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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, February 2

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guest: Barney Frank, Margaret Carlson

High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Spec: Politics; Congress; Economy

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

Now, it‘s Bank of America spending $10 billion of bailout money on the Super Bowl, and Morgan Stanley spending undisclosed sums on a Palm Beach corporate retreat.

And Congressman Barney Frank has had enough.  Frank has summoned the heads of the banks you bailed out to a special hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.  Our special guest tonight: Congressman Barney Frank.

Corporate greed and corporate suicide: “This is not the end,” says the President, as he continues to try to sell the stimulus, it isn‘t even the beginning of the end, and sadly, it may not even be the end of the beginning.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  It is likely that the banks have not fully acknowledged all the losses that they are going to experience.  They are going to have to write down those losses, and some banks won‘t make it.


OLBERMANN:  Car and driver: Tom Daschle apologizes for his tax screw-up.  Obama says he has no intention of finding a different secretary of health and human services.

Governor Sarah Palin pulls a John McCain, cancels on speaking at a Republican event to attend to urgent state business back home, only she doesn‘t go back home, she goes to Washington to attend a fancy dinner.

Still Bushed: Just hop on the bus, Rummy.  The ex-Pentagon titan‘s latest unknown unknown—how to use Washington‘s public transportation system.

And, inside the Super Bowl and inside the Super Bowl coverage: Not just crazy, they let me take my camera out to the middle of the field, stuff—I mean, really inside the Super Bowl.


OLBERMANN:  They all know that I‘m about to come out of this latrine.  They‘re all going to take a picture or something.  All right.  You are with me.  Let‘s see what happens.



OLBERMANN:  I‘m still not sure I want to know exactly what I did in there that made them feel like cheering.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, from Tampa.

It was staring us in the face.  You may have seen it from our desk during the Super Bowl pre-game show yesterday.  Bank of America bankrolled a five day football carnival that was held outside the stadium, symbolically, perhaps literally, using bailout dollars.  Meanwhile, 175 miles across the peninsula, in Palm Beach, Morgan Stanley, last week, held a carnival of its own, a three-day conference for clients in a five-star oceanfront resort.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Your taxpayer dollars in action.  Two more bailed-out banks spending millions on sports, sponsorship, corporate retreats, jets and other frills, while working Americans keep losing their jobs.

President Obama warning that some banks will not survive the economic downturn.  The president fighting today to keep the economy afloat and his financial stimulus bill on track.  Last week, Mr. Obama having chastised Wall Street for wasteful spending, more than $18 billion in yearend bonuses.

Bank of America spent $10 million more on the NFL Experience here in Tampa, $800,000 on just the tents.  The bank is defending the sponsorship as money well-spent, calling tents and sports games, and interactive entertainment attractions a, quote, “business proposition,” and part of its growth strategy.  Morgan Stanley growing last week at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, that firm having collected $10 billion in bailout money.

Congressman Barney Frank is planning to call the heads of the major banks that have received bailout funds before the House Financial Services Committee next week.  He will join us presently.

Meanwhile, new week, new chamber of Congress, same stimulus plan to sell to Republican lawmakers, did you notice it was Groundhog‘s Day?  President Obama is calling Democratic congressional leaders to the White House tonight to map out strategy for the stimulus plan.

The clock is ticking, the stakes growing higher, the president warning Matt Lauer that once U.S. banks fully reveal the extent of their losses, some of them are likely to fail.


OBAMA:  Not only is it conceivable, it is likely that the banks have not fully acknowledged all the losses that they are going to experience.  They‘re going to have to write down those losses and some banks won‘t make it.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Obama adding that all deposits for ordinary people are going to remain safe.  As for how long things might take to turn around under such “worse before they get better” circumstances, the president is also predicting some change in one year, and a dire forecast for him personally if there is not substantial change within three.


OBAMA:  You know, a year from now, I think people are going to see that we are starting to make some progress.  But there‘s still going to be some pain out there.  If I don‘t have this done in three years, then there is going to be a one-term proposition.


OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in Congressman Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  $50 million in corporate jets—it was returned; $18 billion in bonuses on Wall Street—haven‘t been returned; millions on sports sponsorship.  Where does it end, Congressman, and how exactly do you plan on helping it make an end of all this?

FRANK:  Well, it‘s an interesting point, Keith.  I‘m frustrated.

In 2006, when the Democrats were still in the minority, I sponsored a bill which we called “say on pay” which said that you could not have these upper-end salaries for these top people with all these lavish perquisites, bonuses, golden parachutes, et cetera, unless you had the shareholders‘ vote on it.  And, Keith, that was treated by my Republican colleagues as if it was the Russian revolution arriving on our shores.  They wouldn‘t let the bill come up for a vote.

In 2007, we voted on that in the House.  And one of the problems, I think, that led to the current situation is that I had a whole lot of people, editorial writers, “Wall Street Journal” crowd, the Republicans saying, “How dare you interfere with these institutions.  You are going to jeopardize American capitalism.  We are the best financial system in the world because we pay this money.”

And I think that just gave the people in charge a sense of their own invulnerability because the Senate, in fear of a filibuster, killed it.  And then, when we did the bill last September, several of us told Secretary Paulson that he had to put restrictions on compensation.  He explicitly refused and said, “Well, if we do that, they won‘t participate.”

My response was, he was accusing the bankers of being pretty unpatriotic if they would refuse to join a program that he thought was important for the economic survival because it might nick them a couple of millions of the large amount they have.  Unfortunately, it‘s very hard with a administration in power that‘s resistant to force them to do things.

But I am confident, with the Obama administration in power, that we are going to see a difference.  You know, we are going to see a laboratory experiment in America.

The Bush administration got to deploy $350 billion of this money.  They insisted they get all $700 billion right away.  We said no, we‘re going to cut it off at the half time and we see what happens.

Now, the Obama administration is going to do it.  I spoke today to Larry Summers, to Secretary Geithner—you are going to see an administration today that‘s going to be much tougher on this kind of excess.  Unfortunately, a lot has already happened.

OLBERMANN:  Who are you going to call in next week, Congressman, and what do you want from them?

FRANK:  Well, in this case, my Republican colleagues were also interested in doing this.  We are calling in the—it was originally the nine CEOs of the first nine companies that got large amounts of TARP money, the first $150 billion that went to these (ph) nine large companies.  Since then, the nine became eight because Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch, and Merrill Lynch, some of the most irresponsible behavior came from maybe John Thain, of whom I had expected better.

And I have one important question to ask them.  These are very wealthy people, very highly-paid, they‘re doing important jobs—the question I‘m going to ask them is: What is it that you would stop doing if you didn‘t get a bonus?  I mean, you are getting billions of dollars; you‘re getting all these other perquisites—why do we have to give you a bonus to get you to do your job?  I mean, would they stop working Wednesdays if they didn‘t get a bonus?


FRANK:  Would they—you know, the whole notion that you have to bribe highly-paid powerful people just to do their jobs is nuts.  They should—well, I‘m told by the defenders of this, you want to give them incentives.  I don‘t know, Keith, what‘s your incentive to do your job or either do mine or a gas station attendant to pump gas?  The notion that after people are giving these wonderful jobs with all the prestige and all the money, they have to then—then you have start to find a some other way to get them to do the jobs is very obnoxious.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, is there a way to get any of this back?  We saw a proposal in the Senate, Claire McCaskill said she wants to try to get some of this money back, particularly the $18 billion in the .

FRANK:  Well, yes.

OLBERMANN:  . in the bonuses from Wall Street.

FRANK:  First of all, with the bonuses, I do want to make this distinction.  Some of the lower paid people, lower paid, you know, I‘m not talking minimum wage here.  But there are some people of whom bonuses—well, most of it—and these are people who are making $150,000, a lot of money, but not the obscene amounts that the bonuses have gone elsewhere.

But the key point is this—you cannot legally take the money back from them by insisting because the Bush administration didn‘t put these rules in.  But I have written to Secretary Geithner and said, “You know what?  As you begin to give money in the future, take into account whether we try to get any of it back.”

In other words, we can‘t make them give it back, I believe, but we can refuse to give some of the money in the future to people who wouldn‘t do that.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Barney Frank, chairman of the financial services committee in the House—great thanks for your time tonight and good luck with this next week.

FRANK:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Before President Obama sat down with Democratic lawmakers at the White House, he was working the phones on behalf of his former senator friend, Tom Daschle, his embattled nominee to be health and human services secretary.  Mr. Daschle apologizing today for his tax mistakes that had him paying back taxes just a few weeks ago, for a car and driver made available to him by a wealthy supporter after he left the Senate in 2005.

The former Democratic leader having owed more than $128,000 plus interest, Mr. Daschle meeting with his former Senate colleagues on the finance committee to explain what happened, to answer their questions, and to apologize.  Earlier tonight, the former senator apologizing to everybody for his failure to recognize that the use of a car was income and not a gift from a good friend.


TOM DASCHLE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY-NOMINEE:  When I realized the mistake, I notified officials and I paid the tax in full.  It was completely inadvertent but that‘s no excuse.  And I deeply apologize to President Obama, to my colleagues, and to the American people.


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.


OLBERMANN:  All right.  So, the president is not really standing behind former Senator Daschle, but he‘s worked the phones on his behalf.  Given the size and the scope of the senator‘s transgressions, does this really represent the kind of change that Mr. Obama said he would be bringing to his administration?

WOLFFE:  Well, sources close to Daschle tell me that, in fact, the size and scope of this transgression is not all it seems.  Of course, they admit this is a lot of money but they say that the reason it is such a large amount of money in back taxes is because—basically, Daschle has treated this whole embarrassing affair as if he used the car all the time.  So, he paid more than he needed to sort of cleanse the stain here.

But that doesn‘t get to the bigger question that you raise here quite rightly about, this concept of change.  And I think when you talk to White House officials, when you look how candidly Obama talked about change, there was always something very pragmatic and expedient even about the concept.

So, the ends really justify the means.  If you have these imperfect vessels as candidate Obama would call them, and the end result is universal health care or near as done it (ph) to universal health care then it‘s worth it.  And that is maybe disappointing to some of his supporters but the end result is really what he values.

OLBERMANN:  But this is the third significant vetting problem for this Obama team.  Governor Richardson would have been the third.  Did they not do a good enough vetting job or was there some sense that while these people are so vital, Geithner and Daschle in particular, the two respected causes that you mentioned, that nobody else could either understand TARP in Geithner‘s case or get health reform passed in Daschle‘s?

WOLFFE:  Well, there is a vetting problem and public relations problem here.  And it is more than just an embarrassment.  They didn‘t uncover these things until too late.  Daschle has all sorts of stories about how he told his accountant and he never got back to him.

But in the end, they ought to have picked it up earlier.  What matters is that it‘s a president who valued in a way experience early on.  More than change, he wants to get things done quickly.  If he thinks that Daschle can learn from the mistakes that the Clintons made, then it‘s more important than anything that might have come up even earlier.  So, again, getting things done quickly in what they think and fear may be a short honeymoon is the priority.

OLBERMANN:  Let me switch topics back to where we began in the interview with Barney Frank.  Do you think there is anything that they can practically do?  He obviously described the limitations on trying to get any of the money back based on the fact that none of the requirements were made and there‘s no law being broken in how this money is spent.  Is there likely to be this kind of shame as a tool to be used either in the method that Senator McCaskill has talked about or in the way Congressman Frank talked at tonight?

WOLFFE:  Well, if the companies were sensible then the shame would be effective.  But I don‘t think he will be because it is so deeply embedded in the culture here.  The truth is, though, as President Obama has said, these companies, these banks are going to have to come back for more money, most likely.

There will be new rounds of bailouts and some of them won‘t survive.  They are going to need federal help.  That‘s when you can really enact this kind of measure and rein in some of these excesses.  Until then, really, they are going to say they are sorry but they‘re going to carry on doing the same thing.

OLBERMANN:  And you think the salary of the average person or executive in one of these bailed out companies is $400,000 at the end of this?

WOLFFE:  No, I don‘t.  If they can get some of the middle managers to take $400,000, they‘ll be doing very well.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, we might solve the entire economic crisis in one fell swoop of that was the mid-level price.

Our very own Richard Wolffe—as always, thank you, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Another Obama nominee with hiccups of his own, finally won confirmation today.  Eric Holder, deputy attorney general under President Clinton, to be sworn in tomorrow as the top law man in the United States, the first African-American attorney general in U.S. history.  Holder is confirmed by a vote of 75 to 21 tonight after a handful of Republicans delayed his nomination opposing Holder for his role in some pardons Mr.  Clinton had issued.

And late word tonight, that the White House will announce tomorrow the nomination of New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, the Republican, to be commerce secretary.  Senator Gregg and the Democratic governor of New Hampshire both are confirming that they have worked out a deal.  The governor promising to appoint another Republican to fill Gregg‘s seat as a condition of Gregg leaving it to take over at commerce.

So, the president has his own attorney general and an unusual commerce secretary.  But his Pentagon chief and generals, of course, are left over from the previous administration.  Are they fighting him now on his timetable for troop withdrawals from Iraq?  And who wins that?  The brass hats emboldened by seven years of a militarily obsessed White House or a president who is, no matter what other gifts he might or might not have or might yet have, still a rookie?


OLBERMANN:  The president‘s struggle to keep his Iraq troop withdrawal timetable.  And later, the woman who would have been vice president skips out on a meeting of the Republican base, has to stay in Alaska pressing gubernatorial stuff, don‘t you know, and she shows up at a ritzy D.C.  dinner for Washington insiders.  Says a Republican at the meeting of that base, Sarah Palin, quote, “lied to us.”

Plus, the saga of Don Rumsfeld and the city bus that had no room for him when we bring you Still Bushed later on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Forget the Steelers, the real winners last night might have been the American military in Iraq.  Our number four story this evening: President Obama yesterday, talking about members of the armed forces watching Super Bowl XLIII from the battlefield, saying some of them will watch Super Bowl XLIV from the comfort of their own homes.  Matt Lauer asked him about those service members in Mr. Obama‘s first live interview as president.


MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS:  A lot of those people have a vested interest in one of your campaign promises to end this war and get them home as soon within 16 months or so as humanly possible.  So, when you look at them, can you say that a substantial number of them will be home in time for next Super Bowl Sunday?

OBAMA:  Yes.  I mean, we‘re going to roll out in a very formal fashion what our intentions are in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.  But, in conversations I have had with the Joint Chiefs, with people, the commanders on the ground, I think that we have a sense now that the Iraqis just had a very significant election with no significant violence there—

LAUER:  Right.

OBAMA:  -- that we are in a position to start putting more responsibility on the Iraqis.  And that‘s good news for not only the troops in the field, but their families who are carrying an enormous burden.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Obama referring to election day on Saturday in Iraq so free of bloodshed, you could almost compare it to ours with its widespread voter confusion and inaccurate voter rolls, if, say, our lack of bloodshed stemmed from earlier ethnic cleansing or if our voting rolls were also based on a national food rationing system or if two Americans have been shot by guards for bringing cameras into polling places or if five of the candidates lost because they were killed during the campaign, and if there was no voting at all in the semiautonomous northern Kurdish region of Alaska.

The Pentagon optimism Mr. Obama describes somewhat at odds with earlier accounts of his first full day in the White House when Defense Secretary Gates, CentCom Commander Petraeus, and Joints Chief Chairman Mullen all urged Mr. Obama to break his campaign promise of a U.S. pullout within 16 months.  Of course, Iraqi‘s security picture might look a little clearer with more than its election in the rearview, despite a low turnout of 51 percent, who won is still unclear.  In which, you come to think of it, also sounds a lot like our elections.

Let‘s turn now to Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, former assistant defense secretary under President Reagan.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let‘s update this based on the new presidency and what Mr. Obama said yesterday.  On the logistics here, how realistic is it for those U.S. troops who were watching that interview to start planning their Super Bowl parties next year?

KORB:  Well, you could get all of the troops out—the 140,000 -- in about a year with their essential equipment if you decided you want to do it.  You could get at least 2 ½ brigades out a month.  Obama has talked about getting 14 brigades over 16 months.  So, it‘s quite realistic and it‘s something you better do because the Iraqis want us to go.  In fact, that‘s one of the reasons why a lot of the Sunnis came out and voted yesterday, and it‘s one of the reasons why the Iranians are basically not causing problems because they want us out.

OLBERMANN:  And about Iran, resistance to that 16-month deadline reportedly was based in—to some degree on fears of Iranian influence.  Is that a valid fear and if not, what is behind the resistance out of the Pentagon?

KORB:  Well, basically, the Iranians are going to be influential in both Iraq and Afghanistan because we got rid of two of their big enemies.  The question, really, is—what type of relationship are they going have with Iraq?

The military basic is not all the military, it‘s the field commanders who are so vested in the surge because its identified with General Petraeus, who is now the central commander, and General Odierno, who is the on-scene commander there.  They don‘t want to take any chances on, you know, their legacy of being undermined.  But they are not looking at the whole picture, they‘re just looking at, you know, that one theater.

OLBERMANN:  The thing Saturday, what kind of metric is it for a set of elections to say, “Hey, nobody died this”?

KORB:  Well, again, the whole place was buttoned down.  The borders were sealed.  You couldn‘t drive.  There were—all of the troops, both the Americans and Iraqis were deployed.  I mean, basically, they didn‘t have much violence back in 2005.  You may remember during the Bush administration they were running around with the purple fingers and saying, “Gee, this is the turning point.”  And then, of course, the violence got—it got worse.

This is marginally better.  But they‘re, by no means, in a situation where they‘ve resolved all their problems.  And as you mentioned, four of the 14 provinces didn‘t even have elections because there is so much uncertainty and instability in those regions.

OLBERMANN:  I think we all have a pretty good idea of what the previous president looked for in terms of results from the elections in Iraq, just as they happened and what he could—sort of mileage he could get out of that.  What does this president look for as we start to get results from this first post-Bush set of elections in Iraq?

KORB:  Well, he‘s got to say is to the people elected, “You got to solve your differences because we‘re not going to be here forever.  And it‘s really going to be your choice.”  And what he needs to do is have a diplomatic surge with the countries in the region so that they will not intervene in an unconstructive way.

But eventually, the Iraqis are going to have to make these choices no matter how long we stay.  And the question becomes: How much more blood and treasure do we want to expend without them making the progress they need to?

OLBERMANN:  As always, right to the gist of it with Lawrence Korb, formally of the Defense Department and now of the Center for American Progress—again, great, thanks, sir.

KORB:  Nice to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  The world record mass snowball fight is a great idea provided you register every participant.  You did register every participant, right?

And party time for the Republican National Committee as former Klan leader David Duke calls the new RNC chairman a racist and “Obama Junior.”  Worst Persons in the World—ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment and a Super Bowl moment that puts Janet Jackson‘s wardrobe malfunction to shame.

But first, on this date in 1937 was born on Tommy Smothers.  For the first few years of his joint career with his brother Dick, a subtle but fairly common place comedy act and then CBS tried to censor their variety in the late ‘60s.  Dick and Tommy, particularly Tommy, turned into the Thomas Payne (ph) Brothers.  They sneaked what criticism of Vietnam and racism that they could pass the censors and then when pinned in, they dramatically quit, doing untold benefit to freedom of speech.  So, happiest of birthdays, Tom Smothers.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Budapest, Hungary.  An attempt to break the world record for most people involved in a snowball fight.  Organizers imported 140 tons of snow from Austria, dumped it into an ice skating rink and invited residents to bombard each other with the results you now see.  They estimated that some 5,000 showed up which would be more than enough to break the current record if the organizers have actually managed to register everybody, which they did not.

And now, the chances of Hungary getting the world record title are appropriately enough that of a snowball‘s chance in .

To Turino, Italy, where Russian virtuoso Yuri Bashmet (ph) is playing a Carlos Tastori (ph) viola.  Crafted in 1758, this priceless instrument is lovingly protected for future generations of music lovers to enjoy.  Oh.  Never mind.  Well, let‘s make commemorative beer coasters out of it or something. 


OLBERMANN:  If she learned one thing from John McCain, it should have been: if you are not showing up, don‘t lie about why or where you are going.  She learned nothing.  I learned that it might be the Super Bowl, but they‘ll still let goof balls like me on the field, even as the players begin their final warmups.  Our Super Bowl time capsule and more ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.  Number three, best call out, Howard Kurtz of the “Washington Post,” noting that right wing conspiracy theorist Bernie Goldberg had bailed on his appearance with Howie on CNN, even though it had been Goldberg who had asked for the interview to plug his latest book.  “He has been out flogging the thing with Sean Hannity, Bill O‘Reilly, Lou Dobbs, people who agree with him.  Do you think maybe he doesn‘t want to leave his pals and face some skeptical questioning?” 

Given that Goldberg was caught fabricating a quote sequence in the book, it is unlikely you will see him interviewed by anyone who might bring things up, you know, like a reporter. 

Number two, best dumb criminal, unidentified 25-year-old Belgian, arrested for breaking into a bank in Marseille in France.  He thought he was drilling a hole in the safety deposit box room.  In fact, he wound up breaking into the toilet. 

Number one, best Super Bowl surprise.  No, not the Arizona Cardinal‘s epic but ill-fated comeback.  But the programming oddity at Comcast Cable in Tucson.  Right after Larry Fitzgerald‘s breakaway touchdown that put Arizona up 23-20 with less than three minutes to play, Super Bowl viewers there saw not a replay of the touchdown, but rather about ten seconds of porn, including full frontal nudity.  Then it was back to John Madden, already in progress. 

Comcast says it is investigating.  Is that what sports cable networks mean when they refer to bonus coverage? 


OLBERMANN:  Governor Sarah Palin has managed to top herself, again.  Enraptured by the limelight, or perhaps just frozen in the head light, now seemingly pursuing the insider spotlight.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the governor spurned her own party‘s annual retreat, claiming she had urgent state business back in Juneau, while instead going to hobnob with a group of Washington elite at the Alfalfa Club. 

Governor Palin could have gone to the Republican retreat this past weekend in Hot Springs, Virginia.  According to ABC News, she was invited, with organizers hoping the governor would give an energizing speech to about 130 House Republicans in need of a morale boost.  And what timing, since a new Rasmussen poll finds, rather stunningly, that 55 percent of Republicans think the party should become more like her. 

But the governor declined the invitation, citing pressing state business in Alaska.  Perhaps, she meant pressing Baked Alaska, because there she was at the Alfalfa Dinner in Washington, District of C., Saturday night.  A Republican at the Hot Springs retreat reportedly saying, quote, she lied to us.

The governor was one of many at the dinner who waited in a receiving line to shake the hand of the president, according to  Later, when President Obama spoke, he dispensed with a long line of obligatory jokes.  He expressed surprise that the governor was, quote, palling around with this crew. 

Let‘s turn now to “Bloomberg News” political columnist, the Washington editor of “The Week Magazine,” Margaret Carlson.  Good evening, Margaret. 


OLBERMANN:  The cover story here from the governor in a moment, but first, why—even if there is no cover story required, why this choice?  Why the Alfalfa Club over her base in Virginia? 

CARLSON:  Well, Governor Palin has two constituencies.  One is the Republican party, that may choose the next presidential candidate through their primary system and through the back room.  And then the other is, guess what, the elites, it turns out.  The Alfalfa Club is the elitist of the elites.  It‘s a dinner where members beg to go to the dinner, it is so elite.  You can barely go if you are a member. 

That‘s where she chose to go.  The new head of the Republican Party, Michael Phelps—oh, excuse me.  That‘s the guy who smoked marijuana.  Michael Steele found his way down to Hot Springs, Virginia, to speak to Republicans after he was named chair and then made it back.  I hear he was at the Alfalfa Dinner.  By the way, I don‘t go to the Alfalfa Dinner, not that anyone would think I would. 

OLBERMANN:  If the RNC had named Michael Phelps their chairman, the whole nature of the Republican party would have been changed forever. 

CARLSON:  I know.  They would finally come up with a plan.  It might not be a good plan, but they‘d have a plan. 

OLBERMANN:  They‘d be smoking at that point.  If she ever wants to run for president, doesn‘t Governor Palin need to ingratiate herself with Republican office holders, instead of dissing them for that, as you suggest, other part of her base? 

CARLSON:  She does.  You know, John McCain told a joke at the dinner, saying that he called to invite her and she said “John who.”  She had gone to dinner Friday night at a private home in Mclean, Virginia, overlooking the Potomac Dinner, that McCain was at.  And everybody said they got along fine.  She does need them, but that poll that you mentioned in which Republicans want to be like Sarah Palin—I think what they mean, Republican office holders, is that they want to be able to attract a camera the way Sarah Palin can attract a camera. 

That being said, she, at some point, is going have to do the grubby work of appealing to your own, which means going to these boring meetings and these so-called retreats and making nice with the people who are going to run the primary process. 

OLBERMANN:  You mentioned Senator McCain.  I suggested earlier this rings just like when McCain bailed out on David Letterman, with an interesting witness to that bit of history.  Told Letterman he had to rush to D.C. and instead he rushed to Katie Couric‘s studio.  Is that all Governor Palin learned from McCain on the campaign trail, trust your instincts, even when your instincts are completely wrong and tone deaf? 

CARLSON:  From reporting on the dinner, unlike John McCain, she did not sit quietly like a potted palm, as he did at the White House.  She was in the line, in the queue to meet Obama, which, by the way, is very unusual behavior at the Alfalfa Club.  Everyone pretends like they are so important they would never wait in line to meet anybody.  But that was dispensed with on Saturday night, and Governor Palin was in the line to, by the way, pal around with, if not a terrorist, the friend of a terrorist.

OLBERMANN:  That makes her the friend of a friend of a terrorist. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Yes, and not my enemy.  Bye, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  We triangulate.  Thank you, Margaret. 

Karl Rove had made it clear, speaking of fellow Republicans who have jumped the shark—Karl Rove made it clear he would be a no-show today before the House Judiciary Committee, despite a subpoena from it.  It turns out that his absence for now is excused.  The Judiciary Committee communication‘s director telling COUNTDOWN that a delay was granted because Rove‘s lawyer, Robert Luskin, will be in Europe.  The three-week extension includes a President‘s Day recess. 

Thus Rove‘s claim of vestigial executive privilege and the Judiciary Committee‘s power to cite him in contempt of Congress will be tested another day. 

Tiki Barber steals Paul Blart‘s segue and other inside stuff from our Super Bowl time capsule. 

And Glenn Beck is at it again, ridiculing the stimulus plan for the name Obama gave one of its component programs, except Obama did not give it that name, and, in fact, that‘s not its name.  Worst persons ahead. 

And when Rachel Maddow joins you at the top of the hour, why all the hints that the president might still authorize renditions? 

But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals, Still Bushed.

Number three, the Fox guarding the hen house-gate.  Stuart Parnell (ph) is Peanut Corporation of America, the company at the heart of the national fatal salmonella outbreak. Mr. Parnell, it turns out, is also part of the US Department of Agriculture‘s Peanut Standards Board.  The board was set up during the Bush administration.  Mr. Parnell was appointed during the Bush administration.  He was just reappointed last October, during the Bush administration. 

A member of the board says its focus is not on preventing salmonella in peanut products, but admits it is responsible for other things, like agricultural safety, how much moisture the peanuts should contain before it can be put on a store shelf, and ensuring that the peanuts sold in this country are healthful, which sounds suspiciously like the kind of things overlooked by peanut companies trying to cut safety costs at peanut companies could lead to a national fatal salmonella outbreak. 

Number two, it is better to look good than be good-gate.  The head of the local in Riverside, California, of the union representing border patrol agents says his members were told they had to meet a quota, at least 150 arrests of suspected illegals in their zone last month, and at least two of those suspects had to be prosecuted.  They were told, Lombardo Amaya (ph) says, if you don‘t produce this, we will have to change your weekends off.  Sometimes, like in politics, this agency is about looking good. 

A spokesman for border patrol in Washington issued the damnedest non-denial denial you will ever hear.  Look and listen to this: “if we had quotas to fill and met those quotas, then would that mean we would be able to stop doing our job?  No.  Our job is to secure the border and detect, deter and apprehend anyone who is involved in illegal activity between the ports of entry.” 

So Mr. Easterling, you are arresting people as illegal immigrants based not on whether they are illegal immigrants, but on a quota, but thankfully that doesn‘t mean you should be able to stop doing your job?  Because that‘s what you said.

Number one, commute accomplished-gate.  The publication “Roll Call” reports that last Thursday, during an icy morning in Washington, a tipster saw former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld waiting at the bus stop for the Number 42 line just north of Dupont Circle.  When a bus finally showed up on that low traction morning, it was too packed to admit anymore passengers.  The “Roll Call” tipster said that at that point Rumsfeld left the stop and walked down a nearby hill, adding he didn‘t fall down or anything. 

I have some additional reporting here.  Before his trip, Mr. Rumsfeld reportedly had told friends that he expected to be greeted at the bus stop like a liberator.  He had proclaimed the ride would only last 30 seconds and it would only cost 25 cents and, anyway, the bus driver would give him all of the oil and gas he had.  As he forlornly walked away from the bus stop, he was heard muttering that his planning had too been perfect and that anybody who disagreed with his plans to take the Number 42 bus was the equivalent of a Nazi sympathizer. 


OLBERMANN:  Inside the Super Bowl.  Tiki Barber on a Segue, Bob Costas on a pirate ship, me trapped in a Super Bowl latrine.  That is next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to TV sports columnist Pete Daughtery (ph) of the “Albany Times Herald” and Ted Cox of the “Illinois Daily Herald,” who both criticized my NBC Sports colleague Alex Flanagan for quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald in her report from the sidelines about Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner just before kick-off at last night‘s Super Bowl. 

Alex noted That Fitzgerald had written “there are no second acts in American lives.  Yet here was Warner, released three times in his career, in his third Super Bowl as a starter.” 

“We are watching a football game,” writes Daughtery, “not dissecting American history.”  “You are a sideline reporter,” bleeps Cox, “not an essayist.” 

Quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of America‘s greatest writers, who constantly worked into his fiction football and baseball, quoting him for three seconds was too much American history or too essay like for these two guys.  Fitzgerald also wrote “the test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”  In your case, boys, I wouldn‘t worry about that.  It was a fitting reference. 

Runner-up, Glenn Beck.  First he ripped something included in the stimulus that he didn‘t understand.  Turns out it was the same clean coal technology he had ripped Democrats for not supporting last Summer.  Now he was opposed.  Now Beck has applied a name somebody made up to part of the stimulus, claiming it is an official name, ripped the Democrats for the name that they actually are not using.  He says, “it is the Bad Asset Repository Fund, BARF.  When you got a group of people that can‘t figure out the acronym bill would be BARF, I think maybe we should change the name.  Don‘t you think that we really should stop listening to these people?”  

No, I think we should stop listening to you.  The phrase Bad Asset Repository Fund and the acronym BARF were both made up by a reporter named Liz Moyer (ph) in an article she wrote for  They have nothing to do with stimulus.  There isn‘t anything called the Bad Asset Repository Fund.  Of course, this is way too much information for Mr. Beck, whom research studies indicate devotes exactly 0.007 seconds of thought to each of his ideas. 

But our winner, David Duke, the old grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  He sees great opportunity in the election of Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican National Committee.  Duke writes, quote, “GOP traitors appoint Obama Jr. as chairman of the Republican party.  I‘m glad these traitorous leaders of the Republican party appointed this black racist, affirmative action advocate to the head of the Republican party, because this will lead to a huge revolt among the Republican base.  As a former Republican official, I can tell you that millions of rank-and-file Republicans are mad as hell and aren‘t going to take it anymore.” 

He continues, “we will either take the Republican party back over the next four years or we will say to hell with the Republican party and we will take 90 percent of Republicans with us into a new party that will take its current place.  Let‘s make this abomination in the Republican party, the last major part of white redoubt, as a rallying cry of resistance.” 

Wow, you‘re going to 90 percent of the Republicans with you?  You can fit all 18 of them in your car or are you getting cabs or what?  David Duke, who can make even Republicans look good, today‘s worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN:  Nothing in sports, maybe nothing in America is more of a wonderful but confused kaleidoscope than the hour before a Super Bowl kickoff.  If you‘re on the field, you can be on the field in the middle as they‘re warming up, with Hines Ward being the only thing standing between you and getting hit in the head with a football thrown by Ben Roethlisberger.  In the ensuing moments last night, I found myself greeted by Kurt Warner, the quarterback of the Cardinals, two of my ex-bosses at ESPN, and Captain Chesley Sully Sullenberger. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, my handy little camera was not rolling for those howdies, but I did try to keep it on the rest of the weekend to produce another COUNTDOWN time capsule. 


OLBERMANN:  Get out of the way of my shot, Dan. 


OLBERMANN:  When you spend seven days preparing for a game that last four hours, there could be a little down time. 

Dan, can‘t you look busy? 

I don‘t like to toot my own horn, as you know, but I pitched in with Habitat for Humanity when I wasn‘t busy. 

Where do we pick up?  Right here? 

That is WFLA‘s footage from my ceremonial nailing. 


OLBERMANN:  The likelihood of that is like two out of five.  So there you go.

Back to my camera work.  Here‘s another colleague of ours, Tiki Barber, staying upright on a scooter. 

Two years in broadcasting and he already perfected the Segue.  Very nice. 

My preferred choice of transportation, golf carts, nothing but golf carts. 

And here we are going against traffic.  They thought this was a good idea? 

Much Steeler gold and black out there all that week, and there were some Cardinal fans, but they were clearly outnumbered.  There is the pirate ship inside Raymond James Stadium, and a field crew with a butt load of krylon painting the grass. 

On game day, the stars came out to shine.  Faith Hill screen right, and my colleague, Bob Costas, doing his usual tight lipped bit. 

BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS:  I don‘t want to give you anything that could be interpreted as a scouting report.  I‘m playing it close to the vest until the time comes. 

OLBERMANN:  I got you. 

Lest you think I was the only one with a camera, here is an encounter I had at a portable toilet. 

I‘m secretly inside the latrine outside the NFL Experience before the Super Bowl game.  All those fans out there, those guys out there, they all know I‘m about to come out of this latrine and they are all going to take a picture or something.  All right, you‘re with me.  Let‘s see what happens.  


OLBERMANN:  Incredibly, even as the game time drew near, they let me on to the field. 

They want me to stand on the field before the Super Bowl.  An hour before the game, what are we doing out here?  Just because I have a microphone.  I could have bought this at a concession stand.  Half a dozen places—Here is a guy with another one standing behind us.  What other sport would let this happen? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Let you on the field, not many? 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, very nice.  Look at Tiki taking notes. 

Finally, it was up to the seats in the pirate ship. 

Sitting up here on the Mizzenmast. 

And then some stuff happened. 

Somebody predicted the Steelers to win? 

This is how the Boss‘s performance looked at the game. 


OLBERMANN:  I take offense at those remarks. 

And this—this is what a field looks like after a Super Bowl. 

The place is a mess.  Who is going clean all this up?  I‘m not cleaning this up? 


OLBERMANN:  Of course, not all the moments required pocket cams.  We take you back to the pregame show and my tag team partner, Mr. Patrick. 


PATRICK:  Do you think there is a political parallel here?  Senator McCain from Arizona, underdog, President-Elect Obama, favorite, Pittsburgh Steeler fan, got the game ball in the AFC title game.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sorry.  I don‘t know anything—what are you talking

who are you talking about?  I don‘t know anything about that subject. 

PATRICK:  Politics. 

OLBERMANN:  Polamalu. 

PATRICK:  Somewhere, Bill O‘Reilly is smiling.  You are watching our Super Bowl pregame coverage on NBC. 


OLBERMANN:  The great line always occurs too late.  What I should have told him then was, and I don‘t know who that is either. 

That is COUNTDOWN for the 2 095th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  From Tampa, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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