Guests: Jonathan Alter, Richard Wolffe, Jim Moore, Paul Tompkins
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Martin Luther King Day: And it‘s not “I have a dream” but a prominent and neutral African-American Democrat says, he needs to chill a little bit he being the former president of the United States is now the focus in the two candidates‘ latest version of “the other guy shouldn‘t be doing that.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The former president who I think a lot of us have regard for has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama and I are blessed to have strong, passionate spouses. I‘m grateful for that and I know Barack is as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Is President Clinton too into this race or is Senator Barack Obama overreacting?
At the moment: Only Senator Edwards seems to be campaigning against Republicans. He, he says, is the one who can beat John McCain.
Has John McCain already beaten Rudy Giuliani? Rudy Giuliani who trailed McCain in the polls in New York by double digits? Giuliani is, however, endorsed by New York City‘s third most popular center fielder.
Bush: The Movie: Josh Brolin to star, Oliver Stone to write and direct. Almost no chance you will hear about the film, Bush moving back and to the left.
Surprised that Eli Manning and the New York Giants are actually in the Super Bowl? I went to all these trouble to say this on football day a month ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: There could yet come a day when Eli Manning is the grand old man of NFL quarterbacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the surprise comeback from our Worst Person‘s candidate we thought had retired defending the Confederate flag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN COULTER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The military bases on this country are named after confederate officers. Eisenhower, Newman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No, they aren‘t named that way. Those guys weren‘t Confederate officers. They are no bases named for them. Newman‘s for (INAUDIBLE) union settlement in Texas. And Eisenhower grew in Kansas. Otherwise, you‘re right on the money. All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
COULTER (voice over): This is historically preposterous. It is ridiculous.
OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, January 21, 288 days until the 2008 presidential election. He needs to chill a little bit. The house majority whip, one of the heavyweights both of African-American politics and of South Carolina politics, Congressman James Clyburn maintained both his neutrality in the Democratic presidential nominating race and his perspective on what has been described elsewhere as a fight, a brawl, a rift between former President Bill Clinton and would be president Senator Barack Obama. Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN: With the next primary in Clyburn‘s state just five days away, Mr. Clinton needs to chill as the congressman put it “a little bit.” Mr. Clyburn also said, Mr. Obama needs to be circumspect in invoking Ronald Reagan again who‘s quote, “Agenda for this country caused angst for African-Americans in this country. Just be careful you don‘t cross the line.” Mr. Clinton on the stump going where no former president has gone before as the first to hit the campaign trail for a wife hoping to make the Oval Office her own but his wife‘s chief rival for the nominations, Senator Obama now claiming that in doing so, President Clinton has gone too far. In an interview on ABC this morning in which the Illinois senator twice questioned Mr. Clinton‘s accuracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I have to say just broadly, you know, the former president who I think all of us have a lot of regard for has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling. You know, he continues to make statements that aren‘t supported by the facts, whether it is about my record of opposition to the war in Iraq or our approach to organizing in Las Vegas. You know, this has become a habit and one of the things that I think we‘re going to have to do is to directly confront Bill Clinton when he‘s not making statements that are factually accurate. If you have something that just directly contradicts the facts and it‘s coming from a former president, I think that‘s a problem because people presume that a former president‘s going to have more credibility. And I think there are certain responsibilities that are carried with that. President Clinton went in front of a large group, said that I had claimed that only Republicans had had any good ideas since 1980. And then he added, I‘m not making this up. He was making it up and completely mischaracterizing my statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Clinton‘s statement to which Senator Obama was referring was not exactly that made whose by the former president in Nevada on Friday in which he said, quote, “Her principal opponent said that since 1992 the Republicans have had all the good ideas. I‘m not making this up, folks.” He might have been simplifying it down but Mr. Obama had actually said in his surely he must regret it by now interview with the “Reno Gazette Journal” editorial board having them actually, quote, “Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think it‘s fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10 to 15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom.”
We turn now to one of our fonts of wisdom, conventional and otherwise, Jonathan Alter, also of course, senior editor at “News week” magazine who is tonight at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How serious is this? Does Mr. Clyburn have it right? Are we still at the chill a little bit stage?
ALTER: Pretty much. Jim Clyburn is just echoing what both Rahm Emanuel and Ted Kennedy told Bill Clinton privately which was to take it down a notch, pipe down. It‘s one thing to go out and campaign very enthusiastically for his wife and tell people why he thinks she‘d be a great president, it‘s another thing to be essentially a “hatchet man” on another Democrat. They think, all of three of them: Clyburn, Emanuel and Ted Kennedy believe that it‘s just inappropriate for a former president of the United States to do and somebody who is technically still the head of the Democratic Party.
OLBERMANN: However you want to characterize the former president‘s tone or tenor or words, his wife the senator as won both primaries since he amped it up. Apart of any consideration of whether or not it‘s right or whether or not it‘s wrong, whatever it is, is it working?
ALTER: Well, you know, I had actually thought it was until now. Because Bill Clinton has such a big megaphone that if he raises doubts about Obama‘s record, for instance, and that that is going to have an effect on a lot of Democrats. But there is the potential for a Clinton fatigue kind of returning and in a sense that you know, maybe we might be getting a little more than we bargained for. I mean, one of Obama‘s top aides who used to work for Bill Clinton told me recently he said, you know, if Hillary‘s campaign can‘t control her husband, how will Hillary‘s White House be able to control Bill Clinton and what would it look like to have essentially two Clintons as president or one Clinton who is kind of off the reservation a certain amount of the time?
OBLERMANN: Yes, that foretelling thing may be the substance here. But this other thing. I‘ve been throwing this out since Iowa to all three main of the characters in this drama. Is what Mr. Clinton is doing, ultimately helpful to the Democratic Party? Is what Mr. Obama doing, is that ultimately helpful to the Democratic Party?
ALTER: You know, I don‘t think it is ultimately helpful. You know, I think it would be probably better for the party for him to do what people in his position have done in the past. So like, take in the other party, take George Bush when his son was running for president in 2000, he said a lot of nice things about his son. He didn‘t dump on John McCain. I think he recognized that would be harmful to Republicans.
OBLERMANN: How far can this go without this being a real problem for the last Democrat standing, John?
ALTER: I lost sound.
OLBERMANN: All right. We‘ve had a technical failure to Myrtle Beach. Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” as always, great thanks. What the Democrats had to say about Martin Luther King, Jr. today, for once entirely appropriate and in context—all three in attendance at a rally honoring the civil rights leader slain 40 years ago this April at rally in Columbia, South Carolina, five days before the Democratic primary there. Aides to Senator John Edwards is now acknowledging to the “New York Times” that he no longer expects to finish higher than third in the Palmetto state even though he was born there and had been anticipating a stronger finish there. At the same time, Senator Edwards himself having argued to reporters just yesterday that he believes he is the only Democrat who can successfully take on Republican Senator John McCain in the general election, if it comes to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We get off our oil based,
carbon based economy -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: For more on that and the rest of the day‘s headlines let‘s turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. He‘s also with us now from Myrtle Beach where apparently the phone line has been restored. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I‘m glad you said something. After Nevada, what is John Edwards‘ status and viability right now?
WOLFFE: Well, not very good. There is no credible path for him to the nomination and he‘s running 30 points down in his birth state of South Carolina right here. He‘s only reasonable role out of this is to be the kingmaker in the convention, but two really awkward and extraordinary situations would have to happen. First of all, the two main candidates would have to be evenly balanced. Secondly, the super delegates would have evenly balanced. That‘s a long shot on any terms.
OLBERMANN: About the frontrunners, Obama and Clinton. There was another headline that we have mentioned here. The Clinton campaign said, the Obama campaign violated its pledge not to campaign in Florida and did so by buying a national cable package that includes obviously Florida viewers. The Obama campaign has responded that it was told it would be impossible to exclude Florida and furthermore that the South Carolina Democratic Party agreed Mr. Obama‘s campaign was not violating the pledge that was made to the earlier states. And now the Clinton‘s spokesman, Howard Wolfson is saying, all options are on the table when it comes to Florida. Two questions about this - the first of them being—what does this mean on its face?
WOLFFE: Well, first of all, it‘s exceptionally hard to run a national campaign without buying national ads. You have to look at this as a case of - and both campaigns will look back in prospect and take the Florida results if they‘re good for them and bad for the other side and throw them in the other campaign‘s face. That‘s essentially what the Clinton campaign did with Michigan. It didn‘t really campaign there. It didn‘t buy any ads, didn‘t do any events there but once they got the numbers ahead, then, they now have claimed that they not only had two back-to-back victories, but three. They count Michigan in there, too. So, there is a certain positioning going on there of saying, well, the other side is kind of playing this out. Let‘s see what the results are and frankly, just on name recognition alone, Clinton should do well in Florida.
OLBERMANN: The other question here about Florida, Florida and this back and forth here as template. First we had race. Then we had Bill Clinton‘s role. Now we have TV ads. Is the Clinton/Obama primary race devolving into, well here is 95 percent of what the other guy said. And well, the other guy sure is playing dirty but I‘m not playing dirty and I would never just quote, 95 percent of what the other guy said. Are we having this kind of proxy, subtlety, whatever you can get away with it without actually putting your foot over the violation line kind of campaign?
WOLFFE: Yes. I think we are. And it‘s not edifying. It is not substantive. And I don‘t think it‘s actually helpful to either side. Look, the biggest beneficiary on the face of it is the Clinton campaign because they knock Barack Obama off his pedestal of hope and idealism and turn him into a politician just like any other. And of course, the Obama folks are in a box. They have to respond, otherwise, they look weak and they‘re not making their case. So, they end up jumping into the fray rather than staying above it. Initial effect, neither side looks very good coming out of it. But as long as they talk about tactics and process, I don‘t they help the Democrats in general. They certainly do (ph) how to make the case for their own campaign.
OLBERMANN: Is there any way to assess how far this can actually go, I mean, after putting a deadline on it before it starts being a real problem for which ever is the last Democrat standing? I mean, today again, quoting Howard Wolfson, he claimed that Obama‘s assertion about former President Clinton is a - quote, “Right wing talking point” and sure enough, that was on the air already today on talk radio and over at fix news as Clinton is a liar. Is there a deadline, is there a drop dead-date at which this all become so damaging that it‘s going to hurt the winner as much as it hurt the loser in the primary?
WOLFFE: No. I think, look, these campaigns are locked in a desperate battle and the longer it goes on, the more desperate it gets. So, I think this one is going to run beyond February 5th. We‘re going to see this kind of tone continue. And it has been effective in a sense because they are running neck and neck. And as long as it works, these candidates don‘t want to change the tactics.
OLBERMANN: And we haven‘t really wrapped up Nevada although obviously each side could claim victory, one in terms of delegates and one in terms of popular vote. Again, the Obama camp said yesterday, it‘s going to ask the Nevada Democratic Party to look into these reports that the caucus organizers from Mrs. Clinton‘s campaign tried to block entry to certain sites well ahead of the official deadlines but they are not contesting the victory. So then, again, it sounds again like this sort of one step removed, you know, we‘re cleaner than they are. We are not actually contesting the victory, therefore, what is it they‘re trying to do? What is it they‘re trying to gain here if they‘re not contesting what happened on Saturday?
OLBERMANN: Yes, it is a curious thing that they‘re not making any legal complaint here or not contesting the vote. But they do seem to have a pretty good case. I mean, they are quoting from Clinton campaign manual saying, close the doors at 11:30, a full half-hour before the state party said the doors should close at these caucus sites. Look, on the one hand, they got more delegates, so, they should be happy with it. I also think they want to be forward-looking and not constantly harping about - looking in the rear-view mirror. But listen, voter suppression is a very loaded understandable term for voters in South Carolina. So, in a sense having raised it, makes it very potent. Do you want to continue it? Not if it makes you look like a bad loser.
OLBERMANN: So, again, that overarching thing here, I think I finally distilled what‘s boiling in my own mind on this. We‘re seeing kind of reverse dirty politics where it‘s not that you actually want to play as mean spiritedly as possible against your opponent, but you want to leave the impression: Oh, they are much dirtier than we are. Look, we are the victims of this. Is that what we are seeing in both camps?
WOLFFE: I think there‘s a lot of people playing victim here. And it‘s a substitute for, look, we have not seen a real nuclear campaign here. No one has gone up with a negative TV ad which is the ultimate weapon in most campaigns. I‘m sure that will come if this continues to be a close race. But so far, negative campaigning is been confined to mailers, radio ads, mostly really below the radar campaigning. This is a substitute for that. And until we get to those negative ads, that‘s the kind of messiness we‘re going to get. But those negative ads will come. That‘s going to happen. Just give it a couple more weeks.
OLBERMANN: Oh, gee. Don‘t give them any ideas. Our own Richard Wolffe of the “Newsweek” magazine from South Carolina tonight. Thank you, Richard, good night.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: St. Rudy of 9/11: He has been endorsed by half the centerfielders of the New York Yankees but only by one quarter of Republicans in the latest poll in his home state.
And: There‘s already been a satirical TV series about him and animated series him. Why not an Oliver Stone movie epic about him? I am legend? Atonement? My pet goat? You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The good news for Rudy Giuliani: He‘s been endorsed for a president by a guy who batted 270 last year for the New York Yankees. The bad news: He‘s trailing in double digits in the polls in a place you would have assumed that he would have at least be close.
And: Defending the display of the Confederate flag, to quote, “The majority of military bases in this country are named after confederate officers.” Five is a majority?
The return of “Coultergeist” in Worst, ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: If the Republican presidential race was “jaws” then Rudy Giuliani would be the shark. Trust me. I‘m going somewhere with this, probably not where you think I‘m going either. In our fourth story tonight: Giuliani‘s strategy has been to lie in wait in Florida, then shoot from victory there on the 29th towards a big day on Super Tuesday but the polls show Giuliani‘s lead in Florida fading away, a trend likely to continue as his rivals now turn their focus on that state. And Giuliani‘s prospect for Super Tuesday are in ever more doubt as two new polls show him trailing John McCain in one key state voting that day, the state Giuliani‘s campaign once considered a sure thing, his home state—New York. The WNBC/Marist poll putting McCain on top with 34 percent of likely GOP primary voters there. Giuliani tied with Willard Mitt Romney at 19. The Keith number is 12.5 here. The Siena College poll shows a massive flip, McCain rocketing from 15 to 36 percent, Giuliani taking from 48 to 24 and the Keith number though on that one is extraordinarily high at nearly quarter. So, while staying off-stage at the heart of thing helps boost the shark‘s impact on jaws, Mr. Giuliani might do well to remember that in real life, they kept the shark off camera mostly because the shark machinery didn‘t work too well. The first time they put the damn thing in the water it sank right to the bottom. In that note, we bring in MSNBC‘s David Shuster who covers politics for HARDBALL and sometimes here on COUNTDOWN as well. Good to see you here, sir.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What‘s happening in New York to Rudy Giuliani?
SHUSTER: Well, New Yorkers don‘t like losers, I mean, whether it‘s
sports or politicians. And you look at what Rudy Giuliani has done, sixth
place in Iowa, fourth place in New Hampshire, sixth place in Michigan,
sixth in South Carolina sixth in Nevada and by the way, in Michigan, he was
only 6,000 votes ahead of uncommitted. And we‘re not talking about
Giuliani having spent all his time in Florida. I mean, he spent - he went
made over 100 visits to New Hampshire. He spent $2.5 million and this still in sort of measly fourth place. I mean, it‘s embarrassing.
OLBERMANN: And he today explained the falling polls particularly in Florida on the fact that he now has competition. Now, was this is a surprise to him? Is there a certain naivete that we‘ve seen sort of pop up on unfortunate moments in this campaign.
SHUSTER: Giuliani is in serious trouble because the competition is that he has been on the front pages of the newspapers for the last four or five weeks. He has had Florida essentially to himself as far as the local media. He‘s been there for a couple of weeks. He‘s had the local stations and yet, despite having Florida somewhat to himself, the national media coverage of McCain, and Romney, and Huckabee has been enough to sort of pushed Giuliani down. And Giuliani is now going into this race in Florida when everyone else is in the state and he just sort of hanging in there. It‘s a huge problem.
OLBERMANN: And the day that essentially it begins for all the Republicans in Florida, he trots out, Johnny Damon of the New York Yankees. I know Johnny Damon for a long time, he‘s a lovely guy, he really is. I don‘t care anything one jot about his politics. He‘s just a good guy. But the quote from Johnny today, was in fact, right now Johnny is only 50 percent of New York Yankees centerfielders. So, he doesn‘t even have that vote locked down to Giuliani. But here‘s this quote, “Rudy comes and visits me at the ballpark quite a bit. So, I figure I could drive down the street and visit him here” at the place where the endorsement was made in Florida. Why would you have him say anything about Giuliani going to Yankee games, considering the appalling statistics that came out after some of the boast about 9/11 and how much time he spent at Ground Zero and the calculation was made that Giuliani had spent more time watching the Yankees in the two months after 9/11 than he had at Ground Zero?
SHUSTER: Yes, you get the sense that things are going so badly for the Giuliani campaign that maybe he asked, I don‘t know, Mel Hall to come out and endorse him, and somehow he wasn‘t available because of his legal troubles. It doesn‘t make any sense. I mean, yes, Johnny Damon is sort of a popular figure and likable guy as you pointed out. But on the other hand, when Giuliani does talk about sort of baseball, it sort of takes away from the message. I mean, Johnny Damon, while he‘s a great guy, he‘s not exactly known for his astute political analysis. Nobody‘s going to say, oh, Johnny Damon‘s got that right position on Giuliani‘s tax cuts. It doesn‘t fit.
OLBERMANN: Or it‘s not the big name. You would not want Roger Clemens‘ endorsement right now, but you need a name. You need somebody to go, oh, yeah, I know who he is, and a lot of baseball people don‘t really know who Johnny Damon. All right. I‘ll stop with this. This is just merging my two things.
John McCain, the other Johnny. Did he just get a nice little gift from Mike Huckabee because Chuck Norris says, McCain would be too old and probably wouldn‘t survive the presidency, which is just a ghoulish thing to say. But on top of that, Chuck Norris, who once played a Vietnam P.O.W. in a movie, is ripping on an actual Vietnam P.O.W., and Chuck Norris is talking about age. He is 3 ½ years younger than John McCain. What kind of a - again, naivete in the campaign? Or you have somebody else speaking for you? This is the danger of the celebrity endorsement, right? The guy may say something incredibly stupid.
SHUSTER: Well, it‘s not just the only thing that Chuck Norris has
said. Chuck Norris said that he was going to raise $10 million at this
incredible fund-raiser barbecue that they had at the Norris ranch in Texas
and I think they raised maybe a million, maybe. I mean, it underscores how
quirky the Huckabee campaign has been. Sure, Chuck Norris gets some of the
younger folks in there because they want to meet Chuck Norris or Ric Flair
or whoever it is. But, the problem is that when you have Chuck Norris then
saying sort of these strange things about John McCain‘s age, and again, it
takes Huckabee away from message because now, the question is: What is Mike
Huckabee‘s reaction then to it? And there‘s Huckabee having sort of
backpedal and said, well, look, I don‘t agree with my friend, Chuck Norris
even though Chuck Norris has been with him -
OLBERMANN: Have him stand next to me on the platforms after each of the primaries. Last thing, has anybody yet figured out what Fred Thompson‘s speech was about Saturday night?
SHUSTER: Nobody has figured it out and even his staff still has no idea.
OLBERMANN: Our own David Shuster in the flesh, thank you, David.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You know, these two weeks before the Super Bowl, do they suck in sports or what? This is the best we‘ve got. Kids on sheep. Speaking of which our nightly bursts from the Worst. John Bolton, Dick Morris and Coultergeist. A pretty good night for a holiday.
But first: The breaking headlines in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed.
Number three: The-investment-economy-rally-isn‘t-that-great-gate. That whistling sound you heard this morning. That was the stock market falling around the world. The London FTSE dropped 5.5 percent, the equivalent FSE (ph) in France—seven percent, in India -- 7.4 percent, in Germany - seven, Hong Kong -- 5.5, Brazil - 6.6, Toronto - 4.8. It will be fun on Wall Street tomorrow. Don‘t wear your good shoes.
Number two: Politicizing-the-military-gate. You remember when the White House ended 200 years of separation between the military and the civilians government by making General David Petraeus its chief advocate on Capitol Hill for continuing the war in Iraq. Here comes the quid pro quo, the Pentagon reportedly considering making Petraeus to head the NATO.
And number one: E-mail-gate. After the revelation of the House Oversight Committee last week that 473 office days worth of White House e-mails are missing turns out there‘s more detail here. Sixteen of those days are from the Vice President‘s Office included—September 30th, 2003. The day that the Department of Justice and the FBI announced—they were investigating who blew the cover of covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame. Only the e-mails are missing? I‘m surprised that for that date, there‘s still evidence the vice president was in this plane of existence.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1950, the author Eric Arthur Blair died in London after a long struggle with tuberculosis. You may not know him under that, his real name. But especially if you watch this program every day, you probably have thought of him every day at least for the last five or six years. His pen name was George Orwell. It was chosen for him by his literary agent from among four names Blair suggested. The others were P.S. Burton, Kenneth Miles and H. Lewis Allways. Somehow “1984” by H. Lewis Allways doesn‘t sound quite so menacing. On that note let‘s play “Oddball.”
We begin in Denver. What better way to spend the weekend than to watch little kids try and fail to ride stampeding sheep? Bet the sheep every time. One brave tyke manages to cling onto the side of a galloping sheep until a cowboy finally pulled him to safety. Most of the unfortunate youngsters wiped out within seconds. They have no child services in Colorado? What the hell is going on here? It left them tired and sore and with a lifetime phobia of woolen clothes.
And we return to San Luis Obispo, California and good news everyone. Lardy, I‘m sorry, Lucky, the blubbery elephant seal who had eluded wildlife officers for nearly two boring weeks is now back on his home turf, the model of interagency cooperation. Marine biologists joined with California Highway Patrol and local fish and game and using just a blue tarp and some sticks, they persuaded Lucky to shift his 1,500-pound weight across the road back on the beach where he promptly started flirting with a lady elephant seal before getting chased off for the second time tat day by her mate. Lucky apparently not getting thus any time soon. Nice picture.
He has already made a surprisingly sympathetic film about Richard Nixon. So should President Bush be worried about Oliver Stone‘s plans to put him in the movies? And this is considered the most depressing day of the year, ask Kiefer Sutherland. His jail term wouldn‘t interfere with the production of his T.V. show. Now he‘s out of the joint but his show and all the others are out on strike. And he probably owns stocks.
These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s best persons of the world. They‘re the three best clan. Dean Hrbacek, the former mayor of Sugarland, Texas, who is now running for the Republican nomination for Congress them. A voters mailed to voters last week shows a photo of Mr. Hrbacek in trim fighting form, a photo that is of his head attached to the torso of an appreciably slimmer man. Nice work.
Number two best dumb criminal, 24-year-old Greg St. Germain who broke into the home of Margot Foster in Lighthouse Point, Florida. He tried to rob her place. Bad call. The nearly three decades older Ms. Foster runs marathons and has a martial arts background. She chased and subdued the wound-be burglar, no contest.
Number one best comeback, the late Feliberto Carrasco of Angol, Chile. Grieving relatives were at the 81-year-old man‘s wake when somebody heard something coming from the casket. It was the dearly departed asking for a glass of water. So do I have the etiquette correct here? Does Mr. Carrasco get his own religion now? Is there a vote?
OLBERMANN: Well before there was Bush the decider or Bush the uniter, there was Bush the frat boy. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, how the heck did that transformation happen and would you be willing to pay to see a movie about it? Also would that be tragedy or comedy? “Variety” reporting that filmmaker Oliver Stone whose previous works include Nixon and JFK is now working on “Bush,” a film about the life and presidency of the 43rd president for release around election time or a year from now when the next president is sworn in. Although Stone has referred to Mr. Bush as a Manchurian candidate without intelligence or conscience, he says the movie will be about Bush the human being.
Quote, “I want a fair and true portrait of the man. How did Bush go from an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world? It‘s like Frank Capra territory on one hand, but I‘ll also cover his bouts with his dad and his conversion to Christianity. His belief that God personally chose him to be president.
Mr. Stone promising to surprise both supporters and detractors but he‘ll have to get them into the theater first. Jim Moore is a contributor to the “Huffington Post,” co-author of course of “Bush‘s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.” Good evening, Jim.
MOORE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I‘m thinking as ever about my heroes the comedians Bob and Ray when I got to ask them during Watergate why they didn‘t do more political humor and Ray Goulding said, “How could be funnier than Watergate is?” How could anybody make a movie that‘s Bushier than the last seven years have been?
MOORE: I don‘t know, I was listening to your titles during the break. I think there‘s a better one. “Saw 3: The Bush Years” where the president takes his high-powered stupidity to the country and leaves it bleeding and mortally wounded in the field hospital of history.
You know, what is Stone not doing any market research? Every single movie or piece of art that‘s related to this administration whether it‘s “In the Valley of Elah” or “Rendition” or any of the movies like “Lions for Lambs” or any of the books, the public is completely staying away.
Try selling a political book proposal on the Bush years or any political book idea to a New York publisher right now. It is impossible. I mean, I don‘t know if it was Casey or was it Yogi would said if the people don‘t want to come out to the ballpark, there is nothing you can do to stop them. I think that‘s going to be the reaction to this movie.
OLBERMANN: Although I might add “Truth and Consequences” a book that has a few comments about Mr. Bush is doing very well.
MOORE: Oh, yes.
OLBERMANN: But we‘ll see if that lasts. The other thing of course is the timing of this. The Nixon film he did was fascinating. And I thought it was extremely empathetic. But can a Bush film have an impact on the man‘s legacy if it is coming out within days, weeks, months or even a year at the end of his presidency? I mean the Nixon film was 21 years after he resigned from office.
MOORE: No. I mean his legacy I don‘t think will be changed by time or by art. It is precisely what we all know. It‘s a bad war. It is what we are discovering, there is a horrible economy that is in part a result, in a major part of his economic policies.
It is a horror movie that we have all lived through the past seven years. And people do not want to lay down 10 bucks and go watch it again. I mean, a bunch of us have been spending the past seven years going, “It‘s only a movie. It‘s only a movie.” Hoping we‘ll wake up in the morning and it will be a movie. But it turns out that it‘s real.
You know, the tagline to his movie “JFK” was “It‘s the story that won‘t go away.” And I think in this case, he‘s trying to make Bush the president who won‘t go away.
OLBERMANN: Your latest blog though notes that the most powerful force is American politics right now is the young voters who despise the man and feast on his ignorance. Is the timing wrong? If there were a Bush movie coming out next month or early in the summer, would that have made sense? Would that have actually conceivably drawn an audience? If it were supremely negative about the man?
MOORE: I don‘t think so. I think that what we‘re seeing if you watch closely the books that are coming out, and I suggested even these movies, people don‘t want to deal with it.
And there is a political—this is analogous to what‘s happening politically. The candidates, whether it is Hillary or Rudy who whoever is talking about, “Oh, my god. It is a horrible, scary time and only I can keep you safe, those are the candidates who are suffering.”
I think a large part of Barack Obama‘s success has been this forward-looking hope and this visionary approach to politics that allows us to look to the future instead of looking over our shoulder in fear. And I think that‘s the same dynamic that would be at work in his attempt, Oliver Stone‘s attempt to get an audience. People aren‘t going to show up.
OLBERMANN: I‘m a little surprised at the expectations of course if “Variety” is saying that he‘s going to be shopping this script right now and they‘re going to have a movie out 10 months from now. Unless they are shooting it with home video cameras and they‘re planning to find unknown actors who are willing to do all the work in three weeks, they‘re never going to get it out that quickly. But it raises the intriguing question, who plays some of the key roles? Do you have any casting? And who plays Jim Moore and who plays Wayne Slater?
MOORE: Well, you know, you have that whole leading man thing going on, Keith. Can I have my people send you a script?
OLBERMANN: Yeah, absolutely.
MOORE: I have no idea who is going to play any of these roles, nor am I going to see the movie.
OLBERMANN: You wouldn‘t want to go see how George Bush meets Karl Rove? No, you know that already, why would you want to know?
MOORE: I‘ve been there and it wasn‘t any fun the first time.
OLBERMANN: “Friday the 13th” chapter 26. Jim Moore, with Wayne Slater, the co-author of “Bush‘s Brain.” Great thanks as always for joining us.
MOORE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Here‘s an unlikely script. A team that lost its first two games and had to play all road games in the playoffs is in the Super Bowl. We‘ll look back at the statistic that hinted at all of this a month ago. And what percentage of American military bases are named for those famous confederate generals, Dwight Eisenhower and Chester Nimitz? Coultergeist back with a vengeance and apparently a hallucination. Worst person next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: If only I had fully understood the stat I threw against the wall a month ago, the one suggesting that Eli Manning of the New York Giants might be on the verge of greatness. I could have bet and won a lot of money. Tonight he‘s on the verge of the Super Bowl.
And in worsts, Coultergeist versus Dick Morris versus John Bolton.
That is next, this is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Startled are you that the Super Bowl next month will pit the unbeaten New England Patriots versus the unspeakable New York Giants? Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, maybe you should not have been surprised.
A little over a month ago, a bizarre statistic showed up about the Giants quarterback Eli Manning who has led them now to three improbable victories in three road playoff games against three of the NFC‘s divisional championships, including last night‘s 23-20 overtime icebox thriller at Green Bay.
The statistic was noted on NBC‘s “Football Night in America” on December 16. Not to toot my own horn here or anything, but when I say not to toot my own horn, of course I mean to toot my own horn.
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OLBERMANN: Now remember this. John Elway used to be overrated. Joe Montana wasn‘t worth spending a second round draft choice on. Brett Favre couldn‘t beat out Billy Joe Toliver for a backup job. But the one thing that was true of all of them even when their NFL careers were questionable things was that they engineered a lot of impressive comebacks. In his first four seasons, Elway managed to snatch victory in the fourth quarter 11 times. Favre did it nine times in his first four seasons. Montana, six. And Eli Manning two weeks ago against the Bears looked as if he was about 35 seconds away from losing his job to Jared Lorenzen. Eli Manning has eight of them already with three games to go in his fourth season.
This could point to a quarterback in progress, a learning curve which you can‘t get to key in the lock until you scratch the door a dozen times. It could be the old Casey Stengel lament from baseball. If we pitch this hard when we‘re not in trouble as we pitch to get out of trouble, we wouldn‘t get in trouble in the first place.
There could yet come a day when Eli Manning is the grand ole man of NFL quarterbacks, the greatest giant of them all. Have you looked back at the first hint, all those fourth quarter comebacks?
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OLBERMANN: So there. So Eli Manning and those of us who supported him are having good days. But who else? Ask the stock market. Ask Katie Homes. This is considered the most depressing day of the year. Her first movie in three year tanks. Apparently she didn‘t know they don‘t count the box office tape from Xenu.
That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world. The bronze to former never confirmed ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, steaming now that the attempt to create another Gulf of Tonkin in Iran failed so utterly. Blasting the NIE, telling the “Jerusalem Post,” “I know the person who wrote this intelligence estimate. They are not from our intelligence community. They are from our State Department. It was a highly politicized document written by people who had a very clear policy objective.”
Bolton objected to this quote, “illegitimate politicization of American intelligence.” Note, illegitimate politicization. Legitimate politicization by say, the administration, that‘s dandy as far as Bolton is concerned.
The runner up Dick Morris of fixed news. His latest on Hillary Clinton quote, “Her temper is cool, angry, you know, I‘ll slit your throat in the middle of the night temper.” And your temper in the middle of the night involves a hooker and a phone call to a president?
But our winner, out of obscurity and retirement, Coultergeist, defending the display by southern states of the confederate flag. One little reminder about the confederate flag. It was the flag of the insurrection against the government of the United States. Anyway, she insists quote, “The majority of military bases in this country are named after confederate officers, Eisenhower, Nimitz, um, the list of southerners in our military legion.” The way she made it sound like she thought President Eisenhower and Admiral Nimitz were confederate officers. Even assuming that was an accident, Eisenhower wasn‘t a southerner. He was born in Texas. He moved to Kansas before he was 2-years-old.
Chester Nimitz was from a pro-union, anti-slavery community in Texas. He lived his adult, civilian life in California. And there are no bases named for either of them. And while there are bases named for Generals Beauregard and Bragg and Hill and Hood and Lee from the confederacy, that‘s five. It‘s a long way from a majority of the hundreds of military bases in this country. So fact wise Ann did exceptionally well this time. Coultergeist, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: There is hope. Before you complaining that we devoted our No. 1 story tonight to the most depressing day of the year, we want to stress the public service contained herein in the anecdote in that present. As for why today tops of the heap of potentially sad days from a formula courtesy a British psychologist. Dr. Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University in Wales. W plus D minus D times TX divided by M and NA. Well thanks a lot for that. This is why I stopped taking math classes.
The point of that complicated calculation is that today various bad things overlap, like bad weather, indicated by that. It‘s snowing. Death from the holidays and your head turning circular and orange. And the sinking realization that you have broken your New Year‘s resolution. But take solace in the knowledge that you are not alone since this so-called Blue Monday has dealt a sorry hand to celebrities.
Exhibit A, Kiefer Sutherland who finally got out of jail after his 48 days but has no “24 “to return to because there was a writer‘s strike when he was in the can. And there‘s Katie Holmes whose movie “Mad Money” premiered and bombed at the box office this weekend. It couldn‘t even beat out the sixth week, the sixth week of “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” And millionaire Simon Cowell whose TV was bugged apparently in an effort to record even his private moments of nastiness.
At this point let‘s turn to comedian Paul F. Tompkins, also a regular contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.” Paul, good evening.
PAUL TOMPKINS, VH-1: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Sutherland reportedly did laundry duty while he was in the jail in Glendale in California, described as a model prisoner. Is this is a glass half empty, half full situation for Mr. Sutherland? He was a prisoner, but he was a good prisoner, but he is an actor, and he‘s an unemployed actor.
TOMPKINS: Exactly. He could take comfort in being called a model prisoner. And I think one of the reasons is that he employed his chin when folding sheets. But yes being an actor and an unemployed actor, that gives you a whole lot of time to be with yourself which no actor really ever wants to do.
OLBERMANN: Or usually no actor can successfully do as we‘ve seen from all the actor says.
We promised this anecdote business to the most depressing day of the year, and it comes in the form of tips from a human behavioral specialist. One suggestion, challenge yourself to be the best version of yourself. Let‘s apply this to Mr. Sutherland with all this time on his hands. How is he supposed to be the best version of himself?
TOMPKINS: Yes, here is the problem. If you are an actor and you like to drink a little bit and you have all the time in the world, there are so many reasons not to not drink. It is beyond being a kid in a candy store. If you told a kid, hey look, we don‘t care what you do on your down time if you just show up at 9 a.m. to play with these Lincoln logs in kindergarten, you can do whatever you want. You know what? You don‘t even have to be on time. Just play with the Lincoln logs. It‘s just an insane amount of time that you can say well bars are opened and I have nowhere to be.
OLBERMANN: To Ms. Holmes and this movie. This was supposed to be kind of a comeback after all of her downtime spent with her husband. Is the bright spot here she can blame her co-stars Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah? Is that how she has to half full this one?
TOMPKINS: Well, yes. That Diane Keaton just curses like a sailor. I think that‘s what steered a lot of people away from that movie. Well the thing is Katie Holmes has to remember she is not yet a big enough star to open a movie. It took Nicole Kidman years of an arranged marriage to Tom Cruise in order to get to that point. So patience.
OLBERMANN: Another tip from the psychologist. It has nothing to do with arranged marriages. It simply says smile at everyone you meet. Say hello to a stranger. How good is that advice, Paul? Is that not how Katie Holmes got herself into this mess in the first place?
TOMPKINS: Listen, Keith. Katie Holmes knows that when she sees a stranger, she has to smile at them because she is the only one she can.
OLBERMANN: Oh. Another tip. This one is do something small that will make someone‘s day. So do something small. This would apply to Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. Don‘t they live by those words?
TOMPKINS: Yes, certainly for our purposes it is the little things that count. Yeah. It is like Paris still has all that charity work that she is going to do. I‘m still holding out that she is going to do it.
OLBERMANN: Comes around on the drunken elephants sometime late in the summer, that is my prediction.
Also, just to get this in. Reportedly there is an investigation that Simon Cowell‘s hotel room TV was bugged while he was taping “Britain‘s Got Talent” in Manchester, England. That is what this country has come to? They went from wiretapping Prince Charles to wiretapping Simon Cowell?
TOMPKINS: Once Charles actually married Camilla, it really stopped being fun. And those guys have to listen to lots and lots of tape. So I think they‘re bugging Simon Cowell‘s room because maybe he is going to say something mean about somebody.
OLBERMANN: What is the purpose? You can tape that silly “Idol” show for that.
TOMPKINS: They might not have TiVo in England.
OLBERMANN: That explains it. Paul F. Tompkins, regular contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.” Thanks Paul, as always.
TOMPKINS: Thank you Keith, cheer up.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,727th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night, and good luck.
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