November 10, 2008
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED
Guest: Charles Swift
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The present meets the future: The president-elect's first official visit to the White House and his solo meeting with Mr. Bush. What they discussed, no person can say. What the current and future first ladies discussed no person can say. It doesn't stop us from guessing.
A Connecticut turncoat is still in the Democrats' court: Obama tells Harry Reid keep Lieberman in the Democratic senatorial caucus. The old line pops into head, "Keep your friends close, et cetera." From close to closed. The report from the White House in waiting, Gitmo to be shuttered, gets victims freed, suspects actually tried in courts with defense lawyers and everything. How that will work in our nightly question: "What do we do now," asked of one of the Hamdan lawyers, Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift.
Worsts: The triple witching hour-Billo versus Billo versus Billo.
And 10 minutes in the blender. I mean that in the nicest way possible, the view from "The View."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW" CO-HOST: I asked of Bill O'Reilly. I said to him, why does Keith Olbermann hate you? And he said, "Because he's jealous of me." How do you respond to that?
OLBERMANN: What was the name, again?
BEHAR: Bill O'Reilly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And Composition Eight. The politics counts, the customs and religious counts. But is this not really about something much more essential in the heart of man?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never felt a sense of being let a person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A Special Comment tonight. I'll see your biblical quotes defining marriage and I'll raise you a biblical quote-Matthew 7:12, "Do to others what you would have them do to you."
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, November 10th, 71 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
His last trip to the White House might have guaranteed today's visit. September 25th, the economic emergency meeting on Pennsylvania Avenue, Obama, almost an afterthought on day two of John McCain's non-suspension suspension of his campaign, the bizarre see-through political stunt that spread across the electorate, a uniform quoting, "Huh?"
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The rapidity with which the world can change, based on what Americans do, not the government, but the people, underscored today by Obama's return trip as president-elect. Six days after the election, the current president and Mrs. Bush welcoming Mr. and Mrs. Obama to the White House at the south portico entrance.
Forty-three and 44 elect, taking the long walk down the colonnade to the Oval Office, Mr. Obama's first visit to a room with which he should become extraordinarily familiar. A source telling MSNBC and NBC News that the president-elect focused on three economic issues during his talk with Mr. Bush, a stimulus package in the lame duck session of Congress: help for the auto industry and help for the homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages to prevent more foreclosures.
Mr. Obama entering office with extremely high favorables, Mr. Bush leaving with exceedingly low ones. They are mirror images. A new Gallup Poll showing that 27 percent of those surveyed since the election, approving of the job that the president is doing, 70 percent holding a favorable view of the president-elect. Also, 2/3, 65 percent saying they are confident of Obama's ability to be a good president.
Meanwhile, on the home front, Mrs. Bush is giving Mrs. Obama a tour of the residence. After their visit to the White House, Mrs. Obama thought to be touring possible schools for their girls. And early this morning in Chicago, the president-elect hanging on to what passes for real-life just a little bit longer, by taking his girls to school.
Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White Correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine, today, back at the White House.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, we know more or less, some, at least, of what Obama said to Bush. Do we have a sense of what Bush is likely to have said to Obama?
WOLFFE: Well, I think there is a shared concern about the economy. And clearly, we know that they discussed that at length. There's also, obviously, a giant difference of opinion on foreign policy. And it's a fair assumption to think that they get into that significantly on Iraq. And also, I think a fair assumption to think that their conversations about Iraq clearly mapped and echoed what David Petraeus, the general who is running that whole operation when Obama went out over the summer.
And the truth is that the president and the administration can make a case that things are a lot better in Iraq right now. But the president-elect has a different perspective, not about Iraq, but about the other strategic missions that he has, about Afghanistan, about the cost of America overseas and at home. And there's no sign that he wants to back off his position on Iraq no matter what the president says.
OLBERMANN: On this possibility of joint action between a president and president-to-be. (A), it is likely, (B), on what issue if any, and ©, if it happens, will we necessarily even find out about it?
WOLFFE: Well, my White House sources have said that there is a willingness to do something on the economy, if the president-elect wants it, if that's going to be something that both sides can see eye-to-eye on.
So, a second round of stimulus, I think, is on the table. The question is:
Whether Congress can actually deliver anything given the turmoil that there was about the bailout package.
So, the economy is clearly where they could act together. There is a common concern and I think a willingness, to be honest, from the president to say, "I don't mind doing some tough stuff now, I know how unpopular I am."
OLBERMANN: It's not as if days like this don't happen in our history. This is the beginning of the eight party-to-party change-over since 1952, but given how much George Bush was part of Obama's campaign, whether it was the economy or Iraq, it is likely that this old bromide actually held up that the first visit by the president-elect is psychological handover of power even for Mr. Bush?
WOLFFE: I think the president has shown a great willingness to make this transfer of power work, to get in there early, to get his own business tied up early in terms of executive orders. And, I think, you know, a lot of White House people were telling me that there was really some affection and warmth there. So, I don't think it's even a stretch.
Everyone is focused on the sort of political side of having Barack Obama criticized Bush for so long and so hard on the campaign trail. But this is the president that does want to make this transition work. And everything we're hearing from the Obama side is that he was very, very gracious all the way through.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Richard, the personal. On the plane back to Chicago this afternoon after the gathering at the White House, the reporters heard the president-elect or overheard him saying on the phone call, "I'm not going to be spending too much time in Washington over the next several weeks." Is there, if not reluctance, some melancholy, some hardened reality about how much he's going to be giving up on the 20th of January, personally?
WOLFFE: I think there is reluctance and melancholy, too. Look, he obviously wants to get started to this new job that he's been trying so hard for two years to get, but giving up on his old life with his family-you know, just on Halloween we saw it. Walking through the neighborhood with his kids is no longer possible. That was before the election.
So, yes, I think there's a lot of sadness here. And it's only compounded by the loss of his grandmother. This is a personal transition as well as a political one. And there's a human being involved here who did like his old life.
OLBERMANN: How history ranks itself, it is extraordinary.
Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC-thank you, as always, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Barack Obama told the nation he would enter into that meeting today in a spirit of bipartisanship, hoping that, quote, "the president and various leaders of Congress all recognize the severity of the situation right now and want to get stuff done." Stuff as in the economy, and two wars, and healthcare as opposed to stuff like figuring out what to do with Senator Joe Lieberman, like whether to pull him from the chairmanship of homeland security, as Majority Leader Harry Reid and other angry Democrats want to.
Just hours ago, however, according to the "Huffington Post," Obama informed party officials that his one-time-mentor-in the-Senate-turned-campaign-trail-foe, McCain surrogate, almost V.P. nominee, should continue to caucus with the Democrats in the 111th Congress.
As for John McCain and his role model or his role in the Obama model of government, it might be a role model. An article in "CQ Weekly" envisions him not as the leader of the royal opposition next year but rather as reverting to his role as compromise broker, may be even, depending upon the president-elect's mood as a, quote, "critical liaison to Senate moderates" as the new administration works with the Senate majority just shy of the 60 vote filibuster-resistant supermajority.
Let's turn now to "Newsweek" magazine's senior Washington correspondent and political columnist, and MSNBC's own, Howard Fineman.
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Do we know if the reporting on this Obama olive branch is accurate, and if so, why on earth he'd be offering one?
FINEMAN: Well, I did my own reporting on that. And it's true. At least, I'm told by a very well-placed source that Obama did, in fact, tell Harry Reid-no less than Harry Reid, the Democrats leader in the Senate, that it was his opinion, that is Obama's opinion and suggestion, not command, for sure, but suggestion that maybe they shouldn't make a hero out of Joe Lieberman and either kick him out of the caucus or even necessarily try to take his committee assignment away.
And the reasons why, I think, there are a few of them. First of all, it's clear to me that Barack Obama is going to operate as a good cop surrounded by a whole squad car of bad cops. He's going to be the one issuing the clemency and he's going to be the one saying-no drama Obama. Let's save our fight and our fire for the tough battles. After all, Joe Lieberman votes with the Democrats on domestic policy 90 percent of the time.
And let's not make a hero of him by trying to kick him out of the party. Those are the suggestions that apparently Obama made to Reid. I'm not sure on that much-I mean, excuse me-to Reid, I'm not sure of that much detail, but that's true, that's what Obama said.
OLBERMANN: And so, what happens to the chairmanship of homeland security? Does that become-I mean, Lieberman wondered aloud during the campaign of Obama might be Marxist, doubted whether or not he put country first, did the canard about cut off funding for the troops-is there a certain intention here to leave him hanging regarding the chairmanship and let that be decided within the Senate? Is there a certain, you know, punishment on just the standoffishness on just that one issue by the president-elect?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it's going to be dramatic. I think Obama's made it plain that he wants to be the uniter, that he wants to bring people together, that he wants bipartisanship, and at this point, practically, you know, saying anything nice about Joe Lieberman from within the Democratic Party as being bipartisan in a fashion. He's going to leave it up to a vote, I think.
And what my sources tell me is there's likely to be a vote next Tuesday. They Senate Democrats will caucus when they come back for the lame duck session. They all go into a room. Joe Lieberman will make his case for maintaining his chairmanship of that Homeland Security Committee. Then there will be a secret ballot vote.
Obama's opinion is sort of on record via Harry Reid. And we'll see how it goes.
Interestingly, people like Dick Durbin, who was the first Democrat in the Senate, the first senator and from Illinois to support Barack Obama is really loaded for bear about Lieberman. He wants to kick Lieberman off that chairmanship. Chuck Schumer, the head of the campaign committee, likewise.
So, it could be a very close vote. It will be left to the secret ballot of the senators. You got Evan Bayh and you got Chris Dodd who are supporting Lieberman, but there are a lot of other people still angry at him for the very comments that you were talking about just little while ago..
OLBERMANN: So, is the ultimate premise of this from the Obama point of view is the light touch that he's a winner as long as he is perceive as not demanding anything, not forcing anything?
FINEMAN: Yes, I think so. And again, he doesn't want to pick unnecessary fights, Keith. He's going to have enough tough fights ahead. It's no drama Obama. And it's also, you know, you just been coronated, why not let a few people out of the tower, you know, in celebration-like that (ph).
OLBERMANN: And about McCain, I'm assuming three things are in play here. What Republicans want McCain to do, what Democrats what McCain to do, and what McCain is going to do.
FINEMAN: Well, I think they're in consonance. I think you saw the beginning of the return of the old McCain ironically on "Saturday Night Live" the other week, before the Election Day. He was kind of playing ball and winking at the humor of it all.
And then you saw that very gracious concession speech. And then the other day, more significant, you heard Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina who's McCain's best friend in the Senate, as kind of like his scout, always scouting over the horizon. Lindsay Graham was saying all kinds of nice things about Obama, essentially hanging out the "open for business" sign. And that's an invitation to the Obama White House do business with McCain.
I think you're going to see a lot of that business getting done. McCain is going to return to his true maverick status. And I wouldn't be surprised to see Obama hand the immigration brief, in a sense, to John McCain. Say, here, buddy, you take it. And that would be number one bipartisan, it would be very shrewd.
OLBERMANN: Yes. You can almost see Lindsey Graham dressed up in one of the Wild West movies. If he's Corporal Reno or Larry Storch (ph), I'm not sure which one is-it's something like that.
FINEMAN: He's come back with the report. That's right.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, as we stuck with that image. Thanks, Howard.
FINEMAN: Right. Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president-elect and Gitmo. Breaking news tonight that reports he's deciding to try some of the detainees within a new court structure are not only premature but also, quote, "There is no process in place to make that decision until his national security and legal teams are assembled."
And the protestors assemble still in California. Prop Eight in a question to its supporters: Which are you honor-bound to respect more, what your religions leaders tell you about the definition of marriage or what your religion tells about the golden rule? A Special Comment tonight.
OLBERMANN: A senior foreign policy advisor to the president-elect says tonight, there is no truth to today's report that Gitmo is closed and some of its detainees may be tried within as yet un-designed new court system, at least the part about the court system, the breaking news there.
A triple Billo evening in Worsts.
I went on "The View" and I'm still here to talk about it.
And a Special Comment tonight. Prop Eight and this is less about same sex marriage and more about whether we all remember that we straight and gay alike are same species.
OLBERMANN: Throughout the day, the "Associated Press" with continued reporting, the president-elect has decided to close Guantanamo Bay and divide its detainees into three categories: those to be released, those to be tried within U.S. courts, and others to be tried within some new not yet defined legal mechanism.
Our fourth story tonight: As Gitmo constitutes our nightly question for President-elect Obama: What do we do now?
Breaking news that the reporting might be very premature. The Obama transition team releasing a statement from senior foreign policy advisor, Denis McDonough, "President-elect Obama said throughout his campaign that the legal framework at Guantanamo has failed to successfully and swiftly prosecute terrorists, and he shares the broad bipartisan belief that Guantanamo should be closed. There is absolutely no truth to reports that a decision has been made about how and where to try the detainees, and there is no process in place to make that decision until his national security and legal teams are assembled."
The "Associated Press" report was as follows: Some detainees would simply be released as have others even during the Bush administration; some would be prosecuted in U.S. criminal court; but a third group, the "AP" reported, would have their cases heard in a new system. A system-and this is the part that may sound too familiar to skeptics, a system that does not yet exist.
The president-elect reportedly is concerned about handling of sensitive intelligence in public courts and concerned that evidence gathered during Mr. Bush's system would not stand-up in those courts. The ACLU predicting this would be, quote, "a profound mistake."
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, a former prosecutor and member of the judiciary committee, telling the "AP," quote, "There would be concern about establishing a completely new system, trying to establish that would be very difficult."
Again, Obama's senior foreign policy advisor is saying tonight in a statement, in essence, "yes" on the intent to close Gitmo, "no" on the decision about the detainees, and basically no comment on a prospect of a new system for adjudicating some of the cases.
Let's bring in a veteran of the old new system, former Navy lawyer, Charles Swift, who, of course, is a lieutenant commander in the JAG Corps and defense counsel in the landmark Hamdan case, was so integral to all of this before the Supreme Court.
A pleasure, again, sir. Good evening.
LT. CDR. CHARLES SWIFT (RET.), U.S. NAVY: Good evening, Keith. How's it going?
OLBERMANN: To you, to America, to the world-the headline that is kind of buried here in the details, what would the closing of Gitmo mean?
SWIFT: Oh, I think, for the world, it would mean a clear signal that we've taken a different direction, that we truly have changed our approach to the war on terror, and we're committed to following the rule of law. So, from a renewed American foreign policy perspective, it's essential to close Guantanamo.
General Colin Powell, the current secretary of defense, Mr. Gates, have both said that it's essential to close Guantanamo and I'm-and so has the president-elect. So, I'm confident Guantanamo is going to be closed.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, there are practical things to be done when that happens. What are the channels of shutting that down, funneling the detainees appropriately?
SWIFT: There are two challenges that really face-there are two sets of challenges. One of them are legal which you alluded to, and the other is political. The Obama administration has a lot of advantages in the political side. He's won a mandate to affect change and Guantanamo is part of that change.
More importantly, much of what's been holding back returning detainees has been other nations. And as we saw in Iraq, President Obama may be able to accomplish what President Bush could not. So, overcoming the political challenges have been huge hurdles, but I don't think that there are ones outside of the power of President Obama.
The second one, however, the legal part, asks this question of: What evidence and the continued concern of the use of evidence that's classified and to make sure that we have a fair trial without endangering our forces or giving our enemies an advantage. And that's something I'm sure the Obama administration is going to look at closely.
But I also agree that the changes really need to be minor, not major.
And one of the avenues that has been repeatedly suggested by the military,
but not used to this point, is to use the court-martial which already does
the protection of classified evidence very well and has all of the basic due process rights that are essential in an American system of justice.
OLBERMANN: So, what is your reaction here to, even though we have a denial that this has been in place or this has been decided upon, there is an inference here that somebody, at least, around the president-elect is advocating considering debating-and maybe they'll throw it out-but they're discussing the prospect of yet another new legal system for these detainees. Isn't this where we got in trouble in the first place-creating new laws for old crimes, essentially?
SWIFT: I think where we got in trouble was doing a brand-new system, a completely different system. And what I understand when I look a little closer at those reports is what they are looking at is-OK, do the current, for instance, CIPA, the national security act which protects in its legislation, the disclosure of evidence in a trial. Does that need to be fine tuned for the terrorist trial? What have we learned and what do we need to do better there.
And so, minor changes may be appropriate. I don't think that, at this point, the Obama administration is talking about, once again, throwing out everything and trying a brand-new system of justice. That probably would be a step back. And I would hope that they'd look at the existing systems of justice and see if they will get the job done.
OLBERMANN: And, is there one code word here to be followed in trying to find that other path that will allow both the security that's required and the fairness that's required?
SWIFT: I think that the code word in it is "no coerced evidence." That an awful lot of what was called security was the ability to protect things like waterboarding. And those-and quite frankly, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, these other interrogation techniques have no place as evidence in a court, whether it's a military court, whether it's a civilian court. And so, once that's taken off the table, then we can move forward with a fair system.
OLBERMANN: Amen. Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift, former JAG lawyer in the Navy, counsel for a Salim Hamdan. As always, sir, great thanks for your time tonight.
SWIFT: Thank you, Keith. Have-keep it up.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And, you too, sir.
Life's rich pageant displays itself in many forms. For instance, these new legs of mine are great, but do you have them in a size 9B.
Then, Billo the Clown assertion that there is no ACLU in Ohio helping Joe the Plumber, even though there is an ACLU in Ohio and it is helping Joe the Plumber. Multiple Billo ahead for Worsts, they are in Worsts just for you.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment and Obama the socialist, Reaganite liberal conservative.
First, on this date in 1955 was born baseball's Jack Clark, one of whose homeruns in essence put the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 World Series, almost as notably, Clark's reputation as a car connoisseur who would buy a new model at the slightest provocation, and then tire of it within weeks. One of his teammates figured this out-that a month after Clark had purchased a new car, he casually mentioned to him that he was looking to buy the exact same vehicle. Clark anxious to rid himself of the unwanted toy and then go buy another new one, promptly offered to sell his co-worker the nearly unused vehicle at a fraction of book price.
The unnamed teammate supposedly pulled this trick on Clark at least three times.
Let's play Oddball.
And we begin in Paris, France where Obamamania has gone to the dogs. Sweater, leashes, collars featuring the likeness and namesake of the soon-to-be 44t president of the United States, flying off the shelves at this French boutique. That's right, it looks like a bunch of t-shirts that just resurfaced. The owner says the Obama merchandise is a top seller, way outpaces their Bob Barr line. But while French poodles are loving their new threads, a certain segment of American mongrels are not taking to the Obama wear.
In Tokyo, we find the latest breakthrough of robot technology from our friends at Honda. It's robotic legs, everybody, and boy, do they look comfortable. Think Kenneth Branagh in the "Wild Wild West," not quite. The legs function like a motorized exoskeleton. They are designed to assist the elderly, manual laborers, and the lazy. Honda has yet to announce when the robot legs would be made available to the public. And as for how they, feel, this lucky demonstrator paraphrased President Lyndon Johnson, telling the media, they cut me. It's just like riding a wire fence. Other than that, these robot legs are great.
Finally, checking on fall weather. Let's get a business travelers forecast on the British Isles from Sky News.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sunshine for Britain and Ireland. Cold wind though. Oh, that was interesting.
That's right, interesting, England just fell off the planet. Yes, I'd say that's interesting. Here's Sal with sports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And is it just me or is there some guy on "The View" who is sticking out from the panel like Lurch on "The Adams Family?"
And Prop 8, there is much more at stake here than politics or even religion. Does your fellow human being deserve the same chance at happiness that you do? Special comment tonight. But first, time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best cart before the horse, organizers of the National Obama Holiday. The "Topica Capital Journal" reports rallies to take place each Tuesday morning and evening at a local restaurant. Quote, "the goals are to secure a national holiday in Obama's honor, to organize celebrations around his inauguration to celebrate the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln." OK, maybe let's wait until January 21st on the national holiday.
Number two, best economic stimulus chicken. The Takashimaya company of Japan offering its customers there truffle stuffed roast chickens for just 847 dollars a piece, you know, for Christmas. Says a spokeswoman, people may think it's expensive, but it would be perfect for a party.
Number one, best flip-flop, the ethically acrobatic Brent Bozell, the Media Research Council goofball. On October 27th, he told Fixed News that to every question and problem, the president-elect had, quote, a redistribution of wealth answer, socialism. On November 7th, he called Obama a liberal, left-win Democrat. Literally a minute later, he said Obama ran as a Reaganite, and won over the public as a fiscal conservative. Then, 15 seconds after that, he revealed, quote, Barack Obama won as a conservative.
So take it from Brent Bozell, Obama is a left wing Reaganite, redistribution of wealth socialist fiscal conservative. Very well said, out of both sides of your mouth.
OLBERMANN: So I'm on "The View" this morning. In our third story, the clip in a moment. First, to answer the questions I've been answering all day, yes, they are all very nice. Yes, Elizabeth Hasselbeck was very nice. In fact, she was-and this is not the first time I've heard this -she's like the official nice to all guests person. No, I don't know why they had us all sit on chairs that were the same height, so I looked like a basketball player or the space alien from "To Serve Men."
Yes, it was like spending ten minutes in a blender, in a nice way. The audience was great, and really good-looking and well-dressed. Also, this vignette, they taped this thing in the same building as, "All My Children." So I heard this over the PA system in the hallway, Whoopi Goldberg to the stage, please. Cast of "All My Children," please relocate to the psych ward. Just another day in fun city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH HASSELBECK, "THE VIEW": What do you say to critics who say you are particularly soft on Democrats. We see that you're hard on Republicans, but when they say you're soft on Democrats, give them an easy way out.
OLBERMANN: Well, I would run that question past Senator Clinton, because she didn't think I was easy on her. She's still kind of mad at me.
JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": What a gentleman you are. What did you say to her?
OLBERMANN: Well, that tape you played, it was kind of like that, only instead of saying Bush or McCain, it said Senator Clinton. They don't invite me to the parties anymore.
BEHAR: You have a lot of enemies? Bill O'Reilly hates you.
BEHAR: He doesn't hate you. He says you hate him. I asked him, Bill O'Reilly. I said to him, why does Keith Olbermann hate you. And he said because he's jealous of me. How do you respond to that?
OLBERMANN: What was the name again?
BEHAR: Bill O'Reilly.
OLBERMANN: I'm sorry, that was really rehearsed. I'm sorry.
BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": I watch you a great deal. You pick your worst persons. It's often him.
OLBERMANN: Like three times a week.
WALTERS: Pretty much almost every night, yes.
OLBERMANN: It's so much fun.
HASSELBECK: You almost can't help yourself. I was watching a football game one time, and you snuck in there this Palin comment. You said-this quarterback was knocked out, out cold. You said-
OLBERMANN: I have great sympathy for quarterbacks.
HASSELBECK: You said he's so badly concussed that he thought he could see Russia from his house. I thought, even in my football game, Keith, why? You just can't hold back at all?
OLBERMANN: I actually sat there, Elizabeth. I actually said, would I say this if I was still just being a sports-caster, which I used to be full time. If I was still doing that and not doing politics, would I have made that joke? Is it enough of a cultural reference that almost the politics are subtracted from it? I said, I think so. The guy sitting-we've got five-this reminds me of the football show. We have more people on the football show. Would any of the rest of them say it? The answer was yes. OK, that was the one. It was the one all season, which was really, I must confess, there was some restraint involved.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, "THE VIEW": The feature, the worst person in the world, how did this come about?
OLBERMANN: It started because, honestly, we had one-it's an old Bob and Ray sketch, the great comedians. It's an old-The worst person in the world, there had to be somebody. As George Carlin pointed out, there had to be a worst doctor in the world. Just, there has to be one. And somebody's got an appointment to see him tomorrow. These two things were rolling around in my head one day. There was a critic came in.
Our network used to change shows every hour and a half. I don't mean we have a new show because the old one is over. It was just we would cancel everybody and have another new show. We had a critic in the "New York Times" who came on and criticized, of all people, Tucker Carlson for not doing a good enough job, and after two weeks wanted the show canceled. First, they're criticizing us for canceling shows too soon. Then, I said, I'm reading you want us to cancel a show after two weeks. This is one of the worst persons in the world. OK, we're going to start it tonight.
WALTERS: Sometimes I'm like this, because I'm used to not giving opinions, but that's what makes you guys successful.
OLBERMANN: Here it is. I don't think anymore by 8:00 at night people don't know what has happened during the day. I wish-a lot of us in doing the news or news programming go to bed every night going, and please, when I wake up, let it be 1973 again. And they're really relying on us for the information. By the time I get to the office, the people who are watching me tonight know more about the news than I do.
SHERRI SHEPHERD, "THE VIEW": I've been watching you. I don't get that-people say you are angry or grouchy or malcontent. I don't get that. What do you say to that?
OLBERMANN: Too much coffee. No, there was a lot of-as you may have noticed, there was a lot of anger in the country over the last couple years. There wasn't-one day I was reading one story and waiting for somebody to respond to it, something the administration did, and nobody said-somebody with a platform has to speak out. I want to hear some voices raised. Somebody should take an opinion. I thought, oh, yes, I have a platform. I have a TV show, but-
WALTERS: But you're going to have trouble now, aren't you? Now that the people you like most are in.
OLBERMANN: They could easily screw up.
HASSELBECK: If they do, will you say it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes. Like there are things like Proposition 8, rescinding same-sex marriage in California. A special comment tonight, why would anyone want to oppose happiness in a lonely and unhappy world? And for once, this is a coincidence, but we have a bushel basket full of Bill-O, bemoaning ACLU silence over the investigation of the government files on Joe the Plumber. Except, the ACLU has already come out defending the guy.
But first, because they're not going away soon enough and we finally got in the new graphics, the headlines breaking in the administrations scandals, Bushed.
Number three, Georgia-gate. The "New York Times" reporting that some independent observers of the warfare between Georgia and Russia in August told stories far more different than the standard line about Russian aggression. They reported Georgian troops firing indiscriminately into South Ossetia before the Russians took any military action, not after it, Which especially given the fact that John McCain's adviser Randy Scheunemann had been a lobbyist for Georgia kind of means the senators assertion from August that are all Georgians could easily translate into, we all just provoked a war for no good reason.
Number two, Blackwater-gate. While the one Grand Jury, on the one hand, tries to decide whether or not to indict companies, mercenaries for the slaughter of civilians in Baghdad last year, the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls is planning to fine Blackwater for shipping weapons to police training operations in Iraq without doing any of the licensing; 900 weapons could be 900 separate hefty fines for Blackwater. By the way, why is any part of the American government called a, quote, directorate?
Number one, bailout-gait. No, not the 700 billion dollar bailout that Congress approved. This is the other one that the Treasury Department pulled off in September without anyone noticing it. The "Washington Post" reports that the Bush administration had unilaterally repealed a 22-year-old tax law, section 382, allowing banks that merge a windfall of as much as 140 billion dollars. By the way, the transparency on that other bailout, the 700 billion dollar job, the Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of emergency loans, as much as two trillion worth.
You do realize that what we today call a bailout will be referred to by some others someday as the reason daddy went to prison.
OLBERMANN: Which matters more, how your religion tells you you should define marriage, or how your soul tells you you are supposed to treat others as you would have them treat you? A special comment on Proposition 8 next. But first, time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
Your bronze tonight, Bill-O the clown. In case you thought his delusions of grandeur were getting any better, "I've stated that I did not watch the economy closely enough under President Bush. My fault. I should have been on that. That mistake will not happen again."
Yes, if you had spent more time on the economy and less on the war on Christmas, Lehman Brothers would still be pumping out the dividends. Yes. To continue this quote, "our focus now is to report exactly what President-Elect Obama is doing and what it means to you. Let's be honest, the guy is still a mystery. So our oversight will be intense. However, we're not going to nit-pick Barack Obama, and we will not demonize him, because that's not fair. We will report on him with a clear voice and a clear head."
Clear head? How are you going to do that? Borrow one from somewhere?
Our runner up tonight, Bill-O the clown. The rear guard action is already underway in his Don Quixote defense of the war on Christmas. He's now offering the subtle bumper sticker reading "We Say Merry Christmas," a fleur-de-lis on it, on a red background. He's apparently unaware that the fleur-de-lis is not just from his hated France, but it's especially popular in French-speaking Canada. Bill-O also apparently missed two announcements that not a Christmas party but a holiday party had been scheduled at Fox News, and that it was then canceled.
So first you lost the war inside your own building, and then Fox canceled the party. So nobody there wants to put up a damned sticker saying, we say Merry Christmas.
But our winner tonight, Bill-O the clown. Sometimes it's inflated self-importance, sometimes it's a war that's being fought only inside his own head, but sometimes it's just bad research. Questioning the media searching public records about Joe Wurzelbacher, Bill-O trotted out one of the oldest cliches in his book, and complained, "where's the ACLU? Aren't they the privacy people? Can you imagine if a Republican did this to a Democrat. It's unbelievable. No ACLU? We haven't seen any of them. Let's get this. Let's get this. So we want to say there's no ACLU in Ohio helping Joe the Plumber."
Bill, did you check the website? Here's something by the executive director of the ACLU of Ohio. See it's from last month, October, letter to the editor she wrote to the Cleveland newspaper with the headline, "Government Snoops have no right to pry into news makers personal information. I was deeply disturbed to hear that state officials approved the use of government databases to obtain information about Joseph Wurzelbacher, also known as Joe the Plumber."
Let's see, appalling, unethical, no adequate checks, immediate action, safe-guards, ethical procedures, unfair breaches of our privacy. No, nothing there. Bill's right, the ACLU hasn't done a damned thing about it. Chowder head.
Bill-O the clown, unanimous verdict, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue from coast to coast.
Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay. I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is. I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting prejudice that still pervades their lives.
And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.
If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want, a chance to be a little less alone in the world.
Only now you are saying to them, no, You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar if they behave, if they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights, even as you're taking away the legal right which they already had. A world around them still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry.
What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?
I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967.
The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad history of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized. You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.
And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women forced by society into marrying the opposite sex in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.
How many marriages like that have there been and how on Earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term meaningless?
What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace that love? The world is barren enough. It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us, all of us to go forward.
Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work. And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against each other for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?
With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live in favor of unhappiness and hate, this is what your heart tells you to do?
You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness, this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness. Share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand on a question of love. All you need to do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.
You don't have to help it. You don't have it applaud it. You don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know; that love is, in fact, the ember of your love for your fellow person, just because this is the only world we have and the other guy counts, too.
This is the second time I have found myself in ten days concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial. But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this.
He said, "I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar Khayyam." This is what he told the judge. "It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart. I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, so I be written in the Book of Love."
Good night and good luck.
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