Guests: Paul Waldman, Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, Richard Wolffe
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Democratic self-sabotage: The third ranking Democrat in the House says large numbers of African-Americans are now convinced, the Clinton campaign is deliberately sabotaging Barack Obama‘s chances in the general election to enable Senator Clinton to run for president in 2012.
House Whip James Clyburn: Our special guest tonight on COUNTDOWN.
Clyburn also warns Bill Clinton: He maybe on the verge of creating an irreparable breach between the Clintons and African-American Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never believe in irreparable breaches. I‘m a big believer in reconciliation and redemption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or Senator Clinton not redemption but defection, a major fundraiser bolts for the Obama campaign, one of the hillraisers who brought in nearly $500,000, switches in part because he was uneasy with the tone of the Clinton campaign and worried about the implications for November.
What are the implications of this? Monday, says Senator McCain of the Lower Nine in New Orleans, “We need to go back to have a conversation about what to do—rebuild it, tear it down - you know, whatever it is.” Now, says Senator McCain, “I don‘t remember ever saying it.” Old man yells at cloud.
Dumb man yells fire in crowded theaters. Comedian Rush Limbaugh also denies he ever said it, ever urged that people riot during the Democratic convention in Denver this August.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots and all of that. That‘s the objective here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Could Limbaugh be prosecuted for incitement to riot?
And in Worst: Is that a keyboard on your pocket or are you just glad to see me?
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Friday, April 25th, 193 days until the 2008 presidential election.
It has been Senator Clinton‘s strategy to make Senator Obama seem unelectable in the general election. And what if her plan were not just to create an illusion of unelectability, but to actually guarantee that he cannot win in November, also, that she might run again in four year‘s time.
In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Internet speculation about that is one thing, public suspicion voice to and now by, a prominent Democratic politician, an uncommitted superdelegate, is something else all together.
Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, the House Democratic whip is telling “Reuters,” quote, “There are African-Americans who have reached the decision that the Clintons know that she can‘t win this but they‘re hell-bound to make it impossible for Obama to win in November.”
He shared that sentiment and repeated it with another interview with “The New York Times.” Presently, Congressman Clyburn tells us more. First: today‘s details.
Mr. Clyburn, a third ranking Democrats in the House, and one of the nation‘s most influential African-American politicians, describing the Clinton campaign tactics as both, scurrilous and disingenuous. In an interview with “Reuters,” and to “The New York Times,” talking about what appeared to be a near unanimous view, to him anyway, among African-Americans that senator and President Clinton were committed to doing everything they could to damage Senator Obama to a point where he could never win the general election.
As for what Mr. Clyburn described as President Clinton‘s bizarre conduct during the Democratic primary campaign, the congressman adding that he believed there might be an irreparable breach between Bill Clinton and the African-American community that once revered him.
Today, on the campaign trail in Indianapolis, Obama asked to respond solely to that one specific part of Mr. Clyburn‘s extensive comments, his campaign says this answer will stand for all remarks from the House whip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I never believe in irreparable breaches. I‘m a big believer in reconciliation and redemption.
You know, so, look, this has been a fierce contest. I am confident, I‘ve said repeatedly that come August, there are going to be a whole bunch of people standing on the stage with a lot of balloons and stuff, confetti reigning down on the head of the Democratic nominee and people are going to be excited about taking on John McCain in November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Representative Clyburn is kind enough to join us from Columbia, South Carolina. Thank you for your time tonight, congressman.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D) SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you so much for having me.
OLBERMANN: Your statement to “Reuters” about what you heard in South Carolina and what you heard on the House floor in Washington, the quote was, “There are African-Americans who have reached that decision that the Clintons know that she can‘t win this but they‘re hell-bound to make it impossible for Obama to win in November.” Does that group include you, sir? Have you come to believe this yourself?
CLYBURN: No. That didn‘t include me. I was sharing with the reporter things that had been said to me. And I had just talked to her, an African-American member on the House floor who said that to me. And I‘ve gotten a lot of mail from people, telephone calls. I was on the campus of a university where the excitement was great back in January and February.
Now, they seem to be feeling that the great birds (ph) were positioning themselves to overturn the rule of the people. These superdelegates, they don‘t quite understand what the superdelegates are, they think that we‘re waiting (ph) in the process somewhere and just snatch this nomination away. And so, that‘s a feeling that people have got. And so, that‘s all I was saying, that people are saying this and I think it‘s a great concern.
OLBERMANN: Surely, the specifics of the racial aspect to this are being overplayed, aren‘t they? I mean, if any Democrat were to deliberately try to undermine another Democrat‘s chances at winning in November, wouldn‘t that just be regardless of color, gender, or anything else, would not that not be political treason or something like it?
CLYBURN: That‘s absolutely correct. No question about that. That‘s why I keep telling people, what I said to “The New York Times” the other day. I said, in January, when we had the debate done in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I said Bill Clinton needs to chill out. That was in January.
At that point everybody thought this thing would be over on Super Tuesday in February. And everybody thought at that point that the nominee or the leading candidate for nomination would be Hillary Clinton. That‘s certainly what I thought. But even then, I felt the president was saying things that would anger black voters and he should chill out.
Now we‘re down into almost into May and I‘m saying the same thing. It‘s just—the only difference is—that this time, there‘s another person that‘s in the lead who happens to be African-American. And so, people are now applying the race thing to it and it‘s no different from what I said way back in January.
OLBERMANN: So, what do the Democrats do about this? Because if there‘s a large contingent of supporters who are necessary for an election in the fall, who believe that there is essentially, you know, a treacherous acts going on to keep one person from being the nominee, how do you bring the party together behind either of those nominees or even a third person?
CLYBURN: Well, that‘s my point. Between now, we have nine contests left. I think the conduct of this campaign, going into North Carolina and Indiana, the conduct of this campaign in those two states could very well be determinative as to what we will have after we get a nominee. I think we‘re at a very critical point in this process. And if we‘re not careful, we could do irreparable harm.
If we conduct ourselves between now and May 6th, with everybody talking about their platform, everybody talking their vision for the future, and everybody talking about what the Democratic Party means to the American people, then climate, I think, will be created, for as we will close this nominating process down and whoever is in first place, whoever wins the nomination, will in fact have the other person‘s support.
OLBERMANN: So, the gist of this today is, from the remarks that you made to “The New York Times,” and to “Reuters” you heard this enough that it‘s a problem in the campaign that the Clinton campaign needs to address in some way, but you, yourself, are not necessarily of the opinion that they‘re actually sabotaging Obama‘s chances in November if he‘s the nominee?
CLYBURN: That‘s correct. I‘m not—in fact, I‘ve seen some writings today from opinion writers all over the country now saying the same thing. In fact, I understand that “The New York Times” article, is going to run a story on Sunday, is saying that they are gathering that same kind of sentiment from all over the country. So, I‘m not saying anything that people aren‘t saying among themselves and many of them are saying it to me. It just so happens, that on yesterday or the day before, whenever I said it, I made public what I had been told.
OLBERMANN: I think that took some courage, sir. James Clyburn of South Carolina, third ranking Democrat in Congress. Great thanks for some of your time tonight.
CLYBURN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: More on this in a moment with Gene Robinson.
First: There is specific bad news for the Clinton campaign tonight, a top fundraiser, one of the so-called hillraisers who‘s brought in nearly $500,000 for Senator Clinton defecting to join the Obama campaign.
Our own political director, Chuck Todd, the first to report this afternoon that Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon who served as ambassador to Chile under President Clinton, has decided to switch sides, after having become uneasy with the tone of the Clinton campaign and becoming increasingly worried, according to a source, about what it would mean for the general election. With that, a theme develops.
And with that, we turn to our own Eugene Robinson, also, of course, associate editor and columnist for the “Washington Post.” Gene, good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Clyburn first, he is on a razor‘s edge on this, I think. I mean, he‘s giving voice to this theory but he‘s not saying he believes it. Is there any way to assess how widespread the belief is and why he would address it?
ROBINSON: You know, from the interview, I think, we heard how Jim Clyburn got to be House majority whip. He is not a man to be trifled with. He chooses his words very carefully and he uses them forcefully. And you know, if I were a superdelegate, I think I would—and if I were the Clinton campaign, I think, I would have, you know, felt the hot breath of the cannon ball come by and sense (ph) my beard.
You know, he is kind of putting down a marker and saying, “Wait a minute. You know, there now a guy who is the probable nominee and you‘re damaging him or trying to damage him to point where he might not be able to beat John McCain in the fall. And that‘s not going to be looked on, you know, very kindly by history or by the Democratic Party.”
OLBERMANN: So, I mean, so, put this together with that hillraiser who bolted the Clintons to go work for Obama and are these two parts of the same, again, iceberg, where they, in fact, to use your analogy, like warning shots, perhaps at the Clintons but more directly at the superdelegates. I mean, the Clintons might be sawing the parties in half. He‘s saying, “But you guys are the ones standing by and doing nothing and it better change.” Is that the message?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, what they have in common is that both based on the underlying arithmetic. And we all know the arithmetic Chuck Todd, you know, goes through it every few days more on this (ph) and it really doesn‘t change a whole lot. It is very likely that Barack Obama is going to have more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton when we get to the convention and thus is very likely, although not, you know, lead-pipe cinch then he gets the nomination.
And the question is: What happen, you know, what condition is he in when he does? And I think, you know, what Clyburn was saying and I think what Mr. Guerra-Mondragon was essentially saying is that we do not want our candidate to be irreparably weakened and the Clintons really have to watch their step. Or, you know, and it threatens their position in the party, I think.
OLBERMANN: How come nearly every news organization that covered Jim Clyburn‘s remarks zeroed in on Bill Clinton and race and not on Hillary Clinton and the race?
ROBINSON: Well, Bill Clinton and race—that was really quite a moment. You remember those remarks in South Carolina. When he compared the Obama campaign to Jesse Jackson, you know, I just don‘t know—I don‘t know any black people or very many, who don‘t think that was a specific attempt to diminish Obama‘s candidacy as kind of a narrow interest candidacy that really didn‘t have a chance to go the full mile.
I don‘t know many white people who don‘t think that. I was sitting next to Joe Scarborough when we both first heard those remarks, he almost fell off his chair. And that was kind of, you know, one of turning point moments in this campaign, it was the moment at which the African-American vote began to go, you know, 90 percent, you know, 85 percent, 90 percent for Barack Obama whereas it really wasn‘t before. And I think a lot of that was reaction to what Bill Clinton said and how he said it.
OLBERMANN: Yes, at best, it was President Clinton dismissing Obama in the old terminology.
ROBINSON: At worse, it was a lot worse.
OLBERMANN: Right. But the best spin you can put on it was, he‘s some state‘s favorite son and he will dry up like all the other favorite sons have in the past.
Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC. Thank you, Gene, have a great weekend.
ROBINSON: You, too, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A clarification tonight of something I said here Wednesday, in the wake of Pennsylvania, Howard Fineman observed that the Democrats needed someone to stop their fight like a referee. “The super-super-superdelegates were going to have to decide this,” he said. My response was, quoting myself, “Right, the one somebody who can take her into a room and only he comes out.”
It‘s a pretty common metaphor even just in politics, but it‘s also pretty that the pronouns there made that statement inappropriate. I apologize that generic “he” gender, could imply something untoward happening to the “her.” I should have said: Only the other comes out from a political point of view.
Only superficial jabs landing on the campaign trail itself today, though Senator Clinton is rightfully angry that one of her speeches was boiled down to quote, “You can vote for or against the candidate based on anything.” Considering the context, it seems pretty clear that she actually meant: but you should vote on substance.
But then, there is John McCain, denying now in New Orleans what he
said on Monday in New Orleans about tearing down part of New Orleans. And
where he was during the presidential flyover he is now boldly criticizing
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Howard Dean says tonight, “The superdelegates have every right to overrule the delegates or the popular vote.”
And is the Obama camp lowering expectations from the North Carolina primary?
Later in Worst: The rebuilt levees and floodwalls of New Orleans. At least one of them is filled with possibly the least water resistant material you can imagine. Think about that.
It‘s all ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: With Senator Obama‘s response to the Clyburn interviews, taking exactly 34 seconds and Senator Clinton‘s having not yet occurred, if ever it will, the actual news in the campaign came from DNC Chair Howard Dean by a British newspaper.
Our fourth story on COUNTDOWN: He says explicitly that “nothing in committee rules would prevent superdelegates from overturning the delegate or the popular vote,” but he still doesn‘t expect to see it happened unless the margins are extraordinarily close.
Senator Obama in Indiana today, a state where a slim loss for him would not necessarily portend a turned tide, as Senator Clinton likes to put it, but his campaign manager in North Carolina was careful to reset expectations.
Craig Schirmer is saying, quote, “It‘s a competitive state, and I think it‘s a state that will grow more competitive in the next two weeks and probably be decided in the single digits.” And an Obama supporter in North Carolina, Congressman J.K. Butterfield said that, quote, “Even a narrow loss would be devastating.”
Also unlikely, Obama‘s fundraising from North Carolinians has tripled that of Clinton, $600,000 to $200,000, according to Raleigh-Durham‘s newspaper, “The News & Observer,” that Senator Obama responding to more questions about losses in Ohio and Pennsylvania today, said, his campaign strategy is pliable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, I think there‘s no doubt that a campaign has to continually fine tune itself. You know, this has been a long campaign. And so, what worked well three months ago, if you‘re doing the exact same thing now, it may not work as well.
I want to point out, you ignored Mississippi and Wyoming in between there but, you know, that seems to be the trend (ph). So cherry-picking which states are relevant, we had terrific wins in both of those states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton has dispatched the top campaign operative, Ace Smith to North Carolina. She has repeatedly her call for Obama to debate anywhere, anytime, leaking (ph) the issue the kind of accountability not found in the Bush White House over the past seven years, after 21 debates. And campaigning in Bloomington, North Carolina, Clinton used an attack of Obama‘s energy policy to launch into this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It‘s important for you to know the facts. You can vote for or against any candidate based on anything and we do that in America. You know, you don‘t like somebody‘s, say hair style, it‘s whatever you choose.
But this is too important an election. And we have to know exactly where people stand, not what somebody says but what they‘ve actually done. And what they say they will do. That‘s why I want you to approach this like a hiring decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn at this to “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent, our own Richard Wolffe. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: More than a little unfair to Senator Clinton that that last sound byte was, in many quarters, reduced to: You can vote for or against any candidate based on anything, wasn‘t it?
WOLFFE: Absolutely. You know, you can slice and dice anyone with sound bytes, but here you have a candidate who has repeatedly said that this should be treated like a job interview, it‘s been a very long job interview, please could someone make a decision. But, look, she‘s a substantive politician and so is Senator Obama. And I actually think voters do take this stuff pretty seriously. I mean, they are looking at the substance, the policy speeches, and yes, also some of the personal qualities, too. But to take it down to one sound byte, I think, is unfair.
OLBERMANN: The paperwork is at HR in the main office, so that will take about six years. Was there something ominous to the comments from the North Carolina manager for Obama about the state being decided in single digits since Obama has had a double digit lead there in recent polls or was that proactive expectation lowering?
WOLFFE: Yes, there‘s a big expectations game going on. And it is reasonable to think that what we‘ve seen in these other races is big leads shrink as people pour money into these states. Senator Clinton has just raised a ton of money online. These numbers will shrink because, by the way, the Clinton campaign has understood that if you lose by a big margin, it translates into a lot of delegates, and anything above sort of 15 points can be very damaging to the delegate count.
OLBERMANN: Howard Dean‘s remarks, superdelegates are not prevented by DNC rules for overturning the popular vote. The quote was, “If it‘s very, very close, they will do what they want anyway,” but he just as quick to point out that such a scenario has never happened. What is he working on, if anything to prevent this?
WOLFFE: Well, Howard Dean told me a week or so ago, that really he saw this process unfolding in a pretty organic way. Yes, he wants people to pick up the pace, the superdelegates to get moving. But they‘re coming out in dribs and drabs and the question is: Would they come out in quicker dribs and drabs? I don‘t think he‘s really saying to them one way or another. He doesn‘t have the power to tell them what to do. It was a technical statement, not where he thinks the party should go with. He really believes in his party unity, that what is uppermost in his mind.
OLBERMANN: One thing perhaps not explored in this news of Mr. Guerra-Mondragon going from the Clinton camp to the Obama camp as a fundraiser. We‘ve got the Puerto Rico primary coming up and the expectations are 2 million voters perhaps if the nomination hasn‘t been decided. That‘s a heavily pro-Clinton area. Could that have an impact there what happened today?
WOLFFE: I don‘t know about fundraisers having an impact so much because online fundraising has been so important. People are taking their queues from whole bunch of things, and a prominent person in the party in it, but still, for the Clinton campaign which had so many financial problems, to lose a fundraiser like this, is awkward to say the least.
OLBERMANN: And I want your final world on the Clyburn remarks, that he keeps hearing from African-Americans this construction that Senator Clinton is deliberately dirtying up Senator Obama to (A), keep him from getting the nomination, or failing that, the new part of the equation, (B), keep him from getting the White House so she can try it again in 2012. I mean, the impact on the Clinton campaign of that will be what?
WOLFFE: Well, Clyburn is a bit like Alan Greenspan he speaks kind of cryptically, and really what he‘s getting at here, I don‘t think it‘s just African-American sentiment. It‘s about who can bring the party together. If it comes down to a unity argument, not just electability, and he‘s really signaling which of these candidates he thinks can do a better job, those sentiments, the bitterness, if you will, is very real and he‘s reflecting that. So, the candidates themselves have to address it. He‘s right to raise it as an issue.
OLBERMANN: And, do you want to put a name on which one he is saying as the unifier?
WOLFFE: You just have to guess.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. Many thanks, have a great weekend and my guess is that he meant Obama. Thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What if you got a really big pack of mentos and like a year supply of soda. Kaboom.
And in Bushed: Shock of shocks. The administration is now opposing a measure to make easier recounts. Next.
This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Bushed. And the tension (ph) terrorists, the U.S. government has renamed you again, in the moment.
First: This is the centennial of Edward R. Murrow. He was born Egbert Roscoe Murrow in North Carolina in April 25th of 1908. Of all of compliments he received though, perhaps none was as to the point as that of the librarian congress, after he‘s reporting from the London Blitz. “You laid the dead of London at our doors and we knew that the dead were our dead - were mankind‘s dead without rhetoric, without dramatics, without more emotion than needed be.”
The entirety of Morrow‘s career testified to the fact that he was beholden to that, not to the ratings, not to his employers, not to his own self-interest, but to the truth and to the public good.
I quote his signoff each night, not because I have any right to claim it but for the same reason, the show begins with the theme music from the “Huntley Brinkley Report” that television news needs to aspire, whenever and wherever possible, and to whatever degree possible, to uphold the standards of those men whose memories are evoked, either by a passage from Beethoven, or the mere words, good night and good luck. And occasionally, the mere words, let‘s play Oddball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We begin in Leuven, Belgium, where the Mentos and Diet Coke fad from two summers ago is finally all the rage. This is a world record attempt for the most simultaneous Diet Coke and Mentos explosions. We have liftoff. World food shortage be dammed; 1360 bottles of cola erupting at once, smashing the old record 1973 explosions set last summer in Cape Jiardo (ph), Missouri. An obvious slap in the face to bottle loving residents of Cape Jiardo. Now the ball is in your court, show me state.
Over to Oldsmore (ph), Florida and the home of Sandy Frosty—what kind of name is Frosty? Work at Wendy‘s at some point. She went to the kitchen to get a light night snack and almost became a late night snack. That there is a 230 pound, eight-foot long alligator hunkered down next to the Frigidaire. Mrs. Frosty saw the beast, immediately turned tail and called the cops.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What‘s going on?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There‘s an alligator in my kitchen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long do you think the alligator is?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s huge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you sure it couldn‘t be an iguana or a really large --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no.
OLBERMANN: An iguana, kiss my—wild life officials say the perp obtained entry through a screened in porch before he caught a light from the dwelling. The reptile was detained and removed from the premises. Mrs. Frosty said she was thrilled the ordeal was over and even happier to get her new set of luggage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He said it Monday to reporters on his campaign bus, John McCain talking about possibly tearing down the Katrina battered lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Now he says he can‘t remember saying it.
Speaking of which, comedian no more, Rush Limbaugh inciting to riot at the Democratic convention. These stories ahead, but first the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed.
Number three, recount gate; 23 days ago a Democratic member of the House Administration Committee moved a bill that would help local governments pay for paper trails and audits for those wacky electronic voting machines. It passed in committee unanimously. Even all of Republicans voted for it. When it came time for the vote this week to actually vote the bill through to the entire house, the same Republicans voted against it.
Why? In the interim, the Bush administration had put out a statement opposing the bill. Gosh! Why would President Bush oppose recounts?
Number two, support the troops gate; a confluence of two problems you probably never thought of before in tandem—I hadn‘t—increases reported nationwide, one outfit in Houston reporting cases doubling in their purview to four dozen a month in the first quarter of 2008. Military families caught up in the mortgage lending meltdown. Reports of soldiers in Iraq having to negotiate with banks and mortgage companies between battles to keep their families from being evicted.
The administration response? Crickets.
Number one, language gate; OK, here we go again. The men first Christened evil doers by the administration, then renamed terrorists, then recast as Islamo-fascists, they‘re back to being just terrorists. The extremist messaging branch of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, a division of Homeland Security Inc, issued a memo last month, now approved this week by the State Department, saying that the terms Islamo Fascist or Islamic terrorist is unnecessarily insulting to Muslims, especially the vast majority of Muslims who view the terrorists as terrorists.
No crap, Sherlock. Also, any references to Jihadist or Mujahadeen should be eliminate because those terms convey to many Muslims the sense of struggling to do good. This will be a surprise to Senator McCain who constantly refers to Islamic terrorists and to comedian Rush Limbaugh, who uses that clunker Islamo-fascist.
Also, about the terrorists, you shouldn‘t call them dude.
OLBERMANN: After seven years of a certain president‘s attempts to deny what‘s already out in the public domain, this friendly reminder to his would be successor on the Republican side, if you say something anywhere within spitting distance of the media, it will be written down and recorded and taped and archived and filed and preserved, accessible to anyone who knows how to use the Google. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, Senator John McCain‘s latest memory loss.
He spent yesterday touring the still devastated ninth ward of New Orleans, an area about which he told reporters on Monday, quote, “we need to go back to have a conversation about what too do, rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is.”
By yesterday, when the tear it down quote had gone nationwide, the senator resorted to the easiest back track available, quote, “I don‘t remember ever saying it.” And as far as what he would do to help—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Never again will such a mismanagement of a natural or man made disaster take place in America when I‘m president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Democratic National Committee said don‘t believe the rhetoric. The fact is McCain has a history of denying the Gulf Coast aid when it needs it most. Add a record of outrageous votes to show for it. Instead of helping the area rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, McCain actually voted to deny emergency funding to the area, voted against giving victims of Katrina access to Medicaid and unemployment benefits. Then it cites your voting record. What do you say to that.
MCCAIN: The fact is the governor will attest, and others, that I have been helpful. I‘ve been down here and supported every effort that I could.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Supported every effort he could other than the efforts that he could have actually voted for. And when asked what he would have done after the hurricane had he been in charge, he offered up this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: All candid, if I had been president of the United States, I would have ordered the plane landed at the nearest Air Force base and I would have been over here. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: OK, except on the morning that Katrina made land, mere hours after it hit, where was Senator McCain? Celebrating his own birthday with President Bush right next to Air Force One on the ground in Arizona. No indication that amidst the merry makings Mr. McCain said anything to the president about maybe turning the plane around.
Joining me now, Paul Waldman, a senior fellow with Media Matters for America, co-could author of “Free Ride, John McCain and the media.” Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
PAUL WALDMAN, “FREE RIDE, JOHN MCCAIN AND THE MEDIA”: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Read a list of what he didn‘t do, Senator McCain‘s only response was to say, well, ask the governor about this. Does he not know himself what he has and has not done and why, considering that he‘s been officially running for exactly one year today? Shouldn‘t he have a plan at this point, rather than a conversation in mind about New Orleans?
WALDMAN: Sometimes when you listen to him talk, you think that he doesn‘t really know. I think you see that in a lot of areas with McCain. He has this image that he‘s trying to get across and, frankly, the press is really cooperating with him in trying to get across. When you start to look at the facts, you find it‘s really just paper thin.
That can be seen on a whole bunch of areas. We hear repeated so often that he‘s the maverick; he‘s the straight talker; he‘s the guy who stands up to the special interests. Well, I haven‘t seen too many reporters ask him, OK, you keep telling us you‘re the guy who stands up to the special interests, what about the fact that your campaign manager is a corporate lobbyist, your chief fund raiser is a corporate lobbyist, your chief political adviser is a corporate lobbyist. You have, by some counts, as many as 66 different corporate lobbyists working for you.
We have a website at McCain‘sFreeRide.com where we have a nice big chart that shows all those corporate lobbyist and who they lobby for. But that‘s not part of the story that we‘ve been hearing about McCain for so long. And what happens all too often with the press is that when the story bumps up against the facts, the facts get pushed aside and the story keeps getting retold again and again.
OLBERMANN: To that point, on Monday he says tearing the lower Nine is an option, tearing it down. Three days later he didn‘t remember saying that. So there‘s only two options here, either he‘s lying or, as one of his defenders in the media, Brit Hume, characterized the reports about when he confused the Sunni and the Shiites, he was having, as Hume put it, a senior moment. These are not two good options, are they?
WALDMAN: No. I‘m still waiting for a reporter to raise that issue which you raised. OK, you say that had you been president when Katrina hit, you would have turned Air Force One around. Well, he was with George Bush on that day. They were taking pictures with the birthday cake that Bush brought him. Did he tell George Bush to turn the plane around? What did he do? As near as I can tell, he only started criticizing President Bush‘s performance on Katrina when he began to run for president. You realize that he was facing his connection with the president who‘s approval ratings are in the 20s.
So, again, it‘s not the kind of story that we‘re going to here hear told about McCain because one of the other pieces of what we in Free Ride call the myth of McCain is that he alone among politicians in Washington never does anything for political reasons. He never panders. He never flip flops. He‘s the only one who operates only on principal.
If you look at the facts, he has pandered and flip flopped many, many times. And what happens is that reporters, when faced with that, they either explain it away or deny that it happened at all. We‘ve seen that, for instance, with the issue of immigration, where he flip-flopped 180 degrees. You still see reporters saying that he stood up to his party and refused to pander.
OLBERMANN: To that point though, there are some obvious ones that are not avoidable, the Lower Nine issue here this week, telling Tim Russert he never said he knew a lot less about the economy than other issues, when he was quoted by the “Wall Street Journal.” Other examples where they are just too close to be avoided. Does the campaign, much like the Bush administration, just not understand that there are things like archives and videotapes and audio tapes and Youtube, where people can go back and check whether or not somebody has said something.
WALDMAN: The campaign has said that they are going to rely on the media to get their message out. That‘s something that worked very well for McCain for a long time. They probably think that there isn‘t too much of a risk there, because they are not going to be called on those things by reporters. The reporters who for so long have been McCain‘s advocates, and the ones who have been propagating that myth about them, they are not going to stand up and say, wait a second, the emperor has no clothes. I think they probably decided that there isn‘t a lot of risk in him just denying these things, because you‘re not going to get those really critical stories.
We saw that with this case. The headline said that McCain stands up to Bush administration on Katrina. As so—Once again they are propagating that myth that he‘s the maverick, he‘s the guy who goes his own way, when in fact in 2007, he voted with the Bush administration 95 percent of the time, more than any other senator.
OLBERMANN: Well, I think he needs to tune this show in. Paul Waldman, author of “Free Ride,” co-author of “Free Ride, John McCain and the Media,” great thanks. Have a good weekend.
WALDMAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: If Rush Limbaugh has his way, these images from the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968 will be repeated at the Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008. His call for a riot is on his website. Why is he denying he said it? There‘s no denying the jaw dropping truth about one contractor actually used as filler in one of the repaired flood walls in New Orleans. Worst persons next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Rush Limbaugh denies he‘s guilty of incitement to riot at the Democratic convention. Yet, on his website still today, the headline, “Screw the World, Riot in Denver.” That‘s ahead, but first time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s other worst persons in the world.
The bronze to the world wide web, specifically, whoever on is it behind this. The Internet abuzz with what might simply be a practical joke, the beauty and the geek jeans, attributed to designer Eric Deknee (ph). Yes, that‘s supposed to be a computer keyboard built in the crotch of the pants. There‘s also supposed to be a pair of speakers in the knees and a joy stick, where else, near the zipper.
Here‘s why we‘re dubious, search and Google all you like, and the only
reference you‘ll find to designer Eric Deknee is about these pants. Also,
the H, J, and K keys seem to be stuck.
The runner up, Bill Hemmer of Fox Noise, spinning so furiously that even uber conservative Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan called him on it. Hoekstra is furious about the photos the administration claims show that North Korea helped to build nuclear reactors, at least one of them in Syria, and the one the Israelis are supposed to have destroyed last September. The photos were released yesterday. Hoekstra was telling Hemmer secret briefings about them to Congress should have come eight months ago.
Hemmer, as in hem and haw, said there is a perfectly good reason for the White House to have delayed. He didn‘t explain what it was or how he would know that. Hoekstra came back and called it a massive spin operation by the administration, of which Bill O‘Reilly would have been proud. Congressman Hoekstra, you have unsuspected depth.
But our winners, the Ercon Corporation of Lafayette, Louisiana. The CBS TV station in New Orleans says Ercon was awarded a contract for two million dollars to raise and repair the flood wall under the Paris road bridge after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The TV station has found that the incredible claims of a civil engineer are true, a portion of the repaired flood wall is filled not with the rubber joint it is supposed to have to keep out foreign objects, but has been filled with newspaper.
In fact, it‘s the Sunday edition of the “New Orleans Times” from May 21st, 2006. The date on the “Parade Magazine” inside the Sunday edition was readable when the flood wall was inspected. Not all of it was because the newspaper stuffed into the wall supposed to prevent the next Katrina disaster by a private company that turns out not to be fully licensed, that newspaper was no longer fully there. Much of it has been eaten by bugs.
The Ercon Corporation of Louisiana, today‘s worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: After Rush Limbaugh dismissed U.S. troops who opposed the Iraq war as not real soldiers, it should come as no surprise that he places ideology over country, emphasis on id. Our number one story tonight, the Republican party‘s most popular spokesman has now joined the worst of America‘s enemies, admitting on air that he‘s working towards the, quote, objective, his word, of American blood shed in an American city.
As usual, Limbaugh too cowardly to stand behind his words, claiming now that he only said he dreamed of riots at the Democratic convention in Denver, as there were in 1968 Chicago. His real remarks came Wednesday as he discussed his standing request that Republicans vote for Senator Clinton to prolong the Democratic race and deepen party divisions. As you will hear, he uses the word dream to mean ideal, not fantasy, and specifically calls riots the objective of his plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It‘s called Operation Chaos. The dream end—if people say what‘s your exit strategory—the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots and all of that. That‘s the objective here. And there has been nothing that‘s happened on the battle field from my vision of this to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: After that, even his own listens turned on him. Republican Denver Councilman Charles Brown among them saying, quote, for any radio announcer to wish a riot on a city so his party could win, that‘s disgraceful and it‘s absurd. When one of his own callers said riots would make America look bad, Limbaugh replied, quote, screw the world. Do you really think we ought to govern ourselves on the basis of what the world thinks of us?
As it says in the very first sentence, they wrote the Declaration of Independence out of, quote, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind. Limbaugh‘s indecency and true intentions revealed on his own website, still reading today, screw the world, riot in Denver.
Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, also the host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America Radio, which is actually patriotic. Rachel, thank you for your time tonight.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I don‘t want to waste time pretending there‘s two sides to this question of what he said. We just heard it. My question is, why on Earth would he say it.
MADDOW: Well, you know, Rush Limbaugh in this election season, just this month, also said that women support Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy for president because they‘ve had multiple abortions. Why does he say any of this stuff? Because he can. He gets away with it. I think he thinks that the criticism is even good for him, because it makes him seem dangerous and news worthy, in addition to just loud.
OLBERMANN: But Republicans like to behave as if he‘s just the weird uncle. They use him to get the vilest stuff out there. Isn‘t this all part of the mainstream Republican thinking about the Democratic race, that some blood shed wouldn‘t be a bad thing politically and so what if it‘s bloodshed.
MADDOW: Yes, trying to find mainstream on this continuum is not too hard to do. At one point in this race, I think it was a very mainstream point of view to say that Democrats would be mad if instead of their primaries and caucuses determining who the nominee was going to be, it was going to be some back room super delegate thing. That has now come to pass and Democrats are mad. It‘s also mainstream political analysis to look at ‘68 and ‘72 and 1980 and say, the party that doesn‘t have a nominee at the time of their convention loses that next election. That‘s mainstream analysis.
It‘s mainstream historical analysis to look back at 1968 in Chicago and say that was a disaster. Even if you only look at the toll on the police in Chicago, it was something like 119 police officers who were injured in that rioting. That‘s all mainstream about all different aspects of this. What‘s not mainstream is to wish 1968 style violence. He literally said burning cars, literal riots. It is not mainstream to wish that on an American city. It‘s just incredible.
OLBERMANN: Legally, we‘ve come a very long way since the Hay Market Bombing in Chicago in 1886, when they ended up hanging some anarchist writers who were not even in the state as murderers by proxy. Legally, there is this question of temporal remotest. You say this now on the radio, it happens in August, it‘s not like yelling fire in a crowded theater. It‘s protected speech.
But do you think that Limbaugh has any idea that were he to repeat what he said on the air the day before the convention or during it, he might actually be morally or legally responsible for incitement to riot?
MADDOW: I think that with the things exception of things involving his housekeeper and pain killers and other people‘s Viagra at airports at stuff, with the exception of stuff in his personal life, Rush is such a pro that he knows exactly where the legal line is that he‘s towing. I‘m sure that he knows when he‘s speaking through his golden microphone in April about something that‘s going to happen in August, that he‘s not in any danger of any criminal charges here.
If he said this not through the golden microphone and in person and in August in Denver, if keeps with this line—he was very overt about what he‘s asking for—sure he would be trouble. He‘s not there yet, but if he repeats this in the right place, that‘s absolutely the line that he‘s walking.
OLBERMANN: Finally, pushing the plan to the extreme, does he not damage his own hopes in this, which is that Clinton gets the nomination or maintain instability until the end by delegitimatizing the untold segment of her vote total, discussing the fact that he is actually part of anti-Democratic support for a Democratic candidate.
MADDOW: Honestly, I think the right has been very overt about this, that they have been very overt about the fact that the longer the Democratic nomination fight goes on, the better off they are. I think when you see momentum shift to Clinton sometimes, you start to hear people on the right talk up Barack Obama, they are very open about the fact that they want this nomination fight to go on forever.
The irrational thing here is that Democrats aren‘t taking heed of that and just picking somebody, anybody, picking someone.
OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, for instance.
Great thanks, Rachel. Have a great weekend.
MADDOW: You too, Keith. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,821st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.