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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, February 25

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guest: Paul Krugman, Daniel Gross, Craig Crawford, Margaret Carlson

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

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

The day after President Obama‘s epic speech, there is an unexpected headline.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, ® LOUISIANA:  Let me tell you a story.


OLBERMANN:  Governor Bobby Jindal‘s story of witnessing Katrina rescues prevented because of red tape over insurance.  It looks like he made it up.


JINDAL:  Before I knew it, he was yelling on the phone, “Congressman Jindal‘s here, and he says you can come and arrest him, too!”  Harry just told those boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people.


OLBERMANN:  And, unfortunately, that was the best part of the Republican response.  The reviews: “Sing-songy—childish,” FOX News.  “Jindal didn‘t have a chance,” Charles Krauthammer.  “A disaster for the Republican Party,” David Brooks.  “I love Bobby Jindal, and that did not change after last night,” Rush Limbaugh.

So, it‘s unanimous.  All in the reviews from a thousand places on the Internet, he is “Kenneth the Page.”


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who told you that?


OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe on the Obama/Jindal contrast.  And how the new GOP would deal with the economy with Paul Krugman—as he put it: “The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.”

Senator Leahy‘s “truth and reconciliation” commission: He announces a preliminary hearing, but Speaker Pelosi announces to Rachel that she has one big doubt.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER:  I don‘t think we should be giving them immunity.


OLBERMANN:  Putting the twit in Twitter: GOP Congressman Joe Barton‘s tweet, “Aggie basketball game is about to start.  For those of you that aren‘t going to bother watching Pelosi smirk for the next hour.”

Can the Republicans handle the new technology or should they stick to

the telegraph.

And, which of these dogs is the new first pooch?

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘d think they‘d want to breed them bigger, wouldn‘t you?  Like grapefruits or watermelons.


OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening from New York.

Hey, how about that Bobby Jindal speech, huh?  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Now that he‘s given a Republican response slammed by apparently all but one Republican, what‘s he going to do now?  He‘s going to Disney World—seriously—taking the family to Orlando.  At least that‘s his story, and unfortunately, his story last night—the linchpin anecdote—apparently not true.

Meet the Republican Party‘s new best hope to defeat President Obama in 2012.  Sorry, Governor Palin.  The 37-year-old governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, is adopting the mantle of something last night.  He was already out on something of a limb as a Republican seeming to cite the Bush administration‘s response to Hurricane Katrina as the reason not to trust President Obama on the economy now.  But what he said next was more curious still.

The governor is telling the story about a purported visit to the office of Harry Lee, then the sheriff of Jefferson Parish in the storm‘s immediate aftermath.


JINDAL:  During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine.  He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters.  The boats were all lined up ready to go—when some bureaucrat showed up and told them that they couldn‘t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration.

And I told him, “Sheriff, that‘s ridiculous.”  Before I knew it, he was yelling in the phone, “Congressman Jindal‘s here, and he says you can come and arrest him, too.”  He told those boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people.


OLBERMANN:  One small problem, every public account placing then Congressman Jindal right after the storm, not in Jefferson Parish, but about 75 miles away in Baton Rouge.  When he did tour the immediate disaster area, he did so by air, flying over it.  And in May 2008, Mr.  Jindal telling a story of having talked with the sheriff about bureaucracy and boats but no mentioned of having done so in person.  Conveniently, there is no way to confirm the account with Sheriff Harry Lee.  He died in October 2007.

Another problem for Governor Jindal, widespread criticism of his speech last night from conservatives including “New York Times” columnist David Brooks, who called the substance of Jindal‘s “government is the problem” argument a disaster for the Republican Party.


DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES:  It‘s just a disaster for the Republican Party.  The country is in a panic now.  They may not like the way the Democrats have passed the stimulus bill.  But the idea that we‘re just going—that government is going to have no role, the federal government has no role in this, that—in a moment when only the federal government is big enough to actually do stuff, to just ignore all that and just say, “Government is a problem, corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending,” it‘s just a form of nihilism.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Brooks, not alone.  Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer, Juan Williams, Jim Geraghty of the “National Review,” just a few of the many on the right voicing their disapproval.  Comedian Rush Limbaugh, who was referred to Mr. Jindal as the next Ronald Reagan, however, he all but threatened all of them for going after Jindal.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  But the people on our side are really making a mistake if they go after Bobby Jindal on the basis of style, because if you think—people on our side I‘m talking to you, those of you who think Jindal was horrible, you think—in fact, I don‘t want to hear from you ever again.  If you think that Bobby Jindal was bad and what he said was wrong or not said well, because, folks, style is not going to take our country back.  Solid conservatism articulated in a way that‘s inspiring and understanding is what‘s going to take the country back.


OLBERMANN:  Well, now that Mr. Limbaugh has reduced the conservative movement to one guy, time now to call in our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.


OLBERMANN:  Did Mr. Limbaugh conflate there, I mean, substance and style?  Because David Brooks was definitely going after the substance of Jindal‘s remark, the premise of his article; others went after his style.  But Limbaugh appeared to be defending both of these things when he said, “If you think that Bobby Jindal was bad or what he said was wrong or not said well.”

WOLFFE:  Well, Keith, you know, I can understand where Bobby Jindal is coming from.  You see, my father, like his and like the president of the United States, came from a distant land far away across the seas.


WOLFFE:  A continent where we have supermarkets but no goods in the aisles.  And he took me down the aisle one day and he said, “Son, if you ever use one of these stories, it means you are all out of stories.”


WOLFFE:  This wasn‘t just about substance.  It wasn‘t just about style, even though the spiritual leader of the movement says it was just style.  Look, the key story here, apart from the impoverished state that his father grew up in, the key story was about a government official, a sheriff, whose salary is paid for by the public purse arguing with bureaucrats from the federal government run by a Republican president.  None of it makes sense.

OLBERMANN:  There was, however, the element of style, which is part of politics.  And one criticism that was so prevalent that it now has its own Facebook group is titled “Bobby Jindal is Kenneth the Page.”  And there are more than 2,800 members here.  Is that, I mean, serious bad news for somebody who might be hoping to look presidential to cultivate some sort of measure of gravitas?

WOLFFE:  Kenneth Page runs for president?

Look, Gravitas is something you need if you are desperate.  And I think, actually, the problem here for Bobby Jindal was that he was trying too hard to find the gravitas.  The hall “walk around the corner” that Chris Matthews loved so much.


WOLFFE:  The stripped tie, the red and white striped tie, the folksy stories, the father from overseas.  Hell, he even talked about the American scope of narrative of history as if he was Barack Obama, only, the comparisons were just awful.  And I guess you could have some sympathy and say, well, he didn‘t have a cheering crowd in front of him.  But cheering or not, this was—this was a disaster.

OLBERMANN:  If you are planning out Republican strategy for the presidential election of 2012 or even just contemplating it, where is the Republican bench between what happened to Governor Jindal last night and the not self-destruction of Governor Palin, she seems indestructible, but she certainly doesn‘t seem as formidable as she would have eight months ago?

WOLFFE:  Look, they are all trying too hard.  At some point, you just have to take stock and say, “What do we stand for,” as opposed to saying, “Who is going to be the next candidate?”  The election is too far away.  This was too personal a pitch for Jindal, saying, instead of responding to the policies, trying to make a pitch for himself.  Sarah Palin, of course, had her own wonderful TV moment or two.

If you are not ready for primetime and these people surely meet that definition, then you can actually ruin a career that had some promise and potential.  I think Governor Jindal probably did have some potential.  That‘s all gone.

OLBERMANN:  Well, devil‘s advocate though on this, I mean, as recently as Monday of this week, Governor Jindal got high marks in the wake of his appearance on “Meet the Press.”  I mean, could that have been a bad night, a bad reading.  Could he have teleprompter disease, Richard?

WOLFFE:  No.  I think it is more serious.  You know, you can have one bad moment or two, but as Sarah Palin showed with Katie Couric and everybody else, if it is indelible, if people never forget it, if this is what you go down for as a national joke, then there is no way back.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, on fire tonight, and himself a veritable huddle mass yearning to be free.  Thank you, sir.

WOLFFE:  Please.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  But wait, there is more.  Governor Jindal‘s Hurricane Katrina anecdote that likely did not happen, only one apparent misstep in last night‘s Republican response.  Remember his claim that volcano monitoring program are wasteful government spending?

The U.S. Geological Survey is saying that an active volcano in Alaska, the Redoubt Volcano, which last erupted in 1989, has been threatening to erupt since late January.  Scientists can‘t pinpoint exactly when it‘s going to blow because of a GPS network has not been put in place in there due to lack of funds.  In 1980, the eruption of Mount St. Helens in the shadow of Portland, Oregon, killed 57 Americans and darkened the sky for months.

The economic substance of Governor Jindal‘s plan to fix the economy in turmoil (ph), the same old Republican song and dance about tax cuts and more tax cuts and more tax cuts after that.

Let‘s turn to Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, also, of course, columnist for the “New York Times,” and an economics professor at Princeton.

Doctor Krugman, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  All right.  To the Republican response last night, its absolute best argument that what he is doing—what Obama is doing is wrong and they can do better.  What did you take away from that?

KRUGMAN:  I don‘t think there was much of an argument there.  I mean, it really has, you know, I said it was Beavis and Butthead.  They find things that sound silly if you don‘t actually know anything.  So, volcano monitoring—why would you want to monitor a volcano?  Because it might erupt and kill a lot of people.

But they are basically reduced to just picking out a few things, or, in some cases, just making thing up—you know, the salt marsh mouse thing on the stimulus, and say, “This is stupid.  See, government is stupid.  Cut taxes.”  It‘s not much of an argument.

OLBERMANN:  And the train, he brought in the big train last night, the magnetic levitation train that‘s running from Disneyland to some casino on the strip in Vegas.  That‘s another one that isn‘t .

KRUGMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  . based in reality, correct?

KRUGMAN:  Yes, that‘s right.  There is $8 billion in the stimulus for high speed rail transit.  One of the things that somebody somewhere wants to talk about, but is not in the bill was high speed trains from L.A. to Las Vegas, which is not actually stupid, actually, that‘s a pretty busy corridor.  But anyway, it‘s not in the bill.

And, you know, he talks about magnetic levitation because, I guess, he or his speechwriter thought that sounded funny.  It‘s actually—it‘s high tech.  It‘s something that the United States is going to want to use eventually.  We are actually kind of falling behind other countries on that technology.

OLBERMANN:  And he did not mention that one of those other train corridors under consideration would run right through John Boehner‘s district in Ohio by the way.  But to the ..

KRUGMAN:  Yes, right.

OLBERMANN:  . to TARP and the president last night, he said it‘s going to be administered differently going forward.  Does that mean—is that code for nationalization of the banks eventually sooner or later?

KRUGMAN:  Not if you listen to what Ben Bernanke said in his congressional testimony, not if you looked at the interview that Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, just did.  I‘ve got a bad feeling about this, as do a number of people.

I was just reading testimony from Adam Posen, who‘s our leading expert on Japan.  He said, you know, we are—we‘re moving right in the track of the Japanese during the 1990s, propping up zombie banks, just not doing resolution.

There‘s a—I was very happy with the president‘s speech.  The actual implementation on financial policy looks like the kind of failure of nerve.

OLBERMANN:  Are you seeing a coordinated strategy in this on how to handle the economic crisis?  Is there a grand plan at this point?

KRUGMAN:  There is—no.  I mean, there is good stuff.  The stimulus is good, it should be bigger, but it‘s good.  On the banks, I really can‘t see.  There really seems to be, we are going to put in some more money, we‘re going to, you know, say stern things to the bankers about how they should behave better, but if there is a strategy there, it‘s continuing to be a mystery to me and to everybody I talk to.

OLBERMANN:  Of all the mysteries of economics to us laymen, the idea that confidence is actually a tangible thing, that it is important for a president to, in fact, talk the economy up to the people who make the economy happen.  Is it—is it true, is it measurable and did he do it last night?

KRUGMAN:  Well, you know, it‘s—we could ask people.  There are confidence indices, which were supposed to measure it.  And look, it matters, but, you know, you can‘t be created out of thin air.  It is true that if you have—you could have good fundamentals.  You can actually have a good plan but if you do a lousy job of selling it, panic can destroy it.

This is why FDR with his “The Fear Itself” speech mattered, because he actually had a plan to get the banks, bank holiday, all that, but he also needed to calm people down, which he did.  But confidence by itself won‘t rescue you if you haven‘t got the fundamentals straight.  If you really have banks that are deeply under water and you don‘t have an effective plan to fix them, then confidence is not enough.

So, that was a very encouraging speech.  It sounded like a president who knows what he‘s talking about.  But we need some more substance on the actual plans.

OLBERMANN:  And the premise of—as it has been the premise for presidents since at least Lincoln saw the Civil War as an opportunity to restructure the nation in some finer form—the idea of restructuring the economy in finer form, is it, indeed, an opportunity?

KRUGMAN:  Oh, sure.  I think, in some ways, some of the things, people saying we are never going to get health care reform given the trouble in the economy.  Actually, the troubles in the economy highlight the need for a guarantee of healthcare for every American.  And that was the really good news.

Today, by the way, it appears that Obama really is going to put substantial funds behind universal health care.  So, this is good.

OLBERMANN:  The Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman—as always, a little bit of education.  Thank you, sir.

KRUGMAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Another economic question: Why would a major investment firm announce retention awards for its brokers based on how much money they generated in 2008?  Because retention awards are euphemisms for 2008 bonuses deferred until 2010, so one bailed out firm can claim it is not using bailout money for bonuses.  And the identity of that bailed out investment house?  Oh, come on, I have to save something for after the commercial.


OLBERMANN:  “We must demand strict accountability,” the president said of the bailed out banking and investment industries, “starting at the top, executives who violate the public trust must be held accountable.”  Well, we can probably start with the major investment house which is trying to disguise bonuses based on 2008 performance as retention awards for 2010.

Later: Twitter—the new way for Republicans to stumble over new technology.

And In “Bushed,” 37 days after it left office, the Bush administration has a new scandal tonight involving nursing homes and why it‘s suddenly more difficult for you to sue them if necessary.

All that and more—ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  When the water main to your house is broken, you will not

improve things by simply pumping more water through it.  Yet that has been

the U.S. government approach to fixing the America‘s crippled credit system

pumping more money into corroded, corrupted pipes—the banks. 

Tonight, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: With banks executives acting as though the government built them a water park, President Obama today went before the cameras with the plunger and a—all right, enough with the metaphors.

The specifics are yet to come, as Paul Krugman noted, in part because the global financial system is expected to get a massive overhaul when Obama meets with the leaders of 20 industrialized nations in April.  But financial regulation is on the way.  The president is ordering up legislation that will tighten, streamline and close gaps in the system that was systematically undone for the financial benefit of those at the top.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  While free markets are the key to our progress, they do not give us free license to take whatever we can get.  To rebuild trust in our markets, we must redouble our efforts to promote openness, transparency, and plain language throughout our financial system.  We must demand strict accountability starting at the top.  Executives who violate the public trust must be held responsible.


OLBERMANN:  Executives violating the public trust?

Yesterday, Neil Barofsky, Obama‘s special inspector general for $700 billion bank bailout, testified that banks receiving government help have been asked what they are doing with all that taxpayer money.  Fewer than 5 percent even replied.  Nineteen out of 20 banks taking taxpayer funds, are telling taxpayers, go climb a rope.

Some executives like Morgan Stanley‘s James Gorman telling financial advisers last week that if they stay on at the firm‘s joint brokerage venture with Citigroup, they will get retention awards—do not call them bonuses—that could total $3 billion.  Morgan Stanley and Citi having helped themselves to $55 billion in taxpayer funds, even as other bailout recipients, namely Wells Fargo, decided last week not to offer retention—

I‘m sorry—awards to their brokers.

Let‘s turn now to “Newsweek‘s” senior editor, Dan Gross, also author of “Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation.”

Dan, thanks again for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  All right.  Morgan Stanley and Citi say these retention awards, not bonuses, they don‘t go out until next January.  So, they won‘t be using TARP funds, they won‘t be using bailout money.  Is that accurate and should we give a rat‘s?

GROSS:  Well, look, this is one of the—they‘re going to have to settle on a story for this.


GROSS:  Because this notion that they took the TARP money and they put it in this pot over here and all the stuff that‘s unpopular like, you know, sponsoring Shea Stadium or going on a junket or buying a jet or paying out bonuses, comes from some other pot over here is absurd because cash, as you noted, is like water at these banks.  It can slosh from one place to the other.  So, either they are going to have to say, “Look, we are using the TARP money in some way in this form and there‘s a very good reason to do this for our business.”

OLBERMANN:  Is the cover story even valid, Dan?  I mean, is the economic climate good enough in the economics business that there really is still mass migration of brokers from firm to firm?

GROSS:  Well, here‘s an example.  As opposed to the compensation of CEOs and traders and investment bankers, where there isn‘t much of a market for their services, with brokers, it kind of does make sense—because these are functional business.  This is—you know, a stockbroker who‘s got 100 clients, and maybe together, they have $50 million in assets and he generates income for the firm because those people trade and pay management fees.  That‘s still a good business even though stocks are off 50 percent, because they‘re not going anywhere.

And basically, a broker can decide after a year or after two years to take his group of people and the business that they generate and walk across the street.  It happens all the time on Wall Street.  So, these bonuses—I mean, retention awards, is how they pay people and the promise, it‘s like, you know, you‘ve got to keep coming through the rest of the year because next January, you are going to get a lot of money.  That‘s how they respond.

So, there is some rational business purpose for these retention bonus, premium, gift, perks.


The vice president today warned public officials that if they misuse stimulus funds, he will use his position to shame them.  Historically, how does shame work as a big political motivator when weighed against billions of dollars?

GROSS:  Well, look, if we have to rely upon shame to get people to do the right thing economically, I‘m going to go buy some 50-pound sack of rice and start growing some vegetables because it‘s going to be, it‘s .


GROSS:  . going to be a long, long night.  You know, public officials seem to be uniquely immune to shame—Blagojevich, Burris, David Vitter.  But more generally, our culture seems all about people not having any shame, whether it‘s Paris Hilton or many of our athletes who use steroids and then go on to play.  So, I think we better get some tools other than shame.

OLBERMANN:  The Obama announcement today about re-regulating all of this.  Does he get that Roosevelt rules were systematically undone in the last eight years, particularly to profit the rich and he‘s just too bipartisan to say that, or do we need to worry that he‘s going to leave some daylight between the cracks here, enough for new so-called “shadow markets” to emerge?

GROSS:  Well, this has been one of the puzzling things about Obama, because he‘s been very direct.  He has this big mandate and yet, when it comes to kind of bringing down the hammer on Wall Street, he‘s hesitated and so have many of the people surrounding him.

And the only think I can think of is that, you know, since 1981, which is basically the professional and adult lives of all the people around the Obama administration, Wall Street has gotten what it has wanted from Washington when it comes to regulation.  So, there is a sense that this is the operating system.  We kind of take our orders from them, do what they say because it‘s good for the economy and it‘s worked out.  That has clearly changed.

So, I think there will be clear regulation.  Wall Street always manages to find a way to get around them.  And they‘re going to kick and scream and yell about this.  You know, in the ‘30s, they cried bloody murder about the SEC, the FDIC, all these things that actually turned out to be really great for them.  I don‘t think it‘s going to be any different this time around.

OLBERMANN:  And, in fact, the way they called murder and cried murder was to call all those things elements of socialism.

GROSS:  Absolutely.

OLBERMANN:  So, nothing is new on this front.

Dan Gross of “Newsweek”—great thanks as always, sir.

GROSS:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  So, hey, why is that guy wearing a scarf on his chin and tied around his—oh, that‘s not a scarf.

And, percentage-wise, how much do you think Bill O‘Reilly exaggerated the average salary of a union autoworker to make them look bad?  Ten percent?  Twenty percent?  Twenty-seven percent?  You‘ll find out in Worst Persons—ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and the Florida Wildlife Commission meets Doctor Evil.

First, on this date in 1937 was born CBS newsman, Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation” since 1991, but around here, always known as “The Gentleman,” who stayed up until about 6:00 a.m. so he could join us repeatedly from Paris—the night we lost his and our friend Tim Russert.

Let‘s play Oddball.


OLBERMANN:  We begin in Chandar (ph), India, where this fellow has a whole lot of hair on his head, and it‘s not connected where you think it is.  Ramavatar Das (ph) has not trimmed his beard since he was 17.  He is now 52.  His salt and pepper beard is seven feet long.  Somebody call Clyde Frazier because Ramavatar needs a whole lot of Rejuvenator. 

Mr Das keeps the beard wrapped under his hat when he‘s not showing it off.  He has hopes of one day breaking the Guinness record for beard length.  That‘s 17 feet.  Oddball statisticians predict at this rate, Mr.  Das will snatch the title at age 104, unless he starts juicing with Rogaine.  Good luck to you, Ramavatar. 

Let‘s go under the sea, where we will meet the Barrel Eye Fish, the fish with the invisible skull.  Found in the deep sea, its transparent noodle causes the fish to be super-sensitive to light and have a constant headache.  Ow.  Ow. 

On the other hand, this thing just breezes through airport security.  Scientists discovered the fish 50 years ago, but they have just been able to figure out what all of the goo inside the fish does.  Those two green things in there are fully rotating eyes, which are supported by a big blob of jelly-like fluid.  And this just in, the Barrel Eye Fish has just got its own syndicated talk show from Clear Channel Communications Radio. 


OLBERMANN:  Remember, you can‘t spell Twitter without T-W-I-T.  Republicans success using the new medium during the president‘s speech, not so hot. 

And are we on the verge of getting a first dog?  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best dumb criminal, international, 53 year old car thief in Adelaide in Australia, broke into a car and was found right there by the cops because he somehow locked himself in the car.

Number two, best dumb criminal, domestic, three teenagers from Texas township, Michigan, arrested in Birmingham, Alabama for trying to spend money they had stolen from one of their parents.  How did anybody figure that out?  Well, they went to a bank in Birmingham to break a 1,000 dollar bill.  This country has not made 1,000 dollar bills since 1945.  They had stolen dad‘s antique paper currency collection. 

Number one, best movie scene come to life, Lindsey Hord, crocodile response coordinator for Florida‘s Fishing and Wildlife Commission.  His experiment to stop crocs who have been removed from residential areas from returning to those neighborhoods, screwing up their inner homing mechanisms by taping magnets to their heads.  You know, I have one simple requests, and that is to have crocs with fricking magnets attached to their head.  Would you remind me what I pay you people for?  Honestly, throw me a bone here. 


OLBERMANN:  As President Obama gave his joint address to Congress last night, Republicans were looking to cook up a response—I‘m not referring to Governor Jindal‘s televised rebuttal.  They needed something big, something akin to the Reagan revolution, something like the Gingrich revolution of 1994.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the next Republican uprising will be Twitterized. 

More than a few heads buried in Blackberries yesterday evening, texting their way through the president‘s address.  Some Republicans are banking on the messaging service as the future of the party.  Congressman John Culberson of Texas noting that technology is, quote, the next revolution that is going to take back Congress. 

Bring in former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, telling his Twittering class of conservatives to use micro-blogging to attack the Dems.  Here is what he Twittered during President Obama‘s address: “nobody messes with Joe and the smiles and Nancy handshake resembled a Democratic pep rally, not a State of the Union.  Sophomoric and silly.” 

For the record, it really wasn‘t a State of the Union, Newt.  The president only gives a State of the Union address after his first full year in office. 

Then Mr. Gingrich offered up this Tweet, “Speaker Pelosi standing up to applaud the private jet line while she flies around in a government jet at taxpayer expense verges on bizarre.” 

Actually, Speaker Pelosi‘s jet is the same security precaution that was extended to Speaker Hastert after the 9/11 attacks.  Notably, Speaker Pelosi said she was more than willing to travel commercial. 

But not all Republicans Twitter alike.  At around the same time the president spoke of pulling the country together, Congressman Joe Barton of Texas Twittered this, “Aggie basketball game is about to start on ESPN2 for those of you that aren‘t going to bother watching Pelosi smirk for the next hour.” 

Minutes later, “disregard that last Tweet, from a staffer.” 

Revolutionary indeed. 

Time to call in our own political analyst, Craig Crawford, also of  Good evening, Craig. 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM:  Hey, as if we needed more twits from


OLBERMANN:  You do this with the Twitter thing.  If Congressman Barton is letting staffers put out his Tweets for him, hasn‘t he missed the point of the process? 

CRAWFORD:  Yes.  I mean, I haven‘t been doing it long, but long enough to pick up on sort of the ethos of Twittering.  It really ought to be real, and it ought to be relatively pleasant.  But unfortunately, like most Internet phenomenon, the bigger they get, the more they get away from their founding principles.  So it stands to reason politicians are going to use it. 

OLBERMANN:  What is long in this world?  Eight months and not long, or reasonably is eight days or what? 

CRAWFORD:  I think it has a half-life.  The thing about Twitter is it sort of like a public square.  All kinds of people come.  A Twitter pal of mine pointed out, you have your wandering minstrels, and your town criers, vendors and frauds.  You can follow anybody you want.  So if there are people you don‘t want to read, you don‘t have to follow them. 

OLBERMANN:  I already have a sense that too many people are following me as it is.  So I have sort of avoided this.  But about Mr. Gingrich—

CRAWFORD:  Well, a lot of Twitters, a lot of your fans out there are clamoring for you to start Twittering. 

OLBERMANN:  Honestly, I signed up and I couldn‘t figure it out.  I swear to god that is true.  Let me ask you about Newt Gingrich, which is of more interest.  The another missed point I would think is this, if you say something dumb to your colleagues, like you call the president‘s joint address a State of the Union when it isn‘t, well, big deal.  Everybody does that.  We all thought that at some point last night.  But if you suddenly put out what is, in effect, a mass e-mail with this mistake in it, it‘s forever. 

CRAWFORD:  Yes.  You can delete it, but it still sort of sticks out there and you can‘t edit them.  It is important to be a bit careful.  That is the problem.  They are so fast and people sit on their phones and type with their thumbs.  There are going to be mistakes made of content and typos, and they‘re hard to pull back.  But people have to remember, when you have a lot of people following you and you‘re saying these things, you know, it‘s like singing in the shower for all the Internets to watch. 

OLBERMANN:  I was asked about Twitter the other night, and I spoke some heresy.  I said, frankly, I love my colleague David Gregory, but I am not interested in knowing when he has just had a bagel.  Does this new means of social networking have an actual shelf life of politics or do people who see this as a revolution of any sort over-rating its long-term impact? 

CRAWFORD:  I follow David and I actually saw that and thought, geez, I haven‘t had a bagel in a while.  And I thought, I might get one.  He‘s stimulating the economy.  But the idea is that, you know, it is a natural place for politics because like-minded people follow each other, follow their leaders, share ideas.  My only concern about a lot of this stuff is we have enough of a problem with people only wanting to hear what they want to hear, and not listening to the other side.  And I think this is probably a conduit for exacerbating that problem.  But it is wide open place.  Like I say, a public square and you can follow or unfollow anybody you want. 

OLBERMANN:  Do we want our elected representatives using company time, as it were, to Twitter rather than, say, solving the economy? 

CRAWFORD:  I think it is a good thing for voters and citizens to get some access to the personal lives of these politicians, a little more of a direct connection.  It depends on how they use it.  I think Claire McCaskill, senator from Missouri, uses it quite well.  Some people think it is a little goofy, I guess.  You get a sense of what her day is like and what she is really thinking and who she really is.  And I don‘t think, in the long run, that really hurts.

OLBERMANN:  If it is personal and it is not Joe Barton‘s staffer, I think maybe you‘re really right about that. 

CRAWFORD:  Yes, I think that is important. 

OLBERMANN:  Craig Crawford of, apparently this was Twittered as we were speaking by CQPolitics.  There you go. 

CRAWFORD:  Infinite loop. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Craig. 

The tentative selection of the first dog; what on Earth does it have to do with Senator Kennedy?  And what on Earth does this man have to do with the truth?  Confronted with the magical Las Vegas train not in the stimulus package, he says it is just hidden. 

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, investi-gate.  Senator Pat Leahy today announcing a hearing next Wednesday for his Senate Judiciary Committee, titled “Getting To The Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry.”  It is, in his office‘s words, to explore ideas on how best to establish a commission to study past national security policies.  As Jonathan Turley keeps pointing out, there is one problem with the so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission idea, it usually ends up with everyone getting immunity and nobody getting prosecuted. 

He is not the only one worried about it.  Today Rachel got an exclusive interview with Speaker of the House Pelosi, who is not high on this political immunization vaccine. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  Senator Leahy as a proposal truth and reconciliation commission, which is a good idea.  What I have some concern about though is it has immunity.  And I think that some of the issues involved here, like politicizing of the Justice Department arrest, may have criminal ramifications, and I don‘t think we should be giving them immunity. 


OLBERMANN:  The rest of Rachel Maddow‘s interview with the speaker on prosecuting Bush and a host of other topics coming up when she joins you at the top of the hour. 

Number two, Rove-gate.  Where was Karl Rove Monday when he was scheduled to answer the House Judiciary Committee‘s subpoena?  We know he was not at the Judiciary Committee.  In still murky circumstances, obviously suggesting negotiations on-going with his attorneys, the committee said suddenly, it was not planning on hearing from Rove Monday after all.  It could have sent a representative to Schaumburg, Illinois, where Mr. Rove testified to a Republican fund-raiser. 

Number one, nursing home-gate.  This is a brand new one, a last-minute Bush rule change that was not revealed until yesterday, when “Bloomberg News” ferreted it out.  Without public notice, the president designated state nursing home inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors for nursing homes as federal employees.  So?  Well, federal employees are not usually allowed to give evidence in private lawsuits.  In other words, if your grandmother dies in a nursing home, where the federal inspector has warned of deplorable, life threatening conditions in her room, and you sue, the federal inspector can no longer testify and you have to jump through even more hoops now just to get his report. 

In other words, on his way out the door, Mr. Bush just took a 144 billion dollar industry that can only grow as time goes by and he virtually immunized it from civil suits.  And for 36 days after the Bush presidency ended, nobody knew about it.  Attorneys specializing in nursing home legislation were flat-footed and dumbfounded about this news.  So if you want to know why we still do this segment every night, and why, to refer back to Senator Leahy‘s idea, a truth and reconciliation commission may not do the job, here‘s the perfect example: out of office for more than a month and George W. Bush is still damaging this nation.  New ways, his is the unmarked land mine field of presidencies. 


OLBERMANN:  Our long national nightmare may soon be over.  The selection of a presidential dog may be imminent, thank goodness.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Michael Calderon at  He reported thusly last night, “as MSNBC led into Bobby Jindal‘s response tonight, you can hear an MSNBC host or producer, which to me sounded like Keith Olbermann, mutter oh, god just as the Louisiana governor walks out.” 

He reported later last night, “my initial reaction, similar to many who emailed, is that Olbermann was speaking, but it‘s not 100 percent clear from the clip.” 

He reported today, “after some confusion over who muttered oh, god last night on MSNBC, I reported this morning that it was Chris Matthews, not Keith Olbermann.” 

Compare this to the website, which reported only what it could confirm, quote, “an MSNBC producer or host was heard off-camera muttering, oh, god.”  Mr. Calderon, you guessed.  You guessed wrong.  You pretended you got it right.  You owe me an apology.  And to Mr. Harris and Vandehei, who run, if you let your columnists guess, you will become known as a website full of not experts, but guessers.  In this case, bad guessers. 

The runner up, Bill-O the clown, who evidently just got the talking points telling him to lie about union salaries in Detroit.  “You know, when you add up all of the perks, it comes to 70 dollars an hour for auto workers.  The Democratic party is beholden to them.  All right, so everybody getting the picture here?” 

Yes, you‘re full of crap.  Barclays capital, the investment bank, kind of pro management, studied UAW salaries and benefits and concluded, at most, they average 55 bucks an hour, not 70.  It was in Murdoch‘s own paper, Billy, the “Wall Street Journal.”

Speaking of bald-face liars, our winner is the Manatee.  After Obama‘s speech last night, he interviewed Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, and he told Sestak that the stimulus package contains 9,000 earmarks.  Sestak challenged Hannity to name one.  “The salt harvest marsh mouse that gets $30 million, the railway from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.” 

Sestak‘s response, “those words are absolutely not in the bill, and you know it.” 

Hannity‘s answer, “yes, of course, because you hide it.  But we know where the money is going.”  He then told Sestak, you sound like Bill Clinton.  I did not have sex with that woman.  That is where the money is going. 

The money for high-speed rail might wind up, in fact, being spent in the district of House Republican Leader John Boehner, as I mentioned earlier.  There is nothing in the bail out for mice.  But Hannity knows the truth.  “We know where the money is going.”  Where the money is going.  Sean, you do not know your ass from your elbow.  Sean, it‘s true because I made it up, Hannity, today‘s worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN:  The winning idea apparently may have been planted on the very day that Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States.  In our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, what kind of dog the Obamas will get for their daughters Malia and Sasha. 

Michelle Obama has made her decision, a Portuguese Water Dog.  But her office tonight says hers is only one of four votes in the Obama family.  The First Lady breaking the timing, if not the final choice of breed to “People Magazine,” that the Obama‘s promise to their two girls will be fulfilled in April.  And she offered an example of typical family dialogue on the subject.

Sasha, “April 1st.”  Mrs. Obama, “April.”  Mrs. Obama, “April.”  Sasha, “April 1st.”  Mrs. Obama, “got to do it after Spring Break.  You can‘t get a new dog and then go away for a week.” 

The first lady saying the family would be looking for a rescue Portuguese Water  meaning one from a shelter, a key consideration.  The particular breed is hypo-allergenic, another requirement. 

Its greatest advocate, quote possibly, the lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy.  He has two such dogs, Sunny and Splash.  He reportedly suggested the breed to the Obamas on Inauguration Day, when the First Lady and her daughters visited him on the Capitol dais. 

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


OLBERMANN:  So the first lady also acknowledged overwhelming public response on this, which is to put it mildly.  She said it was surprising.  She said it was also great and gracious attention.  Is this a healthy national sort of national distraction?  Is the country going to go through some sort of withdraw when everybody realizes this is not a 787 billion dollars stimulus solving dog? 

CARLSON:  Well 787 billion would be an awful lot of Alpo.  The dog is shovel ready, in that Michelle Obama made a point of saying that the girls will be taking care of the dog.  They will have their own scoops and will be going around with plastic bags picking up.  They‘ll be doing the scoop the poop.  Unlike, by the way, Barney, the Bushes had people to go around after Barney. 

OLBERMANN:  I was just going to say, you generalized that to the Republican party, but let‘s leave that out of this part of the conversation. 

CARLSON:  This is not a political segment. 

OLBERMANN:  A couple of details, though.  The dog has got to be old enough and he‘s got to be a match for the family dynamic.  Apparently, Mrs.  Obama approves of this breed‘s size.  It‘s not too big, not too small, likes the temperament.  Does it sound, to you—I know it‘s not a political segment.  But does it sound to you they did more vetting about the dog than they did on the secretary of commerce? 

CARLSON:  Well, the first word out of the White House about the dog for a long time came on the day that the secretary of Commerce was announced.  I think it was only slightly easier than coming up with Gary Locke for that position.  The PETA people came in strongly, saying you can‘t bring a new dog in.  It has to be a shelter dog.  I thought they might escape that because they are little girls.  They want a puppy.  They don‘t want waiting forever to happen to find a dog at the shelter. 

However, Mrs. Obama said a rescue dog.  Now isn‘t the Portuguese Water Dog a rescue dog, so maybe it doesn‘t mean it is coming from a shelter. 

OLBERMANN:  I think they were very specific about it.  It might be a double rescue, a dog capable of rescue who itself is being rescues.  Of course, the next hurdle here is naming this.  The first lady told “People Magazine” she finds some of the her daughter‘s suggestions for names bad, like Frank and Moose.  A, does this become the next great debate we can talk about, and B, what‘s wrong with Frank or Moose? 

CARLSON:  Well, as we are withdrawing from the debate over the dog, we can obsess over this.  It reminds me, the Clintons were going to Martha‘s Vineyard for their vacation.  It wasn‘t going very well, so they had it polled where they should go, and they ended up in Wyoming on horses.  Do you remember that year?  You could Twitter it. 

Keith, I took this segment so seriously.  I went and looked up the most popular dog names. 

OLBERMANN:  Really? 

CARLSON:  Lady, Lucky, Buddy, Tiger.  I was very disturbed to learn that the seventh most popular dog name is Maggie. 


CARLSON:  I am called that by some people, and I wonder if they are confusing picking a nickname that I‘m going to have to change very soon. 

OLBERMANN:  Keith was not on that list.  OK, so at least I don‘t share your concern.

CARLSON:  No, but Chief was. 


CARLSON:  It rhymes with Keith.   

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I know it does.  First Moose and Tiger.  Would a dog that was called by another animal‘s name be confused as to what kind of animal it was, or does the dog not really understand that?  I don‘t know a whole lot about dogs. 

CARLSON:  If you want a friend, get a dog, Keith.  But I think it might be insulting to the dog. 

OLBERMANN:  That was either Harry or Bess Truman, parent of Margaret Truman.  Margaret Carlson of “The Week Magazine” and “Bloomberg News,” great thanks.  And good luck on helping us name the dog.

That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,118th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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