Guest: Eugene Robinson, Christopher Hayes, Chris Kofinis, Craig Crawford, Dan Patrick
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Breaking news at this hour: In a swift response to a day filled with rumbling of reignited discord in the Democratic Party, MSNBC and NBC News have, tonight, learned that President Bill Clinton will speak at the convention in Denver at the personal invitation of Senator Obama.
(voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Not gone and not forgotten. Hillary Clinton making waves? Her strategy videotapes for getting her delegates heard at the convention, the strategy of one group of her supporters to march through Denver the night she is to speak, with the group claiming she is the rightful nominee. Both senators insisting this is usual pre-convention logistics, there‘s no need to fight and no need to panic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We‘re talking directly to the Clinton campaign people and the folks who are on her staff and it has gone seamlessly. It just hasn‘t been a problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The latest problem from the John McCain “department of false advertising,” the praising McCain spot, a series of Democrats applauding the Republicans, one small detail, only one of the compliments is less than two years old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I have enormous respect for him.
He is a courageous patriotic American who stands up for what he believes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Obama comes back with his version, all of the same Democrats blasting McCain saying he is unrecognizable as the man they once praised.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)
KERRY: John McCain has changed in profound and fundamental ways that I find, personally, really surprising and frankly upsetting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Big oil salesmen and snake oil salesman John Boehner leaves House Republicans, blaming Democrats for going on vacation instead of staying to vote for more drilling. Where‘s Boehner? Back in his district playing golf.
Worst: Rudy Giuliani is back about drilling, offering (INAUDIBLE).
And Brett Favre is back in the National Football League. Well, sort of. He‘s been traded to the New York Jets. Dan Patrick joins me.
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Thursday, August 7th, 89 days until the 2008 presidential election.
Convention peace in our time. Breaking news at this hour, that the same day the entire Clinton-Obama primaries war seemed to roar back to life, MSNBC and NBC News have learned tonight that Senator Obama has offered Bill Clinton a chance to speak on Wednesday of the Democratic convention in Denver. Moreover, the former president has already accepted.
This starts our first story on the COUNTDOWN: Earlier today, Senator Clinton spoke of assuring that her supporters will be getting their voices heard in Denver and called the process as old as, you know, Greek drama. So, who better to enter at stage left, in the most—almost mythological figure of the Democratic Party—William Jefferson Clinton.
“Time” magazine began the day of conflict and resolution by reporting that while in public, Senator Clinton is doing everything she has been asked and more, to help elect the man who defeated her in the primaries;
“In private, she‘s still harboring grudges and doubts,” they said.
At a cocktail reception with some of her Silicon Valley supporters at Palo Alto, California last week, the senator telling the gathering that no decisions have been made about suggestions that her name be placed in nomination at the convention and not withdrawn before the first ballot, as is the custom. Adding that “delegates can decide to do this on their own; they don‘t need permission.”
In clips of the event that have been posted on YouTube, the senator believing that the lack of catharsis is blocking unity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I happen to believe that we will come out stronger if people feel that their voices were heard and their views were respected. I think that is a very big part of how we actually come out unified, because I know from just what I‘m hearing, that there‘s just—this incredible pent up desire. And I think that, you know, people want to feel like, “OK, it‘s a catharsis, we‘re here, we did it, and then everybody get behind Senator Obama.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The two campaigns issuing a joint statement to tamp down speculations about disunity, that preceded the invitations to Bill Clinton to speak in Denver, quote, “We are working together to make sure the fall campaign and the convention are a success. At the Democratic convention, we will ensure that the voices of everyone—Bill Clinton—who participated in this historic process are respected and our party will be fully unified—Bill Clinton—heading into the November election—Bill Clinton.”
In a Web chat today, Senator Clinton still noncommittal when asked about the possibility of her name being placed and kept in nomination. Obama is saying today that all convention details are still being worked out, including again, as NBC News has learned tonight, Bill Clinton speaking to the convention at Obama‘s invitation on Wednesday night, the 27th.
Senator Obama adding that any controversy between him and Senator Clinton is entirely a media creation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We‘re talking directly to the Clinton campaign people and the folks who are on her staff and it has gone seamlessly. It just hasn‘t been a problem.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So you would not object to having her name?
OBAMA: I didn‘t say that. I said that they‘re working it out, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How hard can it be? Yes or no? To get her name in or not. How hard could it be? Yes or no?
OBAMA: I don‘t understand what you mean? Just because I‘m not answering your question doesn‘t mean that it‘s hard. It‘s getting worked out by our staffs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To answer the hard questions, time now to turn to Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine.
Chris, good evening.
CHRISTOPHER HAYES, THE NATION: Hey, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Get her supporters heard in the morning, promise of resolution from both sides in the afternoon, invitation to President Clinton to speak at the convention at dinner time. That was quick.
HAYES: Yes, it‘s pretty effective—if it was intentional, it certainly succeeded. I think that, look, they clearly want to make sure that nothing gets blown up very quickly, because the press for—I think, some understandable reasons and for some reasons that I don‘t think are so understandable—has an obsession with the kind of a story line of the Dems divided. And so, any inkling of that is clearly going to sort of set off fireworks and, I think, they‘re being savvy in trying to nip it in the bud.
OLBERMANN: Is there any idea what else presumably this is something that Senator Clinton wants to see Bill Clinton speaking, well, I wouldn‘t think what the other answer to that. But what else might she want on the table here? I mean, this idea that her name might remain in nomination through the first ballot, sounds nice but there‘s the possibility for discord, plus the inevitable fact then comes up that after that first ballot, she‘d lose again.
Is that something that‘s going to be wiped off the table as part of whatever this agreement is?
HAYES: Well, I think, the overriding concern from the Obama people, from Howard Dean and people at the DNC is to not have anything unscripted happen at the convention. So whatever is going to happen there, they‘re going to figure out ahead of time.
Now, in terms of what Senator Clinton wants, I think, she wants some validation and acknowledgment for what was a tremendously hard fought and epic and historical primary battle. And, I think, a lot of her supporters feel the same way.
The question is—how much that imperative can be balanced against what is a necessary imperative which is communicating the unified party going into the general election.
OLBERMANN: How much, as the British say, stick does he have left? I mean, there is one group of Clinton supporters that was talking about a march through Denver the night that she speaks. It‘s called “18 Million Voices,” which obviously, roughly her vote total from the primaries including all of them—is there any measure of how many of those voices are still active? Has not time weakened them? Do we have any idea how much?
HAYES: Well, the polling shows time has weakened them, (A). (B), 18 million voices is certainly, I would go out on a limb and say, an exaggeration of how many people would be willing to march through Denver. I mean, I saw something today online in which a number of these supporters tried to get an e-mail petition going to send out to delegates and they were only able to get about 400 e-mails sent. Now, sending 400 e-mails does not represent a tremendous amount of strength or organization.
My sense is that the amount of attention played to what might be called the kind of dead enders or the people who are really angry about the results and really don‘t want to see Obama as the nominee is disproportionate to their actual numbers. And so, the problem is that whatever, and we‘re talking about stick, the problem is that they‘re present enough to create enough media discord that they can create some problems, particularly when the press is going to be in Denver, looking for anything, any kind of story that isn‘t scripted by the party.
OLBERMANN: Is that Obama‘s problem or is that Senator Clinton‘s problem? Who is capable of assuaging them, whoever many they may be or may not be in Denver?
HAYES: You know, that‘s a really good question. I mean, I actually that the clip that was leaked to YouTube, Senator Clinton sounded fairly sensible and you could see, she was talking to her supporters in a situation on which they were agreeing of what she was saying and I don‘t think it‘s illogical or—I think it makes sense that that the notion that there would be some kind of catharsis would have some unifying affect.
I mean, look, in 1998, Jesse Jackson‘s name was entered into the nomination at the convention. I think people thought ultimately that was something that had to happen to kind of acknowledge, you know, the historic nature of his run for the presidency. And I wouldn‘t think that necessarily it would be the same problem if the same were to happen in Denver.
OLBERMANN: And it would be just a piece de resistance if then she called for it to be withdrawn at some point, then there‘s your solution without the vote or even perhaps within progress, something along those lines.
Anyway, Chris Hayes of “The Nation” magazine, thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There is also the question of Senator Clinton‘s husband and whether the former president‘s newly offered, newly accepted, prime time speaking slot, we‘re talking about, at the convention on Wednesday will be enough to allay any apparent hard feelings there. And if it is, what might he do during the campaign.
“Time” magazine also reported that former President Clinton had been taking his wife‘s loss personally and was resentful, they reported, of suggestions that he had attempted to play the race card during the primaries.
On a recent trip to Africa, ABC News asked the president if Senator Obama is qualified to be president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You could argue that no one‘s ever ready to be president. I mean, I certainly learned a lot about the job in the first year. You could argue that even if you‘ve been vice president for eight years, that no one can ever be fully ready for the pressures of the office and that everyone learns something different. You could argue that.
He‘s shown a keen strategic sense in his ability to run an effective campaign. He clearly can inspire and motivate people and energize them, which is a very important part of being president, and he‘s smart as a whip so there‘s nothing he can‘t learn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This morning, Senator Obama of the opinion that President Clinton had been provoked in that interview, and always to him—nothing but supportive and gracious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I spoke to President Clinton this week. He‘s been very supportive. I thought he showed extraordinary restraint in a fairly provocative interview while he was on his trip. I couldn‘t ask for him to be any more gracious than he‘s been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And that graciousness again, apparently returned tonight with the invitation to the former president to speak at the convention on Wednesday.
Let‘s turn to Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis, former communications director in the campaign of John Edwards.
Chris, good evening to you.
CHRIS KOFINIS, FMR. EDWARDS COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This overture to the former president by Senator Obama tonight, whether the “Bill problem” was a one or a 100 on that scale, did it just end?
KOFINIS: You know, I think so. You know, my mother used to say in a family fight, it doesn‘t matter who‘s right or who‘s wrong, just make it right. I think this helps to make it right. It‘s a smart move by the Obama campaign.
You know, I think, the Obama campaign, Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, President Clinton, everyone, I think, has a shared understanding and a shared commitment to unity come November, and this is a very smart move to help make sure that comes along. I mean, you‘re talking about one of the best speakers, one of the best speech-givers in the party. I think it‘s a very smart thing they‘ve done.
OLBERMANN: We‘re not sure of the timeline of events. Obama as we heard in that clip there said he‘d spoken to the president this week, perhaps that‘s when this invitation was proffered and maybe the yes was yesterday, we don‘t know the timeline, but it all came out all of a sudden about an hour ago. Does the rapidity of the president‘s “you betcha,” whether it was, you know, an hour or a day or two days, indicate that maybe his emotions have settled down—because, obviously, whatever he wants to phrase it as, he was fired up before and not positively toward Senator Obama?
KOFINIS: Well, politics is dominated by passion in people and President Clinton definitely is a passionate, you know, leader in the Democratic Party. I mean, I think, what Democrats didn‘t want is this story to kind of start exploding. You started seeing a little bit today in the media coverage he was getting, it was a distraction no one wants and no one from the Clinton side and definitely no one from the Obama side.
I think, you know, President Clinton came out very quickly, you know, agreed to speak at the convention because at the end of the day, I think he understands the role and power he has in this party and he has an incredible opportunity here, not only just to, you know, unify the party at the convention, but to give an incredible speech that I think people are going to remember.
OLBERMANN: And about speaking at the convention, when he‘s on, nobody obviously does politics or as you suggested speaking better than Bill Clinton does—what does he need to say in Denver, especially, considering he will speak before the vice presidential choice who all reporting suggests will not be his wife?
KOFINIS: Well, the brilliance of this, I‘ll tell you, is not only do you now have a media spotlight that was going to be shining pretty strong on this convention, I mean, there‘s going to be a lot of media attention on this speech and rightfully so.
I mean, I think what the message here is going to be very clear—he‘s going to make very strong push and strong talk about unity, about moving forward, about coming together, and to basically say to the country at Senator Obama is the leader this country needs right now, to take this country and lead it to a better place, and at the end of the day, we must come together to defeat John McCain because we can‘t have four more years or eight more years of a Bush type presidency.
I think that coming from President Clinton is going to be a very powerful moment and it‘s going to segue pretty significantly to the vice president‘s speech.
OLBERMANN: And the $64,000 question thereafter, there had been talk of using President Clinton to campaign for Obama in places particularly like Appalachia, is that after these dramatic developments—the invitation tonight—more likely to happen than it was this morning?
KOFINIS: I think so.
And my advice to the Obama campaign is to, you know, is to use him and President Clinton is a powerful voice. We saw that, I think, during the campaign. He has a powerful ability to connect in these rural areas and, I think, it‘s something the Obama campaign should use. Use Senator Clinton, use President Clinton, they are powerful assets, powerful voices in the Democratic Party and they‘re going to help you win in November. No question about it.
OLBERMANN: Chris Kofinis, the former communications director for the Edwards‘ campaign—as always, great thanks, Chris.
KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: John McCain launches an ad full of Democrats praising John McCain. The Democrats point out the ad is full of sound bytes two years old and older. They rushed out an ad full of Democrats pitying John McCain.
And, Brett Favre traded to the New York Jets. My once and future tag team partner, Dan Patrick, joins us here tonight.
OLBERMANN: A Republican ad with Democrats in it, then a Democratic ad with Democrats in it.
The sentencing in the Hamdan case, the Pentagon says it can ignore it and keep him in prison longer. How much of the Constitution is left to shred, Mr. Bush?
And, Rudy Giuliani is back in Worst Persons.
While Dan Patrick is back with me to talk about Brett Favre—back in the NFL.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The McCain campaign today released a Web ad with the testimonials of Democrats attesting to his maverick-tude. Problem—only one of the testimonials was less than two years old.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The second problem the DNC promptly followed with its own Wed ad with the testimonials of all the same Democrats attesting to how McCain has since betrayed his principle for the sake of the campaign.
Here they are chronologically.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE, (D) FORMER U.S. SENATOR: He can work with Democrats on key issues.
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I have enormous respect for him.
He is a courageous, patriotic American who stands up for what he believes.
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIR: I admire Senator McCain greatly.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I know that Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House and Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But before that ad, was nothing in more recent—in it more recent than last March, could rack up even 40,000 views on the YouTube, the Democrats have cobbled together the updated version.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: He is not the John McCain as the senator who defined himself quote “as the maverick.”
DASCHLE: On Iraq, on the economy, on tax policy, on domestic policy, across the board, he is espousing the Bush policy.
CLINTON: Senator McCain is simply offering four years more.
DEAN: You know, the John McCain of 2000 wouldn‘t vote for this John McCain.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: It‘s been my honor to welcome my friend, John McCain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And while the ad from the McCain camp also included praise from Senator Obama, that too is something of a wash, since believe it or not, both candidates have offered some praise of each other even recently.
Let‘s call in our own Craig Crawford, also, of course, columnist with CQPolitics.com.
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM: Hi.
OLBERMANN: How did the McCain campaign not see that it was sort painting itself into another corner on this?
CRAWFORD: I don‘t know that they‘re actually looking forward.
CRAWFORD: They‘re sort of looking sideways. I don‘t know if this is presidential campaign advertising or level advertising or just paintball—you know, just aim in the general direction and hope something sticks. You know, the weirdest thing about this to me, Keith, is at a time when they seem to still be trying to play to their base, the conservative base, reminding those voters about how Democrats used to like him so much, is not at all helpful to that.
OLBERMANN: Paintball, I think you may have just named a new show on this network. But—looking at the paintball, this event for hitting Obama on the withdrawal timetable and then McCain having to call it a good timetable or mocking him about proper tire inflation and then McCain endorses proper tire inflation.
Am I right about this or am I just reading too much into it? Many of the McCain punches—while pretty good punches—seem to have been thrown with no thought of what happens next.
CRAWFORD: Yes, there doesn‘t seem to be an overall strategy, it‘s more all tactical and it does kind of remind he one time Henry Kissinger was dealing with some of his aides who were trying to analyze some of the weird stuff the Soviets were doing and trying to figure out what strategy they were deploying and Kissinger said, “Never assume they have a strategy.”
I think that‘s the deal with the McCain campaign, we shouldn‘t actually assume they have a strategy. Look, you know, weeks ago, they were looking at getting washed out in this race, forgotten and I think they just decided to get out there and almost on a daily basis—kick out something that everyone talks about, that no matter how much it might backfire.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, airing various bites from Senator Clinton‘s primary days is predictable. Does it hold more of a punch with more to come? Is this a hint that they‘re actually going to do what a lot of people feared during the primary season among the Democrats—that these clips of Senator Clinton would be used against Senator Obama if they got to that, in terms of the nomination?
CRAWFORD: It had to happen, always does, you know, there were some things Obama said about her would have been used had she become the nominee. I actually think a lot of voters look at that as the sort of the intramural sports the politicians like to play, a little gotcha with each other, doesn‘t really hold much sway later on.
I think everybody knows that politicians change their tone after the primaries and when they start endorsing each other, except for Bill Clinton, so far, we‘re still waiting for his hyperbole in endorsing Obama.
OLBERMANN: Scheduled for what - three weeks from yesterday now, according to that news story tonight that we have.
OLBERMANN: Last point, though, there‘s an easy to make ad for Obama like the one today for McCain. You could have Chuck Hagel praising him, just take a clip from Gordon Smith‘s campaign ads in Oregon, the Minnesota governor, the Republican, possible vice president on the Republican side, Tim Pawlenty, just praised Obama‘s tone in the campaign. But, as easy as that might be able to put together, is the point here that the Obama campaign seems still to be in response mode rather than being proactive?
CRAWFORD: There is a great danger of walking into that trap and, I think, that‘s part of what McCain has been trying to do with this bizarre mix of things they‘ve thrown at Obama, is trying to get him off guard, trying to get him flustered.
You know, that‘s one I have noticed about Obama, is he‘s very calm under pressure and takes things in stride and, I think, if he lets his campaign look like it‘s a little panic-stricken and responding too directly and too often to everything McCain does, he loses that, you know, almost above the battle kind of appeal which, I think, is one reason he‘s gotten so far.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of “CQ Politics” and MSNBC. Great thanks, Craig.
CRAWFORD: You bet.
OLBERMANN: Not only did he get arrested for being a dumb criminal, but thanks to security cameras, today, you can get humiliated while you do. World‘s worst pickpocket ever.
And, Rudy is back, telling a tale of Chinese oil men that not even comedian Rush Limbaugh believes anymore. Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.
But first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed.
Number three: Bushonomics-gate. First, the mortgage crisis, then, the energy crisis, now, the jobs crisis. Largely as a result of the first two, the number of people newly fired or laid-off signing up last month for jobless benefits climbed to 455,000 last week, the highest level since March 2002.
Number two: Foxes overseeing the henhouses-gate. A year and a day after the fatal collapse of the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah, trapped and killed six miners. The Mine Safety Administration has issued its report. It says the mine was destined to fail because owners Murray Energy had already hollowed out so much earth that when the thing finally collapsed, 69 acres of it, 60 or more football fields, caved in all at once.
The Mine Safety Administration points the finger of lack of oversight at itself and its parent agency, the Department of Labor, which probably got another three miners killed by authorizing a doomed rescue effort.
And, number one: Gitmo-gate. Yesterday, we have the first conviction from the infamous military commission system devised by Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain. Salem Hamdan, who admitted to being a driver for Osama bin Laden, convicted of being a driver for Osama bin Laden.
Sentencing was today. The government demanded 30 years. The military commission judges said 5 ½, with five years off for time already served. An apologetic chief judge, Captain Keith Allred, told Hamdan, quote, “I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and your daughters and your country.” Then he added, “Insha‘allah,” Arabic for “God willing.”
But not so fast, the Pentagon says, even after Hamdan‘s sentence is over, he will still be a prisoner, still branded an enemy combatant to be released only if a military administration review board says so.
So, besides urinating on the Constitution and the rights and freedoms every American soldier has ever fought to win and protect, the Bush administration has now decided that when its victims have actually served their sentences, doled out under its own medieval, quote, “justice,” unquote, system, it still might not choose to set them free. Thereby, giving that Constitution and our country, a second pass on the way out.
OLBERMANN: Best in the moment; and the dependent pleads guilty, “In exchange, your honor, for some KFC and the nice pizza.”
First on this date in 1926, the great Stan Freberg was born. Centrist, humorist, the inventor of the big production number that satirized the idea of the big production number and the inventor of the TV commercial that satirized the idea of the TV commercial, author, author (ph) of “Beany and Cecil,” accomplished musician and a man who managed to prunes seem cool.
He always signed on with “Stan Freberg here,” so, Happy Birthday, Stan Freeburg, there.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Jacksonville, Florida with an update to a story we brought you in Best Persons. Last night, we told you about Reggie Peterson (ph), the man who was arrested after he called 911, not once but twice, to complain about the service he received at the Subway sandwich shop. Tonight, the shocking 911 audiotape that changes everything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jacksonville, 911.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve got a situation over here with Subway Sandwich shop.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, sir, what‘s going on there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ordered two sandwiches and I asked for everything on one sandwich, and the other thing I asked for certain things on the other sandwich. I didn‘t get what I paid for. I‘m not going to sit here and pay 12 dollars for 10 for some sandwiches and not get what I paid for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, that‘s very different. Sound like a sandwich emergency to me. Drop the charges.
Staying in Florida, with video evidence of the worst pick-pocket ever at a Miami convenience store. Watch the man in the white tank top, cut in line, creep up behind the guy at the counter, lift up his shirt and get busted trying to pinch his wallet. At least we think it‘s just his wallet. The struggle ensues. The thief eventually wrestles the wallet away from the customer and flees the scene.
Yesterday, the crook turned himself in, no thanks to those two witnesses, who had a front row seat to the action, and did zippo. Thanks, guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Republican more drilling stunt continues. However, at least one huge oil leak has sprung.
And Brett Favre of the New York Jets? Dan Patrick on the resolution of the NFL‘s latest crisis. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best last will and testament, the late Pete Hodge of Puritan, in England. He was a devoted fisherman. He wanted the tradition to continue, so in his will he had himself cremated and turned himself into 30 pounds of ground bait. Thus, Mr. Hodge, sleeps with the fishes.
Number two, best real life enactment of a joke, Timothy Yates, arrested in Palm Springs, California for trying to shoplift a three and a half pound package of Foster Farms chicken breasts by hiding it in his pants. OK, here it is; is that a chicken breast in your pocket or are you just—
Number one, best plea deal, Tremayne Durham of New York, pleading out at his murder trial in Oregon, agreeing to plead guilty but only if he could get a break from that abysmal jail food. So he gets some chicken from KFC, some chicken from Popeyes, mashed potatoes, cold slaw, carrot cake, ice cream, calzones, lasagna, pizza and more ice cream and 30 years.
OLBERMANN: A lesson to politicians of any stripe leading any protest against any other party of any kind: if you‘re going to accuse them of being on vacation instead of doing the people‘s work, it is essential for you yourself not to be caught at the same time on vacation playing at least two golf courses. Our third story, also standing around on the House floor in the dark with the lights off might blow back at you.
Since last Friday, official summer recess for House, a handful of Republicans have remained, vowing to stay through the 25th, the start of the Democratic Convention, unless Speaker Nancy Pelosi reconvenes the House for a vote on expanding offshore drilling. House Republican leader John Boehner, in a memo this weekend, rallied Republican members to skip their vacations for protest, and then Tuesday released a statement saying Congress does not deserve a break.
This is Boehner‘s golf score from Ohio‘s Weatherington Country Club this weekend, where he shot an 85. On Tuesday, according to the “Washington Post,” Boehner was still in Ohio at the Merefield (ph) Village Golf Club. We don‘t know his score there. While John McCain has spent the week echoing GOP criticism of the Congressional break, as of tomorrow, it will be four months since Mr. McCain showed up for his job, having missed 103 consecutive votes, including several that, unlike the offshore drilling, experts say actually will bring down the price of oil.
Let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also, of course, columnist and associate editor of the “Washington Post.” Much thanks for your time tonight, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: First the theater and then the substance; Boehner and McCain demanding Congress take action while they‘re out of town. Did they skip out on a couple of sessions of political imagery 101?
ROBINSON: You know, you‘re just being old-fashioned there, Keith. Listen, in fairness to Congressman Boehner, I think Merefield Village is a pretty tough course, I mean a punishing course. So it‘s not as if he was having fun out there. You know?
OLBERMANN: We first had on this the gas tax holiday. Now we have the lights off protests, which, by the way leads to the idea, they‘re the Republicans standing in the dark again. But do many of these gimmicks recoil? Do they make people wonder if the guys who are doing this so theatrically are just shilling for big oil?
ROBINSON: I think there is a real danger here. John McCain, you know, when he wanted to campaign in favor of drilling, wanted to appear on an offshore oil platform. I mean it‘s one thing to associate yourself with easing the energy woes of the American people, but there is a danger of appearing to shill for big oil or, indeed, shilling for big oil. But in another sense, I was talking to a Democratic operative who suggested that Republicans might be happy as long as people are talking about this theater, absurd or not, rather than talking about health care or Iraq or any of the—you know, the economy, any of the issues on which the Republican party clearly is taking what the public believes are the wrong positions.
OLBERMANN: There was another issue here that the Republicans actually brought in Newt Gingrich yesterday, some sort of old-timers day at Congress, to threaten a possible government shutdown if Nancy Pelosi does not let them vote on offshore drilling. Part one, does the Bush government actually do anything more that could be shut down? Do we have to worry about shutting down? And part two, what happened to the GOP the last time Newt Gingrich came in and shut down the government?
ROBINSON: In answer to A, I think the president has pretty much taken care of shutting down the government. He‘s had seven years to do it and he‘s done a pretty good job of it. In terms of B, that didn‘t work out so well for them. I think they ought to go back and look at the videotape of that game. It wasn‘t one of old-timer Newt‘s better outings. So I think they might want to review the film.
OLBERMANN: This just in, Newt Gingrich has been traded to the New York Jets, Gene. How about that, he‘s going to be Brett Favre‘s backup there. Sorry.
Crude oil has been dropping for a month now, and the GOP actually credited themselves and their protest for that fact, rather than the Democratic crackdown on speculators or the economists idea that, hey, guess what, this is an illustration that consumers will eventually stop buying anything that costs too much. Whatever the answer is, are they still helping the drilling cause by saying this when all the evidence suggests it‘s some other reason? Or are they underscoring the holes in drilling by bringing attention to it?
ROBINSON: I think that nobody pays attention to that. Nobody‘s going to believe that their protests brought down oil prices. I think if you‘re going to believe anybody, believe the numbers. I mean U.S. demand is down, and if you believe that the price is set at the margins, then that had the impact or whatever. But I don‘t think anybody‘s going to take that seriously.
OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC, when we‘re fortunate enough to have him. Thank you, Gene, good night.
ROBINSON: Great to be here. Good night, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The second epic team switch of football‘s off season, Brett Favre to the New York Jets. First epic team switch, Dan Patrick joining us on NBC Football Night in America. He‘ll be here tonight to talk Favre.
And Rudy Giuliani sees Chinese people drilling off Florida‘s coast.
They‘re not actually there, of course. Worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Brett Favre is a New York Jet, and Dan Patrick will be here to explain to me why this had to happen. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Todd Tichner (ph), minor league baseball umpire, working the plate as vacation relief in this afternoon‘s San Diego Padres, New York Mets game, symbolic of a growing wave of aggressiveness, petulance, and the infallibility complex hitting the umps again. Padres manager Bud Black made what they call a double switch, a pinch hitter for the pitcher stays in the game. The new pitcher bats not ninth, but in this case second. Well, Tichner asked Bud Black where he wanted the pitcher and black said, two hole, and gestured with two fingers, as in a peace sign.
Tichner then screwed it up. He ordered the pitcher to hit ninth, refused to let the pinch hitter stay in the game. He then threw Black and a Padres coach out of the game. He then said Black never said anything about batting the pitcher second, and did not make the two gesture. Hey, Todd, we could see it from the press box. What did you think he was doing when he did this? Doing an impression of Richard Nixon or Winston Churchill?
The runner-up, Glenn Beck, parroting the latest GOP talking points that the new Batman movie is a tribute to President Bush and, quote, “conservative values and the war on terror.” This even though the director says the chaos of Gotham in the movie is, in fact, based to some degree on the chaos of Baghdad. Not exactly a pat on the back to the old president. “Batman goes into another country, said Beck, and with a C-130 snatches a guy out and then throws him back here into Gotham. So there is rendition. One of the ways they find the joker is through eavesdropping. I mean, the parallels here of what‘s going on is, to me, stunning.”
We have all seen your intellect at work, sir. No doubt you find the fact that the sun sets in the west every night stunning.
But our winner, Rudy Giuliani. Even the most lunatic of lunatic fringers have dropped their paranoid fantasies that China is drilling for oil off the Florida coast, especially once that was dismissed as an urban legend based on the fact that a Chinese company has a deal with the Cuban government to look for oil on the island of Cuba, not in the water around it.
Rudy did not get the revised talking points. He went on the Fox and Friends fantasy show and announced the Chinese are going to be able to drill off the shore of Florida in an area where America cannot drill. We have prohibited ourselves from drilling. This is absurd isn‘t it? How can you be against offshore drilling when the Chinese are going to drill off the shore of Florida? Do you think they‘re going to be more environmentally sound than we will be? I mean, this makes no sense.
The last part is right, you don‘t make no sense at all. And if we need to listen to anyone, when he admits he‘s making no sense, that man is Rudy Giuliani, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Would that this was a sexist joke, but sadly it‘s all true. The New York Jets, four and 12 last season, and winners of just one home game, have become known less as a football team and more as a place for public drunkenness and lewdness, notoriously for the surprising number of female fans who would remove their tops during each home game. Just weeks ago, the NFL issued a conduct code for fans, which included something about no flashing.
Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, scrambling, in crisis, desperate and forced to force their women fans to stay fully dressed, the Jets had to do something. So they traded for Brett Favre. Dan Patrick joins me in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT FAVRE, NFL FOOTBALL PLAYER: I‘m a member of the Jets. I‘m excited about it. I‘m excited about the opportunity. I hope that I play at the level that I have always played at. There‘s no guarantees. There‘s never been any guarantees from me.
I don‘t know anyone in this locker room. To a certain degree, I really don‘t know what I‘m getting into. And it‘s not—and I‘m talking about from a team standpoint. What can I do in a short amount of time to get this team where we want to go?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: After weeks of agonizing speculation, hand wringing, even a house call from the new president of Favre‘s NFL team since 1992, the Green Bay Packers, today at the stroke of 1:15 a.m., he turned into a New York Jet. The Jets have not had this big a name at quarterback, nor once this physically damaged, since they traded the man who led them to their only Super Bowl, Broadway Joe Namath. to the L.A. Rams in the ‘70s.
Meantime in Green Bay, there is the kind of separation anxiety that can only be brought by trading away the face of a franchise for 16 seasons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TED THOMPSON, PACKERS‘ GENERAL MANAGER: When the trade papers actually came and I was going to sign it, which would be my job, I almost wanted someone else to sign it.
MARK MURPHY, PACKERS‘ PRESIDENT: It wasn‘t Brett‘s fault and it wasn‘t our fault. But the relationship got to a point where it couldn‘t go forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oh, boo-hoo, sign the paper. What the transaction cost the Jets, a fourth, possibly a first round draft pick if they make it to the Super Bowl—it will be a fourth—and the right to trade Favre to his first choice, the Vikings. The trade completes an unfulfilled intention from 1991, in the college draft that year, the Jets were all set to select Favre with the 34th draft pick, but Atlanta drafted him 33rd.
Favre now becomes unofficially Broadway Brett. The man he replaces at quarterback for the Jets, Chad Pennington, today released, now unofficially becomes Hanging Chad. Pleasure to be joined now by the newest of the 117 co-hosts of NBC‘s Football Night in America, the old tag team partner his own self, Dan Patrick. Good evening.
DAN PATRICK, NBC‘S FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA: Hey, the number one story, I‘m impressed. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Don‘t get used to it. Long time no TV. In brief, why did this have to happen? I don‘t understand.
PATRICK: You know what it was? I think that these athletes are so conditioned that your body clock tells you at a certain time of the year when you‘re supposed to be getting ready for something. And this is 20 years, Keith, and his body clock said maybe in March I can retire, but in July and August, I‘m going to be coming back. I think that‘s what happened. He got that itch to come back. I don‘t think he wanted to retire in the fist place. And I think that the Packers have been trying to move on for the last couple of years.
Favre‘s season last year surprised everybody. It would have been easy to move forward. That was part of the problem here. He played too well last year. Therefore he said can I go out this way? I think that the Packers—there was a stare down here. And Favre lost that stare down. And I think what people should understand is Favre didn‘t get to pick Tampa Bay or the Jets. The Packers picked the Jets because they don‘t want Favre in the NFC. They play the Buccaneers this year. It was almost their last way of saying, here is your nice parting gift. Go join Tom Brady and company in the AFC East.
OLBERMANN: This works into this idea that really mystifies me. I don‘t know any other sport where this would be true. Why did it seem as if the NFL was hell-bent on keeping it‘s most popular player from playing?
PATRICK: I think that the commissioner got involved here. From what I was told earlier today, he was reinstated, so Favre thought I have to go to Green Bay; I‘m reinstated. That‘s part of my contract. The commissioner says to go there. He went there, and I think he thought it was going to be a palace coup; I‘m walking in there and I‘m going to take over this job.
He got there and it‘s barbarians at the gate. They said, we‘re going to give you the Heisman here. You stay away. This is what I was told that was amazing, Keith, by somebody who was involved in this story: they said that Favre was told when he showed up on Sunday, do not go on the sidelines to be with your teammates in this scrimmage, and do not go into the locker room after the game. Wait until Tuesday, you show up at training camp. That should have been the indication of thank you for the memories, Brett.
OLBERMANN: Here‘s your parking spot, it‘s in New Jersey. Is it possible—do you think there‘s enough there, either in him or in the Jets, for him to have a successful season with them? The impression would be, after last year, that the likeliest thing is his memories of this year are going to be how much of the sky he gets to see each time he gets sacked.
PATRICK: Well, he wanted to go to Tampa, from what I‘m told, because you‘re in the NFC. You‘re in a division you can win. And you have a better chance of going to the Super Bowl. I don‘t think he just wanted to play. I think he wanted to play and be successful. He also wanted to stick it back to the Packers. That‘s why he wanted to go to the Buccaneers.
The Jets do have a nucleus there. They have good wide receivers, Coles and Contry (ph). They have a good tight end coming in. They have a productive running back. I think the big thing is going to be can you learn this system in the next couple of weeks, because Favre used to do it at the line of scrimmage. With the Jets, it‘s a little bit different. Their system is different. Tampa Bay ran sort of the same cycle. It‘s a hybrid of the west coast offense. But I think with the Jets, it‘s a little bit different. And to be able to do that, and you know what it‘s like to throw passes in the Meadowlands, it‘s a very difficult place because of the wind there.
But it‘s an upgrade. And they needed Favre more than Tampa Bay needed him.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, the Jets‘ fans went appropriately nuts. The single day sales for his uniform, apparently it‘s a record; 2,500 Jets tickets sold online at one of the stub services in the hours after the news. But, you and I know this. These are Jets fans. They start booing and screaming at him; hey, Brett, take it off. What‘s your prediction, how long it takes before that happens?
PATRICK: I think they‘ll be a little bit more relaxed with that. I think Eli may get booed quicker than Brett Favre gets booed by the Giants fan. I think that Favre comes in, and they‘re looking at him and saying, OK, Pennington, Clemens, Foley, Ryan, Todd. God, we have had Vinnie Testaverde, Neil O‘Donnel. Favre, let‘s just look at him. Even if he‘s not that good, we get to at least look at a Hall of Fame quarterback. We haven‘t had that since Joe Namath.
OLBERMANN: That‘s right. He looks better in the uniform than Al Woodall. Let me ask you one more thing on this. Is there a way that the Packers could regret this?
PATRICK: I checked with Vegas today on the over/under. Do you realize that the over/under on victories is just about the same for the Packers and the Jets? If Favre would happen to do better with the Jets than Rogers does with the Packers, Ted Thompson, the GM, his job is the one that‘s sort of hanging there in limbo. Because the Packer fans are going to say, OK, we‘ll buy into Aaron Rogers. But was he an upgrade. The NFL is a win now league. Favre would help you win today, but they have been trying to move on for the last three years.
So I think he‘ll have them monitoring Favre‘s success. But Aaron Rogers, he‘s got a tough road here.
OLBERMANN: What is that over your left shoulder, by the way? What is that? What is that large thing?
PATRICK: That‘s one of my—I borrowed that from Bob Costas. It‘s his sports Emmy. Is that what you‘re talking about?
OLBERMANN: Yes, because I have never seen one of those up close. Dan Patrick, soon to join me on “Football Night in America” on NBC, or as we call it in the building, FNIA. Talk to you soon, partner.
PATRICK: It‘s great to be on COUNTDOWN. Thank you, KO.
OLBERMANN: See you. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 1,926th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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