Guests: Chuck Todd, Dana Milbank, Mike Taibbi, Kal Penn
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Indiana and North Carolina: On the eve. All hyperbole records have just since smashed. Senator Clinton hits electability.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, for the next 30, 32 hours, talk to everyone you know, call your friends, e-mail them, and tell them literally their futures depend upon it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No, literally your future depends on it. “New York Times” polling shows that either Democrat would beat McCain by double digits, and 62 percent believe she says what people want to hear rather than what she believes as 38 percent prefer her, but 50 percent prefer Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton despite what she says about being vetted, she hasn‘t gone through what I‘ve been going through of the last couple of months because she‘s not the front-runner. She says she has but she went through it 10 years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Nearly half of all remaining Democratic delegates awarded tomorrow. Isn‘t that what we said two weeks ago?
What did her campaign say two weeks or two months ago about the metrics of who‘s winning?
A COUNTDOWN special report: Follow the bouncing definition. Example, in February, Howard Wolfson said, “Florida and Michigan voters were well-informed because media pay attention in the primaries.” In March, Senator Clinton said, “The superdelegates exist so they can compensate for those voters in the early primaries who aren‘t as well-informed.”
Welcome to John McCain‘s Spanish-only campaign Web site opening two years after he voted in favor of a bill to make English the country‘s official language.
Worst: Comedian Rush Limbaugh mistakes L.A. Mayor, Villaraigosa for a, quote, “shoe shine guy.”
And: Any movie reviewed as a scatological remake of a Keith Olbermann tirade is my kind of movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In eight hours, it would have been (INAUDIBLE).
This is amazing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Kal Penn from “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” escapes to our studio.
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, May 5th, 183 days until the 2008 presidential election. Actually, it feels like Friday, February 1st, because on the eve of the 97th different “make or break” day in the Democratic primary with the latest pronouncement that nearly half of all remaining pledged delegates up for grabs in Indiana and North Carolina, with all of it spiced up only about a new high in hyperbole about your future literally depends on voting for Senator Clinton, tomorrow already feels like Groundhog Day.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Tell Chris Elliott to fire up his news camera and get ready for you to shout what is Titicaca (ph) -- here we go again. Senator Clinton, dividing her time between the two states today, is soliciting every possible vote, even from people who weren‘t there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We have everything at stake in this election. I am running because I think with all of my heart that I am best prepared to be the president and I‘m the stronger candidate to take on John McCain in the fall.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
CLINTON: So, please, you know, for the next 30, 32 hours, talk to everybody you know, call your friends, e-mail them, and tell them literally their futures depend upon it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Isn‘t that another way of saying, vote for me or die?
Senator Obama is spending his morning in Indiana, likewise, asking for word of mouth support from assembled union workers before traveling to North Carolina to dispel any notion amongst undecided voters that he would not be able to beat Senator McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Don‘t buy into this electability argument. You know, go with who you think best represents your vision of where America needs to go. And if you do that, I‘m absolutely confident that that person will win. I think this is our opportunity to make a clean break from the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The latest polling: Barack Obama‘s contention that the electable issue is a non-issue backed significantly. “The New York Times” Poll is finding that 51 percent would vote for Obama over McCain‘s 40 percent; 53 percent would vote for Clinton over McCain‘s 41 percent. Between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, he has a 12-point head to head lead, 50 percent to 38 percent, Keith number 13.
However, that result is directly contradicted by the latest “USA Today”/Gallup Poll which puts Senator Clinton ahead, 51 to 44, with a Keith number of only 10. Yet, even Gallup‘s own polls are contradicting each other tonight. In Gallup‘s national tracking poll, Senator Obama is head 50 to 45.
And even though it‘s clear that Senator Clinton‘s proposed summer suspension of the gas tax will get killed in the Senate later this month, not least because the Democratic majority does not want to the support something that the Republican nominee is pushing, the senator from New York is still pushing it and still pushing back on Senator Obama‘s criticism.
When asked on ABC‘s this week to name a single economist who supports
her plan, she replied, “I‘m not going to put my lot in with the
economists,” instead insisting her plan will save drivers money like Geico
a plan that Senator Obama has repeatedly called ineffective, quote, “pandering,” unquote.
In response, the Clinton campaign unleashing a new ad this morning entitled, “What Happened,” accusing Senator Obama of launching ads against Senator Clinton‘s proposed gas tax because he has no plan of its own. It took the Obama campaign a few hours to get out its rebuttal to that ad, accusing Senator Clinton of giving the country, quote, “more of the same old negative politics.”
We‘re joined now by our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for the “Washington Post,” and welcome to Groundhog Day.
DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And welcome to Groundhog Day.
On the gas tax, 78 percent polled by the “Times” says candidates only want to lift the gas tax in order to help themselves politically and then there‘s the 62 percent number that says Senator Clinton says what voters want to hear and only 34 percent is saying that she says what she believes. Even with those awful poll numbers, is this gas tax issue is still a net plus for Senator Clinton, because if you don‘t think very hard about it, and a lot of voters don‘t think very hard about it, the idea still has a kind of viscerally pleasing quality to it?
MILBANK: Well, it is true that a lot of voters aren‘t thinking very hard about it, in fact, in that same poll, 7 percent still believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. But in the case of the gas tax here, it‘s not really, you know, sort of the MSNBC viewing, “Washington Post” reading electorate out there. It‘s people who are being bombarded with a lot of ads and this sort of appeal of “the populist from Chappaqua” makes sense on its face. It said, “We‘re going, you know, cut taxes, we‘re going to make gas cheaper,” and it doesn‘t any deeper than that.
So, it‘s not bad politics even if “The New York Times” Poll says otherwise.
OLBERMANN: Hey, you know, Horace Greeley was a populist from Chappaqua. You can be a populist from Chappaqua. I know, I‘ve been to Chappaqua, Dana. Don‘t start - never mind.
The Huffington Post reported that if she does well tomorrow, that the Clinton campaign was looking at this—again, it‘s all d’j… vu, it‘s another nuclear option, the possibility of leveraging its support on the 30-member rules and by laws committee of the Democratic National Committee to get them to restore the Michigan and Florida delegates, to seat as voted.
Is that really an option that now, not just - you know, 500 some odd superdelegates could decide the outcome of the race but 30 people inside that group could decide the outcome?
MILBANK: Well, why not. I mean, one vote decided the 2000 race and the Guam primary was decided by seven voters.
These 30 voters on this committee are important, I don‘t think they will decide the race, but they may decide to keep Clinton alive in this race. They do presumably have the power to do that. As the Clinton campaign was saying today, nobody should be terrible surprised that they‘re going to try to do this. They sort of been—they‘ve had this in their back pocket all along. No reason for them not to give it a whirl.
OLBERMANN: But is it not ultimately self-defeating, if you go in before, just seeking Democratic supported, having wrested the nomination, literally wrested away by back room machinations, whether they are legal or within the rules or not, is that not the sort of thing that kept that level of incredibility to the presidential election of George Bush in 2000, just that suspicion that something was cut in the back room somewhere?
MILBANK: No question that that‘s a calculation that Clinton folks are making that they‘re willing to take that risk. You know, we‘ve talked about this repeatedly and these latest polls show it. John McCain getting, creeping up in higher numbers in terms of his character and his strength, while the Democrats are managing to take away from their own numbers on these.
The Clinton campaign figures this is the only way to win, so, you know, once again, if that‘s the goal here, then they‘re not terribly worried about the casualties.
OLBERMANN: All right. Well, to that, to getting that chance to do that, is one state of the two more valuable to the Clintons tomorrow?
MILBANK: Well, whatever state surprises us will be the most valuable. Everybody is expecting North Carolina for Obama, Indiana by slightly lower margin for Clinton. If either of those things doesn‘t happen, that could really change the race in a substantial way. North Carolina has - is a little bit more rich in the delegates.
But if it goes the way we‘re expecting, I‘m going to pick up my ticket to Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning and head on down there for the month.
OLBERMANN: And it turns out that all of the media coverage of this was simply to get us all a free vacation in Puerto Rico.
MILBANK: You got it.
OLBERMANN: Our own Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post,” confessing to the vast media conspiracy. Thank you, Dana.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Despite the rhetoric, the polls, the arguments over electability only one thing really matters in tomorrow‘s contest, the math at least until a campaign that manages to invoke the new math. Right now, Obama leads in pledged delegates, 1,492 to Clinton‘s 1,338. And out of the 404 pledged delegates still to be allocated, 187 of them will be picked tomorrow, 72 in Indiana and 115 in North Carolina.
As to the supers, Senator Obama picked up four more today, Senator Clinton did not pick up any. She has 273 to his 258, a 15-point difference, the closest Obama has yet gotten to Clinton‘s lead.
By NBC‘s count, at least 264 superdelegates, undeclared, until they get to the magic number of 2,025 total delegates to clench the nomination. If Senator Obama got half of pledged delegates tomorrow, 93, he would only need to get 38 percent of all remaining delegates to clench. Using the same for Senator Clinton if she won half tomorrow, 94, she would need 66 of all the remaining delegates at that point and to overtake Senator Obama in the pledged delegate count, she would need an easily obtainable 85 percent of all remaining pledged delegates after tomorrow.
To crunch what numbers are left, I‘m joined by now MSNBC and NBC News political director, Chuck Todd. Good to see you in person.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC & NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good evening, sir.
OLBERMANN: All right. Nothing is impossible, but what is the likelihood? Is that the math doesn‘t suggest it by itself, that Clinton could win 66 percent of all remaining delegates or 85 percent of all remaining pledged delegates before June 3rd?
TODD: Pledged delegates? No chance. The 15 percent threshold rule kicks in and he‘s going to, obviously, have that. What‘s fascinating about tomorrow is that tomorrow is the last day where there is a big chunk of delegates to be had on one day. We leave the campaign trail tomorrow. There are now more delegates at stake in the backrooms than there are on the campaign trail after tomorrow.
We‘ve got 264 superdelegates, I‘m glad we‘re calling them undeclared, it‘s not uncommitted because we know that they might really have—we have 366 delegates still in dispute in Florida and Michigan but will only have 217 delegates that you actually earn from voters.
So, at this point, if you‘re either campaign, what are you more worried about—the backroom or campaign trail? You go to the backroom. So, I think, that‘s what‘s interesting tomorrow, is that it is the last time voters will have the majority of the say and we move to this deal-making.
OLBERMANN: So, is tomorrow then not to actually gaining delegates but to impress the backroom? Or is that—is this the last chance you have to pick up any sales tools and easels, graphs, displays to make your presentation to those superdelegates?
TODD: It is on the Clinton side, it‘s their last chance to make this case, sweep and suddenly, she has people listening. She stops the slow trickle. For Obama it‘s to prove that it‘s not, you know, it‘s not all done. It‘s not—I haven‘t collapsed. I cratered last week but I‘m starting on the uptake, I‘m back in the up escalator, it‘s OK to come over.
So, tomorrow is that last day to basically impress those delegates because after that, West Virginia and Kentucky are solid for Clinton. Oregon should be solid for Obama. If to point (ph), if Montana tough to call, sure, they could be, Montana might be a fairly close race. You don‘t talking a lot of delegates, and I don‘t think the superdelegates are waiting to see how Montana‘s Democrats go, no offense Governor Schweitzer, to decide where this goes, that they will have all of information they need after tomorrow.
OLBERMANN: All right. So, one of things that Senator Clinton has kind of jammed into this, we‘ll pretend for the moment that aggregate vote counts, what does tomorrow mean in terms of the popular vote count?
TODD: Well, she—the question is of how much of her—what she gained in Pennsylvania will she lose in North Carolina, and how much could each offset the other? Clearly, she has narrowed that gap, she has already, as far as the popular vote is concern, probably going to have a pretty decent night. She might break even or only lose say, 50,000 in the popular vote. That‘s a positive for her.
But I‘ll tell you, this popular vote argument, I was messing with some numbers, if you took all the caucus states and made them primaries, for Obama, he likely would have won almost all of them except one, there‘s a dispute about Maine. He would have had a greater popular vote lead and a smaller delegate lead. So, you know, riddle me that, Batman. You know, at the end of the day.
OLBERMANN: So, we do that tomorrow morning, and tomorrow after, Senator Clinton would say, it‘s not the popular vote that counts it‘s the delegates that count.
TODD: The bottom line is that this is, you know, at end, it‘s still about delegates, and it‘s still about impressing the superdelegates. The superdelegates are listening on some hand on the popular vote, but it‘s one of about six factors.
OLBERMANN: All right. And to that point, as you said, 264 superdelegates, undeclared as opposed to undecided, do we have a good gauge as to how many of them are actually undecided and how many of them are just waiting for the coast to be clear in either—in support of either candidate?
TODD: I looked at this undeclared list pretty closely. I played games with it a couple of ways.
One is, if you just took folks that are undeclared and assigned them from the states they‘re from and assigned them to the candidate that won their home state or territory, Obama would net about a plus 13, he‘ll get about a little over 100. There‘s still a bunch of undeclared because we have states that haven‘t gone yet but the whole Florida and Michigan thing. He would actually slightly, there are more undeclared superdelegates from states he won than from states Clinton won.
The thing that I would be worried if I were Hillary Clinton is I look at this large chunk of superdelegates that are undeclared from California. This is a state she won handily and there are a bunch of people that have yet to come out for her. That tells you they‘re looking for every reason to come out for him but they know they have to have a great reason. They just can‘t come out for him for the heck of it. They know that they will be going against the will of people in California, the will of their districts, so, they want him to make it ease easier for them to make that decision.
That‘s something that would concern me if I were Clinton. A look at, particularly that California chunk, it‘s just a big chunk of folks.
OLBERMANN: And presumably, any transfer of support she would be getting or unannounced support she would be getting is also holding back because to now side—on the Clinton side, would be to say that the rest of the primaries don‘t matter and you‘ve already sided with somebody who has to fault (ph) over that popular delegate count or popular vote count?
TODD: That‘s why it‘s so important that Hillary Clinton has to win North Carolina. James Carville said over the weekend, “If you want to change the trajectory of the race, if you want to change game, Go in North Carolina, pull the upset, win on the road.”
OLBERMANN: All right. So, we‘ll look for that one and look for you tomorrow night. Chuck Todd, political director for NBC News and MSNBC, greatest of thanks, and we will see you tomorrow night as Chuck Central. That Chuck is the legitimate part of MSNBC‘s complete coverage of the Democratic primaries of Indiana and North Carolina tomorrow night. Chris Matthews and I, we‘re just sort of there to introduce Chuck, joining you yet again. It begins at 6:00 Eastern.
I don‘t why am I beating up on you.
TODD: I don‘t know, I think I need to take notes and use this with the bosses (ph).
OLBERMANN: Six Eastern and 3:00 Pacific.
Of course, if the Clinton campaign were in charge, that start time might vary depending on how much states Chris is more popular than I am. I don‘t know, he might started 6:00 in Pennsylvania, I might not start until 6:24.
Also: A special report recapping the changing metrics: Richard, relax we won pearl, does a 180 in interfering in Iraq.
And in Worst: Steve Doocy, William Kristol, and comedian, Rush Limbaugh.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Do you remember when Senator Clinton was the Washington insider saying Michigan shouldn‘t count and she was favored by big business? A lot of things have change since then, like the way the Clinton campaign is telling us we have to measure who is leading the Democratic nominating process.
We will review the many, many, many changes in metrics for those of you scoring at home, or even if you‘re alone. That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: If Senator Clinton loses both primaries tomorrow, making it all but impossible to garner more delegates than Obama, expect her campaign to float some new metrics for what actually defines winning.
For our fourth story tonight: We decided to prepare for tomorrow‘s potential new re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-redefinition by compiling the guidelines offered so far by the senator herself, her campaign staffers and some of the supporters who speak for her known as, of course, surrogates. By the time we finished, it seems as if the only yard stick they had not yet offered was ladies first.
Rule one, some states don‘t count. But first, only the 27 states up through Super Tuesday counted. “I‘ve always viewed it sort of as a 27-state contest,” said Clinton adviser, Terry McAuliffe. But subtract Iowa because Clinton said last year there‘s got to be something at work here due to its lack of female governors and congresswomen.
Bill Clinton pointed out that Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in 1984 and 1988, Hillary Clinton dismissed Alaska and North Dakota because they won‘t vote Democratic in the future, “Neither will Wyoming and North Carolina,” says Harold Ickes. “States like Alabama and Georgia that did not vote Democratic in the past also do not count,” says Mark Penn, especially caucus states with, quote, “comparatively fewer voters,” looking at you Idaho, Utah, and Kansas.
Back to the Potomac primary, Penn also asked, “Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn‘t won any of the significant states outside of Illinois? So, Illinois: significant. Others: no so significant. And then Illinois didn‘t count after all because Obama was from there and Hawaii, and Illinois such as other states as Howard Wolfson pointed out, and Mississippi also never elected a female governor or congresswoman, and Senator Clinton always said Florida and Michigan wouldn‘t count, well, until she won them.
Rule two: Some primary elections don‘t count like caucuses, “Old people and ship workers can‘t vote in them,” Ed Rendell said. “So, we want primaries, that‘s the way we elect presidents.”
Not so fast. Senator Clinton says, “So-called pledge delegates can ignore the votes of primary voters, too. What really matters is popular vote.” Bill Clinton is saying, “What are they going to do if she wins the popular vote? I‘m sorry, we‘re going to give it to the caucus states that are going Republican in November? No.”
Of course, that metric only applied if you count Florida and Michigan, but you don‘t count caucuses, so, a few hours later, they changed their mind and only discounted the Washington, Nevada, Iowa, and Maine caucuses.
Rule three, some voters don‘t count. College educated liberal voters, independent voters, like the ones who gave Obama Wisconsin. “You can‘t be too young because until certain age,” Bill Clinton says, you can‘t tell the difference between him and Bush, but you probably shouldn‘t be over 60 when, he says, “Your memory starts to go, especially if you‘re ever in Bosnia.”
The Clinton supported a lawsuit by Nevada‘s teachers claiming that casino workers got too much ballot access and Senator Clinton said, the party‘s activist base also doesn‘t count but it turns out in large numbers and it votes based on national security and foreign policy and not wanting to stay in Iraq and stuff. Mr. Penn also discounts impressionable elites because they don‘t base their votes on domestic policy.
So, finally, rule number four: Check the time of day. Mr. Wolfson said in February, “Florida and Michigan voters were well-informed because the media pay more attention early in the primaries.” Senator Clinton said in March that the party has superdelegates so they can exercise the judgment that voters would have had if they had known more early in the primaries.
She also said she‘s more interested in what happens when voters have all day to vote. Unlike her husband who told Texas voters their caucus after primary opens its doors at 7:00 and close them at 7:15, saying, quote, “It would be tragic if Hillary were to win this election in the daytime and somebody were to come in at night and take it away.”
When you boil it all down, in determining the Democratic Party‘s presidential nominee, only one vote really matters. The 50-something conservative registered Democrat who‘s not independent but not a part of the base, and skipped college so they can go straight into teaching rather than become a casino worker, who votes on domestic issues but not in the primary or caucus and in a big state that doesn‘t border Illinois, that has elected female governors and members of Congress, but didn‘t vote Republican in 2004, won‘t vote Republican in 2008, and didn‘t vote for Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988 during an all day vote except between the hours of 7:00 and 7:15 p.m. Oh, they don‘t object their vote being overruled by superdelegates.
Bad dog, bad dog, bad dog, bad dog, bad dog, bad dog.
And: Comedian Rush Limbaugh says he mistook Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa for quote, “the shoe shine boy.” Worst Persons is ahead.
But first: The headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals - Bushed.
Number three: Electrocution-gate. We told you awhile back that several U.S. soldiers have been electrocuted in Iraq because of crappy wiring done around showers, done in at least one case by the spun-off Halliburton subsidiary KBR. It turns out the problem was worse than anybody suspected, the army had issued an urgent bulletin on October 2004 to commanders in Iraq warning them of the shoddy contracting work and the threat of electrocution.
Since then, at least two Americans soldiers have been killed by improper grounding of electrical wiring, and the total before October was, according to that army bulletin, five fatalities.
Number two: The buck stops nowhere-gate. General Ricardo Sanchez, his new book, excerpted in “Time” magazine, is giving a remarkable insight of the single worst post-invasion decision of the war. Then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld handed him a memo two years and two weeks ago today, insisting that neither he nor anyone higher in the administration, had known that operations in Iraq had been shifted from the upper ranks, CentCom and General Tommy Franks, to the lower ranks, General Sanchez and his V Corps.
Sanchez said, quote, “I knew it was total BS,” when he told Rumsfeld that, he and Rumsfeld started to shout at each other. He also mentions that before Rumsfeld showed him the historically revisionist memo, Rumsfeld mentioned he wanted Sanchez to stay on after his impending retirement and work as a civilian in the Pentagon. In other words, Rumsfeld was trying to bribe him into helping him pass the historical buck.
He, of which, number one: Chutzpah-gate. One of the immortal bozos of the Bush administration, former chairman of the Defense policy board advisory committee Richard Perle, writing an op ed in “The New York Times,” insisting that, quote, “The most important thing we can do to help the Iraqis and ourselves is to recognize and reverse the foolish and arrogant belief that we know better than the Iraqis how to rebuild their devastated society.
It is a well-written and reasoned argument, headline, “Time to Cut the Cord.” The problem is, it is written by the same Richard Perle, whose op ed in “USA Today,” five years ago last Thursday, described Iraq as, quote, “The most important military victory since World War II. It ended quickly with few casualties and with little damage to Iraq‘s cities, towns or infrastructure. It ended without the Arab world rising up against us as the war‘s critics feared, without the quagmire they predicted. Relax and enjoy it.”
It has been suggested that in war, truth is the first casualty. However, in Richard Perle‘s case, it obviously multiplies because these two op eds could not have been in greater disagreement. Perhaps, Mr. Perle wrote the first self-congratulatory one with one of his faces and then wrote this new hands-off one with his other face.
OLBERMANN: Best persons in a moment, and the Illinois man who plans to be buried in a giant Pabst Blue Ribbon can. First, on this date in 1943, Michael Edward Palin was born. From its start part of “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus,” later a travel documentarian, and most relevantly to this newscast, the portrayer of a torturer in the movie “Brazil,” all the more evil for his amiable family man nature. And in the Python TV series, the conduit of perhaps the single funniest satire of TV newscasts ever, telling of a fictional man named Roy Bent who had crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a tricycle, he intoned the standard introduction for a remote interview, and gave it an immortal twist. Mr. Bent is in our Durham studios, which is rather unfortunate, as we‘re all down here in London.
Perfect, let‘s play Oddball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We begin here in Gorackpor (ph), India, where Mahendra C.
Rana (ph) is playing sweet music on a leaf.
I‘ve never heard “Born To Run” played quite that way. Like a deleted scene from “Napoleon Dynamite,” Rana says his skills took a while to develop, but now he‘s an expert. He says he often plays in public and has even blown leaf for the king of Nepal. All I know is that the guy in the green shirt is a little too into it.
Let‘s head up to space, where we answer the burning question, will a boomerang boomerang in space. The answer is yes. The corollary is, you have any more questions, smart ass? This is Japanese astronaut, Takayo Doy (ph), on board the International Space Station. Mr. Doy was asked by the world boomerang champ to test the thing out in zero gravity. The astronaut was happy to take time away from potentially life saving science experiments to screw around with some kid‘s toy. Your tax dollars in action. Oh, wait he‘s funded by Japan. Carry on.
Lastly, to our NBC station in Baltimore, WBAL, where anchor man John Collins gets our very first Oddball veterinary report from Dr. Kim Hammond (ph). Take it away guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s all we‘ve got for now. Next week, we‘re going to have more, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re going to have more. We‘re going to have huge dog coming. Huge—
OLBERMANN: And that concludes our last Oddball veterinarian report.
Thanks Dr. Hammond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And bien venito (ph); John McCain opens his Spanish language presidential campaign website, just two years after voting to make English the official language and Spanish something less. It may be the first movie about Gitmo, detainees and shredding the constitution to score big with audiences, because it‘s satire and it‘s Harold and Kumar. Kumar Kal Penn joins me.
These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. Number three, best method actor; the scene called for the character of Lawrence in the play “Abigail‘s Party” to keel over a die of a heart attack. So Steve Dinee, playing Lawrence, on cue collapsed very convincingly to the stage. Then his co-star shouted for a doctor. It was not, fortunately, a heart attack. But he was sick enough to stay overnight in the hospital near the theater in Edinburgh in Scotland.
Number two, best long term plans, Bill Bramanti of Glenwood, Illinois. At age 67, he claims to have 100 years left before he actually needs it, but he‘s decided to be buried in a coffin painted to resemble a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Being a practical guy, he had it specially lined so that in the interim, he can store stuff in it. Yes, 150 pounds of ice and 15 cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
Number one, best do as I say, not as I do, police chief Dave Hansen in Riverdale, Utah; demonstrated to his police trainees how to dislodge a jammed hand gun and shot himself in the ankle. Well, it‘s dislodged, isn‘t it?
OLBERMANN: After the stumbles we told you about Friday, Senator John McCain today clarified his controversial remarks about war and oil. Our third story tonight, it is official now, if you elect President McCain he promises he‘ll make absolutely sure he doesn‘t have any reason to wage war over oil. Thanks.
Following up from his accidental confession Friday that the U.S. sent its troops to Iraq for oil, Mr. McCain today said he‘ll, quote, make sure that U.S. dependence on Middle East oil is eliminated, so it would never be, quote, a reason for us to be in a conflict in the Middle East. While that might make a real snappy bumper sticker, it just happens to violate fellow Republican Senator Jon Kyl‘s caveat, in an op ed today saying, quote, “we must never make it appear as if we went into Iraq for its oil.”
Now you tell him. McCain did have some warning not to use the word Jihadists, as he did also today. Less than two weeks after the State Department told U.S. officials never to use that terms because it legitimizes terrorists in the eyes of the Muslim world. Language a continuing problem for Mr. McCain today. He also launched his Spanish version website, Cinco de Mayo today, of course, after his Democratic rivals had there‘s up. Also two years after Senator McCain himself voted to make English the national official language of the United States, which would mean Spanish wasn‘t.
At this point, let‘s turn to Matt Taibbi, the author of “The Great Derangement, A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire.” He‘s also a contributing editor at “Rolling Stone.” Matt, good evening. Welcome.
MATT TAIBBI, AUTHOR, “THE GREAT DERANGEMENT”: Good evening. Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: He doesn‘t know who the enemy is. He is a little bit fuzzy on whether we have or would make war for oil; and foreign policy is strength. I‘m missing something.
TAIBBI: I don‘t think he‘s confused about whether or not we‘re going there for oil. I think he‘s confused about whether or not he wants to admit that we‘re going there for oil. You shouldn‘t hold that against him. As for him not knowing whether al Qaeda is Sunni or Shiite, Bush didn‘t know the difference between the two. Look how well that worked out, right?
OLBERMANN: Absolutely. We wouldn‘t have this show today.
TAIBBI: Right, exactly.
OLBERMANN: The Spanish language appeal today—and again, two years after a vote, a fairly controversial vote, that perhaps has its own merits, but a vote that said English is the official language of the United States, meaning that others like Spanish would not be the official language of the United States. Is there—again, I‘m missing something. Is there an inconsistency here or does the McCain campaign and Mr. McCain not see that as a problem?
TAIBBI: I think it‘s only on the contrary. I think it‘s entirely consistent with everything John McCain has every done. He has basically changed his mind about pretty much every position that he‘s ever held. I think you would have to search far and wide to find something he hasn‘t changed his mind about. He has made a career of voting against bills that bear his name. There was the McCain-Feingold/Shays/Meehan bill, which he opposed a couple years ago. There‘s his own immigration bill, which he opposed. There‘s the fact—
There‘s all kinds of things. He called Jerry Falwell an agent of intolerance and then a few years later, he‘s hamming it up, speaking at Liberty University, Bob Jones University. It‘s one thing after the other with this guy.
OLBERMANN: Does this distract us from evaluating him fairly because we spend all of our time trying to figure out which his latest position is on a particular topic? This point that Lindsey Graham made the other day, that you can‘t—McCain is so different than George Bush. His quote was, good luck making him into George Bush. We just found this past week that McCain‘s campaign talks with top White House officials every day. That‘s another kind of inconsistency in those two positions.
TAIBBI: I would disagree. I think the worst thing about George Bush was that he had convictions. I think it was the things that he actually believed in that got us into the most trouble. Whereas John McCain is a guy, as has been aptly demonstrated all throughout the course of his career, he will change his mind at the drop of the hat. He‘s a cynic, as opposed to a true believer. In these times, I will take the cynic any time.
OLBERMANN: Being able to bring John Hagee aboard and say, I‘m opposed to all those things in which he expressed any kind of anti-everything opinion, that generic quality to him is a good thing, that there‘s no utter conviction to the man?
TAIBBI: I think you have to look at him for what he is. He‘s a politician. You can look at the Spanish language thing. I think we all understand that he would put out a website in Esparanto if it was going to get him any votes. We shouldn‘t hold that against him. We should just recognize him for what he is. He is a creature running for the presidency of the United States. They all do this. In some degree, it‘s actually refreshing after the Bush administration to see this kind of moral vacillation.
OLBERMANN: But when it gets to a point that McCain‘s staff gave Bush
a heads up—or at least the administration, not the president personally
that he was going to slam him on Katrina during the start of the campaign, just a few weeks ago, and days after that, Bush made the joke about McCain is not here because he wants to distance himself—if they are both in on the joke, who are they laughing at?
TAIBBI: I don‘t know. I find that whole situation completely mystifying that they are even joking at all, after what happened in South Carolina in 2000. Bush‘s people put out all of that stuff about McCain having an illegitimate child by a black prostitute, and all of that. And now, all of a sudden, they are joking with each other? That just tells you what kind of people they both are.
OLBERMANN: See, now I have you. Everything changed after 9/11. There you go. Matt Taibbi of “Rolling Stone,” author of the “Great Derangement.” Thank you for coming in, sir.
A different kind of insight, the last seven years as only a satirical movie could show them to us. Kal Penn from “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” joins us.
Even bad apples don‘t fall far bad from bad trees. The first father and son team we think to have ever made worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Could countdown get away with showing a government officially literally wiping his backside with the Bill of Rights? Probably not. But the people behind Harold and Kumar can. Kal Penn of “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay” joins me here. First, time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Peter Ducey, 201-year-old son of the often hilariously uninformed Steve Ducey of Fixed Noise. Appearing on his dad‘s show for a youth view of the Democratic presidential campaign, asking questions of students at Villanova University, questions like, Senator Obama‘s, quote, slogan is change we can believe in. This is a guy who could not change churches when his preacher was saying, the United States deserved 9/11 and the U.S. created AIDS. So what makes you think that he‘s going to bring about this kind of change?
Wow! Wonder which emotion impacts dad more at this moment, pride that at 20 years old, the boy is already a completely replaceable cog in the vast Rupert Murdoch media manipulation machine, or buyer‘s remorse when he gets the bill from college and realizes the kid‘s mind has already been nailed shut?
Our runner up, William Kristol of the “New York Times,” announces of Senators Clinton and Obama, quote, “they didn‘t denounce MoveOn.org when they ran the General Betray-Us ad when General Petraeus was testifying before Congress. In fact, both Clinton and Obama voted for the amendment that slammed MoveOn for that ad. But Bill Kristol would never understand that he despised less for the narrowness of his mind than he is for slovenliness of the fact checking of his own work.
But our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh, stepping out of his bunker to appear on TV to claim Bill Clinton once hit on his date and used L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as a distraction. The comedian said he didn‘t think Villaraigosa was prominent politician; quote, I thought he was either the shoe shine guy or a Secret Service agent.
Another endearing insult to a minority. Also, comedian, technically, those women are not called dates. The correct term is escorts. Comedian Rush Limbaugh, today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: a harmless battery operated device mistaken for a bomb, a Homeland Security bureaucrat who thinks that al Qaeda and North Korea and suddenly become teamed up, and interrogations in which rights are laughed off as something that do not exist in Guantanamo Bay. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, not the headlines from any Airport USA or Michael Chertoff‘s office, but rather a few points from “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo.” Kumar, AKA actor Kal Penn, will joins us presently.
First, the latest dose of reality. When a Sudanese journalist, detained in that prison at Gitmo for the past six years, was released late last week, Defense Department officials accused him of a bit of fiction. Sami ali Haj (ph) required assistance getting of the plane in Khartoum and was videotaped on a stretcher before being taken to a hospital. A Defense Department official told ABC News that ali Haj is, quote, a manipulator and a propagandist, and, quote, who plans to write a book. But until he writes that book we have the shamelessly silly and satirical mistaken for terrorist send-up, courtesy of Harold and Kumar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need you to step aside, please. We need to search you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did I beep?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn‘t beep. Just a random security check.
If you could just step aside please. Just over here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Random, huh? This has nothing to do with my ethnicity?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just do what the guy says.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, it is our job as airport security to search for all possible weapons or illegal drugs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because of the color of my skin, you assume that I have drugs on me? What are you, a racist?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Racist? Dude, I‘m black.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s black. He‘s not racist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, dude. You‘re barely even brown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he didn‘t need that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Compared to me, you look like Matthew Perry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you calling Matthew Perry?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m calling you Matthew Perry, you Matthew Perry looking—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody here is Matthew Perry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Reviewed by one critic as a scatological remix of a Keith Olbermann tirade, that‘s entertainment. As promised, joining us now, one of the stars of “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay,” Kal Penn. Welcome.
KAL PENN, “HAROLD AN KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY”: Thank you, sir. How are you?
OLBERMANN: I‘m pretty good. Congratulations on this.
PENN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Phony terrorists, Gitmo, inept Homeland Security; George Clooney makes a film involving all these episodes and it‘s a good one and people don‘t really go to see it. You make a great film about it and it sells. Is it the comedy that gives you the freedom?
PENN: I think probably at this point topics like these have become such a part of pop culture—talking to the writers that wrote the script, they said, you know, sometimes the greatest source of comedy is the greatest source of tragedy and vice versa. So maybe it‘s just impacted our pop culture enough that we want to make fun of ourselves at a certain point.
OLBERMANN: So you were just like the first guys at that particular stand when it opened.
PENN: At the?
OLBERMANN: At the satirizing --
PENN: We‘re fans of “The Daily Show.” We‘re fans of the sort of satirical humor that I think is coming to the forefront now. I think the writers figured, why not.
OLBERMANN: If it exhausts a society—I mean, if something exhausts a society, eventually parts of society start laughing at it. Whatever it is, whichever society we‘re looking anywhere in history—I guess that is what is happening.
PENN: I think you have to. And it is a full satire. Ultimately it is a buddy comedy. It‘s not even really a political film. The title is incredibly misleading, I think, in terms of—it is certainly politically relevant, but fans of the first one enjoy the second one because the stakes are higher. The first one was about two guys getting hamburgers. Now they are caught up in this whole post-9/11 fiasco.
OLBERMANN: But, again, you‘re now able to appeal both to the audience from last time and also somebody who is saying, I can take a little satirical approach to these horrific changes in our society for the last half dozen years?
PENN: Exactly. From folks we‘ve talked to, the nice thing is that the most progressive and the most conservative folks have all gone to see the film have all laughed, which is a good sign. We didn‘t want to be preachy about it.
OLBERMANN: The conservatives laugh, why, because the bureaucracy is being kidded? What is it that appeals to them?
PENN: I don‘t know. We should ask them, maybe. I think it really is just as Americans being able to poke fun at ourselves. I also think it‘s an oddly patriotic film. I know that while we were shooting it, there was a satirical representation of President Bush, for example. If wasn‘t meant to serve any political purpose. But while we were shooting that scene, we kind of thought, in so many countries around the world we would be liable to be shot or hung for a satirical representation of the prime minister or the president. And here we are in the world‘s greatest country, where we have the opportunity still—hopefully we continue to—
OLBERMANN: So far.
PENN: -- to do that. And it is not from any political purpose, just for the fun of it, I guess.
OLBERMANN: Now that you mentioned it, let me check the wires and make sure that‘s still true.
PENN: Let‘s look at that.
OLBERMANN: There is a scene in here, this is literally the case, where the director of Homeland Security is wiping himself with a copy of the Bill of Rights?
PENN: Yes, also definitely a character distinction. This particular character, Ron Fox, is not a fan of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Fifth Amendment. The writers just figured, why not literally make him wipe his bottom with it. And they also wanted—quite honestly, they just wanted a poop joke there. It is ultimately a teen movie, so it served the dual purpose I think.
OLBERMANN: Was it—of all possible follow ups to this great sort of counter cultural thing that you had done with White Castle, were there other choices? Was this the first thing that popped in—was it natural progression from going for burgers after getting the munchies, to the entire counter-terrorism operation in the United States of America?
PENN: I think there were. The first film came out four years ago. When we shot the first film—I think it was the second day of shooting—was the day that President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier and said that mission was accomplished. After making a film as frivolous as the White Castle film, we wanted to make something equally frivolous, but it got to the point where four years ago, you couldn‘t make jokes like this without being considered un-American.
OLBERMANN: Tell me about it.
PENN: And being patriotic and being proud of our country does not mean that you necessarily agree with the politics of your government. And so to find that layer, as only John Harowitz and Haiden Scholossbergh (ph) can do, the guys that wrote and directed the second film—they did a great job with maybe crossing that line in a way that appeals to us all in an oddly patriotic way, I think.
OLBERMANN: Is there something to follow this up with, in terms of a third movie?
PENN: I don‘t know. We have to see. Maybe something election related.
OLBERMANN: I was going to say, go to Congress.
PENN: Go to the convention floor.
OLBERMANN: You can have that one for free. It‘s probably not that great an idea. Good luck with it anyway. Kal Penn, star of “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay,” great thanks for coming in.
PENN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Pleasure. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 1,831st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Don‘t forget, our prime time coverage of the primaries in Indiana and North Carolina begins at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, unless it already started. Until then, 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.