Guests: Richard Wolffe, Dana Milbank, Jonathan Alter, Paul F. Tompkins
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
In the books: If Senator Clinton really is continuing her campaign, why are two of her key campaigners trying to get big dollar book deals this week.
Even Senator Obama is tonight pointing to May 20th after Kentucky and Oregon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If at that point we have the majority of the pledged delegates, which is possible, then I think we can make a pretty strong claim that, you know, we‘ve got the most runs in the ninth inning and we‘ve won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And yet the Clintons will hear none of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a little bit like d’j… vu all over again. Some in Washington wanted us to end our campaign and then I won New Hampshire.
BILL CLINTON, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Don‘t believe all the stuff you read in the press. She can still win this thing if you vote for her big enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Especially you white people. The senator touting an “Associated Press” article, quote, “That found how Senator Obama‘s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans is weakening again and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.” Why would anybody go there?
John McCain‘s pastor problem, his new pastor problem—John Hagee blamed Katrina on divine vengeance because New Orleans was going to hold a gay pride parade, then, he‘s backed off that claim, now, Hagee has backed off the backing off. The new quote, “God always punishes unconfessed sins.
Other Worst Persons:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CINDY MCCAIN, SEN. MCCAIN‘S WIFE: My husband is absolutely opposed to negative campaigning at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So, that‘s why Mr. Cindy McCain said, “I think it‘s clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make opinions accordingly.” So, your husband is opposed to negative campaigning but he still does it?
And: Barbara Walters Autobiography. Why is she getting a hard time for coverage from like Star Jones?
How long does that fight last? Like 30 seconds?
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Thursday, May 8th, 180 days until the 2008 presidential election.
While Senator Clinton has today made a jaw-dropping racially-divisive rationalism to continue her lame duck candidacy, in its self-destructiveness and delusion, a comment worthy of Richard Nixon‘s final days, her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe has insisted, this will continue to and be resolved by June.
In our fifth story: If the candidate is usually the last to know, the chairman might be the runner up.
COUNTDOWN is learning tonight that within the last few days, the critical public figure in the Clinton campaign and the former critical behind the scenes figure in the Clinton campaign had each begun the process of trying to get themselves big money book deals. Negotiations which you do not have time for, to say nothing of not having time to write the book, if you think your campaign is not going to come to a screeching halt in the next few weeks rather than continue into November.
COUNTDOWN has learned from an unimpeachable source that Howard Wolfson, Senator Clinton‘s communications director, has, this week, begun seeking a contract to write a book quickly enough to take advantage of his high and media profile. Nothing done, no figures out there, but again, not the sort of thing you try to arrange in the first full week of May if you thought Senator Clinton was going to win the nomination and that there will still be communications to direct into November or even beyond the last primary.
The Wolfson news coming on the hills of similar overtures on behalf of Patti Solis Doyle, who was the Clinton campaign manager until February 10th of this year, she remains one of Senator Clinton‘s senior advisers in her campaign, but unlike Wolfson‘s bid to win the publisher‘s sweepstakes, her timing, like her current role at the campaign, has fewer loaded implications. Again, in both cases, book deals, not the kind of thing you look for if you really think there‘s much of a campaign left this year, nor for that matter, if you really think there‘s going to be an administration to look forward to next year.
Senator Obama meantime, looking to May 20th as the possible turning point in his quest to make that administration an Obama administration, hoping to claim on that date by then his campaign would have achieved the majority of the pledged delegates. As the Illinois Democrat told our colleague, Brian Williams in an interview conducted this afternoon, what could be a symbolic yet important milestone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: That will be an important day. If at that point we have the majority of the pledged delegates which is possible, then, I think, we can make a pretty strong claim that, you know, we‘ve got the most runs and it‘s the ninth inning and we‘ve won. I want to let this play out. If Senator Clinton, you know, is going to continue to campaign and my hope is that when everything is over, all sides feel as if, you know, Democracy has worked, the process has worked and now it‘s time to turn attention to the issues that matter to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama receiving some practical support in his pursuit of the nomination—today, the endorsement of two more superdelegates, North Carolina Congressman Brad Miller and Washington Congressman Rick Larson. An even bigger endorsement, at least symbolically, coming out of Senator Edwards‘ former campaign manager, and announcing his decision, David Bonior, citing the Illinois senator‘s ability to bring change to inspire and defend himself against attacks, his dedication to helping working families and his opposition to the war in Iraq from its start.
And Senator Clinton, seemingly, has no intention of dropping out, seeing clear as, perhaps, in the letters she wrote today to Senator Obama, asking him to join her to find a solution to resolve the controversy over the Florida and Michigan delegations. Not just any solution, mind you, for her, only one solution will suffice, quoting from her letter, “It is not enough to simply seat their representatives at the convention in Denver. The people of these great states, like the people who voted and are to vote in other states, must have a voice in selecting the party‘s nominee.”
Meanwhile, the question of whether Senator Clinton did or did not play a race card, now consuming political discussion in the wake of what she told “USA Today” in an interview published this morning, specifically, in response to the question: How does Hillary Clinton win the nomination?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CLINTON: There was just an “AP” article posted that found how Senator Obama‘s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans is weakening again. And how the, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me, and in independents I was running even with him and doing even better with Democratic leaning independents. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.”
That issue in-depth in a moment, first: Time to bring in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Quoting that key passage from the senator‘s letter to Senator Obama today about a possible solution for Michigan and Florida, “It is not enough to simply seat their representatives at the convention in Denver. The people of these great states must have a voice in selecting our party‘s nominee.”
If we‘re approaching the point when Senator Obama could conceivably concede Florida and Michigan and not hurt himself on the delegate count, as Chuck Todd suggests to do by the numbers, is Senator Clinton making that impossible by demanding that he‘d cede the popular vote and legitimize an election in those states which both of them had previously declared to be illegitimate?
WOLFFE: Well, it‘s the last best hope they have to significantly change this race. There are more delegates out there with these two states than anything else. And as this has slipped away, then the search for the reintroduction of those two states has become more and more urgent.
But, what you‘re seeing here is an interesting dynamic as it shifted because with this latest proposal from Michigan, which would give Senator Clinton that 10 - a net advantage of 10 delegates, we‘re seeing the Obama campaign say—maybe that‘s negotiable; and Clinton campaign come out and say—absolutely, not. We reject that out of hand.
So, the balance of power on this debate has shifted as the race has moved on from Indiana and North Carolina. And I don‘t quite see how they can actually make the demands tougher when their situation is weaker.
OLBERMANN: After having taking yesterday off, Senator Obama was on Capitol Hill, he met with superdelegates, he got two more of them. At all accounts there, NBC had a camera there; he was being treated like a rockstar even by Senator Clinton supporters among the lawmakers. Is this what is actually meant by, and we rarely see it in politics, we don‘t probably - none of us recognized it when we do see it, is this what they mean when they say take the high road, I mean, not engaging, just keep on keeping on?
WOLFFE: Well, their strategy is to give her space, to let her process and digest what has happened and let people in the party emphasize what has happened without having to vocalize it in their own voice. That‘s the Obama‘s campaign‘s perspective on this.
But the other piece of it is to project inevitability, to say to the party—time to move on, we‘ve got the general election that‘s really already begun, and this kind of adulation almost seemingly, these people sort cramming in to get around him so they can be in the camera shot, that they don‘t have to make an effort, they don‘t have to break into a sweat any more.
OLBERMANN: On the big picture here, Senator McCain repeated last night his claim that Hamas wants Obama as president. This afternoon, Senator Obama responded that “McCain is losing his bearings and my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his.”
Then the McCain campaign responded that Obama, quote—let me read this exactly—“used the words losing his bearings intentionally and not particularly a clever way of raising John McCain‘s age as an issue.”
And the Obama campaign came back with, “What are you talking about?
What does losing your bearings have to do with age?”
Is this going - remember this as the first salvo of the general election?
WOLFFE: Probably and not a very edifying one either. I mean, look, there are some substantive issues here in the heart of all of this. It‘s interesting that the first salvo is immediately personal and that they‘re playing, I guess, an ageist card.
But, you know, the idea that Hamas has endorsed Obama and that somehow meaningful is an interesting one. There are differences between these candidates on the war on terror and about Iraq. I‘m surprised that they‘re not engaging on that first, but it is a taste of things to come.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Richard, those book deals that I mentioned at the start, it‘s not the end of the world one way or the other, but a key campaigner does not go looking for a book deal in May if he expects the campaign is still be a campaign in November, does he?
WOLFFE: No, hard to have a kiss-and-tell book if your partner is still part of the marriage. So, no, you can‘t do that. And I guess maybe it‘s a sign of money problems. But maybe he‘s got a good story to tell.
OLBERMANN: Well, not even a kiss-and-tell book, even a complimentary one. You can‘t do that and have a campaign going at the same time or an administration, right?
WOLFFE: No, absolutely not. It breaks all the rules, and in the end what kind of publisher would want it either. I mean, it‘s a sign of an exit strategy.
OLBERMANN: Oh, somebody will want it - Regnery Press possibly.
Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—always, Richard, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: In her remarks to “USA Today” arguing that she would be the stronger nominee because she appeals to a wider coalition of voters—white voters, Senator adding there is a pattern here.
As for whether the pattern here might not be the one she‘s thinking of, it‘s bring in our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of the “Washington Post.” Dana, good evening to you.
DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Beyond whether or not she meant to say that, even at this stage, sort of the—you know, August 1, 1974 -- the Nixon administration stage, should Senator Clinton have been more careful in not leaving the impression that her electability argument boils down in effect to “working class white Americans are not ready to vote for a black American president”?
MILBANK: Yes, it was a fairly shocking. I suppose this rate (ph) by the time we get to Kentucky, it will be segregation, now, segregation forever. But I would like to believe that that was not indeed what was intended there, but what‘s under lying this is what happened on Tuesday night at earthquake, sort of struck away both of her remaining talking points—that was the potential of having the popular vote and sort of the large state arguments. What we‘re left is this slight of the electorate that is still loyal to her—what Obama some time ago called the “bitter” people.
OLBERMANN: Beyond the grossness and the sadness of it and we‘d just assume for the sake of argument that it is a total misinterpretation of what she meant or misspeak on her part, does it also suggest, just the numbers she‘s playing with, that she doesn‘t have a real grasp on the politics that are in play here, I mean, that the Democrats traditionally lose the white vote in the presidential election, that it was to a great degree the black vote that got Bill Clinton himself elected twice?
MILBANK: Yes. It has the ring of sort of a generation earlier of Democrats like we‘re talking about, the 1970s and the Union Hall. I‘ve had sort of a quaint ring I was reminded of when we‘re talking about old Europe in that way. But, you know, there may be something to it, and I look forward to reading that chapter in Wilson‘s book.
OLBERMANN: Or Patti Solis Doyle‘s book which might have it, too.
If Senator Clinton is going to stay in the race and stay positive, even after a day like today, could that not benefit both her and the Democratic Party in terms of interest, voter recruitment, party building—you know, winning the presidency, that sort of stuff?
MILBANK: It could certainly benefit the party. It maybe could benefit her to some extent. I think what that would turn into is sort of an irrelevancy—like a Mike Huckabee sort of thing. Taking your shot here or there, you know, it‘s not really quite working out but as you recall, we pretty much left the Huckabee bandwagon after he stopped being viable.
So, in essence, it becomes irrelevant as Obama pursues this assumption he already has the nomination. I was there in the house chamber today when he had this victory lap and that‘s what everybody is doing now, they‘re acting as if this is done.
OLBERMANN: Well, and to that point, there‘s one change, besides what happened on Tuesday that people ask me about, whether or not this is a verbatim (ph) topic on the air anywhere, is the media‘s response to the finality of Tuesday and the inevitability or virtual inevitability of this thing, is that the other big change here, that people are not buying in the media, in the newsrooms and the editorials decisions, in the networks, on the Internet—nobody is buying this argument anymore that she still has viability?
MILBANK: Yes. It‘s sort of—it‘s amazing, it‘s really the cult of Russert. He sort of gave his imprimatur today.
OLBERMANN: I asked that question. I asked him that question, damn it.
MILBANK: Well, you‘ve been saying this for some time, Keith, but we‘ll give you some credit, too, but I think what‘s happening here is - the voters have their say no matter what happens. Even if you throw in Florida and Michigan at this point, Clinton does not equal him in delegates, does not equal him in the popular vote - it‘s down to the superdelegates. The superdelegates are sensitive to what the punditocracy is saying, and at the very high end of that food chain when you have somebody like Russert saying something so definitive, they really take notice.
OLBERMANN: Yes, Matthews and I were just kind of set-up men for him, I understood. So, it worked.
Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC—you know what? If I‘m their set-up man, you‘re my set-up man. Thanks for being my set-up man, Dana.
MILBANK: Glad to be.
OLBERMANN: What next for Senator Clinton—a book about the campaign perhaps?
Senator McCain‘s pastor is back to blaming gay‘s for hurricane Katrina and senator‘s wife is back in Worst Persons.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Vice President Hillary Clinton? Senate Majority Leader Hillary Clinton? None of the above Hillary Clinton? What can she do after this sorry spectacle has finally wrapped up?
And Cindy McCain thinks her husband is running a clean campaign. Ask John Hagee about that. Ask Hamas about that. She takes on Dick Morris and Mark “It‘s not winner-take-all” Penn in tonight‘s Worst Persons derby.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: With just six primaries to go and what Senator Obama preparing to declare victory in the pledged delegate count after May 20th perhaps, there seem to be only two questions left for Senator Clinton: When does she officially end her candidacy?
And on our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: What does she do after that? On the table, there‘ll be a distinct possibility of joining Senator Obama on his ticket but a vice presidential position could make it difficult for her to run again for the presidency even if Obama were to lose and she would have tried for the 2012 campaign.
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo positing that it might be better for Senator Clinton and her political legacy if she were to remain in the Senate, that would a Democratic majority, she might be able to achieve far more as a senior member of that institution than as its head as vice president. And as for running for president again if Obama wins in November, the next chance would presumably be 2016 and she would be 69 years old. Three years younger than Senator McCain will be as of his nomination.
Joining us now: Our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine. Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Even if he did ask her, as unlikely as that might seem, that first choice to be vice president, does it make sense for her to want to be vice president, to go back into this on at the other night, into the White House on a sublet?
ALTER: They usually say yes. I mean, the most instructive example is 1960.
OLBERMANN: Of course.
ALTER: It‘s all in Teddy White‘s “The Making of the President” in 1960. Lyndon Johnson, Senate majority leader, tremendously powerful at the time when the vice presidency wasn‘t worth a bucket of warm spit. He takes it and when JFK offered it to him, Kennedy thought Johnson would turn it down and he accepted it.
And I do think what we‘re headed for is that Hillary is going to make it clear that she wants the offer. She feels it‘s owed to her as a sign of respect. And then the Obama people will not be entirely sure whether she‘s going to take it or not. So, she will try to essentially manipulate them into offering it to her. They don‘t want to, to put it mildly.
ALTER: But this could play out all summer and she could essentially threaten to keep the process going to the convention by, say, appealing the decision by the rules committee on May 30th to the floor of convention, hold that over their heads essentially, a bloody convention if they don‘t unify the party by putting her on the ticket.
OLBERMANN: But wouldn‘t it be an easier path for her to like being nice during the rest of the campaign? However long it last? Why isn‘t that an option rather than simply push harder?
ALTER: Well, what does being nice get her?
OLBERMANN: Well, maybe the invitation to be vice president if she actually wants it.
ALTER: No, that‘s not the way.
OLBERMANN: She has to go over and take it out of his pocket is the idea.
ALTER: That‘s not the way because the blood is bad enough now that she knows that the only way that she would get the offer is that if she created pressure from her constituency which is significant that they felt it would be a diss if she wasn‘t offered.
OLBERMANN: What about the Senate, would that actually be a better option than the vice presidency for her? And what was this talk about the Senate majority leadership possibly being dangled?
ALTER: Well, you know, that could be a possibility. Harry Reid is not tremendously popular with the Democratic senators and that‘s something that she would have to consider whether it might be better for her to have an independent power base in the Senate. But the vice presidency has become so powerful nowadays, she would be president of the Senate as vice president, if you remember your civics, and she might actually figure that other time she would have more power in the vice presidency.
OLBERMANN: You broke the story in March that there was a conversation, the possible dangling of the governorship of New York, is that still a possibility?
ALTER: I don‘t think so. I mean, I don‘t think she was ever interested in it. What interested me about it was that it was floated by a very senior Democrat and at that time they were looking for any desperate exit strategy to get her out of it. It‘s also depended on Governor Paterson, the flubbing which he wasn‘t quite (INAUDIBLE).
OBLERMANN: That was the nice, last nice idea. But is there a tipping point? And have we reached it yet of which there is—the answer to the question: What does she do next—is nothing, they don‘t let her do anything; maybe she gets to write a book about the campaign like Howard Wolfson?
ALTER: Well, as they kind of move off stage a little bit and you could feel the power seeping out of the Clinton balloon over the last couple of days, it may that her options start to dwindle the way John Kerry‘s have for instance. Democrats are not usually very nice to losers, Republicans treat them much better.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. Thank you, Jon.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. You like green eggs and ham, you say. Well, this is what comes of green eggs - well, you know, green eggs in the mama dog‘s ovaries. I don‘t want to spoil the (INAUDIBLE).
Worst Persons: No wonder Senator Clinton said if Democrats have Republican rules, she would already been nominated. Her top strategist thought they did have Republican rules. That‘s ahead.
But first: The headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed.
Number three: Fix the 2008 election-gate. The effort to get Senator McCain out of his problems with the Federal Election Committee amps up. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell bows there will not be separate votes on each proposed new commissioner of FEC. The Democrats are not going to approve a full slate nominated by Mr. Bush.
So, there will continue to be not enough commissioners for the FEC to take action on a McCain shell game in which he first opted in the taxpayer funding of his campaign and got a bank loan based on that taxpayer funding and then claim he had the right to opt out of the tax payer funding.
Number two: Support the troops-gate. The Pentagon‘s own records show that since 2003, a number of U.S. troops were sent to Afghanistan or Iraq even though their own medical reports indicated they were unfit to serve, medically unfit for service, just a few, only 43,000. Only 6 percent or 7 percent were too sick or too physically limited to fight.
And number one: Please talk slowly we‘re Republicans-gate. You will remember when a unit at Homeland Security suggested that certain phrases in the so-called “war on terror” should be dropped because to the Arab and Muslim worlds, they do not mean what we think they mean.
This has led former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum, to explode in righteous and totally uninformed anger in a column he wrote for a Philadelphia newspaper. “Never use jihadist or mujahedeen or Islamo-fascist to describe our enemy,” he writes. “These words are deemed pejorative and offensive.”
Sadly, no. The researchers suggested dropping jihadist and mujahedeen because they weren‘t offensive to Muslims, because the words imply not revolution or terror or even holy war, but they mean the struggle to do good.
See, Rick, if you think you‘re calling somebody a terrorist but you‘re actually saying he‘s a guy struggling to do good, this decreases everybody else‘s sense that he might in fact be doing something wrong. And no, Rick. The researchers did not offer a way to safely explain to the Arab states your references to man on dog sex.
OLBERMANN: In a moment, “best persons” and the juror in the pot possession case, arrested for pot possession. But first, on this date in 1909, rookie Harry Krause of the Philadelphia Athletics beat the Washington Senators 1-0, beginning the greatest start to the career of any athlete you have never heard of. Krause proceeded to win each of his first ten starts. Six of them were shutouts, and like that first victory 99 years ago today, four of them were 1-0 games. But the last two victories came in just a three-day span in July and during then something happened to Harry Krause‘s pitching arm. The rest of the career saw Krause win 25 more games and lose 25 more games and he was gone from the big leagues after just four seasons. Let‘s play oddball.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Pittsburgh pirates just signed him, by the way.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): And we begin in Louisiana where we finds the eco-friendly dog of the future, it‘s the world‘s first green puppy. It runs on wheat grass, zero carbon emit—oh, it‘s a green puppy? The owners say the baby boxer was born in this odd hue while the rest of the litter appears normal. Vets say the odd coloration could be caused by the mommy dog‘s placenta or it could also be the dye job or the green coat could be the result of the radioactive gamma rays. So, whatever you do, don‘t make hulk puppy angry.
Any internet, we don‘t know where this video is from, who shot it but it appears to be a marching band performing for a crowd of interested on-lookers, there‘s always one wise guy in the crowd, a punk kid making his own fun at the band‘s expense, who‘s taken down by the tuba player. That will learn you, junior. That wouldn‘t be as good if the cymbal didn‘t crash as the kid hit the deck. We think that‘s for real.
John McCain‘s Pastor John Hagee had withdrawn his remarks blaming Hurricane Katrina on tolerance for gays. But now he has made a new claim, blaming Hurricane Katrina on tolerance for gays.
Star Jones versus Barbara Walters. This isn‘t going to be a long fight, is it? This story had the first time we got the “best persons in the world” number three.
Best Homeland Security innovation, in fact first Homeland Security innovation, Levanche Johnson, Transportation Security Manager at Midway in Chicago now offering security training with three separate lanes marked with signs like at ski resorts, beginners, casual travelers and black diamond course for advanced passengers who don‘t need to be told to take off their shoes and take out their laptops, but just go ahead and do it.
Number two second best criminal, Andre Smith from Bensalem, Pennsylvania, crashed a bachelorette party there, even ducked into a photograph with a group of women. And then at the nearby convenience store, Mr. Smith allegedly robbed two women of their purses. Yes, the same women with whom he took the photograph with. Surprisingly enough he‘s under arrest.
And number one best criminal. Cornelia Mayo of Houston. One of 20 prospective jurors. Juror number two, in fact, for a criminal trial for a woman accused of possession of marijuana. The jurors were given a 45-minute break. But when it ended, Ms. Mayo was nowhere to be found. As the judge was about to issue a bench warrant for juror number two so the pot possession trial could begin, police called and said they have arrested Ms. Mayo after they found her outside the courthouse steps smoking a joint.
Talk about a jury of your peers!
OLBERMANN: Maybe as if Barack Obama had suddenly welcomed back Jeremiah Wright. Pastor John Hagee for whose John McCain had lobbied, had blamed Hurricane Katrina on divine vengeance because New Orleans was going to hold a gay pride parade. A week ago, Hagee said he was wrong about that. Yesterday, Hagee said, no, I was right. It was because New Orleans was going to hold the gay pride parade. Our third story tonight, the pastor‘s double standard, anything but pastoral. The Reverend John Hagee now retracting his previous retraction of comments about other Americans who deserve to die during the nationally broadcast comments Hagee made before Mr. McCain had sought his endorsement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. JOHN HAGEE, MCCAIN‘S PASTOR: I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they are—were recipients of the judgment of god for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay pride parades. So, I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And came Hagee‘s correction of those remarks. But then yesterday pushed by a caller on a conference call for why he had backed off. And Hagee said he hadn‘t, he said, “God always punishes unconfessed sin.” McCain, apparently, also writing off the Catholic vote. Mr. Hagee having referring to that religion in his writings, “a great whore.” And there‘s a second religious problem for Mr. McCain tonight. The senator today went to a New York firehouse in New York City, stopping at a plaque honoring firefighters who died on 9/11. This almost exactly two years after McCain sought the political blessings of a man who said those that died on 9/11 probably deserved it. Jerry Falwell, who voiced his hatred of America on national TV while New York firefighters were still searching for their dead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY FALWELL: What we saw on Tuesday as terrible as it is, could be minuscule, if in fact—if in fact God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give u probably what we deserve. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad, I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU people for the American way, all of them who try to secularize America, I point the thing in their face and say, you helped this happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It was two years ago. Well after the world knew, Falwell said America probably deserved 9/11. McCain sold off the integrity that once led him to call Falwell an agent of intolerance and embraced that man as a friend, compatriot, and ally. And if you want to argue that neither of this main was McCain‘s pastor. McCain is also yet to renounce his “spiritual guide,” Rod Parsley who says America was founded to destroy Islam. Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson and also of course, columnist and associate editor of “The Washington Post.” Good evening, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Hagee in a moment. But first, Obama‘s pastor turned out to have analogize the U.S. to Al Qaeda and Obama renounced the comparison immediately and then renounced the man within six weeks. McCain‘s guy blames the U.S. for 9/11. McCain does the photo op at the firehouse today. I don‘t know if anybody else put these two things together today. This is one of the great political magic tricks of all time, is it not?
ROBINSON: It really is. You know, you look at those clips and listen to what Hagee has actually said. The guy is a complete lunatic and he makes Jeremiah Wright sound fairly mainstream. Yet McCain seems to get away with this, you know, without denouncing and rejecting and renouncing and dejecting, or whatever and all the things that Obama had to do with Jeremiah Wright.
OLBERMANN: And about Hagee, with this latest switch again, this is like watching Haley‘s comet return every couple of weeks. For democrats, it has the potential to be batting practice. You know, this is no longer difficult to follow the story at all. Has nobody said to Senator McCain, hey remember that guy Obama threw under the bus? Your version of him is still on your bus?
ROBINSON: You would think that McCain is going to have to address this seriously or frontally at some point because clearly Reverend Hagee is going to keep saying these things and who knows what he‘s going to say next. And I don‘t see how McCain having essentially accepted the endorsement and the association can continue to pretend that Hagee is not out there. I mean, there is a kind of demagoguery gap between democrats and republicans.
Republicans are much better demagoguing these issues than democrats are. Because, you know, I guess democrats remain tethered to things like objective fact and fairness or whatever, but by any standard there are parallels here that have to be addressed.
OLBERMANN: Well, it‘s not just that. But we like variety, too. I mean, you‘re doing the same story every night gets a little redundant. But if you keep changing - if the guy keeps doing a 180 every week, we get a new version every other week.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s just keep doing this. If you are a newspaper editor, what is the difference in how McCain and Obama are seen that puts Reverend Wright on front page and Reverend Hagee nowhere at all? Is it as simple as black and white?
ROBINSON: Yes and no. There are actually two answers to that question. Why does Reverend Wright get front page and Hagee doesn‘t? You know, I mean, what people just tend to say is that, well, Reverend Wright was Obama‘s pastor. Well, you know, that doesn‘t mean that they share the same views. That doesn‘t mean they see the world the same way. My two answers would be number one, there‘s not enough diversity in the news media. There isn‘t enough diversity, racial ethnic diversity among the people who are making those decisions and exercising news judgment as to what deserves the front page and what deserves, you know, top of the newscast.
And, second, “The Post” actually did a column on this very subject from the social science perspective. And it turns out that members of one group tend to look at members of a different group and think they have more in common with each other than they necessarily do. So, again, with the lack of diversity, people look at these two black guys, a pastor and Obama, and tend to think they have more in common, views in common and lots of things in common than they actually would necessarily have. So, you know, there are dissertations on the subject.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I guess. They may be safer after the election. We‘ll see. Gene Robinson of MSNBC and “the Washington Post.” Thank you, Gene.
ROBINSON: OK, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What‘s with the complaint with the Barbara Walters autobiography? Just because she said she had an affair with a senator and one of her bosses? I mean, these are the details we‘re happy to hear her get out of her interviewees.
And “worst persons,” Cindy McCain insists her husband will introduce nothing negative in the campaign. She is apparently unaware that just last night he repeated his attempt to tie Obama to Hamas. Ahead on “Countdown.”
OLBERMANN: She survived Harry Reasoner and a thousand TV critics who are wondering why she deserved a million dollars “to stare into a camera.” That was 32 years ago. The betting is she‘ll survive Star Jones and Bill O‘Reilly and all the other critics. Barbara Walters versus the world next.
But first, let‘s go “Countdown‘s number two story, our “worst persons in the world.” The bronze to Dick Morris of (Fox)ph News, going bill “indeterminate in the election will be whether we believe if Barack Obama is what he appears to be or is he somebody who is sort of a sleeper agent who really doesn‘t believe in our system and is more in line with Wright‘s views.” Sleeper agent, well there goes that Manchurian candidate imagery again. A reminder to Mr. Morris and all other who used it that the movie “The Manchurian Candidate” is about the U.S. presidential election and an ex-P.O.W. who was brainwashed in southeast Asia, just suggesting this could blow back on you, Dick.
The silver medallist this evening, Mark Penn, the former Clinton chief strategist was a little short on the knowledge. This according to “Time” magazine under Karen Tumulty “that became abundantly clear in a strategy session last year according to two people who were there. As aides look over the campaign calendar, chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state‘s 370 delegates. It sounded smart but as every high school civic student now knows, Penn was wrong. Democrats, unlike the republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals rather than allowing any state to award the winner take all. The truth rumors that Mr. Penn thought that way about California because he just assumes Senator Clinton was running for the republican nomination.
But tonight‘s, gold medal winner, Mrs. John McCain. Cindy telling our Ann Curry that an Obama-McCain presidential race will be “a great debate,” which the American public deserves. More importantly, none of this negative stuff. You won‘t see it come out of our side at all because my husband is absolutely opposed to any negative campaigning at all.” Yes. That‘s why hubby did such a robust job trying to get the North Carolina GOP to drop its smear campaign against Obama. He spoke sternly to them. And that‘s why McCain said I think it‘s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas, I think people can make judgments accordingly. And when given a second chance, he told Jon Stewart, “that‘s not dirt. That‘s just fact.”
Obama already branded Hamas a terrorist organization, refused to negotiate
with them unless they renounce violence and recognize Israel and the
Israeli-Palestinian accords. So Cindy, your husband is running a fully
negative campaign. He‘s a flaming fraud. And if you think he‘s clean, so
are you! Cindy McCain, today‘s “worst person in the world”
OLBERMANN: Sex, infidelity and fighting with a co-anchor. With this kind of stuff about celebrities, temporary and enduring, America has turned for four decades to Barbara Walters. It may not until now has her reporting been about Barbara Walters. And our number one story in the “Countdown,” odd to see her taken to task for anything in her recently published life stories. Certainly, not lightweights like Star Jones or Bill O‘Reilly. Ms. Walters on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” described an account from her memoir an audition involving Miss Jones‘ comportment after her gastric bypass surgery in 2003. Star Jones initially plan to go public with the surgery she says but then changed her mind and expected her co-hosts on “The View” to keep her secret. “Then we had to lie on the set every day because she said it portion control and Pilates.”
Walters also stressed, however, that she had reached out to Jones shortly after her abrupt departure from “The View,” and the two had lunch and made peace. Nothing about bread sticks, but Miss Jones shot back focusing instead on another part of Miss Walters memoirs, the now widely publicized account of Walters‘ affair with a married senator in the 1970s, quoting “it is a sad day when an icon like Barbara Walters, in the sunset of her life is reduced to publicly branding herself as an adulterer, humiliating an innocent family with accounts of her illicit affair and speaking negatively against me all for the sake of selling a book. It speaks to her true character.”
Miss Walters‘ publicist responded, “I will not dignify this with a comment.” And then there was Bill O., who used his interview with Miss Walters to pester her about Rosie O‘Donnell. Let‘s turn to comedian Paul F. Tompkins, who, of course, is also a regular contributor of “VH1‘s best week ever.” Paul, good evening.
PAUL F. TOMPKINS, “VH1‘S BEST WEEK EVER”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Sunset of her life. Seriously, Star Jones is tacky enough to go with sunset of her life?
TOMPKINS: To be fair, it could be that Star is a huge cream fan and misread the lyrics. Yes, that‘s - what I love is she goes through the list of things that Barbara used to sell books, you know, the affairs, the adultery and everything and then making fun of Star Jones is equated with those things. I don‘t think that‘s really high on the list of reasons why people are buying the book.
OLBERMANN: Cover of “The New York Times” book review. If you want a book that makes fun of Star Jones, this is the one for you. I saw it! It was a big illustration. How is it that Star Jones thinks she can win a rematch with Barbara Walters anyway when she lost that first one kind of badly?
TOMPKINS: Yes, an important rule in any media war is you should still be in the media. It helps to not have been kicked off a show to zero protest, have that show flourish without you for years and have the first blip on the radar view be when your marriage crumbles after less than a decade that you make a huge deal out of it. It‘s kind of hard at that point not to maybe just keep your mouth shut.
OLBERMANN: Barbara Walters also kind of pulled her punches on this. I mean, she had described that Jones‘ promotion of this wedding to Al Reynolds on “The View” and how it made the audience increasingly uncomfortable and when Oprah Winfrey basically gave Walters the opportunity to comment on this recent divorce filing in the Jones‘ household, she declined. I mean, that‘s kind of gracious. And it is responded to this way by somebody who isn‘t kind of gracious. I guess.
TOMPKINS: Yes. I think Barbara showed a remarkable amount of grace. I will tell you who didn‘t is Oprah, who seemed to be trying to get something going there to continue this fight. Like Oprah thought it was “Dangerous Liaisons” or something, trying to get the gossip started. She might as well had a powdered wig on and painted a beauty mark on her cheek.
OLBERMANN: And O‘Reilly went after Barbara on his show just as an excuse to go after Rosie O‘Donnell. And I thought Barbara Walters handled that fairly well. Why did she, I mean, why did she put herself through that? This is obviously a woman whose name recognition is higher than you times me. Why would she bother to promote the book in that way?
TOMPKINS: I know. I get you have to sell books and there‘s a million TV shows, but maybe don‘t go on all one million TV shows. You know, to that point, put up some posters, send out a myspace bulletin, create a Facebook, learn how to twitter.
OLBERMANN: And Barbara also claimed Rosie O‘Donnell had rage issues and Rosie responded on her website quoting “what the hell are you talking about?” And then there‘s a four-letter word starting with ‘s,‘ and then damn it. It‘s nice to see somebody with a sense of humor in this. Is it not?
TOMPKINS: Yes. That‘s the thing about Rosie, she doesn‘t care. Even with the Donald Trump stuff, Rosie always seems to have an attitude of, hey, we‘re all millionaires, it‘s just fun. Unless you‘re Elizabeth Hasselbeck, then it becomes serious. If you‘re Elizabeth Hasselbeck, God help you if the sun sets on you in this TV studio tonight.
OLBERMANN: And ultimately, Paul, the lesson for any other TV icon who publishes a memoir is what, that those people in earlier times when there were just three networks would have been getting you the coffee, that when you publish the book, they‘re going to try to bite your ankles?
TOMPKINS: That is exactly right. And that is why Army Archerd chose retirement at the age of 110.
OLBERMANN: Army Archerd. Paul F. Tompkins, comedian and contributor to “VH1‘s best week ever.” Thanks, as always, Paul.
TOMPKINS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Let‘s briefly, before we go, recap out top story tonight and the denial that followed. “Countdown” has learned from an unimpeachable source that Senator Clinton‘s communications director Howard Wolfson has this week begun the process of trying to get a book deal, a strong indicator that Mr. Wolfson may not be expected to be occupied with anything else in the immediate future, like say, a Clinton campaign that continues into November or even June.
Mr. Wolfson has, tonight, told our Chuck Todd that it‘s just not true. He also told the politico.com website, “I have not spoken to any publishers. I have not spoken to any agents. I am not planning on writing a book, at least not about this campaign.” Of course, we did not report that the book was necessarily about this campaign. And we stand by this story. That‘s “Countdown” for this the 1,834th 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.