Guests: Harry Shearer, E.J. Donne, Ana Marie Cox, Jonathan Alter
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Two years to the day since this. Two years to the day since the storm that reconfigured the Gulf Coast. Two years to the day since it stripped away the administration‘s illusion of confidence, even today still symbolically battering New Orleans and leading a blissfully unaware president to batter himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This town is coming back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Two years to the days since Katrina. What happened to the federal funding? Was Republican-controlled Mississippi treated better than Democratic-controlled Louisiana? Jonathan Alter on the unceasing politics of the unceasing storm.
Harry Shearer, New Orleans resident, with the most bitter of satirical observations. Maybe there was not enough destruction to keep the politician‘s attention.
The presidential blackmail continues. $50 billion more for Iraq or else. Why the administration thinks that General Petraeus‘ initials on the latest cooked books will get them our money?
If he wants $12 million, he can get that from the late Leona Helmsley‘s dog. That is the size of the dog‘s trust fund.
And Senator Larry Craig continued. Thrown under the bus by Mitt Romney, not Romney has backed up the bus to run him over again.
And for comedians, it‘s a fleet of buses running on two minute headways.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Craig wants America to know that he is willing to accept punishment, stern punishment, preferably the firm hand of a police officer or another man in uniform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But nothing is more painfully funny then the actual police report. Our dramatic reenactment tonight of what reads like a script from Dragnet. “It Tuesday, June 11. It was sunny and warm. I was assigned to the vice squad working out of the men‘s room out at the airport. My boss is Chief Dolen (ph). My name is Karsnia. I‘m a cop, a cop in the toilet.”
All that and more now on “Countdown.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LARRY CRAIG, ®, IDAHO: A nasty, bad, naughty boy.
(on camera): Good evening. President Bush, who did not even mention Hurricane Katrina in his most recent State of the Union address, declared in a visit to some of the few places in New Orleans which have been rebuilt, that better days are ahead for that city. In our fifth story on the “Countdown,” given that independent studies reveal that only about one-fifth of the money supposed to be spent on the levees has been spent, just one-third of the money supposedly already spent on homes, it is notable that the president did not say how many years or decades away those better days are.
Two years to the day after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Bush seemingly determined to tread the anniversary as cause for celebration, not quite Mardi Gras, mind you, but beyond marking the occasion with a moment of silence. The president‘s outlook remaining decidedly upbeat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: My attitude is this—New Orleans, better days are ahead. It is sometimes hard for people to see progress when you live in the community all the time. Laura and I get to come—we do not live here. We come here on occasion. It is easy to think about what it was like when we first came here after the hurricane and what it‘s like today. And this town is coming back. This town is better today than it was yesterday. And it‘s going to better tomorrow than it was today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush also celebrated those he said had dedicated their lives to the renewal of New Orleans. Others in the region today putting the president‘s dedication and in the spotlight. An editorial of the New Orleans Times Picayune, titled, “Treat us Fairly, Mr. President,” today chiding the Bush administration for giving Republican-dominated Mississippi, which Mr. Bush also visited, a share that was disproportionate to the damage done in that state and in largest Democratic Louisiana.
As for the more than $14 billion the White House claims has been spent on he rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, a study by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights find that the majority of the money has not been disbursed. Less than $35 billion, only about one-third has been available for rebuilding. Even though failures in federal levee system caused the flooding in the first place, the U.S. Corps of Engineers has spent less than 20 percent of the funds available to protect New Orleans, admitting repairs will not be done for another four years.
Time now to turn to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at Newsweek.
John, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, NEWSWEEK: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president bragged about the $14 billion the governments provided for Katrina recovery efforts, staging this at a charter school, even though just two percent of the federal spending on Katrina relief has gone to education. At this point, who does he think he is fooling? And why is he bothering to do it?
ALTER: That‘s a great question. All he has now is photo opportunities. His administration is basically over. He‘s just playing out the string here. And he does need to show up for a basic sense of respectability. He‘s gone several times recently.
Meanwhile, the job is not getting done. In most of the other areas there are huge bottlenecks. They are not doing anything about the particular canal that caused the flooding in the first place, which has many in Louisiana outraged that the source of all the damage has not been dealt with by the government. There has been a disproportionate share of the money that has gone to Haley Barbour, the lobbyist-turned governor of Mississippi. He has grabbed twice as much proportionally as Louisiana, even though it was New Orleans that was basically wiped off the map.
OLBERMANN: You hate to see states being pitted against each other about funding in this way. As you mentioned there and as the editorial mentioned today, but is that really materially true, even in this, the administration has rewarded Republicans and punished Democrats as if the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast was handing out postmaster jobs and not helping Americans?
ALTER: Politics got involved in this very, very quickly with the finger-pointing at the beginning. Haley Barbour has some problems. Some of his relatives got the contracts improperly in Mississippi. Mississippi has done much better than Louisiana, which has a Democratic governor. It is the overall level of attention and the overall failure to execute. And if that sounds familiar it is. The same thing that has bedeviled us in Iraq has been happening in the Gulf States. They are not getting it done. They are not interested in government.
Even at the most symbolic level, the failure to mention Katrina in the State of the Union address less than a year and a half after the hurricane was just outrageous. I have talked to friends in Louisiana who said that they were stunned as they listened to that speech that when he got to the end he had not mentioned Katrina they actually broke down in tears. They felt that abandoned by their own government.
OLBERMANN: That is a rookie mistake, a stupid mistake on the president‘s part and for those who wrote the speech. Realistically, given the criticism made of President Bush on this program and in so many other quarters, what could he have done today other than to saying here is $130 billion I have my back pocket, you‘re going to spend it today? What could he have done? Could he go there and say I‘m wishing everybody well and I‘m not making any other comments? What could he have done today?
ALTER: In some ways, it is too late. I had a conversation with John Kerry after he lost the 2004 elections and he said that if he had become president after Katrina hit he would have spent huge amounts of time—he said he would have moved to Louisiana basically, to show that the country was committed to saving this city. There has been a lack of presidential attention. He has been there 15 times for a day or a half a day. Going back now, it is late.
I think that the only thing that he really could do would be to announce a series of initiatives. You saw the candidates, both on the Democratic and Republican side, who each had suggestions about things to do differently. If you come in with a package of reform measures for how the aid is being administered, that would have been welcome. But it also would have required him to admit that the clean up has not gone well. And admitting mistakes, admitting that he needs to make mid-course corrections we know is not this president‘s strong suit.
OLBERMANN: What a contrast, President Bush said he had a better view about recovery then the residents there because he has not been there compared to what your story was about Senator Kerry.
Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and Newsweek. As always, John, thank you.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For more on the perspective, a unique perspective of a New Orleans resident. We are joined by Harry Shearer, who has written about the federal response to the storm for the HuffingtonPost.com and has sung about it in full George-Bush-make up for the website mydamnchannel.com.
Harry, good evening.
HARRY SHEARER, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is there a chance that we have been looking at this backwards? Instead of destroying too many homes, too many lives, the post Katrina flooding did not destroy enough to keep politicians‘ attentions?
SHEARER: I base that on the response to the subprime lending crisis where people were hornswoggled by TV commercials into getting loans even though they had no assets and no jobs. I contrasted that with what happened here, the number of homeowners who, through no fault of their own, were dispossessed and thrown to the wind and scattered to 40 or 50 states. Still 200,000 unable to come back. I hypothesized that the problem was we did not lose enough houses. We did not damage enough homeowners. And the other thing, we didn‘t do it in enough congressional districts to matter.
I will take the opportunity to answer the question that you asked, what President Bush could have done today. He could have announced two things that all the candidates have neglected to mention in their plans. Independent peer review for any further operations for the Army Corps of Engineers. They‘re at work right behind us today. Their accomplishment today is to kill a bunch of fish which are floating right behind me. I can smell them now. And the second thing is to embark on a serious program or rebuilding the coastal wetlands which have been a slow-motion disaster over the last 30 or 40 years as they eroded away. He could have done those things. Fortunately for all of us who welcome and treasure our sanity, he did not.
OLBERMANN: The mention of the other candidates, to what degree do the Democrats shares in the blame for Katrina apathy? We are not hearing a lot of Katrina outrage on the campaign trail.
SHEARER: You pointed to the absence of any mention of New Orleans in the president‘s State of the Union. I would mention that there is an absence in Nancy Pelosi‘s speech after the Democrats won control. No mention of it there either. It has been a non-priority for both parties at the national level despite the bipartisan efforts of the Louisiana Congressional delegation to move this along.
OLBERMANN: Do you agree with the president in this remarkable statement of his that perhaps you cannot see the progress that‘s taking place in New Orleans because you live in the committee and thus it is happening to incrementally to be seen?
SHEARER: You see it so much more clearly from 35,000 feet up. We are too close to the ground here. You fly from 35,000 feet up, you see it real clearly.
I split my time between here and Los Angeles. Every time I come back, I do see more progress. I think people who are here day in and day out are worn down by the day in and day outness of the problems they face. I can drive up the fields and see that somebody planted new trees. Finally, we don‘t have to look at the old brown trees any more. There is a nugget of truth in that.
OLBERMANN: What do we not know about New Orleans that only a resident
can tell us and how should know, Harry??
SHEARER: I think the main thing at this point is, beside the fact that New Orleans did not get destroyed by hurricane, it got destroyed by the design and construction flaws of levees that all of us paid taxes to build over the last 40 years.
The other thing I think is people somehow get the idea that people in New Orleans are whiney beggars. When you walk around the city and all of the progress that has been made, up to now, is being made by individuals who, whatever their resources, whether their own, their family, the wonderful volunteers who make us believe that there still such a place called the U.S., church groups, or every once in a while insurance companies paying off their claims, these people are doing it one store at a time, one house at a time, one bowling alley at a time. This is a city of bootstraps.
OLBERMANN: Harry Shearer, humorist, actor, writer, tonight simply resident of New Orleans. Always an honor to have you on the program, sir.
SHEARER: Thank you, Keith. If I can sell you any dead fish, let me know.
OLBERMANN: Keep them. Thanks, Harry.
The president has issued more demands about Iraq, $50 billion to do
whatever he thinks he is doing there. The expectation is that Democrats
As Republicans lined up for their turn to publicly flog their own Senate colleague Larry Craig, the joking goes wild. The funniest thing is the truth, the actual police report reenacted just for you.
You‘re watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The U.S. strategy in Iraq hereafter shall be conditioned on the Iraqi government meeting benchmarks. That is the letter of law laid out in Congress in May and it gave President Bush an additional $120 billion for his troop escalation.
IN our fourth story on the “Countdown,” despite the fact that the Iraqi national government has failed to meet any those benchmarks, the Bush administration is reportedly poised to ask for another $50 billion to keep the troop escalation going despite the lack of political progress here or there. Democrats are expected to give it to him. That is $50 billion extra on top of a pending $147 billion war supplemental funding bill, on top of the $120 billion already granted for extra war funding this year by Congress in May. All that is in addition to the regular Pentagon budget for next year, $460 billion. The extra war cash means that the cost of keeping American troops in Iraq just topped $3 billion per week.
Joining us now, E.J. Dionne of the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post.
Welcome back, old friend.
E.J. DIONNE, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION AND WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST:
Good to be with you. I think I am glad I am not in the Dragnet segment.
OLBERMANN: Many of us agree on your own point of view. Turning to the subject at hand, in January the president said the U.S. commitment was not open ended to Iraq. Don‘t these actions, constantly pouring huge amounts of money into this war, keeping the escalation going despite evidence that there is no progress from the government there, don‘t they belie those words?
DIONNE: I think the answer is yes. The president is threatening to have a huge fight with Congress over the budget in general. He is saying that the Congress is overspending. The difference of the president and Congress is $22 billion. President Bush said in August, only in Washington is $22 billion called a small difference. Lo and behold, a month later, we are looking at this new $50 billion. We are going to have a huge fight over $22 billion for health care and other things. And we are not supposed to fight at all over $50 billion on top of all that other money in Iraq. When you think about it—what is it—seven weeks and a couple of days of this war equal the $22 billion that he is proposing to have a big fight over.
OLBERMANN: In your newspaper, the report that the White House believes that Democrats will not be able to refuse this, why? Why not?
DIONNE: I wonder what is going to happen with the additional $50 billion on top of everything else. What you have in the Congress is a nonexistent Democratic majority in the Senate. They do not really control the place. You have a small majority in the House. You have about 30 House Democrats, 40 sometimes, who do not want to cut off the funding for the troops. So that has kind of stalled things. As long as Bush is there and ready to veto proposals to withdraw troops, nothing will happen.
I wonder is if this additional $50 billion becomes a signal not only to the Democrats to say can this go on like this, but also to Republicans who have started to say, as Senator Warner has, we really think we should withdraw troops. I do not think this is going to end until a significant number of Republicans stand up and say we really think this was a mistake and we have to narrow our objectives and start pulling the troops out. And I‘m not sure that‘s going to happen this fall.
OLBERMANN: The price right now is $330 billion and the congressional office reckons that, even if the rate were to fall to 30,000 by the year 2010, that means another $470 billion by that point. Is it still cynical, is it still out there at this point to suggest that maybe the point of this war, at heart, is to shovel as much taxpayer money possible into Dwight Eisenhower‘s military industrial complex?
DIONNE: I have not gotten that cynical yet, but I am starting to wonder why does this war have to continue in this fashion all the way until the end of President Bush‘s term? Is it really an effort to force the really difficult decisions on to the next president? It seems to me that we would be much better off to face the fact that, as of April, our military cannot sustain this level of troops. That is not some lefty blogger saying that. That is all of the military guys saying we can‘t keep this many troops there.
The question is what is this surge accomplishing? Let‘s acknowledge there been any some military successes. Has there been any political change in Iraq? It looks like there has been backward movement in Iraq. Where are we going to be in April when we have to start pulling off troops? That is the disturbing thing about the debate now as we‘re saying, well, we‘ll keep this going, but to what end? I do not think we know?
OLBERMANN: E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and the Brookings Institution. I‘m sorry it‘s on this topic. It‘s always a pleasure to speak with you?
DIONNE: It‘s great to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Talk about complexes, the will of Leona Helmsley, some of the grandchildren get nothing. Her dog? Her dog can now buy and sell you, buddy.
And in Tomatina, they make their ketchup the old fashioned way.
That‘s next. This is “Countdown.”
OLBERMANN: An extraordinary array of talent given to those born on August 29th, from film, Ingrid Bergman, Richard Attenborough and the unsung George McCready; from Jazz, Charlie Byrd Parker; and from literature, now an obscure Belgian, Maurice Maeterlinck, born on this date in 1862, who observed with singular clarity that, quote, “at every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past.”
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
Speaking of tradition, we begin in Spain were once again 40,000 people decided to spend their summer vacation topless and covered in tomato goo. The festival began in the 1940‘s when unruly teenagers started throwing produce from a local vegetable stand at one another. The next year they turned and came up with plan B, pelting passers-by instead. Today, entire crates of tomatoes, 110 tons worth, get dumped in the town square for tourists to throw at each other. Then the locals sustain themselves through the long winter ahead by licking the tomato paste from the nurturing cracks in the pavement. I made that part up.
Let‘s go to Roger Center (ph) in Toronto. Early season highlights of Canadian Football League action between the Argonauts and the Saskatchewan rough riders because Wednesday night is football night in Canada. This is the halftime show. This is Ashley in the blindfold. She is blindfolded, spun around three times then she has to run through a banner halfway down the field. If she does, she wins a vacation. Now she needs a vacation. The announcer encourages the crowd to help guide her but to no avail. Not only does she miss the banner twice and nearly hit the players, but she fails to hear when her time has run out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on Ashley. Help her out (ph). Run.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ashley, take off your blindfold. Careful, Ashley. Stop.
OLBERMANN: Ashley, thus breaking not just the fence but also breaking the Toronto Argonaut season rushing yardage records set by Joe Theismann and Leon X-ray McCray.
King of like Mitt Romney throwing Larry Craig under the bus and then circling the block and driving over him again. And John McCain says quit and Norm Coleman says quit. The political folly, as analyzed for us by Ana Marie Cox, and the simpler folly that is the police report itself. Since it reads like an episode of Dragnet, we made it into an episode of Dragnet.
These stories ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day. Number three, the unnamed 58 year old Japanese bachelor arrested for calling the police and fire departments in Sai Etama (ph) Prefecture 388 times in 14 months. He said he was lonely and wanted the police and firemen to come and look after him. So he would call and say I have gasoline and kerosene and started a fire. One time, an ambulance, ten engines and 35 firemen went out there to take care of it.
Number two, Sloan Bashinksy, candidate for mayor of Key West, Florida. He and five others running for the job asked at a candidates forum there what their vision is for their city; Key West is a carnival, said Mr. Bashinksy. I think we can do wonderful things with the pirate theme. His pirate theme, dress up Key West‘s city workers or perhaps the homeless as pirates.
And number, James Mitchell of Mount Vernon, New York. Police say he held up a teenager at knife point there and demanded the younger man‘s money. The victim pulled out a 10 dollar bill, whereupon Mr. Mitchell said, I only want four bucks. Go into the pizza parlor and get change for that ten. I will wait.
Naturally, the victim goes in, gets change for the ten and gives Mr. Mitchell the four dollars. Mr. Mitchell then leaves. But what he could not possibly have known was that while inside the victim made arrangements to call the local police.
OLBERMANN: Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig last night endured a fate politically worse than becoming a convict. He became a punch line. We will play a sample of the comedy in just a bit. But in our third story tonight, while Senator Craig became a household name overnight, in the same time span, among his fellow Republicans, he became better known as senator who-from-the-what-now.
His fellow Republican senators, John McCain and Norm Coleman, today called for him to resign. So did a Republican congressman, echoing several conservative groups. And according to Survey USA, 45 percent of Idaho Republican voters familiar with the epic story also want Craig to resign. Senate Republicans called for an ethics probe.
Today they removed him from his position as ranking Republican on one committee and two subcommittees. Mitt Romney not only dumped Craig as his Senate liaison, his campaign falsified its online archives, to make it appear that old press releases never mentioned Senator Craig, while other Republicans reportedly wanted to know whether Craig tried to use his position as senator to evade arrest. Romney seemed fixated on the sexual nature of Craig‘s arrest.
Joining us now with her observations on Romney revisionism is Ana Marie Cox, Washington editor of Time.com. Welcome to the program. Great thanks for your time, tonight.
ANA MARIE COX, TIME.COM: Hey, Keith.
OLBERMANN: In your column today you pointed out how strenuously Governor Romney works to distance himself from anything that might taint his conservative credentials. What exactly is his history?
COX: Well, most famously for me, the most recent history, is when it turned out that his wife had donated 150 dollars to Planned Parenthood, he said something like that is her money. I had nothing to do with that, which is maybe true, and is probably healthy in a marriage, to not share the exact same political views, but it was also pushing her underneath the bus a little bit.
Then there is this whole history with his evolution on various views to coming more to the right, whether it be immigration, abortion, or stem cell research. The man is pretty clearly trying to erase the Google cache of his entire political history.
OLBERMANN: That never works. You also pointed out that an established conservative, perhaps distastefully sometimes conservative Sam Brownback seems a little more comfortable extending mercy or at least some sort of period of time, as several Democrats have suggested, a little time to get the facts together here. Should we start considering knee-jerk tough talk from Romney or Senator McCain or anybody else here as a symptom of someone who is trying to fake conservatism?
COX: I think you have to look at what they criticize about Larry Craig‘s behavior. Romney very specifically objected to the sexual component of what happened. He compared him to Bill Clinton, which may be an apt comparison in some ways, in that Bill Clinton tried to get away with something and Craig tried to get away with something, and wanted to use his electoral office to get away with it.
Someone like, McCain said look, you pled guilty to something, and that is why he should resign. There is a little bit of difference there with people coming out against him. What I find really distasteful about the whole thing personally is that Romney would sort of admit that he is a bad judge of character. Either the guy is the victim of a witch hut of some kind, which I find unlikely, and deserves our sympathy, or he is—believe Romney—some kind of Clinton character, and Romney should have known better than to hire him as his Senate liaison.
OLBERMANN: The camp, the Romney camp also removed this video of Larry Craig praising him from MittRomney.com. We understand that today. The rewriting of these old news releases, keeping the original dates on them to make it seem as if they had never mentioned Larry Craig in the first place; this seems like astonishingly blatant dishonesty for someone who is still seeking the public trust. Or are we missing the boat here? Is this not a bad thing, but really good Orwell; he who owns the past owns the future?
COX: The Commissar vanishes indeed. I think it is an attempt by Romney to own the past, but, as I was saying earlier, in the age of Google caches, you can‘t do that. Voters have longer memories than Google even, I think. Romney has got to be fighting against that. I‘m sure he would like to erase his entire tenure as the Massachusetts governor, except for the fact that he was that. He likes to bring that up.
I really do think that he‘s making a mistake here. I think that politically savvy voters, and anyone who is just breathing and paying attention, is going to see through this behavior. Also, he has inserted himself into the story several times. I think the smart political thing to do would have been to get rid of the guy from the campaign staff, maybe take the video down. But why would you perpetuate the story? Why would you involve yourself in this? It really seems politically inept, in my opinion.
OLBERMANN: Are we missing something here? Is there some base that he is appealing by being cruel to somebody in trouble? I‘m quite serious about his. Where the reaction is the reason he was doing something like this is that nobody ever stopped him before, I am going to be the one that shows him what the law is. Is there something to that?
COX: I think there may be. Although I think his understanding of even the conservative base is rather incomplete. I think that someone like Sam Brownback, you may disagree with him, but you really can‘t doubt his social conservative credentials, at least has the strength of character to extend Christian mercy. I know Mitt Romney is not himself Christian—or that‘s a point of debate.
But to show some kind of compassion for somebody who—at least their family is going through something really terrible. I think it smacks of opportunism for him to just throw the guy aside.
OLBERMANN: Ana Marie Cox of Time.com, also in the middle of a week of co-hosting “Morning Joe” right here on MSNBC, talk about strength of character, great thanks and go to sleep now.
COX: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Now, as promised, we wade into the realm of the juvenile, without—and we promise you this—the fig leaf of offering this as some sort of cultural survey or political barometer. No, just goofy stuff about an old guy who went into a bathroom and allegedly tried to do some no-no with his what‘s-this. A little later, we will have the funniest and ironically enough the most truthful thing of all, the actual police report, word for word, with a little visual enhancements.
But right now a quick look at the fake stuff from last night; David Letterman‘s version of Senator Craig‘s ad pleading for mercy, kind of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recently, Senator Larry Craig was arrested for allegedly soliciting gay sex in an airport men‘s room. Obviously what he did was wrong. Senator Craig wants America to know that he is willing to accept punishment, stern, forceful punishment, probably at the firm hand of a police officer, or other man in uniform, a strict disciplinarian who can be tough, yet also tender, who knows exactly what a dirty, naughty senator really needs.
Larry Craig, compassionate conservative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That‘s all well and good, but in the Dragnet tradition, just the facts ma‘am, we will also be reenacting the actual undercover policeman‘s report. Look at those shoes and that wig.
And more truth and probably more strange, the late Queen of Mean still getting meaner after death. In the will, two of the grand kids get nothing. The 12 million dollars goes to—you won‘t believe where 12 million dollars goes to next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On the anniversary of the Katrina disaster, let it be noted that the late Leona Helmsley once gave five million dollars to hurricane relief and will end up giving billions more to charity. That pretty much sums up the good stuff.
Our number two story, the bad stuff; the woman who famously said only the little people pay taxes decided that a little dog will get the largest single bequest from her inheritance. Just to recap, Miss Helmsley died last week after leaving a four billion dollar fortune made by investing in luxury hotels, cheating on taxes and abusing employees.
She served two years for tax fraud, once sued her only son‘s estate after he died because he owed her money, and earned a reputation, as one writer put it, as the Lady Macbeth of the lodging industry. And now from beyond the grave, one more up yours from Leyona. Her favorite Maltese lap dog Trouble has been named as the largest individual beneficiary in her will, inheriting 12 million dollars.
Trouble will also be laid to rest—not now, but when the time comes
right next to Helmsley in an ornate million dollar stained glass and granite mausoleum, which is to be steam cleaned at least once a year in perpetuity. Leona always prided herself on the house keeping at her hotels.
As for her only four grandkids, she cut two of them out of the will entirely for, as the will states, reasons which are known to them. So far they‘re not telling. Two other grandchildren get five million dollars each, but only if they visit their father‘s grave at least once a year and sign in to prove it.
The prize money not quite great on TV‘s “Dancing With the Stars.” The opening act in tonight‘s edition of Keeping Tabs. Speed Skater Apollo Ono was one of the fleet footed former champs on hand this morning when the show revealed its new dance card for the new season. Although the show‘s producers say a new format is the really big news, how can you top this? Wayne Newton is one of the dozen stars who will be dancing their way all over your living room. Here‘s hoping nothing breaks off from the 65 year old Vegas legend as he breaks off some moves.
He joins an eclectic list that includes Scary Spice Melanie Brown, Marie Osmond, actresses Jane Seymour and Jenny Garth, boxer Floyd Mayweather—wait until you see him in the clinch—and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and HD Net, who, based on his experience in the NBA with the referees, will doubtless start screaming at the judges on day one, and then bring in Dan Rather.
For all the jokes at the expense of Senator Larry Craig, nothing could be funnier than the police report itself and we will reenact the pertinent parts next. But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for the Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration; the families of the six miners buried alive in Utah have signed paperwork designating the United Mine Workers Union as their representatives in the investigation of the disaster. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has told them no. The mine was non-union. So for the six buried Utah miners to get a union to represent them in an investigation, they have to sign the paperwork themselves, seriously.
The runner up, Fidel Castro, writing an editorial in the official Cuban communist party newspaper about who the Democrats should nominate for president and vice president next year. An apparently unbeatable ticket, he writes, could be Hillary for president and Obama as her running mate. Exactly what in the hell do you know about elections, Castro?
But our winner, CNN‘s Glen Beck. On this second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he‘s got the solution for the administration‘s continuing disinterest in helping the Crescent City, especially in terms of policing itself. Quote, there‘s not enough guns in New Orleans, he explained on the radio today. I think we should have a gun fund. If you are living in New Orleans and you are a law-abiding citizen, you have a legal right to own a gun; you come on my program, say I am poor, I am a law abiding citizen. I don‘t have a record. Blah, blah, blah. I will match you with a donor that will buy you a gun. You have to go buy it the right You have to do it all legally.
Now this may sound insane since, well, it‘s insane, but not just because how do know all those guns will be used in self-defense? It is insane for Beck, because if he does this and any people are lying to him about having the legal right to own a gun, he could be guilty of making what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms calls a straw purchase, in which somebody buys a gun for somebody else who doesn‘t have a legal right to have one. It‘s against federal law, U.S. code Title 18, Chapter 19, Section 371.
If convicted, Mr. Beck would liable by statute to a fine of up to 250,000 dollars, a 100 dollar special assessment, three years of supervised release and five years in jail. Glenn, bon chance. Glenn Beck, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: The news outlet “Roll Call” broke the news Monday night that Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig had pleaded guilty two weeks ago to a misdemeanor, what captured the public and political attention was not so much the charge itself, disorderly conduct. No, in our number one story tonight, as the old saying goes, god is in the details. The details are divine.
Nothing graphic, nothing sexual happened, after all. But if you have ever read a police report, you know they are rendered in an especially dry style, a style made famous on the old TV cop show Dragnet. The just the facts style that renders sad, silly human beings behavior, such as the semaphore of elicit foreplay, irresistibly absurd.
In that spirit, we offer the following dramatization, utilizing the actual unaltered text of the Craig incident report, embellished only with a Dragnet style introduction and wrap up. Just like on the TV. No actual senators were harmed in the making of this film.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story you are about to see is true. The names have not been changed to protect anybody.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): This is the city, Minneapolis, Minnesota. I work here. I carry a badge. It was Tuesday, June 11. It was sunny and warm for Minneapolis. I was assigned to the vice squad, working in the men‘s room at the airport. My boss is Chief Dolan. My name is Karsnia. I‘m a cop, a cop on the toilet.
At 1200 hours I was working a plain clothes detail involving lewd conduct in the main men‘s public restroom of the Northstar crossing of the Lenburg Terminal. From my seated position, I could observe the shoes and ankles of the person seated to the right of me. An unidentified person entered to the left of me. From my seated position I was able to see his shoes and ankles.
At 12:13 hours, I could see an older white male with gray hair standing outside my stall. He was standing about 3 feet away and had a roller bag with him. The male was later identified by driver‘s license as Larry Edwin Craig. I could see Craig look through the crack of the door from his position.
Craig would look down at his hands, fidget with his fingers, and then look through the crack into my stall again. Craig would repeat the cycle for about two minutes. I was able to see Craig‘s blue eyes as he looked into my stall. At 12:15 hours, the male in the stall to the left of me flushed the toilet and exited the stall. Craig entered the stall and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door.
My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall. From my position, I could observe the shoes and ankles of Craig seated to the left of me. He was wearing dress pants with black dress shoes. At 12:16 hours, Craig tapped his feet. I recognized this is a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct.
Craig tapped his toes several times, then moved his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot, which was within my stall area.
At 12:17 hours, I saw Craig swipe his hand under the stall divided for a few seconds. The swipe went from the direction from the front door side of the stall back towards the back wall. Craig swiped his hand again for a few seconds in the same motion to where I could see more of his fingers. Craig then swiped his hand in the same motion a third time for a few seconds.
I could see that it was Craig‘s left hand due to the position of his thumb. I could also see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider. At about 12:19 hours, I held my police identification in my right hand down by the floor so that Craig could see it. With my left hand near the floor, I pointed to the exit.
Craig responded, no. I again pointed toward the exit. Craig exited the stall with his roller bags without flushing the toilet. Craig handed me a business card that identified him as a U.S. senator as he stated, what do you think about that. I responded by setting his business card down on the table and again asking him for his driver‘s license.
Later, in a recorded post-Miranda interview, Craig stated the following; he‘s a commuter. He went into the bathroom. He was standing outside the stall for one to two minutes, waiting for the stall. He has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that is foot may have touched mine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story you have just seen is true. On August 8th, Larry Craig pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in court number one for the County of Hennepin. He never told anybody about it. Not his family, not his constituents, not the U.S. Senate‘s, not until his conference on August 28th. In one moment, the results of that news conference.
OLBERMANN: The COUNTDOWN players and the film artistry of director Brendan Trufo Amalia (ph). There is one further final note from the final paragraph, in which the sad story of Senator Craig and the toilet foot tappers actually transcends the cramped and sordid confines of a Minneapolis men‘s room, and becomes a story for all people for all time. Again quoting the sergeant; Craig was worried about missing his flight. Detective Nelson tried to call the airline to hold the plane. The airline did not answer the phone.
As not for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee! That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,587th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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