Guest: Jonathan Turley, Steve Clemons, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, Mary Jo Kilroy
High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Spec: Politics; Government; Elections
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Obama administration defends Bush‘s wiretaps and goes further. It hides behind the Patriot Act, claiming even if you were the victim of “illegal government surveillance,” you cannot sue, “unless there is ‘willful disclosure‘ of the illegally intercepted communications.”
Howard Fineman on the president‘s political stumble; Jonathan Turley on the legal and constitutional implications.
Those who can‘t, do. Those who are Cantor, do ambushes. The House minority whip‘s plan to forge YouTube moments by interrupting freshmen Democratic representatives on the floor of the House in mid-speech, asking them about their votes on other topics.
This is Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio being stalked by Republican Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARY JO KILROY, (D) OHIO: It is unfortunate that a debate on voluntarism .
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX, ® NORTH CAROLINA: Reclaiming my time, Mr.
KILROY: . into a debate on another issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the lady (ph) reclaim her time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The “party of no” has nothing left but ambushes on the House floor. Our special guest: Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy.
Worsts: After offering his viewers a place where you can go and meet other people who think like you and think about values and principles, and want to do something to take your country back, and talking about the attack on gun owners and the Second Amendment in jeopardy, Harold Hill over here is shocked—shocked that he would be linked to the man who killed three Pittsburgh policemen because he feared, quote, “the Obama gun ban that‘s on the way.”
And tonight: The men behind “Spinal Tap” and “A Mighty Wind,” Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, right here on our stage. Hello, Cleveland!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eleven.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And most amps go up to 10?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that mean it‘s louder? Is it any louder?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it‘s one louder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These go to 11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
During his run for the presidency, Barack Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, argued strongly against the Bush administration‘s use of executive authority including its self-justification, its rationalization of the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: That was then, this is now. President Obama‘s Justice Department now is not just defending Bush officials from lawsuits surrounding National Security Agency domestic spying, but seeking to expand the government‘s authority by making it immune from any legal challenge regarding wiretapping—ever. Welcome to change you cannot believe in or sue over.
The case: Jewel versus NSA. Five plaintiffs who contend that AT&T illegally transmitted information about their phone habits to the NSA. Attorney General Holder‘s Justice Department arguing a lot of things including something called, “the state‘s secrets privilege.” The executive branch‘s standard go-to move to protect classified information. Quoting from page 12 of the government‘s motion to dismiss, “All of plaintiffs‘ claims in this case would require or risk the disclosure of information properly protected by the Director of National Intelligence‘s assertion of the state secrets privilege.”
As we mentioned, standard stuff, but the real doozy, the Obama administration seeking to expand its authority, arguing that under something else called “sovereign immunity,” the government can only be sued if the wiretaps involved willful disclosure. Page five, “A willful violation in Section 223©(1) refers to the willful disclosure of intelligence information by government agents and such disclosures by the government are the only actions that create liability against the United States.”
In other words, unless the government publicly releases any information that it has gathered by spying on you, you cannot sue it. It gets better, and by better I mean worse. The Obama administration wants you to believe that it does not matter if the program is no longer operative, arguing that the same standards should apply for the first Bush Terrorist Surveillance Program, the TSP. Page 15, “Attempting to demonstrate that the TSP was not the content dragnet the plaintiffs allege, or that the NSA has not otherwise engaged in the alleged content dragnet, would require the disclosure of highly classified NSA intelligence sources and methods about the TSP and other NSA activities.”
Even confirming or denying already publicly confirmed facts, like the compliance of AT&T and other telecom giants, right down to the numbers of some of the rooms in which the information-mining machinery was contained. That is apparently out of bounds. Page 16, “The DNI again has demonstrated the disclosure of whether the NSA has an intelligence relationship with a private—a particular company would cause exceptional harm to national security.” The Obama administration.
Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What is the political calculation here and who made it?
FINEMAN: Well, as to the first question, the Obama administration is balancing two things. One is the public politics, and the risk of really antagonizing the first base that gathered beneath and behind and pushed the Obama candidacy. The one that was concerned about the war in Iraq, the one that was concerned about overreaching by military, the one that was concerned about overreaching by the then-president of the United States. Those people are concerned and they‘re upset, and they are disappointed.
But there is an internal politics, too, and it‘s the politics of the intelligence community. It‘s the politics of the CIA. And Barack Obama is an outsider there, and he picked as his CIA director another outsider, Leon Panetta.
And talking to Democrats on the Hill and talking to experts such as Jane Mayer, the author of the terrific book about the dark side of the Bush administration in terms of torture and surveillance. This is what‘s going on here. Obama and his people in the White House do not want to antagonize the intelligence community because they need them to support them in the war on terror and to get the president‘s job done around the world right now. That‘s what‘s going on.
OLBERMANN: As a function of that, is this the bottom line of bureaucracy as theory that two parties could argue how to use a bureaucracy, where to point the bureaucracy, who to target with the bureaucracy, but ultimately, the bureaucracy will be defended by both sides, by people who would otherwise happily be at each other‘s throats.
FINEMAN: Yes. I think there‘s something to that in general, Keith. But more specifically, when you are talking about the president‘s powers as commander in chief. There are so many ironies here, they are piled so high, they are toppling over. Barack Obama ran against the arrogation of power by a president who seemed to see no bounds to his power on the war on terror.
This administration through its Justice Department and I think when you asked the earlier question, “Who approved this,” it‘s a little hard for me to figure out because a lot of the key players are just on their way back from the president‘s trip. But I don‘t think there is any doubt the NSC director, probably the White House council Greg Craig, and maybe the president himself know everything that‘s going on here. No president wants to cede any power that the presidency itself has accumulated even if they were accumulated by the people that the current occupant campaigned against.
So, the “state secrets” assertion and as you say, the “sovereign immunity” assertion are ones that Barack Obama and his Justice Department aren‘t going to give up, in part because, in some of these cases, they are now the defendants. Don‘t forget that some of these cases were delayed, George Bush‘s name and other Bush administration official names were wiped away from the slate and Barack Obama and his advisers are now the defendants.
OLBERMANN: Are these sign posts along the road towards a decision by this administration on whether or not to prosecute or to at least pursue members of the Bush administration for the various violations and crimes involved in torture, in eavesdropping?
FINEMAN: Well, as Jane Mayer told me a little while ago, she said, “Look, they shut down the dark side, OK?” They‘re not—as far as we know, the torturing is over. Guantanamo is going to be closed. But they don‘t want to shine a flashlight into the dark, what was the dark side for the reasons that I said before. And they‘re going to leave it up to the Congress to pursue it.
Now, in talking to Democrats on the Hill this afternoon, Senator Leahy, the Democrat of the judiciary committee wants a commission of some kind. But he‘s not going to try to impose one or establish one unless Republicans support it. So far, not a single Republican has come forth to support that flashlight-shining exercise.
The Obama administration will not do it on its own. They are going to keep their fingers crossed and hope that Congress does it. But right now, Congress isn‘t going to do it without Republicans going along.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” you said the ironies were piling up. Something certainly is piling up right now. Thank you, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For more on the legal questions here, let‘s turn to Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor and constitutional law expert.
Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Lots of ways to phrase this question. Well, we put it the simple way. The Obama administration is just flat-out dead wrong about this, correct?
TURLEY: I think they are. I think that right now the Bush people are bringing out their “mission accomplished” sign, because they‘ve not only gotten Obama to protect Bush and Cheney and others from any criminal investigation on torture, but he is now going even further than they did in the protection of unlawful surveillance. And so, this is the ultimate victory for the Bush officials. They have Barack Obama adopting the same extremist arguments and, in fact, exceeding the extremist arguments made by President Bush.
OLBERMANN: The legal merits of this argument “sovereign immunity,” “the government can never be sued unless there is willful disclosure of intelligence information.” In other words, when they spied on you, if they don‘t use it, there‘s no—there‘s no legal action—which I think, in layman‘s terms would be, “I could go and steal your money. If I don‘t spend it, I‘m not guilty of anything.” The argument has just landed on your desk as a term paper and you say what?
TURLEY: I think that this is why we allow students to submit papers early so that we can do initial reviews. You know, I was actually counsel in the Area 51 case, the Kasza case that decided in this controversy. I can tell you, this is a breathtaking claim. It is far beyond anything that we dealt with in Kasza.
It is true that the original rule is no one could sue the king. And so, the government had to waive sovereign immunity. But before this case, it was assumed that you could sue these government agencies.
And the law that they‘re discussing, that it was really to protect these telecom companies. As you know, Senator Obama, when he was a senator, voted for it. It was greatly controversial. In my view, it was a terrible vote.
But now, they are arguing it doesn‘t just shield these telecommunication companies it shields the government itself. And so, that leaves citizens with a right without any protection. And it is impossible to have a constitutional right that can never be enforced and that‘s what we have here. It‘s a terrible moment, I think, for many people.
But you cannot any longer suggest that President Obama is advancing the civil liberties and the privacy interest that he promised to advance. This is a terrible rollback. It‘s a terrible decision.
And the Obama people seem to be arguing that—well, the Bush people were bad people doing bad things. But you know what? It doesn‘t matter if you are a good person doing bad things. You are doing bad things. And that‘s what this is.
OLBERMANN: You noted Obama as senator. There was Obama as candidate. There was also Obama as former teacher, professor on your area of expertise, constitutional law. How do you reconcile that man with a president who has a Justice Department that has produced this motion to dismiss in this case?
TURLEY: Well, I must say, I have a fairly harsh view. I really do have a lot of respect for President Obama.
But there are plenty of constitutional professors that are what I call “constitutional relativists,” that they believe that the Constitution is very, very fluid. I don‘t. I believe the Constitution‘s core principles like privacy, like the Fourth Amendment. And you can‘t start compromising on those things for political convenience.
The fact is, our president, I think, is more interested in programs than principles. And he never intended to fight on issues like torture and electronic surveillance. And we are going to have to come to grips to that.
And the people that support him in many different ways are going to have to come to grips and to tell the president they will not support him here, and they will not let him eviscerate privacy because of some cult of personality where he is so popular, he can do anything.
He can‘t do this, because what he‘s frittering away are the rights that we all have as citizens.
OLBERMANN: Well said. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University—great thanks for your time, Jon.
TURLEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president has not, however, backed away from his campaign promise to end our involvement in Iraq. Not yet, anyway. He was there today, unexpectedly, re-emphasizing it is time to turn this over to Iraqis.
But given what was done today here in his name, defending invasion of privacy and domestic spying, he will have to forgive us if we invest less heavily in his assurances and listen less closely to his words, and instead, attend more closely to the possible sound of other shoes dropping.
OLBERMANN: The president on unplanned (ph) trip to Iraq, talking to troops in the field for the first as commander-in-chief, insisting they will not be in that field much longer.
Later, the Republicans with a new plan to hit Democratic leaders in the House by ambushing the least experienced, least powerful Democrats in the House.
And in Worsts: Glenn Beck tells viewers to rise up, take the country back, and defend their guns against the ban that is all in his head. So a psychotic shoots three policemen because he fears a gun ban, and Beck sees no connection between these things.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Five countries in eight days and a great many firsts. So President Obama might have found no other way to cap that off than with a surprise visit today to Iraq.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Mr. Obama visits the troops for a first time as president after a frank reaffirmation of his ambitious foreign policy goals, while a new poll sends his approval rating at a record high.
Air Force One landed at Baghdad International Airport at 4:41 p.m. prevailing local time. After meeting with the senior U.S. commander, Army General Raymond Odierno, the president offered his thanks to about 600 assembled troops at Al Faw Palace in the Camp Victory complex. The vice president‘s son, Bo Biden, was in that crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. They .
OBAMA: They need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty.
OBAMA: And in order for them to do that, they got to make political accommodations. We can start bringing our folks home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president also awarded 10 Medals of Valor and then met with Iraq‘s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who traveled to Camp Victory since bad weather and sandstorms kept President Obama from going to the Green Zone by helicopter.
Earlier that day, Mr. Obama had made his first visit to a mosque as president, in Istanbul in Turkey. He removed his shoes as it‘s customary, and he met with religious leaders of all faiths.
The president wrapped up the European part of his trip with a small town hall meeting with college students in Istanbul. He promised to end the question and answer period before the Muslim call to prayer. He found plenty of time to restate his agenda and was obviously cognizant of some criticism from back home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Some people say that maybe I‘m being too idealistic. I made a speech in Prague about reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons. And some people say—that will never happen. And some people have said, “Why are you discussing, you know, the Middle East when it‘s not going to be possible for the Israelis and the Palestinians to come together?”
All these things are hard. I mean, I‘m not naive. If it was easy, it would have already been done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president to arrive back in Washington, D.C. overnight to another kind of review, the new poll from “New York Times” giving him 66 percent approval rating, his highest yet in their survey.
Let‘s call in a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, writer of the foreign policy blog on the WashingtonNote.com, Steve Clemons.
Good evening, Steve.
STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Hey, good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Iraq first. The president went there just hours after he explained to those students in Istanbul that although he had campaigned saying the war was a mistake, it was now his responsibility. Was the surprise or unannounced visit at least to Baghdad the next logical and perhaps, in retrospect, the next essential step in this particular transition now that he is president?
CLEMONS: I think so. I think it was a sign of real presidential maturity on Barack Obama‘s part. There are a lot of the people who put him into the White House who think that he ought to, you know, cast scorn on everything the Bush administration did. But he, you know, sees we are on a railroad track and he‘s redirecting that track.
And I think he‘s put a punctuation point on our engagement with Iraq. I think he‘s saying, we are transferring responsibility back now and our exit is beginning. And his presence there is somewhat of a very, very important punctuation point in that story.
On the downside, it‘s interesting—and I think that sells well to Americans. But on the downside of that, it‘s interesting he didn‘t go to Afghanistan, for instance, which isn‘t selling so well right now among Americans. But with Iraq, his moves are really buoying his support and popularity in the United States.
OLBERMANN: The trip as a whole, including everything that goes from the G-20 onwards—in broad strokes, what went best perhaps for him?
CLEMONS: Huge PR success. Any one of these summits, there were three, there was the London G-20 summit, the Brussels—sorry, the E.U. summit in Prague and then, of course, the NATO summit. And in that process of going through all of these summits, any one of them could have broken out into all sorts of bickering and problems. And I think that was the good side.
He also set up a result out of the IMF—or out of the London G-20 summit, that the IMF would be given the resources to deal with the developing world which is on the brink of real financial disaster and collapse. I think that in NATO, he held NATO together from bickering, largely continuing the measures in Afghanistan to some degree even though there were problems.
But there were downsides that I think we also need to be aware of. We didn‘t get the deal from China and Germany and others to really rewire the way the world grows and to give the American consumer that‘s been over-consuming and under-producing for a long time the relief that consumer deserves. And we didn‘t get the support in NATO that we thought that we would get in--- to deal with Afghanistan both in new resources, financially and developing, you know, civil society and reconstruction or in more troops, of course.
So, there is a modestly more support but nothing that wasn‘t expected.
OLBERMANN: Steve Clemons with the New America Foundation, author of the foreign policy blog at the “Washington Note”—thank you, Steve.
CLEMONS: Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: So, we‘ve bailed out the auto industry and this is G.M.‘s new product with which it will save itself and pay us back and we are screwed.
Speaking of which, Harold Hill keeps telling the bumpkins that Obama is going to take their guns away. One of them shoots and kills three policemen because he‘s convinced Obama is going to take his guns away. Harold Hill does not see the connection.
Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1934 was born one of the most underrated actors of our time, Ian Richardson was not only a Shakespearean stage actor to the highest order, but his range was such that he could play Sherlock Holmes and the real life inspiration for Holmes, and the man in the Rolls Royce asking, “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?”
But on television, he gave two startling performances, as the traitor inside British intelligence in “Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy” and as a modern British prime minister more murderous than Macbeth and able to convincingly talk to the audience in the middle of scene after scene in the “House of Cards” trilogy. In it, he offered the same unimprovable answer to every difficult question, “You might very well think so; I could not possibly comment.”
Ian Richardson died in 2007.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in New York with General Motors unveiling this fresh ride to help solve its current financial woes the Amish buggy of the future. I‘m sorry; it‘s a duel passenger Segway, with two wheels and two seats. The vehicular wonder runs on a battery. It allows you and a friend to coast along busy city streets at 35 miles an hour until you get crushed like a grape, or you hit a giant pothole whereupon the friendship is over.
To Essex in England, and a perfect way to mix your inner Jacques Cousteau with your outer couch potato, just gather a hundred of your closest friends pile into the local water (ph) tank to watch the soccer match. And what aquatic television viewing experience would be complete without the wave. There you. Watch it. You might get out of your seat.
The traditional consummation here at consuming a beer, what consummation of beer and hotdogs, proved to be a bit problematic. The game was then followed by the world‘s scariest screening ever of “Jaws.”
Speaking of underwater, there is House Republican whip Eric Cantor devoid of actual policy, he has turned to try to ambush Democrats new to the chamber. Our guest, one of his intended victims, Congresswoman Kilroy of Ohio.
And then the men behind, “Spinal Tap” and “A Mighty Wind,” stepping out of costume to perform musically as themselves. Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, are guests when COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: The secret Republican plan to return to power in Congress has been revealed today and, in our third story tonight, it is hilarious. As America fights two wars and battles the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, Congressional Republicans, led by Eric Cantor, have been working on a secret plan to bully freshmen Democrats in the House.
Politico.com reporting that Cantor, whose job as minority whip, is to keep members in line, early this year decided to target new Democrats, compiling a photo album of 42 rookies, so that when they took to the floor, he could alert members of his hit squad to try to fluster or embarrass them, using their greater experience and familiarity with House rules. Rules like those allowing House members to question each other and interrupt the other if they don‘t like the replies.
As third term Republican Virginia Foxx did to Freshman Mary Jo Kilroy, who joins us presently, badgering Kilroy about AIG during a discussion of volunteerism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARY JO KILROY (D), OHIO: Nobody is more outraged by the actions of AIG than—
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA: Reclaiming my time, I would like to ask the gentlewoman to answer my question.
KILROY: There have been votes on record in this House, including a vote prior to the last allocation of Tarp funds—
FOXX: Reclaiming my time—reclaiming my time. Does the gentle-lady refuse to answer.
KILROY: Your question has been answered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your remarks will be directed to the chair.
KILROY: I‘m sorry, Mr. Chairman. There is a time on this debate. It is unfortunate that—
FOXX: Reclaiming my time, Mr. Speaker.
KILROY: -- a debate on another—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentle-lady reclaimed her time.
FOXX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Cantor then posts video clips on these hits on his own Youtube page, racking up massive viewer response. This attempt to embarrass Congressman Gerry Connolly. In just one week, it drew an astonishing 118 views, not 118,000, 118. The attempt apparently backfired on its own merits. Politico describing Republican Jason Chaffetz as flustered by Connolly‘s response. Mr. Cantor is also apparently unaware that posting these videos on Youtube allows viewers to check for themselves that accuracy of the claim at “Politico” that Cantor‘s aides actually write scripts, which obedient Republicans faithfully read.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL BROWN ®, GEORGIA: I wonder if the gentleman from Virginia knows that this Democratic budget raises taxes by 1.2 trillion dollars.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ ®, UTAH: I wonder if the gentleman from the state of Virginia knows that this Democratic budget raises taxes by 1.2 trillion dollars.
BROWN: Makes each American‘s share of the national debt 70,000 dollars.
CHAFFETZ: Or that it makes each American‘s share of the national debt 70,000 dollars.
BROWN: Or that it opens the door to a national energy tax.
CHAFFETZ: Or that it opens the door to national energy tax.
BROWN: That will cost every single family in America.
CHAFFETZ: It will cost every family at least 3,128 dollars a year.
BROWN: At least 3,128 dollars a year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As promised, Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio. Thanks for your time tonight.
KILROY: Thank you, Keith. Good evening. First, let me offer my sincere condolences to you. Your mother sounded like a wonderful woman, a terrific mom, a great baseball fan, even if she did root for the Yankees.
OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly, Congresswoman. I appreciate that sincerely. Gosh, 118 Youtube views. What were you thinking? What was your reaction as this was actually happening, as Congresswoman Foxx both repeated her question and deliberately refused to let you answer it?
KILROY: This is Washington at its worst. This is what the voters rejected last November. We have 13 million people out of work in this country, 650,000 of them in Ohio, 48 million who are without health care insurance. That is what I went to Washington to do. Not to engage in partisan bickering. People want an end to that.
OLBERMANN: A spokesman for Mr. Cantor told “Politico” in its story about this: “this is about accountability and about being the party of honest opposition.” Do you have any thoughts on why Mr. Cantor‘s team would be targeting the 42 Democrats in the House who have the least power, rather than the experienced members who have the committee chairmanships and who actually author the legislation?
KILROY: Rather than being a loyal opposition, engaging in reasoned dialogue and collegial debate, they are being the party of no and they‘re trying to set little partisan traps and tricks with freshmen, with the new members, and with those who are most vulnerable for the next election.
OLBERMANN: There was another part of this story that “Politico” reported, that both the majority leader, Mr. Hoyer, and Speaker Pelosi responded to this tactic as Mr. Cantor rolled this out. What can you tell us about the measures Democrats are taking in response to this?
KILROY: Well, Mrs. Foxx, Representative Fox and Representative Cantor can continue to try to use the floor of the United States House of Representatives as a right wing talk show. They can continue to behave as if they are Rush Limbaugh. But what the Democrats are going to do is to continue to work for solutions for the problems that people sent us there to work on, like health care, like jobs, like transforming our energy economy. That is what I‘m going to do.
OLBERMANN: On a purely political level, when you see these videotapes afterwards, I mean—every one I have seen, it would be one thing if the strategy really worked and perhaps they produced these wonderful sound bites that would make Democrats look dumb or defensive and Republicans look like parties of responsibility and vanquishing enemies and all that. Just on a human to human level, doesn‘t it make them look like schoolyard bullies.
KILROY: I think so. I was there talking about the Give Act, talking about service, about Americorps and Teach for America and Vista Volunteers. Instead, they are trying to be rude. I don‘t think rudeness works very well as a tactic.
OLBERMANN: As a tactic, when it is a party that has been accused of having no ideas, of resorting here to bullying freshmen or fresh-women, reading scripts, as we heard, written by somebody in the leader‘s office—are those tactics Democrats particularly need to be worried about in the elections of 2010?
KILROY: I think that is what they are trying to do. Some of these little games they play, instead of working in constructive dialogue in a bipartisan fashion, are trying to set up little partisan tricks, using parliamentary procedure for the 2010 election. I think people will reject it then like, just like they reject it in 2008.
OLBERMANN: The 118 Youtube hits may be a little indicator in that direction already. Representative Mary Jo Kilroy, thank you, and thank you for your comments as we began.
KILROY: Thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: They are not Spinal Tap. They are the spokesman from a Mighty Wind. They are just the performers who portray them. And now they are going to sing their songs as themselves.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, more on GOP obstruction of the Obama nominee. Senator Chuck Schumer he special guest. Did you know the president apologized for America‘s counter-terrorism efforts. Well, he didn‘t. But Sean Hannity doesn‘t understand that, because Sean is very dim. Worst persons coming up on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Worst persons in a second. Then Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Spinal Tap, unwigged and unplugged. First, two bits of house keeping. Last month, I told you about a Twitter account that was set up in my name. I have an update. It turns out at least one person did start an account in my name, but after learning of one of the fake me‘s, NBC took control of that account. I also mentioned that I received an email about this account from Twitter that was—Twitter wannabe—that was addressed to Dan Cooper Media. Mr. Cooper has informed us he had nothing to do with the account.
Also, more importantly, I must tell you, I have been overwhelmed by your reaction to my mother‘s passing. It has been wonderful and reenergizing and I thank you kindly for it. In the warm embracing shadow of our shared humanity, that brings us to COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. Mom always liked this segment best.
COUNTDOWN‘s number two story. The bronze to the Manatee, who opened his hour of delusion by saying, “welcome to day number 77 of the age of Obama. And it is looking dangerous. That is our headlining this Monday night. So it starts out with the president of the United States telling the rest of the world that America is an arrogant country, and then seemingly apologizing for our engagement in the war on terror, the war on terror that the 9/11 Commission Report said was being waged on us, that we weren‘t paying attention to.”
Wait. So bin Laden was also waging a war on terror? That went south quickly. As to Hannity, what set him off, apparently, was Obama‘s statement that the United States is not and will never be at war with Islam, because Hannity does not realize there is a difference between Islam and terrorism, or because he doesn‘t want to realize it. Just a coincidence that the Hannity show begins with an illustration of a giant balloon filled with hot air.
Runner up, the unidentified sellers of this “Hitler Gave Great Speeches, Too” t-shirt. They told the “Washington Independent” that they had sold out of three boxes of the shirt by 3:00 pm Saturday at the Nob Creek Machine Gun Shoot outside Louisville. The gun shoot, at which new members were being recruited by the National Rifle Association. This message to the NRA, if you do not want your organization to become synonymous with racism, treason, hatred, paranoia and political assassination fantasies, you better do something and fast. Oh, and murdering policemen. I forgot. If you don‘t want your organization to become synonymous with murdering policemen—
Bringing us to our winner, Harold Hill—I‘m sorry, Glenn Beck. Richard Poplawski killed three Pittsburgh policemen on Saturday because he was afraid of, a friend said, quote, “the Obama gun ban that‘s on the way.” He, quote, “didn‘t like our rights being infringed upon.” When several websites correctly pointed out that this sounded awfully like one of Beck‘s his hysterical rantings or maybe his interview last month with the head of the NRA, Beck immediately went back to his normal speed, high, stupid, dungeon. “Blaming anyone except that nut job for what happened in Pittsburgh is crazy. Police officers over the weekend were killed by a crazy with a gun. And blaming anyone else besides him is like blaming the flight attendant after a terrorist takes down a plane. Giving passengers a nice little safety talk to prepare them doesn‘t mean you are responsible should a terrorist actually make that worst case scenario happen.”
Here is where you go wrong. You are not the flight attendant on the plane. Thanks for invoking that image again. You, Beck, are one of the cowards, safely on the ground, telling the nut job on the plane it is time to, quote, rise up. You remember March 19, right? You probably don‘t. “The second amendment is under fire. We knew that they were going to try to bring the assault weapon ban back. Now they are blaming it on Mexico. The 9/12 Project, which is kind of a grassroots thing where you can go meet other people who think like you and think about values and principles and want to do something to take your country back.”
And then you proceeded to read a letter from a women who said that since the election, she had gone out and bought a handgun and joined the NRA. So when you talk about taking your country back, and then you read letters from people who are stock-piling guns, do you think these things are unconnected? That people even crazier than you, who you are encouraging to do something to take your country back, that they have bought these guns as paperweights? They bought them to shoot other people with.
You, Glenn Beck, you personally are encouraging Americans to shoot other Americans. Maybe, especially if you are right about your religion, maybe not this psychotic in Pittsburgh. Maybe he is not your fault. I hope not. What about the next one, Glenn? You want to cry about something on television. Cry about the next one. Beg him to ignore you. Beg the kids the next one orphans to forgive you. Glenn Beck, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: I‘m going to reveal something right now that will probably set the world of music on its figurative ear and heavy metal fans, in particular, will find their lives totally up ended. Our number one story tonight, the famous band Spinal tap, it‘s not real. It is three comedians and actors.
I know, I know. Riots in the streets, just saw Glenn Beck running up Sixth Avenue, alternatively weeping and looking at his image in store front windows. Seriously. Well, seriously, the comic geniuses behind “This is Spinal Tap” and the folksmen from a Mighty Wind are going on tour, unwigged and unplugged, as themselves, playing the music they played as other people starting on the 17th.
Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean will be joining us in a moment. First, they were kind enough to pre-record a sampling of their fancy free stylings on “The Tonight Show” last week, just so we could play a portion of it for you now. Behold “Hell Hole, Unwigged and Unplugged.”
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OLBERMANN: And now the three men who were tapping their toes to that as we played it, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest. If you can‘t enjoy it, who in the hell would. They are kicking off Unwigged and Unplugged. The tour begins on April 17th in Vancouver. Gentlemen, it is an honor. Thank you.
HARRY SHEARER, COMEDIAN: Great piece about your late mom last night, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thanks, Harry.
SHEARER: It was fabulous. I do think that Knoblauch needs an asterisk now in the books.
OLBERMANN: As I pointed out, he made her famous. She was always grateful, even though they never really talked about it. Listen, about this, when you guys played Live Earth at Wembley Stadium in front of 100,000 people—exactly. You did the song “Big Bottom” with 20 bass players. How are you going to re-create that level of intimacy on tour?
SHEARER: We are going the other way. We are minimalizing. There will be one bass player.
MICHAEL MCKEAN, ACTOR: One bass player. It‘s kind of like the minimalist clown act, where the little car drives up and one clown gets out. Similar.
CHRIS GUEST, ACTOR: That is a good act.
OLBERMANN: That is a very brief act. Also you have 30 dates in six weeks. And you are all going to be in one bus for 30 dates in six weeks. I‘m assuming this is also going to count as the farewell tour? You are never going to try this again.
MCKEAN: This is it. As Michael Jackson said, this is it.
GUEST: I didn‘t realize it was 30 dates. Together? with you?
OLBERMANN: You are out, Chris?
GUEST: Well, I have to think about it now.
SHEARER: The rock and roll lifestyle is pretty exciting. We are looking forward to maybe closer bonding than ever.
MCKEAN: And a lot of video golf.
OLBERMANN: I noted here that it starts in Vancouver, British Columbia next Friday. Is there a particular reason Canada got the first shot at you guys?
MCKEAN: It is the ultimate out of town tryout.
SHEARER: It is the warm-up country.
OLBERMANN: I mean, is the premise here, Chris, if it goes really badly, might you just stay there and not come back? Is that the idea?
GUEST: Well, that may be their idea. I think it is actually fairly typical to start in Vancouver. No. No, it isn‘t. I have no idea. I think it is a geographical thing though.
OLBERMANN: If you weren‘t fully aware that it was 30 dates in six weeks, I would imagine that the exact itinerary had not been disseminated to your end of the tour yet.
SHEARER: No. We try to keep everything from him until the last moment.
GUEST: I want to be fresh.
OLBERMANN: I have to show this photo. It is the official publicity photo for this tour, for Unwigged and Unplugged. I need some help understanding what we are seeing. Harry, with this photo with Michael, it appears you have three hands. Do you have some kind of admission that you need to make to the people of this planet that has been overdue?
SHEARER: Yes, I do. Keith, I‘m a really bad Photoshop-ist. This is my way of proving it. Actually, that made worst Photoshop work of the day on a website that specializes in bad Photoshop work. I‘m really proud to say that.
SHEARER: Thank you. Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: Is that signaling anything we should look forward to on the tour, or is that you had that little extra time or what?
SHEARER: I think there will be a three hand something going on on the tour.
MCKEAN: We call them nature‘s epaulets.
OLBERMANN: This is not to suggest for one moment that this is not going to work or that the music is not going stand on its own or that you guys can‘t stand on your own as performers, but why—a somewhat serious question, why try this? Why take that framework of the satire away from Spinal Tap or the Folksmen from “A Mighty Wind?” Why take that framework away?
MCKEAN: One reason is that we like to be able to hopscotch between the different characters or out of characters. Also, we get a chance to do a song by Harry Shearer that is kind of a floater. It is kind of a floater. Think about it. It is called “All Backed Up” and it‘s about the passing of the king.
GUEST: Which king would that be?
MCKEAN: That would be Elvis Presley. We like the idea of not being locked into a character or a wig or a pair of spandex pants. Locked is the operative word.
SHEARER: Also, honestly, Keith, in this economy, a big rock and roll show is a very expensive thing to take on the road, and a very high price ticket. We would rather try to sell some tickets at a more reasonable price point.
OLBERMANN: So Christopher, this brings back the idea of the minimalist act. There are going to be microphones though, and lights? Or are you just going to come out on stage with flashlights?
GUEST: No. No. It is not performance art. We‘ll have microphones and we‘ll acoustic guitars. Ironically, they are plugged in, because all acoustics now are plugged in. We won‘t be playing loud. There was a relief when we did—we did a show in New York as the three of us. And there was something.
Thank you. That will be my ride.
There was something of a relief to be ourselves and to play the songs that we‘ve written for the last 30 years together.
MCKEAN: We‘ve never heard these lyrics before. They are really good.
SHEARER: In the interest of the strip down nature of the show, there will not be working restrooms.
OLBERMANN: That brings me back to the title of the song “All Backed Up” would seem to dovetail nicely with that.
SHEARER: That is correct.
OLBERMANN: Do you want to give us a hint about this floater, as Michael has dubbed it?
SHEARER: No. There are other songs that are not either from Mighty Wind or Spinal Tap. Michael does a beautiful song from “Waiting For Guffman” called “This Bulging River.” So we get an opportunity to do sort of everything that we‘ve written that people might know.
MCKEAN: And one cover. We do one cover, by Jagger and Richards, I believe.
SHEARER: I believe.
MCKEAN: We are not going to tell you which one.
OLBERMANN: Well, so, I have to go see it?
MCKEAN: You have to come see it. Yes, I‘m sorry.
SHEARER: Two nights in New York, Keith. Your choice.
OLBERMANN: OK. I was going to say, I‘ll see you in Vancouver. But if you are going to make it easy for me, I‘ll see you in New York. Helicopters going overhead? Are we in the flight path.
SHEARER: We‘ve got a situation, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much. Harry Shearer and Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, Unwigged and Unplugged. The tour begins next Friday. A pleasure to speak to any one of you, all three just delightful, thank you kindly.
SHEARER: Thank you very much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,159th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. Speaker Nancy Pelosi joins us tomorrow in studio evening. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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