IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 22

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guest: Dana Milbank, Dan Froomkin, Jesse Jackson

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The three way Democratic race: Obama versus conciliatory Clinton versus not-so conciliatory Clinton.

Conciliatory -


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are going to not only pick a nominee right here in Texas, but we are going to lay the groundwork for a great campaign this fall.


OLBERMANN:  Wow.  But wait, not-so conciliatory -


CLINTON:  It took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush and it will take another one to clean up after this one.


OLBERMANN:  A Clinton surrogate casting her as Moses from the Bible, taking people to the Promised Land but not going there herself.  Another Clinton surrogate sending out e-mails screaming about a 2001 campaign donation Obama got from a member of the 70s radicals, Weather Underground.  How many Hillary Clinton campaigns are there right now?

The war of words about words and the plagiarism charge comes back to haunt Senator Clinton.


CLINTON:  You know, the hits I’ve take in life are nothing compared



BILL CLINTON, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  - that the people and their strife (ph) in this country are taking everyday of their lives.


OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain says “The New York Times” story has gone away and it was completely wrong.  And then, one of his key denials is contradicted by a 2002 deposition - a 2002 deposition given by Senator McCain himself.

Watching one too many episodes of “24”: The Republicans indulged in a little video terrorism over telecom immunity.


REP. STENY HOYER, (D-MD) MAJORITY LEADER:  There is no urgency. 

There is no urgency.  There is no urgency.


OLBERMANN:  And because of the FISA Act, the attorney general and the director of National Intelligence say, in the last week, the administration has, quote, “Lost intelligence”.  You bet they have.

And speaking of Bill O’Reilly, and lynching, and racism, and the non-apology apology.


BILL O’REILLY, TV HOST:  I’m sorry if my statement offended anybody, that of course, is not the intention, context says everything.


OLBERMANN:  The real context of saying, quote, “I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence” is explained to Mr. O’Reilly by our special guest, the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Friday, February 22nd, 256 days until the 2008 presidential election.  If earlier in the week, it was a surrogate of Senator Obama’s from the Texas State Senate, with not doing anybody favors when he appeared on the candidate’s behalf during an interview on this network, this morning in Texas, a political supporter of Senator Clinton’s from the Texas State House made an almost unequally embarrassing gaffe when he appeared at a rally for Senator Obama and said the race was the Illinois Democrat’s to lose.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: State Congressman Aaron Pe¤a was been on the Senator Clinton’s leading outreach activist in the Rio Grande Valley, reaching out to Obama supporters this morning and saying, quote, “I think last night’s debate in Austin was a turning point in this campaign.  I think it will become increasingly evident very soon who is going to win this primary.  I made a commitment to Hillary Clinton and I must maintain it.  I gave my word.  However, as an observer, it appears to be increasingly evident who is going to win.”

Surrogates gone wild overshadowed by tragedy on the campaign trail this morning: A police officer killed while escorting Senator Clinton’s motorcade, the officer apparently crashing into a concrete barrier along a viaduct near downtown Dallas.


CLINTON:  Other than to express my deep condolence and sympathy.  It is very difficult in these circumstances for me to do anything other than to express my deep condolence and sympathy.  Because of this tragedy, I know you understand that we can’t have a rally.  It would not be appropriate for me to take this opportunity as I had planned to be with you, to talk about the election.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton cutting short her next appearance in Fort Worth there as you saw, at a rally in Corpus Christi, Senator Obama also offering condolences adding that the same officer, Senior Corporal Victor Lozado-Tirado had helped him when he was in Dallas.  Obama’s attempt to win over Hispanic voters in south Texas gave his familiar catch phrase today, a new twist.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Yes, we can.  Si se puede.  Yes, we can.  Si se puede.  Yes, we can.  Si se puede.  Yes, we can.  Si se puede.


OLBERMANN:  And speaking of familiar phrases, the plagiarism charge that the Clinton campaign’s opposition dropped on Senator Obama this week, evidently now haunting Senator Clinton.  If you will recall the near kumbaya closing remarks she made to conclude last night’s debate.


CLINTON:  No matter what happens in this contest, and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama.  I am absolutely honored.



CLINTON:  And, you know whatever happens, we’re going to be fine. 

You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends.  I just hope that we’ll be able to say the same thing about the American people.  That’s what this election should be about.



OLBERMANN:  That sounded at all familiar to you?  The Blogosphere quick to note that Senator Edwards had said nearly the same thing at the debate held on December 13th of this campaign.


JOHN EDWARDS, FMR. 2008 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What’s not at stake, are any of us.  All of us are going to be just fine no matter what happens in this election.  But what’s at stake is whether America is going to be fine.


OLBERMANN:  A quick look at the stakes and where things stand in Senator Clinton’s self-declared must-win states.  In Texas, the candidates having headed into last night’s debate, the virtual tie in polling, the latest from “The Washington Post”: Clinton 48, Obama 47, Keith number - undecided plus margin of error, nine.  A similar picture from Rasmussen in the lone star state: Clinton 47, Obama 44, the other number, not sure plus the margin, 13.  And in Ohio, also from Rasmussen: Clinton 48, Obama 40, Keith number, 15.

And now to call in our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of “The Washington Post”.  Dana, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  The polling shows the race in Texas, obviously, whichever one you want to pick, this race is tight.  That is the self-imposed firewall.  Is it falling down on Senator Clinton?

MILBANK:  Yes, I don’t know why Mark Penn thought it would be a good idea to build this firewall out of kindling and gasoline but that seems to be where things are headed right now.  You know, the polls have tightened enormously.  It’s a close race there.  But the really interesting thing is how dramatically things have tightened there and in Ohio as well.  I think even more than the numbers, is what you can read in Hillary Clinton’s mannerisms on the campaign trail.  She seems to be capitulating a bit.  And as you pointed out, she’s all over a lot, in a sense, giving in to the multiple personality disorder foisted upon her by her aides now, but she does not seem to be making a real last ditch effort.

OLBERMANN:  Now, we’re going to talk about that with Jon Alter in just a moment here, in-depth, that sort of dichotomy campaign going on now.  But we have one thing for sure.  The response on the similarities between what she said and what Senator Edwards had said in December, of what President Clinton had said in 1992, the response was to insist, Ms. Clinton campaign response that plagiarism had to be lifting exact pieces of text, it wasn’t just borrowing somebody else’s idea and they send out a list of other people who’ve also said, we’ll be fine.  And people on the list included Shaquille O’Neal and Lindsay Lohan.  Is the response valid or this really kind of underscore the whole point that the Obama people were making, which was that, this from the beginning, has been about splitting hairs?

MILBANK:  Yes, I coined to deal of an original phrase to deal with this whole thing and that is: live by the sword, die by the sword.  And Hillary Clinton made the fair point that Barack Obama was ripping off from John Edwards and everybody else and Deval Patrick.  But, of course, it’s a fair thing to do, but then, she has to come around and be accountable herself.  So, the truth is, a lot of these are just clich’s, they’re standard campaign rhetoric.  And can we rip off other people’s clich’s, I say, yes, we can.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.  Also, I think, if she’s borrowing from Lindsay Lohan, sign out, right?  It’s time to go home.

What is this with state congressman, Aaron Pe¤a, her Rio Grande Valley outreach guy who shows up at the Obama rally today?  How could that, something like that happened and what does it mean?  Obviously, it’s a microcosm, it’s a tiny thing.  But, is it, in fact, the term I’d just used, is it a microcosm of what’s going on in Texas?

MILBANK:  Well, clearly this is not a man you want in your foxhole, but, you know, I was with Clinton in the Rio Grande Valley earlier this week.  It was the night after Obama had 19,000 people, just capacity crowd overflowing from the arena in Houston.  She had the rink for a Minor League Hockey team there in this small town and it was not able to quite to fill up the 6,800 seats there.  I think you’re seeing a lot of dispirited folks around there right now.

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and “Washington Post” and one of the great writers as you could hear he just talks (ph) who are now for centuries.  As always, great thanks, have a great weekend.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Much has been written about Senator Clinton’s closing remarks at last night’s debate.  What she had said since doing little to clarify her intentions.  There are two directions she might have been going with that.  Either it was a grand conciliatory gesture indicating she recognizes that she might not be the nominee after all or it wasn’t.  At a Texas Democratic Party rally in Austin last night, less than an hour after the debate finished, Senator Clinton made it seem like she had intended the former.


CLINTON:  We are going to not only to pick a nominee right here in Texas, but we are going to lay the groundwork for a great campaign this fall.


OLBERMANN:  But, just when you think you might have figured Senator

Clinton out, seconds later, literally seconds later, she went back to

saying this -


CLINTON:  It took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush and it will take another one to clean up after this one.


OLBERMANN:  Then, there are people who speak for Senator Clinton on this network last night.  Texas congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee, casting Senator Clinton as Moses, as in perhaps, she’s taking people to the Promised Land but she won’t be going there herself.

At this point, let’s bring in our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.  Good to see you, sir.


OLBERMANN:  So, how many different Clinton campaigns are there in fact, going on right now?

ALTER:  Well, I think there’s really only one and that’s headed south.  She is in deep trouble.  The opera’s not over until the first lady sings.  She’s warming up backstage (ph).  Her chances of winning this nomination are slim to none if you actually look at the math.  She not only has to stop Obama’s momentum in Ohio and Texas, she has to win by 20-point margins to be even in the game and then, she has to win states like Mississippi and North  Carolina that have large African-American populations by 20-point margins to a race that’s 157 delegates that she’s behind.  So, it’s one of those things where if she wanted to really go out classy, this is her opportunity.  I think she’s thinking, do I go down fighting or do I go out classy.

OLBERMANN:  But, I mean, it seems as if the answer to that changes literally every 15 seconds.  There were so many points in the debate last night, there were points in that speech afterwards in Austin.  There have been points today, developments today that looked like they are, you know, putting oil on the waters kind of things, and then, there are explosions and e-mails and these people are guilty of plagiarisms.  Are they running on simultaneous tracks or is this part of the process, the difficulty of letting go?  Is that what we’re seeing?

ALTER:  I think that that is a lot of what this is.  I mean,

somebody came up with this line, I don’t want to plagiarize but -

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

ALTER:  March 4th and long, OK?


ALTER:  So, you throw the Hail Mary pass and plagiarism, it falls incomplete.  You throw another Hail Mary pass on something else, it’s almost certainly going to fall incomplete if you’re trying to get it on 99 yards down the field.  At a certain point, you make a decision about how you want to go out.  And I think that that’s where they are right now.  It’s a hard decision.  I really sympathize with her in trying to make this.  She’s worked really hard.  She’s been a very good candidate.  She hasn’t been well-served by her campaign, which is been one of the worst in modern political history in terms of its strategy, original strategy and then even the tactics.  They didn’t prepare for what would happen after Super Tuesday.  It’s only one of many, many big mistakes they’d made.

OLBERMANN:  And part of this sort of dichotomy here, the Weather Underground story of Barack Obama meeting with somebody who’d been in this radical, semi-terrorist organization of the 70s and taking a donation from him seven years ago, the meeting was 14, 13 years ago, that’s the part of the campaign that saying, no, we have to go out in nuclear fashion?

ALTER:  Yes, I mean, she has contributors now who are in jail,

Norman Hsu.  And this guy, you know, he rebuilt his life after ward.  So,

these are the kind of things you do when you’re desperate.  I don’t think -

how many voters are going to sit out there and go, oh, he got a contribution from somebody who 30 years ago got in trouble for being a - and they’re going to vote that way.  You know what that reminds me of?  When George Bush, Sr. was going down, he tried to make Bill Clinton look like he was some kind of long hair, you know, radical and had gone to the Soviet Union when he was a student.  And that was a sign than then President Bush was done.  And you can’t stick a fork in her yet, but you can put a spoon in her, maybe.  She’s in deep, deep doo-doo, as what same Bush (ph) said.


OLBERMANN:  So, what would you tell her if you were suddenly thrown in to this mix of high price of consultants?  Although I’m sure, they couldn’t afford you.

ALTER:  Well, they probably could.  They pay a lot, like a $1 million a month (INAUDIBLE).


ALTER:  But, you know, honestly, I would say, it’s terrible for me because we want a brokered convention.  I’ve been dreaming about this for my whole adult life.  So, were she to get out, it would be terrible for the story, terrible for me personally, but I think the smartest thing she should do would be do something very electric, very breathtaking and get out now.  And say that she would, you know, is endorsing Obama.  She would look so graceful, like she was unifying the party.  She would set herself up for 2012 should Obama lose.  And look like the great heroin of American politics.  The chance of that happening is basically zero.

OLBERMANN:  That’s what I’m going to say.  You’re not running to beg them (ph) to put that money that they’re not going to pay you on it.  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as always, great thanks and have a good weekend.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Forty-eight hours after “The New York Times” story, one of John McCain’s specific denials is contradicted by one of John McCain’s own affidavits.  Oh, here we go.

And: More evidence that Congressional Republicans can’t tell the difference between real life and the TV show, “24.”  This is their argument for giving the president telecom immunity.  Am I suppose to take you guys seriously?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  John McCain declares “The New York Times” story, completely wrong and completely over and then, in his words, under oath, come back to haunt him and prove that one of his denials is not true.  Later in Worsts: Roger Clemens versus Attorney General Mukasey?  Ahead here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  The first hole today appeared in John McCain’s blanket denial.  “The New York Times” reports that he was too close, platonically, to a Washington lobbyist to represent, among other interest groups, a TV mogul who wanted to buy a station in Pittsburg.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The McCain denial contradicted by McCain.  The “Times” had reported that Senator McCain had on behalf of Vicki Iseman lobbied the FCC to approve the purchase by Paxson Communications.  The McCain campaign immediately issued a point by point rebuttal saying, the letters in 1999, which McCain wrote to the FCC were routine and that McCain had never spoken about the Pittsburgh station to any lobbyist or anybody in the Paxson company just as Paxson was donating $20,000 to his campaign.  But today, “Newsweek”, quote, “A deposition in which five and a half years ago, McCain swore the exact opposite was true”, quote, I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue.  He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business.  I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint.”  The deposition on September 25th, 2002 was from a lawsuit over all things, the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold resolution.  In it, McCain also swears he could not recall if he’d spoken to a lobbyist, but, quote, “I’m sure I spoke to about Paxton.”  The McCain camp now says, he was swearing metaphorically that he said he was contacted by Paxson and he spoke to Paxson in it (ph) somebody on his staff.  The senator meantime continued to try to have it both ways, refusing to take any questions about this story while campaigning at Indianapolis, while at the same time, continuing to try to raise money based on the “Times” report with the campaign’s most successful fundraising e-mail to date.  It read of part: “Objective observers are viewing this article exactly as they should - as a sleazy smear attack from a liberal newspaper against the conservative Republican frontrunner.  Sean Hannity said, after reading the article three times, et cetera.  Washington Attorney Bob Bennett, who was the Democrat counsel during the Keating investigation said, et cetera.”  Objective observer, Bob Bennett is McCain’s attorney.  Objective observer, Sean Hannity is Sean Hannity.  Another objective observer, White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel addressed the McCain story today off-camera: “I think a lot of people here in this building with experience in a couple campaigns have grown accustomed to the fact that during the course of a campaign, about - seemingly on maybe a monthly basis leading up to the convention, maybe a weekly basis after that, _The New York Times” does try to drop a bombshell on the Republican nominee.  And that is something that the Republican nominee has faced in the past and probably will face in this campaign.  And sometimes, they make incredible leaps to try to drop those bombshells on the Republican nominees.”

Well, the Republicans could preclude that by nominating honest candidates.  But who am I to suggest anybody go overturning traditions?

Let’s bring in MSNBC David Shuster in Washington for more on this. 

David, good evening.



OLBERMANN:  The deposition that “Newsweek” came up with seemed pretty slam dunk but it’s also pretty narrow.  But if you put a blanket denial out there, you have raised the bar.  Why did they do it that way?  Did they not know that one inaccuracy, even if it were, maybe an innocent inaccuracy would restart the whole story?

SHUSTER:  Well, Keith, part of the problem as it was to describe was that the McCain campaign was not expecting that “The New York Times” story would focus on this 1999 letters that McCain wrote to the FCC.  And that’s because the story about those letters had been written by “The New York Times” the next year during the McCain 2000 campaign.  Of course, the deposition came later.  So, in the midst of the effort to rebut the entire story yesterday, people who are working on Senator McCain’s behalf are rather not familiar with that 2002 deposition or have forgotten specifics of the story that first came out in 2000.  Again, you can argue, it doesn’t excuse the inaccuracy, but it does help to understand that the expectation from McCain campaign if the story came to pass was, they expected that most, if not all of the story would be focusing on McCain’s relationship with Vicki Iseman and not on these letters or these issues that “The New York Times” had already written about.

OLBERMANN:  The nature of the evidence that has just turned up in the “Newsweek” piece today, that’s not a friend of a friend of a friend with some anonymous quote here, I know your point was made that they were looking for something else in the story and not the FCC-Paxson issue, but they knew something was coming for literally months, a negative story with several key component parts.  And within 24 hours, somebody produces a legal document in which Senator McCain contradicts his own denial.  Is this somebody still, you know, could be described as a slip at the switch over there in McCain damage control headquarters?

SHUSTER:  Yes, absolutely.  And clearly, the wrong person at that switch, McCain clearly should have looked at or edited himself, this rebuttal that was coming from his staff, under his name or he should have talked with lawyers or the staff should have talked with lawyers to involve in the deposition by paint (ph) to McCain supporters, they see a bigger issue of concern that they believe could be easier or perhaps more damaging for people to understand.  And that is, yesterday on camera, John McCain denied that his staff spoke to him about Vicki Iseman.  “The New York Times” reported that the staff did speak to John McCain about Vicki Iseman.  So, there you have a clear contradiction and as it stands, the credibility of Bill Keller, the executive editor at that “The New York Times” and the credibility of his newspaper is on the line.  And so, the big question as one McCain supporter suggested to me tonight, the big question is: Whether or not this battle is over or whether “The New York Times” which has the entire barrel of ink has decided, no, we’re going to put out more on the story to explain why we did this story in a first place.

OLBERMANN:  And every other news organization in America by the way, which has always smells the blood in the water, there are three other things going on with McCain.  He’s got to answer questions about FEC for that loan which he may have used public financing as collateral, “The Washington Post” detailed the bevy of campaign advisers who are lobbyists or who had been.  Richard Renzi, his co-chair in Arizona, the congressman indicted on corruption charges but that nothing to do with McCain’s campaign, but at some point, does this stop, his campaign has stopped raise issues of hypocrisy, culture of corruption and dovetailed back at a point of the “Times” piece was in a first place?

SHUSTER:  Yes, absolutely.  And Howard Dean, the Democratic Party chair is already trying to make that the issue and suggest that, look at all these tangled connections McCain has at the time that he’s saying that he’s above the influence of lobbyist and lawmakers and legislation.  So, clearly, the Democrats are already thrilled that they’re going to have this material to work with.  But, Keith, a couple of Democrats have pointed out that under their wish list, they wish the story had come out later, either in the summer or in the fall because they’re worried that perhaps, this sort of expectation, now (ph) this is how senators do business, that that will sort of fade and that the story, if it doesn’t go anywhere, will fade and that it won’t be an issue that it might have been had it happened later in this campaign.

OLBERMANN:  Good point.  David Shuster of MSNBC, welcome back.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama have just decided on this alternative way to choose the next president.  And they’re running.

And: Roger Clemens might wind up behind bars because of an 11-year-old kid with a camera.  Details ahead in Worst Persons.


KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  For a couple of days late on this, but 48 years ago, Wednesday, Joel Hodgson was born.  One time did play in prop comic and satirist.  1988, he created a television classic called “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”  An actual new concept in which he into robot characters where marooned in space and forced against their will to watch bad movies, which they then riddled with savages sides and alternate dialogue.

For decade, it was probably the best and most consistent source of political and societal satire in American TV.  Plus, it made a camp classic out of films like “Manos, The Hands of Fate.”  The title of which as Hodgson definitely point out, given what Manos means in Spanish as we translates as hands—the Hands of fate.  Happy birthday, Joel Hodgson.  And we’ve got Oddball sign.

Instead of another presidential debate, they’ve decide to run for it.  Now, it’s try out to the Washington Nationals baseball team racing presidential mascots and/or second basement.  Steroids have such side effects honestly.  30 fleet-footed founding father wannabes showed up to RFK Stadium and landed job racing fellow presidents at national home games.  After series of hits, the field was reduced to a select few.  Take a guess which ex-president did not make the cut.

Set, go.  Oh!  Down goes Jefferson!  Washington first, Lincoln second, the third president, a distant third.  Ouch, my head, ouch.  Oh, my giant head.  There you (INAUDIBLE) buster.

Over to Australia.  This time, it’s the ponies.  The race already in progress.  It’s behind (INAUDIBLE), in-front number eight, the yellow charging hard and down the stretch they come.  But wait a minute.  What’s this?  It’s naked drunk guy, naked drunk guy on the far outside.  Naked drunk guy making his move.  The guy for the finish line, it’s all over.  Naked drunk guy pulling up the rear.  This is from a race last Saturday in New South Whales after which naked drunk guy was arrested and order to show up in court where he have to explain this foolish and possibly behavior and how he pull over 50 lags leap.

You think Republican lawmakers can’t tell the difference between reality and the TV show “24.”  This is their web ad about telecom immunity.

Speaking of disconnecting from reality.  Bill O’Reilly’s placid apology about the Michelle Obama lynching party remarks.  Reverend Jesse Jackson going this.  These stories ahead.

But first, on COUNTDOWN’s top three “Best Persons in the World.  Number three, best sign you are finished.  Coulter gist, a newspaper reporting that last Sunday night in Palm Beach, Florida while trying to buy stuff in the 10-items-or-less line at the Publix Supermarket, Ann Coulter’s credit card was rejected.  You know what, it happens.  The point is Coulter is described in the newspaper as, quote, “The nutty arch conservative.”  Which newspaper called her that?  “The New York Post.”  If “The New York Post” dismisses you as a nutty arch conservative, Annie, you’re toast.

Number two, best prank gone bad.  Some youngster apparently thought it would be fun to park a classic vintage 1966 Blue Chevy Nova on the roof of the sliding door company of Vista California.  Lifting it into position by crane, where it sat for literally moments until the flimsy framework of the building buckled under the weight of the car, destroying the car and most of the contents of the sliding door company of Vista California.

Number one, best all natural cure.  And I apologize in advance for the music.  It was over for 28-year-old, Yvonne Sullivan of Bristol in England.  She’d been in a coma on a ventilator for two weeks that doctors were advising that life support be discontinued.  So her husband, Don (ph), turned to a final resort.  He knew she’d hate this.  He knew she’d be angry at him but he started yelling at her.  Telling her he had enough and that she was giving up and that she had damn well better start breathing on her own.

And two hours later, she started to regain control of her breathing.  And five days later, she came out of the coma and told her husband that she really did not like it when he yelled at her like.  And a week later, she went home.  That was last July.  She has now resumed teaching her dance class.


OLBERMANN:  If anymore proof were needed of the real motives behind the administration insistence on retroactive immunity for the telecom companies who help spy them or spy on Americans with them, there are the remarks this morning from Scott Stanzel of the White House.  And our third story in the COUNTDOWN, which Stanzel said quote, “We have always been supportive of providing retroactive immunity to the companies that felt a patriotic duty to help their country in the aftermath of the most significant terrorist attack in the history of this nation.  We think that’s important.  The opposing arguments for that I assume are because they want trial lawyers to be able to sue those companies.  We don’t think that’s right.”

Nothing about listening to terrorists, nothing about stopping future threats, just an interest in protecting corporations against suits by ACLU volunteer attorneys.  None of them evil trial lawyers.  The White House and the radical right are living in some kind of waking dream where in logic not only no longer applies, but reality can turn into fantasy and back again.  And it seems normal to them.  It’s also underscored by this.

A new House GOP video featured on the front page of its website, ripping off the TV series “24” and every other suspense thriller ever.  It appears to have little purpose other than to try to scare the pants off the American public.


UNIDENTIFIED HOST:  You say that the country is in greater danger now of terrorist attack, because this law has expired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Increased danger and it will increase more and more as time goes on.

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER:  People have to understand around here that the quality of the intelligence that we’re going to be receiving is going to be degraded.  It’s going to be degraded.  It’s already going to be degraded.

REP. STENY HOVER:  There is no urgency.  There is no urgency.  There is no urgency.


OLBERMANN:  Joining us now Dan Froomkin, the author of the White House watch column at

Pleasure to talk to you tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  When Aaron Sorkin wrote in that movie “The American President” that there is a certain kind of politician who is interested in two things and two things only, making you afraid of it and telling you who is to blame for it.  Do you think he could have imagined it would get as literal as that?

FROOMKIN:  Well, you know, that is how you win elections, at least sometimes.  That video is just something, isn’t it?  I mean, it’s generating a sense of blind terror.  It certainly something you want to try to do when you’re making movies or television.  But it’s a heck of a way to run a country.  And what we are seeing here really is the Republican argument on behalf of this surveillance law is really very simple.  It’s be afraid.  It’s do it or die.

And you know, just as a journalist, I’m sure it has offended us that

this notion that political leaders can argue on behalf of position without

explaining what it is, without explaining why their position is superior to

their critics, without engaging their critics in conversation.  Without

engaging the arguments of their critics and instead, just basically trying

to scare the pants off people.  You know, they’re used to be our leaders,

used to tell us not to be afraid, and the message from this video is just -

I mean, it’s just astonishing.

OLBERMANN:  Can it not be argued though that there’s always been a portion of our political base in which that is the whole message.  I mean, dating back well beyond the soviets, go back to the antichrist in 1880s and go back to the French in the 1790s and the first war we almost got into over nothing at all.  Is this just a sophisticated version of what our ancestors have always gone through?

FROOMKIN:  Well, it’s very potent.  And fear is a great motivator.  But you know, I really do like to think back to, for instance, World War II, when you had a leader like FDR who told people not to be afraid.  And you know, my God, there’s a lot more to be afraid of then, than there is now.

So, yes, there’s a long tradition of this working, but I don’t know that it makes—it doesn’t mean it’s always going to work, let’s put that way.

OLBERMANN:  Is this, in this day and ages, is this ultimately just a game of chicken that it would be obvious to a 3-year-old that of National Security depends upon passing a bill with the FISA shortcuts in it and the president kills that bill and threatens to veto that bill, it’s the presidents fault if anything happens, but the Democrats are simply—actually afraid of something else or just afraid something happen and they will get blamed for it?  Is that ultimately what this is about?

FROOMKIN:  Well, the Democrats are certainly afraid.  I mean, they are

there’s been very little backbone on their behalf on the Hill.  I do think, if for instance, they were to pass a bill that didn’t include, for instance, the retroactive immunity and that President Bush vetoed it presumably because of that retroactive immunity thing, then I do think that at that point at least, certain issues would come into focus and one of them certainly would be the issue which you called a lot of attention to, which is this notion that financial security for the telecom seems to be taking precedence over anything else.

And then, we’d ask ourselves what is it about this retroactive immunity that makes this so important?  Is it just the financial future of the telecoms?  And of course, they are only going to be liable for the billions of dollars if they lost these cases.  So you’ve got the other questions.  Are there other things that we’re asking the telecoms to do that they’re going to stop doing that we don’t even know about?

OLBERMANN:  Of course.

FROOMKIN:  Is it really an issue of the leadership of this country, not wanting the public to find out what’s been going on.

OLBERMANN:  As we found out, of course, the telecoms will stop if we forget to pay them on time, which is actually happening.  Dan Froomkin of The Washington Post—  Thanks and have a good weekend.

FROOMKIN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Lost intelligence and Director McConnell and Attorney General Mukasey had a letter to Congress today on this same subject.  An unbelievable moment even for worst persons.  And the Reverend Jesse Jackson joins us to react to Bill O’Reilly’s lynching party comments about Michelle Obama, ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Ahead, first, he said he would not go on a, quote, lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there was evidence.  And he gave, they pretended he had not said unless, and then he gave one of those melee mouth if-anybody-was-offended kind of apology.  Despite all that, nothing else has happen to it.  Bill O’Reilly and racism, the thoughts next of the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN’s number two story, our “Worst Persons in the World.”  The bronze goes to Frank Luntz of Fox News asking a focus group about the early part of the Clinton/Obama last night.  One of his questions, quote, “How many of you want them to really argue?  Raise your hands.  And how many of you want them to make love to each other?”

OLBERMANN:  When you ask that about McCain and Huckabee, I’ll take this award back.

Our runner-up, Roger Clemens in denying use of steroids or human growth hormones among other things.  He told Congress under oath that he did not attend the party in 1998 at the home of his teammate at the time, Jose Canseco.  He witnessed against Clemens said it was at that party Clemens and Canseco discussed steroid use.

The conflict may be resolved by an 11-year-old kid.  Though he’d be about 21 now.  But investigators believe that when he was 11, he is yet unnamed guy, big baseball fan.  He, too, attended the party at Canseco’s house and brought his camera.  He took pictures of heroes of his who were at the party like Roger Clemens.  Oops.

But our winner, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell today writing a scare letter to Congress saying, quote, “We have lost intelligence information this past week as the direct result of the uncertainly created by Congress’s failure to act on, quote, “telecom immunity.”

The dynamic duo adding that some telecommunications companies have reduced their cooperation.  So we’re missing intelligence?  How do we know we’re missing intelligence?  Now, all you have to do is look at the administration to know we’re missing intelligence.  Attorney General Mukasey and DNI McConnell, today’s “Worst Person in the World.”


OLBERMANN:  What would happen to you if you went on national radio and said that you didn’t want to go on a lynching party against Mrs. Barack Obama unless there was evidence.  But on the next day, you defended that by saying you have said you probably wouldn’t.  And what if you then went on television and made a dismissive, off the cuff remark about how you were sorry if you’re statement offended anybody, but context was everything, and you try to rewrite the history of this thing by claiming you actually said there should be no lynching party.

Our number one story on COUNTDOWN, well, of course, you would be fired by your radio and television employers and probably never have been heard from again.  But of course, you are not Bill O’Reilly.  The Reverence Jesse Jackson joins us presently, befitting a dishonest man, Bill O’Reilly’s I’m not sorry is said what I said, I’m sorry you didn’t like that I said that apology.  Two days after the fact was also accompanied by a lie about what he said to which you can compare it in just a moment.


BILL O’REILLY, FOX NEWS:  While talking to a radio caller, I said there should be no lynching in the case—I comment off Clarence Thomas saying he was the victim of a high-tech lynching.  He said that on “60 Minutes,” you may remember.  I’m sorry if my statement offended anybody.  That, of course, was not the intention.  Context is everything.


OLBERMANN:  Despite that claim, O’Reilly did not in fact say there should be passive tense, no lynching.  He said he personally did not want to go on a lynching party unless—well, judge it for yourself.


O’REILLY:  I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels.  If that’s how she really feels—that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever—then that’s legit.  We’ll track it down.


OLBERMANN:  My pleasure now to welcome as promise, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow Push Coalition, former presidential candidate himself.  Reverend Jackson, thanks for your time tonight.


COALITION:  Real well.

OLBERMANN:  You went on his program—Bill O’Reilly’s program after the salvoes remarks.  He did not apologize then.  He tried to correct you when you called his comments offensive.  He tried to lecture you on the causes of black poverty.  Do you, as an African-American who ran for president accept O’Reilly’s apology for what he said about the African-American wife of an African-American man, now running for president?

JACKSON:  Well, he really didn’t apologize.  And what he said was hurtful, harmful, and even dangerous.  President Bush no less said a few weeks ago that there is no good use of lynching—the word lynching even in jest.  Referencing nooses and Janet, President Bush said nooses are not pranks and lynching conjures too much fear and terror to be used in any way.  The question ask, what will Fox do about this over the line statement and what will the FCC have to say about this?

OLBERMANN:  Well, what do you think is appropriate?  I mean, is this a dismissal level event.  Is it suspension, is it sponsor boycott, or what it is right now, which is nothing?

JACKSON:  I guess it’s not for me to say it, but it is though a burden upon the FCC that took a strong position on the Janet Jackson situation for example which was socially offensive to many people.  What is the stand that Fox holds its step to?  You know, Barack and Michelle are on a historic journey.  It wants to change America for the better, but it’s also a dangerous journey.  Given this climate of violence and fear.

They are taking America to a new zone of hope and possibility and even though who disagree with them should not put out the power of suggestion that might, in fact, impede them in this process of making us as a nation better.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Of all times and of all people to make sure you language cannot possibly be misunderstood or be the inspiration for some lunatic, this would be the time and this would the people.

JACKSON:  They say that if unless she said—what Michelle really was saying is that she’s always been proud of our country, but not proud of our government.  And there’s a distinction.  Our government has often been tested and passed laws that did not protect all citizens.  And now you see American motoring, becoming healthier.  Our men voting for women, whites voting for blacks, we see the best America emerge.

And today, Barack is a conduit to this that new America is emerging and what a glorious moment we are now realizing.  And those who want to see a new America, a new heaven, and new earth are celebrating.  Not put in this dangerous suggestion in its path.

OLBERMANN:  Clearly, this was not a joke.  This was a choice of language.  O’Reilly could have said I’m not going on a vigilante raid against her.  There are other terms he could have uses.  Other phrases that would have made whatever his point was, but he didn’t.  He chose the lynching one.  In your definition, is that racism?

JACKSON:  Well, I called him yesterday because, you know, I think we should talk with people, not talk at them.  And he mentioned what Clarence Thomas has said.  Clarence Thomas misappropriated the term, high-tech lynching and mobilize his opposition.  Clarence Thomas was not going through a high-tech lynching, he was going through an interrogation.  And he used that language to mobilize his opposition.

And so even using what Clarence Thomas said does not justify today’s suggestion that what she said had some conditional basis for a lynching.  There’s no condition for a lynching party and she said none that would even evoke such a feeling.  Because Mr. O’Reilly is so strong and so powerful, others who are in the media, who are own radio and TV, if this is the acceptable standard, that’s what makes the climate all explosive and dangerous.

OLBERMANN:  Has he responded sufficiently in your mind?  Has Fox responded sufficiently in your mind?

JACKSON:  Well, Fox has not really responded at all.  I think they called this free speech.  It is free but it is real dangerous and provocative speech.  So far, FCC has said nothing about it.  And now just my appeal is to maintain free speech, but we must define some boundaries because words are powerful, words are suggestive, and given what we’ve seen at Virginia Tech and what was in NIU, this is also why we are celebrating.  This isn’t for a dangerous and exciting moment.  We must not in some sense stimulate the danger to mention of this great moment.

OLBERMANN:  Agreed.  The Reverend Jesse Jackson joining us from Atlanta.  I’m sorry it was under these circumstances, but it’s always a pleasure to speak with you, sir.

JACKSON:  Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN:  That’s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1759th days since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I’m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck

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.