Guests: Richard Wolffe, Eugene Robinson, Dana Milbank, John Dean, Josh Green
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Grant received Lee. The Capulets visit the Montagues. Obama meets Clinton.
Of all the things they may have discussed the vice presidency was not one of them, nor apparently, any thing of substance, not even the Clinton campaign debt. Just the process to discuss what each would commit to the other—a senior aide to one candidate briefed on the summit told Politico.
How‘d they keep it a secret? An hour at Senator Feinstein‘s house while everyone else was at Senator Clinton‘s house.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: They sat in the living room in two comfortable chairs, and I left
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The chairs and all the other furniture in that living room appear to be OK.
And this sound byte is not what it appears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let the games begin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He‘s talking about the 2016 Olympics, possibly in Chicago, not say Hillary Clinton starring on Saturday noon live. Her farewell/endorsement/who knows what at high noon tomorrow.
And what Terry McAuliffe, is she going to do next?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I hope she‘s going to Disneyland.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I‘ll do the jokes around here. If she‘s not the V.P. nominee, what is there for her—a leadership in the Senate, governor, another White House bid?
A McCain senior advisor says he believed eavesdropping on e-mails or phone calls by Americans to people of other countries is not just legal, but constitutionally protected. We will ask John Dean.
Bushed: The president‘s bizarre 2004 pep talk after the contractor murders at Fallujah, quote, “There is a series of moments and this is one of them. We have a better way. Stay strong. Stay the course. Kill them. Be confident. Prevail.”
Worst: Joe Lieberman emails constituents and uses the Republican term for the Democratic Party.
And no, there are no real details out of summit said (ph) Feinstein. That never stopped us before—“Obama-Clinton Secret Meeting Puppet Theater.”
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Friday, June 6th, 151 days until the 2008 presidential election.
The Obama campaign‘s new traveling spokeswoman, my old local L.A.
TV news colleague, Linda Douglas, is revealing this week that the
presumptive Democratic nominee is a serious movie buff, particularly of the
Francis Ford Coppola‘s “Godfather” films - which would mean Senator Obama,
no doubt, remember as Michael Corleone having said in “The Godfather Part
II”, quote, “My father taught me many things here. He taught me in this
room. He thought me, ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.‘”
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The heads of the two families, Senators Obama and Clinton, sitting down last night for a secret meeting, just the two of them, no staff, no spouses, no details, you‘ll get nothing and like it.
How it happened is worthy of a screenplay itself. After his rally in northern Virginia, outside Washington last night, Senator Obama‘s plane is taking off for Chicago with one thing missing: Senator Obama. Only once the engines had started to rev, shortly before take off, were the reporter prisoners on board told that the presumptive nominee was staying behind in the Capitol for a couple of meetings, except one meeting with his formal rival for the nomination.
Early reports suggesting that the tit-for-tat was taking place at Senator Clinton‘s home in Washington northwest. So, that‘s where the camera‘s and reporters all went. Well, at least we got the fresh file tape of her house. Of course, everyone assembled have been punked. The candidates, in fact, were a mile away at home of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.
Earlier this week, Senator Feinstein, a Clinton supporter, having offered the New York Democrat the use of her home for just such a meeting; and yesterday afternoon, Senator Clinton was phoning to take her up on it.
This morning, Senator Feinstein explaining what happened when it all went down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: They sat in the living room in two comfortable chairs and I left. And it was just the two of them and it was a private meeting for about an hour. I went upstairs, I was doing my work and when it was, Barack called and said, “Good night, Dianne.” I came down and said, “Good night.” And we laughed and said good night. And that was it.
It is critical that we have a united party. It is critical that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton work together. And all of us who are Democrats ought to be willing to facilitate that in any way possible. This was one small step.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: One giant leap for - time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, we don‘t know what happened there, for sure. But there was this crypted language from a senior advisor from of the senators talking to Politico about how they laid the ground for discussion of what each would commit to the other but setup no more and a process for that discussion. What on earth does that mean?
WOLFFE: You know, that‘s almost worthy of Ari Fleischer. I think, this is a random collection of words turned together to sound like a sense of—and they usually filled out the space which otherwise you‘d hear the crickets chirping in because all we have here are two people who are tiptoeing around the subject. They are committing to each other and to seeing Democrats win. It‘s really boilerplate stuff.
I think there was a desire to actually start the conversation, but no desire to close it down because that means making a decision and actually, the decider in this case is Barack Obama. He said publicly that he‘s got a committee. They‘re going to make their decisions and take their time.
And when that process is over—he doesn‘t say this, but suggests it—we‘ll see what (INAUDIBLE) is. And maybe Hillary Clinton will have a place and maybe she won‘t.
OLBERMANN: So, if you had to put a bet down on this and there was a transcript later, no talk of a vice presidency, no talk after her $30 million campaign debt?
WOLFFE: I don‘t think there was explicit talk about either of those things, especially since the explicit talk about the vice presidency really backfired for Senator Clinton. On that deep (ph) side of things, I would suspect there‘s some kind of a coded language about helping her wind down her campaign, but money, hard cash terms, I would be surprised.
OLBERMANN: Should we take it as a good sign that according to Senator Feinstein, it was Senator Clinton reaching out to Senator Obama rather than the other way around for this meeting?
WOLFFE: Yes. I think everyone is making an attempt to look like they‘re playing nicely with each other and being gracious and given how, again, Senator Clinton‘s speech on Tuesday really went down badly and heard from her own supporters about that—yes, it‘s important to have the sort of theatrical preparations work out nicely. Of course, it worked very well for everyone except the press corps.
OLBERMANN: Well, that leads also to the question of the speech tomorrow. What was the importance of the meeting taking place before the big event tomorrow at noon?
WOLFFE: Well, the key thing here is tone. And the danger for Senator Clinton is that everyone is going to be caught up in the emotion of the moment for her supporters and, I know, several of her high profile supporters and they‘re still at the anger stage about all this.
Of course, they want to see Democrats win. They know where it‘s all headed in terms of November and who the nominee of the party is. But, they still feel a deep sense of bitterness and betrayal about someone whom they consider a close friend. So, the danger is that she talks to them when, in fact, her audience is something bigger, not just Obama but the Democrats and the nation at large.
OLBERMANN: All right. Bitterness, betrayal, anger—are the Obama traveling press corps feeling all those emotions right now?
WOLFFE: You know, if you lock them out like cage animals, they start to get angry. And you can‘t do that kind of stunt. I mean, there‘s a serious side of this which is that the reason we travel so closely with candidates is you never know what‘s going to happen. We are interested in what they do but if they‘re going to play this cat and mouse game, then, you end up like the paparazzi in Italy and people will be on motorcycles chasing around candidates. It‘s not desirable for anyone.
OLBERMANN: Right. They‘ll be a second waiting at the airport to see if they try this again.
Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—as always, great thanks, have a good weekend.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Hard as it might be to believe, the race between Senators Obama and Clinton only hours away from being officially over. As we mentioned, at noon tomorrow, Senator Clinton to suspend her candidacy, to endorse Senator Obama at an event at the National Building Museum in Washington.
Today, she thanked her campaign staff in private with a bar-b-que at her home in Washington. Meantime today, at least, one prominent undecided superdelegate, heeded Senator Harry Reid‘s request to weigh in with endorsements by the end of this week - that would have been Senator Reid.
In a statement, the majority leader calling a presumptive leader a, quote, “once in a generation leader who connects with the hopes and dreams of the American people and will deliver the long overdue change that our country desperately needs. He also congratulated Senator Clinton for the tremendous contributions she has made to the primary campaign and to the country.
This may yet explain Nevada (ph).
Let‘s turn now to our own Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist of the “Washington Post.”
Gene, good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. The last time, we were led to believe that Senator Clinton might concede on Tuesday night, instead Terry McAuliffe, her campaign chair, introduced her as the next president of the United States and it all went pretty much downhill from there.
So, to start that question that everybody is either saying or thinking about with fingers crossed—are we certain this is going to happen tomorrow?
ROBINSON: OK. Now, Keith, you used the word certain, OK? Now, you realized we no longer guarantee our predictions. Although we‘d be happy to give you one but we don‘t guarantee them.
You know, yes, I think she does concede tomorrow. I think it‘s a gracious concession and expression of support for Senator Obama. And the omen that I‘m consulting here is Terry McAuliffe, who, you know, who early today had exceedingly gracious things to say about how now it‘s time for us all to get together and support Senator Obama in the general election campaign.
It was rather specific. It was pretty airtight. So, I think it‘s going to happen.
OLBERMANN: All right. Well then, let‘s—to complete the joke made at Senator Feinstein‘s conclusion that last night‘s meeting was one small step.
All right. What does Senator Clinton need to do tomorrow or say tomorrow to take the whole “Neil Armstrong” sentence and complete it to achieve the one giant leap for the Democratic unity?
ROBINSON: Well, it‘s not only what she has to do and say, it‘s the way she has to do and say it. I mean, she has to, I think, be, you know—mindful of her own accomplishments this year—I think she has to be gracious, but also enthusiastic about the prospect of defeating John McCain in the fall.
She has to reiterate something she said before which is that she will work her heart out and do anything she can to get a Democrat elected, talk about how important it is. I think one thing she might, you know, I would suggest, she might not do this time is put over much emphasis on, you know, I got 18 million votes and you know, that sort of thing. You don‘t want that tone from Tuesday, which sounded more like a victory speech than a concession.
OLBERMANN: All right. Obviously, this is not, although she is taking the stage literally tomorrow at noon, live here on MSNBC. She is—this is not entirely to say this burden is entirely hers. What does Senator Obama need to do to bridge the gap with her supporters even if you went by the construction that he had nothing to do with its creation?
ROBINSON: He—you know, it‘s fairly delicate in that he has to do things. Two things, he has to appeal to her supporters in a way that doesn‘t, to use a term, that doesn‘t diss her many accomplishments this year and the fact that vote, she did get, you know, 18 million votes and she has very dedicated supporters who saw her campaign as a real glass ceiling shattering giant leap.
But, at the same time, he is presumptive nominee. So, there has to be a certain command and authority about what he does. So, he has to be confident and sure of himself. He doesn‘t want to look as if—even though he won, he‘s still kind of taking directions from everybody else in the party including Senator Clinton. He has to be in charge now.
OLBERMANN: All right. And there‘s one actual specific thing that I‘m wondering if this can be somehow resolved tomorrow or is it going to take longer than that. Senator Obama said yesterday that President Clinton was an enormous talent and I want him campaigning for me—in this country?
ROBINSON: Well, again, that‘s probably unresolved. I mean, you know, it wasn‘t specific there. Look, the general election is a different kind of campaign.
I think, it is, again, we don‘t guarantee our predictions but mine would be that Bill Clinton on the campaign trail would be different in the campaign against John McCain than he was in, you know, a hard fought primary companion when he was trying to get his wife the nomination. He was personally invested in this campaign in a way that he won‘t necessarily be in the fall.
And, obviously, he‘s a man of enormous undeniable political gifts. He got a lot of votes for Hillary Clinton in a lot of places. He also lost her some votes in a lot of places. But, you know, the voters that he most avidly drove away from Obama, African-Americans, really already support Obama. So, there‘s less damage that he could do, certainly.
OLBERMANN: Well, he might not be different, but certainly, our perceptions of what he was saying and doing would be different. But you know, not for sure.
ROBINSON: That‘s true, too.
OLBERMANN: Noon, high noon as they used to call it out west.
Eugene Robinson of “Washington Post” and MSNBC—thanks for your time tonight.
ROBINSON: See you at high noon.
OLBERMANN: You bet.
This programming note: Join Chris Matthews and me at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for the pre-game show. The game is at noon, and post game analysis of the Hillary Clinton concession speech, endorsement of Barack Obama, and flying circus, plus early highlights of the Royals and Yankees and Orioles - I‘m sorry, that was a flashback to the game of the week.
Speaking of flashbacks, Monday night in COUNTDOWN, we will take the entire 16 months of the primary season and turn it into a 10-minute highlight reel, Monday night at this time here on COUNTDOWN.
So, if Senator Clinton isn‘t the presidential candidate, what next for her - the Supreme Court, is she the Richard Nixon of 2010s? We‘ve insisted we didn‘t know what happened at their meeting last night, in fact, we will show you highlights in “Obama-Clinton Secret Meeting Public Theater.”
And in Bushed: The president‘s pep talks to his generals in Iraq—
“kick ass, stay strong, stay the course, this isn‘t Vietnam.” Oh, boy.
OLBERMANN: Vice President Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Clinton or “I ran for the presidency and the Democrats lost and all I got was this lousy blame” Clinton? On the eve of her big speech, her big options.
John McCain says he‘s different. According to one of his top advisors, he‘s not different however about his right to spy on you without a warrant.
And in Worst: The “Associated Press,” Senator Joe Lieberman, and Bill-O.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: While she is widely expected to throw her support behind Obama and whether on the ticket or not, campaign for his presidency, our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: After November, what becomes of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton?
When asked exactly that by reporters this morning, her campaign chair, who was still introducing her as the next president of the United States on Tuesday night, offered up this suggestion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCAULIFFE: I hope she‘s going to go to Disneyland. So, I want to do it with my five kids. We‘re going to take some time, relax, and do anything we can to help Barack Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And after that, there are several options on the table. She could consolidate her position in the Senate, perhaps running for majority leader or taking a leadership role in health care. She could turn away from Congress and run for governor of New York. Some have even suggested to become a Supreme Court justice, if there‘s a vacancy. And of course, there‘s always the possibility of running again for president in 2012 or even 2016.
As the former House majority leader, Republican Dick Armey of Texas put it, quote, “Nixon came back. My own view is she‘s come out of all this diminished - all those gaffes. But she‘ll be back in four years. I learned early on, to my detriment, not to count Hillary Clinton out.”
Joining us now: Josh Green, senior editor of “The Atlantic.‘
Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
JOSH GREEN, THE ATLANTIC: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A Nixon-esque presidential resurrection, is that likely? Or is it gubernatorial run likely, or some sort of an attempt to consolidate and rebuild her bridges in the Senate?
GREEN: I think a Nixon scenario is likely even if she‘s not on the ticket with Obama and Obama loses in the fall. You‘d expect in that case, the Hillary, you know, 2012 campaign would probably about to kick off the next day.
OLBERMANN: But, whichever option though, if that‘s the setup to it, and Obama lost in the fall, the Democrats have lost with or without her on the ticket, she will take some, most, or all of the blame for that. How could she overcome that that quickly no matter, you know, what she‘d try to do, especially, how could she come back and try to run again in 2012?
GREEN: Well, I think that‘s the prime motivator for why she needs to settle her differences with Obama now, come out and endorse him tomorrow, and then campaign like hell for him between now and November. You know, if she puts in a good faith effort, if she convinces Democrats and Obama supporters she‘s done everything she can to get him elected, then a lot of the blame that half of the party feels toward her now, I think, will be diminished by November, even if he does lose.
OLBERMANN: The Senate, whether it is something as, like majority leader or another leadership position, or it‘s just, you know, a traditional health care advocate, the Senator Kennedy role, she does have a seniority problem, doesn‘t she? I mean, she‘s 39th among all the Democrats at this point?
GREEN: Yes. She‘s got a seniority problem and she‘s got a popularity problem. She‘s not senior enough to even have an important committee chairmanship and the majority leader, let‘s remember, this is done by secret ballot by her fellow senators and they‘re not exactly lacking for ambition themselves.
There are a number of them, Dodd, Schumer, her home state senator, Dick Durbin from Illinois—all of whom are thought to have some interest in being majority leader, I think, are more popular than Clinton is.
So, there‘s no real clear path for her in the Senate. She‘d be an obvious choice to handle Obama‘s health care portfolio in the Senate, but, you know, one wonders if that‘s going to be enough to satisfy her ambition. I suspect it‘s probably not.
OLBERMANN: Would the Supreme Court satisfy her ambition? Is that even a possibility?
GREEN: I think that‘s a great idea. I mean, when you think about the actual job description, you know, you‘re accountable to no one and your word is the law of the land. I mean, that‘s a job description, I think, would really appeal to Hillary Clinton.
OLBERMANN: There are all sorts of jokes about the first Clinton administration we could inject there, but let‘s pass.
Lastly, Senator Clinton‘s personal popularity in the polls went down throughout her campaign. That fallout—is it necessarily to some degree permanently damaging or is Dick Armey‘s point correct that you should never assume this is the case with her?
GREEN: No, I think, her personal popularity is going to hinge to a tremendous extent on how Barack Obama fares in the fall. You know, if he wins in November, if the Bush administration is through, if the Democrats get back the White House, I think all is forgiven. Not just with Hillary Clinton, but with Bill Clinton, too. They can both adopt this sort of, you know, why isn‘t a senior position in the party and be consulted and bow down to, because there‘s no real cost for Democrats.
So, I think, they‘d be so giddy to have the White House and both houses of Congress that there‘s really not going to be a lot of time or interest in being angry at Hillary Clinton. You know, and if you really want to get rid of them, if you want to get them out of elective politics for good, you know, you could have him or her a Supreme Court slot. There‘s probably going to be more than one slot open. Bill and Hillary could both be on the bench.
OLBERMANN: Well, it would be an American first. So, at least, that have not toward them.
GREEN: Be an American something.
OLBERMANN: Josh Green, senior editor of “The Atlantic”—many thanks, have a good weekend.
GREEN: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Here we go, again. Keith gets to swear. That‘s right. Jesus Christ on the french fry. Jesus Christ on a french fry. I like that one.
And Bill-O is back after a high ‘80s (ph) to compete for Worst Person honors tonight.
But first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed.
Number three: Blackmail-gate. Britain‘s newspaper, “The Independent” reports that the Iraqi government is not as interested in the so-called strategic alliance with us as Mr. Bush and Secretary Rice have suggested. In fact, they‘re not interested at all in having keep the American military bases there pretty much until the end of time.
“But conveniently,” the paper says, “we‘re blackmailing them.” There is $20 billion worth of outstanding American court judgments against Iraq. But there‘s a presidential order immunizing Iraq from those claims, all of which that date back to the Saddam Hussein dictatorship.
“The Independent” reports that if the Iraqis don‘t agree to the strategic alliance, Mr. Bush will end the immunity. And since the Iraqi government has $50 million in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, it wouldn‘t have any chance of keeping the $20 billion out of the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts.
Number two: The president may not be rational-gate. Comedian Rush Limbaugh dropping aside about Iran, “I had talked to a bunch of his soldiers (ph) and then they said to me that they can‘t see Bush leaving office with Iran still a problem - a nuclear problem. He‘s not out of office yet, either.”
No doubt that the implication there is war with Iran and if he can‘t fool some of the people on that one, again, bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, then check out the next one.
Number one: The president may not be rational-gate. In General Ricardo Sanchez‘s new book, “Wiser in Battle,” there, is contained his story of watching in horror on a teleconference after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004. Sanchez said that Mr. Bush‘s pep talk to the generals was confused, to say the least.
“Kick ass. If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them. We must be tougher than hell. This Vietnam stuff is not even close. It is a mindset. We can‘t send that message. It‘s an excuse to prepare for the withdrawal. This is a series of moments and this is one of them.
Our will is being tested but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong, stay the course. Kill them, be confident. Prevail. We are going to wipe them out. We are not blinking.”
What is your major malfunction?
Good Lord, he used every platitude and cliche in there except momma said “knock you out” and employees must wash hands.
OLBERMANN: Best Persons, in a moment. And Dairy Air Airlines is charging you for your flight by the pound.
First, it happened on this day 62 years ago, though the details and in fact, the verification had been lost to history. Henry Morgan was a brilliant and ceaseless radio and TV satirist. He so frequently made fun of advertisers. It was once said of him that if others were willing to bite the hand that feed them, he was trying for the whole arm.
Was a brilliant and ceaseless radio and TV satirist. He so frequently made fun of advertisers it was once said of him that if others were willing to bite the hand that fed them, he was trying for the whole arm. And supposedly on this date in 1946 he went for both arms, the collar and the tail. Henry Morgan credited with being the first man to ever take his shirt off on television. On that note, let‘s play “Oddball.”
Often, people said this in Sacramento, California without knowing it was the truth. Jesus Christ on a French fry. A local woman in the California capital said she was cooking dinner for husband when she suddenly noticed the crispy crucifix, adding that she has never seen anything like it in her 88 years on the planet. No word on whether Jesus Christ will follow the path of Jesus Christ on an oyster, Jesus Christ on a fish stick and Jesus Christ on a pierogie and wind up on eBay.
To Cubria in England and an uncomfortable meeting between the queen of that country and the country‘s leading facial contortionist. He screwed up his face to look like, I don‘t know what it is, a pig? While wearing a horse harness, as her royal highness tried to get around him. We are not amused. I‘m queen and have to suffer through this crap.
Finally to a road near Minsk in Belarus where two local strong men have strapped themselves to a tank and are prepared to pulled it more than 15 feet. Using ladders for grip, they managed to achieve their goal. And now both guys will be in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the only people to do this. Equal credit even though the guy on the right is not pulling as hard as the other guy is. Nevertheless, having figured out how to get it to move, these guys are now generals.
General McCain setting himself up as the good change candidate. One of his to advisers endorsing the exact same kind of eavesdropping on Americans with which George Bush has poisoned the country. John Dean, next.
And then, inside the Clinton-Obama secret meeting. The only way we know how. Clinton-Obama secret meeting puppet theater.
These stories ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best aliases. Richard Scott Odell of Pinson, Alabama. Sheriff‘s deputies say they had to stun him four times with a taser after he was found wondering in the middle of the road at 4:00 a.m. naked. Mr. Odell said they should not bother with handcuffing him because he could break their handcuffs because he‘s Jesus Christ and George Bush. Authorities said he appeared to be intoxicated. You think?
Number two, best irrational denial. K-Mart responding with indignation after its new “True Love Waits” sweatpants for teenagers were described as part of an abstinence campaign. They are, quote, “not associated with a group or cause” said a spokesman. And the message “True Love Waits” was quote, “just a graphic put on the pants.” Yeah, except K-Mart‘s description of the pants highlights among other things its “draw string waist,” its “elastic cups,” and its “bold abstinence screen print.”
And number one, best promotional campaign. Readers of the two Philly papers, “The Inquirer” and “The Daily News” were stunned today to find ads therein for new airline called Derrie-Air which was to charge passengers based on how much they weighed. Per pound service to several destinations. It turns out, there‘s no Derrie-Air. It was just an effort to demonstrate the effectiveness of newspaper advertising. The ads in fact were placed their by the company that owns the newspapers.
OK, does this mean, you‘re not going to fly me to Scranton if I lose 20 pounds?
OLBERMANN: As with so many positions on which Senator McCain hews closely and precisely with the Bush administration, the senator has tried to finesse the issue of warrantless wiretaps. In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, finesse no more. With the McCain camp now saying that the senator believes what the current president believes, that the president of the U.S. may claim authority to wiretap Americans even where that might directly contravene a federal statute.
In other words the president may break the law using amorphous constitutional power as an excuse.
A top advisor to Senator McCain set the record straight in a letter posted online by the conservative “National Review” this week. Douglas Holtz Eaken (ph) wrote that McCain believes the Constitution gave President Bush the power to order the National Security Agency to monitor America‘s international phone calls and e-mails without a warrant. This, despite a 1978 federal statute that specifically required court oversight of such surveillance.
Furthermore, quoting him, “neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions most people, except the ACLU and trial lawyers understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.”
As for McCain, himself, saying about six months ago, quote, “I don‘t think the president has the right to disobey a law.” It‘s notable in the very same interview McCain also said quote, “there are some area‘s where the statutes don‘t apply such as the surveillance of overseas communications.”
Once again a pleasure to call in Nixon White House counsel John Dean, columnist now at findlaw.com and author of “Broken Government” and “Worse than Watergate.” John, good evening.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This advisor made clear that Mr. McCain if he becomes president would call on the telecoms again as necessary, citing of course the ever present terrorist threat, claiming presidential power based on Article II in the Constitution. So, just to be clear, do you see daylight between President Bush‘s position on this and Senator McCain‘s?
DEAN: No daylight what so ever. In fact, it‘s quite striking. Both men have adopted a position of Article II that really gives it commander and chief unlimited powers. And McCain is just echoing what Bush and Cheney have set up and been undertaking for the last eight years almost now. So, there is no daylight.
OLBERMANN: A volunteer lawyer for the senator had told a conference, a computer conference that McCain wanted to impose some conditions on the proposed telecom immunity that still sits out there as a possibility. The McCain campaign promptly issued a statement saying he was mistaken in saying there were going to be conditions on telecom immunity. Does this indicate McCain in fact is going to play the same terror card in this election that we saw Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney play in 2004 and we saw the Republicans play against the senatorial candidates and the congressional candidates in 2002 and 2006?
DEAN: It certainly does hint of that. These obviously are the pilot fish of the campaign. The pilot fish being those who follow the shark and feed off the main dish that the shark is not inclined to take and also testing the water and flapping around in the water.
So this is some sign of where the campaign is going to go and it‘s not a pretty place, where they are headed.
OLBERMANN: The senator in this, did he miss an opportunity because he could have said, I will do everything necessary to monitor possible terrorist communications from inside this country to outside of it and vice versa. I will use the laws already on the books because those laws are more than sufficient? Is that just a lost opportunity for the sake of humoring the rest of us, even?
DEAN: Well, that obviously would have been to reach a broad audience, to reach a rather intelligent audience. He‘s playing to an emotional audience. His base. He‘s taking the hard line. So he didn‘t choose the high road. He‘s taking the same route that Bush and Cheney took. And again, it‘s more evidence of where he‘s headed with his campaign.
OLBERMANN: Is there any other explanation, John, for this? It‘s so obvious this FISA court which gives you such a huge window of doing whatever you want in terms of warrant free wiretapping, after the fact going in, when you‘ve already done it, after the fact asking for the warrant, with that great latitude and the FISA courts have phenomenal percentages of granting the requests that you don‘t have to make in advance, there seems to be no other conclusion than to go some other route is to make it look worse than it is and to suggest that somebody is holding out in terms of our ability to use the tools that are already there. Is there any other explanation besides pure politics?
DEAN: Well, there is. It‘s become a part of the conservative canon to actually enhance to powers of the presidency every chance you get. This is of course 180 degrees away from where traditional conservatives were. But now the radical right has indeed made the presidency the leading element of the federal government. It‘s an elected plebiscite every four years where they get a monarchy in there who can do pretty much what he wants to do. So he is really just carrying on in this same tradition, this being one of the reasons I think the government is so severely broken and discouraged by where McCain is taking his campaign.
OLBERMANN: To that point, lastly. McCain has made a big deal sensing the need for change and urging for change on the part of the electorate. He‘s made a big deal about distancing himself from Bush and at the same time from Obama saying I‘m the guy for real change and good change. And at the same time, he‘s doing this, which is no change whatsoever involving invasion of privacy. And he voted against limiting the CIA to the interrogation techniques approved in the Army Field Manual. Where is the change per se?
DEAN: Well, I have trouble finding it. It‘s certainly not a change that most people who would understand that word and its common meaning would appreciate. He‘s clearly using this as campaign rhetoric. He‘s appealing to the emotions of the people who want to see a president who is on the beat 24 hours a day, 24/7 fighting terrorism when terrorism isn‘t indeed the largest issue facing the country anymore. So I don‘t understand why he keeps pushing the campaign in this direction notwithstanding his words to the contrary which I guess he hopes people believe that he will bring change and he is a candidate of change, which doesn‘t bear out.
OLBERMANN: It may be Jay Leno‘s joke, what he‘s talking about, he favors, change, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars. John Dean, the author of “Broken Government, Worse than Watergate.” As always, sir, great thanks, have a good weekend.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We newsies not only don‘t what happened, we weren‘t there when it happened, we didn‘t even know where it was. So for the real skinny, we turn to Obama-Clinton secret meeting puppet theater.
And somehow Joe Lieberman got away with acting like a Republican. But when he starts changing the name of the other political party like a Republican he makes it into “Worst Persons,” ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: What really happened at Dianne Feinstein‘s house last night.
We turn to the only journalistic innovation that can tell you true.
Clinton-Obama secret meeting puppet theater. That is next.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, the “Worst Persons in the World.” The bronze to the Associated Press, preparing a really slanted piece for its thousands of newspaper, radio, TV and Internet clients about the McCain-Obama race and foreign policy.
Larry Schweid (ph) wrote, “Obama by contrast is decades younger and inexperienced in foreign affairs. His political success until now is powered by his youthful optimism for change. While that may ignite enthusiasm, it could also inspire allegations of naivete.”
The article then quotes Secretary of State Rice of all people criticizing Obama‘s willingness to engage Iran leaving out other viewpoints like from that appeaser who says Obama is right, we need to engage Iran, Robert Gates, President Bush‘s secretary of defense. Nothing in media is utterly objective, but its clients keep the Associated Press in business in order to have one entity trying to cut it straight down the middle When the AP starts taking sides and starts reading like the “Washington Times” or “The Nation” we‘re all in trouble.
The runner up, Bill O. who continues to mail it in. Now picking up some of his features from the hilarious inept right wing Web site Newsbusters such as one that criticized our colleague Brian Williams of NBC NIGHTLY NEWS for leading Monday‘s newscast not with the lower May casualty figures from Iraq but with a story on how underfunded mass transit systems can‘t keep up with increased ridership caused by the rape of the rider by Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and their oil buddies.
Bill said, “On the pinhead front, both ABC and CBS told their viewers the month of May U.S. casualties for the month of May were the lowest since the war there began. But somehow NBC‘s Brian Williams neglected to mention that. Somehow old Brian couldn‘t work that in. For ignoring what is an all important story. Brian Williams is a pinhead. Questions? Are you surprised?”
Surprised that you‘re a blithering sociopath, cutting and pasting news items from Newsbusters? No, I‘m not. Surprised you don‘t have a clue about what‘s important or news to Americans like any casualties in Iraq are too many, Bill, and the country is being strangled by big oil? No, I am not. Surprised that you‘re going on 59 and he‘s 49, yet you refer to him as old? No, I am not.
But our winner, Joe Lieberman, former Democratic senator from Connecticut sending some e-mail spam to McCain supporters in which he refreshes their presumably short memories about who he is. Quote, “As you know, I caucus with the Democrats as a United States senator and was the Democrat Party‘s nominee for vice president of the United States against President Bush and Vice President Cheney.”
Hold on there, Sparky, it‘s called the Democratic Party. You don‘t get to change their name just because of some sort of marketing gimmick some Republican dreamt up. If you do, the Democrats are allowed to call you and the Republicans by another name like “fascists.” Or they could pronounce your name differently, L-I-E-B-E-R-M-A-N. Lie-berman.
Senator Joe Lie-berman. Today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”
OLBERMANN: So they evidently did not talk about the vice presidency or Clinton‘s campaign debt or much else evidently. Thus one possible version of that hour-long Obama-Clinton theater supplied by puppet theater, presently our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, who said what? And not just between Clinton but also between Obama but Obama and Senator Joe Lieberman two days ago on the floor of the Senate.
Cameras present for that occasion went after a handshake. Senator Obama led Senator Lieberman to a private corner. In various accounts, onlookers described the exchange as animated, with Senator Obama leaning closely in towards Senator Lieberman. The Connecticut senator‘s back up literally up against a wall.
This happened soon after Lieberman had criticized Obama‘s AIPAC speech in a conference call to that pro-Israel association. So there is some reportage that Senator Obama had a few choice words about the extent of Liberman‘s advocacy for Senator John McCain. But neither side is officially speaking and the four minute chat ended with pats on the back.
As for Obama-Clinton, around 9:00 Eastern last night, there‘s not even video. Horrors. Reporters were camped out at the wrong house, Clinton‘s DC residence, while the secret meeting, of course, unfolded in the living room of the Washington home of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.
The Clinton and Obama aides, one each, were sent to Senator Feinstein‘s study where according to the senator, they watched TV, presumably the TV coverage indicating the meeting was happening at Senator Clinton‘s house.
As ever, when there are no cameras, but plenty of news present and the need to know exceeds the need to know accurately, we turn to the journalistic innovation we used from the Michael Jackson trial to Anna Nicole Smith‘s appearance at the Supreme Court, “Obama-Clinton Secret Meeting Puppet Theater.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUPPET OBAMA: So—you dropping out?
PUPPET CLINTON: Yep.
PUPPET OBAMA: OK, good night.
PUPPET CLINTON: Good night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to “Washington Post” national political reporter, MSNBC political analyst Dana Milbank. Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Excellent puppetry there.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much. That of course is our little joke there, but when this aide from one of the two of them says to Politico was all they established was a process they would commit to each other. You have to ask why would that would have taken longer than puppet theater did?
MILBANK: It reminds you of the old Soviet disarmament talks when they would spend many days discussing what the shape of the table should be. But let‘s give them some credit, here. They had to decide who got the La-Z-Boy, who controlled the remote, and what Payperview movie they were going to watch and then say they had a meeting.
OLBERMANN: The comfy chairs. They had been friends in the Senate. I don‘t know why we‘re showing it again sort of like B-roll as we call it.
Intense presidential rivals for 16 months. There‘s a legitimate fascination not just with what they said, but what kind of energy would have been filling the room. Was it tension, relief, a sense of only you and I know what this is like. Do you want to guess on the tone?
MILBANK: Sure, I‘d be happy to take a guess. First of all, they weren‘t exactly close friends. It was my good friend from the State of New York kind of friends. We have some clues. They were drinking water. They were not drinking Obama‘s Yuengling or Hillary‘s Crown Royal.
So, that may say something about the meeting. I‘m guessing, it was the sort of sexual tension in the room that Craig Ferguson has observed between you and O‘Reilly.
OLKBERMANN: Oh, Lord. Senator Feinstein put them in that room, with or without tension, put them in the comfy chairs, gave them the water and she went away for an hour, apparently.
But she did say she heard no shouting and when everybody was on their way out, there was some laughter. And she didn‘t characterize that.
Is that the sort of belly laughter, the good friend hail well met laughter or phoney ahahaha laughter?
MILBANK: I think nervous laughter is probably most appropriate there and presumably it‘s Obama wondering exactly what Hillary Clinton is going to say tomorrow afternoon here in Washington. We‘ll never know exactly. But all signs point to perhaps a little joke. Perhaps at the press‘ expense.
The one thing they can share is a certain antipathy to the people in our line of work and the fact they had us staking out the wrong houses, good fun for them.
OLBERMANN: It might have been Senator Clinton‘s signature laugh. I understand there are a few left over that weren‘t used, the campaign ended sooner than she thought.
About Obama and Lieberman, is this much easier to figure this one out?
MILBANK: Oh, I would say so. I think if you could read the lips you could see Obama saying, “You are the world person in the world.” There was no fist pump there, no pat on the behind like we saw earlier in the week but no question Lieberman had just done quite a nasty bit of work on Obama during a conference call and he has been out there very aggressively at McCain‘s side.
Now we have to remember Obama did support Ned Lamont as did most Democrats in the Senate, so there is going to be a little bit of bad blood there.
OLBERMANN: But there used to be a friendship there. Wasn‘t there something about that originally? It was sort of an older senator, younger senator kind of support system very early on?
MILBANK: Yes, my good friend the honorable senator from Illinois.
OLBERMANN: So now what he‘s saying is my good friend the senator from Connecticut is finished if McCain doesn‘t win and he doesn‘t shut his mouth between now and then. Is it something more like that?
MILBANK: Right. And he is going to become ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee when the Democrats dump him out because they don‘t need him in the coalition anymore.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. He‘ll be the ranking member of the City Council of Meriden, Connecticut. Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post.” Great thanks. Enjoy the speech.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,863rd day since the declaration of Mission Accomplished in Iraq.
And this reminder? Chris Matthews and I join you again tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, fool us, we thought we were done. Full coverage of the concession celebration of Senator Clinton and Monday night on COUNTDOWN, our primary flashback, the highlights of the entire campaign crammed into 10 minutes.
I‘m Keith Olbermann crammed into 10 minutes myself. Good night and good luck.
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