Guests: Tyler Drumheller, Michael Musto, Clarence Page
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The new player in the battle of Harry Reid versus Roland Burris—it may be now Harry Reid versus Roland Burris and Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: There‘s going to come a time when the entire Senate is going to have to act on this, and that day, I hope, would come sooner rather than later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: On Monday, Obama reportedly urged Senate Democrats to resolve this amicably, “I think,” says the president-elect, “he‘s a fine public servant.”
Certainly, he sounds like a practical one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROLAND BURRIS, FORMER ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Certainly, no pay-to-play involved because I have no money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Panetta at CIA: Rumblings of agency dissatisfaction as if there haven‘t been rumblings before the last 19 CIA chiefs, rumblings also that Richard Clarke was among the first choices.
The president-elect chooses a chief performance officer. Is he planning to put on a lot of live theater? Some Gilbert and Sullivan? No. It‘s a line-by-line auditor of the budget.
Get out your cameras. Obama meets with four presidents. Well, 3 ½.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: All of us who have served in this office understand that the office itself transcends the individual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Indeed. Among these five men, by themselves constituting 11 percent of all the presidents in our national history, which weighty, imperative, eternal topics were today transcendent?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I love this rug.
BUSH: Yes, pretty cool.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oh, boy.
The naked upside-down skier update. Photographer fired, fixed news guy suggests Vaseline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS HOST: The old standby, two fingers in, you get yourself some jelly and just moisturize yourself.
GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: What?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
In an unrelated topic, we bailed out banks, we bailed out mortgages, we bailed out Detroit, so the men behind “Hustler” and “Girls Gone Wild” go to Washington demanding we spend $5 billion to bail out the porn industry. Michael Musto explains. Millions for defense, but not 1 cent for Jenna Jameson.
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BUSH: The president designs the rugs.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Wednesday, January 7th, 13 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
On Capitol Hill, the clock ticking down on putting together that economic stimulus bill Mr. Obama has named as his top priority upon taking the office. Exactly what has the Democratic leadership of the Senate done during the 32 hours and counting since it convened its new session?
In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: We know what they will not be doing, they will not be watching someone seek their Senate nomination in Pennsylvania, who we all know—details presently.
But exactly what have the Democrats done? Day two of the circus Burris. Making it more than two days since the president-elect asked the majority leader, Mr. Reid, to find a resolution to the Burris controversy, according to a Democratic source. In a private meeting Monday, the two men agreeing on the need for an amicable resolution so the Democrats might focus on the more important issues facing the nation.
The next day, you will recall, Mr. Burris was turned away from the Capitol and out into the rain for failing to have his supposed proper paperwork for his Senate appointment, specifically the signature of the secretary of state of Illinois, Jesse White.
Today, Senator Reid still insisting that without that signature, Mr. Burris cannot be legally appointed and also that Mr. Burris still needs to prove he was not involved in any deal-making with Illinois Governor Blagojevich for that Senate seat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: We know that the state of Illinois is entitled to representation. But until we remove the cloud from this Blagojevich nomination, we cannot move forward. And I think it‘s a pretty easy hurdle to get over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: After sitting down with Mr. Burris, Majority Leader Reid declaring him to be an extremely nice man. And when Mr. Burris learned, only minutes ago tonight upon his return to Chicago, that the president-elect had spoken to the majority leader about finding a resolution to his situation and pronto, Mr. Burris declared his fellow Illinoisan to be extremely nice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURRIS: This is the first time I‘ve heard that. And if my friend, the president-elect of the United States, said that, I want to thank him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He lit up like Christmas Day.
Despite the less-than-welcoming reception he received on Capitol Hill, Mr. Burris tonight is eager to return as soon as possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURRIS: The only thing I regret is not being able to walk on that floor with my colleagues and be sworn in. And that I look forward to in the very near future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Burris, moments ago, the ever surprising possible senator from Illinois, also claiming earlier today to have the backing of Jimmy Carter, saying the former president phoned to offer his support.
At a news conference, the next president of the United States offered some praise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: But I know Roland Burris.
Obviously, he is from my home state. I think he is a fine public servant. If he gets seated, then I‘m going to work with Roland Burris just like I work with all the other senators to make sure that the people of Illinois and the people of the country are served.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It‘s time now to call in the Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, editorial board member of the “Chicago Tribune,” Clarence Page.
Good evening, Clarence.
CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Good evening, Keith. And you are a very nice man, too.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, and so are you.
PAGE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: All right, now, we got that out of the way. Two days or more, apparently, since the president-elect asked Senator Reid to find a resolution to this, why is the majority leader letting this drag out and become a mountain instead of a mole hill?
PAGE: You ever try walking a cat backwards, Keith?
PAGE: That‘s kind of the situation Harry Reid is in right now. You know, back when Blagojevich got in trouble, the Senate Democrats, to a man and a woman, voted that they were not going to approve any nominee or appointee that Blagojevich sent.
And then Blagojevich in good old Chicago fashion, sent somebody anyway saying, “Hey, I‘m governor. It‘s legal. I‘m obliged to do this,” et cetera and then just dared them to do something about it. Not only that, he sent a well-known, popular, reputably clean, long-tenured figure who happens to be African-American as well. Then he had Bobby Rush, former Black Panther leader, currently a congressman, standing up to say, “You‘ve got to take him because there aren‘t any black folks in the Senate.”
It was quite remarkable. Harry Reid just kind of got ganged up on the Chicago way.
OLBERMANN: And, Mr. Reid is now standing behind this issue of the signature on the document. And the secretary of state of Illinois said today that that signature on the appointment would be purely ceremonial, as it was interpreted for us last night. And he added, “They could have seated him without my signature.”
Why is Senator Reid still hung up on this autograph? Didn‘t the Illinois secretary of state just give him an out?
PAGE: Well, he did. But this is all Harry Reid has left. I mean, up until now, we were talking about the Senate stalling while they waited for the Illinois Senate to push through Blagojevich‘s possible impeachment and then maybe get a new Senate appointee sent by the current lieutenant governor. But that‘s just not going to happen, it looks like now.
The winds of change are all moving in Burris‘ direction now, and Harry Reid sounds like he is just holding on to this ceremonial certificate as the one excuse to hold out and wait for the Illinois Supreme Court to rule. And they‘ll probably rule in favor of saying that Secretary of State White does have to sign it and Roland Burris will be in.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, when this all broke, it looked like a potential nightmare situation where Blagojevich would appoint himself or his wife or his cat or whatever as we continue with the feline references.
PAGE: It could have gotten real colorful, yes.
OLBERMANN: Yes, but he didn‘t pull a Caligula and appoint a horse to the council. But he found a reasonable candidate, maybe not the most thrilling guy in the world, but a reasonable candidate—is it now not time, given what a distraction this has been, to just give up this ghost?
PAGE: Well, you could say that that‘s kind of what‘s happening right now when you read between the lines. You know, the Senate doesn‘t move that quickly, and Harry Reid has put himself out there as well as other Senate Democrats on matters of principle. And you can‘t just overnight or just spin on a dime and say, “Well, those principles go out the window now. We‘re going to let him in.”
But they are preparing the way. They are talking about what a nice man he is—and he is. He‘s, you know, back in the ‘70s, he was the first black official to be elected statewide in Illinois. He‘s a guy who, if anything, his only sin is narcissism. We‘ve also seen stories about his mausoleum and his kids Roland and Rolanda. Other than that—he can make a decent senator.
OLBERMANN: Well, after two George Bushes in the White House, I guess that‘s not that really that much of a crime right here.
OLBERMANN: Clarence Page of the “Chicago Tribune”—as always, we appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.
PAGE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: On another matter today, Senator Harry Reid showing great resolve on the kind of pro-activity he had rarely exhibited in two years of majority leadership during the Bush administration by promising to stand up to Barack Obama.
In an interview with the newspaper “The Hill,” the senator said it will be essential for Democrats to work with Republicans in the new Congress and to avoid overreaching and rubber-stamping the president-elect‘s policies, quote, “If Obama steps over the bounds, I will tell him. I do not work for Barack Obama. I work with him.”
Let‘s turn now to Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: “I don‘t work for Barack Obama.” I‘m hoping that that‘s some kind of pre-emptive shot against the charge that Senator Reid would be leading a rubber-stamp Senate, but I‘m also thinking I, maybe, incredibly naive.
HAYES: Well, let‘s hope it is. I mean that he‘s right in so far as one of the great sins of the Republican Congress under Bush, and indeed, of the entire conservative movement, was converting themselves into this bizarre cult of personality around President George W. Bush. And one of the mistakes, I think, that progressives in general on the Democratic Congress needs to not mistake, not to repeat is to go ahead and be oppositional when it‘s called for and to preserve the separation of powers. All that said, it was a strange kind of note to strike given where we are right now, in terms of the calendar year.
OLBERMANN: Yes. What is this “don‘t tread on me” attitude from the majority leader? I mean, did he not get the message last fall that the presidency went to the Democrats largely because a vast majority of the country felt, “Look, we need people in there to clean up the past presidency,” and there may be some sort of limited time frame in which the cleaning up can be done, and there is really not time to argue over whether or not there is an autograph on a particular piece of paper when the things are going to end up one way and not the other?
HAYES: Yes, agreed. I mean, I think, particularly, the overreach line was really, really strange. I mean, that is not the fear of the American people right now. The fear of the American populace—and it‘s hard to generalize about a nation of 300 million, but, I think, the majority of Americans are concerned about avoiding a Great Depression. They‘re not concerned about overreach.
And so, for him to come out and strike this note of overreach just shows a kind of bizarre caution in the midst of something that doesn‘t call for caution. It calls for boldness. And I think that in Harry Reid‘s defense, I think what we might be seeing is a difference between the political environment in his home state in Nevada and the political environment in the country at large.
OLBERMANN: But—all right—but does that explain when Senator Feinstein, as outgoing chair of the rules committee, broke with the Democrats earlier in the week and said she believes that the Burris appointment was legal, he should be seated.
OLBERMANN: Senator Reid responded it is not a legal appointment and he cited the Senate rule. I‘m a little flustered by this because it seems to me that if you equate a law with a procedural rule from Congress, it sounds a little, you know, Nixonian, “If the president does it, then it‘s not illegal.”
HAYES: Yes. Look—the question is: What is the principle here?
And I honestly cannot see what Harry Reid‘s answer to that question is.
What is the principle at stake in seating Roland Burris? If there is an allegation or a suspicion that Roland Burris himself purchased the appointment, then they have a case. But no one is alleging that, no one believes that to be the case.
And so, they have to make some case about what actually the principle at stake is. They can‘t just hand wave about the taint of scandal. They actually have to say how Roland Burris himself is implicated in that. And so far, they have completely failed to do that.
OLBERMANN: And the last point here, to top it all off, the senator said that today he was going to lead the Democrats until 2015, at least. Is there anybody around him to tell him that if there are rifts with the White House over trivia, as you pointed out, particularly at this time, that he might not be the one who decides how long he is going to be majority leader?
HAYES: Yes. I mean, that really smacks of some hubris. I mean, 2015 is a long way away. You know, I think there are people—and Harry Reid has a job that I don‘t think I would ever want and I can‘t imagine anyone would ever want. So, give that to him.
But the fact of the matter is, you know, Theodore Roosevelt once said, “You speak softly and carry a big stick.” And the M.O. of Harry Reid has been to talk a lot of smack and then capitulate. And, you know, at a certain point, you wonder if the caucus is going to start getting more and more restless with that kind of M.O., and something sort of happens among the leadership.
OLBERMANN: Or to capitulate when he should be fighting and now -
HAYES: Right, exactly.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps he should, for a week or two, capitulate?
OLBERMANN: Chris Hayes of “The Nation”—always a pleasure sir, thanks for your time tonight.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And if the Senate 2009 still remains slightly murky, the Senate 2010 got clearer this evening. Our own Chris Matthews has told his staff at “HARDBALL” that he will not seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania next year. Thus, Chris and I will, indeed, be co-anchoring MSNBC‘s inauguration coverage on the morning, afternoon, and evening of the 20th.
Yes, inspiring history at the White House today: Three ex-presidents, one soon-to-be president and one soon to be ex-president. And what do they talk about? The rug.
And, a $5 billion bailout you say. For the porn industry, you say.
Do we have the reaction yet from Justice Clarence Thomas?
OLBERMANN: How many presidents can you fit in a one White House? Two Bushes, a Carter, a Clinton and Obama—five of the only 44, this as the future occupant decides things are so screwed up he will need to have a chief performance officer who will audit everything.
Later, Billo the Clown‘s first 2009 appearance in Worsts versus a fixed news colleague with a disturbing response to that upside-down skier story, versus the congressman who wants the House to shut down so he can have a big night out. The Worst Persons in the World and Michael Musto on the porn industry‘s plea for a $5 billion bailout—when COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: What Barack Obama today participated in at the White House was an extraordinary moment, assuming he is sworn in as scheduled. This was five of the 44 presidents in American history, 11.36 percent of all of them, in one place at one time.
And in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Ironically, it all happened about an hour after Obama created a new federal post essentially designed to clean up the sundry messes President Bush has made. Before they had lunch, they had this iconic visual: 24 years worth of president plus whatever the new guy adds to the total. And what starker evidence could there of the historic change represented by the heritage of that new commander-in-chief?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: All of us who have served in this office understand that the office itself transcends the individual. We wish you all the very best and so does the country.
OBAMA: All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office. And for me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary and I‘m very grateful to all of them. But, again, thank you, Mr. President, for hosting us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And what did the five misters president talk about? All we can be certain of is that President Clinton talked about the decorating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I love this rug.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Plenty of room to sweep stuff under. Also a reminder of how much President Bush loves that rug, too. It‘s one of the first things he points out to visitors at the White House before regaling them with its story.
All incoming presidents get to design their own rug, but Bush, being the decider, decided to leave that decision to his wife, instructing her only to make it reflects his optimism. $61,000 later, the ivory sun-shaped rug was installed and the current president has not stopped talking about it since.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I‘ll never forget the first decision I have to make as president, what color of rug do I want in the Oval Office.
I delegated—that‘s one of the things you do in decision-making.
BUSH: I said, Laura, how about helping design a rug.
BUSH: I wanted to say optimistic person comes here to work every day. It was the strategic thought for the rug. She figured out the colors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And to lift up the said rug and clean up swept under messes, the president-elect has created the posted of chief performance officer. It sounds like oversight of the White House production of “High School Musical.” In fact, the job consists of ostensibly fixing everything that happened to the federal government over the past eight years from balancing the budget to making agencies efficiency and transparent. It will be Nancy Killefer, a former Clinton Treasury Department official.
We are joined now by our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And carpet correspondent. Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Very nice. We‘ll get to the rug and the chief performance officer in the moment. But first, in essence, five presidents in the White House simultaneously, history by itself, an amazing photo, that extraordinary contrast. But do we have any earthly clue what was said among these men in private?
WOLFFE: Yes, an amazing photo which we‘ll get recycled over and over. And yes, we do have an earthly clue, actually. What we know they talked about was first and foremost, how do you get good information to the president of the United States? Now, there may be pointed answer in all of this because there were many times when, of course, the current occupant was supposed to have been living inside the bubble.
But they talked about that. They talked about the problems of getting bad news to the president. How will President Obama be connected to the rest of the world? They also talked about how to raise kids in the White House, and especially there presidents Carter and Clinton had points of view because remember that if President Obama is re-elected, then his eldest daughter will spend her entire teenage life in the White House and that‘s weird enough as it is.
OLBERMANN: The one on the record thing there, the Bill Clinton rug comment, was that just—was he just filling time? Did he genuinely like it or was there some sort of dig at that, as we played parts of it, the Bush carpet obsession?
WOLFFE: I think he has a genuine interest in shag carpets.
WOLFFE: And I do think that there is an interesting piece of carpet diplomacy which we should discuss at length. What President Bush is not saying is that when he and Laura Bush moved into the Oval Office, the first thing they wanted to change was what they saw as the gaudy taste of the Clintons. So these tones that they have—I mean, it feels weird to talk about a guy who saw himself as commander-in-chief and “mission accomplished” but the tones were very important to him maybe because he had such strong strategic vision about everything else, he casts so much brighter colors.
Anyway, why do they just talk about the carpet? Because Carter and Clinton hate each other, and for some reason, the White House just happened to put them together.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and you can see how far apart they were standing from each other compared to the others.
WOLFFE: Compared to the Bushes, exactly.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and to the Bushes, or even the Bushes and Obama.
OLBERMANN: That was extraordinary.
There is a certain irony to this, to an Obama and Bush meeting or Obama and presidents‘ meeting coming literally an hour after Obama appointed a woman whose job is basically cleaning up Bush‘s screw-ups. Is it just an irony or was there timing involved in that, too?
WOLFFE: I don‘t think he was sending a message there. But this is something that—as a candidate, Obama talked about a lot. It, clearly, you know, for all the deference and respect they have between the next president and his predecessor, Obama thinks the budget is a mess.
And, yes, President Bush tried repeatedly to talk about earmarks and cutting the budget. He didn‘t do it. The question is whether if you got to a supercharged budget director, whether she can do this, whether it‘s going to take pressure on the Hill. But whatever it is, they think the budget is a mess. And to restore credibility in the marketplace with businesses in general, they want to clean up the federal budget.
OLBERMANN: And the appointment of the chief performance officer, what exactly are Ms. Killefer‘s responsibilities and how on earth would she be able to achieve any of them?
WOLFFE: You know, it‘s a great question. You know, there is a budget director. They do have sweeping authority. She will be working with those folks.
But the big problem here is members of Congress, because every time you try and zero out a program that is inefficient, there is always someone out there who says this is good for my district, it‘s good for my state. Will she have the authority to go tell them, it‘s over? Will they really be able to ban earmarks? I guess, only time will tell.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Boy, oh, boy, one person up against 18 million different bureaucracies. Wonderful.
Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and the “Newsweek”—as always, Richard, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The ski story from yesterday, an update since we know we sort left you hanging. And the reporting of this on fixed news. I‘m really not sure what he meant, but the host suggested two fingers and some Vaseline. Worst Persons in the World is ahead. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and the combination mule and fire alarm.
First, on this date in 1903 was born the actor Alan Napier, who‘s not only a cousin of future British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, but also the great, great grandson of Charles Dickens. He was in film for 36 years, mostly in obscure character parts in great movies like “Cat People” and “Random Harvest,” until at the age of 63, he accepted an unlikely role, the first person cast in the TV version of “Batman.” He was Alfred the Butler.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin inside the Frontier Bank in Rock Rapids, Iowa, where there is loads of money and an intruding deer—wait a minute, doe, a deer, a female deer. All right. This happened on Sunday. The deer busted in the window and tripped an alarm but was able to flee the scene before police arrived. As for a motive for the breaking and entering? Cops suspect the deer was just looking for a few bucks. Attempting to pass fawny checks? Or simply trying to rein in spending.
Let‘s go back to Vail, Colorado, for an update now on those naked upside down skier pictures. The dangler‘s identity still a mystery. But we know who snapped the photos. We know that guy is now looking for work. Marty Odom worked for a photography outfit employed by the Vail resort. He shot the photographs, then sold the photographs to people like us.
Unlike his subject, who was suspended for 15 minutes, Mr. Odom‘s employer has now suspended him indefinitely. Odom says he would do the same thing again, and we sure hope he did not spend our five dollars in one place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Continuing backlash over the pick of Leon Panetta to head Central Intelligence. And this is how we should spend five billion dollars in bailout money? Those story ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best stunt driving, an unnamed student in Wikomiko Church (ph), Virginia, near Richmond. He was very upset about missing the bus, so he found mom‘s keys and decided to drive her 2005 Ford Taurus to school. He ran the car off the road three times and eventually totaled it. But he received only minor injuries, which is amazing, because the school was an elementary and he is six.
Number two, best family, 37 year old Richard Hayes and his 21 year old step-son Michael Bass. Step-dad says he was afraid his step-son wanted to fight him. And since he, step-dad, has a bad neck and all, he thought it would be best if he just went ahead and preemptively shot the kid. It‘s the sort of George Bush relationship in the family. The younger man has a wound to his stomach. But, of course, when the cops got there, they discovered he had outstanding warrants for failing to appear in court. So they threw the injured Mr. Bass into a cell next to his step-father, who had shot him.
Number one, best smoke detector, Lou, a vital part of Jolene Solomon‘s farm in McMinville (ph), Tennessee. It was Lou who saw or smelled the smoke coming out of the attack in Jolene‘s house long before Jolene did. He raised a ruckus, caused Jolene to come outside and discover the fire before her house ultimately burned down. Lou is a mule. You have heard that phrase, he pulled your ass out of the fire, but this is ridiculous.
OLBERMANN: Just as Congressional hurt feelings seem to be mending over the leak of Leon Panetta as CIA chief, before those members knew about, now we have reports of objections within the agency. What, they didn‘t see this coming? Our third story, why are some CIA insiders grumbling about Leon Panetta?
To start with, the “Los Angeles Times” reporting that Richard Clarke, the former counter-terror adviser to Presidents Bush and Clinton, turned down the job, as did unspecified others. What Clarke has and Panetta lacks, formal, official experience in the intelligence community, is fueling some of the CIA dissent, but for widely varying reasons.
Panetta is not a total novice to intelligence, nor the CIA. In addition to his tenure as a member of Congress and his military service and his membership in the Iraq Study Group, Panetta, of course, served as chief of staff to Mr. Clinton, involved in every national security decision and participating in the daily intelligence briefings he was given by the CIA.
Former Agency Deputy Director for Eastern Europe Milt Bearden told ForeignPolicy.com that the appointment was, quote, brilliant. But one CIA veteran said, quote, “they put over there a guy who is a political loyalist, who will keep everything nice and quiet, but who won‘t know a good piece of intelligence from a sh-tty piece of intelligence.”
Another veteran raises a different objection from a different direction: “in a large number of rank and file, the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. These people are who are sweating blood every day to make things happen and living for the day that someone is going to come in, institute real reform, and turn the CIA into the vital, effective organization it should be. To them, this choice just says business as usual.”
Let‘s bring in another CIA veteran, Tyler Drumheller, former case officer, head of European operation, and author of “On The Brink, An Insider‘s Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence.” Great thanks, again, for your time tonight, sir.
TYLER DRUMHELLER, FMR. CIA CASE OFFICER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Do either of these criticism resonate with you, that either Panetta won‘t be able to tell the good from the bad intel, or that he will not have the insights that he needs to overhaul this place, and thus, it will be business as usual?
DRUMHELLER: I know both Sam and Milt. They are both very good guys. I think Panetta will be a good choice. They haven‘t had a senior official as the director of the CIA for a long time. The people who are probably—who are worried about morale and how this will affect things are probably at the senior level. I think the rank-and-file people in the service will be happy to have someone who has real influence in Washington. They really haven‘t had that since Casey was there.
So that will make a big difference.
OLBERMANN: The idea that he does not speak their language and would end up sitting in an office and talking on the phone and nothing changes; is that a fair concern? How does Panetta prevent that or the perception of that?
DRUMHELLER: Panetta will be the director. I doubt if he‘s going to sit in the office and talk on the phone. He will have people around him who will interpret what people are saying to him. People like you can only understand this business if you‘ve been part of it for 30 years. All of these people come into it new at some point and have to learn. Panetta is a smart guy. He‘s got a lot of experience and he‘s going to bring new ideas, particularly in the budget area. That is one area that hasn‘t been talked about.
The CIA budget process is a total mess. It‘s one of the biggest problems they have. Panetta really could make a change there.
OLBERMANN: Is any of this internal backlash, do you think, plain old butt-covering fear that an external guy, or at least someone perceived that way, not a career person, not somebody promoted from within, is more likely than the other kind to out, if you will, anybody who might have been involved in torture or rendition in the last eight years?
DRUMHELLER: I think at the very senior levels that‘s probably—and that‘s probably the case. He‘s going to have to look very carefully at who he picks to be his deputy and the people around him. He is going to need somebody that isn‘t closely tied to this. They are going to have problems or they‘re going to spend all their time explaining to him why what they did was all right.
I think in the rank-and-file, again, I don‘t think that‘s a big problem. There are people there who really want to get on with their jobs. But the people on the seventh floor, the management structure of the agency, it is not just Panetta. They are going to look at the reasons that John Brennan didn‘t get the job and say, well, the same thing applies to me. So what‘s going to keep whoever gets in there from taking a look at me?
The secret is, when he gets in, is he‘s just going to have—I would, if I were him, what‘s past is past. We‘ve got to move forward. Look and see if there are any real serious problems and fix those, but then start out—what Sam Fadda (ph) said in his comment is true. There are real serious changes that need to be made.
OLBERMANN: Finally, contextualize the criticism? Has there ever not been some internal criticism of the incoming director? Wasn‘t George H.W. Bush criticized and John McComb and Helms and Dulles and everybody else?
DRUMHELLER: Everybody has been criticized since I—that I can remember back. There is always someone who doesn‘t like—Casey was too close to Reagan. Webster didn‘t understand anything because he came from the FBI. You‘re never going to be perfect. What you want is somebody who has integrity, who is a good administrator. I think Panetta will restore integrity to the intel process. That‘s really important. And the rest of it, just get on with the job, basically.
OLBERMANN: You have to have the focus on who the actual enemy is. It is not people working elsewhere in the building. Tyler Drumheller, formerly of the CIA, author of “On The Brink: An Insider‘s Account of How the White House compromised American Intelligence.” As always, we appreciate your perspective, sir.
DRUMHELLER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A federal bailout for the porn industry. Shall we get Michael Musto‘s reaction?
And the Congressman who wants to postpone the House of Representatives for a day and a half so he can go to a football game. Worst persons are ahead.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, as the Roland Burris drama continues to unfold, her special guest Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis. He is the man who turned down Governor Blagojevich‘s offer of that Senate seat.
But first, because they‘re not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed!
Number three, the wages of sin-gate. Simon & Shuster has announced it has been chosen by the first lady to publish her memoirs. No figure announced. One in the “New York Post,” which always leaves room for doubt, is an announce of 1.6 million or a little higher. That is a lot of money for a book, but not a lot of money for a book by a first lady. Hillary Clinton got eight million up front for her book. Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford each got about two. Mrs. Bush‘s agent said eight publishers expressed interest. He not say whether or not any of them wanted to publish the book as fiction.
Number two, accomplishment-gate. You will recall that at a lunch with two right wing writers last week, Mr. Bush declared that his greatest domestic accomplishment was his disastrously failed attempt in 2005 to privatize Social Security. Well, that statement, my greatest success was this resounding failure, it was so goofy sounding that apparently even the president himself noticed. Now, in an interview, with the columnist Cal Thomas, he was asked for his biggest do-over. Knowing everything you know now, what would you have done over again? The president responds, I probably, in retrospect, should have pushed immigration reform after the ‘04 election and not Social Security reform.
So he would like to go back and not do the things he claims was his greatest domestic accomplishment; 13 days, just 13 days. Keep him away from all the buttons for just 13 days.
Number one, Medal of Freedom-gate. The White House announcing that included in his last set of recipients will be the president of Columbia, Alvaro Uribe, and the former Prime Ministers of the UK, Tony Blair, and of Australia, John Howard. Mr. Bush has already given this Medal of Freedom Paul Bremer, General Tommy Franks, General Richard Myers, George Tenet, Norman Padhoretz. So, basically, it has now become the award for recognizing those who helped screw up the country and lie us into an unnecessary war in Iraq.
An exchange of dialogue between Martin Balsom (ph), as Colonel Capcart, the and Orson Wells‘ General Driedle from the Buck Henry/Mike Nichols film “Catch-22” comes to mind here. A bomber crew has just fouled up and the general has to be talked out of having its members shot. “If we can‘t shoot the bastards,” Wells says, “we can court marshal them, see that they rot in some stockade.” Balsom, as the colonel replies, “we felt that the court martial might get unavoidable publicity. If it got around that we used one of our missions to bomb the ocean”—
Wells interrupts him somberly, “you don‘t have to say anything more, colonel.”
Or to paraphrase Woody Allen, if you prefer him, I didn‘t know they gave medals for that kind of leadership, only ear plugs or war crimes trials.
OLBERMANN: Banking industry style, auto industry style federal bailout for America‘s struggling manufactures of pornography. Or as they like to call themselves, the other big two. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. I‘m sorry.
The bronze to Bill-O. Off to a slow start here in ‘09. So he came out of the box both guns blazing last night. Didn‘t take them out of the holster, of course. Nevertheless, “the war on terror takes a turn for the worse. We may all be in danger. Obama will nominate 70-year-old Leon Panetta to run the Central Intelligence Agency. He has no intel experience, opposes coerced interrogation and many other anti-terror methods that have kept us safe for more than seven years.”
Skip, for a moment, Bill-O parroting the sadists‘ assumption that torture gets you to tell the truth, and skip that he had some ex-agency guy predicting we‘ll now, quote, get hit in the next year. Leon Panetta has no intel experience? He served in Vietnam. He won the Army Commendation Medal. He served on the Iraq Study Group. And as the White House chief of staff, he sat in on the national security briefings of President Clinton. And he is 70. Porter Goss turned 66 two months after he started as the head of CIA. As to his intel experience, he hadn‘t worked at the agency for 33 years. It‘s going to be a long year for Bill-O.
Our runner-up, Brian Kilmeade, over at the Bill-O news network, Fox Noise. I don‘t even know how to characterize this, about that poor naked upside down skier guy. Let‘s just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I‘m thinking, too, that he could get a Vaseline sponsor. After you‘re exposed at that level, there is only one moisturizer that will be effective, the old stand-by. Two fingers in, you get yourself some jelly. Just moisturize yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?
KILMEADE: When you are chapped in the winter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brian, you‘re fired.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You meant in the Vaseline jar.
KILMEADE: What are you thinking? I have no idea what you‘re talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let‘s talk stimulus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No, let‘s not. Let‘s not talk stimulus. Anyway, that is an O‘Reilly topic.
But our winner, Congressman Cliff Stearns of the sixth district of Florida. Last August, at the height of the drill, baby, drill nonsense, Congressman Stearns and many of his Republican colleagues exploded at the Democrats for having adjourned for the Summer recess without caving in to Republican demands for a vote ending the quarter-century old ban on drilling for oil along the American coast.
Stearns contribution to that cheesy political stunt was to insist that the recess be cut short and Democrats do, quote, the people‘s business by supporting offshore drilling.
So it might come as a bit of a shock to supporters of Congressman Stearn to learn that he has written to Speaker Pelosi, asking she reschedule all votes planned in the House tomorrow evening and Friday afternoon. Why? To a man who insisted the Democrats cut short Summer recess so everybody could urgently vote on a measure that would not have impacted gas prices for a decade, what could be so important that he would want the speaker to totally rearrange the House schedule? A college football game.
The University of Florida is playing the University of Oklahoma for the National Championship Thursday night. And he wants her to, quote, move these votes to either Wednesday and/or Thursday morning to allow members to attend this historic game. Members? Whole state delegations intend to go? Apparently not. Stearns is the only Congressman who signed the letter. Meaning, he wants Pelosi to shut down the House so he can go to the ball game, he, Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: A five billion bailout for the American porn industry. Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, apparently, there is no limit to what has been wrought by a stripped down economy. The new and unforgettable duo of “Hustler Magazine‘s” Larry Flint and “Girls Gone Wild” creator Joe Francis asking the government, perhaps even seriously, to take a peep at their proposal. According to TMZ.com, they claim that their industry has been hurt, like everybody else, citing a 22 percent decline in sales of XXX DVDs from a year ago.
Says Flint, quoting, “with all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind?” Are you serious? “It is time for Congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America.” Oh, great, just what we need, Congress involved in official sexual appetite.”
Mr. Francis says that he is going to D.C. personally. And he likens his industry to the big three auto makers, but bigger, quoting, Congress seems willing to shore up our nation‘s most important businesses. We feel we deserve the same consideration.”
“The Atlantic Magazine” says—“The Atlantic Magazine,” covering this story, says that with porn products available for free on the Internet, and apparently on this show briefly, industry revenue has declined 15 percent each year since 2005. So now the question, how likely would American politicians be to support this kind of stimulus package?
On that note, let‘s bring in “Village Voice” columnist Michael Musto.
Good to talk to you, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”: Hello, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Government underwritten porn. We have not had that, as I recall, since 1998, when Ken Starr issued his report.
MUSTO: Yes, and Monica is still under the desk waiting for the results. Look, Larry Flint and Joe Francis are going to strip naked before Congress, literally, and show that everything has gone down 22 percent. They‘re right. People aren‘t paying for sex anymore. Hugh Grant has a girlfriend, for God‘s sakes.
While they‘re at it, I think Congress should bail out all ailing industries, like libraries, Broadway musicals, print journalism, hello. Please send me a check.
OLBERMANN: Tell me about it. I think—Eliot Spitzer going out of the business knocked the whole industry down by 73 percent. All of this time—almost seriously, the porn industry described itself as recession proof. I thought there wasn‘t supposed to be any down-sizing?
MUSTO: They also described themselves as 29-year-old babes and hotties, when, in actuality, they are 92-year-old dyslexics. These people lie. Porn and cars were the first things to go in the recession. Porn in cars, forget it. It‘s over.
OLBERMANN: With all of these bail outs, whatever the industry has been, the key has been, obviously, before we throw government money after something like this, concessions on the part of the auto makers, the banks, whoever. Do we have to have, I don‘t know, environmentally friendly porn? Will there be a porn czar? is there already a porn czar?
MUSTO: There are a lot of concessions we can make. No more Ron Jeremy films. Barney Frank is going to want to be the fluffer on “Schindler‘s Fist.” There should be a porn czar. There‘s going to be no more Bush soon. I think Obama‘s first task should be to appoint Sarah Palin a porn czar. She, more than anyone, knows how awful it is on the rare occasion when people keep it in their pants.
OLBERMANN: What committee do you think in the Senate or the House would the porn bailout be assigned to? And are some of the senators in danger of needing to recuse themselves?
MUSTO: Forestry and nutrition? No, they‘re going to have to come up with a whole new committee, the Committee to Bail Out Pimps and Hoes, when people are actually turning to their spouses for a hummer. There will be a lot of recusing that day. The senator floor will be empty. More recusing than when Gsa Gsa was on “What‘s My Line.”
OLBERMANN: Of course, you were just referring to the vehicle. That was part of the auto bailout. If Congress balks at this, are we talking huge job losses? Is it a virtual porn meltdown, the porn economy and anything connected to it just collapses?
MUSTO: There are going to be hookers out on the street. This is terrible. I know these people. I know people in low places. They are going to have to crawl back to their old jobs at BBC World News. It‘s so degrading.
OLBERMANN: But what—what did the BBC do to you?
MUSTO: They canceled me.
OLBERMANN: If this gets to the stage of negotiations, as we‘ve seen again in the auto industry—it was negotiations between the titans of industry and the Congressional leaders, who is the middle man? Who is the honest broker between the government and what in this case would be the strapped manufacturers?
MUSTO: I think Gloria Allred is the go to person for this. I think she is going to be torn between the free exposure and having to defend people who objectify women. I have seen Larry Flynt himself wheeling up to casino blackjack tables. He doesn‘t need a broker. He will be fine, if he has to fleece the money out of Al Franken‘s pocket, himself.
OLBERMANN: He does comes up—I saw him once in Los Angeles too, in a gold limo and a gold chair and everything else. I suppose he is the barometer in case it really goes to heck.
MUSTO: He‘s the person who can bring sex back to America, yes. Don‘t look at him.
OLBERMANN: Does it wind up in the Supreme Court? Does it wind up in the lap of Clarence Thomas?
MUSTO: This winds up on UsWeekly.com. This is a big joke, Keith, and you know it.
OLBERMANN: Well, we had some fun with it.
MUSTO: Give the money where it counts, me.
OLBERMANN: That‘s right, print journalists. Michael Musto of the “Village Voice,” one of the best of them. Great to talk to you again, sir.
MUSTO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Happy new year. That is COUNTDOWN for this the—no—
2,069th day since the declaration of mission accomplished declared. Come on! I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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