Guest: Richard Wolffe, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Julian Bond, Devin Gordon, Arianna Huffington
High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Spec: Politics; Government; Policies
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Republicans gone wild: Senator Shelby of Alabama is now abetting the “Obama wasn‘t born here” lie. “They said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven‘t seen any birth certificate. You have to be born in America to be president.” A sitting U.S. senator for God sake.
This is all the GOP has? This as the president tries to get every governor, Democrat or Republican, the money to keep his or her state above water?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There‘s going to be ample time for campaigns down the road. Right now, we‘ve got to make sure that we‘re standing up for the American people and putting them back to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Getting worse not better: The NAACP is now leading the protest over the “New York Post‘s” Obama chimp cartoon. Chairman Julian Bond: “This was an invitation to assassination of the president of the United States.” Our special guest tonight—Julian Bond.
Worsts: What does this from Governor Palin‘s daughter mean to a conservative?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRISTON PALIN, GOV. PALIN‘S DAUGHTER: I think abstinence is like—like, the—I don‘t know how to put it—like, the main—everyone should be abstinent or whatever but it‘s not realistic at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Translation courtesy Fred Barnes: “That means she‘s saying that abstinence actually is realistic.”
After years of fear, free speech returns to the Oscars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN PENN, ACTOR: I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the moment of free speech you may have been ashamed to admit you didn‘t understand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL SMITH, ACTOR: And now, for outstanding, oh—boom, goes the dynamite!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We‘ll explain why when he heard that, a young TV reporter in Waco, Texas probably did a spit-take.
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And boom goes the dynamite.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Contrary to the popular idiom, some things do not have to be seen to be believed. I have never witnessed nuclear fission but I believe in its capacity for power or destruction. I have never personally met Iranian President Ahmadinejad, yet I believe he exists. Nor I have ever met Senator Richard Shelby, who—in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN—has perpetuated the treasonous, unsubstantiated rumor that President Obama is not actually a citizen of the United States.
On what grounds? Because the Alabama Republican says he has never seen Obama‘s birth certificate, to be perfectly clear, this is the president of the United States. His name is Barack Obama. By necessity, a natural born citizen of the United States. This is Barack Obama‘s birth certificate, date of birth August 4, 1961, location of birth, Honolulu, Hawaii. The Obama campaign having released that birth certificate last June.
The radical right-wing Web site, WorldNet Daily, having been written a
piece attesting to its authenticity. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court
dismissed without comment a lawsuit seeking to bar Obama from the
presidency due to questions over his citizenship. The chief justice of the
United States then administering the oath of office to Mr. Obama not once -
but you remember—twice.
And as we mentioned, all that apparently are not good enough for Senator Shelby, who, over the weekend, in response to a question about that rumor that Obama was not a United States citizen, said, quote, “Well, his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven‘t seen any birth certificate. You have to be born in America to be president.”
A spokesman for Senator Shelby is attempting to put the toothpaste back into the tube, claiming that the senator‘s remarks were merely a throw-away line, calling the newspaper report that published them—incomplete and a distortion of his comments. “The Cullman Times,” which reported this story, standing by its reporting as complete and accurate.
Remarkably, President Obama is still inviting Republicans to the White House. This morning, addressing members of the National Governors Association, governors like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who has already said he will not accept $100 million in unemployment insurance funding from the stimulus. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger of California are among those asking, can they have it instead.
Governors like Mark Sanford of South Carolina are still in the threatening stages of not accepting stim money. This morning on C-SPAN, the governor is telling the unemployed South Carolina man who called in to the network that only his prayers would be with him.
President Obama is saying this morning it is time for these politics to stop.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: But I just want us to not lose perspective of the fact that most of the things that have been the topic of argument over the last several days amount to a fraction of the overall stimulus package. I just want to make sure that we‘re having an honest debate and presenting to the American people a fulsome accounting of what is going on in this program.
And so, if we agree on 90 percent of the stuff, and we‘re spending all our time on television arguing about 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent of the spending in this thing, and somehow it is being characterized in broad brush as wasteful spending—that starts sounding more like politics. And that‘s what, right now, we don‘t have time to do. There‘s going to be ample time for campaigns down the road. Right now, we‘ve got to make sure that we‘re standing up for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe.
Good evening, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Senator Shelby‘s office called this report distortion.
Let me quote him in full again and then what they‘re saying tonight. “Well, his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven‘t seen any birth certificate. You have to be born in America to be president.”
The office responded tonight, “‘The Cullman Times‘ article contains an incomplete account and therefore a distorting of Senator Shelby‘s comments regarding President Obama‘s citizenship. At the town hall meeting in Cullman, Senator Shelby laid out the constitutional qualifications of the presidency and said that while he hasn‘t personally seen the president‘s birth certificate, he is confident the matter has been thoroughly examined.”
Where do we find the confidence in that quote that we have from him in the Cullman newspaper?
WOLFFE: Well, let me do it like this. There are a number of constitutional lawyers who are still debating whether or not you need to be sane or even conscious to be a United States senator.
WOLFFE: Now, I personally have not seen the medical records of Senator Shelby, but I‘m sure they have been thoroughly examined by medically-trained professionals who can testify to his sanity. As far as I know he is sane.
WOLFFE: Look, the truth is that when you see these kinds of weasel words coming from the office of an elected official, you know they‘ve got something to hide.
OLBERMANN: But, and I might add, I‘ll have a list in my hand of 208 senators who do not pass the sanity or consciousness test. The idea that these are just totally off-the-wall, I mean, when Alan Keyes—when he said what he said last week, who you might say is a few representatives short of a quorum, that‘s one thing.
But a sitting senator like Richard Shelby—is there not enough going on in the country? Is politics this out of hand? What‘s the problem here?
WOLFFE: Well, Senator Shelby isn‘t just a sitting senator. He is the senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. In fact, he ran the banking committee through most of the Bush era. So, I am sure he examined the balance sheets of the financial institutions of this country with as much exactitude as his looking at the birth status of the president of the United States, which may account for why we‘re in such a big mess right now.
He is a senior figure, in fact, in the Republican Party. And I think what he is doing here is shameful and just as weasel as the explanation the came out of his office. It‘s not just what he said as reported by “The Cullman Times,” it‘s the official story afterwards, that are both just as bad as each other.
OLBERMANN: The goal here—and we‘ve heard this much further on the right and further out of office than Senator Shelby, but the goal—I mean, (INAUDIBLE) can‘t be—anybody can‘t be serious about de-legitimizing the Obama presidency. Is it just to lend a 2 percent doubt here to soften him up? What‘s the idea behind this strategically?
WOLFFE: Well, I‘ve seen this play out several times on the campaign last year. And obviously, it was pretty potent then with those Muslim rumors that were out there with such a great spread across the nation. And it took such effort from the Obama campaign to try and fend them off.
What happens in this these situations is that, an official gets asked the question and they know it‘s wrong but they‘re pandering. They don‘t want to engage in some real straight talk and tell them that that‘s not true. So they are currying favor with people who are frankly ignorant and what they are also doing is engaging in some fear-mongering, scare-mongering. That has the effect of de-legitimizing an elected official like the president. It was done to the Clintons and it was done through the campaign to then-Senator Obama. He won in spite of all of that with a substantial majority.
OLBERMANN: What would the reaction have been if somebody came in and said, “Well, you know what, I don‘t believe George Bush was actually born in this country, he should be removed as president for that reason”? What would the reaction have been by the Republicans?
WOLFFE: Well, remember, this is a time of war. And, you know, I could imagine Zell Miller accusing someone of treason and asking for a duel. I mean, this is—this is a nonsensical situation for all the outrage that‘s out there. It is rightly placed on the left of the commentary because this is deeply damaging, if it is unchecked. And that‘s why it‘s so important that people go out there and say flatly it‘s untrue.
Go look at the birth certificate. It‘s on the Web site. There is this thing called Google. It‘s pretty useful.
OLBERMANN: By the way, if it was a time of war in 2003, it‘s also a time of war in 2009. MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe—as always, Richard, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Besides keeping alive a shadow of a doubt about the legitimacy of the president of the United States, the other main play out of the Republican playbook these days would seem to be “delay of game.” For more on that, I‘m joined by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, member of the House Judiciary Committee, who‘s with us from Washington.
Congresswoman, thanks for your time tonight.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Red states, blue states, Americans in any kind of state are in the state of suffering financially. We have several governors talking about not taking unemployment insurance money out of the stim as a matter of principle. If this is a kind of financial equivalent of 9/11 and offering, in Governor Sanford‘s case, only prayers instead, where is the Republican Party in terms of actually leading and actually serving its own constituents?
SCHULTZ: Well, the Republican Party led by their governors continue to show that they are the heartless, insensitive organization, that they have been for the last eight to 12 years, which is why the American people ousted them and wanted to put their support behind Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress to move this country in a new direction.
And, Keith, let me tell you about the unique hypocrisy of Governor Bobby Jindal who I heard talk about how he was planning to reject the unemployment insurance increase and modernization assistance that‘s coming down from the Congress, to help his constituents. This is a guy, who, while I served with him in Congress, voted for that assistance twice and is certainly willing to take funding from the federal government to help people who are out of a job and out of their home as a result of a hurricane but not willing to take that assistance when they are out of—his constituents are out after job and out of their home as a result of this economic crisis.
I‘m not really sure what the difference is. A crisis is a crisis. When you don‘t have a job and you‘re getting kicked out of your house, it doesn‘t matter whether it was a result of a hurricane or an economic crisis, you‘re still out on the street and you still need to feed your family.
OLBERMANN: We have heard so much about the failure of bipartisanship in the first 35 days of the Obama administration, the Republicans keep saying they have alternatives. I‘m waiting to see any announced publicly. Maybe being on the inside, have you seen one they haven‘t told anyone publicly about other than just to stand in the way?
SCHULTZ: Sure. The alternative that they introduced to our economic stimulus and economic recovery package was more tax cuts. Their pure solution was the same tired tax cuts for the wealthiest few that the American people rejected on November 4
OLBERMANN: If the tax cuts worked theoretically or practically in the last, say, 10 years, would we, in fact, not be in any sort of situation resembling the one we‘re in now? Isn‘t the situation we‘re in now proof that the tax cuts didn‘t work?
SCHULTZ: Well, I would think so. But, you know, apparently, when you are a Republican, you don‘t really understand that if you repeat history, that you are doomed to get more of the same. And what we‘re trying to do is focus on change, focus on moving the country in a new direction.
And we want the Republicans to join us. We‘ve extended the hand of bipartisanship. President Obama came to Capitol Hill to meet with the Republican caucus and was essentially rebuffed.
The minority leader, John Boehner, actually stood before his caucus before the president arrived and urged his caucus to vote no on the economic recovery package. So, they‘re voting, they voted no on jobs, voted no on helping turn this economy around. They essentially voted to leave the American people out in the cold.
And we need to come together and try to come up with some solutions because people are out there suffering.
OLBERMANN: And you‘ve seen that, though, in your own state.
OLBERMANN: The Republican governor, Mr. Crist, campaigned with the president for the stimulus. Today, he defended him, said that arguing over nuances is fine. “We‘re in an economic crisis, we need to come together as a country and focus on the big picture.” Did he pay any price in the polls for campaigning with Obama and will he pay any price for standing with him now?
SCHULTZ: You know, on the contrary, my governor, Governor Crist, who has really been consistent in extending the hand of bipartisanship, is showing a record in terms of his favorability in our state. I think he‘s something like 62 percent and rising because, like he said on “Meet the Press” yesterday, he looks into the eyes and the hearts of his constituents and knows that they are suffering and knows that we have to put party aside.
Governor Schwarzenegger said, we can‘t think about what‘s good for our party right now. We have to think about what‘s good for the people. And, you know—I mean, I know that the Republicans are really focused on trying to get victories in the 2010 election. But we‘ve really got to come together and help get this economy moving again and turned around for the American people.
OLBERMANN: Yes, we have to get the electorate in shape to be able to afford the 2010 elections.
SCHULTZ: Yes, that‘s true.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Debbie Wassermann Schultz of Florida—as always, great thanks for your time tonight.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: A president, of course, never gives a state of the union address in his rookie year. Tomorrow night, the closest thing for President Obama, we will count down to his address to the joint session of Congress at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific, and return for a live late night edition of COUNTDOWN after the president and the GOP response are done.
To some degree, not only the Republicans are changing the subject, but the Obama administration is trying to keep Bush e-mails secret, for trying to keep detainees at Bagram from getting the rights Bush denied them, or letting the Bush tax cuts expire rather repeal them. Is that change?
A vital word in another regard tonight—last week the “New York Post‘s” Obama chimp cartoon was largely a regional outrage, kind of “boutique protest.” Tonight, though, it has changed. Our special guest who has called it an “invitation to assassination” is no less than the chairman of the NAACP, Julian Bond.
OLBERMANN: On detainees, on missing e-mails, even on a tax cut, President Obama is acting disturbingly like President Bush. Arianna Huffington joins us.
The “New York Post‘s” Obama chimp cartoon is now resonating nationally. A boycott threatened by the NAACP. Its chairman, Julian Bond, joins me.
And George Bush attacks Charlie Crist, Eric Holder became attorney general by the skin of his teeth, and Will Smith invokes “boom goes the dynamite” at the Oscars?
Bushed, Worsts, and Bests—ahead on COUNTDOWN here on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Two days into his term, President Obama signed an executive order to shut down Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. is holding 245 people of dubious guilt and dubious conditions. Our fourth story tonight:
On Friday night, in a brief statement filed by the Mr. Obama‘s Justice Department, the news that he will continue to deny legal rights to the 600 detainees the U.S. is holding at Bagram, Afghanistan, just as Mr. Bush did.
Four detainees filed legal challenges to their detention program at Bagram, the notorious facility outside Kabul. The Bush administration had argued in court they had no right to challenge their own detention. After Mr. Obama‘s Gitmo order, the judge said, in essence, “So, you want to change Bush policy on Bagram, too?” The Obama administration‘s answer was no.
Likewise, another Obama filing on Friday, after Bush cried state secrets to fight a court order for the release of documents about his spying against an Islamic charity. Is Obama changing Bush policy? Not in that case either. Nor are these isolated cases. British judges are saying that records on the torture of a freed Gitmo detainee cannot be released because, first, Bush, and now, Obama, threatened to withhold intel cooperation.
And the new CIA chief, Leon Panetta, is saying Obama will continue Bush‘s renditioning of detainees to other countries. Attorney General Eric Holder is asking the court to dismiss lawsuits seeking the release of missing Bush e-mails. President Obama is continuing both Bush‘s Office of Faith-based Initiatives and Bush‘s tax cuts until their expiration next year.
Here to help us tell the two men apart, Arianna Huffington, founder of “Huffington Post.”
Much thanks for your time tonight, Arianna
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, FOUNDER, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Clearly, these are two different presidencies and two different presidents. But why this seeming growing convergence on what we could loosely called “national security issues”?
HUFFINGTON: Well, there is convergence and there‘s divergence. So, all the incidents that you mentioned are troubling especially the Friday ruling on Bagram. But I think we need to make a clear distinction between rulings like the Bagram ruling, which was wrong and disturbing, and what different nominees say like Leon Panetta on what may happen but has not yet happened.
And we need to make the distinction very clear because unless something becomes a ruling, then it‘s not a convergence. But there‘s no question that everyone who cares about civil liberties and who thought Barack Obama would be a clear divergence has to be watching very carefully.
OLBERMANN: To the question of what may yet happen or not, the “New York Times” asked whether current agreement between these two administrations is hard and fast policy or if it‘s temporary holding patterns. I think I know the answer to this. But—do you generally come down on the idea that most of these opinions from the Obama administration are holding patterns, investigations or could they be unfortunately permanent?
HUFFINGTON: Well, in some cases, they‘ve said that they are having a review process like Guantanamo. In some cases, they‘ve made rulings that are very good like ending CIA “black sites,” allowing the International Red Cross to visit detainees, and limiting interrogation techniques. All that has been good.
But there is nothing said about the Bagram ruling that may be temporary. There is nothing said that made us believe that there is a review under way.
OLBERMANN: What happens if that continues to be case or if after one of these six-month reviews, renditioning, for instance, continues on or other detentions without legal rights. What happens then?
HUFFINGTON: Well, everybody who cares about what are the fundamental American values of fairness and justice and due process needs to vociferously and unambiguously oppose the Obama administration. I don‘t think there is any alternative to that. I, just at the same time, wanted to make sure that that happens when there are clear and unequivocal rulings, because, you know, there was a Greek philosopher, Diogenes, Keith, who used to go around and begging from statues. And they asked him why he did that, and he said he was practicing disappointment.
So, we don‘t need to be practicing disappointment. We can wait and when there‘s reason to be disappointed, we need to express and we need to call on Congress to exercise checks and balances. And there are many in Congress, including Jane Harman, who have made it clear that they are planning to exercise checks and balances.
OLBERMANN: What happens, however, if the left does have to protest? And inherit in a protest against the Democratic president—is there some loss of the argument that Bush had done this stuff for bad reasons?
HUFFINGTON: Well, you know, Keith, I never thought the argument against Bush was bad reasons. They were bad policies, whatever the reasons. And they were bad policies in terms of America‘s safety. In the new book by Tom Ricks, General Petraeus and his colleagues in Iraq were quoted saying that these policies made America and our troops less safe, that they provoked a lot of worse attacks on American troops.
So, that‘s really what—and it‘s not a right versus left case. It‘s a right versus wrong case.
OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington, founder and publisher of “Huffington Post”—it‘s always a pleasure, Arianna. Thanks again for your time tonight.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Ever wonder what happens to the people who lose at the Oscars? Twenty laps, kids—in antlers.
And because he‘s accepting and being grateful of the stimulus package, Governor Charlie Crist of Florida ripped by George Bush as at risk of becoming a, quote, “D light,” Democrat light. There is, indeed, as you might expect, more to that story in Bushed—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. And Will Smith tells 800 million people about one college sportscaster‘s bad day.
First, on this date in 1898, the French writer, Emile Zola was convicted of libel for publishing a letter accusing the French army of perverting justice, to falsely convict Alfred Dreyfus of treason—the famous “J‘accuse” letter. At that point, Dreyfus was imprisoned on Devil‘s Island. Zola had to flee to England, Georges Clemenceau was the man who published the newspaper in the letter—the letter in the newspaper, and Felix Faure was the French president to whom the letter was addressed.
Within eight years, Dreyfus would be pardoned, Zola would be a national hero, Clemenceau would be the prime minister and Faure would be dead of a seizure in the presidential office while cavorting with a woman 30 years his junior.
Let‘s play Oddball.
J‘accuse this! We begin with highlights of last week‘s Tour of California, a less French but no less freaky version of the Tour de France. Case in point, check out the two guys in the sumo suits racing up a mountain alongside the leaders. Don‘t try that at home.
And there is Borat and then there was the man wearing the deer antler helmet, I guess, in honor of Graham Chapman. I believe that there is what you call a 10-point schmuck.
To the posh St. Moritz resort in the Swiss Alps, where global economic crisis be dammed, the ski-touring races must go on. Behold the wonder of ski-touring—a race in which horses pull men on skis over snowy tundra. If you have never had the experience of tucking yourself behind the business end of a thoroughbred on an icy lake, then you haven‘t been ski-touring. Thousands of the world‘s rich and famous convene on this Alpine setting each year to gamble on the event where nothing ever, ever goes wrong.
Now you know what the horse from Friday‘s edition of Oddball was running from.
A real apology last week and it probably would have been forgotten by now, instead, Rupert Murdoch is now facing action from the NAACP. Its chairman joins us.
To speak out knowing the presidential administration will not sic its hounds on you. The return of freedom to the Oscar speeches. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best hair style, Brianna Bonds of Kansas City. Parked outside a convenience store, a man came up to her and said her ex-boyfriend wanted to relight the flames of romance. She replied, I don‘t love him. Whereupon, the ex shot at her, blowing out her rear wind shield and leaving her with a headache from a bullet, a bullet that could not penetrate her hair piece. She notes, I have been wearing it for years. I‘ve invested a lot of money into this wig and it saved my life.
Number two, counter-demonstrators in Buffalo. When three members of the human trash hate group from the Westbureau Baptist Church in Topeka traveled to upstate New York to unleash their traditional psychotic protest against gays at the memorial for one of the victims of Flight 3407, 150 residents showed up to drown out their message, so that those attending that memorial, grieving for Allison Deforge (ph), would not have to hear them. You people are terrific.
And number one, Will Smith. If you watched the Oscars last night, you might have been mystified by something he said after he flubbed a few lines. If you weren‘t, you missed Will Smith elevating Brian Collins to even a higher level of immortality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL SMITH, ACTOR: Now for outstanding—oh, boom, goes the dynamite. Now for outstanding sound editing --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If you are in the know, it is hard to believe this is true, but not everyone knows what boom goes the dynamite is. Nor why it was appropriate to that moment. A little refresher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Switching to Ball State Men‘s tennis, it seems last week—every week they have a player—
The Indiana Pacers are looking for a measure of revenge tonight against the New Jersey Nets. Let‘s check out the highlights. Steven Jackson—Reggie Miller is looking good. He shoots the three. And it‘s good. Later he gets the rebound, passes it to the man, shoots it and boom goes the dynamite.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The boom goes the dynamite sports cast from the college station at Ball State University. The poor guy was filling in at the last moment for a friend. His teleprompter failed. His script was screwed up and he had heard one too many Sportscenter catch phrases from some guy who used to be on that show. The good news is Brian Collins is now a news reporter at a TV station in Texas. The better news is, dude, Will Smith referenced you on the Oscars in front of 800 million viewers worldwide. And boom goes the dynamite.
OLBERMANN: Surprisingly enough, a non-apology apology in which those who may have been offended are portrayed as opportunists with axes to grind does not make the offense go away. In fact, as the “New York Post” and its owner Newscorp and its owner Rupert Murdoch are learning, it makes it worse. In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the outrage over the Post‘s Obama dead chimp cartoon goes national.
The chairman of the NAACP will join us presently. He addressed the cartoon at his organization‘s annual meeting in New York this weekend. Quoting, “this is tastelessness taken to the extreme. This was an invitation to assassination of the president of the United States. Anyone who is not offended by it does not have any sensibilities.”
You will recall that the cartoon portraying the author of the stimulus bill shot and killed was published last Wednesday, a day after President Obama signed the bill. And the NAACP, through its president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, has also called for the firing of both the cartoonist Sean Delonas and the Post editor of chief, Col Allan, or face a nationwide boycott of the newspaper and News Corp, including Fox television affiliates.
The Reverend Al Sharpton is planning another protest tomorrow, this time on the steps of New York‘s City Hall. He has started an online petition to force the FTC to remove the waiver that allows Newscorp to own more than one media outlet, including newspapers and TV stations in the New York area.
Joining me now, as promised, the chairman of the NAACP, Julian Bond.
A pleasure to speak with you, sir.
JULIAN BOND, CHAIRMAN NAACP: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Expand on that statement that this was an invitation to assassination.
BOND: You look at the cartoon, here are these two policemen shooting this gorilla. And the caption says, now they‘ll have to get someone else to write the stimulus package. Obviously, the guerrilla wrote the stimulus package. Of course, President Obama wrote the stimulus package. Republicans like to say Nancy Pelosi did. We know President Obama did it.
It is his package.
This connection between simians and black men is an old, almost two century old canard that has been told time and time again. You put one and one together and you get two. This is an invitation to assassinate the president of the United States. That‘s what that cartoon is all about. Anybody who can‘t see that can‘t see.
OLBERMANN: When the Post‘s cartoonist defense, I didn‘t mean that. I meant Speaker Pelosi. That is then an invitation to shoot Speaker Pelosi. That is much better, isn‘t it?
BOND: Exactly so. Yes. That is much better.
OLBERMANN: Has the offense of this cartoon and the Post‘s response to it last week, has the whole thing now transcended the level of any possible apology?
BOND: Well, an apology is always in order, but not an apology that says if I called you an idiot, I‘m sorry I offended you. shouldn‘t call people idiots. An apology that says that we did something wrong, terribly, terribly wrong here. And we know it now. We are admitting it. We‘re sorry about it. We won‘t do it again. That would be a way for the News Corporation and Rupert Murdoch to begin.
There is much more they need to do to get past this. They need to examine the diversity on their board of directors, in their city rooms, on their TV shows. They need to explain why they won‘t fill out the forms that many other people in New York do to say here is how many minorities we have. You must be think they‘re afraid of revealing something they would be ashamed of. It‘s much more they need to do than just say sorry.
OLBERMANN: Our friend Gene Robinson from the “Washington Post” pointed out something that was tangential to this, but absolutely fascinating. This proves the practical value of diversity. If there is somebody in your news room—if somebody is not educated enough to know what those images mean to a part of a community, there might be someone in their news room who was, who could have said, no listen, let me take you aside and explain why we are going to get in a lot of trouble if we publish this. This is a practical primmer in how to use diversity to everybody‘s advantage. Isn‘t it?
BOND: Absolutely. It is also a lesson in the correctness of what Attorney General Holder said just last week. We don‘t talk rationally about these kinds of things. We don‘t have discussions about race. If in the Post news room they had this discussions, this wouldn‘t have happen. We wouldn‘t have been upset.
OLBERMANN: Nationally, is there a way to take the toxic combination that‘s in this cartoon, racism and violence—maybe even a trifecta here with political assassination. Is there some opportunity to take this and make it into a national learning experience, something of value here, rather than just this black spot that has been on the reputation of an already pretty bad newspaper?
BOND: We would like to sit down with people at the Post and the News Corporation and talk to them about this and about other things that they need to do to get themselves right. We are going to address that in the street to begin with. We are going to try to let people at Fox stations and at News Corp owned businesses around the country know that a great section of the population is upset with what they‘ve done, not only in this instance and in others.
You know, in the apology they did make, they took this gratuitous swipe at Al Sharpton, as if he had done something wrong, in order to make them do something wrong. So there is a lot more they need to do and there is a lot more we are going to do.
OLBERMANN: Al Sharpton and any news organization that had the temerity to at any point criticize that organization for this cartoon and other things, they did. Julian Bond, the chairman of the NAACP, as I said, a pleasure to speak with you, sir. Thank you for your time.
BOND: My pleasure. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: For eight years, the speeches at the Oscars have been circumspect. No longer. Let freedom ring.
And here comes the Joe the Plumber crap again. Worst persons ahead.
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, executive privilege-gate. Exactly what didn‘t happen at the House Judiciary Committee today we‘re not precisely sure. But we know Karl Rove did not testify, as originally scheduled. There were clearly two causes. In what order and what measurements they went into the soup, we don‘t know. But Karl Rove was told by lawyers just before the end of the Bush administration to continue to ignore Judiciary‘s subpoenas. The Judiciary Committee says it was not planning on hearing Rove‘s testimony today and never formally scheduled to testify today. The administration is over, but the obfuscation lingers.
Number two, legacy-gate. They are still out there trying. They‘re still out there lying. Ari Fleischer first admitting we were wrong about weapons of mass destruction being in Iraq. Asked by D.L. Hughley how that felt, Fleischer said, “you just scratch your head and say, how could we be wrong? It wasn‘t just that we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. The Egyptians thought it. The French thought it. the Germans thought it. The United Nations thought it. Bill Clinton‘s CIA thought it. We all thought it. Saddam was the big liar here.”
Clearly. He said he didn‘t have any WMD anymore. You knew better.
You told the French, the Germans, the Egyptians, the U.N. that he did. Then, when they all said, sure, if you say so, you presented that to the world as new evidence that he had WMD. Then it turned out Saddam was right, he didn‘t have any WMD anymore. He was the big liar here.
OLBERMANN: Number one, forever partisan-gate. Speaking to the Young Republican National Federation meeting in Orlando, George Bush ripped Florida Governor Charlie Crist for accepting, endorsing, and even accepting gratitude for the stimulus program. “There are some in our party that want to assume that government is the answer to all our problems,” Mr. Bush said. “I‘m not going to name any names. You know who I‘m talking about.”
Questioned by reporters, he then said of Governor Crist, “that will be on his track record and people are going to remember that.” Mr. Bush even said he thought Governor Crist ran the risk of falling into a category he called D-Light, as in Democrat light.
Now, you would have thought such fiery partisanship from a freshly minted ex-president would have been bigger news. But, of course, the man who put party ahead of recovery was not President George W. Bush, but his nephew, Jeb‘s son, George P. Bush. Yes, it‘s Bushed, the next generation.
OLBERMANN: Free speech returns to the Oscars. The right wing howls at Sean Penn and nobody cares. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Fred Barnes of Fixed News. Herein is the conservative mind explained. They play a clip of Bristol Palin saying, quote, but I think abstinence is, like—I don‘t know how to put it. Everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it is not realistic at all.” So Barnes comes on and says, quote, that means she is saying that abstinence actually is realistic. Genius. She says abstinence, it is not realistic at all. He says that means she is saying that abstinence actually is realistic. So when I say Fred Barnes is a perceptive, intelligent man, I really mean he is a delusional dope.
Our runner up tonight, Chris Wallace, berating Attorney General Eric Holder for his comments on the cowardice of the nation in frankly discussing race over the years. Wallace said, quote, this is an attorney general who got into office by the skin of his teeth.
Mr. Holder was recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 17 two. He was confirmed by the Senate 75 to 21. Six Republicans in the committee and 19 in the Senate voted for him. The skin of his teeth?
But our winner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, picking up the Joe the Plumber crap from John McCain‘s disastrous presidential campaign, “letting the Bush tax cuts expire for people making more than a quarter of a million dollars a year really means increasing taxes on small businesses, because, McConnell says, a vast majority of American small businesses pay taxes as individual taxpayers.
Firstly, a fact check from a business news outfit showed that McConnell could not be much more wrong than he is. Only two percent of small business owners will pay more under Obama‘s tax structure. Secondly, and more importantly, if you own a small business and it pushes your own income over 250,000, and you haven‘t incorporated it, and you haven‘t been able to enjoy the lower total taxes that would result, and you are still treating it as your personal income, you better ask to see your accountant‘s diploma. Because, in the vast majority of cases, either you or he is crazy.
Senator Mitch McConnell, today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: If last night had been the 2003 Oscars, Dustin Lance Black and Bill Maher and Sean Penn probably would have spent the day being raked over the coals by the yapping toadies of a media government complex that was just beginning to institutionalize the demonizing of dissent and difference. But in our number one story, screw the yapping toadies. They lost and free speech won.
So did Dustin Lance Blank for best original screen play for “Milk,” the story of the assassinated San Francisco city councilman, the story Black heard at age 13, which he told the world last night literally saved his life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUSTIN LANCE BLANK, “MILK”: If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that, no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Later in the evening, Sean Penn accepting best actor award for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, while addressing the elephant not in the room, a feeble, homophobic protest outside the Oscars last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN PENN, ACTOR: For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren‘s eyes if they continue that way of support. We‘ve got to have equal rights for everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining us now Devin Gordon, senior editor at “Newsweek Magazine.” Devin, good evening.
DEVIN GORDON, “NEWSWEEK”: Good evening. Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Two very powerful speeches given last night, largely regarding Prop 8. What is the dynamic there between two things that are in play in Hollywood, this sort of collective anger, collective guilt over that amendment passing, and the actual relevance. The movie we are talking about was “Milk.” It was about Harvey Milk and it did, in fact, win two major awards last night, rendering that topic absolutely relevant to the speeches.
GORDON : There are actually two dynamics going on here, of which Prop 8 is only one of them. You have to go back a couple years in Oscar history to remember “Brokeback Mountain,” which lost, very big surprise, in what has widely considered, in retrospect, to have been a big snubbing. I think there was a little atonement on Hollywood‘s part for the Dustin Black victory last night and for Sean Penn‘s victory last night.
But I think clearly Prop 8 was the big factor here. When people say, well, Prop 8 is the reason why it won, what does that mean, exactly? I think Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn was a 50/50 proposition going in. So if Prop 8 happens, I think that there are a lot of people who didn‘t say, I‘m going to vote for Sean Penn because of Prop 8. But what they might have said was, well, it‘s more on my mind now. I‘m thinking about it more carefully. I recognize the important of this in a way that I might not have before.
So if this was a year ago, maybe Sean Penn doesn‘t win. But now it‘s on people‘s minds and he does.
OLBERMANN: The overall event last night; it is amazing to consider that Michael Moore got booed for speaking out against the Iraq war at the Oscars in 2003. It‘s just six years ago. Is it the affect of six years, the changing times? Or is there also something that Hollywood would probably not want to talk about, the front-runner quality. Considering the money at stake, they‘ll cheer what is popular and boo what isn‘t?
GORDON: Never underestimate Hollywood‘s willingness to cheer whatever is popular. Yes. However, I do think there is a third option here, which is that Hollywood really doesn‘t like Michael Moore that much. It is not what you say, it is who says it and how you say it. I think Michael Moore is an example of saying something in a way that is really impolitic at a moment that Hollywood really didn‘t want to be impolitic.
I remember very vividly—I don‘t remember if it was that year or the next year, Gael Garcia Bernal giving a very eloquent, understated speech critiquing war in which he wasn‘t hectoring, he wasn‘t shouting, he wasn‘t haranguing, and the response was great.
OLBERMANN: With the critical success of “Milk” and the series of awards, is it likely that issue-oriented movies are going to be hot again? “Variety” reported they‘re going to make “Fair Game” to be a moving about the outing of Valerie Plame. Naomi Watts has been signed up and Valerie Plame and as Joe Wilson, possibly, Sean Penn.
GORDON: Yes. I‘m not going to bet on that.
GORDON: I think Hollywood is going to stick to what works. I think there was no mistaking the message that “The Dark Knight” made a billion dollars for a Hollywood studio this year. Where was it in the best picture category? Where was it in the best director category? There is still a very, very sharp division in Hollywood between the prestige movies that actors like actors like Sean Penn and Philip Seymour Hoffman and all those guys who collect Oscars want to make, and the movies in Hollywood that actually make a lot of money. Hollywood still knows which is which.
OLBERMANN: Yet, back to our original point. Lest we forget about these awards, Bill Maher presenting for best documentary, said “someday we will all have to confront the notion that our silly gods cost the world too greatly.” If they didn‘t know he was going to say that—it is not like Bill just walked on to the stage, who is this Bill Maher guy? I understand he has a cable show. They must have known something like that was likely from him. His inclusion alone, can we see that in any other terms than as a sea change?
GORDON: I think at this point, the Oscars and the people who produce them realize that there is a certain segment of the audience that they have just lost and they‘re never going to get back. Bill Maher is an admission of that fact. I think well Bill Maher said that, I think the people who produce the Oscars were congratulating themselves for never having a smart-alec comedian host the Oscars ever again, especially considering the ratings were up 13 percent thanks to Hugh Jackman from last night.
Bill Maher represents a certain part of the American viewing public that just hasn‘t watched the Oscars. I mean, the viewership for this show is—let‘s not beat around the bush. Women watch it and gay men watch it. It is a very popular audience between those two. Everyone else is watching LeBron James on TNT or they‘re watching something else. They are certainly not Bill Maher fans.
OLBERMANN: Ironically, for the first time in several years, it was a pretty entertaining show last night, one way or the other.
GORDON: What are you going to do? It works for them. They got it 13 percent up. I was kind of falling asleep by the end of it. But I‘m usually falling asleep.
OLBERMANN: Anything with a boom goes the dynamite reference is worth it.
GORDON: I‘m just glad I got through this without making one.
OLBERMANN: Devin Gordon, senior editor at “Newsweek,” thanks for coming in.
GORDON: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,116
Until then, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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