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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, April 6

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guest: Jonathan Alter, Craig Crawford

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

Spec: Politics; Policies; Government


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

Healing: The president in Turkey.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  So, let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.


OLBERMANN:  And common sense that the far-right here still fights, that it is better to have the vast rational majority of that religion of those countries fighting with us, not against us.

More healing: To let those families who want the returns of their fallen sons and daughters to be witnessed by America have that right.  We pay witness for the first time in 18 years.

Levi Johnston, her former future son-in-law versus Governor Sarah Palin—on the “Tyra Banks Show.”


TYRA BANKS, “TYRA BANKS SHOW” HOST:  So she knew that you guys were active?


BANKS:  You think she knew.

JOHNSTON:  I‘m pretty sure she probably knew.

BANKS:  How are you pretty sure she knew?

JOHNSTON:  Mom‘s pretty smart.


OLBERMANN:  This one is not smart enough not to issue a tone deaf statement reading, “We‘re disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship.”  Wait, wasn‘t that the governor‘s campaign slogan last year?

Worsts: The Spanish attorney working to indict six Bush administration officials for war crimes, Billo the clown slimes him for being convicted of collaborating with terrorists, except Billo omits the terrorists were trying to topple the sadistic, brutal dictator of Chile, General Pinochet.

And, farewell.


K. OLBERMANN:  Do you have any worry about Chuck Knoblauch either as a Yankee fan or for your own safety?

MARIE OLBERMANN, KEITH OLBERMANN‘S MOTHER:  Not really, I sympathize with him.

K. OLBERMANN:  Why do you sympathize with him?

M. OLBERMANN:  Because I‘m a little awkward at times, too.

K. OLBERMANN:  Yes.  But you‘re not—you‘re not playing second base with the Yankees, are you?

M. OLBERMANN:  Not yet.


OLBERMANN:  All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening, from New York.

“Speak softly and carry a big stick,” the African proverb that Republican President Teddy Roosevelt popularized in this country and in this world.  A quotation that some on the right are so fond of citing about which they often seem to remember only half—the big stick half.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: On the final leg of his European tour, the president putting the “speak softly” part of the U.S. foreign policy back into the equation by reaching out to the Muslim world and by doing more about North Korea than the “nothing” the Bush administration have been doing.

We begin in Ankara in Turkey, day eight of Obama‘s overseas charm offensive.  The president is choosing the east-west divide in a speech to the Turkish legislature, to send his message.


OBAMA:  I‘ve been to the G-20 summit in London, and the NATO summit in Strasbourg, and the European Union summit in Prague.  Some people have asked me if I chose to continue my travels to Ankara and Istanbul to send a message to the world.  And my answer is simple: Evet.  Yes.


OLBERMANN:  The president with more than one message—Middle East peace, elevating Turkey into the European Union.  Chief among his messages, however—an overture to the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, as opposed to say, dropping the word “crusade” on them, and threatening them and invading them.


OBAMA:  So, let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.  I also want to be clear that America‘s relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot and will not just be based upon opposition to terrorists.  We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground.  We will be respectful, even when we do not agree.  We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world—including in my own country.  The United States has been enriched by Muslim-Americans.


OLBERMANN:  Most Americans backing the president‘s desire to seek a new way forward with the Muslim world, despite the fact that nearly half in this country still hold unfavorable views of the religion.  Eighty-one percent of those surveyed in the “Washington Post” Poll believing it is important for the U.S. to improve relations with Muslim nations.

President Obama stressing that cultural understanding improved by all media, even his beloved sport, round ball.


OBAMA:  And as a basketball fan, I‘ve even noticed that Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur have got some pretty good basketball games.


OLBERMANN:  And then there is the problem of North Korea.  The president‘s visit to Prague over the weekend set against the backdrop of a long-range missile launch by Kim Jong-il.  The North Koreans are claiming the three-stage missile was fired to put a communication satellite into space, but U.S. officials are countering this was actually to test a long-range ballistic missile that could ultimately hit the United States perhaps with a nuclear weapon.  The test launch coming barely six hours before Mr.  Obama was to deliver a speech on nuclear disarmament.


OBAMA:  North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles.  This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon at the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons.  Rules must be binding, violations must be punished, words must mean something.  The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons.  Now is the time for a strong international response.



OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.

Jon, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  It seemed so radical to hear an American president say United States is not and can‘t be at a war with Islam.  Is that a clarification that needed to be made?  And is there any way to gauge how much it needed to be made?

ALTER:  Absolutely, it had to be made.  This was a huge and extremely important do-over for the United States in the Muslim world.  You know, under Bill Clinton, we had pretty good relations in that part of the world.

I think, President Bush, after 9/11, wanted to reach out to more moderate Muslims, but in pretty much everything he said, he hurt himself in that effort.  So we had a “Good versus evil, us versus them” kind of foreign policy where when you throw in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the war in Iraq, it‘s understandable why the Muslim world would get this message—that the United States did not wish them well.  So, it‘s extremely important that President Obama make this crystal clear as he did this week.

OLBERMANN:  Should it have been crystal clear to this nation for the last eight years that the U.S. was not going to succeed at containing the nuclear threat in Iran without allies in the Muslim world, rather than people just who might be if we‘re mean enough to them scared of us?

ALTER:  Yes.  Ultimatums generally don‘t work.  What works best is actually regional diplomacy—even though, you know, I personally favor much closer relations between the United States and Iran because, as Obama said during the campaign, you have to talk to your enemies.

Before you get to that, before you get to U.S./Iranian relations, have you to create a structure of peace and arms control in the region, in that part of the world.  Otherwise, you will have not just Iranian nukes, but an arms race throughout that area with perhaps Egypt and others getting nuclear weapons.  That would be a true disaster for the world.

OLBERMANN:  Jon, we heard the president also say today that many Americans have Muslims in their families, they‘ve lived in a Muslim majority country perhaps, and that he knew about this because he happened to be one of them.  The messenger today—was the messenger as important as the message?

ALTER:  Yes.  And this is something that Barack Obama has used very effectively going back to the campaign, when he would use his life story to connect to Americans.  Now, he‘s using his life story, admittedly part of that story that he didn‘t talk too much about during the campaign, to connect to Muslims and people in other parts of the world.  And it‘s extremely effective when he does this.  It establishes a connection.

Now, he knows that it‘s not everything.  He said in Strasbourg that just because my name is Barack Hussein Obama doesn‘t mean everything is going to be OK.  You know, he knows that the personal connection only takes him so far, but it‘s a start.

OLBERMANN:  But to be fair regarding the campaign, the Republican campaigns did talk about it enough for two parties.


ALTER:  Yes, that‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  This is now complete.  Eight days in Europe, it has been the charm offensive or at least the charm tour.  It is now complete.  Is there a way to grade this at this point?  Do we know the impact and what it was worth?

ALTER:  You have to give him very high marks for this trip.  Look, there were a couple things that didn‘t go so well.  He wanted the Europeans to take part in stimulus more than they did, the Germans in particular, fearing inflation like they had in the ‘20s where they took wheel barrels of cash.  They didn‘t want to get into the stimulus game, that‘s unfortunate.  So that was a setback.

But pretty much everything else about the trip went extraordinary well.  They reset relations with the Russians, big advances on getting going again with arms control; improved relations with Turkey, obviously; huge charm offensive in Europe to tamp down some of the anti-Americanism that‘s been a real problem there; even did some diplomatic work in stopping a little mini-feud between China and France, and one between Denmark and Turkey.

So, this is a lot that he got done in a relatively short period of time.  They also committed $1 trillion to the International Monetary Fund.  Good—pretty good job for a week‘s work.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—as always, sir, great job for us.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And yet there are Americans who view that which Jon Alter just listed as negatives—the president‘s vision of a world without nuclear weapons, a world where the U.S. government negotiates with its enemies, instead of just labeling them as part of an “axis of evil” and otherwise ignoring them in the hope they go away.

Newt Gingrich believing that is a, quote, “fantasy world,” even after one of those nations successfully launched a long-range missile.  In a chat with readers at, Mr. Gingrich, today, is calling the Obama administration response to the North Korean missile launch, quote, “a vivid demonstration of weakness in foreign policy.”  Only hours after the launch, he accused the president of living in that fantasy world.


NEWT GINGRICH, ® FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  The president is in a world where Hamas is firing missiles everyday into Israel, Iran is building nuclear weapons, and the North Koreas today during—basically during his speech, fired a missile.  And he has some wonderful fantasy idea that we‘re going to have a great meeting next year.

With who?  I mean, who‘s coming to this meeting?  The Pakistanis?  The Indians?  The Chinese?  The Russians?  And what are they going to promise?  And why would you believe them?

I just think it‘s very dangerous to have a fantasy foreign policy and it can get you in enormous trouble.


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell, of course, also a contributor to

Good evening, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Eight years of doing nothing about North Carolina other than sticking your tongue out and calling it evil, and the missile strike becomes Obama‘s fault and his response somehow makes us less safe?  I‘m not following it at all.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, we don‘t have similar clips to show from 2006 in October when the last time North Korea launched one of these things under President Bush‘s watch.  There are no similar clips of Newt Gingrich talking about how ineffective President Bush .


O‘DONNELL:  . was in trying to control North Korea.

You know, Keith, Newt is a political philosopher.  He has actually never been a real practitioner of government.  He is someone who can sit there and say, “This is outrageous that this is happening.”  It‘s outrageous in what he said in that clip, for example, that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.  He thinks that‘s outrageous.

He has never said and will never say this is exactly what we can and should do tomorrow to stop Iran from doing that.  That‘s what you will never hear from him.

OLBERMANN:  And, yes, if you were listening carefully and heard me talk about North Carolina as evil, I meant North Korea.  I hope you enjoyed the laugh at the blooper.  It will be explained later on in the hour.

These guys, though, Newt Gingrich and company, these are the same people who said, “Give Bush a chance in Iraq.  Let‘s see how this plays out and let him do that for five years.”  Obama got a chance to have his policy play out for what, about five days?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, yes.  I mean, speaking of fantasy worlds, they listened to President Bush gave a speech some years ago saying he wanted to see democracy all over the world.  It‘s hard to pick a more ambitious thing to hope for and an easier thing to label fantasy than that.  And they were not there.  I mean, the fantasy chorus, the Gingrich fantasy chorus never showed up for those Bush speeches.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of fantasy worlds and they‘re worlds upon worlds with Mr. Gingrich, last week, he said the U.S. should use laser beams to attack the North Korean missile preemptively before it launched.  Does he not know that the .

O‘DONNELL:  What—the U.S. has to .

OLBERMANN:  You know, does he not know that the missile defense system into which we have spent billions is still nothing more than the animation we just showed?

O‘DONNELL:  If we are to take him at his word, he does not know that. 

He does not know that we would have to go and invent the capacity to do it.  We do have—we have been working for a long time on a system to try to do this kind of thing.  Whenever we test it, it doesn‘t work, and then after the fact, you find out it didn‘t work even worse than we thought because the test had been rigged in a certain way that is revealed later.

If we had tried what Newt is suggesting, the humiliated power would have been the United States for showing its inability to carry out what it was trying to do technologically.  And by the way, Keith, it was a three-stage rocket.  It‘s very clear the second stage didn‘t work.  It was a failure; and the third stage didn‘t work, and it was a failure.

And so, right now, technologically, the North Koreans were a failure.  What Gingrich is suggesting is, “Why don‘t we jump in there and try to fail at something technologically at the same time?”

OLBERMANN:  Right.  And at this point, and the “Star Wars” system could not hit drums of smuggled cigarettes that were coming into from North Carolina.  How about for tying it together?

An interesting observation .

O‘DONNELL:  There you go.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you—from Kevin Drum at “Mother Jones.”  He had a question here.  Take away many of the specific things that Republicans have reveled in fighting against, communism, Bill Clinton and now, Islam, and what are they left with?  Who is their enemy?

The party has had an enemy in progress for at least all the time since the Second World War.  What happens to them as a party if they don‘t have an enemy?  Do they need one just to exist?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, this is Newt‘s problem.  Newt grew up in the era of Republicans having tremendous success fighting enemies, creating—in a sense, creating the image of enemies and fighting them both foreign and domestic.  The foreign was obviously the Soviet Union and “Red China,” as they used to call it.  And domestically, Keith, it was urban violence, which we know was code for a certain kind of racial politics that the Republican Party played very successfully in its terms.

And so, this is the struggle that Newt now has, is he does not know how to lead a party that doesn‘t have that kind of enemy that scares the Republican base, and that they can extend into some sort of scary language for swing voters.  This is exactly what he‘s trying to do now.

OLBERMANN:  Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSNBC and “Huffington Post”—thank you as always, sir.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All of this, of course, is ultimately about one thing—a day when we can all, all of us on this planet, live as we wish to without assuming the right or the need to impose our systems on anybody else anywhere.  It may never come.  Nor perhaps might there ever come a day when those who put their lives where our lives (ph) are don‘t ever have to return to this country with a flag draped over them.  It, too, may never come.

But we have today reached one milestone, the end of a time of confused mixture of privacy, even when privacy is not often sought and secrecy, even when secrecy hides patriotism and sacrifice.  An American serviceman came home in a coffin and we were finally permitted to witness a family‘s pain and pride—and in so doing, lifting some tiny fraction of that pain from their shoulders onto our own.


OLBERMANN:  For the first time in 18 years, the decision on whether or not the public should be permitted to see the return of our fallen soldiers is returned to their families.

You know our political system is broken when an episode of the “Tyra Banks Show” pits a governor against her former future son-in-law and past Republican Convention human prop.

And later, a farewell.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Our fourth story tonight could have been the story of any American serviceman or woman stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere in harm‘s way.  The only thing anyone knew for sure was it would be someone‘s story.

On March 19th, 2008, Air Force Staff Sergeant Phillip Myers from the 48th Civil Engineers Squadron at Royal Air Force in Lakenheath, England, received the bronze star from Lieutenant General Robert Bishop for bravery exhibited while stationed in Iraq.

On February 9th of this year, the new president said he would consider ending an 18-year-old Pentagon policy banning media coverage of the return of military caskets to the United States.  On February 26th, Defense Secretary Gates announced that a policy review group consulting veterans and military families suggested letting each family decide individually.  On Friday last, the Pentagon issued the new guidelines effective yesterday, returning that decision to the families.

On Saturday, Sergeant Myers, 30 years old from Hopewell, Virginia, was killed by an improvised explosive device near Musa Qala in Afghanistan‘s Helmand province.  His widow, the first person to be asked under the new guidelines, allowed cameras to witness her husband‘s return.  On Sunday night, she flew into Dover Air Force Base from Lakenheath in England.

At 10:30 p.m., her husband‘s plane arrived from Ramstein in Germany.  Just after 11:00 p.m. an Air Force honor guard escorted her husband‘s casket from the plane, down to the ground, into the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs.

By 11:30 p.m., it was over.

Joining us now, MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist for “Washington Post.”

Gene, good evening.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to be here tonight, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This is the first time in 18 years that we were brought into this process, that we as a nation witnessed that scene.  What do you think this means?

ROBINSON:  I think this is an important moment.  We demand enormous sacrifice from the men and women who serve in our military and from their families.  Sometimes we demand the ultimate sacrifice as we demanded of Sergeant Myers.  This is an opportunity, finally, for the nation to reflect on that and to express its gratitude and appreciation for Sergeant Myers‘ service and for the service of the other men and women who fight our wars.

OLBERMANN:  The Bush administration argued that this was an invasion of privacy.  So why would Sergeant Myers‘ widow want cameras there?

ROBINSON:  I don‘t want to put words in her mouth, and I have not seen her specifically quoted on why she decided to say yes.  I would hope that she saw it as an opportunity to allow the nation to say thank you, to allow the nation to recognize her husband‘s service, and by extension, since it has been 18 years, the service of the thousands of men and women who have died, who have been brought home in this way, have arrived at Dover unseen and unremarked.  And there‘s an emptiness and incompleteness there.  And while this certainly doesn‘t compensate, I think it gives the nation something and gives us a chance to give something back.

OLBERMANN:  Can you explain with this context of us getting to see this, both the previous rationales for not letting the families have the final word on this, and also how the policy originated?

ROBINSON:  How the policy originated.  I‘ll explain the sequence of events and we can decide whether or not to draw the connections.  In 1989, President George Bush I ordered the invasion of Panama.  There were 23 U.S.  casualties.  At one point, one of the networks run a split screen showing the president joking with reporters and casualties arriving at Dover.  The White House was not pleased with that juxtaposition, to say the least.

Two years later, during the First Gulf War, this policy was put into place and the rationale was not to cause distress to the families and not to cause distress to the president.  Of course, the White House would deny a connection between those two.  I think we can draw our own conclusions.

OLBERMANN:  Some military families who supported this ban during its entire tenure said the images of what we‘re seeing, these images would be used, perhaps, by one side or another in political fights.  If we cannot deny that that might happen, why is that, if not OK, then at least worth it somehow?

ROBINSON:  I think that‘s perfect way to put it, Keith.  It‘s not OK in as much as it brings any distress to any of the family members.  But it is worth it.  That‘s the way a democracy works, I think.  War is never antiseptic.  It is never without cost.  It is—it is never without tremendous wrenching sacrifice.

And that‘s something we need to know.  And that‘s something we need to see and it‘s something we need to debate.  And arguing on both sides, I think those who believe, you know, we would never fight wars if we‘re able to really see what it‘s like, I don‘t believe that.  I think we wouldn‘t fight wars that we shouldn‘t fight, perhaps, but I have—I guess I have more faith in the nation and its ability to accept that sort of pain and that sort of sacrifice.

But we need to see it.  We need to know.  And I‘m glad that the policy has been reversed and we get to—got to honor Sergeant Myers and to honor the dead of the Iraq war and the other conflicts that have unfolded in the dark.

OLBERMANN:  And to more fully inform both sides of the debate.

Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC—as always, Gene, thanks for your time.

ROBINSON:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  From the imperative, now to the inexplicable.  One Adam 12, one Adam 12, we have a pillow fight.  See the store owner.

And Glenn Beck can‘t figure out why he has yet to be spoofed on “Saturday Night Live.”  You know, could it be that they don‘t think they can make you any funnier?

Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  And even if you could get away with it, why would you try to steal 25 pounds of toothpaste?  First, on this date in 1892 was born Lowell Thomas, best remembered now for his daily radio news cast, which ran usually on CBS from 1930 through 1976.  Usually forgotten, he was already famous before the news cast started.  He was the western journalist who found and publicized a little-known British World War I Captain named T. E. Lawrence, who after Lowell Thomas‘ dispatches and films and lectures about him, became better known as Lawrence of Arabia. 

Let‘s play Oddball. 


OLBERMANN:  We begin in lower Manhattan, hello, and Warsaw, hello.  Amsterdam, hello.  Alert the State Department, we have an international pillow fight.  Global assailants gathering over the weekend in 70 cities, letting all that bedtime aggression out on their nearest available neighbor.  And then No Child Left Behind policy was included. 

Although the media had a tough time keeping up.  The first rule of pillow fight club is you do not talk about pillow fight club.  And so long until tomorrow. 

To India, and the cut-throat world of ear lifting.  Our competitor is Rakesh Kumar (ph), who is suiting up with his ear vice.  You sure this is how Vincent Van Gogh started?  Can he do it?  Yes, he can; 243 pounds lifted by ear.  A world record is broken.  Later when asked about his training regimen, Mr. Kumar replied, huh?  What? 


OLBERMANN:  Take Sarah Palin‘s former future son-in-law, add one episode of “The Tyra Banks” political show, and you get an angry outburst from her governorship. 

And the Spanish attorney seeking to indict six Bushy‘s as war criminals, Bill-O slimes him as a terrorist, without mentioning that the attorney‘s actions were against the Chilean dictator Pinochet.   

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three best baseball long-shot, COUNTDOWN viewer David Patton, a draftee out of deep in the farm system of the Colorado Rockies.  He‘s made the opening day roster of the Chicago Cubs as a relief pitcher.  He spent the last two years pitching for the Modesto Nuts of the California League.  Well done, Patton. 

Number two, best dumb criminal, unnamed shop lifter in Rastak (ph), in northern Germany, stopped by a clerk there because his jacket was bulging.  His loot then dropped to the floor, 68 tubes of toothpaste.  Police say he‘s considered armed, dangerous, and whatever you do, don‘t look at him if smiles. 

Number one, best political realist, the Virginia Republican party.  When Chairman Jeff Frederick told McCain volunteers to tell voters that Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden both had friends who bombed the Pentagon, the Virginians did nothing.  When he stood up in the state legislature and said Lincoln gave the Gettyberg (sic) Address in 1963, they did nothing.  When charges were filed that Frederick had directed state party business to his own company, they did something.  Over the weekend, they fired him as chairman. 


OLBERMANN:  Never mind that the state legislator of Alaska is still in the throes of a negotiation, if not a battle, over how much of the stim to accept.  Never mind even that Governor Sarah Palin‘s so-called supporters might want her to respond to the guy marriage breakthrough in Iowa.  Instead, in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the governor‘s office went into action to respond to Palin‘s would-be son-in-law Levi Johnston, after he talked to investigative political journalist Tyra Banks.  In an interview broadcast today, but hyped for days, weeks, years by the Tyra Banks programmers, Mr. Johnston had his say, as did his mother and his sister, rounding out the Johnston/Palin soap opera. 

One issue, whether the governor thought her daughter was practicing abstinence.


TYRA BANKS, “THE TYRA BANKS SHOW”:  So she knew you guys were active? 

You think she knew. 

LEVI JOHNSTON, FMR. BOYFRIEND OF BRISTOL PALIN:  I‘m pretty sure she probably knew. 

BANKS:  How are you pretty sure she knew? 

JOHNSTON:  Moms are pretty smart. 

BANKS:  So there were just wardrobe malfunctions? 

JOHNSTON:  I guess. 

BANKS:  Really? 

JOHNSTON:  I guess so. 

BANKS:  Every time, you practiced safe sex? 


BANKS:  Every time? 

JOHNSTON:  Every time. 

BANKS:  Levi? 

JOHNSTON:  Most of the time. 

BANKS:  Most of the time.  There you go. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Levi told me she called him and said you‘re going, and he was like, I want to go hunting and she said, you‘re going. 

BANKS:  Going to what?  The convention? 


BANKS:  So you wanted to go hunting? 

JOHNSTON:  I was hunting. 

BANKS:  Oh, you were already hunting.  So had you to go. 

JOHNSTON:  Yes.  Pretty much. 


OLBERMANN:  To the statement from a Palin family representative, Megan Stapleton, written on official governor of Alaska stationery and released from the officer of the Governor to “People Magazine.”  Quote, “Bristol did not even know that Levi was going on the show.  We‘re disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention and fortune, are engaging in flat out lies, gross exaggeration and even distortion of their relationship.  Bristol‘s focus will remain on raising Trip, completing her education, advocating abstinence.  It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of the child.  Bristol realizes now that she made a mistake in her relationship and is the taking responsibility for her actions.” 

Let‘s turn now to columnist and MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford, our resident expert on this sort of stuff.  Good evening, Craig. 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM:  Are we sure this story shouldn‘t be in Oddball, instead of following it? 

OLBERMANN:  It was a busy night in Oddball.  This had to get bumped to the regular news.  The Palin family obviously his a right to respond.  But why this?  Why this strident?  How could they possibly think this would help? 

CRAWFORD:  Well, I guess since soap operas like “Guiding Light” are going off the air, stories like this.  We don‘t need fake soap operas.  I think Sarah Palin is convinced that these cultural type stories just keep her in the news.  And they certainly do that.  I don‘t see where, in the long run, it helps her.  But I think she enjoys being talked about.  And I did notice that when you looked at the mainstream coverage of this story, the lead in most of them, the wire services and so on, was Sarah Palin‘s office reaction.  I have a feeling if she had just left it alone that a lot of folks probably wouldn‘t have covered this, if at all, very much.  So she did manage to making it a bigger story by reacting and reacting so stridently. 

OLBERMANN:  Then again, in the pecking order of Levi Johnston, his family, Tyra Banks and the governor of Alaska, the governor of Alaska still will come out ahead.  She still will be the lead, her reaction, right?  We haven‘t diminished the office that much. 

CRAWFORD:  Even in a press release to “People Magazine.” 

OLBERMANN:  Very good.  In that press release, there is another plug for abstinence and for her daughter being an advocate for abstinence, even though it evidently didn‘t do her any good whatsoever and it didn‘t work.  Is there some—what is it, does the governor see this as a political opportunity or is there a teachable moment of some sort in line with her conservative views?  Or does she just not realize what happened?  Did the birds and bees need to be explained to her? 

CRAWFORD:  The thing about abstinence doesn‘t work if you don‘t abstain.  And I think she is keying in to sort of the conservative values component of this whole story.  I have the interesting experience of growing up in central Florida, among a lot of politically-active Evangelicals.  And I always found that the whole sinner and redemption cycle is something that works with that crowd. 

They will forgive politicians, the old line, you know, love the sinner, hate the sin, unless you disagree with their politics.  But as long as they agree with your politics, they tend to be pretty forgiving.  She could get into a debate with Dan Quayle about single motherhood, if you remember what he said about Murphy Brown. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  What about the other news item that was actually hidden in this pile of something here, that Johnston‘s sister, Mercedes, said her brother had been told to go to the Republican National Convention, although he was explicit and said he was not pressured to get engaged before he did that.  But it underlines the suspicion that many of us had at the time that those young people were basically trotted out on stage like a proud, beautiful, three-headed calf or something for the benefit of the Republican National Convention and the governor‘s candidacy. 

CRAWFORD:  I do remember someone in her camp saying their fear was, if they didn‘t come, people think she was ashamed of it and was trying to hide them.  So they didn‘t feel like they could win.

I do have to say, I think sometimes we‘re a little harder on women politicians for their parenting skills than the men.  I think some of that might have gone on here.  But she has taken it a lot further than any issue like that, at least.

OLBERMANN:  Craig Crawford of and MSNBC, and our resident analyst for political events breaking on the “Tyra Banks Show.”  I‘m sure you‘re proud of that.  Many thanks, Craig.

CRAWFORD:  You bet.  Just waiting to see if Palin can see North Korea from Alaska.

OLBERMANN:  At least a “People Magazine” correspondent.  Thanks, Craig.

Bill-O slimes a Spanish attorney, reports the man was convicted of collaborating with terrorists.  Never mentioned that the terrorists were people fighting the murderous dictator of Chile.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Republican obstructionism extending to stalling on presidential employees, including the party of honoring the troops double amputee vet Tammy Duckworth from office. 


OLBERMANN:  We‘ll close tonight with a special tribute nest.  But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Bill-O the Clown.  In an interview with Liz Smith at, continuing with this delusion of grandeur about what he thinks is an all-time television record for having the top rated show in the tiny world of cable news.  She writes, “some O‘Reilly detractors felt he was bragging and note that ‘The Today Show‘ and ‘Meet the Press‘ have been on air longer.  But Bill just added, ‘this was 100 months in prime time.‘  I‘ll let Bill speak for himself.  ‘The people who lie about us on a daily basis, and you know who they are, like to omit the word prime time.”

We also omit the phrase cable news, and the fact that if you were being judged against all of cable or all of television, like the “Meet the Press” streak, 131 straight months, or “The Today Show” streak, 166 straight months in first place, nobody would even know the lights were on in your studio. 

The runner up, him again.  During his threatened one-man boycott of Spain over the efforts of the attorney Gonzalo Boye to indict six members of the Bush administration for war crimes, Bill-O said, “the New York Times reported Boye‘s beef but did not report this: Boye served almost eight years in a Spanish prison for collaborating with terrorists.  He was sentenced in 1996.  That seemed to be a mighty big omission by the New York Times, does it not?”

Well, no, not as big an omission as forgetting to mention that the man who Mr. Boye‘s collaboration with terrorists targeted was the sadistic Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.  This is like Bill-O calling George Washington a terrorist. 

But our winner, Harold Hill—I‘m sorry, Glenn Beck, revealing to “New York Magazine” that he thought by now he would have been parodied by “Saturday Night Live.”  “I‘m such an easy target.  I‘m surprised SNL hasn‘t come after me.” 

Wait.  Glenn, you mean your show isn‘t a parody?  Glenn, evidently he‘s not satirizing Stephen Colbert after all, Beck, today‘s worst person in the world. 


OLBERMANN:  And finally, how does one tell this story?  My mother passed away Saturday night.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Marie Katherine (ph) Charbonier Olbermann, 1929-2009.  This remembrance is not going to be a medical story, although lord knows mom was the foremost authority on her own health.  Nor is it going to consist of me telling you that she was the proverbial saint, although I can hear her saying, go ahead.  I‘m not going to disagree with you.  Who is going to disagree with you?

It is not going to be a full biography.  Suffice to say, she was a gifted preschool teacher and a legendary authority on opera.  Somewhere, she is going to be genuinely disappointed that I did not get Placido Domingo to sing at the memorial service.  I thought instead it would be best to focus on something for which she became and remained pretty famous, literally until the day she died. 

My mother was one of the best-known baseball fans in this country.  She attended games of the New York Yankees from 1934 to 2004, and she watched or listened to every one she didn‘t go to up until last month.  My guess is she went to at least 1,500 of them, most of them in that seat right there, where the Fox cameras captured her late in the season of 2000. 

As recently as the 13th of last month, Jerry Manual, the manager of the New York Mets, came over to me on a field in Lakeland, Florida before an exhibition game and asked me how she was.  He was the fifth or sixth active baseball figure to have done so this year alone.  They have averaged at least one or two a month for nearly a decade now.  Saturday afternoon, not six hours before mom died, a New York Yankees executive made reference to that which had made mom famous in the ballparks, and trust me, mom loved being famous in the ballparks.  Even if it had to have been attained this way on June 17th, 2000. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And these are the problems that have become well documented over the last few days.  Throwing it into the stands and ironically enough, the ball hit Keith Olbermann‘s mother right between the eyes.  She was all right.  The glasses were broken. 


OLBERMANN:  Four days after her birthday, mom had found herself in the middle of one of the great melt downs in sports history, a sudden and growing inability of the ill-fortuned second baseman Chuck Knoblauch of the Yankees to make any kind of throw, easy or hard, to first base.  Chuck was in the middle of losing his beloved father at that time.  Though I thought I got what that meant to him then, I didn‘t really understand it at all until this afternoon as I wrote this, and I struggled to find the right keys, let alone the right words. 

For three days in 2000, mom was on one or both of the covers of the “New York Post” and the “New York Daily News” and “New York News Day.”  She was somewhere in every newspaper in America.  And all this happened while I was the host of the baseball game of the week for Fox.  Needless to say, I managed to get an interview with her for the pregame show the following Saturday, an exclusive interview.  Although don‘t think I didn‘t have to work for it. 


OLBERMANN:  Joining us now for her first interview since the Knoblauch incident, my mom.  Are you OK? 

MARIE OLBERMANN, MOTHER OF KEITH OLBERMANN:  I‘m pretty good.  A little bruised, but OK. 

OLBERMANN:  Mom, you‘ve been going to games since—so long that you met Babe Ruth when you were a toddler.  Have you ever been near a foul ball or thrown ball before? 

M. OLBERMANN:  Not that close.  No, not really.  No. 

OLBERMANN:  And this was close enough? 

M. OLBERMANN:  Too close. 

OLBERMANN:  A lot of the pitchers are saying this year that the hitters are doing better because the ball is harder than it has been in the past.  Would you agree that it‘s harder than it has been in the past? 

M. OLBERMANN:  It‘s the hardest one I‘ve ever been hit with. 

OLBERMANN:  You went back to Yankee Stadium the next day.  Why? 

M. OLBERMANN:  To see the game. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you have any worry about Chuck, either as a Yankee fan or for your own safety? 

M. OLBERMANN:  Not really.  I sympathize with him. 

OLBERMANN:  Why do you sympathize with him? 

M. OLBERMANN:  Because I‘m a little awkward at times too. 

OLBERMANN:  But you‘re not playing second base with the Yankees, are you? 

M. OLBERMANN:  Not yet. 

OLBERMANN:  Have you been surprised by all the newspaper attention? 

M. OLBERMANN:  A little bit, but I want to know why they keep mentioning you. 

OLBERMANN:  Uh, OK.  What matters most, obviously, mom, is that you‘re all right.  But I‘ve got to ask you, in closing, it‘s no secret that I collect memorabilia.  Like I‘m telling you something you don‘t know.  You had to clean most of it up.  But can have the ball? 

M. OLBERMANN:  You can bid on it when I auction it off, just like everyone else. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four million.  Thank you, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  My mother, everybody. 


OLBERMANN:  My great thanks to my old boss, David Hill, at Fox Sports, for his kindness in letting us run that tonight. 

Anyway, for the rest of the year, any time Fox broadcast a game from Yankee Stadium, mom got on TV again.  We even talked about her during the World Series broadcast that fall, during which began this ritual that continues to this day, players, players who were at the game, players who only heard about the game, players asked me about my mom. 

Since the day it happened, I‘ve been told Chuck Knoblauch has been mortified by it.  Chuck, give yourself a break.  You made her famous.  She loved it.  She could not have been happier if they let her pinch-hit for you. 

A full circle that is.  It was mother who was the fan in our family.  My dad likes the game enough, but the Yankees traded his favorite player away, and he‘s still mad at them.  This happened late in 1948.  So it was mom who introduced me to the game.  In my teenage years, when we went nearly every day, it was she who trundled me and my sister to the ballpark.  It was on her TV that I came to love the sport and by her side that I began to understand it.  And sitting next to her that I began to understand that I was not going to be any damn good playing it, and if I wanted in, maybe I‘d better try talking about it. 

Thus was born a career, the results of which you see now.  At least half of the ham comes from her.  She was an aspiring ballerina.  And when I keep talking and talking and talking, for good or for ill, that‘s pretty much all her.  What I don‘t have pictures of are the thousands of hours she spent driving me to and from school so I could work on the newspaper or announce the hockey game. 

In retrospect, it‘s obvious she was, to adapt a phrase, a media mom.  It was the proverbial sudden illness in the best of senses.  She had no apparent symptoms until two weeks ago.  She was not severely afflicted until ten days ago.  The treatment lessened her pain, and she never awakened, thus never had to hear, nor did any of us have to say, you have terminal cancer. 

I‘m not going to end with harangue about how you need to go see your doctor, because not feeling so bad does not mean you are not sick, though you should keep that in mind.  But knowing those of you who watch this show and others I‘ve done, I‘m always overwhelmed by your support and how personally you take all this.  If you are so inclined, instead of flowers or card or whatever, make a donation to Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation or St. Jude‘s hospital.  They do such important work there too.

Marie Olbermann is survived by her husband, my dad, my sister Jen and her husband and their two kids, Jacob and Eve, mom‘s grandchildren.  By her cousins Robert and Bill Shlombom (ph) and their families, by just about everybody in baseball, and by me.  Good night, mom, and good luck.



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