nobody ever goes bankrupt because of medical bills? Nobody ever loses their home. No one is ever denied because of a preexisting condition. And on and on and on. We‘ve got something very wrong and very immoral about our system. And I‘m hoping that it‘s going to change.
OLBERMANN: How does that happen if, of all the presidential candidates, only Congressman Kucinich is flat-out for a non-profit single payer system? How do you get it done politically?
MOORE: It‘s only going to happen when the people demand it. The people are going to have to demand that these candidates—and I‘m specifically referring to the Democratic candidates. Demand that they come up with specific proposals that are essentially, at their core, single payer, government-run, and free for all Americans, removing private insurance as the middleman.
We lose literally hundreds of billions of dollars every year because of all the administrative costs, the red tape, the profit that the companies have to make. That‘s why our whole system is so expensive, why it costs so much. And we can do this a heck of a lot cheaper, and it would cover everyone. So, you know, I can‘t speak for the Democratic candidates. I wish their plans were better. They‘re all sort of in the right path, but they‘re afraid to take that big leap and just say private insurance has to go.
No doctor should have to call an insurance man to ask for permission to treat a patient that‘s sitting right there in the doctor‘s office. It just makes no sense.
OLBERMANN: Let me switch you back. We sort of started on this at the beginning of the interview and I want to end the interview here. The war; do you have a response to the president‘s claim today that the surge has been at least halfway successful so far?
MOORE: Well, you got a halfway president there. I mean, I just—the whole nation is totally befuddled by this individual. He‘s become a non-partisan, bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats and independents, all together, are sick and tired of the job he‘s doing, and they want this war to end.
And I‘m hoping the Democratic Congress hears that message. They were given the message last November. They haven‘t followed through on what they were told to do by the people of the United States of America. So I really hope that the Democrats can find their spine and do what needs to be done here.
OLBERMANN: Do you think it‘s fear on the part of the Democrats or they‘re not aware of the power they have?
MOORE: They‘re not aware of the power they have and it is fear, absolutely. That‘s exactly what it is. And you know what, the only way they‘ll understand it is if people write their members of Congress, call them, go and visit their local offices, make your voices heard. It has a powerful impact on them. But somehow they‘re just not getting the message now.
And I guess it‘s up to us to give them that message and tell them that they‘re going to have a hard time getting elected next time. Not that people are going to switch their votes to the Republicans, but they‘re going to depress the vote and people just simply aren‘t going to show up next November because they‘re going to be so disappointed with what the Democrats have done.
OLBERMANN: The new movie is “Sicko.” Its maker is Michael Moore. Great luck with the latest project and great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
MOORE: Thanks for having me on here and thanks for the great show you have.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir. So, the secretary of homeland security says he has a gut feeling that we‘re at greater risk of attack by al Qaeda this summer. The correct word is actually gutless. Special comment ahead.
And Miss New Jersey walks into a doctor‘s office with two pumpkins on her chest. The pumpkins say, hey doc, can you get this Miss New Jersey off our gourds? The blackmailed beauty next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Or number two story on the COUNTDOWN, our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. Ever since Amy Polumbo, better known as Miss New Jersey announced she was being blackmailed because of some racy pictures, the Internets have been overrun by men trying to find set photos. Now they have been public by the victim. And they‘re hot, if you‘re into pumpkins.
After she posted pictures of herself on Facebook.com, someone else, identifying himself or herself as the Committee to Save Miss America, mailed the pictures, first to her with a blackmailing note, then forwarded the package on to pageant officials. So this morning on the “Today Show” to everyone, explaining that her boyfriend, who in her words is very intelligent, was being funny while taking a nibble at her breast, that she was responding to a friend who called her flat chested by boosting herself with mini-pumpkins, that she was tumbling around in a limo during a friend‘s birthday party when that happened.
She explains the photos thusly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY POLUMBO, MISS NEW JERSEY: In my opinion, it‘s not in a lady like manner. But I‘m not a robot. I‘m a human being and I‘m also a theater major. And it was a mistake that I made with my friends acting silly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So she‘s human and a theater major. Glad that‘s all cleared up. Oh, and the pageant officials decided she could keep her crown and no pumpkins were harmed in the making of those photos.
And the night Paris Hilton left Lynwood jail, we reported that, quoting the transcript, she was strutting out of jail as if emerging from a fantastic spa on to the cat walk. Now it turns out that snarky observation was right on the money.
TMZ.com reported that Hilton used her departure from jail to model her very own new line of clothing. The jeans she was wearing, part of the Paris Hilton denim line, perfect for all liberated prisoners. She is now apparently in talks with Macy‘s to sell her jeans line to the masses. So soon you, too, can look like a criminal without looking criminally out of style.
Even in the long bumbling history of the Department of Homeland Security this was a fiasco, Michael Chertoff‘s gut. A special comment; that‘s next. But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to three religious fanatics who showed up and interrupted the opening prayer at a Senate hearing today, calling it an abomination. Some separation of church and state guys? No. Some foreign devils? No. The prayer was given by a Hindu chaplain from Nevada. He was interrupted by two women and a man who tried to shout him down with cries of no lord but Jesus Christ, and there‘s one true god.
Mr. Christ has issued a statement, apologizing, saying he never told anybody to be intolerant, certainly not to be rude.
Our runner-up, Sandy Rios (ph), president of something called the Culture Campaign, bashing the San Diego Padres for staging a kids hat give away at the same game they held gay pride night. “When you have people into the ballpark and take their kids and their kids are watching the halftime activities and watching what‘s going on, the celebration of this choice, that‘s when I have a problem, because I don‘t think this is anything to celebrate.”
You know, you might sound a little less clownish if you got your basic facts right. The kids watching halftime activities. It was a baseball game, no halftimes. That‘s basketball or football or soccer.
But the winner, Bill-O. Miss Rios was speaking on his show, of course, and he described the two promotions as, “almost unbelievable. Thousands of gay adults showed up and co-mingled with straight families.”
Co-mingled? Bad news for you Bill-O, it ain‘t a virus. It ain‘t
catching. And, by the way, gays co-mingle with straight people every
day, even at ballparks. And I hate to ruin your day, even some of the
players are gay. Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s Worst Person in the World
OLBERMANN: Now, as promised, a special comment on Michael Chertoff‘s gut. You have by now heard the remark instantly added to our through the looking glass lexicon of the 21st century, a time when we suddenly started referring to this country as the homeland, as if anybody here has used that term since Charles Lindbergh or the German/American Bund in 1940.
Michael Chertoff‘s gut feeling, which he took pains to emphasize was based on no specific, nor even vague intelligence—you got that right—that we are entering a period of increased risk of terrorism here. He got as specific as saying that al-Qaeda seems to like the summer, but as to the rest of it, he is perfectly content to let us sit and wait and worry and to contemplate his gut.
His gut. We used to have John Ashcroft‘s major announcements. We used to have David Paulson‘s breathless advisories about how to use duct tape against radiation attacks. We used to have Tom Ridge‘s color coded threat levels. Now we have Michael Chertoff‘s gut.
Once, we thought we were tip toeing along a Grand Canyon of possible and actual freedoms and civil liberties destroyed as part of some kind of nauseating, but ultimately necessary and intricately designed plan to stop future 9/11‘s or even future Glasgow car bombers, who wind up having to get out and push their failed weapons.
Now, it turns out, we are risking all of our rights and all of our protections, and risking the anger and hatred of the rest of the world for the sake of Michael Chertoff‘s gut. I have pondered this supreme expression of diminished expectations for parts of three days now. I have concluded that there are only five explanations for Mr. Chertoff‘s remarkable revelations about his transcendently important counter-terrorism stomach.
Firstly, Mr. Chertoff, you are, as Richard Wolfe said here the other night, actually referencing not your gut, but your backside, as in covering it, C.Y.A. Not only has there not been a terrorist attack stopped in this country, but your good old Homeland Security has not even unraveled a plausible terrorist plan. You and your folks there have a different kind of stomach pain, know that with a track record that consist largely of two accomplishments, inconveniencing people at airports and scaring them everyone else, your department doesn‘t know what the hell it is doing. And even you, Mr. Chertoff, know that.
Secondly, of course, there is the possible explanation of choice for those millions of us who have heard the shrill and curiously timed cries of wolf over the last six years, what we‘ve called here the nexus of politics and terror. But there isn‘t anything cooking, and your gut feeling was actually that you better throw up a diversion soon on Mr. Bush‘s behalf for something real, like Republican revolt over Iraq, and the nauseating gut feeling the rest of us have that we have gotten 3,611 Americans killed there for no reason; that it was actually going to seep into the American headlines and American consciousness.
It is impossible to prove a negative, to guarantee that you and your predecessors deliberately scared the American public just for the political hell of it, even though your predecessor, Mr. Ridge, admitted he had his suspicions about exactly that. Suffice to say, Mr. Chertoff, if it ever can be proved, there will be a lot of people from Homeland Security and other outposts of this remarkably corrupt administration who will be going to prison.
Thirdly, and most charitably, I guess, Mr. Chertoff, there is the possibility that you have made some credible inference, that we are really at greater risk right now, but that any detail might blow some attempt at interruption. There is some silver lining in this, but the silver lining would have been a greater one if this counter terrorism center report had not leaked out the day after you introduced us to your gut. It was a report suggesting that al-Qaeda had rebuilt its operational capacity to re-9/11 levels.
Not only did this latest hair on fire missive remind us that al Qaeda‘s regrowth has been along the Pakistan/Afghan border; not only did it remind us that your boss let this happen by shifting his resources out of Afghanistan to Iraq for his own vain an foolish purposes, to say nothing of ignoring Pakistan; not only did it underscore the ominous truth that if this country is victimized by al-Qaeda, the personal responsibility for the failure of our misplaced defenses would belong to President Bush and President Bush alone.
On top of all of that, Mr. Chertoff, it revealed you for the phony expert you are, the kid who hears in confidence something smart from somebody smart and then makes his prediction that what the smart kid said confidentially is about to happen. It reads, just as you revise the gut remark this morning sir, the informed opinion, the kid telling stories out of school.
The fourth possibility is a simple reversal of third, Mr. Chertoff. You shot off your basso (ph) and then this National Counter Terrorism Center report was rushed out, even created to cover you, to give you credibility, to cloud the reality that you actually intoned to the “Chicago Tribune” the 21st century equivalent of by the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.
But the fifth possible explanation of your gut, Mr. Chertoff, is the real nightmare scenario, and it is simple, that you, the man who famously told us Louisiana is a city that is largely under water, meant this literally, that we really have been reduced to listening to see if your gut will growl, that your intestines are our best defense, that your bowels are our listening devices. Your digestive track is full augers. Your colon produces the results that the torture at Gitmo does not.
All hail the prophetic gut.
So there are your choices, bureaucratic self-protection, political manipulation of the worst kind, the dropping of opaque hints, a gaffe back filled by an instant report, or the complete disintegration of our counter terrorism effort.
Even if there really is never another terror attempt in this country, we have already lost too much in these last six years to now have to listen to Michael Chertoff‘s gut, no matter what its motivation. We can not and will not turn this country into a police state. But even those of us who say that most loudly and instantly acknowledge that some stricter measures under the still stricter supervision of as many watch dogs as we can summon are appropriate.
But you‘re not even going to ring any of that from us, Mr. Chertoff, if we‘re going to hear remarks about your gut feelings. You have reduced yourself to the status of a hunch driven clown. It is probable time you turned your task over to somebody who represents the brain and not the gut. Certainly to somebody who does, as you do now, represent that other part of the anatomy, the one through which the body disposes of what the stomach does not want. Good night and good luck.
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