Guest: Chris Hayes, Barton Gellman
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The financial meltdown. Now, AIG insurance, teeters on the edge of catastrophe.
Obama offers a six-point plan to deal with the crisis. It takes at least two minutes and 12 seconds to explain in brief.
McCain offers a complaint about the alphabet super-regulatory agencies and says he wants a commission or a study group to issue a report later, much later, a couple years maybe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can fix it. I believe in America. We can have a 9/11 Commission such as we had after 9/11. This is such a huge crisis.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here's the thing. This isn't 9/11. We know how we got into this mess. What we need now is leadership that gets us out.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: McCain's economic leadership comes in part from Carly
Fiorina who today says -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLY FIORINA, MCCAIN ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Well, I don't think John McCain could run a major corporation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Could Dick Cheney run us into a war with lies? "Sure," says the author of "Angler." Cheney lied to former House Republican, Dick Armey. Told Armey, Saddam had personal ties to al Qaeda and was about to get a suitcase nuke. Author Barton Gellman joins me for a cable news exclusive.
Worsts: Defending Sarah Palin's tanning bed by suggesting she might be suffering from light deprivation depression-saying the governor suffers from clinical depression helps her how?
And as the Republican campaign descends into what one former McCain supporter today describes as farce, Governor Palin again invokes special needs children while vetoing more than $250,000 for the Special Olympics.
And a faithful claim is made about the self-admitted computer
illiterate candidate. Your cellphone, your wi-fi, your BlackBerry. McCain
adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin holds up his BlackBerry and says -
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, MCCAIN ADVISOR: He did this. So, you're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create and that's what he did.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: John McCain invented the BlackBerry?
Rachel Maddow joins me to gawk as the senator jumps the Al Gore Internet shark.
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Tuesday, September 16th, 49 days until the 2008 presidential election.
Our sister network, CNBC having reported that the Fed has agreed to extend an $85 billion loan to the insurance giant, AIG, in exchange for an 80 percent stake in the company.
Thus, tonight, as the Wall Street "Wild West" meltdown worsens, Senator McCain is having dinner with two families in Youngstown, Ohio, after economist and columnist Paul Krugman compared his approach on this program and his language to that of President Herbert Hoover at the start of the Great Depression. And no word yet on whether the menu at that dinner tonight consisted of a chicken in every pot.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The Democratic nominee rolled out a plan to try to address the crisis spreading outwards from the mortgage industry. The Republican nominee admitted he had oversight over every part of the economy that has hemorrhaged; he called for a long-term study of some sort.
Senator McCain is still insisting to anybody who will listen as he did on "THE TODAY SHOW" this morning, the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong, and that for the first time in the history of the English language, by saying "fundamentals," somebody meant people, in this case the American workers. So, if you disagree with him about the strength of those fundamentals, you're insulting them.
And also, we can fix the economic of people, but first we need to appoint a commission much like the 9/11 Commission to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it but the fundamentals, they are strong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: There's nothing wrong with the workers of America. I believe that they are the fundamentals. You may not, others may not. I think that the worker of America is the reason why we've been a preeminent economy in the world for a long, long period of time.
America is in crisis because of greed, excess and corruption. People walking a way with pay packages for failed enterprises and inside the beltway, old-boy network that led to the kind of corruption that we've seen and the patch-work quilt the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies which is never been reformed.
And we need a 9/11 Committee and we need a commission to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. I know we can do that and I'll do it. And we've had enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Enough of what, exactly? The alphabet soup of regulatory agencies? In March of this year, Senator McCain having told the "Wall Street Journal," quoting, "I'm always for less regulation. But I am aware of the view that there is a need for government oversight but I am a fundamentally a deregulator. I'd like to see a lot of the unnecessary government regulations eliminated."
You might think McCain would be backing away from that statement as quickly as he is attempting to redefine the fundamentals of the U.S. economy but back to "THE TODAY SHOW" where that did not seem to be the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Of course, I don't like excessive and unnecessary government regulation. Ask any American citizen who's subject to bureaucracies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This from the candidate who admits that the economy is not his strong suit and was asked about that deficiency in his resume this morning on CBS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CBS NEWS)
HARRY SMITH, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Let me ask you this. Earlier this year on the campaign trail, you said or you admitted that you didn't know a lot about the economy. Why should voters trust you in these perilous times with the economy of the United States?
MCCAIN: You know, it's one of the interesting things about having long conversations. The point is, I was chairman of the commerce committee, every part of the America's economy I oversighted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He seems to actually be taking credit for the lack of oversight which would seem to be the problem here.
Fact: A decade ago, Senator McCain having attempted unsuccessfully to push to a moratorium on all federal regulations.
Fact: The man who drafted McCain's current economic policy, former Senator Phil Gramm, in 2000, having authored a piece of legislation called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which kept derivatives and much of a high-end investment market off-limits to regulators, helping to induce this current crisis.
Fact: Senator McCain having yet to cite a single specific way in which he would fix the current crisis and according to him, we haven't yet figured out what went wrong.
His opponent, meanwhile, with a six-point plan that he first unveiled during the primaries that would regulate investment banks, much in the same way that commercial banks are currently regulated.
This morning in Colorado, Senator Obama outlining what he has done and would do still.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In February of 2006, I introduced legislation to stop mortgage
transaction that promoted fraud, risk, or abuse. A year later -
OBAMA: A year later, before the crisis hit, I warned Secretary Paulson at the Treasury and Chairman Bernanke of the Fed about the risk of mounting foreclosures and urged them to bring together all the stakeholders, to find solutions to the subprime mortgage meltdown. Senator McCain did nothing.
OBAMA: Last September, I stood up at NASDAQ and said it's time to realize that we are in this together, that there is no dividing line between Wall Street and Main Street, and warned of a growing loss of trust in our capital markets. Months later, Senator McCain told the newspaper that he'd love to give them a solution to the mortgage crisis but, and I quote, "I don't know one."
In January, I outlined a plan to help revive our faltering economy which formed the basis for a bipartisan stimulus package that passed the Congress. Senator McCain used the crisis as an excuse to push a so-called stimulus plan that offered another huge and permanent corporate tax cut, including $4 billion to the big oil companies, but no immediate help for workers.
OBAMA: This March, in the wake of the Bear Stearns bailout, I called for a new 21st century regulatory framework to restore accountability, transparency and thrust in our financial markets.
Just a few weeks earlier, Senator McCain made it clear where he stands, quote, "I'm always for less regulation," unquote. And, referred to himself as, quote, "fundamentally a deregulator."
Now, this is what happens when you confuse the free market with a free license to let special interests take whatever they get, however they can get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But don't you want a long-range planning commission?
Time now to bring in our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is anybody else here at this moment, in the economic or political world, besides Senator McCain, suggesting a commission rather than some sort of action that needs to take place no later than January 20th of next year?
WOLFFE: No, unless there's a good reason for that. Commissions are the favorite ploy of Washington politicians in a very different situation, for a set of chronic problems like Social Security that requires a bipartisan solution, but not really a solution to a crisis which is clearly what we're seeing, not just over the last few days but also, today with AIG.
This is something that as the McCain campaign would say, requires someone with expertise and experience and some leadership, the problem is that a commission is typically used to kick a situation down the road and isn't for an immediate crisis. And that's what's the sort of conflicted message about throwing out a commission idea into the middle of all this.
OLBERMANN: That's sort of inside the beltway, old-boy network kind of thinking on this, I suppose. Is this actually-and besides that, kind of kick-the-can-down-road thing, could it also be a cover for somebody who's representing a part of the nation, if you will, that would favor no changes and certainly, no more regulation of business?
WOLFFE: Well, a cover would normally mean they had some responsibility or hand in this, and you can debate about that, but I think the real cover here is the really extraordinary about-face that McCain is trying to pull off here. His instincts, his record have all been as he said before, to deregulate, to relieve for the regulatory burden to be Reaganesque, laissez faire, and not to impose what he talked about today-tighter rules, more oversight and more accountability and most extraordinarily of all, this populist tone about curbing executive pay-excess executive pay.
Now, this is a candidate, who, just a few weeks ago couldn't define what "rich" was, and yet today, he's saying that he can define what "excessive executive pay" is. That would require legislation, oversight and intrusion into the affairs of corporations that I don't believe any Republican or even any Democrat, in recent memory, has ever proposed. So, how you square all of this stuff up, his record, his instincts with what he said in the last couple of days-you need a commission just to figure that out.
OLBERMANN: How does that square up with where Senator Gramm is in this campaign and in having authored that legislation that did away with much of the regulation that used to exist to prevent things like this-I mean, the plan he wrote is still the McCain economic plan, is it not?
WOLFFE: Absolutely. And Phil Gramm isn't just the sort writer of the plan, he's the sort of a spiritual mentor on economic issues, not just because they go back in the Senate a long time, but McCain, also with chairman of his presidential campaign. And what Phil Gramm represents and what actually John McCain represented when he was chairman of the commerce committee, was this hardcore belief in deregulation.
That's exactly what they did in the late '90s, they thought they took a lot of credit for economic growth because of it and that philosophy does not square with what McCain is talking about today. It is a complete about-face.
OLBERMANN: The McCain economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who we'll hear from later on in claiming the senator invented the BlackBerry, incidentally, had this briefing in which he said you should not run for president by trying to scare people, which is interesting by itself, but he emphasized that the McCain campaign would not be trying to write any legislation, it would be laying out guidelines for Wall Street-is that not the essence of what the Bush administration has done for the last seven years and, perhaps, why we are all where we are tonight?
WOLFFE: Well, it was certainly their view until they thought of intervening very heavily in the struggling financial sector. I don't think they're issuing guidelines right now. They are taking extraordinary measures that, frankly, even the Clinton administration never did because they never face this kind of crisis.
But Holtz-Eakin is being true to their economic philosophy which is guidelines. How are you going to issue guidelines to firms to curb excess corporate pay, for instance? It just cannot be done. So, Holtz-Eakin is really telling the truth in terms of where McCain and Gramm come from here, but, again, it does not square with the kind of populist rhetoric that McCain came up with today.
OLBERMANN: Last point. Politics-pure and simple. This is not obviously Senator McCain's first experience with failing banks. Are the Democrats now going to start bringing in the Keating Five to this next?
WOLFFE: There was a long passage in Obama's speech talk about saving and loan crisis and that was a clear nod to everything that came out of that including Keating Five. They didn't use the words. They are debating whether or not they should, I suspect they will avoid it if they possibly can.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," in Los Angeles for us tonight. Thank you, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Senator McCain has other problems tonight. One of them is Governor Palin's sudden unpopularity. A new polling concluding the almost impossible-her favorable/unfavorable rating has dropped 10 points since Saturday.
OLBERMANN: She lied about the teleprompter screwing up during her acceptance speech and got caught. She invoked her own special needs son twice in two days and got caught cutting her state's Special Olympics budget. And the installation of tanning bed in the governor's mansion has now been explained by her defenders as possibly her effort to treat depression, and now, Governor Palin's popularity score has dropped 10 points in three days.
Bushed: The Sunni awakening might yet be put back to sleep as the Iraqi government starts arresting the very people who abandoned al Qaeda to side with us.
And take another look at your BlackBerry there. John McCain invented it.
All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: "I am one of the journalists accused over the years of being in the tank for McCain," writes Richard Cohen of the "Washington Post" today. "Guilty," he confesses, "and had to do with McCain's integrity," Cohen explains.
It all unraveled for Cohen today, he turned him into little McCain pieces, quote, "He has become the sort of politicians he once despised. McCain has turned ugly. McCain lied about his lying and once as a tragedy, a second time is farce. John McCain is both."
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Mr. Cohen never even mentioned Governor Palin. New polling on her suggests she has in "Newsweek's" terms gone, quote, "from being the most popular White House hopeful to the least," as McCain and Palin took the stage together once more, this time in Vienna, Ohio to plug their plans for fixing the economy, one of the campaign's top economic advisers essentially threw their touted business acumen under the bus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Can I just ask you about an interview, I believe you did this today on KTRS Radio, the "McGraw-Hill Show," and you were asked whether Sarah Palin has the experience to run a major company like Hewlett-Packard which you did and you said, "No, I don't. But you know what? That's not what she's running for"?
FIORINA: Well, I don't think John McCain could run a major corporation. I don't think Barack Obama could run a major corporation. I don't think Joe Biden could run a major corporation. But on the other hand, a major corporation is not the same as being the president or the vice president of the United States. It is a fallacy to suggest that the country is like a company.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: She would know she got fired from running that company. It's all very true. Running the country is a lot harder than running a company. And telling the truth, at least, for Governor Palin, apparently is hardest of all.
At a fundraiser in Canton, Ohio last night, the vice presidential nominee telling the crowd that during her lauded convention acceptance speech, quote, "There Ohio was right in front of me. The teleprompter got messed up, I couldn't follow it, and I just decided I'd just talk to the people in front of me. It was Ohio."
Only one problem with that crowd-pleasing tale of quick thinking under pressure, it's not true. Reporters who could see the teleprompter during the governor's speech say there were no serious malfunctions with the machine, a fact backed up by convention organizers.
Even egregious than lying about the teleprompter working what she actually read off the teleprompter, a quote by an unidentified writer praising President Truman for having been a small-town citizen. The writer was right-wing McCarthyite, anti-Semitic columnist, Westbrook Pegler, who once lamented a botched assassination on attempt on President Roosevelt and who later wrote that he was hoping for the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
I'm joined now by the Washington editor for "The Nation" magazine, Chris Hayes.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me start with this Hotline polling that "Newsweek" summarized. It's stupefying. As of Saturday, people who viewed Governor Palin as unfavorable was 30 percent; now, it's 36 percent as of yesterday. As of Saturday, people who viewed her as favorable, 52 percent; now, it's 48 percent. She lost 10 points net in three days. How does anybody lose 10 points in favorability, popularity, in three days?
HAYES: I don't know. I mean, if I were a trader on Wall Street, I think, I would be shorting Sarah Palin's stock at this point. I mean, and I actually think in some ways a NAFTA analogy-you know, clearly the Sarah Palin phenomenon is a bubble in a certain sense.
It's like tech stocks, it's like the real estate market, there was a tremendous amount of interest in this kind of cascading positive feedback loop of coverage of her because of-she was an appealing person. She clearly was charismatic. She was clearly bright and she had this compelling personal story. She was new. She was fresh.
All of that was sort of the most superficial things we knew about Sarah Palin and then what happened and what we've seen over the last week is people are getting to know what kind of vice president or president Sarah Palin would make and they are recoiling.
OLBERMANN: Who-is there something larger in play to this? I mean, who lies about a teleprompter? I mean, read your first major national speech, you're being nominated for the vice presidency, and you do it well off of fully-functioning teleprompter. That's impressive enough.
OLBERMANN: But they had that prompter malfunction story out within 20 minutes. We ran it on this network. Why lie when you already got the A-plus?
HAYES: I have-I mean, it's a really bizarre lie, particularly given the fact that the press is sitting and I was sitting in Xcel Center in such a position that you can see the teleprompter scrolling and know that it's not malfunctioning. So, it's some sort of-easily verifiable that she's not telling the truth.
But, look-the Sarah Palin phenomenon is about a story about a
person named Sarah Palin, right? It's not about the actual governor of
Alaska. It's not about a real political figure. And so, we seem, time and
time again, this need to preserve the initial story of the first few days -
that she's a reformer, that she said, "No thanks to the Bridge to Nowhere," that she didn't want earmarks, that she improvised her speech at the RNC. All these aren't true, right?
But what they did was they chose a kind of narrative set piece when they chose Sarah Palin. They didn't choose the actual governor of Alaska. And so, what they need to do is dig their heels in and just keep repeating this methodology.
OLBERMANN: I am waiting for she invented the BlackBerry. Oh, they used the already for somebody else.
We mentioned this last night as it broke. Suddenly, the governor has decided not to meet with the investigator in the trooper-gate story. They say the political taint on this committee now is overwhelming even though it's three Republicans and two Democrats. How dumb is this? I mean, did she not just keep the story alive rather than making it like a one-day event later on down the trail? Didn't she just turn it into something that last until November 4th, presuming she lasts until November 4th?
HAYES: Yes. I mean, it's the oldest cliche in politics, right? It's not the crime, it's the coverup and that seems to be where this story is going. I mean, I don't know. If I was advising Sarah Palin from a purely political perspective-do you want this investigation to go forward which looks like it would suggest or show that there was some interference in trying to get this person fired, or do you want to try to quash it? Clearly, they've gone for the later. But then just makes people think there's something to hide.
So, they're a little bit boxed in. The crazy thing is that, of course, one would think this the type of thing that would come up in the vetting process. I don't know if they knew about it and just ignored it or they figured they could sweep on the rug, but clearly, they're going-again, they're going to double-down on that now.
OLBERMANN: The teleprompter malfunction during the vetting process and nobody remembered what questions to ask, but they did a nice job of improvising the other ones.
Chris Hayes of "The Nation," as always, Chris, many thanks.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The governor didn't get many favors done for her today
when a conservative Web site suggested that the tanning bed she installed
in her mansion might have been there as an antidote for depression. Wait -
did you say Palin needs an antidote for depression? Worst Persons ahead.
And, damned those online dating services? No, that's not what this is. An explanation ahead.
But first, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals-Bushed.
Number three: Vaccine-gate. It is revealed that two months ago, Mr. Bush's Immigration Department added a new mandatory vaccination for anybody seeking U.S. citizenship, Gardasil, which protects against Human Papillomavirus, HPV, which is 19 months ago, the head of immunization for the Centers of Disease Control insisted Gardasil should not be mandatory for Americans because HPV is not communicable like, say, chicken pox is.
So now if you're a citizen, you don't have to be vaccinated. If you want to become a citizen, you do. Meaning, we are demanding they take a way the right to choose, the right we give citizens, and we also get another group of human guinea pigs for this vaccine and Merck gets to charge them $162 a shot.
Number two: Passport-gate. Remember this, that explosive night when it was revealed somebody had access to Senator Obama's passport file inside the State Department, then it was Obama and Clinton, then it was Obama and Clinton and McCain? Former State Department contractor, Lawrence C. Yontz, will plead guilty to the illegal accessing of the candidates' files.
Mr. Yontz will, in fact, plead guilty to snooping into passport files of-quoting the paperwork-"various celebrities, athletes, actors, politicians and their immediate families, musicians, game show contestants, members of the media corps, prominent business professionals, colleagues, associates, neighbors and individuals identified in the press."
Fortunately, the problem ends with Mr. Yontz. Well, with Mr. Yontz and the other government workers identified by investigators as having access to these files, the other 20,499 workers.
And number one: Unraveling Iraq-gate. The real reason for fewer American fatalities there, the movement of tribal leaders out of the arms of al Qaeda and into the camp of the Iraqi national government. The so-called "Sunni awakening" has been newly jeopardized. Sunnis who had opposed American presence in Anbar and Diyala provinces switched to our side for various reasons, including money, and the promise that as many as 20,000 members of one of their military brigades would become part of the Iraqi police and army.
Instead in Diyala province, the Iraqi police and army have started arresting members of that military brigade because of their actions before the awakening.
So, we make a deal with these guys. You opposed Americans, you opposed the Iraqi national government, you supported al Qaeda in Iraq, we'll forget that if you support Americans and you support the Iraqi national government and we'll put your people in the army and the police and the violence stops.
But instead of fulfilling our part of the deal, we start arresting the Sunnis for what they did before we made the deal.
Now, what do you expose will happen next?
As Iraq's vice president puts it, if those groups and individuals are frustrated, they might change their minds, and instead of fighting al Qaeda and terrorism, they will be back to offering them a safe haven. So we just renege on a deal and we may send the Sunnis in Diyala province back into the hands of terrorists and even angrier than ever.
Senator McCain, President Bush, kiss your surge goodbye.
OLBERMANN: Ahead, McCain in the membrane and the would-be vice president who gutted her own state's Special Olympics. First, this is the birthday of Betty Joan Perske, nominated for or winner of 16 major awards for film and television acting as, of course, Lauren Bacall, best known around here for her astounding statement this July to the "San Francisco Chronicle," "I only listen to Keith Olbermann. To hell with the rest of them now. I'm an MSNBC type now." And I thought I liked her in "The Big Sleep." Happy birthday. Let's play Oddball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We begin in London where I'm told there is a height difference between these two people. I would not know. I do not see height. I only see human beings. It's the world's smallest man, Hai Ping Ping (ph), standing between the world's tallest legs of Svetlana Pankratova (ph). That's right. Straight ahead, Mr. Ping Ping.
He stands just 2'5. She has socks that are bigger than he is. Miss Pankratova's legs are 4'4 tall. The two hooked up in Trafalgar Square to hock this year's Guinness Book of World Records. The pair got along well at the shoot. Afterwards, they went to Buckingham Palace to try to crack up the queen's guards.
To Fatah Tikva (ph), Israel, where the shitzu has hit the fan. Town officials faced with the problem of people not curbing their dogs are attempting to track down guilty owners by using DNA profiling. You Israel tax shekels in action. During a six-month trial, dog owners are asked to bring their dogs to a vet who will swab the pet's mouth for a DNA sample. The sample can then be cross referenced with DNA samples of non-curbed doggy-doo and the owners of the busted dogs would they be fined.
That's if you brought your dog for the sample. Also, as a side benefit, the resulting DNA database will be shared with American authorities, who are still trying to determine who let the dog out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: How much lying did Dick Cheney do to get us into war? Cable news exclusive; the author of the extraordinary new book on Cheney, Barton Gellman, joins me next.
And the kind of claim that helped to derail Al Gore; a top adviser to John McCain claimed the senator invented your Blackberry.
That's ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It is almost heart breaking to consider, but what if all that stood between us and the Iraq war, 4,100 Americans dead, hundreds of billions gone, American influence, respect, sympathy from 9/11 squandered, was a single lie behind closed doors from one man to another. In our third story, this from the new book "Angler, the Cheney Vice Presidency."
The Cheney profile largely substantiates Cheney's public image, secretive, manipulative, tipping America's historic balance of power towards the president, detailing how Cheney and top aide David Addington kept both Mr. Bush and supposedly top intel and counter-terrorism officials in the dark about Justice Department opposition to warrantless wire taps, driving DOJ leaders to the point of resignation, while Mr. Bush was on the campaign trail and unaware. And with Mr. Bush's consent, undermining some of America's most deeply held and longest held principles about limits on presidential power, in spying on Americans, abrogating individual rights and lying to the American people.
2002, late September, just as now, Congress weighs authorizing war in Iraq. Vice President Cheney briefs Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey. "The upshot of the briefing is Iraq's gathering threat that is really more imminent than we want to portray to the public." Cheney telling Armey that Iraq was developing miniaturized nuclear bombs, suitcase nukes, that Saddam himself had personal ties to al Qaeda. Quoting Armey, I felt like I deserved better from Cheney than to be bulled-he says the full word by him-had I known or believed then what I know now, I would have publicly opposed this resolution right to the bitter end and I believe I might have stopped it from happening.
With us now, the author of "Angler," Pulitzer Prize winner of the "Washington Post," Barton Gellman. Congratulations on the book and thanks for coming in.
BARTON GELLMAN, "ANGLER": Thanks.
OLBERMANN: You write that Cheney shifted America's course more than any terrorist could have. In what ways did he move us away from our principals?
GELLMAN: Well, he had a different interpretation of principals. He is a presidentialist and essentially an extreme presidentialist. He believes that the traditional notion of shared and overlapping powers is not correct, that the way to interpret the constitution is that the powers are completely separate, that the executive power belongs to the president, and the interprets that pretty expansively.
OLBERMANN: And the other branches of government try to chase the president and catch him if they can?
GELLMAN: Well, they have their jobs and the president has his, but his view is in interpreting the law that he has to execute, the president has the final word regardless of what the judicial or legislative branches purport to do to limit him.
OLBERMANN: The Cheney surveillance program, I think, the surface knowledge of this has been that it has been unprecedented, nothing like in American history. What did you learn about it that adds to our understanding of just how remarkable thing this actually was?
GELLMAN: Well, there's a long narrative in "Angler" that takes up three chapters on this. The bottom line is that this is probably the first intelligence operation that was conceived and overseen by a vice president. The guiding documents were written by his lawyer, David Addington, were stored in Addington's safe. The White House staff secretary didn't know they existed. And Addington de facto had control over who got to find out about the program.
OLBERMANN: The first rat in the Dick Cheney equation to a lot of us had to be the 2000 campaign prior to the full presidential campaign, the process by which Mr. Bush's vice presidential running mate was selected, one of those extraordinary things in which the chairman of the selection committee winds up selecting himself and recommending himself. It got some questioning at the time and more laughs than anything else, as if there was some light bulb went over Dick Cheney's head and George Bush's head simultaneously. I gather from your reporting this was not quite the innocent event or the process of elimination that it might have seemed at first.
GELLMAN: I would say that the official story about it that was told at the time wasn't true. One of the things that was said was that Dick Cheney subjected himself to the same scrutiny he subjected everyone else to. Now, it's an interesting concept in itself about how you scrutinize yourself, but it turns out he did not fill out the questionnaire he wrote, which was the most intrusive really in the history of VP selections. And the cardiac surgeon who vouched for his health, according to the campaign, I talked to, and, in fact, he didn't meet Cheney or read his medical records.
OLBERMANN: So, we have from the Dick Armey story, we have him lying to the Republican House leader at a critical moment before the war, lying to the-everybody involved in the vice-presidential selection process, keeping his president in the dark on certain vital pieces of information, used the NASA to spy on administration officials overseas, and, as you pointed out here, made Secretary Rice cry by stalling the Gitmo trials that she wanted, or the president wanted.
Ultimately, is this man going to be judged as being worse for Democrats or Republicans?
GELLMAN: If you mean that in a purely partisan politics, I think the answer came very clearly in the campaign. Is it Democrats or Republicans who want to use his name and think about it this way: in several of the Republican presidential debates when Dick Cheney's name was mentioned and questions about the vice president were asked, it was actually a laugh line for Republican audiences in those debate.
OLBERMANN: Barton Gellman, author of "Angler, the Cheney Vice Presidency." Once again, great thanks for some of your time tonight. All the best with this.
GELLMAN: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Did you know Gordon Liddy is still on the radio and making up stuff about Barack Obama? Worst persons ahead.
And did you know John McCain invented the Blackberry and Wi-fi and cell phones and, for all we know, the model T? These storied ahead, but first our newest feature, the most outrageous or untrue thing said by or on behalf of presidential nominee John McCain, McCain in the membrane.
Twice now in two days in Colorado, then today at Vienna, Ohio, Governor Palin has again invoked-that's the polite term-her status as the mother of a special need's child and the roll of advocate she wants to play for special needs kids. Yesterday, she said ever since I took the chief executive job up north, I pushed for more funding for students with special needs. Today the quote was, I sought more funds for students with special needs.
Problem, as the chief executive up north, she vetoed 275,000 dollars, crossed it out of the state funding of the Special Olympics. She cut the Special Olympics budget in half and is campaigning as an advocate for special needs kids. That's pretty sick. Well, at least we do know which charity I should donate that 100 bucks to every time she lies about her record, the Alaska Special Olympics.
OLBERMANN: I am not Bill Curtis and I did not discover the Internet. Did you know John McCain invented the Blackberry? It's true. And wi-fi and cell phones. Move over, Al Gore. That's ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, today's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to G. Gordon Liddy, soon to celebrate 78 years of living on his own personal plane of consciousness. Still reading the talking point that maybe Barack Obama wasn't born in this country. "there's others who say he was born in Kenya, and I don't have a birth certificate from Kenya to show that he was. Neither does he have a birth certificate to show he was born in Hawaii either."
He does. The nonpartisan website, FactCheck.org examined the birth certificate in person, showing him born in Hawaii. They touched it. They photographed it. They analyzed it. It's the original. He was born in Hawaii. Even the whack-o site World Net Daily says the Hawaii birth certificate is authentic. Gordon, you should go back to that old Watergate trick of yours, where you hold your hand over the flame until somebody tells you to stop. We'll back to you in January.
The runner up, Eddie Burke of radio station KBYR in Anchorage, Alaska. There was a protest against Governor Palin over the weekend. Naturally, Burke called the two women who organized it, quote, socialist, baby-killing maggots. Then he gave out their personal cell phone numbers and encouraged listeners to call them up and abuse them. The women got death threats. Mr. Burke got a paltry one week suspension and no doubt consideration to fill in some day for comedian Rush Limbaugh or Bill-O or some other or radio's inducers to violence.
But our winner, Kevin D. Williamson of "The National Review" online, who posted what he says is reader note about Governor Palin's embarrassment at the official revelation that she had a tanning bed installed in the governor's mansion. Mr. Williamson says the unnamed reader observed, quote, my wife, born and bread and of Alaska, laughed very heartily when I told her about this when she woke up. She has a very dark complexion, a fair bit of native Alaskan blood. She used a tanning bed when she was in Alaska. So did her whole family and most of her friends. Why? It's not for the tan, because as you might guess not much skin ever gets seen anyway. It to try and fight seasonal effective disorder, SAD. Perhaps Olbermann is unaware that Alaska is at a very northern latitude and even when it's summer, there are a lot of clouds. Thus, depression. A lot of people preferred the tanning beds to the strange light box thing.
So you're saying maybe Governor Palin suffers from depression caused by Seasonal Effective Disorder? This is a very real disease and this explanation here, this raises some real questions. Has the governor undergone therapy for her hypothetical case of depression? Has the governor disclosed her hypothetical illness in any medical disclosure forms? Has the governor been treated with any of the anti-depressants that WebMD, for instance, cites as common counter-measure for her hypothetical depression that she supposedly has?
Has the governor been afflicted with feelings of sadness or grumpiness or moodiness or anxiety associated by doctors with her hypothetical depression? Has the governor evidenced another prominent symptom of her hypothetical case of this form of depression, loss of interest in her usual activities? And one more to Mr. Williamson and his unnamed reader, are you sure this is a better tact to explain the governor's private tanning bed than to just say, she wanted a tanning bed. Kevin Williamson of the "National Review" online-with friends like this, who needs enemies-not helping Governor Palin very much, and today's worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: March 1st, 1999, asked what distinguished him from fellow Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Bradley, Al Gore started talking about technology in the 21st century and mentioned that while in Congress, quote, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental improvements in our educational system.
And, thus, was born the urban legend that Al Gore ever claimed he had invented the Internet. Tonight, in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the former vice president can finally sleep the sleep of he who has been shunted out the what the, what the limelight. This will be the day the story began that John McCain claimed he invented the Blackberry.
One of his economics boys, and you would think they would be hiding underground, TFN, but no, senior policy advisers Douglas Holtz-Eakin met with reporters today, trying to convince them McCain had the chops to fix the economy, even though McCain says it doesn't really need fixing. That's when Mr. Holtz-Eakin held up his own Blackberry to the reporters and said the words to be chronicled for history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he do on the Commerce Committee that Americans could look at and say, this is the guy who understands financial markets. Correct me if I'm wrong.
DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, MCCAIN ECONOMIC ADVISER: He didn't have jurisdiction over financials, first and foremost. But he did this, the telecommunications of the United States, a premier innovation in the past 15 years, come right through the Commerce Committee. you're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create. That's what he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The audio of that miraculous claim, perhaps to the chagrin of the miracle worker himself, was captured by Politico reporter on a Blackberry, which, by the way, is a product of a Canadian company. Back at whatever company produced McCain, the urgency of nipping it, nipping it in the bud, was apparent. Quoting headquarters, "he would not claim to be the inventor of anything, much less the Blackberry. This was obviously a bone headed joke by a staffer."
McCain however is said to have laughed. There is no one I wanted to share this special moment with more than with Rachel Maddow, her show is moment as way. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is this the perfect storm? Just as the media finally starts calling the McCain campaign a farce, in Richard Cohen's word, and McCain himself a liar, his guy claims he invented the Blackberry.
MADDOW: And it has to be the Blackberry when McCain is on record saying he doesn't know what the email is, or at least that he doesn't know how to use the email. I mean, you lie about the big stuff, you know? You lie about taxes. You lie about your opponent's record. You lie about the bridge to nowhere. You lie about ear marks. And people say, politics isn't bean bag. You should stop lying about-stop wining about the lying.
But you start lying about little things that you really don't have to lie about, that there isn't really any political advantage to lying about. Things that you're lying about just because you're so comfortable with lying, stuff like the crowd size at your rally, things that can be disproven, things about whether or not your teleprompter is broken when you give a big speech, Governor Palin. And now, the idea that you invented the Blackberry. You start lying about little things you don't have to lie about and people start to think you're a liar because you start to seem like you're enjoying it.
OLBERMANN: Teleprompters and Blackberries, there's a technology component to this too. But larger than this, there is politician's disease. This is the essence of it. If it moves, you're told to claim you invented it or you have to take credit for it somewhere. Years ago, I was the obligatory baseball guy at a baseball event for the city of New York. Rudy Giuliani introduced me and then I introduced the players. Before he introduced me, he talked about the weather and said he had ordered it. He talked about how well the Yankees and Mets were doing and he said he rooted for them to do well. He said if he had been mayor when the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants were still there, they would never have moved. He would never have let them move. We would have four teams.
Is it impossible for all politicians to not try to grab credit when it's sitting there or just for some of them?
MADDOW: It's like when presidents and politicians revel in the sporting success of whatever team is in their town or the Olympics or whatever it is. Honestly, it's like Sarah Palin talking about credit for that pipeline across Alaska that doesn't exist, or credit for killing the Bridge to Nowhere, which she didn't kill. You find something that you think people might like and then you just attach yourself to it like there's a trailer hitch on it. I think it's politics 101 at this point. It's very predictable.
OLBERMANN: By the way, let's say he did invent the Blackberry. What the in hell does that have to do with the question which was how this guy could fix the economy?
MADDOW: They're trying to make, I think, the Senate Commerce Committee argument for John McCain as the appropriate skipper for the economy. And they're trying to say, well, anything that happened that might have vaguely been under the purview of the Senate Commerce Committee, like broadband communications or PDA's, that's something that we should credit John McCain for. Well, yes, it's a bit of a stretch. Yes, it's a complete stretch that he invented the Blackberry. But if you look at what he did on technology issues in the Senate Commerce Committee, when he left his position as head of the Senate Commerce Committee, if they really were that influential over the Internet and PDAs and wireless communications and all this stuff-
When he left, we were 15th in the world in broadband penetration. Kids in South Korea have been watching movies on their cell phones for years and we're essentially still working on a crank in this country. So I'm not sure there's much to be proud of there.
OLBERMANN: Think of what an advantage it was when Senator McCain invented the wheel.
Last point here, the sales in me is coming out. The Obama campaign guys tinkered already with their Blackberries. Their signatures now read, sent from my Blackberry wireless hand held, a miracle made possible by John McCain. Is this the opportunity for people to get involved in this political process, to actually do something? If you don't want to see McCain elected, alter the signature on your Blackberry or your i-Phone or just your email to say, Sent from my Blackberry, John McCain says he invented it?
MADDOW: John McCain says he invented it, even though you shouldn't email him because he doesn't know how to work the email. Something to that effect, I think, and you're essentially going to get there. It's perfect.
OLBERMANN: The participatory democracy returns.
MADDOW: Through sig lines. I got you.
OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow who returns in like ten seconds, thanks.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN for this the 1,966th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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