Guests: Jim Webb, Jonathan Turley, Bill Clinton, Marvin Kittman
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
No way out. Even most of the leading Democrats refusing to guarantee all troops will be out of Iraq by the end of their first terms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don‘t want to make promises.
JOHN EDWARD, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I cannot make that commitment.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do not know, walking into the White House in January 2009, what we‘re going to find.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Jim Webb joins us on the worsening Iraq conundrum.
But did Senator Clinton find her defining moment of the campaign in one matter-of-fact distancing of her would-be presidency from her husband‘s?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT, MSNBC DEBATE MODERATOR: The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. He disagrees with you.
CLINTON: Well, he‘s not standing here right now.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I thought to myself, you know, Tim Russert is a very clever interviewer. I thought he had trapped her and, instead, she made the obvious point that if she gets elected, she‘ll be the president. I won‘t. She‘ll make the final call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: At the Clinton Global Initiative, our 42nd president joins me on the debate to how and when we will get out of Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. CLINTON: We have really have no choice but to begin fairly quickly to reduce our military presence there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the conundrum of charity at a time of political crisis and heavy political fund-raising.
Another ugly twist to this administration‘s domestic spying. It‘s not only doing it. It is reportedly trying to convince reporters one-on-one not to report on it. Another attempt to silence a critical free press.
Speaking of which...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”: Americans should be very skeptical of the news media. No longer can it be trusted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Because it reported his racist comments and their racist context. Bill O‘Reilly tries to scramble out of the way of the slow moving avalanche.
Tonight a sympathetic O‘Reilly biographer says he seems to be losing it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: I‘m going to hunt you down, and I mean it. The smear stops here. You‘re all on notice out there. I‘m coming for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
All that and more, now on “Countdown.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: I‘m coming for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening from New York. As if it were not bad enough that next president of the United States will inherit the disastrous aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, it is ever more likely tonight that the president after that one might also be left with a U.S. presence on the ground there, more than five years from now.
Our fifth story on the “Countdown,” at last night‘s debate in New Hampshire, the three leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination each refusing to promise that they would withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of their first term.
President Bush having initiated the war in Iraq because he was determined to do so. New evidence on that in a moment. Then having escalated the conflict with no evident success.
Senators Clinton, Edwards, and Obama telling moderator Tim Russert last night it would be wrong to promise they would withdraw all American forces from Iraq by the year 2013.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think it‘s hard to project four years from now. I think it would be irresponsible. We don‘t know what contingency would be out there.
CLINTON: It is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But I agree with Barack. It is very difficult to know what we‘re going to be inheriting. We do not know walking into the White House in January 2009 what we‘re going to find.
RUSSERT: Will you commit that at the end of your first term in 2013 all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq?
EDWARDS: I cannot make that commitment. I think the problem is, and it‘s what you‘ve just heard discussed, is we will maintain an embassy in Baghdad. That embassy has to be protected. We will probably have humanitarian workers in Iraq. Those humanitarian workers have to be protected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: President Bush might find it hard to protect his legacy for the history books with the release of a new transcript showing that in early 2003 he was determined to invade Iraq even as he told the American people that war was not yet a certainty.
The Spanish newspaper, El Piese, publishing a transcript of a private discussion between Mr. Bush and the then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on February 2, 2003, in which the American president said the U.S. would go to war to disarm Saddam Hussein on what would be the obvious question, with or without a U.N. resolution.
Quoting Mr. Bush from that conversation transcript, “We must take him right now. We have shown an incredible degree of patience until now. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we will be militarily ready.”
Yet, only days after that conversation, Mr. Bush was still insisting he had not made up his mind about military action against Iraq, claiming on March 6, 2003, hopefully this can be done peacefully. And two days after that, saying we are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq.
We are fortunate to be joined by Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia from the capital.
Senator, thanks for your time tonight.
JIM WEBB, (D), VIRGINIA: Nice to be with you.
OLBERMANN: The Bush-Asnar transcript is a Spanish Downing Street memo. Not only was the president fixed on war, the transcript suggests this might not have been a seemly option but better than the one we wound up, with a possibility of buying off Saddam Hussein, sending him into exile for a Billion dollars. In comparison yesterday, the Pentagon asked for $190 billion just to pay for this year in Iraq. What‘s your reaction to news of this Asnar transcript?
WEBB: There‘s no real surprise there. If you look back at what the situation was in ‘02, I and General Tony Zinni and other people were saying that Iraq probably would have been sixth highest in terms of the threats to the United States.
In fact, I wrote a piece in the “Washington Post” five years ago this month basically saying, do you really want to be in Iraq for the next 30 years, and that these people have no exit strategy because they don‘t intend to leave.
I think Bush was maneuvered into taking positions early on after 9/11 and couldn‘t get back out of it. And the momentum just overwhelmed. We never should have gone into Iraq.
OLBERMANN: Senator, from last night‘s Democratic presidential debate in new Hampshire, as depressing as it was to hear your colleagues Clinton and Obama and former Senator Edwards say it‘s likely the U.S. will still have a military presence on the ground in Iraq come 2013, do they get credit for at least answering that question bluntly and honestly?
WEBB: Well, I think what they‘re struggling with is the reality that wars like this are easy to fall into and they‘re very difficult to get out of. And I don‘t think they wanted to be put in a position where they would absolutely be guaranteeing that, but certainly if we got the diplomatic process into place—and I‘ve been saying this for three years—you could have a fairly rapid withdrawal of our troops. But what happens is you get positioned and then you have expectations.
Actually the thing that was very interesting to me last night in debate—and I watched it—was the reaction to this vote yesterday on the situation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards being called a terrorist organization, and that‘s—I was saying to my colleagues yesterday, when you‘re voting to do that, you‘re actually getting yourself into this same situation that people were in when they were leading up to the war in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: Senator, why did any Democrats vote for that even though it was nonbinding and watered down from its original nonbinding form?
WEBB: Well, there‘s—there is no precedent for terming an entity of an actual foreign government a terrorist organization, none. This was the first time that a vote like that had ever been taken.
There are 42 terrorist organizations listed on the State Department‘s list and the criteria for putting them on there is to say you have conducted past terrorist acts and that you would be conducting terrorist acts in the future.
Well, you have to ask yourself, what‘s a terrorist act? Terrorism works along the seams of international law. It‘s not something that comes out directly out of a military arm of a government. That‘s a military act.
And what I was saying on the floor, the day before yesterday, is if the Iranian guards are conducting activities that are military in nature, then what we‘ve just voted for is an act of war because they are a part of the Iranian government. It‘s a very dangerous precedent.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. And to say nothing of the redefinition of the terminology there. Let me ask you one final question about a development from the last two days that pertains to your expertise. Yesterday on his radio program, Rush Limbaugh called service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq—his term was phony soldiers. Do you want to respond to that, Senator?
WEBB: I really regret Mr. Limbaugh saying things like that. We have political diversity inside the military just like we do in the country.
If you look at the—I believe it was the six soldiers who wrote with honor this piece for the “New York Times” not long ago. I think three of them have now died. I think Mr. Limbaugh ought to take a look at that sort of reality, plus the reality of people, like General Zinni, General Scowcroft, who were criticizing and warning about this effort and take a look at that.
I really react strongly when people politicize the service of our military people. They have a wide variety of political viewpoints, from all the way for this to all the way against it, and we need to respect that.
OLBERMANN: Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. Well said, sir, and thank you for stopping by with us.
WEBB: Nice to be with you.
OLBERMANN: This country‘s evident entrenchment in Iraq, easily the most sobering theme from last nights debate, the surprise on the political front that Senator Obama perhaps did not take on Senator Clinton more aggressively. Former Senator Edwards took many opportunities to contrast himself with Clinton.
But the singular moment for the Senator from New York, possibly a campaign defining moment, where policy and personality converged. Coming in an answer in which she agreed with her Democratic rival but still managed to set herself slightly, but significantly apart, from a former president, her husband.
Moderator Tim Russert had pose a hypothetical in which al Qaeda‘s number-three man is captured and a bomb will go off in three days. Is torture, he asked, of that prisoner then somehow acceptable?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: As a matter of policy, it cannot be American policy, period. I met with those same three and four star retired generals, and their point, in addition to the values that are so important for our country to exhibit, is that there is very little evidence that it works.
RUSSERT: The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. He disagrees with you.
CLINTON: Well, he‘s not standing here right now.
RUSSERT: So there is a disagreement?
CLINTON: Well, I‘ll talk to him later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I spoke with former President Clinton earlier today at the Clinton Global Initiative. The full interview later in this news hour. President Clinton‘s analysis of that debate and particularly his enthusiastic response to his wife‘s moment seems best to fit now.
OLBERMANN: While this has been going on, did you get a chance to watch the Democratic debate last night?
B. CLINTON: I watched. I missed the first 15 minutes because I had to go to a party for all these people, but I saw the rest of it. I thought it was interesting. I think it was—I felt bad for them because they‘ve done a lot of these debates and everybody‘s being told beforehand, you know, here‘s what you have to accomplish, here is what you have to accomplish. This one started late, 9:00, and then went on for two hours.
So maybe because I‘ve been there before, most viewers won‘t think this but a lot of them had to be tired after a long day‘s work, and it required a lot of concentration so you could see—I could see at least the ebb and flow of energy in all the participants.
OLBERMANN: One of the participants had a moment last night. I think it was fairly generally assessed as a single moment in this campaign, when pressed about whether or not she was in agreement with a theory, a theoretical that you had addressed on “Meet the Press” a year ago. There was an apparent disagreement between Senator Clinton and you on this point to which she said, well, he‘s not standing here right now. What did you think of that?
B. CLINTON: I loved it. I thought to myself, you know, Tim Russert is a very clever interviewer. He thought he had trapped her and, instead, she made the obvious point that if she gets elected, she‘ll be the president. I won‘t. She‘ll make the final call. And I completely agree with her about the policy.
The United States has to be against terror. As a matter of fact, what I really was talking about with Tim Russert was what happens if you have the—people watch “24” and this guy Jack Bauer, he‘s always—the nuclear weapon is going to explode in five minutes and here is a guy who knows, and what do you do? There‘s a one in a million chance that happens.
But the United States should be against torture because it‘s illegal, it‘s immoral, it doesn‘t work and it makes our own soldiers vulnerable to torture.
If that ever happened to you, the point I was trying to make to Russert, and you or I or anybody else thought it was a million lives or me beating up this guy you‘d probably do it. But you should know it‘s against the law and should be prepared to take the consequences.
And we shouldn‘t ever ask the president or the United States of America to be on the side of torture. It‘s illegal, almost always ineffective, and makes our own people vulnerable to the same sort of treatment.
OLBERMANN: Former president on how to get out of Iraq and how reading glasses can be used to fight poverty.
First, good news from the current White House when it comes to truth, democracy, and the American way. Well, truth anyway. On the official transcript of yesterday‘s event with schoolchildren in New York this classic from the Bush 43 greatest hits will apparently live in infamy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: As yesterday‘s positive report card shows, childrens do learn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Dana Perino do learn it seems. The president‘s new press secretary saying she instructed White House stenographers to refix the transcript so it accurately reflected how Mr. Bush misspoke. Before 1:00 p.m. this afternoon, the transcript had read “children do learn.” After 1:00 p.m. it read “childrens (sic) do learn.” Mrs. Perino saying the integrity of the transcript is very important to me and I made that clear.
President Clinton on the Clinton Global Initiative, Brad Pitt, MoveOn.org, and how to get us out of Iraq.
And a foolproof program from this White House on how to get out of bad news coverage of its unconstitutional spy program. Hold training sessions to convince reporters not to report about them.
You are watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: If you need evidence how fragile American freedoms can be, look at constitutional wounds that are still raw. The administration‘s use of secret surveillance programs, legalized by a compliant Congress only after they were disclosed in the media. Or the recently departed attorney general‘s threat to prosecute reporters for disclosing information he deemed a security breech.
Our fourth story tonight, another lesson on subverting the Constitution by killing the news media with kindness. Reports from the “New York Sun” outlining how the National Security Agency, frustrated by news leaks about it‘s spying operations, held seminars for reporters at its Fort Mead, Maryland, headquarters between 2002 and 2004.
The sessions taking reporters behind the scenes, dubbed signal intelligence, our Sig In 101, held off the record, of course, asking the reporters to become, in effect, junior deputies in the war on terror by censoring their own work. The NSA giving reporters examples of words and phrases they should use in their stories, according to documents released to that newspaper.
This might trouble our constitutional law expert and friend Jonathan Turley of George Washington University School of law. That‘s my guess.
John, good evening.
JONATHAN TURLEY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There‘s no word on which reporters attended these sessions or what the outcomes were. We could guess. Which is the worst worm out of the can of worms this opens up?
TURLEY: What‘s particularly disturbing is they could have held a course at NSA about what to do when a president asks you to commit a crime and to spy on American citizens without a warrant. That would have been a course at that many people could have taken at the NSA but to have the NSA instructing reporters on how to protect our secrets was particularly troubling because at that point the media was on stories that were indicating the government was engaging in a host of unlawful activities, activities ordered by the president of the united states.
OLBERMANN: Now the program reportedly petered out in 2004 about the same time the administration got confrontational about news leaks rather than sort of trying to put a cold arm around a reporter‘s shoulder. Do you think stories like Abu Ghraib would have come to light if the program had been successful?
TURLEY: Probably not. The course suffers from the instructor. Students take courses for the instructors and the NSA is not a particularly good journalism professor.
But the point is that during this period all those stories that came out, some that won the Pulitzer Prize, probably would not have been released under the guidelines of the NSA but more importantly the media has offered great history of restraint in these matters.
If anything the “New York Times” waited too long to release the story about the NSA domestic surveillance program. I considered it a failure on the part of the “New York Times” to hold on to that story as long as it did past the election, not tell the American citizens that the president had ordered something that was defined by federal law as a crime.
OLBERMANN: In May of last year, you had testified to the House Intelligence Committee on the erosion of protections in this country for the media. Refresh us. What was going on at that time and where does media freedom stand right now?
TURLEY: Well, I think this is part of what motivated both that course and the backlash that came a couple years later. The administration had succeeded in shutting down the legislative branch. The Republicans were not doing any oversight at all over intelligence matters. And that was very effective for this president. He was given a blank check.
They also really did a pretty good job on the judiciary. The judiciary fought for judicial review but the White House was able to gain the system and prevent courts from ruling on critical matters.
To their frustration that left the fourth estate, the press, and they did work exactly the way the framers intended. They came in and disclosed the things Congress refused to look at. So the reaction of the White House was to explore criminal charges against journalists and I think it‘s all part of the fact that they didn‘t want any checks and balances whether within the system or from without.
OLBERMANN: It‘s like a hurricane. Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University. As always, sir, thanks for your Time tonight.
TURLEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: President Clinton on the gifts of money and an innovation at his third Global Initiative and what, if anything, will get us out of Iraq.
And if his quotes were taken out of context, why won‘t Bill O‘Reilly play those quotes and context on his show? We‘re joined by the O‘Reilly biographer who thinks Bill‘s elevator doesn‘t go to the top floor anymore, ahead.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1881, the future much major league baseball in Troy, New York, near Albany, became apparent. The Chicago White Stockings were in town to play the Trojans and there were plenty of good seats available. The announced attendance, 12 guys. The National League decided the franchise was better placed down state in New York City.
On that note, let‘s play “Oddball.”
We begin in Winterville, Ohio. Dash cam put into a police chase last Saturday. 19-year-old suspect fleeing cops in a pickup truck at speeds of 80. After a while the perp turns his truck into a ditch and flees on foot. A massive search followed. Cops turned up nothing and sped back to headquarters. During the return trip the cruiser happened across the suspect catching a few z‘s in the middle of the road. Oh, look, he‘s so cute when he‘s sleeping. Police startled the guy and he fled. But he was chased down and juiced up with a taser. Now the real sand man takes over bringing our blanket hugging bandit to Never-Never Land.
This turtle has his head up his arse. Actually it‘s one of those situations where his head is his “arse.” It‘s a rare turtle that you only find next to the cooling towers of nuclear power plants. At least they‘ll never have to worry about getting pick-pocketed. The store says it will not sell this turtle. It is hoping to cash in on two-headed turtle pandemonium at turnstiles. Get your ticket now.
Speaking of multiple faces, an O‘Reilly biographer‘s theory, he is now one short of a special and the question of context. If the context of the infamous remarks is so important to him why is he not playing the tape on TV rather than just threatening everybody?
And the context of charitable giving at the height of the political fund-raising season. President Clinton says these are not mutually exclusive and he also tells us there is a way out of Iraq next on “Countdown.”
OLBERMANN: Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, wait until you hear his story about how giving people loans to sell reading glasses could change the economy and the literacy rate of the world‘s poorest and most illiterate countries. First, in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the politics of the moment, with our special guest, the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton.
OLBERMANN: Do you think we‘re being consumed a year in front of the presidential election with phony issues? We have a spasm over an advertisement pertaining to Iraq, but we don‘t talk about Iraq, or the administration doesn‘t talk about Iraq. And we don‘t talk about race but we talk about whether a commentators racial remarks were taken out of context or he is being smeared?
Where‘s the old ‘80s ad for the burger company goes, “Where‘s the beef?”
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
Well, I think that in our primary I think there has been a lot of substance. We have at least three very serious plans on health care. We have at least four or five very serious, well-thought out plans for how to disengage from Iraq and what we should and shouldn‘t do and what our obligations are even among those of us who thought it was a mistake to go in.
We have—Hillary has given a very thoughtful education program, and so I think has Senator Edwards. So there has been a lot of beef. I think, frankly, with a campaign that goes on this long, you‘re bound to have some distractions and the daily news is bound to dominate from time to time. And to be fair, people in your business can only go through their health care plans or education plans so many times.
I think the important thing is to keep doing these debates. I have, I guess—I know some people may get bored with them but I think that the debates have been by and large quite positive experiences that people can try to talk about their differences. But in the end they have to answer the substantive questions.
And I think all these candidates should keep laying out their plans for the future so that the American people can make judgments about their personal strengths and about their policy positions. But you‘re going to have some of this stuff. I didn‘t like that debate about the ad because I thought—I admire General Petraeus and I disagree with it. I would never attack him personally. I hate all the personal attacks in politics. I oppose them. I haven‘t engaged in them.
But I thought that the absolute snit the Republicans went into was a bait and switch. It was just a way to say, oh good, I can take—I can shift the heat to the Democrats. I can shift the heat to MoveOn and I don‘t have to talk about what really matters, which is, do we really think it‘s worth hundreds of more deaths and thousands of more wounded to stay this many more months? What are the consequences if we don‘t? What are our options besides the stay-the-course plan outlined by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and leaving tomorrow?
It is not like there are just two options here. There are, you know, 50 different things you could do. So I think that those people who called the bait-and-switch what it was were right. For example, I was proud of Senator Boxer, because she introduced the resolution which exposed what happened. She said, OK, let‘s condemn what they did to Max Cleland, who left half of his body in Vietnam, and was put in an ad with Saddam Hussein and John Walker Lindh. Let‘s condemn the Swiftboat action, when the guy that paid for that was appointed to an embassy by President Bush.
Let‘s condemn what they did to John McCain in South Carolina in 2000. He had a pretty good record of sacrifice for this country. So I think that is what we need to do. We need to—every time there is a bait-and-switch and we are taking our eye off the ball, we ought to call it for just what it is and put it behind us.
OLBERMANN: We are doing that when we can.
CLINTON: And Hillary voted against that resolution. I was really proud of her, not because she disrespects General Petraeus. She is on the Armed Services Committee. She likes and admires all of these generals, including the ones with whom she disagrees. And many of the military generals agree with what the Democrats are saying about Iraq.
But that is not the point. The point is that we need to be talking about things that will affect the American people and their lives. And do I think we should not attack people personally? Absolutely.
But do I think we should not allow the inevitable snit, you know, as people‘s nerves get frayed and they are frustrated and they say things like that, to divert us from what will affect the American people and our interests in the world? That is what I believe.
And the most responsible candidates will always drive it right back to what affects the American people. The elections are supposed to be about them, not the politicians.
OLBERMANN: Do you have an idea, do you have an opinion at this point, how and when we are going to get out of Iraq?
CLINTON: I do. I think—well, I don‘t—if you ask me, do I know what is going to happen, no, I don‘t know. But I can tell you what I think should happen. I believe we have really no choice but to begin fairly quickly to reduce our military presence there. And I believe that for several reasons.
First of all, I think when it is clear that we are bringing down our presence, number one, we will bring our people home and probably fewer people will die.
I think that we can do that without undermining what has been done in these two areas where the Sunnis are basically fighting to control their own country again and we are helping them. That is what we should have been doing all along, helping them instead of asking them to help us.
I think that we have to do it because we need to lower the level of violence, because we need to increase the pressure on the Iraqi government to make deals. because we need to mix things up so that the neighbors and the U.N. and all of the other people will engage in diplomatic discussions.
I mean, the Iranian president can come here and say, oh, I want America to leave and I will fill the vacuum. The truth is he is terrified that there will be millions of more refugees and they will all go into Iran and they aggravate his own instability. Iran is not a monolithic country. There are a lot of different ethnic groups there, near where almost all of the refugees would certainly pour in. They would have a lot of problems if this happened.
We could—we need to get more diplomatic movement. And finally, the American military has been badly damaged by this. If we have an emergency, we have no—we will have to fight it with the Navy and the Air Force. We have no Army. We have no Marine Corps. The Guard, the Reserves are either all there or on rotation. And even the Navy Reserves now are being called up, trained in infantry tactics, and deployed to the Iraq Theater. They were supposed to be trained in infantry tactics to be our security reserve in the event of another problem.
Now even Navy Reservists are being sent in to serve with the Army in the theater. So this is a subtext in this whole thing, but I think almost 100 percent of Americans want us to have—are proud of the military, proud that it is capable of doing what it does and would be really alarmed if they knew just how depleted it has been by our commitment of far more troops in Iraq than in Afghanistan, where I think our national security is more at stake.
OLBERMANN: The third Clinton Global Initiative concluding tomorrow here in New York, from rebuilding the ninth ward of New Orleans to building the economy of the poorest nations through reading glasses. More with Bill Clinton. And the latest on O‘Reilly, now actually threatening personal revenge against all those who criticized him in the last week, the analysis from a sympathetic O‘Reilly biographer ahead her on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, more of my interview today with the 42nd president of the United States and his remarkable charity juggernaut. The Clinton Global Initiative, now in its third year, drawing funds to help people from all around the world, even in the smallest ways, and drawing people like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: This is the annual “can you top this” of charity, of giving, of kindness. Is it more difficult this year in the middle of political (ph) crisis and heavy political fund raising and the contributions that follow that?
CLINTON: No, not really. I mean, the interesting thing to me is how much more interest there is. And I think it is kind of—it‘s what I want to happen. It‘s operating kind of independent of the politics, because my whole theory is that in the United States and around the world, you need a strong economy, a good government, and a vibrant civil society.
OLBERMANN: Last year you had “wow” moments. The year before you had “wow” moments. Is there something that stands out that just stops everything in the room?
CLINTON: Well, I think—when we opened yesterday, I think Bishop Tutu, as always, was profoundly eloquent. And we were talking about whether religion was a good or a bad thing. Last year he brought the house down by saying religion is like a knife. If you use it to cut bread, it is good. If you use it to cut off your neighbor‘s arm, it is bad. So since that time there have been a whole spate of books written in America about how terrible religion is because it‘s polluting politics around the world.
And Tutu talked about in Burma today how all of these Buddhist monks are risking their lives to try to free Aung San Suu Kyi and restore democracy. And the way he did it just took my breath away.
Then there have been small things. For example, one of our most interesting commitments was a person who committed a relatively small amount of money, in the context of this, a couple of million dollars, to set up thousands of people in small businesses in the developing world to sell reading glasses. It turns out in poor countries only five percent of the people who can read but need reading glasses to read get them. So you can help—this project will help hundreds of thousands of people, and in the process create a whole new sector of the economy, a lot of small businesses.
A lot of people say, I never would have thought of that. And we always have that where people are coming to us with simple ideas, you know, buying bikes for people so they will have a way to make a living in poor countries.
Yesterday Brad Pitt made a big impression on people because he said he would give five million of his own money to with his friends (INAUDIBLE) who would give five million and people would match it to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans with green houses. So that when the lower income workers move back to the Ninth Ward, they will have better houses than they had before, and it will cost them less to run because the utility bills will be so much lower.
And people thought, wow, that is a good thing, I hadn‘t thought of that, that we could actually give them better houses and lower costs if we do it in this way.
OLBERMANN: Still more from President Bill Clinton and his Global Initiative tomorrow night on COUNTDOWN at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. If Bill O‘Reilly was taken out of context, why doesn‘t he play the tape of the context on his TV show? Bill-O‘s sympathetic biographer thinks the situation is much worse than we realize. And Bill is now threatening people. That‘s ahead. Time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world, other worst persons.
The bronze to John Gibson of Fixed Noise, again lying about the funding for Media Matters, the watchdogs who caught O‘Reilly. Says Gibby, George Soros is after Bill O‘Reilly and he‘s enlisted the help of CNN and NBC. As for NBC and CNN, they should be embarrassed. It‘s the real journalists inside those two places that need to stand up and revolt.
We did, John. We fired you.
Runner up tonight, Fixed News in general, it has apparently declared war on Iran. Sean Hannity announced a mission, Iran showdown to destroy nuclear facilities there and cripple the regime. Fox Noise is presenting a special on Iran called “Ticking Bomb” this weekend hosted conveniently enough by Dan Senor, the former press flak for coalition forces in Iraq.
Rupert, you want to go bomb Iran, make it clear you‘re not acting on behalf of any Americans.
But our winner, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, offering National Public Radio an interview with the president providing that the White House could pick the interviewer. It‘s not done that way in real news organizations nor in real free countries incidentally. Plus, the White House hand which can choice was Juan Williams, now best known as Bill O‘Reilly‘s chief apologist and a man who once compared David Letterman to murderer John Wayne Gacy because Letterman asked Bill-O tough questions.
NPR politely declined the administration‘s latest attempt to bully the free press. But certainly that did not wipe the frozen small off the face of White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Tonight, as in the past few days, Bill O‘Reilly has devoted large sections of his shows to defending himself against critics who pointed out the racism in his surprise that people in a black-owned restaurant know how to order iced tea without cursing about somebody‘s mother. Mr. O‘Reilly has again questioned why no one is addressing the context of his remarks, which is confusing to some degree, given that he has refused to play the recording of those remarks with or without full context on his own show.
For people other than O‘Reilly, the primary question has been whether he knew what he said was racist. But in our number one story tonight, it‘s time to consider another question, is Bill ill? Not to equate racism with mental defect, although the argument can be made, but last night Mr. O‘Reilly demonstrated some classic signs of paranoia and an inability to distinguish between the rest of the world and the contents of his own head.
It began with his litany of wrong doers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Besides CNN, the worst offender in the case is the “New York Daily News,” the CBS Early Show, which actually described Media Matters as a watchdog group. How dishonest is that? The “Chicago Sun Times,” the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” ABCNews.com, and the “Louisville Journal” also completely distorted the story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In Mr. O‘Reilly‘s defense, not everyone is apparently out to get him. He credited sympathetic coverage from one TV program, one newspaper, and a guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: The following outfits were fair, “The Today Show,” Newsday, and Stephen Smith of ESPN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: By the way, when you‘re down to Stephen A. Smith, you‘re finished. Tonight, he pleaded with Jesse Jackson to condemn CNN and those fair journalists did not stop him from extrapolating that because how his remarks have been quoted, the news media, all of it, every single practitioner of journalism in every medium in the United States of America can no longer be trusted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: The tragedy here is that there is no longer an honest press in America. Americans should be very skeptical of the news media. No longer can it be trusted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We haven‘t trusted you in ten years. Then today he took it to the next logical step, and by logical I mean vague mumbled threats of retribution from the King Lear of Levittown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP
O‘REILLY: These people aren‘t going to get away with this. I‘m going to go right where they live. Every corrupt media person in this country is on notice right now. I‘m coming after you. I‘m going to hunt you down and I mean it. The smear stops here. You‘re all on notice out there. I‘m coming for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to an authentic O‘Reilly biographer, Marvin Kittman, who interviewed the man 29 times for his book, the man who would not shut up, and we should point out, has many favorable things to say about Mr. O‘Reilly. And also, as a disclaimer here, has written an embarrassingly nice cover story about me in the current issue of “The Nation.” Marvin, good evening.
MARVIN KITTMAN, AUTHOR: Good evening. Boy, you‘re really scaring me with that list of things that O‘Reilly is going to do to us.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I know. I‘m going to wear a helmet from now on. Listen, I want to quote from your blog on the “Huffington Post,” your column, and there‘s a blank in here. Fill in the blank for me. When I began studying him, O‘Reilly, he was a semi-demented TV newsman. But lately he seems to be blanking it. Please fill in the blank.
KITTMAN: To use the technical word, losing it. He seems more unhinged than usual. You can tell in his debates, for example, he has two people that are debating an issue, when we‘re lucky. But even when somebody is on his side, if they‘re slightly off, like one degree, he comes down on them and he‘s just about ready to implode, I can see looking at him.
And he has a tendency, as you pointed out—he seems to have a case of paranoia. Everybody is against him, which is, you know, I guess partly true. And he has an increased tendency now to make mistakes. He always seems to be putting his foot where his mouth belongs. The most recent example is his debut as a restaurant critic at Sylvia‘s in Harlem. And I would like to say that I have analyzed his problem as he has a case of Achilles mouth.
OLBERMANN: Now this defense, which we hear a lot, but in this case he‘s used it to the extreme and repeatedly; I was taken out of context. Would it not make sense to play the whole tape of the comment which was on radio about this restaurant, Sylvia‘s Restaurant, and the clientele and the ownership? Wouldn‘t it make sense to play it in full context on the television show that you own and operate? Is he afraid to do that? What‘s the psychology there, do you think?
KITTMAN: What you don‘t understand, Keith, is the context may be worse than the excerpts of it. And he would look even more unhinged if you actually heard what he was saying. What I was amazed about that—his going to Sylvia‘s restaurant that he actually went to a restaurant. You know, he doesn‘t go out very much. One, he‘s afraid people are going to get him. They‘re after him.
Secondly, he‘s very cheap. He‘s the most awesomely frugal person in the history of TV journalism. You know, I had 29 interviews with him and he never once would go out to lunch or dinner with me. And it‘s not only me, but he makes 50 million dollars a year, and when he takes out his friends, they all split the check. And so that was one of the great things about him.
OLBERMANN: The untold story of Sylvia‘s. He bought. Unlike the Imus case last spring, there seems to be less outcry at this time, at least at this time. Maybe there would be later. But is there a confirmation in that, that society at-large understands there‘s some sort of diminished capacity here, and has no expectation of morality from him or from the people he works for or why the different reaction?
KITTMAN: Well, that‘s one way to look at it. If there was a basketball team involved, it might have been different. And it is food they‘re talking about in restaurants. And I just think that Imus is considered much more of a threat to society than Bill O‘Reilly. And, you know, Keith, I don‘t have much time here, but I do want to say that you are responsible for contributing to O‘Reilly‘s seeming to be unhinged.
By your mentioning him all the time, you are making a star out of him. You know, he lives for media attention. It is spinach. He‘s like Popeye and he has to get involved with some network or some newspaper column or some book and you‘re doing it. I should point that out to you. You might not be aware of it.
OLBERMANN: It‘s been brought up a couple of times in a couple of places. I guess we‘re going to have to leave the question of what we can do to help in his time of crisis.
KITTMAN: I think he‘s on the verge of having a breakdown. I think he needs psychiatric help and, of course, he told me that he would never pay a psychiatrist money to listen to him. And I would suggest we have a telethon in his honor to raise money.
OLBERMANN: Marvin Kittman, author of “The Man Who Would Not Shut Up, The Rise of Bill O‘Reilly.” Great thanks for being our Sherpa guide as we go inside the big giant head of Bill O‘Reilly.
Tomorrow night, the other hints of racism you have not heard from that same O‘Reilly radio broadcast. For now, that‘s COUNTDOWN for this 1,611th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.