Guests: Paul F. Tompkins
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Good evening. This is Thursday, November 8 -- 362 days until the 2008 presidential election and 2,483 days since George W. Bush assumed the presidency. The first of these days in which it was actually proven to him that Congress has the right to override his veto. Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The legislative branch turning back the clock today, celebrating some kind of old-timer‘s event although it was not about Iraq, not waterboarding, just water and does not mean, however, those who see symbolism in it are all wet. Mr. Bush suffering a clear bipartisan defeat, 34 Republican senators breaking ranks with the president this afternoon by enacting the $32 billion Water Resources bill in a 79-14 override vote, the House having already voted to override the veto on Tuesday by a lopsided margin of 361-54 there.
The White House having argued the bill costs too much and it‘s filled with unnecessary projects, some of the president‘s most ardent admirers in the Senate disagreeing with him in strong language. Republican David Vitter of Louisiana saying this bill has been a long time coming. Former GOP majority leader, Trent Lott of Mississippi adding that what Mr. Bush sees as pork barrel items quote, “Are good, deserved, justified projects.” Both of their states‘ of course hammered by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. This legislation including lots of money for gulf coast restoration efforts as well as hundreds of projects for the Army Corp engineers. Democrat Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, saying this afternoon that it‘s high time the president spent some money on infrastructure and priorities here at home.
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SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) CALIFORNIA: I think that there‘s much, much made of the size of this bill by the president but he somehow has disassociated himself from the amounts he‘s spending overseas. He‘s come up with a new plan for Mexico. It‘s just in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He‘s—we now given President Musharraf $11 billion so, you know, let‘s just say it‘s time for America and I think that this veto override is a strong statement from both sides of the aisle that it is time for our country. We cannot overlook the needs of our country. We are a generous and decent and good people. Our people need help as well.
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OLBERMANN: But do the Democrats now have the strength and help to challenge the president by cutting off the purse strings of the Iraq war? Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that the House will vote as early as tomorrow on legislation that would give Mr. Bush $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but only with severe conditions including that troop withdrawals begin immediately, that soldiers and marines spend as much time at home as they do on deployment and that combat operations end by December, 2008. Taking on the president exactly what the American public apparently wants - 47 percent of those surveyed in a new Pew Research Poll are of the opinion that Democratic leaders in Congress have not gone far enough in challenging the president‘s Iraq policies. That‘s overall among Democrats 65 percent feel that way. Even 21 percent of Republicans sharing that view. Time now to turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A veto override is a rare thing in any presidency. But are the Democrats and other fans of checks and balances in the Constitution making too much out of this as a symbol?
WOLFFE: Well, of course, the issue in and of itself seems minor. Water resources and earmarks, these pet projects of members of Congress but this is more than just a symbolic moment. The veto card is the last the president has been playing and he‘s played it effectively on Iraq and most recently on children‘s health insurance but there is something greater here than just a symbolic moment which is that the president‘s authority is under serious threat. Now, it may not have changed the politics of Iraq but there are historical parallels. When L.B.J. faced his first serious threat, it was over the relatively minor issue of home rule for the District of Columbia. After he lost the vote on that his authority was never the same. So, there is a real danger here that the president doesn‘t have any cards left.
OLBERMANN: Obviously the Katrina and related matters not a priority to the president and Iraq, everything in this president‘s life as near as we can tell. If you challenge him on that, we‘ve heard the Democrats challenge him verbally tough up before, only then to pull their punches at some point or be boxed out, no pun intended, politically. Is Speaker Pelosi—how committed is she to this new proposal that would partially fund Iraq but with these, you know, very severe conditions?
WOLFFE: Well, I don‘t doubt her personal commitment on this issue. She talks about it all the time. But my sense in listening to her recently is that this is more of a strategic play for her in the sense that what she wants to do is constantly put a contrast on spending with Iraq with domestic spending because, really the battle right now is over domestic spending not just this water bill but on a whole range of subjects including children‘s health insurance. So, there is a strategic play going on but if you look at where the politics of Iraq is right now, it‘s actually harder for her to win over any Republican support because Republican support has shifted behind the president not move away from him.
OLBERMANN: And there is not enough in terms of strategy, in terms of Republicans who are hoping to shake off Bush in terms of the 2008 elections, this is not a sizable group anymore?
WOLFFE: They certainly don‘t want to have anything to do with him. They‘re willing, some of them, if they‘re in safe districts, to accept his money and have him do some fund-raising but nobody is really going out there describing themselves as Bush Republicans. There is a debate—there is a serious debate in the party about spending, about whether this big government conservatism has any place in their own party. But on the issue of Iraq, he‘s really solidified his support inside the Republican Party.
OLBERMANN: One republican getting bad news tonight, certainly expected bad news, Bernard Kerik, Rudy Giuliani‘s police chief in New York and the man he sponsored as Homeland Security Chief, it never happened obviously reportedly indicted already for corruption. No surprise to it. And if he didn‘t hurt Giuliani significantly before, he‘s probably won‘t personally hurt him but can Giuliani hurt himself on this issue doing that? Because his answer so far on this has been if you‘re mayor of New York and you‘re going to make some mistakes. I should have vetted him better but look how good a police chief he was. I mean, could he run into trouble by trying to split the difference by not being definitive about his mistakes and Kerik‘s mistakes?
WOLFFE: Well, certainly that‘s the White House view of him. And look, there‘s a judgment question that all presidential candidates face. Given that New York is really the only area of experience that Rudy Giuliani reaches back and says, this is why I should be elected, yes, these issues do matter. It‘s not like he has a legislative career or he‘s got anything on the national size, certainly not on foreign policy. So, Homeland Security—it boils down for him to his record on the streets of New York and so, yes. This does have an impact.
OLBERMANN: Streets, appointments, marriages. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” as always, great thanks, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Hard to imagine a congressional override of a veto of any kind in say 2002 particularly, of some kind of measure which might have outlawed CIA rendition programs that outsourced torture and in retrospect, just as hard to believe—Congress didn‘t do something about it then. If it had, one of the key pieces of evidence cited by the Bush administration for its war in Iraq, a purported link between Iraq and al Qaeda, would have been shown then to not only have been false but to have been obtained by in effect burying a prisoner alive. The prisoner‘s name - Ebil Al -sheik al-Ebi (ph) described by the former CIA director George Tenet, as you see here, as the highest ranking al Qaeda member in U.S. custody after 9/11, only he wasn‘t in U.S. custody not all the time. The Bush administration having shipped him off to Egypt at one point for, quote, “Further debriefing.” There, according to a stunning report from PBS show --
FRONTLINE recounted last night at ABCNEWS.com, when he told his interrogators he knew nothing about al Qaeda‘s connections with Iraq they, quote, “Placed him in a small box approximately 20 inches by 20 inches for 17 hours. When he was let out and still couldn‘t provide interrogators with answers he did not have, al-Ebi (ph) claiming he was knocked to the ground and punched for 15 minutes and then miraculously he found a way to tell his handlers what they wanted, a story. Only problem, it was a story and it was a story that was not true. Let‘s turn now to Greg Miller, national security correspondent of the “Los Angeles Times” and a co-author of the book - “The Interrogators.” He‘s also the only American journalist who‘ve been granted access to U.S. interrogators at Kandahar in Afghanistan. Thank you for your time, sir.
GREG MILLER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: This evidence obtained from al-Ebi, was used by Colin Powell at the U.N. in February, 2003 and the quote from the general then Secretary of State was - “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in the use—the chemical and biological weapons to al Qaeda.” But we now know there were no WMD and setting aside the ethics of torture is this the worst case scenario, you torture somebody, they tell you something to make the pain stop and then you use what he says to go to war?
MILLER: I think that is the worst case scenario in interrogations. Many interrogators that you talked to who practice this will tell you that torture just leads to bad information. In this case it led to bad information that led to a war. And this is just one example of a growing number of examples, where we‘re starting to learn about detainees who were subjected to the harshest interrogation methods whose claims and information is unraveling rapidly.
OLBERMANN: So do all—all of the information, all the supposed intelligence that was gained from people picked up on battle fields, people connected to al Qaeda, does all of it need to be re-examined? That this isn‘t a question of cherry picking administration or the information by the administration, it‘s a question of perhaps everything they think they got is suspect?
MILLER: Well, I think—I don‘t know if all of it needs to be
examined. I mean, the CIA director, Michael Hayden has talked about that
enhanced interrogation techniques as the CIA describes that were only used
on a small percentage of the detainees who are held in the CIA‘s secret
prisons overseas. But they in fact, already—many of the claims of these
detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation methods are being
re-examined. Some of these prisoners now are facing some sort of court
proceedings and the FBI is investigating these claims to try to get to the bottom of what they really did and what was real behind what they said.
OLBERMANN: I suddenly found myself thinking as we‘re preparing for this interview of the John Le Carre novel “Tinker/Soldier/Spy” and fiction is always a bad barometer but in this - there‘s a wonderful lesson in this. The British Secret Service thinks it has a high placed spy in the Russian Secret Service but he‘s actually a plant, he‘s a phony double agent, he still works for the Russians and he gives the English terrible information, misdirects them, manipulates them, they keep believing him because of this aura that he is their secret agent inside the Russian infrastructure. Does that carry in this situation? Did the government believe the stuff they got from those they had used enhanced interrogation on because they had used that? Did torture provide credibility in any cases?
MILLER: Well, I think there is this natural inclination to think that harsh interrogation methods, torture is going to help you get to the bottom of the case, of a detainee‘s information. But I think we also have to keep in mind in this case, that there were government officials throughout this administration and throughout the CIA who were hearing what they wanted to hear from these prisoners as well. They were inclined to believe these prisoners‘ claims because this is what their preconceptions were before these prisoners were ever captured.
OLBERMANN: In an interrogation instructor, former instructor for the Navy went to Capitol Hill today, a man whose job it was to teach the sailors and marines how to survive torture if they were ever captured. He said that this last little island of now waterboarding is OK, that it was simulated drowning, he said it‘s not simulated drowning. It is drowning. The only difference is the prisoner doesn‘t die if you do it exactly right if you‘re very lucky. Your lungs actually fill up with massive amounts of water. If people understood that, would the cloudiness over waterboarding dissolve? Would it change the dynamics of this debate over this subject?
MILLER: I think if people did understand and had a clear understanding of what was involved in waterboarding it couldn‘t help but to change the dynamics of this debate. I mean, we read recently about a senior justice department official who‘s subjecting himself to this technique just so he would have some understanding of it and he came away with no—with no question in his mind that this was torture and this what led to the sort of rapid unraveling of the initial memos that had authorized these sorts of techniques.
OLBERMANN: Now, to say nothing of the unraveling of his career. Greg Miller, “L.A. Times” national security correspondent, co-author of “The Interrogators” and witness to interrogation in Afghanistan, great thanks for your time and your insight, sir.
MILLER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The mind reels. A Consumer Product Safety Commission chaired by a former corporate lobbyist lets a kids‘ toy be sold in this country that literally includes the date rape drug—GHB.
Broken government and Barack Obama‘s most recent criticism of Hillary Clinton reaching adulthood in the ‘60s means she‘s given to conflict and not compromise. Is there anything to that? Tom Brokaw has just written a book about that decade. He‘ll try to help us answer that question. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Lead and paint on toys is probably more dangerous to more kids than anything this side of razor blades sticking out of stuffed animals but when it‘s revealed that this nation‘s Consumer Products Safety Commission has let into this country a kids game whose component parts when swallowed transform in into the chemical known as GHB—the date rape drug. It underscores the question that has already been asked for months.
Our fourth story on COUNTDOWN: Broken government. Why did President Bush put in charge of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, a woman whose prior career seems to have been devoted only to the safety and the profits of manufacturers and corporations? In her previous job, acting Chairwoman Nancy Nord was the lobbyist for Eastman Kodak. Before that, she directed an association of corporate lawyers. Under Ms. Nord‘s tenure this year alone, one and a half million toy trains, a million more fisher price toys, nine million Mattel products have been recalled because of lead poisoning and other hazards. Just hours ago 175,000 curious George toys added to that list and then there are Aqua Dots. More than four million Aqua Dots toys recalled. The Chinese-made product consists of thousands of brightly colored dots which when sprayed with water cement together. When swallowed the adhesive becomes the date rape drug—the sedative that prompts euphoria and sometimes death. Two American kids ended up in comas after swallowing beads. Six more were affected. Three Australian children have been hospitalized. Each has recovered fortunately. This latest catastrophe under Nancy Nord‘s tenure adding fuel to calls for her resignation. Presidential candidate John Edwards yesterday, accusing her of corporate cronyism.
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JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She has been traveling on trips paid for by the (INAUDIBLE) at the same time, we have millions of dangerous toys in the United States creating risk for our children so I‘m calling on her to resign.
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OLBERMANN: Speaker of the House Pelosi likewise called for Ms. Nord‘s resignation last week after she had announced her opposition to a bill providing more money and more staff for the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Joining now for another segment of his special series for us by John Dean author of “Broken Government: -- How Republican role destroyed the legislative, executive and judicial branches.” As always, John thanks for your time tonight.
JOHN DEAN, FINDLAW.COM COLUMNIST: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is there any doubt now that appointing as head of any kind of protection agency somebody who used to be paid to find ways around that protection agency is not just cynical and depressing but literally dangerous to the health and safety of Americans?
DEAN: I don‘t think there is any doubt, Keith. In fact, I think America has been very lucky with the Republican drive to return to 19th century lasiez faire regulation or lack thereof that there haven‘t been more of these or more problems. Indeed, it is as every bit as dangerous potentially as terrorism yet it‘s really being undercut.
OLBERMANN: The previous head of the CPSC, Paul Stratton, was accused of being too close to the industries, taking money from them for trips. He‘s now working for those companies. His proposed replacement was the top lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers. And then that was not approved and then this Ms. Nord was found as a recess appointee. Who broke the faith in the process here? When the old idea was even if you were the closest possible in terms of wanting to go back to the 19th century you hated those regulatory agencies. You fought them perhaps but you didn‘t pervert the idea of them by putting the fox in charge of the hen house. When would it be OK, become OK to put the fox in charge of the hen house?
DEAN: Well, there‘s no question when the breach came in a serious fashion was during the Reagan administration when they decided that government indeed is not the solution to any problems. It is the problem. And ever since, they have done everything in their power to try—they know they can‘t openly abolish these agencies so what they have done is cut the budgets back year after year. They have lessened and lowered the staff and, indeed, the latest practice has been to appoint people - these were dated, start with the Reagan administration, too, people who are from the industry to regulate the industry they‘re from. This is the, literally, the fox in the hen house.
OLBERMANN: This - Nancy Nord says she opposes congressional efforts to overhaul the CPSC by really just crippling it by giving it more money and manpower because the bill also includes measures like increasing penalties on companies for not reporting defects fast enough. We‘ve talked about this on the show before. It probably seemed like a great idea to the Bush administration, the ultimate kind of again to use it for the fourth time fox in the hen house but now all of a sudden, when kids‘ toys have date rape drugs in them I imagine Mr. Bush and his colleagues have just found the one flaw in this system. What happens when you have the regulator who lets by something deadly?
DEAN: Well, I have no idea what Mr. Bush is going to do. We have certainly seen a certain cynicism in the actions he has taken and I suspect he may make some announcement before Christmas to help the economy, that he‘s adding more staff to this agency, but what that ignores is the fact the serious cuts that have occurred, this agency which was started in the 1980s had about a thousand people. Today it‘s down to 400. He even added a hundred people. It would really be nominal. So, I don‘t really expect him to do much because he‘s certainly not going to take the agency back to the strength it needs.
OLBERMANN: What stops the inside outing of protective arms of government, John? Is there anything else we can do other than like make recess appointments unconstitutional?
DEAN: Well, I‘m afraid that it‘s going to be that we‘re going to have to have a national disaster to get Americans to wake up to the problem we have no real effective federal regulatory process anymore, not withstanding the efforts of a lot of very hardworking and devoted people within these agencies who are there. The recess appointment, the consensus is that it needs a Constitutional Amendment but these are actually acting appointees and Congress can deal with them.
OLBERMANN: John Dean joining us again for his recurring series - “Broken Government,” also the title of his latest book. As always, John, great thanks.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Here is a familiar picture. O.J. Simpson in court—the latest from Vegas.
And it‘s called a cup-a-cino. And wait until you see what it costs. And at 7.95, I‘m going to get a coffee. Next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It‘s Norman Lloyd‘s birthday today. Surely, nobody has had a more varied career in the American entertainment whose one of the founders of the Mercury Theater with Orson Wells. He was unforgettable as the villain in Hitchcock‘s Saboteur in 1942. He moved into producing and directing, he was Hitchcock‘s number two man on his chilling TV series in the 1960s. Later went back into acting - playing from Dr. Auslander (ph) on “St. Elsewhere” to the head master in “Dead Poet‘s Society” to the president of Wassamata U in the “Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.” As recently as four years ago, he was a regular guest star on “The Practice.” He is 93. It doesn‘t sound like he‘s wasted a minute of it.
On that note let‘s play Oddball.
OLBERMANN: We begin in Las Vegas, where for once the scantily clad ladies on the corner are not selling, you know. They‘re selling coffee. Welcome to SexPresso, where stripped down baristas, wearing only lingerie, serve the Java hot, hot, hot. Stay tuned for a special six hour special by Bill O‘Reilly on this series. Cup sizes come in grande, vente and, of course, Double D.
To New York, home of the thousand dollar bagel. In return for your hard earned clams, the bagel is covered in white truffle cream cheese and goji (ph) berry infused jelly, and 23 carat edible gold leaves. If you think that is an obscene amount of money, a thousand dollars for a bagel, check out what another New York eatery is offering, a dessert for 25,000 dollars. Almost the cost of a bistro. It consists of 28 blended kinds of chocolate, 18 carat edible gold leaf. What is it with this eating gold stuff? Black truffles, whipped cream. What does it taste like?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It tasted exactly like a frozen hot chocolate. If you were to freeze hot chocolate, that is exactly what it would taste like.
OLBERMANN: Great, ice cold hot chocolate, totally worth 25,000 dollars.
OLBERMANN: Is Barack Obama right? Did growing up in the ‘60s precondition people like Hillary Clinton to fight and not compromise? We‘ll ask the author of “Voices of The ‘60s,” Tom Brokaw, who has no information about this story. A cardboard cutout of Paris Hilton has a pain killing effect on male mice. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best public service by TV, our pals Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage over at “Myth Busters.” They helped save an Australian man‘s life. Mark O‘Dwyer (ph) passed out on a railroad platform and fell on the tracks as a high speed freight train approached the station. Fourteen-year-old Julian Shaw (ph) leaped onto the tracks, pushed Mr. O‘Dwyer back onto the edge of the platform.
Then he remembered something, that they were still in danger. He pulled O‘Dwyer back toward the center of the platform because he knew if he stayed on the edge there, suction might draw them into the side of the speeding train as it passed. How did he know that? He explained, quote, I had seen that on “Myth Busters.”
Number two, best detective work, Patrolman David Dehardt of Vernon, New Jersey. He was confronted by these facts; an SUV had been stolen, but it had only been driven about 40 yards. A door window was broken. There was black hair on the seats, and candy wrappers everywhere, inside the vehicle and out. Also, bear drool on the cloth interior. Solution? A bear had smelled Halloween candy inside the SUV, broke the window and getting the treats knocked loose the parking brake. Police warn the bear suspect is considered dangerous and on a sugar high.
Number one, best dumb criminal, the unidentified suspect who held up a Dunkin‘ Donuts in Farefield, Connecticut. He gave the clerk a note saying he had a gun and a bomb and he wanted cash. He did not wait for the clerk. He grabbed the cash register and fled in a waiting Pontiac. Police can only speculate as to his reaction when he discovered he had stolen not the cash register but an adding machine.
OLBERMANN: Forty years ago the Summer of Love was over. Even the Indian Summer of love was pretty much done. But in our third story tonight, the ‘60s live on in the presidential pre-campaign of 2007. Roaring back in comments Senator Barack Obama made yesterday.
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SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there‘s no doubt that we represent the kind of change that Senator Clinton can‘t deliver on. And part of it‘s generational. You know, Senator Clinton and others, they‘ve been fighting some of the same fights since the ‘60s. And it makes it very difficult for them to bring the country together to get things done.
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OLBERMANN: Also yesterday, Senator Obama knocked Senator Clinton by invoking a more recent decade.
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OBAMA: There is a certain style of politics that comes out of the ‘90s that she has perfected. And it says that you sort of concede that one side of the country is never going to vote for you. You work your base. You try not to engage on tough issues, so that you don‘t make yourself a target, because you‘re gearing up for battle in the general election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Despite today‘s breathless coverage, Senator Obama has made similar remarks before, and, in fact, portrays the two decades as linked in their toxic effect on this decade‘s politics. Rhetorically asking this summer, quote, do we need to break out of some sort of the ideological battles that we fought during the ‘90s that were really extensions of the battles we fought since the ‘60s?”
Senator Clinton‘s camp today responded as though Senator Obama were making her age an issue, saying, quote, we think Iowa caucus goers would reject the notion that anyone over the age of 50 should be disqualified from serving in elected office.”
Interviewed for a new book about the ‘60s, Senator Clinton characterizes its archetypal excesses, sex, drugs and rock and roll, as those of only a small minority, describing the era as liberating and great for America.
We turn now to the author of that new book, NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw, also, of course, anchor emeritus of “NBC Nightly News.” The book itself is called “Boom, Voices of The ‘60s, Personal Reflections on The ‘60s and Today.” Tom, good evening.
TOM BROKAW, AUTHOR, “BOOM, VOICES OF THE ‘60s”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: In your assessment, sir, what is Senator Obama seeing in the ‘60s that Senator Clinton may not be seeing?
BROKAW: Well, I think what he is trying to do is say to the country and the Democratic party, you nominate Hillary Clinton and the Republicans will come after her as they have since 1968 on the cultural issues of the ‘60s. Newt Gingrich calls the Clintons the McGovernics (ph) when they took office. It‘s not the first time, as you pointed out, that he has said this.
In the book, “Boom,” in fact, I asked President Clinton about that—former President Clinton. And he gave me a tight little smile and a wave of the hand and said oh, that‘s just a cheap political shot. I always had to respond to Newt Gingrich, so I was defending the party against those kinds of charges.
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton had asked you in this process whether you had cracked the code, whether you had deciphered the meaning of the ‘60s and you turned that question back on her. What did she say? What answer did you come up with after initially getting out of it?
BROKAW: Well, I think almost everyone agrees that the code is not yet crackable, Keith. We still have a time to go. I think that the election of 1968 may, in fact, put the ‘60s behind us. The president and Mrs. Clinton have both said to me that they believe that this election will not be about ideological food fights, but about solutions. That‘s where the country is right now.
Even Newt Gingrich acknowledges that that‘s where the country wants to get to. In fact, he said, quite memorably, in the book that the Democrats know what they have to do. They don‘t have the courage to do it. My party could do it, but they don‘t know what they have to do. So there‘s a good chance that 1968 will begin to put the ‘60s behind us.
It‘s also worth pointing out, however, that Barack Obama is able to run for president of the United States in large part because of the 1960s. That was also the time of the civil rights movement, when this country began to, finally, confront the hypocrisy that all people are created equal. We had legal segregation, legalized bigotry and de facto segregation throughout America. Barack Obama now is the first really serious major African-American to run for the presidency since that time.
OLBERMANN: I‘m fascinated by the conversation about the ‘60s you had with Karl Rove that‘s included in the book. He faults for both its materialism and the if you‘ve got a problem, blame someone else attitude. Was there any irony at all from this adviser to a president who never admitted to mistake and whom Rove pushed to give more tax cuts to the rich? How do we reconcile these two histories here?
BROKAW: Well, Karl Rove was not about to lighten his rip on his position. He did also say, however, that he believes that in the elections since 1968, as he pointed out in 1968, at the height of the counter-culture, Richard Nixon and George Wallace between them got 60 percent of the vote. And he thinks the country will still be there for Republicans, although he believes it‘s going to be a tougher task this time around, because he thinks the Republican party best represents what he calls the American dream.
As he said in the book, there is no Pakistani dream or no French dream, but there is an American dream and the Republican party is best able to deliver on that. And I suppose what he thinks is the greatest accomplishment of the Republican party, when you‘re talking about the underclass in this country, is the elimination of AFDC, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, giving them greater opportunity to be independent. So he has very few second thoughts about that time, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Tom, on a personal note; I‘m just old enough to have been at the kids table watching the ‘60s as they ended. I was in the seventh grade. I wore a peace button on Moratorium Day. But you lived them. Should we be imagining here, on a personal level, a young Brokaw grooving out to “Alice‘s Restaurant” on the head phones and smoking something that wasn‘t a Marlboro? And if that‘s accurate, what does it say about the ‘60s that you went on to become such a well respected, credible voice?
BROKAW: Well, one of the opportunities that you had in the ‘60s was to decide when you wanted to be a hippie. For me, I was never completely a hippie. But on weekends I put on my bell bottoms and my sandals and my peasant shirt and take my kids to the Renaissance Fair. And then on Monday mornings, I would be back in my button down shirt and my trench coat and going about the business of, you know, fulfilling the ambitions I think that were first formed in the 1950s.
As I say in the book, I had one foot in the psychedelic waters of the ‘60s and the other foot on the tera firma of the ‘50s.
OLBERMANN: Tom Brokaw, the book is called “Boom, Voices of the ‘60s, Personal Reflections on the ‘60s and Today.” We wish you great luck it and great thanks for your time tonight, my friend.
BROKAW: Thanks a lot, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The ‘60s; when O.J. Simpson was not only just a football player, but when his only sports memorabilia was the Heisman Trophy. In court today over some very different sports memorabilia.
And in worst persons, guess who is still complaining about NBC hiring Rosie O‘Donnell, even though NBC didn‘t hire Rosie O‘Donnell. That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Back to the birth of modern cable culture news, O.J. Simpson in court. Our number two story tonight, today the beginning of hearings to decide if he should be tried for what the “Las Vegas Sun” calls a cartoon caper, almost comical if the charges weren‘t so serious. Usually cocky Simpson considerably less so today, visibly squirming in his seat at times, as witnesses told about the day he burst into a Vegas hotel room with several other men last September.
First to testify, a memorabilia dealer who told of Simpson screaming obscenities and bagging up items, while another man pointed a gun in the dealer‘s face. Court closed for the day about 8:30 Eastern. That gun, plus Simpson‘s demand that nobody be allowed to leave the room, key to the case and charges of armed kidnapping that carry a possible life term. A close friend says Simpson is convinced he is being persecuted for being found not guilty of murder 12 years ago. A second day of hearings tomorrow.
No stalker situation is ever normal for the victim, celebrity or otherwise. But topping Keeping Tabs, Conan O‘Brien may have set some of record. His reported stalker a Catholic Priest who also holds a grudge against former tennis star John McEnroe. According to court documents, the priest mailing O‘Brien a series of threatening letters with demands for some kind of public confession. The priest identified as Reverend David Agemian (ph) of Massachusetts, allegedly referred to himself as a stalker and a, quote, dangerous fan.
And in the writers strike, bad news for neo-con porn. The terrorists have never stopped Jack Bauer. But the writers guild just did. Fox today suspending production on some its shows, among them 24. Like you couldn‘t just reuse the same script and just change some of the names. The strike is now in its fourth day with predictions it could last months. And this blood curdling possibility, Fox replacing 24 with a two-night, four-hour premiere of “American Idol.” Talk about enhanced interrogation.
Scientific research that Paris Hilton can reduce a mouse‘s pain. Fortunately Canada‘s taxpayers footed the bill for that, not us. That‘s next. First time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Bill-O. His weekly column for small newspapers came out this morning; “so now we find out,” he writes, “ that NBC News wants to hire Rosie O‘Donnell as a show host,” and “thus in desperation, NBC News has turned to Miss O‘Donnell.”
Yes, Bill doesn‘t keep up with the news much. Don‘t give me that stuff about how columns have long lead times and the whole story only changed last night. It was still up on his website until 3:00 this afternoon and it‘s still up on the website of his biggest outlet, HumanEvents.com. Bill, we keep telling you, you have to stop believing everything you read in the damn liberal “New York Times.”
Runner-up, Bill-O, the things you learn on the web. The O‘Reilly Christmas store is now open online, clearance discount. Culture warrior door mat worth 39.95 now 17.95. Bill O‘Reilly jig saw puzzles were 14.95. Your price 4.95. Now you know what that‘s about. The jig saws are actually a few pieces short of a puzzle, just like the guy they depict.
But our winners, an amazing trifecta, Fixed News discredited Clinton accuser Kathleen Willie (ph) and lunatic fringe talk show host mad Melanie Morgan. Willie claims that her two cats were murdered by Senator Clinton. She says that after her first cat vanished, somebody pretending to be a jogger came up to ask her about the cat by name. Then it happened after her next cat disappeared too.
Then Melanie Morgan told Willie she knew all about it, that a private investigator had once, quote, all but admitted to her that he killed the cats on Hillary‘s orders. And all this was repeated this morning on Fox Noise, including this memorable summary from Brian Kilmeade (ph), quote, but it didn‘t stop there. Does the name Fluffy mean anything to you?
Do you people do nothing but sit there and smoke dope all day? Fox Noise, Kathleen Willie and Melanie Morgan, today‘s Worst Persons in the World!
OLBERMANN: Louis Pasteur, Niels Bohr, Gregor Mendel, Albert Einstein, great names in the field of science. All made epic contributions to the world as we know it. The role of scientific greats is tonight joined by another. In our number one story, we salute science‘s latest immortal contributor, Paris Whitney Hilton. No, she did not map the human genome, nor cure any disease. Paris Hilton made a mouse‘s fanny feel better.
Paul F. Tompkins will help explain this actual documented phenomenon in a minute. First, science. The study was performed at Montreal‘s McGill University. A researcher, eh, noticed male mice stopped licking the site of a painful injection when a scientist was present, an indication that the mouse‘s pain was lessened. Just to be clear, this was an injection given to the mouse not the scientist.
To test whether it was the sight or the smell of the human that caused the mouse to feel better, the scientist fetched a card board cutout of everybody‘s favorite hotel heiress and left it with the mouse. It turns out the cardboard Paris Hilton had the same effect on the male mouse and when Paris was covered up and the pain and the wound licking returned, leading to the theory that the male mouse gets stressed when a predator is in its midst. The stress trumps the pain traveling up the mouse‘s spinal cord, because the mouse is more worried about being eaten than about his little boo boo. An amazing break through in rodent pain relief. But perhaps the more shocking news, Paris Hilton actual did something.
To join us at the dawn of this new era in science, let‘s turn to the Paul F. Tompkins, comedian and contributor of VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever,” and celebrating green is universal week with us here at MSNBC. Paul, good evening.
PAUL F. TOMPKINS, VH-1: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: First of all, we just showed a good deal of video of Paris Hilton. Do you yourself feel any better? Do you have any wounded mice there that feel better?
TOMPKINS: Well, I don‘t feel any worse. I guess I feel the way I always feel when I see video of Paris Hilton, which is just an overall numbness. But I do feel alarmed at how fat those mice are.
OLBERMANN: Let me put this delicately; they probably wouldn‘t admit this, but millions of people have seen Paris Hilton make a human male feel better. Is there any curative relationship between what the guy felt and what the rodent experienced?
TOMPKINS: I don‘t know that this shows us that Paris can make males in general feel better. It might say more to the relative intelligence of the mice and the men that Paris dates. I don‘t think she is really seeing a lot of astrophysicists at the clubs. I don‘t know if she has ever seen a college diploma on the wall of any man she‘s been with.
OLBERMANN: I don‘t know that you‘ve gotten the reference to “Of Mice and Men” that we sort of cobbled together there either, but this scientist from McGill, the professor of Paris Hilton mouse studies, says only the male mice exhibit the pain reduction when Paris Hilton is flashed in front of them. They have a theory about it. How do you account for this? What makes the female mice so indifferent to cardboard cutouts of Paris Hilton?
TOMPKINS: Well I think the answer is very obvious. Paris makes the female mice feel fat.
OLBERMANN: Now, the theory, the scientific theory that‘s actually behind this, Paul, is that the mice are frightened by Paris Hilton, that the mouse would consider her a predator, and that‘s why the pain goes away, because you prioritize fear of death ahead of pain. Do you think that they know she went to prison? Is that why they‘re scared? Did they hear a story that she eats mice? What? Why?
TOMPKINS: I wouldn‘t imagine that the mice are thinking that she routinely eats mice. But they may look at her and think, she is definitely due to eat something. As I said, the mice are quite fat.
OLBERMANN: It might be a question about fast food burgers. Are there any other celebrities, in your opinion, who might have caused the same reaction in mice or different mice reaction, for that matter?
TOMPKINS: Well, Helen Mirren has cured thousands of mice, but she doesn‘t blow her own horn about it. She hides her light under a bushel. But it is a well documented scientific fact that all the drama that is happening on “The View” is tearing the mouse kingdom apart.
OLBERMANN: So then, if we‘re moving on from this, what is next for Paris Hilton scientifically? Is it product safety testing? I‘m hoping nobody is researching the GHB in the Aqua Dots on her.
TOMPKINS: Well, one might say that this is her first miracle, and she could be on the fast track to sainthood. But I think probably what Paris is going to do is just look forward to doing more of that awesome charity work.
OLBERMANN: Paul F. Tompkins, comedian and contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.” As always, Paul, great thanks.
TOMPKINS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also thanks to the mice. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,653rd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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