Guests: Rachel Maddow, Jonathan Alter, Richard Wolffe, Scott McClellan
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Obama vs. big oil. Obama vs. John McCain.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When we‘re paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for ExxonMobil. That isn‘t just irresponsible. It is outrageous.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama says that I‘m running for a Bush‘s third term. It seems to me he‘s running for Jimmy Carter‘s second.
OLBERMANN: The “I am rubber and you are glue” campaign. Senator McCain‘s daily media problem. He denies he ever said the media had mistreated Hillary Clinton, even though he‘s on tape saying the media had mistreated Hillary Clinton. The smears Obama faces, not so much faces, as fists, from shrill to silly. FOX asks, is this:
E.D. HILL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: A fist bump, a pound, a terrorist fist jab?
OLBERMANN: Yes, and Michael Jordan is a terrorist, too.
Scott McClellan returns—the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the propaganda and falsehoods of the White House‘s sales job getting us into Iraq—Mr. McClellan‘s perspective.
Happy anniversary, 54 years to the day since Joe McCarthy self-destructed.
JOSEPH WELCH, ATTORNEY: Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
OLBERMANN: And Bill Moyers neuters Bill-O‘s stalker producer. Hoist on his own petard?
BILL MOYERS, PBS: The last time you ambushed me, I asked you, when was Bill going to talk to us about his sex scandal?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know what you‘re talking about.
MOYERS: If you can‘t come on my show, send somebody below you. Send Bill O‘Reilly.
OLBERMANN: The tape Bill O‘Reilly doesn‘t want you to see—all that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Monday, June 9, 148 days until the 2008 presidential election.
It‘s been argued that every Barack Obama presidential campaign ad could consist of just the following message: The day President Bush took office, the price of a gallon of gas was $1.47. Today, it‘s four bucks. And you‘re thinking of voting for another Republican?
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: the first official weekday of the one-on-one presidential campaign. And even with the visceral and human imperative that is Iraq right now, it‘s the economy, stupid, to coin a phrase.
Senator Obama starting a two-week economic tour today in Raleigh, North Carolina, no Democratic presidential candidate having won the Tarheel State since 1976, Obama obviously hoping to change that in large part today by tying Senator McCain both to President Bush and to big oil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: At the time when we‘re fighting two wars, when millions of Americans can‘t afford medical bills or their tuition bills, when we‘re paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for ExxonMobil. That isn‘t just irresponsible. It is outrageous.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: It‘s outrageous.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator McCain focusing on the economy as well, the economy of his campaign, two fund-raisers today, also defending himself against Senator Obama‘s charges of fiscal irresponsibility, telling our colleague Brian Williams tonight that the American people didn‘t get to know him yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: They know that I have been a strong fiscal conservative. And they know I understand the challenges that they face. They need a little break from their gasoline taxes. And they know that we have got to get spending under control. And we have got to become independent of foreign oil.
Senator Obama says that I‘m running for Bush‘s third term. It seems to me he‘s running for Jimmy Carter‘s second.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Now to call on our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A little break, did he say? Is he back to the gas tax holiday, after it took the wind, the last wind out of Senator Clinton‘s campaign in Indiana?
WOLFFE: He has. Let‘s have at it all over again.
And, only this time—at least Senator Clinton had a plan to pay for it. We don‘t have the same idea of a windfall profits tax on the oil companies from Senator McCain. But, you know, there is—there is this debate that has been thrashed out. And I guess voters are going to have to go through it all over again.
The question is, once more, is this a Band-Aid on a much bigger issue and a much bigger problem facing the American economy.
OLBERMANN: How big of a problem might it be on this topic for Senator McCain, that he is running as a Republican? And never mind that he voted against the Bush energy bill, while Obama voted for the Bush energy bill? Mr. McCain‘s party and his record presided over this record spike in gas prices and record deficits and record spending.
WOLFFE: Well, if it was a problem for voting for Obama voting for the Bush energy bill, then that would have played itself out through the Democratic primary.
Really, the harder, tougher issue for John McCain, not just on the economy, but on a whole range of things, is that he doesn‘t want to run against President Bush. He has said it repeatedly. Journalists have tried to egg him on into sort of criticizing President Bush and his policies. He doesn‘t want to do it.
And that is a problem for someone who is a self-styled maverick, an independent-minded person. And if he‘s not willing to break with two oil executives, former oil executives who run this administration, then it‘s going to be hard for him to put some space around the energy issue, whether it‘s about gas prices or alternative energy.
OLBERMANN: Back to the Democrats and the healing process—Senator on Saturday Clinton with easily the best eight-minute pitch for Senator Obama that anybody has given this year. Senator Obama thanked her for it publicly today.
Among her staunchest supporters, those ones who did boo at the National Building Museum on Saturday, has the healing begun? Is it going to take some time? Do we have any indication of where that is going?
WOLFFE: It‘s going to take a lot of time.
And I think what really needs to happen is, more than—as good as the speech was—more than Senator Clinton saying, Obama is a great guy; you should go out and support him.
Election is about choices. And what we haven‘t heard from Senator Clinton so far is the choices as they lay out between McCain and Obama, why her supporters, when they look at the issues, need to go with Obama, because McCain doesn‘t align with them on a whole range of things, whether it‘s woman‘s right to choice, or on the war, or on the economy.
So, that‘s the kind of argument she needs to make going forward. When Howard Dean backed out of the race in 2004, he didn‘t just stop there. He went out and actively campaigned to bring his supporters on board for John Kerry. It‘s going to be hard for Senator Clinton. It‘s going to be hard for her supporters. But that‘s what needs to happen, if that healing process really is to happen.
OLBERMANN: All right.
On the subject of people with divergent positions on key issues coming together, Obama announced today he is going to enlist the help of Elizabeth Edwards on health care, who did not endorse him, while Senator Edwards did. Both Edwardses were in the front row for the speech that Obama gave in Raleigh today.
She has stated in the past she supported Senator Clinton‘s health care plan. That was as far as she went politically on this. Does he now modify his version to satisfy her? Or is she now just taking the best she can get, and supporting that?
WOLFFE: I think he makes some behind-the-scenes promises to consult them when he‘s president.
But he‘s fortunate to have gone through the primaries with the health care plan that he has, that is, no government mandate. That‘s much harder to run in the general election with anything that could be characterized by the Republican as some sort of socialized medicine, however unfair.
His policy wasn‘t like Clinton‘s because of this mandate. He would be unwise to try and amend it now. But leave it dangling out there as a way to heal the party for sure.
OLBERMANN: Our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek”—thank you Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There is some degree of ignorance and prejudice that Senator Barack Obama must confront as he makes his bid for the presidency.
And his campaign can also count on a dose of inflammatory idiocy, not only from the senator‘s critics, but also from a so-called news organization—more on FOX noise and the Obama fist bump presently.
First, we now that, when he took Senator Joe Lieberman aside on the floor of the Senate last Wednesday, Senator Obama personally addressed part of the slime machine, previously described as an animated conversation, during which Lieberman‘s back was literally against the wall.
“Newsweek” now reports, “Obama told Lieberman he was surprised by Lieberman‘s personal attacks and his half-hearted denials of the false rumors that Obama is a Muslim”—that according to a campaign aide who requested anonymity. Lieberman was described as—quote—“strangely muted.”
But, just an hour before, he had criticized Obama‘s speech to a pro-Israel organization.
This election could be easily be decided by a hair‘s breath, yet, the prospect, whether slim or great, that John McCain is about to channel his inner Bob Dole, seems to be just below the surface everywhere you look. McCain has often entered and exited the stage all winter and spring to the tune of Chuck Berry‘s “Johnny B. Goode.”
Tonight, Berry says, guess what? He‘s supporting Obama.
And the anti-Obama campaigning is getting more and more, well, out there, criticism of the Obama knuckle knock or fist bump, an attempt in fact to link it to terrorism, one we all saw right before his victory speech last night in St.—or last Tuesday in St. Paul.
FOX News‘ E.D. Hill, teasing an upcoming segment on this, said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E.D. HILL, FOX NEWS: A fist bump, a pound, a terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hill‘s “America‘s Pulse” program then had a body language on to say basically, you have no pulse. No, she said that the fist big—the fist bump was no big deal.
Thus, FOX noise‘s unanswered innuendo could be applied forward, which must mean that North Carolina‘s Governor Mike Easley, as you saw, also might be a terrorist.
Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, who also hosts her own show on Air America Radio on weekday afternoons.
Rachel, good evening.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, let me see.
Michael Jordan and Charlie Sheen, who try to fist bump in this new underwear commercial, they are terrorists? And this is—there are all sorts of other examples, like every professional athlete and many actors and entertainers. They‘re all terrorists. This apparently springs from a comment on a right-wing blog.
In a sense, if they are clutching at straws like these in June, do you feel a little sorry for the far right?
MADDOW: Not really.
MADDOW: I have to say, I‘m really kind of just enjoying this. That clip that you just played from E.D. Hill, I have to say, I got—I saw that on YouTube today. And I had it almost on a loop in my office today. I couldn‘t stop watching it, because it is actively—it‘s very funny.
And that is kind of the glorious underbelly to what seems to be the real prospect that a lot of the ground of this campaign is going to be them attacking Barack Obama as a commie, Muslim, Indonesian, Black Panther, whatever. The glorious underbelly of all that is, it‘s going to result in a lot of inadvertently funny things, like the terrorist fist jab allegation.
It‘s just—I feel like this is one of those moments of political bliss for me.
OLBERMANN: Even Howard Kurtz on CNN, on “RELIABLE SOURCES,” asked the national correspondent from CBS News, Byron Pitts, who is an African-American, he asked him, is this what all the brothers do? And Mr. Pitts kept his composure and said, basically, well, the younger generation, regardless of race, got what that gesture is?.
Is that really the sort of evil subtext that you—by now we all look for behind every stupid thing somebody on the right says? Is that what this is? It‘s not that the Republicans want you to be afraid of Barack and Michelle Obama because they might be terrorists; they want you to be afraid of them because they might be black?
MADDOW: They might be black.
MADDOW: That‘s exactly right.
You go on in that E.D. Hill in the FOX News clip today, and they—
and they try, essentially, to define this as something that is unalterably
foreign to the American public. Hill goes on to say on FOX that, you know,
what happened to the great pat on the back, as if that‘s the only physical
physical gesture, I guess, of affirmation that is appropriate in American politics.
And this—we‘re, what, a week out of Bush doing that big awkward chest bump at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs?
MADDOW: I mean, Bush has that awkward habit of putting his hands on the heads of bald men, right? They‘re all of these sorts of weird physical gestures of affirmation that people do.
The idea that you would somehow make the sort of dap, the fist bump, to be something radical or something overly radically racialized is—it‘s just—it‘s comical.
OLBERMANN: Whatever happened to the formal bow?
OLBERMANN: Grover Cleveland used to bow all the time on the campaign trail.
There are the dangerous outliers in this here, though, too. And, again, it‘s that same meme of maybe that‘s what we‘re—we‘re not talking about foreign, we‘re not talking terrorists, but we‘re talking about race here.
OLBERMANN: And these just as rationalizations for people who are racist and don‘t want to admit that to themselves.
The producer of the Willie Horton ad, the one that—that killed off Michael Dukakis in 1998, that producer is now raising money for a series of Obama ads, because, he says, he is soft on violent criminals.
Is there something that the Obama campaign could really draw out of the Clinton operation, the war room, to just blow this stuff out of the water as it rolls in?
MADDOW: This stuff does actually have to be taken seriously. I mean, a lot of otherwise rational Americans believe that Barack Obama might be a Muslim. They believe a lot of the radical things that have been alleged against him. This stuff does stick.
And what we know is that it does need to be addressed. It can‘t be ignored. And one of the best ways to address it, honestly, in all seriousness, is to mock the people who are making these allegations, to not allow these allegations to be anonymous, to actually name the people who are doing them, to promote the fact that these allegations are being made, to not only rebut them, but to make villains of the people who are campaigning this way.
I think that that was effect—was effective for John McCain with the “John McCain has a black baby” stuff. It worked against him in South Carolina, but he used that almost as a badge of honor in his subsequent political career.
So, I do think that the folks who are making these sort of allegations need to be named and shamed. And I will continue to enjoy doing so whenever I frequently can.
OLBERMANN: As I used to say on the radio, saving the democracy one mock at the time.
OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, Air America, and our little save-the-democracy club—thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It‘s either belligerence or forgetfulness—John against insisting he never said something that he is shown on tape saying.
Scott McClellan‘s latest bombshell—he will testify to the House Judiciary Committee on June 20 about Valerie Plame. Mr. McClellan joins us again.
And the battle of wits between Bill Moyers and Bill O‘Reilly‘s stalker producer. As ever, the O‘Reilly guy went in unarmed.
OLBERMANN: John McCain tells the media he never criticized the media for its coverage of Hillary Clinton. And then the media shows him his tape of himself criticizing the media for its coverage of Hillary Clinton.
An epic anniversary—“At long last, sir, have you no shame?”
Scott McClellan in his first interview since his decision today to testify to the House Judiciary Committee about Valerie Plame.
And in “Worsts”: fired for shaving her head for charity—ahead on
OLBERMANN: There exists the distinct possibility that John McCain has three greater challengers to face in the general election than just the presumptive Democratic nominee, McCain vs. himself, McCain vs. videotape of himself, and McCain vs. the truth.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Senator McCain caught lying to the media about having criticized the media, this from a candidate about whom the traveling press corps has been positively glowing, he, the alleged maverick of the so-called Straight Talk Express campaign bus, only usually without mention of the alleged or the so-called or the campaign bus.
In an interview with “Newsweek,” in response to a question about his election night speech outside New Orleans last Tuesday, during which he was asked about his comment that the media had overlooked some of the attributes that Hillary Clinton had brought to the race, Senator McCain cut his interviewer off mid-question to respond: “I did not. That was in prepared remarks. And I did not. I‘m not in the business of commenting on the press and their coverage or not coverage.”
Let‘s roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Senator Clinton has earned great respect for her tenacity and courage. The media often overlooked how compassionately she spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans. And she deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Turn now to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.
Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I‘m missing something here. That sure sounded like him saying exactly what he said he didn‘t say.
ALTER: Strangled by the videotape. This is something that—well, here‘s what it is. It‘s a time warp thing.
When he last ran for president in 2000, you could deny having said something, and the chances of you being caught, if it wasn‘t something really serious, which this isn‘t, were minimal, because nobody had access to the tapes. The tapes were in the vaults of networks.
So, we assume that YouTube has been here and that all of this has been retrievable forever. It‘s only been retrievable for like two years. So, the idea of being able to hold these politicians accountable for what they have actually said is in a new dimension now that makes it much, much tougher for these guys to B.S.
OLBERMANN: So, you go down the line of, he‘s not aware of the new political realty, as opposed to he is not remembering what he just said?
ALTER: Well, I do.
I don‘t think he‘s senile. I think that he is caught in an old politics, where politicians routinely just said, black is white, and white is black, and blue is gray. And they got away with it for many, many years.
The only time they didn‘t was if it was something that was so explosive, that people would literally, in past campaigns, before radio, they would actually fill out affidavits of the people in the audience to say that—that a candidate has—had said something. And that was the only way you could hold them accountable.
That happened once to Franklin Roosevelt when he denied having said that he wrote the constitution of Haiti. And there were a bunch of people who proved that he actually had said that.
So, McCain just can‘t get away with this kind of thing anymore in the new era, in the YouTube era. And it‘s a learning curve for him to get up to speed to recognize that he‘s living with new rules.
OLBERMANN: Well, it‘s kind of—we forget the Watergate hearings started with John Dean‘s word and then the tapes, not the other way around.
OLBERMANN: That‘s exactly the point that you‘re making.
OLBERMANN: But, in this case, in denying this, he‘s come up with an entire rationale for why he wouldn‘t have said that. Is the—the rationale is this attempt to try to convert some rapidly decreasing number of ex-Hillary supporters to his side? Is that it?
ALTER: Well, that‘s why he said it in the first place...
ALTER: ... is, he was making a bid for Hillary voters.
ALTER: He basically claimed in his speech that it was only party—I think he said party elders and pundits who had nominated Barack Obama. He was giving the folks at MSNBC a little more credit than I think we all deserve, in making it seem like this was why this guy got nominated. It‘s preposterous.
OLBERMANN: We‘re wildly underpaid.
ALTER: So, he‘s been trying to do that to make a play for them.
But when confronted on it by my “Newsweek” colleagues, he realized that it really didn‘t look too smart, and he tried to deny having said it.
OLBERMANN: There has been a lot of backlash from this campaign against the media. Your magazine was hit by it. NBC was hit by it. MSNBC was hit by it. They have complained to other people. I‘m sure there will be something back to “Newsweek” after this week.
Why? There has been—even in the YouTube era, there has been—the benefit of the doubt has been John McCain‘s. I don‘t buy the whole thing about the—it‘s—the media is his constituency. That‘s an exaggeration. People like to deal with guys who they like dealing with, a tautology there.
OLBERMANN: But there has been the benefit of the doubt. Why is he—why is he saying, screw you and your benefit of the doubt?
ALTER: Well, because this—first of all, this is a game that Republicans have been playing for a long time. I mean, it first really surfaced at the 1964 Republican Convention in San Francisco, when people, like Walter Cronkite were booed from the galleries.
It‘s a shoot-the-messenger thing. Traditionally, it was on the right. Now, increasingly, it‘s on the left, not just from the Clinton campaign, but, for instance, right now, the Obama campaign is very upset with “Newsweek” for a couple of recent covers.
This is what politicians do. They try to work the refs, push back.
And the thing that‘s silly about it is, it doesn‘t usually work.
OLBERMANN: It gets us angrier.
OLBERMANN: If there ever was a charge of tilting one way or the other, you would tilt against the person who just swore at you.
And, yet, they continue to think that it makes sense for them, because it does get their supporters all riled up. And then—but, in the end, there hasn‘t been an election that has been turned out—George H.W. Bush in ‘92 literally had a button, “Vote Bush, Annoy the Media.”
OLBERMANN: And it did not get him elected against Bill Clinton.
ALTER: He almost finished third.
Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” many thanks, as always.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Shin-kickers. What else can I say? Shin-kickers—the latest on this breaking story.
And from fearing John McCain might have a Norman Bates moment, to insisting who cares if they think he‘s nutty, the fixed news talking head with political spin to make your head spin—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: “Best Persons” in a moment, and Yankees fans booing the sun.
First, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Those famous and career-destroying words were uttered 54 years ago today, said by attorney Joseph Welch, representing the Army in the Army McCarthy hearings, to the infamous demagogue Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin.
Usually forgotten, the contest. McCarthy had just smeared one of Welch‘s assistants as a communist before the man had belonged briefly to the Lawyers Guild before he became the chairman of the Young Republicans League of Newton, Massachusetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WELCH: Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness.
Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator.
SEN. JOSEPH MCCARTHY ®, WISCONSIN: Let‘s—let‘s...
WELCH: You‘ve done enough.
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
You, Mr. Chairman, may, if you will, call the next witness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And when that applause echoed on this day in 1954, McCarthy was finished.
On that note, let‘s play “Oddball.”
And we begin in Gloucestershire in England for the great British shin-kicking competition of 2008. Competitors, shin kickers, stuff their pants with straw, then kick each other over and over again until somebody fall down, go boom.
The sport has been around longer than the U.S., since 1612. Back then, competitors were allowed to use iron-capped boots. And they would train for this competition by strengthening their shin bones with hammers, ancient shin-kickers. But, today, it is all soft shoes and straw padding. And that‘s why the British lost Malaya.
To New York City and I‘m moving, literally. This is the only home of Alexander Hamilton, founding father, creator of the U.S. Mint, signer of the Constitution, face of the 10 dollar bill, runner up in the duel with Aaron Burr. Well, when he originally bought the house in 1802, it was part of a 33-acre county estate at the very tip of Manhattan, with beautiful views of the river. Now it‘s slap dang in the middle of Harlem, and thanks to development it‘s now being physically moved twice. The first time in 1989, the last time over the weekend.
The final move cost 8.4 million dollars, or about 840,000 Hamiltons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The House Judiciary Committee will reinvestigate the outing of Valerie Plame. Scott McClellan has voluntarily agreed to testify to it. He joins us next.
And Bill-O does not get quite the reaction he expected when he sends one of his stalker producers to ambush Bill Moyers. The guy himself gets ambushed by Bill Moyers and a dozen other reporters. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best advertisement for a watch, Bulova. In 1941, British Navy Lieutenant Teddy Bacon through a line from his ship HMS Repulse to the shore at Gibraltar Harbor. His wrist watch flew off and into the soup. Lieutenant Bacon left the description of the watch and his address with the harbor master. Last week what arrives in the mail? the watch. They were dredging the harbor and they found it, 67 years later and it still runs.
So, machinery superb, quality of wrist band, not so hot.
Number two, best save, Mike Huckabee; North Carolina Republican Lieutenant Governor Candidate Robert Pettinger began to choke during lunch Saturday, so Huckabee, who was there, performed the Heimlich Maneuver on him and saved his life.
Number one, best heckling victim, the sun. The temperatures reaching 99, and the proverbial real feel topping 100, this of all days they have a weekday afternoon game at Yankees Stadium in New York. When a random cloud passed in front of old Sol during the fifth inning, the fans cheered. Moments later, it moved out of the sun‘s way and they booed. Yankee fans booing the sun. We‘re hoping here the sun didn‘t hear them, otherwise it might get mad at us and start pointing in a different direction.
OLBERMANN: Plame-gate round two. Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan today agreeing to testify voluntarily to the House Judiciary Committee about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame in wake of her husband‘s criticism of the White House rationale for the war in Iraq. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, Scott McClellan‘s first interview since he accepted Chairman John Conyer‘s invitation.
That invitation might impact the White House‘s continuing stance on the Plame case, to say nothing of its unswerving insistence that everyone thought Saddam Hussein had WMD, that it was just as mislead by the intelligence as we were. Mr. McClellan will join us again in a moment.
First, the corroboration for his book as reported by the Senate Intelligence Committee; in phase two of its investigation into the use of pre-war intel, the committee found dozens of egregious examples of conflation, cherry picking and even distortion, all done by key members of the administration, including secretary of defense, of states, the vice president, the president himself. Among the key distortions, the suggestion that Iraq and al Qaeda had a partnership, that Saddam was preparing to give WMD to terrorists, that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Attah met an Iraqi intelligence officer in 2001, that Iraq had underground WMD facilities, that Iraq gave al Qaeda weapons training.
Senate Intel Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller summing up the findings thusly, quote, “in making the case for war, the administration repeated intelligence as fact, when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even nonexistent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”
As promised, joining us again, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, author of “What Happened, Inside the Bush White House and Washington‘s Culture of Deception.” Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You bet, Keith.
Good evening, glad to be with you.
OLBERMANN: We spoke last time about the prospect of you testifying.
You said it was all in the book. Why are you testifying?
MCCLELLAN: Well, the House Judiciary Committee reached out to me. They invited me to come testify. As I said before, I‘m glad to share my views. And I told them I was glad to share what I know about the Valerie Plame leak episode. So I will be going before the committee a week from Friday, on the 20th of this month.
OLBERMANN: Do you have any doubt that key people in the administration were willing to sacrifice a CIA asset like Valerie Plame just to punish her husband and stifle critics? Will you testify to that effect before the committee?
MCCLELLAN: I‘ll tell them what I know. I am not going to get into things that I don‘t know about. I think Patrick Fitzgerald had it about right when he said during the trial of Scooter Libby that she became just another talking point in this effort to discredit Joe Wilson. That‘s unfortunate.
Whether or not there was any criminal activity involved, I don‘t know. It was wrong to do that. And I will speak to the questions that they ask me and share exactly what I know.
OLBERMANN: To your knowledge, is it only going to be about the Plame outing and your sort of tangential part in it, or are they going to go in Judiciary and ask you anything else about the selling of the war or any other topic?
MCCLELLAN: We‘ll see. The letter they sent said specifically about the Valerie Plame leak episode, and the potential concerns that there might have been a cover-up, I think is the way Chairman Conyers phrased it in a letter. If they get into other questions, we‘ll go from there.
OLBERMANN: The few substantive answers to your book, other than the character assassination attempts, have basically boiled down to, and even the ones from the White House have been, gosh, everybody thought we had WMD. We were just as surprised as anybody else. Do you think, having seen the operation in effect first hand and even participated in it, do you think we‘re seeing a second phase of that, not to use the Rockefeller Committee‘s phraseology? Is this a second attempt by the White House to mislead the American people about Iraq retroactively?
MCCLELLAN: What I do know is that the White House never wanted to have the way the case was made, the way the intelligence was used to sell the war to the American people looked into or investigated by Congress. This was delayed for quite some time. And finally Chairman Rockefeller, Senator Rockefeller, pushed this forward to get to the truth. And the White House can continue to bury their heads in the sand, but the reality is still the same. I think the American people see it for exactly what it is.
The Senate Intelligence Committee closely tracks exactly what I write about in my book. We came to the very same conclusion, that the intelligence was used in a way that made the threat sound more grave and more urgent and more serious than it was. When you go to war, an issue as serious as war, the American people need openness and candor. And that was absent from this administration in the build up to the war.
OLBERMANN: Scott, let me put two things together; the Intelligence Committee report, very powerful in those respects, as you describe, and what you said the last time you were here with us on the 29th of May, this was about Saddam‘s supposed nuclear ambitions. You said the intelligence was packaged together in a way to make it sound more ominous and more grave and more urgent than it really was. I don‘t think that this was some deliberate conscious effort to go and mislead the American people.
If the purpose of the repackaging of the intelligence was not a deliberate effort to mislead the American people into supporting that war, what do you think it was?
MCCLELLAN: That‘s a good question. What I talk about in my book is I think they got caught up in this permanent campaign culture, and everyone was focused on how do we make the strongest case. You don‘t make the strongest case by talking about the caveats and contradictions and intelligence that contradicts what you‘re saying. We can get into this argument of whether or not it was deliberate or not. The result is that it was very troubling that we went into war in a less than open and candid way, and the consequences are playing out before us right now.
In some ways, it‘s problematic in its own right, whether or not it was delivered or not. I think the intention there by some of these people may have been well intentioned, but they lost sight of what‘s most needed during the time of the war making process, which is to speak the truth to the American people, make sure they understand the consequences, the realities and the truth as best we know them, what the threat is and how serious it is, before we make the decision to go into war.
OLBERMANN: Is it problematic for you now, has it become so, the more feedback you get about your book, the more people you talk to about it who say, you‘re absolutely right, as if you didn‘t know that—do you find yourself internally questioning that central conclusion? Do you wonder if maybe it was more deliberate than you‘ve given them credit for?
MCCLELLAN: I don‘t think there was a conspiracy theory there, some conspiracy to deliberately mislead. I don‘t want to imply a sinister intent. There might have been some individuals that knew more than others and tried to push things forward in a certain way, and that‘s something I can‘t speak to. I don‘t think that you had a bunch of people sitting around a room, planning and plotting in a sinister way. That‘s the point I make in the book.
At the same time, whether or not it was sinister or not, it was very troubling that we went to war on this basis.
OLBERMANN: A fair point, one way or the other. Lastly, this book
tour must be an eye opener. When the interviews have not been sympathetic
I don‘t want to go into details about it—did it strike you when you encountered interviewers who were not—either wanted to continue to believe the administration‘s point of view or they think you‘ve been programmed by the left or administration critics or they have other explanations other than you‘re telling the truth and felt like you needed to do so? Have you been startled by these people? You mentioned the White House and their heads in the sands. Does it seem to you there are a lot of people out there whose heads are still in the sand about all this?
MCCLELLAN: I think that is the case. I think some people would rather we not talk about how the intelligence was used. They would just simply like to say, the intelligence was wrong but they were basing it on the intelligence. And that‘s not entirely accurate as we see from the Senate Intelligence Committee and the report they put forth, that, by the way, was endorsed by ten individuals on the committee, including two Republican members of that committee.
But one of things that some of the people argue out there that you know I‘m helping the president‘s critics; I‘m out there to talk about the important truths. And the fact that the administration wasn‘t candid is the reason the critics have standing.
OLBERMANN: Scott McClellan, author of “What Happened.” I‘ll say it again, a Rosetta Stone for understanding the last seven years, his account of his time in the press office during the Bush presidency. Scott, again, thanks for your time.
MCCLELLAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Take care. Bill-O‘s producer/stalker goes after Bill Moyers, gets schooled. So Bill-O is, surprisingly enough, not showing a lot of this tape tonight. And Fox Noise with a 180 degree pivot; four months ago, John McCain‘s temper was reason to worry about a Norm Bates moment, they said. Now his nuttiness will scare dictators, they say. Worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It was the famed attorney Louis Naizor (ph) who put it perfectly, in cross-examination, as in fishing, nothing is more ungamely than a fisherman pulled into the water by his catch. Bill-O‘s minion stalks Bill Moyers; still looking for any trace of Bill-O‘s minion. That‘s next. First time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s worst person in the world.
The bronze to Dan Hilliard, the owner and chef of Nathaniel‘s Restaurant, Ontario. He fired a 36-year-old food server named Stacy Fearhall (ph) because she shaved her head. He claims it‘s a private employee-employer situation since she didn‘t tell him first that she was going to cut off all her read hare. Mr Hilliard apparently had not asked why. Ms. Fearhall was supporting a local police charity, Cops for Cancer. As a woman who lost her father to cancer, she thought it was a great cause.
She raised 3,000 dollars in donations for shaving her head, and Mr. Hilliard proved himself a jackass. He says now he did not fire, he just told her to take the summer off. He‘s sorry and he she hasn‘t responded to his apology.
The runner up, Republican strategist Brad Blakeman, still trying to con disaffected Clinton supporters by voting for McCain, saying on this network, quote, “one thing that really troubled me today is I think Hillary did an outstanding job as an American. I have to say, leaving partisanship aside, I‘m proud of what she has done for our country. And having said that, Barack Obama was not present for her speech. That is just outrageous to me, he would not be watching this most historic speech.
You don‘t think they talked about that? You don‘t think her supporters might have found that a little, I don‘t know, intrusive. No, you don‘t think.
Our winner, Neil Cavuto of Fixed News, providing tips for John McCain, which we always assumed was Roger Ailes‘ assignment over there. Quote, don‘t hide your temper. Show it. Apparently when you explode, it‘s a beaut. I think it shows your passion. People respect passion. Who cares if they thinks it nutty. I‘ll tell you what, dictators ain‘t exactly the rock of Gibraltar. Nuts respect tempers. Winston Churchill had a huge temper. Didn‘t hurt him any.
Sadly, for Mr. Cavuto and consistency, four months before that, to the day, he said on February 6th, quoting again, a lot of people are waiting for Senator McCain to snap, for him to do something crazy, that just as he‘s on the verge of winning this he‘s going to go kind of like a Norman Bates deal.
The full swing from anti-John McCain as Norman Bates to pro-John McCain is Norman Bates. How is that whiplash, buddy? Neil Cavuto of Fox Noise, today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: We previously tried to help you prepare for the inevitable attack of a Bill O‘Reilly stalker producer. Clearly, we should have just deferred to the expertise of the one and only Bill Moyers. For our number one story tonight, cleaned the fricking clock of Bill-O‘s toady at the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis. A kid named Port-O-Potty, I believe—No? Porter Barry, sorry. The Murdochian devils are in high dungeon and full attack at the moment. I had to stave off one staking outside my home ten days ago, and another one the day before yesterday at the office.
But Moyers, as LL Cool J put it, listen to the way I slay your crew. The carnage in a moment. First, a brief reminder of the gentler methods we offered in these practice interactions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Olbermann, you have a comment?
OLBERMANN: Yes, I do. Funny, I was just saying to Andrea Mackris the other day—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Olbermann, you have a comment?
OLBERMANN: Hey, are you the kid who picks up Bill O‘Reilly‘s loofas? Or does he get his loofas himself? Or does he go on one of those loofa of the month clubs, where you get a subscription and the loofas are sent directly to your house, so you have a constant supply of loofas?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I‘m proud to say that my role model, Mr. Moyers, took part of my advice there, as you will see. Of course, he added the two extra magic ingredients; one, his own camera, second, being 100 percent morally and factually correct. As final preface, one technical note, we don‘t we have the one full raw tape that Fox does, which you will see is from heavily sources. Only very heavily edited snippets have appeared on Bill-O.
We have one fact, as Moyers corrected himself during this, it was not this O‘Reilly stalker producer with whom he had previously discussed the Bill-O scandals. It was the other one, Jeffy (ph). And one explanation for something Bill-O‘s boss, Rupert Murdoch, said before the Iraq war.
Speaking in February 2003, he forecast the benefits of invading Iraq:
quote, “the greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be 20 dollars a barrel for oil. That‘s bigger than any tax cut in any country.”
Yes, it was just under 36 bucks a barrel on that date, just over 134 today. Nice call. Now sit back and enjoy, Bill Moyer‘s version of Momma Said Knock You Out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PORTER BARRY, FOX NEWS: You can come on with Bill, and you can help out the environment, and you won‘t have to fly all the way to Minneapolis. We chat about all of this.
BILL MOYERS, PBS: You don‘t have the courage to say to Rupert Murdoch, when are we going to get 20 dollars a barrel oil.
Rupert Murdoch said the best thing that will come out of the Iraq war would be gasoline at 20 dollars a barrel. Today, when I came here, I looked and it was 100 something dollars. When is Rupert going to explain why the war didn‘t give us 20 dollars a barrel oil.
BARRY: How many times do you want me to invited you to come on to our program and talk about it?
MOYERS: The last time you ambushed me, I asked you when was Bill going to talk to us about his sex scandal.
BARRY: I don‘t know what you‘re talking about. I have no idea what you‘re talking about.
MOYERS: We‘re taping this. So, for the first time since Fox News has ambushed me, we‘re going to be able to judge your editing against what these people are saying. I promise you live and without any editing, Porter, come on my show. Let‘s look at what you put on your air. Your mind was made up before you came out here.
BARRY: We came to ask you what you‘re doing at a left wing conference and you haven‘t answered that question.
MOYERS: How many of you folks thinks Porter ought to come on my show?
MOYERS: If you can‘t come on my show, send somebody below you. Send Bill O‘Reilly. I‘m a classy guy. I‘m a reporter. You know what we reporters are like, don‘t you? You are one of us. Bill is not. Bill is not. Bill is not a journalist. He‘s a pugilist. You know, I said I would come on the O‘Reilly show after he accepts my invitation to come on my broadcast and we‘ll do it live.
BARRY: You tried to play games and you know it.
MOYERS: Bill O‘Reilly wants to lie, let him lie. You don‘t need to lie for him .
BARRY: I‘m not lying for him.
MOYERS: You said he said he would come on my show.
BARRY: You guys talked about doing your program and you tried to play games with him and that‘s why it didn‘t happen.
MOYERS: What kind of games?
BARRY: I‘m not going to get into—
BARRY: Come on. What kind of games?
BARRY: Why don‘t you come on O‘Reilly‘s show and you can talk about your problems and talk about your issues O‘Reilly.
MOYERS: On the record, I will come on the O‘Reilly show, first, when Rupert Murdoch has explained why we‘re not getting 20 dollars a barrel of oil from the Iraq war he said we‘ll deliver. Secondly, I‘ll come on Bill O‘Reilly‘s Show after he accepts my invitation to be on my show unedited, and discuss a whole hour—I‘ll give him a whole hour. And then I will come on Bill O‘Reilly‘s show. You go back and take that message. Let‘s see if that message gets on the air. If it doesn‘t, if you want a job, I may have some recommendations for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey Porter, I‘m with America News Project. Can I talk to you for a seconds. I just want to know one thing; is what you‘re doing journalism? That‘s all I want to know.
This is journalism?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt like you were setting up an attack piece.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of like this. This is sort of like an attack piece.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like what we‘re doing to you.
BARRY: I‘m not pushing Mr. Moyers—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize for touching your jacket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to elaborate on the claims that Bill Moyer played games with O‘Reilly, the discussions to appear on his show.
BARRY: We‘re good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It was that point that Porter regretted parking so far from away the conference center. Contributions to the Porter Barry career memorial fund may be made to your local station. Bill Moyer is hoping to join us tomorrow night on COUNTDOWN. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,866th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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