October 29, 2008
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Richard Wolffe, Chris Matthews
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening, this is Wednesday, October 29th; six days until the 2008 presidential election.
With that 30 minute advertisement just ended its placement making this our third story on "COUNTDOWN" tonight our early edition; the potential impact of the infomercial. We'll also return at 10:00 p.m. Eastern for a second live full hour edition of the program.
This was the first time in 16 years that a presidential candidate had aired a pro-longed campaign commercial in primetime, seven networks at once at a cost to the Obama campaign estimated between $3.5 million and $5 million.
Let's call in my colleague, the host of "Hardball" Chris Matthews, who watched alongside with the rest of us. Chris, good evening.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR, "HARDBALL": Good evening Keith.
OLBERMANN: If you tuned in maybe grudgingly to this thing, you were told it was the Obama speech, the Obama infomercial purchased the Obama show, would you have been surprised? Would you have been sucked in? How did it work?
MATTHEWS: Well, I thought it was Hollywood. It was romance. It was realism. The technical quality of it, the production values were perfect; the way they timed going to live. The biographical material but most important, the connection with the average person in the economic turmoil we face right now, I thought it was fabulous.
Of course, there, we see the setting, which is very much like an Oval Office setting, showing that he is comfortable and we should be comfortable and will be with him in such a setting. I thought everything was just right.
I thought the most important part of it I though was the biographical, showing him talking about his mom and talking about him taking his chance in history and not wanting to miss it having seen his mother die at a young age. It was very human. You would have to be a tough customer, not to be touched by it.
OLBERMANN: Did that-you mentioned what that setting looks light, that almost White House, almost the faux White House. Did that work? Was it too risky? Is he going to get pummeled for that because the whole McCain argument against this was he's already giving a presidential address? Clearly this was not a presidential address, and yet the format made it look a little bit, kind of like, reminiscent of the White House.
MATTHEWS: Well, just let me say what I said earlier on my program. Ask the McCain people at 8:30. For all the sour apples we're getting from them, they wish they had the second half hour of this hour, not you.
Don't kid yourself, this is valuable material. This is real estate of the highest order. And their location is here we are, in prime time, the Wednesday before the election, one of the most busiest hours on television and the most watched. I tell you, again, I go back to the production values. I think it's very hard to turn away from a well produced television program.
OLBERMANN: By the way, the McCain people always would rather have themselves on than me for this half an hour but that's another topic for a different time.
MATTHEWS: For two reasons, them and you.
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly.
You mentioned, I thought you were absolutely right on the connections to his own father and mother. The other things were two images, one that woman, Juanita Stewart was her name, straightening out her arthritic fingers which was extraordinary by itself. And then a little prefacing, his wife was talking about reading to his daughter-his reading to his daughter-and then that Ford employee read to the daughter.
There was a real studious aspect to hook people together Obama through that kind he does it, you do it thing, correct?
MATTHEWS: I've always said this to people who are tough on the racial front. Everybody grows up in their own way. I'm not passing moral judgment on anybody and I know but we all grew up in this country which is so bothered by race. We just all are to different degrees.
Just think about it if you're examining your conscious. What do you want black people to do? You want them to grow up well, raise their kids well, pay attention to their kids, raise them well, accept their responsibility as a parent, do everything right.
This family has done everything you asked them to do. What more do you want before you're going to vote for a black guy? What more do you want?
The guy has done everything. He's worked his butt off. He's been a good father, a good citizen. He's paid attention to his country, he's devoted his life to his own community back in the south side of Chicago. He's taught people how to be, how to behave; he's done everything right.
Give the guy a break and at least think about voting for him. Everybody has to make up their own minds about a lot of issues in this campaign, but if anybody votes against him because of his behavior or his family life, they are not being fair here.
I think he exemplifies this country and not just in him community; all of us. And I have to tell you something where I thought was it was very important tonight. I said this before and I don't know if you were paying attention to me, probably not.
I think it's important to think about the way the average guy in this country thinks, white or black or whatever. The average guy takes tremendous pride, and that's the vote that's really up for grabs here, the white guy if you will, takes tremendous pride in being a provider to his family. In rough times or good times, he comes home with the bacon and he shares that responsibility of course with his wife and the mother of the family.
He brings it home and he takes great pride that he can do it. He can sweat it out. He can do the two jobs. He can work the long shift. He can drive the truck the extra couple of days. He can do it. He comes home with the pride of the father who provides.
It's important that the government not try to do that job because it can't do that. If it tried a million years it couldn't do the job of being a father.
The government can't be a father or a mother. But what it can do is make life a little more doable in terms of health care, in terms of getting people job opportunities, in terms of perhaps education for the kids; but most importantly, staying the hell out of their life in terms of not too many taxes.
And I think it's very important that he has to keep saying to that average family out there, I'm on your side. I'm not coming with a big tax load. I'm going to put those taxes on the people that can afford them. I'm going to give you a break. I'm going to help you a little bit. I'm not going to get in your way with taxes.
I think it's very important to connect with that pride of the provider. And I think he began to do it tonight maybe a little late but I think it's very important. It's not about him this election, it's about them. It's about fathers and mothers raising families in difficult times; that's what this election is about. And I thought he connected a bit there. I thought he did.
OLBERMAN: And clearly the undertone of that half hour was exactly as you pointed out, fathers and mothers and kids. Chris Matthews as always, thanks for the extra time. Appreciate it.
MATTHEWS: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right to go a little bit more into the Obama campaign strategy with this commercial and its format, let's turn now to "Newsweek" magazine's, senior White House correspondent MSNBC political analyst, of course, Richard Wolffe. Good evening, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, "NEWSWEEK": Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Practical politics. There were about eight or nine identifiable speakers in this thing. I noted Governor Strickland of Ohio, Governor Sebelius of Kansas, Governor Richardson of New Mexico, Senator McCaskill of Missouri and, by the way, General John Adams spoke in this. Are those regions that were represented there any kind of coincidence or was that intentional?
WOLFFE: Nothing about that half-hour was coincidental. And look where the families were from. Look at the references to Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado; this is where this election getting fought. The connection here is not just with the voters in those areas but as you also mentioned with Chris, to tie in Obama's story with regular voters. This is a signature Obama strategy to say my story is the American story. Narratives are weaved together in the way we are going to talk about our problems. Geography, personal touch; this is a classic Obama touch.
OLBERMANN: Everybody will find something they didn't like in almost anything. I had an old schoolteacher in college who said when somebody addresses people as a group as in hello, everyone or good morning, Ithaca, New York, rather than saying hello or good morning, just a one on one conversation, that it made him turn around to see who had come in the room with him.
My complaint with this would have been this thing that he has of addressing America. Listen to me, America or listen to me, Florida-that's my pet peeve on this. Was there something missing from this or something that struck a bad tone in your assessment?
WOLFFE: It's an infomercial, it's official propaganda. So it's too polished and too nice. The people behind this-the ad makers Jim Margolis and Mark Putnam are known for their attention to detail. For them, hearing someone say it's too perfect will probably make them roll their eyes and guffaw.
But it's an infomercial and real life, when you go to the live rally in Florida which I just left; he wasn't quite looking at the camera in the right way. That's a sign of reality. If there is a point of criticism, it's that it's too polished, well lit, better looking than he's ever been than he really is. This is a sales pitch, but a very effective one, I think.
OLBERMANN: All right, so $4 million to $5 million brought the campaign 30 minutes on seven networks but at least 24 hours of buzz in the final week of the campaign. Which was more valuable; the actual broadcast on the seven networks or just the talk about it?
WOLFFE: Well, the Obama campaign wanted to plant this event in this period, post debate and say, this is going to be the focus. We're not just going to let this one go news cycle to news cycle. But I actually think in the end, what's most important here is what we saw in the debates.
Does this guy look like he's a president? Not just does he have a plan, the pocket book stuff he enumerated. Does he-could you picture him in the Oval Office? That was the only real test of this ad.
OLBERMANN: So Senator McCain, after something like this, is left to do what? Shake his fist at the sky and grumble? What does he do?
WOLFFE: What he's shaking his fist at is the fund raising machine that Obama has. He's trying to suggest there's something nefarious there. It's being manipulated by enormous people.
Unfortunately they both have their problems with small donors. Clearly people are going to have to look at the whole public finance system at the end of it.
But that's small scale compared to the big arguments Obama is making really as he did in this infomercial and as he's been making in this closing phase.
OLBERMANN: And moving ahead from this; the big event now in Florida with Bill Clinton present with fingers crossed in the Obama campaign or they know exactly what they are going to get?
WOLFF: Well, of course, the question is whether they make it on time for the evening newscast. You never know with President Clinton. What they're saying is these two men have bonded somewhat in recent times talking about politics, talking about the economic crisis. We're going to be watching their body language very closely.
Is there really any bond here, is there any warmth there, or are the resentments of the primaries still alive?
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek" in the wake of the infomercial from the Obama campaign. Great thanks, Richard, as always.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The state of the race on this Wednesday. The McCain campaign says the polls are "functionally tied." Functional. What's your major malfunction?
And now that Joe the Plumber has said Obama hates Israel, it must be true. Called out by a Fox News anchor he responds by hiring a publicist. I wish I were making this up, but in fact it's tonight's campaign comment.
OLBERMANN: One part of John McCain's response to Obama's half-hour ubiquity tonight was a new TV ad called "Special." Its stunning conclusion as you'll see in a moment is our number two story tonight. It's not what you would expect McCain to say about the socialist, communist, terrorist that he should not be president but merely that Obama should not be president now. Watch for that word, "yet" at the end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the fancy speeches and promises and TV specials lies the truth. With crises at home and abroad, Barack Obama lacks the experience America needs and it shows. His response to our economic crisis is to spend and tax our economy deeper into the recession.
The fact is, Barack Obama is not ready, yet.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yet. McCain's new ad apparently an attempt to win over undecided voters who like Obama but would prefer to vote for him a few years later with more seasoning or, perhaps, also it's an attempt to mitigate the attack to look less sleazy.
His play for undecideds following last night's memo from top McCain pollster Bill McInturff (ph) claiming that virtually every independent poll out there is wrong. That the race is actually tightening; some polls do indicate that. But also that McCain is, quote, "functionally tied."
Today's Gallup gives Obama 49 to McCain's 46. Hotline has Obama a 49, 42; Obama doing even better in several former Bush states and stunningly, functionally tied with McCain today in McCain's home state of Arizona, McCain winning 46 to 44 within a margin of error.
Does McCain take that poll seriously? So it would seem.
Talking points memo reporting today that McCain, for the first time is now running robocalls in Arizona, a move that usually only comes when a campaign considers a state in play.
Nevertheless McIntyre's argument goes like this. The race is actually closer than it seems, it is within the margin of error, eight percent of voters are undecided. Most of them will vote for McCain because they voted for Bush. A record high and pro-Obama turnout among voters young and black will be rendered moot by equally phenomenal turnout among everyone else.
The result depending on a remarkable confluence of events and in contrast with many early voting trends which do not show the type of turnout McIntyre predicts and also belied by an internal debate over Sarah Palin already spilling out into the public. As McCain advisors try to salvage their reputations, Palin herself tonight saying that if she is beaten next Tuesday, she expects to be part of the 2012 campaign because, quote, "I'm not doing this for naught."
Tonight's campaign comment, Joe the Plumber hires a publicist and tries to get himself a country and Western recording contract while agreeing Obama means death to Israel. This is quite a Plumber. That's next.
The first time in "COUNTDOWN" it's the number two story. Tonight's worst persons in the world. The bronze to the traditional unnamed fixed news spokesman, probably it was Irena Briganti, who knows they don't have the guts to stand behind their networks or their own quotes. Here's why.
Basketball's Charles Barkley on his TV habits. Fixed news, he tells broadcasting and cable magazine, his quote, "F-ed up." They are a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. I watched them a couple times when there's someone I want to see on there, but they are corrupt.
The anonymous Fox reply, it's hardly a surprise that Charles is a shield for a Turner-owned network. He obviously needs the steady paycheck to pay off his consistent gambling debts. That's relevant.
That's like saying Bill O, the clown needs higher ratings to justify a higher paycheck to pay off his consistent sexual harassment debts. Of course he didn't get those higher ratings. We beat them last night, 1,129,000 to 1,113,000; third night in a row and fifth out of the last 11 although Hannity beat us both by about 20,000. Bill's second on his own network.
Our runner up tonight, Senator Elizabeth Dole on the ropes. In a reelection bid in North Carolina, she has a new ad implying that here opponent Kay Hagan is an atheist. She talks about campaign donations from a political action committee called "Godless America" and it ends with a woman yelling, there is no god and it implies that the voice is that of Ms. Hagan.
It isn't. It's a fake of some sort and Ms. Hagan is not an atheist. Dole's ad is so bad, the Hagan campaign is actually going to court to try to get a cease and desist order.
But tonight's worst person in the world, right wing radio yakker Dennis Prager speaking to a crowd at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis insisting there is a left-wing conspiracy to create a "grand edifice of lies about America." One of those lies, that we believe in equality. Quoting again, equality which is the primary value of the left, is a European value, not an American value. The French Revolution said liberty, fraternity, equality, the American Revolution said life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Where are you from buddy?
The actual quote from the Constitution you just read, ours, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Also there was this one, "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are equal." That's from the American Declaration of Independence, read it. Dennis Prager, apparently educated by Frenchmen is tonight's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Finally, as promised, tonight's campaign comment and we begin with Lincoln's motto about how you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Lincoln never said that. And that tells you everything you need to know about fooling all the people all the time which brings us to Mr. Joseph Wurzelbacher; Joe the plumber, again.
Official mascot for team McCain, playing the role of the average American working man and in fact about as much likely average American working man as I am.
The average American working man is not trying to land a book deal right now. He's not contemplating a run for Congress. He's not just hired a publicist and he did not just form a partnership in hopes of getting himself a country music album.
I don't even have a publicist. More on publicists and country albums and book deals and Congress presently. First, there he was in Dayton, Ohio again today; a "surprise" guest at a Sarah Palin rally; trotted out by the Republicans like a two-headed heifer at the county fair for everybody to gawk at.
Even thought he could be a poster boy for how Obama's tax plan will actually help people like him. Even though the question he asked Obama was about a business he wasn't trying to buy, that he claimed he was trying to buy, that does $250,000 a year in business, even though it don't.
In short, in public, this guy is lying about 97 percent of the time. At his now daily McCain campaign appearances, people have begun to ask him policy questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to make that one comment, a vote for Obama is a vote for the death to Israel, I'll guarantee you that.
JOE THE PLUMBER: I'll actually go ahead and agree with you on that one. I agree with you. I really think that would be a problem. You also have-
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to shake your hand, sir.
JOE THE PLUMBER: The other thing is, the lefts out there are more vocal than we are. You know, one of the reasons why is us middle class workers are out there working to support them so they can get a few more votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oh. Good answer. So the guy who doesn't know what the hell he's talking about on the stage is in full agreement with the guy who doesn't know what the hell he's talking about in the audience.
Mr. Wurzelbacher, honest to God, what are you doing? Reinforcing racism and prejudice? Spreading rumors and half understood buzz words. Get a little worried when you announce, if you look at spreading the wealth, that's honestly right out of Karl Marx's mouth. If you worry when some guy regurgitates a paranoid email which he read as he put it about Obama's associations and concludes it means death to Israel. And you find yourself saying the words, go ahead and agree with you on that one, like you are on the Hollywood Squares.
Does it worry you that you get called out on that by an anchor on Fox News?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Barack Obama has said repeatedly time after time, that there's nothing more important that the United States friendship with Israel and that the United States will back up Israel every moment every day if and when he becomes president of the United States.
He could not have been clearer about it in his positions and his speeches. I just wonder, what it is, that makes you think that he's lying about that?
JOE THE PLUMBER: Well, just what I have to back. You know, actions.
I've heard words. I hear words from politicians all the time. Actions-
SMITH: What actions? I'm just trying to figure it out?
JOE THE PLUMBER: The actions I see is offering to meet with certain enemies of the United States on no uncertain terms-
SMITH: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Saying you're going to meet with somebody isn't actions Mr. Wurzelbacher, it's words. You don't know what you are talking about. Get off the stage. If not out of that glimmer of respect you seem to have for the American political season, do it for this reason. You may be endangering your country music record deal.
While you're making a fool of yourself out there, shielding for John McCain, William Hung could be taking that record deal out of your pocket.
You think I'm kidding about this? Yesterday, country music artist and producer Aaron Tippon formed a partnership with Joe Wurzelbacher and two others to try to get him a recording contract with him and concert dates.
Joe is a complicated guy with a very dynamic personality. He can sing and obviously has a political point of view, says his publicist. His publicist. We are excited to announce Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher to the press office roster for exclusive public representation. He now shares billing there with, their other clients, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin brothers, John Sebastian and the enigmatic Leon Redbone, Yodeling Zeke, Butterball Jackson, Cloris Mozell (ph). I'm sorry, those last four are from an episode of the "Simpson's."
Anyway, recording contract publicist and last week, he hired a lawyer who contacted several of the top talent agencies about trying to get him a book deal and he went on Laura Ingraham's radio show last Friday and said he was considering running for Congress from Ohio.
Look, we, McCain's campaign, his supporters, Obama's supporters, the media, the American people as a whole, we are being conned by this guy. He's this far away from being on "Dancing with the Stars." And yet there's actually something he said with which I agree; "I'm honestly scared for America." He says he's honestly scared for America by Obama. Or maybe he's trying out lyrics for a new song.
I'm honestly scared about America by him. I would much rather put my faith in another honest to good average American, a figure with greater depth and greater authenticity even than Joe the Plumber himself.
In fact, I will make this deal right now with John McCain for the last six days of this campaign. He loses Joe, he takes this guy instead and I'll just shut up; Brawnyman from the "Brawny" packages.
If we're going to test out that which Lincoln never said, you can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Let's really test it.
That's "COUNTDOWN" for this the 2009th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. A reminder, "COUNTDOWN" live tonight and tonight only at 10:00 pm Eastern, 7:00 pm Pacific for a full round up of the day's news including the Obama infomercial and McCain in the membrane and why is McCain attacking Obama's friendship with a man named Rashid Khalidi when McCain gave the same Khalidi half a million dollars?
I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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