Guest: E.J. Dionne, Paul Krugman, Margaret Carlson, Harry Shearer High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Spec: Politics; Government; Policies
KEITH OLBERMAN, MSNBC HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The stim battle is over. Don‘t tell the Republicans. They‘re still busy digging themselves in deeper.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® AZ: I hope the next time we will sit down together and conduct truly bipartisan negotiations.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, ® SC: There is nothing about this process that has been bipartisan. This is not change we can believe in.
MCCAIN: This was not a bipartisan bill.
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OLBERMANN: While at least two Republican congressmen issued press releases boasting about the local projects they got in to a bill they didn‘t vote for. Stim passed. So what do we do now? An answer from our special guest Paul Krugman.
The junior senator from Illinois.
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QUESTION: Did you talk to any members of the governor‘s staff or anyone closely related to the governor?
SEN. ROLAND BURRIS, (D) IL: I talked about to some friends about my desire to be appointed. Yes.
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OLBERMANN: Problem? He just remembered he talked to the governor‘s brother. Next.
On Presidents‘ Day—the worst presidents in the world.
What do you mean there are six worse than Bush? And why is Truman fifth best? Worst persons, comedian Rush Limbaugh says it is a Democratic conspiracy. On the Internet the stimulus bill offered in PDF form and you can‘t use search on a PDF. Rush, did you try control-F by any chance?
The Simpsons break through after 20 years. High-def and the new opening sequence.
Harry Shearer joins us. But from our friends at “Family Guy” not good. Not good.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the most unattractive male first name in the English language?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keith.
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OLBERMANN: You bastards.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excellent. Then we have a deal.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. For roughly five years of absolute Republican majority everyone knows its definition of bipartisanship was you must do what we tell you. For roughly five weeks of absolutely Republican minority its definition has been you must still do what we tell you. Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the GOP today still insisting it had no input into the stimulus package. Even though more than one third of the bill signed into law tomorrow is comprised of the republican panacea, tax cuts.
And by the way, two House Republicans have now issued press releases taking credit for spending measures in the bill, the bill they did not vote for and claimed their party had no input into. The stim delivered to the president at the White House at 12:46 Eastern Standard Time this afternoon. President Obama returning from his holiday weekend in Chicago. For his half day in the office around lunchtime. He will travel to Denver carrying the stim with him to sign the bill some 1,500 miles away from the capitol.
The once but not future Republican nominee for president, Senator McCain, missing only that green screen behind him when he seemed to say that‘s not change that you can believe in.
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MCCAIN: It was a bad beginning. It was a bad beginning because it wasn‘t what we promised the American people. What President Obama promised the American people that we would sit down together. Look, I appreciate the fact the president came over and talked to Republicans. That is not how you negotiate a result. You sit down in a room with competing proposals. Almost all of our proposals went down on a party line vote. I hope next time we will sit down and conduct truly bipartisan negotiations. This was not a bipartisan bill.
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OBAMA: Next time. You think there will be a next time? As we like to say around here, senator, good luck with that. At your next party caucus you might want to reintroduce yourself to Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, those three Republicans having negotiated the stripped down version of the stim, still chock full of tax cuts that likely would not have survived a filibuster without them.
In the House, Republican Whip Eric Cantor gloating over the legislative failure of his own party. His Web site reading “The House GOP is back” and linking to a Web video celebrating the achievement that is set to Aerosmith‘s “Back in the Saddle”. Streaming words like ACORN that don‘t have anything to do with the stim.
Meanwhile back in the Senate, McCain‘s Mini-Me, Senator Graham who earlier this month tried to claim the president had been AWOL on the stim. Actually uttering the words “this is not change we can believe in” to ABC before doing his best imitation of Lloyd Bentsen.
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GRAHAM: If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country is screwed. I know bipartisanship when I see it. I have participated in it. I have gone back home and gotten primary opponents because I wanted to be bipartisan. There is nothing about this process that has been bipartisan.
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OLBERMANN: Time now to call in “Washington Post” columnist E.J. Dionne, also, of course, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Good evening, E.J.
E.J. DIONNE, “WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening, Keith. You have a lovely name, Keith. I don‘t care what they say.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much. You hitched a ride with the president aboard Air Force One out to Chicago. I enjoyed his phrasing, what you quoted him as saying, about the approach to the Republicans going forward. The quote, “You know I am an eternal optimist. That doesn‘t mean I‘m a sap.”
How do Republicans like Senator McCain think there is, indeed, going to be a next time when Obama ever would stick his neck out in quite this same way again?
DIONNE: I was watching McCain and I was thinking it is very hard to play the Dave Clark Five to Obama‘s Beatles for the old enough to get that metaphor. I think Obama made clear that he sort of did all kinds of bipartisan stuff. He had all those meetings with the Republicans. And in the final package, in his interview with us all of the things he said he wished were in there and were not, such as more aid to the states, more on education, more on health care, were things he took out of the bill in negotiation with Republicans.
There are a lot of tax cuts in the bill. There are tax cuts added in negotiations with Republicans. I think what he‘s saying is—and he said that to us, look, I‘ll work with them. There may be some issues on foreign policy I can work with them. But he is not going to let bipartisanship become the test. He talked about it, I think, way too much early on. That gave the Republicans almost a referee‘s role. If they didn‘t vote for it Obama lost because it wasn‘t bipartisan. He wants to be judged on what he gets done whether the Republicans vote for it or not.
OLBERMANN: What sense did you get from him about what happens next now the stimulus is under his belt?
DIONNE: Well, he talks a lot, partly because we prodded him on it, but it is something very much on his mind, about the next phase of the economic plan which is the process of trying to get the banks back in business.
And he was very clear how hard this us with. We asked him why did Secretary Geithner come out with less than a full plan? He said Geithner is going to be working on this for a whole year. And there was sort of this range of from Japan where they went really slowly in trying to get their banks back together and had 10 lost economic years. He doesn‘t want to go there. The other end was Sweden which nationalized the banks temporarily, cleaned them out and then sold them off. He is resisting Sweden saying we have many more banks than they do. We don‘t want nationalization.
But what‘s interesting is he didn‘t rule that out. It is very clear he knows he may have to take very strong action to get the banks lending again and get those bad assets off their books.
OLBERMANN: Friday here, E.J., President Carter was referring to the Republicans as robots. A series of interviews President Clinton did saying they are on automatic, you punch a button and they give you the answer they give you. Adding he did, as a fiscal conservative, if he had faced the economic situation that President Obama is facing now he would do the exactly the same thing.
Is this an important matter at this stage in the presidency that a former president is sticking up so publicly for a current one?
DIONNE: In light of some of the events of last year it is sort of striking to hear this. But I think Bill Clinton has been exactly where Barack Obama was. In 1993 he had his economic recovery plan. He didn‘t get a single Republican vote. The Republicans at the time said this plan will lead to a Great Depression, terrible times in our country. Guess what? We had some of the most robust growth with low unemployment, less inequality than we‘ve ever had in our history.
So it is not surprising Bill Clinton empathizes with Obama. I think it is striking Obama, partly because of changes in the Democratic Party, is getting more support from Democrats than Bill Clinton got all those years ago.
OLBERMANN: E.J. Dionne of the “Washington Post” and the Brookings Institution. I always wanted to go by my initials, too, but it would have been K.T. That just doesn‘t work for a guy. As always, E.J., thanks a lot.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: As we mentioned, more than a third of the $787 billion stim comprised of tax cuts in various forms. Some $282 billion worth. In comparison, the bill devotes $100 billion to public works, $50 billion to transportation projects. So of the more detailed items in the stim, more than $87 billion to help states with their Medicaid costs, education and job training $69.2 billion, extending unemployment benefits, $35.8 billion, health coverage for the unemployed under COBRA, just over $25 billion, food assistance nearly $21 billion. Incentives to modernize health records, as President Obama has talked about in his speeches, $17.2 billion.
Sill, many prominent economists worrying and warning that even a $787 billion stim might not prove large enough, not sweeping enough, to jump start the massive and stalled U.S. economy. One of those economists kind enough to join us now. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman of Princeton University and of course the “New York Times.” Once again, Dr. Krugman, thanks for your time tonight.
PAUL KRUGMAN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY ECONOMIST: Great to be on.
OLBERMANN: You warned last month when this was still about $800 billion it wasn‘t enough. Now it is less. How not enough is it now?
KRUGMAN: Well, you know, there‘s maybe $600 bill of real stimulus in this bill now. With all the stuff that was stuffed in, the stuff that was taken out. And the Congressional Budget Office says we are going to face a gap, a hole in the economy of $2.9 trillion over the next three years. You are basically trying to bridge a more than $2 trillion gap with $600 billion of real stimulus. It is, you know, it is a help but it‘s not enough.
OLBERMANN: Before we look at what might be next or what we might look for in terms of success, what the milestones might be, the particulars of what is here now, what pleases you and what is part of the $200 billion that doesn‘t seem to have stimulative effect in your opinion?
KRUGMAN: Just about all of the spending looks like good stimulus.
You can argue whether your priorities would have been exactly the same. But the aid to state governments is really important. The infrastructure spending is really good. The aid to education, the aid to health care and unemployment benefits. Those things are all going to both mitigate the pain of this thing, they are going to help people who are in trouble and help institutions in trouble and they are also stuff that is going to be spent. So it is actually going to do a lot to help prop up the economy.
The tax cuts range from eh to really terrible. Making work pay, the Obama tax cut is kind of eh. It is not a great policy, but, okay, it was a campaign promise. It will probably do something. The alternative minimum tax patch, that doesn‘t belong in this bill. It‘s not stimulus. Some of the other things. The home purchase tax cut. That‘s not going to do stuff.
Basically, the spending is all good. Half of the tax cuts are not good, but not terrible. The other half of the tax cuts nothing much at all. That is where we are. The sum of it all is it is not a very good—actually, it is not a bad bill given sausage making and politics, it is not a bad bill at all. But the actual meat in the sausage is not enough to feed us in this famine.
OLBERMANN: So let me jump ahead to what would be next? Is there going have to be a second stimulus of larger focus? Are we learning from FDR in 1937, don‘t take the foot off the gas?
KRUGMAN: Yeah. I‘m almost sure that we‘re going to have to come back for more. And the question is will those three Republican senators come to more. Is it possible, now it comes to parliamentary procedure to put something in an appropriations bill so it isn‘t subject to the filibuster. But yeah, it is very likely there will be a stimulus 2.0 to deal with this.
OLBERMANN: What—give me one understandable to the non-economist measure that will give us some hint that this is having a good, positive, more than doing nothing effect in the near future?
KRUGMAN: Oh, boy. You are chasing a moving target. The economy is heading down steeply. What this bill is going to do probably is make it head down not quite as steeply. It is not going to be a roaring recovery from this bill. It is not going be roaring recovery, probably anything we do. You are looking for seeing some of the infrastructure projects start. That will be good to see. You will be seeing states that have been warning of dire, dire budget cuts will relent on some of the things they were going to have to do otherwise.
But it is not going to be morning in America any time in the next two years.
OLBERMANN: Last point, it is really almost not pertinent to the stimulus itself.
OLBERMANN: But has any of the criticism this thing hit surprised you more than the selling of the idea that FDR caused the Great Depression?
KRUGMAN: You know, that‘s been out there. There is a little bit—some of the guys on the right seemed to think FDR had a time machine and went back to 1929 and made it happen. I guess the expectations of FDR‘s coming caused it. It is awesome. Well, you know, history is a battlefield.
OLBERMANN: Well, when Churchill caused Macbeth to abdicate.
OLBERMANN: The Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, it‘s always a pleasure and an education at the same time.
The stim saga dovetails tonight with three other tales of truth. We still have the two Republicans boasting of what they got in it though they denied input to it and they didn‘t vote for it. Then there is Senator Burris and what he said about talking to the governor‘s brother. Might not be perjury, but it is sure as heck is not the truth.
Then there is Betsy McCoy who brings us back to the stimulus and her efforts to set off Republican paranoia about its healthcare aspects and the claim that she is not a paid shill for the pharmaceutical and medical industries even though it turns out just days before she wrote an article smearing the stim she received more than $11,000 in stock options from a medical products company. Oops.
OLBERMANN: Not counting ceremonial or courtesy appointments or terms shortened by death or illness nor temps that did not want to stay there, the shortest tenure of any senator in U.S. history appears to be that of Pierre Salinger appointed to succeed the late California Senator Claire Engel who took office August 4, 1964, was not reelected, resigned December 31, 1964, 150 days.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, that gives Illinois Senator Roland Burris 118 days to beat that record. Since he may have perjured himself to the state committee addressing the impeachment of the man who appointed him, former Governor Rod Blagojevich, it is a distinct possibility.
Today while attempting to conduct his listening tour of Illinois the new senator tried again to insist that there‘s nothing the matter.
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SEN. ROLAND BURRIS, (D) IL: There was no change of any of our testimony. We followed up as we promised the impeachment committee. So the information that is being reported in terms of—this was done because there was a fed (ph) statement is absolutely, positively not true.
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OLBERMANN: But the main problem is what Senator Burris considers not a change in testimony. Because in his quietly filed affidavit of February 4, he acknowledges for the first time having had three conversations with Robert Blagojevich who then headed the Friends of Blagojevich Campaign Fund.
The other problem, that February 4th affidavit arrived more than a month after the January 8th impeachment hearing which it supposedly serves to augment. And most importantly from the political standpoint the, oh, by the way, was filed well after Mr. Burris became senator on January 15th and even seven days after Governor Blagojevich was removed from office.
And the comparison to the January 8th impeachment hearing makes things a little dicier. The question he got, “Did you talk to any members of the governor‘s staff or anyone closely related to the governor including family members or any lobbyists connected with him, including, let me throw out some names, John Harris, Rob Blagojevich, Doug Scofield, Bob Greenleaf, Lon Monk, John Wyma? Did you talk to anyone who is associated with the governor about your desire to seek the appointment prior to the governor‘s arrest?”
Answer, after consulting briefly with his lawyer, “I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed. Yes.”
Since that seemed sufficiently vague it was immediately followed by this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The point is, I was trying to ask did you speak to anyone on the governor‘s staff prior to the governor‘s arrest or any of those individuals or anybody who was closely related to the governor?
BURRIS: I recall having a meeting with Lon Monk about my partner and I trying to get continued business and I did bring it up, it must have been in September, maybe it was in July of ‘08 that, you know, if you are close to the governor let him know that I am certainly interested in the seat.
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OLBERMANN: That is Lon Monk and not Rob Blagojevich. Senator Burris says he was filling in his blanks. His lawyer said there would be additional information and therefore the apparent inconsistencies are the fault of, wait for it, the media.
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BURRIS: No. The inconsistencies are coming from you all. The inconsistencies are coming from the press. There are no inconsistencies in my first voluntary affidavit, my testimony before the impeachment committee and no inconsistencies in the second affidavit that I submitted. None whatsoever. Those are factual. That‘s the truth and God knows we shouldn‘t even be here.
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OLBERMANN: Illinois lawmakers say they should be there and are calling for an investigation. We‘ll call in Bloomberg News political columnist, Washington editor of “The Week” magazine Margaret Carlson, good evening, Margaret.
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Long term or short term, he is a goner, isn‘t he?
CARLSON: If there is any justice he‘s a goner. The idea that the brother of Rod Blagojevich isn‘t a close associate of the governor‘s, doesn‘t fall into the category of the people that he was being asked about is absurd. It just won‘t pass any test at all. Here is a guy who is obviously trying to stay one step ahead of the sheriff. Because he knew that this was coming out. So he says let me clear up here, you know, give you some information about other affidavits before it came out in a way that was on a tape, for instance.
But you would think he would have, you know, known that so much was on tape that he had better come clean initially. He didn‘t. He‘s gone. How he gets gone, I don‘t know. But he‘ll be gone.
OLBERMANN: The first problem obviously is you don‘t need to get into the weeds of this, whether or not that is perjury or just an omission to realize that extraordinary affidavit inconsistency between that and what he said under oath because he was asked specifically about Robert Blagojevich, who, unless there is another Robert Blagojevich somewhere would happen to be the brother of the former governor who he now says, oh, yeah, I talked to him about this.
CARLSON: He thought Rob was Rod and Rod was Rob. He got confused.
OLBERMANN: The non-identical .
CARLSON: The problem now is you know how the Illinois State clock ticks very slowly because they could have avoided all this, the legislature, by either impeaching quickly, calling for a special election, taking away the governor‘s power to appoint, but instead they let it ride and there is Rod Blagojevich, remember the feliz navidad press conference where he outwits all of them?
Then we have the circus of this guy coming here to Washington and looking like it was a Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie appearance. There was such a clot of people and a circus surrounding it. Then they had to let him be seated because there was no legal way to keep him from being seated.
Now there is possibly fraud. I think the way it might happen is that he‘ll, you know, Patrick Fitzgerald to the rescue again. He‘ll be indicted. If he is indicted then he will be expelled. Otherwise it has got to go through the Senate Ethics Committee that works slower than the Illinois State Legislature.
OLBERMANN: How are the national Democrats going to follow this up? What are they going to do in terms of this? Because there were already questions about whether or not Burris could survive a primary battle in 2010 let alone the actual election next year. Are they advised to go after him as if he is the Republicanest of Republicans?
CARLSON: Who is happier, Republicans or Democrats? Republicans are happy because they get to say here is another corrupt politician out of Illinois. The Democrats were facing a weak, weak candidate in Burris in 2010. This weakens him so much that he‘ll never survive a primary if he lasts that long. Getting him out of the way earlier would be better. But getting him out of the way earlier would probably be better.
Whether that is going to happen is probably up to either Fitzgerald or the Senate Ethics Committee. Either way he will be out of our midst very soon.
OLBERMANN: I have a great idea for the new governor, two words, Caroline Kennedy. Margaret Carlson. “The Week” and Bloomberg News.
CARLSON: Let her emigrate.
OLBERMANN: There is plenty of time. Thanks, Margaret. Have good night.
CARLSON: Thanks, Keith. You too.
OLBERMANN: And attention Cathay Pacific Airline passengers, that was your final boarding call for our flight from here in Hong Kong to San Francisco. So please stop rolling on the floor and trying to charge the gateway door. Like you haven‘t done this at some point.
And she claims she is not a paid shill for big pharma. Making up phony reasons to be frightened of the stimulus package. Which does not explain why days before her scare article Betsy McCoy received $11,000 in stock options from big pharma. “Worst Persons in the World” ahead.
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OLBERMANN: Ward, what do we do about his new girlfriend here? In Hong Kong, by way of the Internets, the latest in camera phone technology capturing this scene at the international airport there. The woman was attempting to get on the flight from Hong Kong to San Fran. By the time she arrived at the gate, the planes doors had been shut. Her bags had been removed from the plane. Needless to say, she is not taking any of this standing up.
OLBERMANN: Oh, I do worse than that in the office every day. Give me a break. This woman was able to catch a later flight to the States. On that one, when it turned out they were out of the pasta, man.
To the Punjab in India, and a much broader definition of gold medal worthy. Bring the wife and kids, it‘s fun for the whole family at the Rural Olympics. There‘s the fan favorite, the teeth lifting competition, now restored to its original greatness after last year‘s Fixident scandal involving Mr. Rodriguez.
New on the scene, the pairs event, iron rod bending and not to be out done by folks ear lifting their way to honors there. Behold the master of stomach arts. That dozen donuts a day will finally pay off when your belly can move motorcycles.
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OLBERMANN: The first semi-official ranking of the presidents in nine years. Six worse than W? How did a president who died in 1885 go up ten spots in the rankings in the last decade.
The “Simpsons” has not been on since then. But if you thought its opening scene, that‘s all changed. Harry Shearer joins us. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best indecipherable crime. Thurston‘s Bowling Alley in Frankfurt, New York, near Utica, closed for a week while the alleys were being repaired. Reopened Friday, or it was going to. That‘s when the Kegler‘s discovered all but one of the lane‘s bowling balls were gone. Swiped, apparently, nobody knows.
Number two, best prosecutorial decision, Leon Lott, the sheriff of Richland County, South Carolina deciding today not to prosecute Michael Phelps for smoking marijuana. The bong in question has been used too often since to be a viable piece of evidence. Not to defend pot or law breaking or athletes breaking the rules, but the real role model here should be, you can make a dumb mistake and recover from it and not see your life end. Besides which, on the athletic front, what are people thinking? If he didn‘t smoke pot, he would have won 23 gold medals?
Number one, best Midas touch, Governor Palin of Alaska. You will remember that when criticized for being the only hockey mom ever given a 150,000 dollar wardrobe by a political party, the governor defended herself by telling Fixed News that she got all her clothes from a second hand store in Anchorage called Out of The Closet. It turns out there‘s a chain of Out of the Closet thrift stores, which raises funds for the AIDS Health Care Foundation. They own the rights to the name. So now, owner Ellen Arbold (ph) has had to change the name of her shop in Anchorage to Second Run. Apparently, she chose that because another beneficiary of the Palin magic now won‘t be needing the name Second Run. That would be, of course, Senator John McCain.
OLBERMANN: When George Bush was asked how history would judge the Iraq war, he said, quote, history, we don‘t know; we‘ll all be dead. Mr. Bush majored in history. That attitude probably explains his status as a student in that subject. He got a C. In our third story tonight, A new grade for Mr. Bush from the people who write history, 65 historians and presidential scholars chosen by C-Span, marking Presidents‘ Day by ranking the former U.S. presidents.
No, he is not the worst. Yes, Jimmy Carter kicks his ass, as does Lincoln, number one. Mr. Bush comes in at 36 out of 42, counting Grover Cleveland‘s two separate terms as one. Mr. Bush, the seventh worst of all time.
Who was worse? Filmore, Pierce and Buchanan, the mid wives of the Civil War, Warren G. Harding of Teapot Dome, Andrew Johnson, impeached and often imbibed, and yes, Mr. Bush ranking better than William Henry Harrison, who died one month into his term, much of it delusional. I mean Harrison.
So on what basis did they rank the 42 men who served as America‘s president? Effectiveness in ten areas, among them public persuasion. Bush 36 of 42, worse than Nixon, worse than Carter. Performance within the context of the times, 36th out of 42, the man who claimed he defined post-9/11 thinking. Relations with Congress, 36th out of 42, not quite as good as his electoral college twin, Rutherford B. Hayes.
Administrative skills, 37th out of 42, the first MBA president, sober, less effective a manager than Ulysses S. Grant, the famously disheveled former alcoholic.
Economic management, 40th out of 42, third worst of all time. On a scale of one to 100, only four tenths of a point better than Herbert Hoover, the father of the Great Depression.
International relations, 41st out of 42. George W. Bush, with modern knowledge of psychology at his disposal, with America‘s communication skill and technology unsurpassed in the world, with all the sympathy accrued to us, to him after 9/11, worse at maintaining our ties with the world than any other president, except the guy who died one month into office.
C-Span also did this list in 2000. The top 14 presidents then are the same 14 now, although in slightly different order. Only four men moved more than three spots either way in the whole list. Bill Clinton vaulted from 21st in the 2000 list to 15th this time. One guess is that‘s because of what followed him. The other mover is a complete mystery. Ulysses S. Grant was considered the 33rd best president as of 2000. He is now 23rd. He shot past Taft, Carter, Coolidge, Nixon, Garfield, Taylor, Benjamin Harrison, Van Buren, Chester Arthur and Hayes. If there was a President Tarter, he would have shot passed him.
How in the hell did that happen? Grant died in 1885. And other than Carter, none of the other men lived to see the year 1934? Some sort of Ulysses S. Grant Renaissance none of us heard about? Or was it just the damned liberal media?
Rarely are my pleas answered, but here‘s one occasion. “The Simpsons” finally have a new opening sequence. Harry Shearer joins us.
Comedian Rush Limbaugh can‘t figure out how to use search on an Adobe PDF of the stimulus, so it‘s a Democratic plot. Worst persons ahead.
But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds out live them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals, Still Bushed.
Number three, legacy-gate. Not going so hot. First, Dick Cheney says he disagrees strongly with Mr. Bush not pardoning Scooter Libby. Now Elliott Abrams concurs. The former deputy national security adviser says I think it was a serious mistake on the president‘s part not to have pardoned him. It should be noted here that during Iran Contra, Mr. Abrams was convicted on two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully withholding information from Congress, and was then pardoned by Bush the elder.
Number two, torture-gate. “Newsweek” reports that former Justice Department lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo could be in deep doo-doo. The Bush White House squelched an internal investigation criticizing the quality of the legal opinions they gave defending torture, but they didn‘t kill it. A draft of the Justice report was submitted in the final weeks of the Bush administration, frozen by the attorney general, but now there is a new attorney general, and the internal investigation, complete with responses from them Yoo and Bibby, is going to go to him shortly. Just remember, this country happily prosecuted as war criminals the judges and lawyers who enforced the laws in Germany in the 1930‘s.
Number one, Blackwater-gate. I am happy to report to you tonight that the nightmares of Blackwater mercenaries, Blackwater death squads, Blackwater murders of innocent Iraqis during a traffic jam in Baghdad, five Blackwater staffers charged with voluntary manslaughter, Blackwater rape allegations, all these are at an end. Convictions? Confessions? Everybody retired to monasteries to repent? No. Blackwater worldwide has changed the company name. They are now XE. Spelled X-E. Xe. This just in, George W. Bush has just changed his name to George W. Jonas Brother.
OLBERMANN: “The Simpsons” has a new opening sequence. Harry Shearer talks us through it. Plus, “Family Guy‘s” answer to the question, what is the most unattractive male name in the English language. That‘s next. But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Betsy McCoy, the long ago New York lieutenant governor, whose error riddled, apparently never fact checked op-ed for “Bloomberg News” precipitated the entire paranoia on the right that the stimulus package was going to some how wind up dictating who, what and how doctors could treat. McCoy‘s piece was picked up by Limbaugh, Drudge and Fox, not of whom noted her remarkable conflicts of interest, that she was a shill by an outfit called the Hudson Institute for the pharmaceutical industry, which fears even slight increases in government oversight.
When we reported this last week, McCoy used a pay for publicity press release service to issue a response in which she stated, “I am not paid by the pharmaceutical industry or the Hudson Institute.” Yet, the consumer group Health Care Renewal points out Miss McCoy currently sits on the board of directors at Cantell Medical (ph), a medical device company, and used to sit on the board of Genta, a bio-tech company. And the Securities and Exchange Commission reports that just days before she summarized her scare tactics in that piece for “Bloomberg,” McCoy received 750 shares of stock options from Cantell Medical worth about 11,000. And SEC records also she received more than 55,000 dollars from Cantell Medical in the fiscal year ending last July 31st.
Miss McCoy challenged me personally. “If Keith Olbermann has the courage, I invite him to debate me on his program.” Miss McCoy is welcome on COUNTDOWN. Like every other paid spokesperson trying to shill a product, she is invited to buy commercials on the show.
A tie at runner up to Congressman John Mica and Don Young of Alaska. Mr. Mica put out a press release trumpeting stimulus money to be spent on railroads. “I applaud President Obama‘s recognition that high speed rail should be part of America‘s future.” Mr. Young put out one too, boasting that in the stimulus he had, quote, “won a victory for the Alaska Native Contracting Program, and other Alaska small business owners in HR-1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
Mr. Mica and Mr. Young both voted against that act, the stimulus, and then promptly took part credit for it. Honestly, what is better than hypocrisy?
Our winner, in yet another all bash the stimulus edition, comedian Rush Limbaugh, reduced to inadvertently making a laughing stock of himself to try to make that bill look bad. Complaining about his computer format. “They reformatted the bill. They‘ve made it a PDF file when they posted it. Now for those of you that don‘t use computers, basically, what that means is that it cannot be key word searched. A PDF file is essentially a picture of a page. So you can read every page, but you cannot key word search it. They didn‘t want anybody knowing what is in this. They want it happening as fast as possible so nobody can know what‘s in it.”
Rush, did you try the binoculars thing to the left of center of every PDF tool bar? You touch it with the mouse and then it says search across one or more PDF files. And if you click it, it gives you a whole second screen on the side with the search bar. You type in word, it will give you a list of all 900 places the word shows up.
How about Control F, did you try Control F, Rush? The little find tool bar then pops up. You can type in it the word you want, and it will go right to that word? No. Well could you try this, before you go accusing the Democrats and the president of the United States of some conspiracy, can you ask an IT guy to give you a little help with your computer, or maybe some six-year-old kid in your neighborhood. Failing all that, could just jam the keyboard in your mouth as fast as possible to save you and us all this embarrassment.
Comedian Rush “what does the on switch do” Limbaugh, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Several years ago, asked to write a review of the best television shows, I suggested the only thing wrong with “The Simpsons” was that the opening sequence was basically unchanged since 1990, before the characters were redrawn. Other than that, it was perfect. Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, so today it‘s perfect.
A new open and HD. In a moment, I‘ll be joined by Mr. Burns, Reverend Lovejoy, Principal Skinner and Harry Shearer. Then there‘s some unfortunate news about another cartoon series and its answer to the question, what‘s the most unattractive male first name in the English language. Got to be Rush.
First, in the best traditions of “Mystery Science Theater,” I‘m going to talk over “The Simpson‘s” new open to help point out the new stuff.
Same Danny Elfman song, same clouds. The three eyed crow is new. Tire fire is new. Carney and Jimbo sawing the head off Jebediah Springfield. Ralph Wiggum gets it. Lard Lab, Krusty Billboard, those are new. Bart still at the blackboard, although Homer the astronaut on the wall, that is new.
Bart skates and lands on Barney, that is new. Power plant same Homer. Lenny and Carl replacing Burns and Smithers. Marge still at the grocery store, but she is now buying Krusty-Os, Mr. Sparkle and Tobacco Juice.
Baby Gerald next to Maggie, that is an add. Lisa‘s saxophone solo still there, but the twins next to her, now playing, very nice, hand held video games.
Homer still with the radio active material in his shirt. Chucks it.
Otto the bus driver eats it. Oh my.
Bart has to dodge Sideshow Bob‘s sword as he skateboards past Apu and his eight kids.
Back to Marge and Maggie, same car scene. Grand-pa is now sitting next to Maggie, yakking up his dentures.
Then there is the big pan to Evergreen Terrace. That‘s a huge overhaul here. You should DVR it. Instead of the mad dash into the living room, Homer gets plowed through the door. The couch bit also stays, and went on a long time.
We‘ll skip to the end, where the family is now watching a new wide screen HD TV, which somebody didn‘t mount correctly. Doh.
Pleasure, as ever, to be joined now by the inimitable, and just recovered from swallowing the nuclear material. Harry Shearer, satirist, activist and Simpsonist.
HARRY SHEARER, “THE SIMPSONS”: Activist? I‘m a pacifist, if anything, with a V. By the way, is it Thor?
OLBERMANN: Which, no.
SHEARER: No, K.T.
OLBERMANN: No, no. Thanks—that would be pretty—Keith Thor, you can‘t even say that. Was there a vast outcry for this new open, Harry, or was it just me?
SHEARER: I think you were it. It was a half vast cry. No. As a matter of fact, we in the cast—speaking for myself, I and the cast, only knew about it when I was called to a recording session to do two new grunts. That is when I learned we were in the digital wonderland of HD. Otherwise, I would have heard about it on your show. I actually had to go to Hulu.com today to see it, because I didn‘t see the show last night. So I had to go to a website owned by Fox that gives away episodes of the Simpsons and has only limited commercial interruptions, for which we receive no many, because there‘s no revenue there.
OLBERMANN: Glad we were able to get that in.
SHEARER: Yes, me too.
OLBERMANN: Does it ever alarm you that people pay attention to details like those in the opening that enumerated there, more closely than they pay attention to, you know, details of the stimulus bill?
SHEARER: Enumerated? You were doing an addition for play by play. No, I‘m—I think it is of a piece with the guys, who have marvelous memories and recall of the batting averages of long dead third basemen and the women who recommend whatever it is. I think people just love to obsess on unimportant things, while, you know, the world goes on around them deeper and deeper into the hole.
OLBERMANN: And here comes Apu‘s octuplets, speaking of play by play.
OLBERMANN: Does HD, does improvement in the visual somehow suggest the audio is behind the times? Since you guys are the voice actors in this series, do you worry you are being out-stripped by the technology?
SHEARER: No. I think the audio side is mercifully free. If I were an on-camera actor, I would be worried, because there have been all these flurries of concerns in Hollywood, oh, the makeup won‘t be good enough to hide the blemishes anymore. Oh, the sets will look cheesy now. But the voices sound like the voices sound. And they have been using digital stuff for years on the audio recordings. So that won‘t change.
OLBERMANN: Now you know why we are not in HD yet on MSNBC, the 85,000 lines on my forehead. I have two non “Simpsons” things for you. I want to play a clip from this other genius cartoon on Fox, “Family Guy.” Last night, Peter Griffin and his crew breaking into a vault to steal some money and they have to get past a specialized security device. Here is the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Final checkpoint, answer this question: what is the most unattractive male first name in the English language.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keith.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Harry, that was from a grown-up man named Seth. Who did that? Do you have any comment on this?
SHEARER: Well, no, you are a reporter. You should check your facts about the grown-up part. All I can say, Keith, if that had been on “The Simpsons,” the answer would have been Rupert.
OLBERMANN: Bless you. This other question here, your CD, “Songs of the Bushmen,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award, didn‘t get it. Is that good news, bad news, what happened?
SHEARER: George Carlin got it. So it was a vote for the dead man.
OLBERMANN: How do you feel about that?
OLBERMANN: Yes. So in a manner of speaking you win?
SHEARER: Well, it is a manner of speaking. Death has always been hot in show business. I‘ll bide my time.
OLBERMANN: George‘s reaction to this probably would be what? Ha ha, you lost to a dead guy?
SHEARER: Yes. Knowing him, it would be.
OLBERMANN: So there is some fun in it.
SHEARER: It goes on his virtual mantel piece. Congratulations to him.
OLBERMANN: A lovely man. Truly an inspiration to all of us.
OLBERMANN: Last question, 20 years of “Simpsons,” any idea how much longer you guys can carry this along?
SHEARER: Again, in the last to hear department, we just found out that we have been renewed for season 21. We have beaten “Gunsmoke” finally. Eat my dust, James Arnette.
OLBERMANN: Here comes Matt Dylan. Wonderful. I do your version of Vin Scully—my version of your version of Vin Scully all the time.
SHEARER: You are welcome to it.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir. Congratulations on this 21st season and on second place to a dead guy. And always a pleasure to talk to you.
SHEARER: Same here, Keith. Good night.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,109th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. That is like a relative of Mr. Burns. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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