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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show


Guests: Eugene Robinson, E.J. Dionne, Michael Moore

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The president now receiving six national security intelligence briefings a week, the president-elect now receiving seven national security intelligence briefings a week, and the vice president-elect briefed by a WMD terrorism prevention commission, claiming of better than 50-50 chance of bio-terrors somewhere in the world by 2013.

The last time we were warned about WMD and terrorists, we found ourselves in a war, during which we found no WMD. "Now," says Karl Rove, "if Saddam Hussein hadn't had WMD, the Bush administration would have probably stuck to sanctions."

Hey, Karl, this just in-Saddam Hussein didn't have WMD.

What do we do now about torture? Matthew Alexander, the pseudonym of the ex-Special Ops interrogator in Iraq, the man who discovered first-hand that most foreign fighters went to Iraq to avenge torture at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. He joins us.

Georgia and Sarah: Saxby Chambliss says Tracy Flick won him back his Senate seat.


SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, ® GEORGIA: We had John McCain, and Mike Huckabee, and Governor Romney, and Rudy Giuliani. But Sarah Palin came in on the last day and did a fly-around and, man, she was dynamite.


OLBERMANN: Boom goes the dynamite.

As Detroit blows up, should we bail it out? What can we get for our billions? Green only vehicles? Lower prices? Michael Moore joins us.

Are the politicians being realistic to say nothing of the automakers?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I'm glad that they recognize the expectations of Congress, certainly my expectations, that we should maintain a viable auto industry.


OLBERMANN: And, the sixth annual war on Christmas is underway. Target: Governor Gregoire of Washington. We'll translate from Billo-nese (ph) to human language.



BILL O'REILLY, TV HOST: The war on Christmas erupts.


OLBERMANN: No, no. That's at me.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.


O'REILLY: Presto.


OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Wednesday, December 3rd, 48 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

The title of the August 6th, 2001 presidential daily briefing, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S"-in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: It could have included copies of the terrorist itineraries and the message from the future.

If a president did not act on it or perhaps did not even read it, it's still wouldn't have made any difference-which brings us to the revelation by the director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, that President-elect Barack Obama already is exceeding President Bush in the number of daily intelligence briefings he's getting. In fact, he's the only one of the two of them getting those daily briefings-daily. The president-elect receiving intelligence briefings every day of the week-that would be more than the six non-daily intelligence briefings now given to the current president.

DNI McConnell even joking about that at Harvard University, asking whether, quote, "there's a little bit of competition between the men." Mr. McConnell is also expressing astonishment at, quote, "the speed with which these two particular gentlemen absorb information." And Mr. Obama in particular, McConnell adding the President-elect Obama's briefing cover, quote, "a great deal of substance on any topic you could imagine."

It's not just the president-elect, the vice president-elect, Mr. Biden, briefed in Washington today by the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, joining him, Homeland Security Nominee Napolitano. The group concluding that a WMD attack more likely than not to occur somewhere on the planet by 2013, unless the world community acts with urgency.

But enough about the future threats-the Bush administration is still engaged in damage control of its own past. The whitewashing of the White House, having been given a fancy title, the "Bush legacy project," and having been given a chief architect.

If the mind-bending rewriting of history this week and last, sounded a little Rovian to you, good guess. Karl Rove, now the chief revisionist historian for the Bush administration. In his new role overseeing that series of so-called "exit interviews" being given by the president, as well as spinning on his own-last night, at an event in New York, Mr. Rove claiming that if the president had known Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction, he would not have gone to war there. Only one problem:

The White House did know that probably, likely, Saddam Hussein did not have WMD. And either dismissing or ignoring all the intelligence it did not like, and invading Iraq anyway.

Time now to call in our own Eugene Robinson, also, of course, associate editor and columnist with the "Washington Post."

Gene, good evening.


OLBERMANN: The entire premise of the last eight years, the Bush myth has been-he's kept America safe, yet he doesn't even receive the daily intelligence briefing-daily-while the Democrat who's going to replace him has started to do exactly that and seven weeks early. Symbolically, how huge is this?

ROBINSON: Symbolically, it says something about the outgoing Bush administration and the incoming Obama administration-the focus and energy that's coming in versus not so much going out. But, you know, it's not that that quantitative difference in the intelligence. It's not, to me, not as important as what you do with it. And that's the issue that so many people have with the Bush White House. They got the intelligence as you noted on Iraq and WMD, yet invaded Iraq anyhow. So, you know, maybe we'd be worse if that extra one day a week.

OLBERMANN: Another, yes, what? One-seventh of the amount of stuff, he could have ignored it.

Do we sense-the fact that we know about this to talk about this, how many daily briefings each man gets, is there frustration in this on the part of the director of National Intelligence? I mean, stepping back from the story for a second, why is one earth would Mike McConnell be telling us all about this?

ROBINSON: I was wondering that myself. I don't think you would talk it up necessarily as frustration, but what on earth could he possibly have to say about the Bush administration as it leaves? All that needs to be said about the current administration has been said. I think the focus, probably, was on the incoming administration and it could be that he wanted -- he's talking to the professionals and the intelligence agencies and saying that, you know, these are serious people who are paying attention to your work, basically, and will take you seriously. And that could be the message he's sending with that sort of revelation.

OLBERMANN: Be of good cheer, somebody is now listening.

We went into Iraq because intelligence was manipulated. Now Karl Rove and sociopaths like William Kristol are manipulating what happened in hopes of changing history. So, are they now essentially manipulating the lack of intelligence in the same way they manipulated the intelligence in the first place?

ROBINSON: What are they doing? I mean, what they are doing is rewriting history wholesale. Recall that it wasn't just the WMD in Iraq that was the rationale even after the invasion, it was that-we were going to liberate the Iraqis from the worst dictator in the universe and we were going to establish Athenian democracy in the heart of the Middle East and shoot tendrils of freedom throughout the region.

And so what happen today all those arguments? What happened to all those arguments that were being advanced long after we knew that, in fact, there was no WMD?

OLBERMANN: The president has said he's sprinting to the finish. As a finishing point here, I was going to criticize the analogy. He seems to be disengaged on the economy and on intelligence. And it dawned to me-do you think maybe he meant this literally? Is he doing more jogging or mountain-biking than we've known of in previous years?

ROBINSON: I don't think he's doing anymore. He's always done a lot of that stuff, I think. But, sprinting to the finish is not the way this administration is going out. This administration is over and has been over for some time, and I think you see it with the reaction to the economic crisis, which has been-you know, here's Hank Paulson, whatever he says and ask the next guy. So, sprinting doesn't quite get it but I don't think it's because he's spending more time on the mountain bike.

OLBERMANN: Oh, well, maybe he's using Sprint phone services more often.

Eugene Robinson of MSNBC and the "Washington Post," straining for an answer as am I. As always, sir, great thanks.


ROBINSON: Good to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: We have yet to hear additional revisions of history, of course, about Mr. Bush's torture programs, but after the remarkable series of revelations earlier in the week, those torture programs merit our nightly question to the president-elect, "What do we do now?"

A dozen former generals meeting with President-elect Obama's top legal advisors, in there with them, of course, Eric Holder, Obama's pick to be the attorney general, Greg Craig, the incoming White House counsel.

The generals are hoping that torture and the bureaucratization of torture will stop immediately once Mr. Obama takes office. They want Gitmo closed. They want the end of the secret transfer of prisons rendition to countries that have a history of torture-more on that later in Bushed. And no more authority for the CIA to use harsh interrogation methods otherwise known as "torture."

Let's turn now to a man identifying himself as Matthew Alexander, who served for 14 years in the U.S. Air Force under his real name, during that time, personally conducting more than 300 interrogations, supervising more than 1,000. In 2006, he led an interrogations team assigned to Special Operations task force in Iraq. He's the author of "How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq," written under a pseudonym for security reasons.

Sir, thank you for your time tonight.

"MATTHEW ALEXANDER," U.S. INTERROGATOR: Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: So, as the title of your book would suggest, torture is not necessary to get the job done, not even useful?

ALEXANDER: No. Actually, it's extremely ineffective and counter productive to what we are trying to accomplish in both the short-term and the long-term. In the short-term, when you torture somebody, it hardens their resolve, the information that you get is unreliable. And if you do get reliable information, you're able to stop a terrorist attack, al Qaeda is then going to use the fact that we torture people to recruit new members, and then we're going to have to deal with a whole new wave of terrorists.

OLBERMANN: Torture as a recruiting tool for other guys. I was particularly struck by that in your piece in the "Washington Post" the other day. How long is it going to take to undo that damage, to restore America's image in that way, to stop making that, be as you found, the primary reason that foreign fighters were going to Iraq, essentially, to avenge the torture at Abu Ghraib and at Gitmo?

ALEXANDER: Well, Keith, I'm an optimist on that point. And, in the book, I tell several stories about how I sat down with some hardened members of al Qaeda and by treating them nicely, by showing them respect and showing that I understood their culture and their religion, I was able, in one case, in the case of the man who ultimately led us to Zarqawi, in the matter of six hours, I was able to convince him that we could work together and get over the past, and work towards a better Iraq by working together Sunnis and Americans together.

OLBERMANN: So, putting your experience together along with what you learned about the value of interrogation and the various different techniques, what would you say to the president-elect? What do you believe interrogation policy should look like in the Obama administration?

ALEXANDER: Well, first of all, I think the first thing we have to do is we have to outlaw torture across the entire government-every agency, no exceptions. And then, the next thing we need to do is we need to improve the way that we train interrogators.

I talk in the book about methods that I know from my experience as a criminal investigator that we used during criminal investigations that can be used in intelligence interrogations. But we're not using those and we're not training our interrogators to use those. In the book, I give several examples of how we use those to great success and this incredible chain of events that led to Zarqawi.

OLBERMANN: All right. So, what are some of the effective humane methods? I mean, you described being able to turn somebody around in a few hours-what should be the Obama standard in terms of those kinds of tactics?

ALEXANDER: Well, first of all, the approach we need to take from the very beginning is one rapport-based relationship building approaches, where we get to know the person, we build a relationship of trust, and then, we use things such as intellect and ingenuity, to find ways to work together.

You know, the way we approach interrogations, in general, is very important because interrogations, overall, is just one facet of how we execute this war. And it has to be conducted in the way that's consistent with American principles. And when we torture, that's not consistent with American principles. That's not what we stand for. And in the book, I talk about how my group of interrogators dared to think a little bit outside the box and used new techniques and achieved great successes.

OLBERMANN: Since torture is not consistent with American principles, as you point out so aptly and so succinctly, give your assessment, having been on the front lines, is there a value to the idea raised that the Obama administration should either pursue prosecutions against those who were ordered to-or perhaps voluntarily tortured or should there be that other path that has been suggested, sort of the fact-finding 9/11 Commission-style investigation of what happened, merely to make sure it doesn't happen again?

ALEXANDER: You know, Keith, I'm not one who can judge or say who should be held accountable for the things that had happened in the past. I'm more concerned with the future and moving ahead and improving our interrogation process. I think, as far as accountability goes, you know, I'm still in reserves, I'm still an officer, and I still support my chain of command. But my interest is to improve the way we interrogate so that we can keep our country safer.

OLBERMANN: The former U.S. military interrogator and author of "How to Break a Terrorist," who identifies himself now, for our purposes, as Matthew Alexander, under whatever name-thanks for your time and your service to this country, especially, I think, the one you're performing now.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And what does this country owe the Big Three automakers?

More importantly, what do we owe those millions whose jobs depend on them?

Most importantly, how can we improve this nation in exchange for a bailout?

Michael Moore on this multi-layered problem.

And the marketing research company's claim, bizarre even to us here, that the third most quoted news organization, or second most quoted news organization around the dinner tables and water coolers of this great nation is the "New York Times," and the third most quoted is-COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN?


OLBERMANN: The Bill Clinton rumor, the Al Franken claim, the Sarah Palin Senate credit? As the drop-dead date looms for the possible auto bailout, Michael Moore joins us with a way to make it work. Worsts: Sean Hannity tries to say his viewers are the most informed but winds up calling them less in the know than people who think bumper stickers talk to them. And as we light the Christmas tree here, Billo tries to relight that burnout war on Christmas, which exists only in his mind. We will translate when COUNTDOWN continues.


OLBERMANN: Frankly, sometimes it seems like we're finding the flimsiest excuses to work the human lightning rod that is Sarah Palin into this news hour. Guilty. Our fourth story, however-not tonight. She is being credited with getting a senator reelected.

Georgia's Saxby Chambliss attributing his runoff victory last night over Democrat Jim Martin to the governor of Alaska.


CHAMBLISS: And we had John McCain, and Mike Huckabee, and Governor Romney, and Rudy Giuliani. But Sarah Palin came in on the last day and did a fly-around and, man, she was dynamite. We packed the houses everywhere we went.


CHAMBLISS: And it really did allow us to peek and get our base fired up. I can't overstate the impact she had down here. When she walks in a room, folks just explode. And they really did pack the house everywhere we went. She's a dynamic lady, a great administrator and I think she's got a great future in the Republican Party.


OLBERMANN: However, if Palin is thinking about a stint of her own in the Senate on her way to that great future, fellow Alaska Republican, incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski, up for reelection in 2010, has a warning:

"I can guarantee it would be a very tough election. If she wants to be president, I don't think the way that the presidency is a short stop in the United States Senate." Palin, through a spokesperson, says she has no desire to run for that office.

In the meantime, the rumor about Bill Clinton succeeding his wife as senator from New York is being knocked down at all corners.

Time to call in E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Good evening, E.J.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Did Sarah Palin really do that much for Saxby Chambliss or was it more that Barack Obama had helped the Democratic candidate, Jim Martin, on election day and really didn't or wasn't able to do that again yesterday?

DIONNE: Well, you know, I think if Saxby Chambliss had lost this runoff, he would sue his campaign manager for malpractice. Barack Obama lost the state by 200,000 votes even though there was a record African-American turnout. You knew that the likelihood was that this electorate in the runoff was going to be whiter, older, and richer than the general election electorate and it was.

So, I think that Sarah Palin did not hurt a little bit like chicken soup. She may have helped a bit. And you clearly saw that there is endless fascination with her on segments of the Republican right. And we're sitting here talking, there's continuing fascination in the media. But I don't think she reelected Saxby Chambliss.

OLBERMANN: If-and the criticism against Obama by not going down there again this time, if he had, would the trip have been fraught with political risks? Would it, in fact, have looked as if the first thing he was doing almost as president was partisan vote gleaning?

DIONNE: Well, you know, President Clinton after the '92 election got caught up fighting in a runoff in Georgia and lost. And I think if you look at the numbers, the numbers were probably not going to be there. Jim Martin ran behind Chambliss in the first round. Even though there was this extraordinary African-American turnout, it was very unlikely that was going to be reproduced.

So, I think, Obama made a very political calculation that it was not worth risking a likely loss on the small chance that he could pull Martin through. I think that's what it was about.

OLBERMANN: The reference to Palin in here, a short stop in the Senate baseball analogies aside-on the way to the presidency. Would that, in fact, be as much of lose-lose as it would seem? I mean, even if she got in, she would be a rookie in the chamber and then she would have to begin her presidential campaign literally as soon as she took oath office in the Senate?

DIONNE: Well, you know, with Palin, it's not clear what the rules are, if there are any rules that apply to Sarah Palin. But I don't think that it would be that helpful for her to run a tough race and we know now it would be a very tough race, only to get to the Senate, hang around, casting votes that might hurt you, and then run. If she wants to do it, I think she can do it right off what she has now, although, I personally don't think that the Republicans are going to nominate her in 2012. She hasn't been running ahead in the polls. I think there's fascination, but I don't think there's enough support there to elect her-get her nominated, let alone elected.

OLBERMANN: All right. Let's turn to a Senate race that we know that is ongoing but also looks like, at times, it won't be resolved until 2010. In Minnesota, the Franken campaign's own methodology, using that, they've now claimed they're up by 22 votes over Norm Coleman, the Republican incumbent. The official count still has Coleman by 303. And maybe it's 303 days until we get a result. What is happening in Minnesota and when will it end?

DIONNE: It's to keep Nate Silver and all other political blogs in business-this recount.


DIONNE: You know, Coleman pursued a very shrewd strategy, which was to challenge lots of ballots that were counted for Franken. That kept them out of the count. So, you got this the formal count that shows Coleman with a lead. It's very much like the Bush strategy in Florida in 2000 -- do everything you can to keep a numerical lead. So, that the more Franken fights, the more it looks like he's trying to overturn the election.

I think we are going to be at this for a long time because if Franken's votes aren't counted, he's going to go to court and he has a right to.

OLBERMANN: E.J. Dionne of the "Washington Post" and the Brookings Institute-great thanks, as always, sir.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Tonight, the latest in late night entertainment from Turkey. If we only we can get her to learn how to sing, "I am the walrus." OK, nice dancing.

And the hockey player suspended for saying bad things about ex-girlfriends who are dating other hockey players. Did he do it deliberately to get suspended so he would not get beaten up? Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. And what do you mean we're more quotable than the "Wall Street Journal"?

First, instead of an anniversary, we send best wishes out to another of the greatest high school teachers of all time, Arthur Naething of the Hackley School, recovering tonight at home after surgery today, which I understand there have already been some positive results. So, feel better, sir. Even, as I go forth and spread beauty in-well, not really, we're just going to play Oddball now.

All that education and here I am narrating highlights of a walrus. We begin in Istanbul, Sarah the amazingly talented walrus, not only can she clap along with her trainer, she can dance the tango and even play the saxophone, sort of.

I don't think that's her, actually doing it. Sarah the walrus, everybody. Our nominee for headline act at the Rockefeller tree lighting ceremony next year.

To Bloomington, Illinois, and finally, the solution to an ongoing problem this time of year-what to do with all the reindeer poop. Turn it ornaments, that is what the local artist, Susan Oley (ph) does, taking the offerings, making them look pretty with paint and glitter, and then selling them for $5 a pop or a $5 a poop. You know the phrase, "All too well" about all the crap you get for Christmas, but this is ridiculous.

What do we do about Detroit? Michigander Michael Moore on the prospect of saving the automakers and getting something back, like, I don't know, emission-free cars or equity stake in the Big Three or DVD players or something.

And the lighting of the official COUNTDOWN Christmas and or Happy Holidays tree coinciding with Billo's ranting about the imaginary war on Christmas. These stories ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three "Best Persons in the World."

Number three, best data, the Experience Simmons Multimedia Engagement Study. We're in the thick weeds of consumer research here. But what they have been able to do is rank if 48 most talked about news properties, the magazines, newspapers, TV shows, that generate the most water cooler buzz or dinner table talk. The top five are the Drudge Report, though it ranked last in terms of being trusted, number two was "The New York Times," three was seriously, number four Billo, number five "The Wall Street Journal."

Wow, must kill "New York Times." By the way, number 45 on that list was the "CBS Evening News."

Two, best dumb criminal. Unnamed would be robber at the Sunoco station in Alsace Township, Pennsylvania, he was wearing a mask, sort of. He was wearing a paper plate over his face. The clerk laughed so hard, told him he would have to take off the plate before she could serve him. So he ran away.

And number one, best slice of life, an unnamed county deputy constable in Houston recovering from minor injuries after while parked in his police unit with the lights flashing he was rear ended by a drunk driver. A drunk driver driving a tow truck from the Reyes Towing Company (ph). Moments later, another tow truck showed up to offer the constable for a tow. Not only was he also from the Reyes Towing Company, but he also was drunk.


OLBERMANN: Wall Street and the banking industry not only got a $700 billion bail out, but the original form of that bailout was a three-page document that might as well have been scribbled on the back of a napkin. The final form of that document might as well have been a shorter note still saying "Leave the money in a brown paper bag and don't ask any questions."

Our third story tonight, $34 billion for the auto industry? Heresy, for some reason. Michael Moore joins us in a moment.

Tomorrow the Big Three automaker bosses returned to Congress to defend their request for what was 25 billion and is now 34 billion. By the year 2012 GM is proposing to put out as many as 30,000 Americans on the street, out of work, along with 1,800 dealers.

Meantime, one gigantic cautionary tale in a report from the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, it is finding no accountability from the government for the 150 billion already pumped into the nation's banks in less than two months since the bailout began.

Democrats expressed outrage today despite the fact that they passed the bailout over objections it gave the Treasury too much leeway. President-Elect Obama who supported it from the Senate acknowledged as much.


OBAMA: The GAO report has now come out. We're seeing some areas where we can be doing better in making sure that this money is not going to CEO compensation, that it's protecting taxpayers and the taxpayers are going to get their money back, that it's effective in shoring up our financial markets.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to filmmaker and author Michael Moore, who is joining us from his home state of Michigan. Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Good evening, Keith.

OLKBERMANN: Let's jump right in with your proposal and what to do about GM and the auto industry and what we can sort of buy with this bailout. Lay it out for us.

MOORE: First of all, I just want to say that-you know, when the three automaker chiefs went to Washington, they were treated like errant school children and sent back home to Detroit to write an essay on why we should get free cash. When the Wall Street bankers and thieves came down there, back in October, it was just the opposite. Nobody asked them what they flew down on. The hearing room looked like a cigar bar. Seriously. All that was missing was the photographer from "Cigar Aficionado."

Step right up boys, yeah, big finance, great, we love that. Car guys show up from the Midwest. What's this? Manufacturing. What do you do? You build things. We like the guys who just make money off their money.

This hasn't been lost for any of us who are form this part of the country.

Having said that, it's not a defense of the Big Three here, but frankly any money given to the current management is going to be money that's just being flushed down the toilet. They don't have a clue about how to run these companies. They are basically wanting us to give them money because people don't want to buy their cars.

And the reason they say now they don't want to buy them is because we have a global economic problem going on, but the real point is they've had this problem now for about three decades. I think what has to happen here, this would be my proposal to Congress is that GM wants 18 billion dollars. The total worth in all the GM stock common stock right now is a little less than $3 billion. Three billion. They want us to give them $18 billion.

Why would we give them $18 billion when they are only worth $3 billion? It's like, if my house was worth $100,000 and I came to you, and I said hey, Keith, why don't you loan me like $700,000, I'll put my house up as collateral. It's only worth $100,000. It makes absolutely no sense.

Why give them this money? I think that if we're really serious about trying to fix the transportation problems in the country and all the other problems that surround it in terms of lack of oil and running out of oil in this planet that's going to happen sometime in our lifetime or our children's lifetime, we have to really treat it like a crisis. I would encourage Congress to do what Roosevelt did in the beginning of World War II, where he just said to the Big Three, you're not building cars because we have a crisis, you have to build tanks and planes and the other things they needed in World War II.

This new president in congress has to say to the Big Three, I'm sorry, but this car thing isn't working out. We're running out of oil. You need to build hybrids, electrics and we need mass transportation. So you have got to build trains and subways and light rail and all this.

That's going to be the policy of the country. We're going to tell you what to do because we just gave you collectively, if they get the $34 billion. We're going to give you $34 billion, we're going to own your ass. That should be-I can't figure out how it could be any other way.

OLBERMANN: But, having said that, it .

MOORE: I'm sorry about swearing in there.

OLBERMANN: Please, get in line. The thing sounds so good. Obviously, it can't happen. Why wouldn't it happen? Who is benefiting from the idea that that would not happen? We wouldn't get 21st century mass transit and greener cars and the rest of that?

MOORE: Well, there's not as big a profit in that. You see, this is what's amazing about, for instance, the GM proposal. Give us $18 billion and as part of our proposal, this is what they gave Congress yesterday, we're going to eliminate another 20,000 to 30,000 jobs. We're going to give our taxpayer money to the car companies to throw more people out of work. That's been their big idea for the last 30 years. They have been throwing people out of work by the tens of thousands for the last three decades and nobody ever stopped to say who is going to buy the cars if everybody has been thrown out of work.

It's just been insanity and unless Congress and the new president gets in charge of this thing and says, look, we have to save these millions of jobs. The industrial infrastructure of this country is critical to our national security, it's critical to our economy. Americans have to be transported around.

And so, because this is a huge priority, we're going to call the shots from now on. So yes, this money needs to go to this infrastructure, but it must not go to the people running these companies. Doing window dressing things like working for a dollar a year or don't fly on your private jet anymore, I mean that makes everyone feel a little bit better, but that's not really what the problem is. The problem is these geniuses thought everybody would want to buy a Hummer and somehow there was this untold amount of oil under the earth so let's keep building the big SUVs. Mistake after mistake after mistake.

Why would we reward them for these mistakes, this current management. They need to be fired and removed. The government needs to get in charge of this thing. It's our money, we should be able to call the shots.

OLBERMANN: And given the fact that $1 a year is way too much for that one guy. The documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. As always, it makes great sense. Let's see if there's any chance it happening. Thank you, Michael.

MOORE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Even though they actually first lit it on last week's Wednesday's edition of COUNTDOWN, we're going to do that Christmas tree lighting thing again tonight live here on COUNTDOWN.

And Sean Hannity says his own viewers aren't quite as well informed as people who can look at a bumper sticker and think it's talking to them.

But first, because they're not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals, "Bushed."

Number three. Society's loss is the military's gain-gate. The Pentagon reporting its top recruiting year out of the last four and you can guess why. Sgt. Ryan Nyhus (ph), a veteran of street patrols in Baghdad in which five members of his platoon were shot telling the Associated Press he has reenlisted, or as they say, reupped, the Army says that retention rates are up since 2004. Sgt. Nyhus added, "In the Army, you're always guaranteed a steady paycheck and job. Not your limbs necessarily, of course." That's the choice we're giving these guys.

Number two, torture by proxy-gate. Naji Hamdan of Los Angeles says that while in the United Arab Emirates he was detained at this country's request and tortured for three months until he signed a document admitting to some sort of terror allegation, kept in a cold room, stepped, his bad liver poked at. Naji Hamdan then confessed to whatever they wanted him to confess, then got dumped into a regular prison cell, then got to a phone somehow and called his brother early yesterday morning.

The ACLU is suing to get Hamdan out of the clutches of the UAE. Maybe President Bush has been emphasizing the wrong word when he says, "We don't torture."

Number one, our attorney general is not rational-gate. Mr. Mukasey met with reporters today for the first time since he blacked out while giving a speech defending enhanced interrogation and Gitmo and the whole post-traumatic stress bag of tricks two weeks ago.

He told the correspondents that if a military commission were to impose a short sentence on a Gitmo detainee considered to be a dangerous terrorist, it would be suicidal to release the individual even after the individual's sentence had been served. Mr. Mukasey was asked, is that justice? He answered yes.

They still don't know why the attorney general passed out during that speech two weeks ago. Apparently they found nothing medically wrong with him. I don't mean to sound crass but those with psychiatric training would probably suggest that he be examined to rule out the possibility that he collapsed under the weight of all that paranoia, delusions, revenge fantasies and hypocrisy.


OLBERMANN: After briefly applauding the separation of church and state, Billo is back trying to erase it. He has rung the opening bell on the annual war on Christmas. We will escort you to the imaginary front lines in his head. Next.

But first time for COUNTDOWN's number two store, tonight's "Worst Persons in the World."

The bronze to Dallas Stars hockey bully Sean Avery suspended by the National Hockey League for the first time in his career, not for fighting, not for spearing, not for beating someone up, but for using foul language about at least one of his ex girlfriends. Two of them now date other NHL players. Avery sidled over to a group of reporters in Calgary and a cameraman there, and announced, quote, "I'm just going to say one thing, I'm really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada, I just want to comment how it's become a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my ex-girlfriends."

Only Avery didn't say "ex-girlfriends": He used a two word phrase that includes the term seconds. The NHL immediately and indefinitely suspended him. There is a conspiracy theory out there now that Avery did this deliberately in order to get suspended because one of the guys dating one of his exes plays for Calgary and might have beaten the Shinola out of him during their game.

Our runner up, Bill Cunningham, Cincinnati radio nutbag. The Cincinnati Zoo has canceled a cross promotion deal it had with the Creation Museum, a ticket discount deal. When it found out the creation museum had a supposedly accurate display of a dinosaur with a saddle on it where a guy could ride it. Cunningham kind of overreacted to this. Quoting him, "Instead of the zoo standing up to intolerance of Christianity and the bigots," he spouted, "they buckled under and they did what ever Bull Connor type has done since the days of Birmingham, Alabama, whether it's race or religious discrimination, it cannot stand."

Seriously. The Cincinnati Zoo changes its mind on a dollar off coupon and that's comparable to the police commissioner who used dogs and fire hoses on civil rights activists in the sixties. That's like comparing Bill Cunningham with a grown-up.

But our winner, the manatee, Sean Hannity clinging to a phony poll that blames Obama's election on poorly informed voters. Hannity tried to insist that Fixed News viewers were best informed but he wound up saying, quote, "If you don't listen to talk radio, if you don't watch the Fox News channel, you're not anywhere nearly as informed as people that are just hearing the bumper stickers, the slogans, the snippets of the commercials of the media."

Oops, let's look at that quote again. "If you don't listen to talk radio, if you don't watch the Fox News channel, you're not anywhere nearly as informed as people that are just hearing the bumper stickers, the slogans, the snippets of the commercials of the media."

So, if I'm not listening to talk radio and don't watch Fox Noise, I'm not as informed as people hearing bumper stickers. Meaning, if I do watch Fox News, I'm nearly as well informed as people who can hear bumper stickers. Another well and reasoned argument from Sean Hannity, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: The mystical magical lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN. Even though it was actually test lit five times during last Wednesday's COUNTDOWN.

Well, while we let the anticipation build, what better topic than the latest booming salvo from the television equivalent of uncontrollable flatulence, Mr. Merry Freaking Christmas himself, Bill O'Reilly. The war on Christmas has begun again, so he says.

"A few years ago, we said enough. Enough intrusion on the traditional holiday of Christmas. You may remember that certain companies ordered their employees not to say the words 'Merry Christmas'. It was outrageous. We identified those companies and many Americans, many of you, stopped doing business with them. Presto, the words 'Merry Christmas' came back fast to the retail world, a major victory for traditional Americans."

Except it didn't happen that way. Even if it had, you wouldn't have gotten credit for it because November 30, 2005, you announced the phrase "Happy Holidays" was offensive to Christians. But then on December 19, 2005, you reversed course and said "Happy Holidays" was fine.

But that was before an evil governor got involved, right?

"Now it is certain government that is are the problem with one incredible situation in Washington State. At the state capitol building in Olympia. There's a display, featuring a nativity scene because Christmas honors it birth of Jesus. There is a holiday tree. And now a sign denigrating religion that was put up by atheists. This is what the governor of that state, Christine Gregoire feels is appropriate. Of course the atheists are thrilled."

So is the guy that told "Newsday" the day before yesterday that he is an ardent supporter of the church and state, his name was Bill O'Reilly. Evidently he's one of several Bills O'Reilly who wander the nation taking whatever position is demanded by whatever issue might hypo the ratings.

"Now, this is political correctness gone mad. There's no reason whatsoever to allow an antireligious sign to posted alongside a Christmas display. It's inappropriate and out of context. Christmas is a federal holiday honoring a religious man, Jesus."

We interrupt this for a moment. As promised I have to light the annual COUNTDOWN Christmas tree. Hold on a second. And-OK. What happens if I hit it twice. Nothing, I suppose.

There you go. I grew that tree myself and cut it down and carried it here. So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and for our viewer Jerry Stiller, Happy Festivus for the rest of us.

And now, back to the story of Baby Billo already in progress. Christmas is a federal holiday honoring a religious man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - "We also honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in this country. Does that mean we have to put a sign up next to his likeness to appease those who may not like his religious affiliation? Of course not."

Of course not because as much as people might praise or criticize Dr.

King, nobody has ever claimed divine or supernatural powers for him.

The comparison between Christmas and Martin Luther King's birthday is about as apt as comparing Christmas and, say, Bill O'Reilly at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo, North Dakota.

"The buck stops with Governor Gregoire who refused to even issue a statement about this and she walks past the sign every day. She's a weak, confused leader who is allowing a small fanatical group a parity in Christmas displays. I mean, how crazy is this? What's next an atheist display next to the welcome to Corpus Christi, Texas sign?"

You wouldn't want anything that would look-What's the phrase I'm looking for? Fair and balanced. With Governor Gregoire apparently having won this Napoleonesque victory in the war on Christmas, a shattered Billo has fallen back to the cheesiest refuge of public commentators. One I even abandoned in 1987, giving out the office phone number of the person you are criticizing. In this case, Governor Gregoire.

"And you should respectfully tell her how you feel about this. Because if cowardly politicians don't get the message, you can kiss our traditions good-bye in this country. If atheists want a public holiday honoring the winter solstice, fine. Petition your congressperson. We don't celebrate Ramadan in this country because our traditions are Judeo-Christian, not Muslim, not agnostic. Washington State is ground zero for just about every nutty secular cause on Earth. But this time, the state embarrassed itself and the nation."

He would know about that. But mind you, this is from a man whose own employers, Fox News, scheduled an annual holiday party this year. Go to their online store, type "Christmas" into the search engine and you get nothing. The Fox News store does however offer a FOX AND FRIENDS ornament. A holiday ornament for your holiday tree.

On the other hand, Billo, this, this exploding statue of St. Joseph, I think you have a real winner there. There's still time to rush it into production. I'd pay $29.95 for one of those.

And I must confess, as you foment intolerance and try to cash in on paranoia, I must offer a final compliment. There's very little news at this time of year. So congratulations on finding something to kill that much time on your show.

That's COUNTDOWN for this 2034th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage now continues with the Christmas angel herself, Rachel Maddow. Merry Christmas.



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