Guests: Eugene Robinson, Richard Wolffe, Dana Milbank
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
If they don‘t like it—tough. Geraldine Ferraro reiterates her premise: Barack Obama owes his place in the presidential race to the fact that he is a black man. “I‘m exercising,” she adds, “my First Amendment rights.” She does not believe it‘s a racist point of view.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think her comments were ridiculous. I think they were wrong headed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: She then resigns for her role on the finance committee of the Clinton campaign. Even as a search produces Geraldine Ferraro saying of another presidential campaign that if he, quote, “were not black, he wouldn‘t be in the race.” The candidate was Jesse Jackson and the quote was from April 13th, 1988.
The do-over debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The results of those primaries were fair and they should be honored.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton to Michigan and Florida: Get your delegation seated or hold new votes. Senator Clinton to Senator Obama:
Accept the first votes or agree to new votes.
No new vote in Mississippi: A thumping by Obama, the delegate count and the new polling. On every issue, Senator Clinton leads except the vital ones: Acceptability, favorability and electability.
And a deep omen for the Republicans. For the first time since September 1992, a plurality of the country now says: I am worse off now than I was four years ago.
Governor Spitzer of New York, sorry, make that Governor Paterson of New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIOT SPITZER, (D) OUTGOING GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people at work. For this reason, I am resigning from the Office of Governor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Client number 9 is now off the payroll.
And tonight: A special comment. Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro are missing the chance to reject and denounce.
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening, this is Wednesday, March 12th, 237 days until the 2008 presidential election.
She still believes it, she is still not sorry she said it. She said the same thing about another African-American in the race for president 20 years ago. And if all that were not enough, she blames Senator Obama for what has happened to her.
Our fifth story on the COUNDOWN: Former congresswoman and vice presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro might have left the Clinton campaign today because of the controversial comments she has made about Senator Obama‘s candidacy. But there is little doubt that the controversy has not left her.
Later: My special comment on Senator Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro and the opportunity the candidate missed to say, in this I believe.
Now: The details. If you have believed that a Ferraro resignation would somehow improve the situation, for former Congresswoman Ferraro and for Senator Clinton, then, you probably had not been counting on Walter Mondale‘s running mate to write a resignation letter quite like this one.
Quoting it in full, “Dear Hillary, I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign. The Obama campaign is attacking to hurt you.
I won‘t let that happen. Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to make his a better world for my children and grandchildren.
You have my deep admiration and respect. Gerry.”
And is for what exactly Ms. Ferraro is resigning from, well, she and Senator Clinton having make it seemed as if she had no position with the campaign. Just yesterday, Ms. Ferraro said, quote, “It‘s impossible to fire somebody who‘s involved with the Clinton campaign.”
Earlier tonight, Senator Clinton making it seemed as if she had taken action against Ms. Ferraro.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Well, I said yesterday that I rejected what she said, and I certainly do repudiate it, and regret deeply that, you know, it was said. Obviously, she doesn‘t speak for the campaign, she doesn‘t speak for any of my positions and she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee.
And I think that given the intensity of feelings surrounding this campaign, we have been able to, you know, manage it well. It‘s not been—it‘s not been common, but when it happens, we both have spoken out and taken appropriate action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This morning on ABC, Ms. Ferraro not only standing by her controversial comments but suggesting as well that she is owed an FTV (ph) “thank you” bouquet for having said them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALDINE FERRARO, CLINTON SUPPORTER: The spin on the words has been that somehow I was addressing his qualifications. I was not. I was celebrating the fact that the black community in this country has come out with a pride in his historic candidacy and has shown itself at the polls.
You‘d think he‘d say, yes, thank you for doing that. That‘s the kind of thing that we want to say thank you to the community. Instead, I‘m charged with being a racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Ms. Ferraro not only believing she is deserving of gratitude but that the real tragedy in all of this is how she has been treated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FERRARO: Why, every time someone opens their mouth, Bill Clinton, racist. Governor Rendell, Gerry Ferraro—all of us have records of anything but racist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you sorry you said this?
FERRARO: Absolutely not. I have to tell you, my concern has been over how I‘ve been treated as well. And I‘m hurt, absolutely hurt by how they have taken this thing, spun it to imply that in any way and in any way I‘m racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama today defining Ms. Ferraro or anybody to
find one instance in the 13 months since his campaign for president began,
in which he has said that some criticism of him was racially based. As for
what he does believe -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think that her comments were ridiculous. I think they were wrong headed. I think they‘re not born out by our history or by the facts.
The notion that it is of great advantage to me to be an African-American named Barack Obama, and pursue the presidency, I think is not a view that has been commonly shared by the general public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Eugene Robinson, also of course, associate editor and a columnist at the “Washington Post,” political analyst of MSNBC. Gene, good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Ferraro resignation letter, does this not say she‘s not going to voice the view again? The campaign did not say, you know, pay no attention to her any further, we have nothing to do with her. Does this end this? Or does it just sort of freeze it in a kind of nebulous zone that a lot of events in the Clinton campaign have been mired, the sort of nasty stuff they didn‘t say but somebody said for them?
ROBINSON: That does seem to have been the pattern, doesn‘t it? You know, I have a feeling this could go on for a few more days and hopes it faded out, but who knows. I mean, where do you start with this story, Keith?
You know, first of all, Geraldine Ferraro says, you know, she‘s been called a racist and Bill Clinton was called a racist. Nobody calls her a racist. Nobody called Bill Clinton a racist.
What was said is that what she‘s—you know, the sentiments she expressed, what she said was arguably a racist thing to say. But that‘s about action, that‘s about words. It‘s not about her essence or her being.
And, you know, it just drives me crazy when people who are caught in something like this say, oh, look, you‘ve called me a racist. That just kind of ends the discussion then, because, you know, how dare you call me a racist. When in fact, there‘s something to discuss here and, you know, it was clearly meant to belittle and denigrate Obama because of his race.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and again, there was something else that did that to after the fact. In the Clinton response today, not Senator Clinton‘s response but the campaign‘s response, Howard Wolfson of her campaign said that there have been similar remarks about her made by figures in the Obama campaign. He referenced especially David Giffin, General McPeak.
Giffin was highly critical of her sincerity but he didn‘t say she‘s only in this campaign because she‘s a woman. McPeak said her gravitas was not sincere. He implied she went on TV and had crying fits. Within minute of that, he‘d retracted what he‘d said, he apologized, Obama apologized and it‘s all cleaned up in about an hour.
The first of now half a dozen times, Geraldine Ferraro said this was on the 25th of February and the subject was in essence, an affirmative action candidate. There still hasn‘t been an apology from anybody in this. How are these examples comparable?
ROBINSON: Well, in the words, they are not. At least I don‘t see the parallel between those examples. And, you know, look, the Clinton campaign has made very clear, they don‘t really believe in apologies. I guess apologies are for wimps. So, I don‘t look for one that from Howard Wolfson.
OLBERMANN: So, what happens here? How does this continue and what does it do to the Democratic Party about racial lines, gender lines? Could it drag in to the elections?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, it could. I mean, look, if you look at the exit polls, you could certainly argue that the party is divided along racial and gender lines. But, you know, we don‘t have a precedent for the first woman candidate running against the first African-American candidate for the nomination in a race that one of them is going to win.
So, you know, I think it‘s quite possible that when it‘s all over and done and one has won and the dust settles, you know, it is possible to put the party back together again, that feelings cool. That the Democratic Party more or less unites around one of them and presents a pretty unified front against John McCain. I think that‘s possible. I don‘t think that‘s, you know, that‘s not a lead pipe cinch, but I think it‘s possible.
OLBERMANN: Under the unique circumstances that obtained as you‘d just described, was it somewhat inevitable? Was it perhaps inevitable more correctly that this might happen? That one of these people is going to get the nomination and old wounds about race and gender and which set of wounds was worst? Which needed to be dressed wound first? Is it inevitable that this would be reopened at some point in this battle?
ROBINSON: Yes, sure. I think it probably was. I mean, you know, nobody wants to go through the whole, you know, I‘ve been oppressed since slavery. I‘ve been oppressed since the Garden of Eden. You know, who‘s the idea was the apple any how? I mean, you know, we could go on and on.
Let‘s hope we don‘t have to swim in this swamp for very long. Let‘s get back to—let‘s hope the Democrats get back to issues and to uniting for the fall campaign.
OLBERMANN: Yes, let‘s get back to the more traditional swamps. Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC. As always a pleasure, my friend.
ROBINSON: Great to be here.
OLBERMANN: There was of course, other news on the campaign trail today. Including a new poll out tonight from NBC News regardless of whether they have really voted or not, if they had a chance to vote today:
47 percent of those surveyed would vote for Clinton, Obama 43 percent. Our Keith number, not sure plus margin of error, kind of large, 11.2.
Yet, when asked who had the better chance of defeating John McCain in November, it was Obama 48 to 38. Keith number: 15.2, also large there.
Here, a reading to keep a true eye on as the primary progresses. Should one of these candidates lose among pledged delegates but still win the nomination among the superdelegates: 38 percent would consider that nominee not legitimate, 29 percent say no, legitimate, and 28 percent almost as many, had no opinion either way.
Let‘s now turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Senator Clinton comes out ahead nationally, also issue by issue, but Senator Obama is viewed as more electable against John McCain in the general election. Is that suggesting Democratic voters are more than a little confusing this time around or this is actually sort of standard stuff of electability versus point by point in politics?
WOLFFE: After a year or more of talking about superdelegates and everything else, everyone‘s confused. Look, the truth is, these numbers don‘t mean a whole lot given that so many people have already voted in the Democratic Party. And they didn‘t mean a whole lot when Clinton was up by 20 points. And they didn‘t mean a whole lot when Obama was up by four or six points fairly recently.
They clearly reflect however, the bounce that Clinton got out of the wins from Texas and Ohio. And she obviously is riding something of a wave, maybe that wave ended last night in Mississippi.
But at the heart of these polls, all way through, whether she was up by 20 or he was up by four our six, one thing has been pretty consistent and that‘s the head-to-head match ups between Obama and Republican candidates of various identities. He has always done better than Hillary Clinton.
And now, those numbers are reflected in the electability question. That took some time to filter through. But, you know, the horse race number, I wouldn‘t put any money on it.
OLBERMANN: Part of the electability issue though is really touched upon by the Clinton strategy in trying to woo the undecided voters, the superdelegates.
It‘s been the question to really bring out in front, this question whether or not there‘s anything to it or not, questioning Obama‘s ability to be commander in chief, this threshold and tests and I don‘t know, you know, approval, good housekeeping seal of approval, whatever is next.
Senator Obama had a spin, a positive spin on being under attacked this way. Let play what he said when asked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Here‘s the one good thing about it, is that this issue would have come up in the general election anyway. So, we might as well surface it now. I didn‘t expect Democrats to be making these arguments against fellow Democrats. They typically come from Republicans against Democrats.
Certainly, if Senator Clinton were the nominee, John McCain will make this exact same argument against her. But, if it‘s—since I intend to be the nominee and I‘m going to be running against John McCain, it‘s an argument that we would have to deal with it at some point anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Richard, you spend a lot of time with Senator Obama on the campaign trail, is he failing to recognize the downside of having the McCain play book written for him or might the positives really in some way outweigh the negatives here?
WOLFFE: I think that‘s some wishful thinking here. And yes, they‘re trying not to think about how the groundwork is being laid for Republican attack on either candidate. But, look, if the primary process does have any value to it, it is actually that it does improve the candidates.
Hillary has proved over the course of the campaign to be more effective, more personable, she‘s communicating a whole lot better with the media than she did at the start of this campaign. Obama is a much better debater. His communications team has proved more agile and more responsive. All of these factors improve a campaign. The question is: Do they improve so much by the end of this that they‘ve given all the best talking points to the other side?
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek.” As always, Richard, our great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Again, later in COUNTDOWN: A special comment on Senator Clinton and former Congresswoman Ferraro and her belated resignation from the campaign, and the phrase that comes to mind unfortunately is: Too little, too late.
And the state of play in the delegates after Mississippi last night and the state of play in the revotes in Florida and Michigan: Senator Clinton suddenly suggesting, put up or shut up on that. Why?
Speaking of put up or shut up, exit stage left, the governor of New York resigns for the first time in over 34 years. Client number 9, governor number 54 is now been 86.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Are Senators Clinton and Obama suddenly agreed upon having full scale second primaries in Florida and Michigan after the Mississippi rout due to the delegate count.
And later in Worsts: For your dinner, I can‘t get you Gerry Ferraro, but Governor Spitzer is free.
All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: With momentum actually being as quantifiable as the catching the scent of the seaside in the bottle, in our fourth story tonight: Barack Obama‘s victory in Mississippi last night has erased all the delegate gains Hillary Clinton made on March 4th in Ohio, picking up more than three out five votes cast, 61 percent to Clinton‘s 37 percent, Obama also added 100,000 votes to his popular vote.
He now has more individual votes than she does even if you do count Florida and Michigan about which more in a moment.
The pledged delegate total now at 1,398 Obama to 1,244 Clinton. NBC estimating, she needs to win at least 64 percent, nearly 2/3 of those remaining delegates.
In a letter to Obama‘s campaign today, Clinton‘s campaign heated up the debate over what to do over Florida and Michigan, arguing, there are only two options: Honor the results or hold new primary elections, omitting the action already in play, excluding the delegates for having voted earlier than DNC rules permitted.
The campaign is also claiming, despite Obama‘s absence in Michigan ballot, quote, “The results of those primaries were fair and should be honored.”
The results of those primaries: fair and should be honored. You almost have to wonder if somebody decided that would be today‘s talking point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: The results of those primaries were fair and they should be honored. Over the last few weeks, there‘s been a lot of discussion of what we should do to ensure that the voters in Florida and Michigan are counted. Well, in my view, there are two options: honor the results or hold new primary elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: For his part, Obama today said his campaign is in talks to help come up with a new way to the states—to seat their delegates within DNC rules. For the Democratic Party today says it will soon release a proposal for a do-over which puts it at odds with its own members of Congress who last night, announced opposition to any do-over.
Ah, Florida, I knew we could recount on you.
Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst: Dana Milbank, also, of course, national political reporter of the “Washington Post.” Dana, thanks for your time tonight.
DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Senator Wilson, a Clinton supporter wants a do-over, Florida‘s House members do not, it‘s state party does. Do we know where Katherine Harris is?
MILBANK: She‘s riding off on that horse into the sunset wearing her taekwondo outfit, I believe. Why can‘t we just—let‘s cut out Katherine Harris in the middle and let‘s go right to the Supreme Court, they will decide, five to four with the conservative justices voting for Hillary. We can forget about this.
Look, if Florida is going to make a joke of this again, and they‘re making an excellent case of why they should be ignored. So, if they can‘t get their act together, they shouldn‘t expect they‘ll make a good case to the rest of the country.
OLBERMANN: Dana, why is Senator Clinton suddenly suggesting full scale votes? It seems like a new material here. Is there polling data that indicates she would do well in revotes in Michigan and Florida or is she advocating something that sounds good but almost has no realistic chance of happening? What‘s going on here because I sense there‘s more than I understand?
MILBANK: Well, I mean, she‘s trying at all cost to avoid something like a caucus where she will fair badly or some other thing that will bring out the party activists that benefit Obama. Now, leaving aside the Clinton-Obama race, she does have a point on the caucuses.
We‘re talking about this record turnout in Wyoming. There were like 9,000 people who voted in that Democratic caucus. That‘s a school board election. That‘s really not a presidential race. So, in a global sense, she does have a point there.
OLBERMANN: And the track record that she has relative to Senator Obama in caucuses had nothing to do with her opposition to the caucus concept?
MILBANK: It‘s possible there‘s some overlap there, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Right. In talking about the kinds of states that Senator Obama wins, the kinds of votes he gets, is Senator Clinton, we‘ve heard this for a couple days now, is there a ground work being laid for superdelegates to justify going against pledged delegate total and if there is, what would the argument be possibly?
MILBANK: Well, and of course, that‘s the only argument she has because it‘s virtually, it‘s a statistic impossibility for her to actually exceed him in the delegates. Through this, either of them is going to have the requisite amount which means by definition, it‘s decided by superdelegates.
But perhaps, the Democrats should keep in mind that that‘s not such as any concept in the 40 years of the modern primary system when they get rid of the smoke-filled rooms. The Democrats have won exactly three presidential elections and one of those was because of Watergate. So, it‘s conceivable, the Democrats might be chucking this whole thing and letting the party bosses light up the cigars again.
OLBERMANN: Work with Woodrow Wilson, 1912, two years in politics and president of the United States in a three man race, no less.
The flip side of this, superdelegates, are they going to be impressed by Obama‘s ability to pull large totals in states where Democrats have not traditionally been competitive that would give maybe some of those superdelegates better chances at winning their own elections come November? Is personal self-interest here going to be the ultimate decider for the superdelegates?
MILBANK: It could be and some of them will be. I mean, we need to be careful in saying because Obama wins a red state primary, that doesn‘t mean he‘s going to win a Wyoming or Mississippi. These are after all still Democrats and largely liberals voting in the primary there. But, you know, in every district, in every state where he is winning the popular vote, it‘s going to put pressure on that state‘s superdelegate. No question about it.
OLBERMANN: Ultimately, do you think the superdelegates are going to decide this in a manner contrary to what that final vote total is in ordinary delegates?
MILBANK: Well, I just know that the Clinton‘s have a miraculous history of winning, even if they‘re winning ugly. And since that‘s the only way she can win at this point, it does seem to argue that such a scenario is entirely possible.
OLBERMANN: Oh, you would say that tonight when I‘m already going to be in such trouble. Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC.
MILBANK: Yes, it‘s all yours.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it is.
Ahead: A critical moment and a critical aspect of the campaign. An unpaid Obama staffer described Senator Clinton in unacceptable terms and is immediately removed. An unpaid Clinton finance member paint Senator Obama as some kind of affirmative action candidate, her connection to the campaign continues for 15 days. Special comment.
And: Congressman Hoekstra of Michigan offering up telecom immunity as part of a Congressional mental health bill.
Well, you‘re the doctor. Standby for Bushed.
OLBERMANN: On March 12th, 2008, like 15 hours ago, our friend and frequent guest Joel McHale of “the Soup” and his wife Sarah welcomed a healthy new son. The McHale heir is yet unnamed. We have suggested K-Fed Curry Lohan Mankini Jaden James Sean Preston Sticky McHale. Oddly enough, we have not heard back from Joel. Congrats. Let‘s play Oddball.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): This kid already made a snarky joke too. We begin in Argentina with grainy cell phone video, what appears to be a gnome terrorizing a small village with discount travel packages. The footage was shot by a group of youngsters who said they were hanging out late at night when the gnome danced in front of the camera.
The boys told their story to the local newspaper and posted this video online. Experts disagree on the veracity of the claim, saying it could be a rascally gnome or a dwarf wearing a construction cone or a Jawa from “Star Wars.”
By experts, I mean people who left comments on Youtube. My guess is that thing in the Travelocity ads is strung out on Bennies and Goofballs.
In London, they‘re doing art. This is a photograph of a fishing village. It‘s not really a fishing village, but just a model of a fishing village made almost entirely out of dead fish. It was the stinkiest photo shoot since that Nick Nolte mug shot.
Carl Werner (ph) is the self described food-scape artist behind the picture. He used dark scaled fish for the land and silver fish for the water. The shoot took several hours, after which Mr. Werner was nice enough to make a nice chowder.
Lastly to a museum near Lisbon, in Portugal, where a new exhibit gives visitors a chance to see how prehistoric dinosaurs lived and moved through modern robotic technology. It wasn‘t the dinosaur technology that grabbed our attention at this story, it was the historic sound bite we‘re about to share with the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this dinosaur, we have all the valves and the air pipes in there. Every movement is controlled through there.
OLBERMANN: That was the first televised sound bite of a man with his hand up the backside of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It‘s a dinosaur proctologist, new series coming this fall to NBC. I hope you DVRed it.
OLBERMANN: New York will have a new governor on Monday. The old one has resigned, offering this moral, in effect; whatever you do, if you think you‘re going to get caught at it, have someone do it for you in their name.
Tonight, a special comment, Senator Clinton‘s chance to draw a line in the sand and it‘s gone. That‘s ahead, but first the headlines breaking in the administrations 50 scandals, Bushed.
Number three, Bear-gate, the Bush-McCain grand standing on
Congressional earmarks. Every time Senator McCain brings it up, he makes
reference to a, quote, million dollar study on the DNA bears. He jokes
about paternity tests and the money wasted. It turns out the earmark was an earmark by a Republican Senator and, say biologists now, it was a total success. The study actually counted bears and not DNA. It will apparently prove that there are for more endangered Grizzly Bears than anybody realized, and that three decades of conservation efforts have paid off.
Don‘t get the bears mad at you, Senator, there are more of them than we thought.
Number two, no bid-gate. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft granted a no-bid contract by the Justice Department he used to lead worth at least 28 million dollars to negotiate a deal on the government‘s behalf. He told the Congressional committee that, quote, there‘s no conflict.
There is not an appearance of a conflict.
Actually, sir, the person inside the potential conflict of interest is not entitled to determine if there is an appearance of a conflict of interest. This, too, would be a conflict. I can hear him now, no it wouldn‘t.
Number one, nexus of politics and terror-gate, still trying to tag the Telecom-Immunity package onto any bill that moves, Republicans in the House tried to tack it on to a mental health parity bill. You might say that was something of a stretch.
Said frenetic Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan; This bill is intended to ensure the mental health of Americans, yet no American‘s health can be fully secured if they are under attack by a terrorists or facing the potential threat of terrorist attack.
Congressman Hoekstra, I‘ll actually defer to you on this one, you do seem to be the expert on Americans whose mental health is not fully secured.
OLBERMANN: It has been a little over 34 years since a governor of New York state resigned midterm. That one, Nelson Rockefeller, left to become vice president of the United States, though the subject of women, divorce in particular, probably kept him from becoming a presidential candidate.
In our third story tonight, now Governor Eliot Spitzer has quit, with the subject of women certainly keeping him from becoming any kind of national figure now. Our correspondent Mike Taibbi has the story of Spitzer‘s extraordinary fall from grace, if that was her real name.
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There was some speculation early today that the governor might try to hold on to his job and would only quit once he cut a deal for no criminal charges. In the end, it was neither, just a sad end to this part of the story and to a political career.
(voice-over): Ducking past a scrum of cameras and questions, watched from helicopters above for the 30, 40 block drive to his office, Eliot Spitzer, his wife Silda again standing with him, said it was over.
SPITZER: I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.
TAIBBI: He again declined to apologize specifically for being a married father of three who used high end prostitutes, perhaps for months or even years, or to say his allegedly disguised payments to this Internet prostitution ring are what prompted the FBI to watch him back in January and recording his incriminating as the now infamous Client Nine.
Always the good guy in his political self-view—
SPITZER: I simply asked if it was right or wrong. In the end, it‘s not a bad rule.
TAIBBI: He said in less than three minutes today that self view was a lie.
SPITZER: The remorse I feel will always be with me.
TAIBBI: U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said today he made no agreement to forgo any criminal charges against him in exchange for his resignation. Former federal prosecutor Jay Fehey (ph) noted that Spitzer‘s entourage today included prominent criminal attorney Ted Wells, famous for representing Scooter Libby in the CIA leak case. Fehey said Spitzer could be prosecuted for the same type of prostitution and money laundering offenses as the four indicted suspects in the sex ring itself.
JAY FEHEY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSPECTOR: If they want to go after him, they can. Having someone like Ted Wells on your team is a very smart thing to have.
TAIBBI: And having David Paterson ready to take over—he‘ll be the state‘s first African American governor. He‘s won wide respect in more than two decades of state government and is being applauded.
SHELDON SILVER, NY ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: His charisma, his experience in government make him an ideal leader.
TAIBBI: Even as Eliot Spitzer starts becoming yesterday‘s news—
JOSEPH BRUNO, NY STATE MAJORITY LEADER: It‘s time for us and all New Yorkers to move forward.
TAIBBI: And Spitzer himself, so recently a rising star with political dreams far beyond Albany, said perhaps his last public words as governor.
SPITZER: I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been, and I thank the public once again for the privilege of service. Thank you very much.
TAIBBI: Late today, the “New York Times” identified the alleged prostitute called Kristin whose at the center of this whole case. She‘s a 22-year-old New Jersey native who is likely to testify in any prosecution of the alleged prostitution ring, that part of the case. Eliot Spitzer, by the way, will stay in office until Monday, when he turns over the reigns of power to David Patterson. Keith.
OLBERMANN: Mike Taibbi. Thank you, Mike.
Tonight, Geraldine Ferraro quits the Clinton campaign before Senator Clinton says what she should have said about her. A special comment.
And in Worst Persons, no, not him. Leave him alone. But he figures in it. What a week he‘s having, ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Tonight‘s special comment, the opportunity lost to Senator Clinton in today‘s decision by Geraldine Ferraro to resign from her campaign, the opportunity to formally, categorically repudiate remarks Miss Ferraro still believes were appropriate and accurate. That‘s next, but first time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s Worst Persons in the World.
Number three, the organizers of Garden State Equality‘s Legends Dinner, scheduled to be attended by 500 people on this Saturday the 15th in Maplewood, New Jersey. OK, by no means are they Worst Persons, but stay away, they may be suffering from hex. Among those they initially discussed as their guest speaker for Saturday night, Geraldine Ferraro. Then they made their choice and had almost booked it when the man had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict, Eliot Spitzer.
Runner up, Congressman Dave Weldon of Florida; during testimony today by Secretary of State Rice to the House Appropriations Committee a group of Code Pink protesters were in the back row of the hearing room. Congressman Weldon insisted they were making a circus of the hearing and needed to be removed. “I‘m all for freedom of speech on the streets, but we‘re trying to listen to the secretary of state here and people are holding up placards.”
The protesters were silent. They were holding up bloody hands. That silence apparently interfered with the congressman‘s hearing. Chairperson Neddy Lowi (ph) said, Dr. Weldon, let me say, I appreciate your comments, but we‘re here in the United States of America, and as long as they don‘t disrupt these proceedings and as long as they‘re silent, they will be welcome. She did not say, and don‘t worry, Congressman, we will not further challenge you by asking you to walk and chew gum at the same time.
The winner, Congressman Paul Brun of Georgia, speaking at an anti-terrorism bill mark up, revealing that roughly 40 percent of undocumented immigrants are, quote, not Mexican but are of Middle Eastern or Asian origin and thus pose a national security problem.
Forty percent? Close, the government statistics on this for the last yea, seven percent. Seven percent are not from Mexico. That would be less. The percentage of undocumented immigrants from, quote, special interest countries like Middle Eastern countries and southern Asian countries, 300th of one percent.
Congressman, you know the government now has a research facility and Internet access. They let you hire people to look this stuff up for you, so next time you won‘t be off by 39 and 97/100. Congressman Paul, this is only an estimate, your mileage may vary, Brun of Georgia, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Finally, as promised, a special comment on the presidential campaign of the junior senator from New York. By way of necessary preface, President and Senator Clinton and the senator‘s mother and the senator‘s brother were of immeasurable support to me at the moments when these very commentaries were the focus of the most surprise, the most uncertainty and the most anger. My gratitude to them is unbiding.
Also, I am not here endorsing Senator Obama‘s nomination, nor suggesting in it is inevitable. Thus I have fought with myself over whether or not to say anything. Events insist.
Senator, as it has reached its apex in their tone deaf, arrogant and insensitive reaction to the remarks of Geraldine Ferraro, your own advisers are slowly killing your chances to become president. Senator, their words and your own are now slowly killing the chances for any Democrat to become president. In your tepid response to this Ferraro disaster, you may sincerely think you disenthralling an enchanted media and righting an unfair advance bestowed on Senator Obama. You may think the matter has closed with Representative Ferraro‘s bitter, almost threatening resignation letter.
But, in fact, senator, you are now campaigning as if Barack Obama were the Democrat and you were the Republican. As Shakespeare wrote, senator, “that way madness lies.” You have missed a critical opportunity to do what was right. No matter what Miss Ferraro now claims, no one took her comments out of context. She had made them on at least there separate occasions, then twice more on television this morning. Just hours ago, on “NBC Nightly News,” she denied she had made the remark in an interview, only at a paid political speech.
In fact, the first time she spoke them was 10 days before that California newspaper published them, not in a speech, but in a radio interview. On February 26, quoting, “if Barack Obama were a white man, would we be talking about this as a potential real problem for Hillary. If he were a woman of any color, would he be in this position that he‘s in? Absolutely not.”
The content was inescapable. Two minutes earlier, a member of Senator Clinton‘s finance committee, one of her Hill-Raisers had bemoaned the change in allegiance by super delegate John Lewis from Clinton to Obama and also the endorsement of Obama by Senator Dodd; “I look at these guys doing it,” she had said, “and I have to tell you, it‘s the guys sticking together.”
A minute after the color remark, she was describing herself as having been chosen for the 1984 Democratic ticket purely as a woman politician, purely to make history. She was, in turn, making a blind accusation of sexism and dismissing Senator Obama‘s candidacy as nothing more than some equal opportunity stunt.
The next day, she repeated her comments and a reporter from the newspaper in Torrence, California heard them; “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. If he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is and the country is caught up in the concept.”
And when this despicable statement, ugly in its overtones, laughable in its week grip of the facts, and moronic in the historical context, when it floats outward from the Clinton campaign like a poison cloud, what do the advisers have their candidate do? Do they have Senator Clinton herself compare the remark to Al Campanis (ph) talking on “Nightline” on Jackie Robinson Day about how blacks lack the necessities to become baseball executives, while she points out that Barack Obama has not gotten his 1600 delegates as part of some kind of affirmative action plan?
Do they have Senator Clinton note that her own brief period in elected office is as irrelevant to the issue of judgment as is Senator Obama‘s, while she points out that FDR had served only six years as governor and state senator before he became president? Or that Teddy Roosevelt had four and a half years before the White House? Or that Woodrow Wilson had two years and six weeks?
Or Richard Nixon 14? And Calvin Coolidge 25?
Do these advisers have Senator Clinton invoke Samantha Power, gone by sunrise after she used the word monster, and have Senator Clinton say, this is how I police my campaign, and this is what I stand for, while she fires former Congresswoman Ferraro from any role in the campaign? No, somebody tells her that simply disagreeing with, then rejecting the remarks is sufficient. She should then call regrettable words that should make any Democrat wretch.
And that she should then try to twist them, first into some pox on both your houses plea to stick to the issues, and then to let her campaign manager try to bend them beyond all recognition into Senator Obama‘s fault. And thus these advisers give Congresswoman Ferraro nearly a week in which to send Senator Clinton‘s campaign back into the vocabulary of David Duke;
“anytime anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says, let‘s address reality and the problems we‘re facing in this world, you‘re accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. Racism works in two different directions. I really think they are attacking me because I‘m white. How‘s that?”
How‘s that? Apart from sounding exactly like Rush Limbaugh attacking the black football quarterback Donovan McNab, apart from sounding exactly like what Miss Ferraro said about another campaign nearly 20 years ago, quote, “President Reagan suggested Tuesday that people don‘t ask Jesse Jackson tough questions because of his race. Former Representative Geraldine A. Ferraro said Wednesday that because of his, quote, radical views, if Jesse Jackson were not black, he would not be in the race.”
So apart from sounding like insidious racism that is at least two decades old, apart from rendering ridiculous Senator Clinton‘s shell game about choosing Obama as vice president, apart from this evenings resignation letter; “I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign. The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you.”
Apart from all that, well, it sounds as if those advisers wanted their campaign to be associated with those words, and the cheap, ignorant, vial racism that underlies every syllable of them, and that Geraldine Ferraro has just gone freelance.
Senator Clinton, that is not a campaign strategy. This is a suicide pact. This week alone, your so-called strategists have declared that Senator Obama has not yet crossed some commander in chief threshold, but he might still be your choice to be vice president, even though a quarter of the previous 16 vice presidents have become commander in chief during the greatest kind of crisis this country can face, a midterm succession, but you only pick him if he crosses that threshold by the time of the convention.
But if he does cross that threshold by the time of the convention, he will only have done so sufficiently enough to become vice president, not president? Senator, if the serpentine logic of your so-called advisers were not bad enough, now thanks to Geraldine Ferraro and your campaigns initial refusal to break with her, and your new relationship with her, now more disturbing still with her claim that she can now speak for herself about her vision as Senator Obama as some kind of embodiment of a quota if she wishes.
If you were to seek Obama as a vice president, it would be to Miss Ferraro some called of social engineering gesture, some kind of racial make good. Do you not see, senator?
To Senator Clinton‘s supporters, to her admirers, to her friends for whom she is first choice and to her friends for whom she is second choice, she is still letting herself be perceived as standing next to and standing by racial divisiveness and blindness. Worse yet, after what President Clinton said during the South Carolina primary, comparing the Obama and Jesse Jackson campaigns, a disturbing but only border line remark, after what some in the black community have perceived as a racial undertone to the 3:00 a.m. ad, a disturbing but only borderline interpretation, and after the moments hesitation in her own answer on “60 Minutes” about Obama‘s religion, a disturbing but only borderline vagueness—
After those precedents, there are those who see a pattern. False or true, they see it. After those precedents, there are those who see an intent. False or true, they see it. After those precedents, there are those that see the Clinton campaign‘s anything but benign neglect of the Ferraro catastrophe, falsely or truly, as a desire to hear the kind of casual prejudice which still haunts the society voiced, and to not distance the campaign from it.
To not distance you from it, Senator. To not distance you from that which you, as a woman, and Senator Obama, as an African-American, should both know and feel with the deepest of personal pain, which you should both fight with all you have, which you should both ensure has no place in this contest ever.
This, Senator Clinton, is your campaign and it is your name. Grab the reigns back from whoever has led you to this precipice before it is too late. Voluntarily or inadvertently, you are still awash in this filth. Your only reaction has been to disagree, reject, to call it regrettable. Her only reaction has been to brand herself as the victim and resign from your committee and insist she will continue to speak. Unless, senator, you say something definitive, the former congresswoman is speaking with your approval.
You must remedy this and you must reject and denounce Geraldine Ferraro. Good night and good luck.
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