Guest: Nancy Pelosi, Kevin Bankston, Chris Hayes, Craig Crawford
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
How‘s the bank bailout working? The Congressional Oversight Panel says, “OK, sort of. But it‘s time to fire the bad bank bosses and kill off the bad banks.”
The Pentagon budget lie: The GOP goes apoplectic about what it calls an $8 billion cut, when in fact it‘s a $21 billion increase from the last Bush defense budget.
And, tiny rollback: The attorney general says he‘s likely to drop the “state‘s secret” defense in one Gitmo or eavesdropping or rendition lawsuit, one out of 20. Tonight, an attorney suing over Bush era domestic spying response to the startling Obama era claims that its victims can sue only if that which the spying discovered is intentionally released by the government.
Exit stage right: Prominent conservative writers tell Norm Coleman time to concede. “This is, I think,” writes one, “the last moment where he can exit with some dignity.”
And the bailout, the GOP-Pentagon‘s spin, state secret, Senator-elect Al Franken. The reaction of our special guest tonight: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Revolt of the dittoheads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE CALLER: I hate to say it but I think you‘re a brainwashed Nazi. Anyone who could believe in torture just—has got to be—there‘s got to be something wrong with him. What‘s the matter with you? You never even served in the military.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Barack Obama .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE CALLER: I served in the Marine Corps and the Army.
LIMBAUGH: Charles, Barack Obama is president of the United States today because of stupid, ignorant people who think like you do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: His guard let down, that‘s what Boss Limbaugh thinks of his own listeners.
And in Bests: Roger Ebert compares Billo the clown to a mouse—a physically aroused mouse.
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
“Don‘t spend money,” say the Republicans, “a spending freeze is what this economy means,” conveniently forgetting that‘s what led to the Great Depression. “Don‘t spend money,” say the Republicans, “it‘s time to spend down the deficit,” conveniently forgetting that they rubber-stamped the Bush spending increases which led to $1.3 trillion deficit, the largest in our history. “Don‘t spend money,” say the Republicans, “unless that is, it‘s for something we want on our terms.”
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: GOP lawmakers falsely accusing the president of gutting the Pentagon‘s budget when, in fact, President Obama is actually increasing Bush era defense spending by $21 billion in the new fiscal year. Meanwhile, an oversight panel with a mediocre report card for the bank bailout.
The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is joining me presently to discuss both stories and more.
We begin first with the details.
The president arriving back in Washington overnight from Baghdad at his week-long European tour; that new report from the congressional panel overseeing the financial rescue plan he inherited from President Bush getting mixed reviews six months in. The Congressional Oversight Panel suggesting that getting rid of top executives and liquidating problem banks might be a better way to solve the economic crisis.
The Harvard Law School professor, Elizabeth Warren, who heads the panel, telling “Bloomberg News,” quote, “It is possible the treasury‘s approach fails to acknowledge the depth of the current downturn and the degree to which the low valuation of troubled assets accurately reflect their worth.”
Former Republican Senator John Sununu, one of two panel members, to issue a dissenting opinion. Senator Sununu is recently named to a board of a firm that is a subsidiary of the Bank of New York Mellon. That probably has nothing to do with it.
Meanwhile, current Senate and House Republicans revealing they do not care about spending taxpayer money after all, only how it is being spent. In announcing his budget plans, the Defense secretary, Mr. Gates, presenting a new way of spending the Pentagon‘s money, shifting money away from many traditional weapons systems, focusing it instead on more troops and new technology to fight the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Republicans in Congress are wildly and falsely mischaracterizing that as making cuts to the military‘s budget. Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma is accusing the president of trying to charm America‘s enemies instead. Meanwhile, speaking from Afghanistan, Republican Senator Inhofe in a YouTube video posted by his press office, is accusing the president of, quote, “gutting our military.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, INHOFE.SENATE.GOV/PUBLIC)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE, ® OKLAHOMA: Here we are in Afghanistan. Right now, we have our men and women in uniform in harm‘s way, and we hear an announcement we‘re cutting, and I would say gutting, our military. I—you know, I‘ve never seen a budget like this. We‘re spending so much money.
This is unprecedented to the history of this country. You would think that right now, at a time of war, that we‘re cutting the military budget. It‘s going to be a very difficult thing to do. We‘re increasing the surge here in Afghanistan. Right here, things are going to increase, the numbers are going to increase, yet we‘re cutting the budget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This footnote for Senator Inhofe‘s benefit, Congressman Cole and the many other Republicans now complaining about the cuts to the defense budget, the bottom line does not back up your bluster. A, Afghanistan and Iraq spending, that is all in a separate budget. You can look that up.
B, in the final year of the Bush administration, the defense budget was $513 billion; in fiscal 2010, it will be $534 billion. That would be more. In fact, it‘s an increase of $21 billion, not a cut. As they say:
Do the math.
As promised I‘m joined now by the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Her book, “Know Your Power: A Message to America‘s Daughters,” is now out in paperback.
It‘s a great pleasure to have you here, Madam Speaker.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: My pleasure to be here.
OLBERMANN: The Pentagon first.
OLBERMANN: If Secretary Gates‘ budget has less hardware in it, less stuff, are the Republicans in any sense right that this constitutes a defense cut of some sort?
PELOSI: No. What this is, it‘s a recognition of the threat. When you look at a budget and you look at the priorities in it, the defense budget, you‘d say, what is the mission?
And Secretary Gates, I think, is accurately reflecting the mission, what the threats are to us. We‘re no longer in a bipolar world and some of the weapons systems are geared toward that. Now they won‘t be.
I salute him for his courage in putting this forward. And isn‘t it interesting that Secretary Gates was secretary of defense under President Bush?
OLBERMANN: And now he‘s an evil person from the GOP spin point of view. Do you think—we‘ve heard pretty much all year things like this from the GOP. Has it finally found its voice, I mean, sort of hysterical, factually inaccurate umbrage, or in this case, mathematically inaccurate umbrage?
PELOSI: I think it‘s desperation. I really do think it‘s desperation to a certain extent that a senator would criticize the president while he is—while he, the senator, is on foreign soil, looking—appears to be he was at a military base, and saying the president is gutting the military budget; and that others here were criticizing the president when he was overseas on a foreign policy issues.
The budget, that‘s fair game. That‘s domestic, we can criticize at home on that. But resorting to levels of desperation that I think show the bankruptcy of their ideas, but if these weapons systems are so great, they should be able to defend them on their merit.
OLBERMANN: Right. I mean, in factually speaking, just in terms of real easy to understand math, we‘re going to spend more in 2010 than we did under George Bush in 2009 -- fiscal 2009 on the Pentagon, correct?
PELOSI: Correct. And I will always recall President Eisenhower warning of the military industrial complex, the power of the weapons manufacturers, it‘s powerful in Washington. And as I say, this took great courage. But our first responsibility is to protect the American people. That‘s the oath we take, to protect the Constitution and the American people.
And it is the responsibility of the president to take the lead on that, and the secretary of defense is more accurately reflecting the current state of play of what the threat is, what the mission is, and what the priority should be in the budget.
OLBERMANN: If I may switch over to the subject of this oversight panel‘s report card on the bailout, on the bank bailout, there seems to be the implication here that we‘re putting all of our proverbial eggs in a proverbial basket. Is there, in fact, a better way? Do you like the idea that perhaps we have to weed out the more troubled banks rather than continue to throw money at them?
PELOSI: Well, I think that is so. I don‘t think anybody wants to continue to give life support to institutions that really are not viable, whether it‘s banks or auto industry or whatever the subject is. But it‘s unfortunate that President Bush‘s TARP proposal, and this is a Bush administration proposal, really did not go down the path that it even said it was going down.
It was going to buy these assets, then and there. They didn‘t really have a plan to do it. Then they went to capitalization, which may or may not have been a good idea. Now, we‘re back to buying troubled assets, toxic assets. If there ever were an oxymoron, that is.
PELOSI: But I that whatever the plan is, we have to have a plan and we have to do it. And whether or not the report that says that the administration is underestimating the depth of the problem is so or not, the point is, we have to address the issue. And there maybe some institutions that will benefit from this, even though we‘d like them not to, but we have to do what‘s right for the economy.
OLBERMANN: When blowback occurs again from the—from the other side, and we‘ve heard when changes were made at the head of G.M., that how dare the government interfere with who‘s running these company that we basically have kept alive.
OLBERMANN: There seems to be a knee-jerk response to almost everything from the GOP now.
OLBERMANN: It‘s just gainsaying, just contrariness. Seventy-eight days into this administration, and the nickname “the party of no” has really sort of stuck to Republicans with good merit. Is there—is there any indication that this isn‘t what the next four years are going to look like?
PELOSI: I don‘t think that it will. I do think that—because of the bankruptcy of their ideas, that they have nothing that appeals to the American people. In fact, the American people rejected their policies of the last eight years or longer, in terms of Congress.
But I do think, when it comes to education, health care and energy—
which are the three priorities that the president has in his budget that we
passed in the House and in the Senate, that there will be some level of
cooperation. We certainly hope so, because we want—these are big issues
we want as much bipartisanship as possible. But at the end of the day, we‘re going to pass a bill.
And we‘re not just going to wait around for bipartisanship. But, hopefully, they will be there with their ideas that we can incorporate. But we won‘t water down our initiatives, for example, health care, to a point of the lowest common denominator.
We want the best possible, boldest initiative with can with strong bipartisanship. And we just have to go forward. The American people don‘t want to hear about process, they want health care.
OLBERMANN: All right. Now, to a subject of—where process has come into our rights and our securities, and what‘s left over of the erosion of them from the previous administration, the attorney general‘s pronouncements on the state secrets cases, which not only defended Mr. Bush‘s wiretaps but says now that the Patriot Act provides sovereign immunity. If I have been spied upon illegally, our attorney general‘s office, our Justice Department is saying, I can‘t sue because of what the Patriot Act says.
How can this president possibly stand behind that point of view?
PELOSI: Well, the Patriot Act, the amendments to the Patriot Act, the sunset part of it will expire by December of this year. So, we will have an opportunity to address this in the consideration of the Patriot Act, because sovereign immunity—you went into it so well last night, I won‘t dare try to present the clarity that you did, but it shouldn‘t be that way.
And my credentials going into the speaker‘s office, in the leadership had been one of long time on intelligence and trying to protect the civil liberties of the American people. So whatever the cause, I know that the White House wants to protect the prerogatives of the presidency, the executive branch, we want to—the legislative branch, we all have a responsibility to the Constitution.
So, I‘m sure we will come to some good place on this, because I trust Barack Obama, and because I think that the situation—the position of the Bush administration was so egregious that it just doesn‘t hold up in the light of day.
OLBERMANN: But, of course, he campaigned on the premise that the domestic spying done during the Bush administration, to whatever degree it was done, was wrong. If we don‘t come to a better place, or if you and he and the other branches of the party and the administration don‘t come to a better place, isn‘t he now just flatly wrong on this?
PELOSI: Well, you know, we can—this can go to court.
PELOSI: And the courts can decide. But you cannot say that you‘re not—your rights have not been violated if we don‘t disclose the information, but it‘s OK for us to find it out, as you so clearly presented. The—we‘ll have hearings and the Congress will review the Patriot Act, the administration, in terms of state secrets privilege and other concern that we have, is—the Justice Department is reviewing that there, what has been said already is not necessarily the last word from the administration.
And so, we have a number—and we‘ve had our content of Congress initiatives that the administration, I think, did the right thing. So, I have confidence in them. And the fact is, is that we have the inspector general‘s reports, which I think are due in June, I don‘t know early or late June, one which—I say inspectors general for not only the NSA but other agencies of government which will show us, reveal to us a great deal more than we might find out in court about what went wrong.
And I—we can never have a repetition of what was done under the Bush administration or a continuation of that.
OLBERMANN: And widening that out to other aspects of that administration, where do you stand and where do you think we‘re going to wind up in terms of investigating the entire process of Guantanamo Bay rendition, all of the, if you will, horrors of that administration?
PELOSI: Well, the administration has said we are closing Guantanamo, we know that, and they‘re in the process of doing that. They had said that we won‘t—the United States does not torture. And so—you know, it‘s such a silly—it‘s such a silly discussion, in my view, because torture has never really produced the results that we want.
PELOSI: So, the argument that people use, would you torture somebody if you knew they had the answer to this or that, it‘s a hard question because people would ordinarily say, “Well, I‘d do anything to protect the American people.” But the fact is that, unsubstantiated information coming from torture can make matters worse.
OLBERMANN: As we saw with Zubaida apparently.
PELOSI: And so, we have to—we have to protect the American people and it always has been the case from the beginning of our country, from our origins, liberty and security. We must have both, freedom and security.
OLBERMANN: Well, clearly, they have done what has needed to be done in terms of going forward in the Obama administration.
OLBERMANN: But does—I‘ve made the point a couple times that it seems to me, every time something has gone wrong in the country, stopping it is the first priority. But to truly eradicate it, you have to go back and, you know, clean out the stables. Isn‘t it necessary to correct—to what degree we can—the past, rather than just saying we‘re not going to do this again?
PELOSI: Well, we have a little bit—a little bit of difference of opinion between the White House and the Congress.
PELOSI: The White House wants to go forward, and that‘s appropriate for them. We believe that we have to take a look at what happened. There may be criminal activity. We end up going to court on the contempt of—the administration would not prosecute a criminal case, so we had to go with a civil case. But there has to be a way for the truth to be known, A, and B, acted upon .
PELOSI: . people engaged in illegal activity. And, hopefully we‘ll learn a great deal more from the inspectors general when they have their reports in June on this subject—because it‘s very, very important. But I have confidence in Barack Obama, constitutional—he taught it, he practiced it, he‘s passed laws, and now, he‘s a—the executive, the president of the United States.
What do we call that, the enforcer? The enforcer of the .
OLBERMANN: The constitutionalist-in-chief, I suppose.
OLBERMANN: Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, whose book “Know Your Power,” is now available in paperback.
Madame Speaker, a great pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much for your time.
PELOSI: I appreciate that. And I want young women to be involved in politics, so I want them to read my book, and my condolences to you in the loss of your mother. It sounds like a woman who truly knew her power.
OLBERMANN: I believe she did. Again, thank you for coming in.
PELOSI: All right.
OLBERMANN: The attorney general has now specifically said in that pivotal lawsuit, the EFF case, the Bush administration was correct in asserting a state secret privilege, that the Patriot Act bars citizens from suing over warrantless domestic spying on them by their own government. One of the EFF attorneys will join me—by the way, Mr. Holder adds he has found one of the 20-some state secrets cases in which Mr. Bush was wrong.
OLBERMANN: The lead attorney in the suit seeking damages for the Bush administration‘s illegal domestic spying told the Patriot Act prohibits him even suing let alone winning. He says he intends to clean the government‘s clock in court. He joins us next.
Later, when the “National Review” tells Norm Coleman it‘s time to give up, he should give up. And when Boss Limbaugh‘s own listeners tell him he is wrong on torture, he is wrong on torture. An incredible comeuppance for the comedian when COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: After eight years of Bush secrecy and an estimated 20-plus court claims of state‘s secret privilege with which to hide facts from the American people—tonight, the new attorney general says he has been reviewing those claims and after looking at a couple, expects to reverse one of them. Is that just one or one already?
Our fourth story tonight: A follow up to last night‘s report on Obama‘s defense, an expansion of the Bush Doctrine of presidential supremacy over courts and the people when it comes to issues of or allegedly of national security.
The current issue: The case of Jewel v. the National Security Agency, former President Bush, former Attorney General Gonzales, other officers of the Bush administration, for the illegal wiretapping, as discussed on this newshour by whistleblower Mark Klein, of Americans for the government by AT&T, using secret facilities at its Folsom Street, San Francisco location and others.
As we said last night, the Obama administration is taking its first crack at the case Friday night, not only defended the Bush claim of state secret, seeking to dismiss the case entirely, but added a stunning claim that no one can ever sue the U.S. government oversee secret wiretaps, even if the wiretaps are illegal. The attorney general, Mr. Holder, telling CBS News tonight, he is, quote, “likely to reverse one unspecified Bush claim of state secrets.” But that in the other three claims they have reviewed so far, Mr. Bush was correct.
With us tonight, one of the lawyers on this case: Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the suit.
Thank you for your time, sir.
KEVIN BANKSTON, ATTY. SUING U.S. FOR WIRETAPPING: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: Your reaction to Mr. Holder‘s assertion that Mr. Bush‘s claim of state secrets was correct in this wiretapping case.
BANKSTON: Well, we at the Electronic Frontier Foundation were gravely disappointed, more than a little outraged by the position that the Obama administration is taking. The Obama campaign promised us change we could believe in, and a new era of transparency and accountability from government.
But instead, this is looking like deja vu all over again, and the Obama administration is embracing the same aggressive secrecy arguments that the Bush administration did, and is going them one better by arguing this incredible immunity argument, by saying that despite the many laws that we have that are meant to restrict the government from wiretapping us or accessing our communications records without warrant, that the government—the U.S. government is immune from any lawsuit for violating those statutes, and essentially eviscerating the privacy rights of millions of ordinary Americans.
OLBERMANN: Aren‘t they actually going two better? Because your lawsuit came about in large measure because members of Congress gave AT&T immunity, which nullified the lawsuit you had against AT&T but also arguing it was more appropriate to sue the government, even using that to justify the passage of telecom immunity.
Is there a legal term for bait-and-switch and were you a victim of it?
BANKSTON: We certainly were, although I don‘t want to say that they succeeded in nullifying our case against AT&T. We are currently litigating over whether the immunity statute that they passed is constitutional. But, certainly, when the White House and the Justice Department were on the Hill pushing for that immunity, they said, “Hey, why worry? Even if they get immunity you can always still sue the government.”
Now, their tone has changed and they‘re saying, “Wait, actually we meant to say: No one can or should ever be held accountable for the NSA‘s warrantless spying,” which is simply a shocking reversible and indefensible in our opinion.
OLBERMANN: How much hope is there that the worry that this is excessive, that this is not the huge policy assertion that it would seem at first, second and third blush—I mean, don‘t Justice Department attorneys of every generation have to come up with whatever arguments they can when the government gets sued? Don‘t the courts have the final say on this?
BANKSTON: Well, the decision to invoke the state secret‘s privilege was a decision of the administration. It did not have to do that. As you mentioned, Eric Holder is planning on withdrawing state secrets privilege assertions in another case. They could have done what we‘ve advocated they do for several years and what the courts require them to do already in another case, which is submit their secret evidence through security procedures that are already laid down in federal law.
As for the immunity argument, well, certainly lawyers are required to make whatever credible, colorable arguments they can to defend their clients, but this argument is simple incredible, literally. No one has ever suggested that the Patriot Act section they‘re pointing to does what they claim it does—not the White House, not the Justice Department, and certainly not members of Congress.
This is completely out of left field, and is plainly wrong, as we look forward to explaining to the court.
OLBERMANN: Kevin Bankston, who will do just that as senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in this pivotal lawsuit—great thanks for your time and good luck with the case, sir.
BANKSTON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Radio drama. One of the sheep gets up on its hind legs and punches Boss Limbaugh right in the nose. This, you must hear to believe. It is ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. And Roger Ebert compares Bill O‘Reilly to a mouse with an erection.
First, wow, did somebody screw up at Boss Limbaugh‘s show? The real world was allowed to call in and tell Limbaugh off. Not yet in Alaska, Billo wants to join forces with governor. I‘ll bet he does. These stories ahead.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons of the World.
Number three, best bad driver, unidentified 65 year old woman in Lucidom (ph), Germany. Trying to exit a supermarket parking lot, she crashed into three cars. After they cleaned up that mess, she was able to drive away from the scene, directly into a house. Nobody was seriously hurt. By this point, the woman was shaken up. So they put her in an ambulance, which promptly collided with a truck. That‘s a nice picture.
Number two, best political realism. A quote from an editor from the right wing website Powerline. “I can‘t find a single good thing to say about Al Franken, except that he didn‘t steal the election.” From a prominent blogger at the far right “National Review Online,” title: “Why Coleman Should Drop Out.” “If he keeps up the fight, he is likely to lose, unnecessarily deprive Minnesota of a second senator, end his political career, seen as a sore loser, and hurt his party. This is, I think, the last moment where he could exit with some dignity.”
Number one best smack down, Roger Ebert of the “Chicago Sun Times,” writing an open letter to Bill-O online. You must read this whole thing. It is poetry. But there are some highlights first. “Dear Bill, thanks for including the ‘Chicago Sun Times‘ on your exclusive of newspapers in the hall of shame. To be in an O‘Reilly hall of fame would be a cruel blow to any newspaper. It would place us in the favor of a man who turns red and starts screaming when anyone disagrees with him. I understand you believe one of the ‘Sun Times‘ misdemeanors was dropping your syndicated column. My editor informs me that very few readers complained about the disappearance of your column, adding many more complained about Nancy and Sluggo. We dropped it to save a little money after they looted the paper of millions. Now you call for an advertising boycott. It is unusual to observe a journalist cheering for a newspaper to fail.”
“Bill, I am concerned that you have been losing touch with reality recently. Did you really say you are more powerful than any politician?
That reminds me of the famous story about Squeaky, the Chicago mouse. It
seems that Squeaky was floating on his back along the Chicago River one
day, approaching the Michigan Avenue lift bridge. He called out, “raise
the bridge, I have an erection.””
O, Roger, Squeaky the Chicago Mouse. The squeaky factor.
OLBERMANN: The subject was torture, as in we shouldn‘t ought to. The conversation ranging from the Nuremberg Trials to Claus Barbie, was between a former marine and a man who has never worn his country‘s uniform, Boss Limbaugh. At one point, that ex-Marine compared Boss to a brainwashed Nazi.
Our third story, the Ditto-heads are revolting, or the Ditto-heads finally have revolted. Boss Limbaugh‘s flagrant acceptance and promotion of torture proved to be the final straw for one Ditto-head in particular. The caller‘s name was Charles, identifying himself as a veteran and as a Republican who voted for McCain. Charles told boss He, quote, really didn‘t want to see Obama get in office. So far so good for Boss, but things quickly went awry then Charles revealed that his problem is not in the way the president is running things, but in the way Boss Limbaugh is running things.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Rush, you are one reason to blame for this election for the Republicans losing. First of all, you kept harping about voting for Hillary. The second big issue was the torture issue. I‘m a veteran. We are not supposed to be torturing these people. This is not Nazi Germany, Red China or North Korea. There are other ways of interrogating people.
No matter what Obama does, you will still criticize him. I believe you are brainwashed. I hate to say it, but I think you are a brainwashed Nazi. Anyone who could believe in torture just has got to be—there‘s got be something wrong with them. I know Bush wanted to keep us safe and all of that, but we were not supposed to be torturing these people.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Charles, if anybody is admitting that they are brainwashed, it would be you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, Rush, I don‘t think so. All we have with you, Hannity, Levine, sour grapes. That‘s all we have. Believe me, I‘m not—I‘m more to the right than I am to the left.
LIMBAUGH: Of course you are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am.
LIMBAUGH: Of course you are. You wouldn‘t be calling here with all these sour grapes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m so tired of listening to you go on and on with this --
LIMBAUGH: I don‘t know of anybody who died from torture. I do know -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not supposed to torture people. Do you remember World War II, the Nazis, the Nuremberg trials? You remember the Nuremberg trials?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the matter with you? You never even served in the military. I served in the Marine Corps and the Army.
LIMBAUGH: Charles, Barack Obama is president of the United States
today because of stupid, ignorant people who think like you do. You pose -
you and your ignorance are the most expensive commodity this country has.
You think you know everything. You don‘t know diddly squat. You call me a Nazi. You caw me somebody who supports torture. And you want credibility on this program?
You know, you‘re just plain embarrassing and ludicrous. But it doesn‘t surprise me that you are the kind of Republican that our last candidate attracted, because you are no Republican at all, based on what the hell you‘ve said here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This just in, a job is open for a call screener on Boss Limbaugh‘s show. Joining me now, somebody who won‘t be applying, Washington editor of “The Nation,” Chris Hayes. Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, “THE NATION”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Now, we know Limbaugh doesn‘t usually put people on who disagree with him. Now I think we know why. He wasn‘t very good at defending himself against reality, was he?
HAYES: No. What a remarkable clip. I really, really love that piece of audio, because you could tell—look there are some times that people call into shows, I‘m sure you‘re familiar with, and they sort of, you know, punitively say I‘m on your side, and quickly reveal themselves not to be.
I think with this guy, it just read as so earnest and honest and actually genuine. And Limbaugh didn‘t really have any response to it, aside from insult the guy and say you are no kind of Republican. Why? Because apparently the litmus test for the Republican party is the support of torture, in his view.
OLBERMANN: And just as there are no guarantees on the Internet, there are no guarantees in the anonymity of calling in radio. As you suggest, that could have been anybody. I think your idea on the read was pretty good too. It just sounded like a guy whose fuse had been lit a long time ago and it went from something Limbaugh said. Let‘s assume for the sake of this argument that the caller really was both a solid Republican and a vet. What does this suggest for the Limbaughs of this world and the Republican party?
HAYES: You know, the recent polling data right now about the Republican party is pretty remarkable. What you are seeing is a party that has been repudiated to its core by the vast majority of the American people. It‘s now gotten to the point where something like a quarter of the electorate is comfortable calling themselves Republicans. That is the quarter of the electorate that listens to Limbaugh‘s show and has incredibly deep seated conservative—right wing conservative beliefs.
That is not any kind of recipe or strategy for any kind of electoral prominence or victory in the American democratic system. And right now, I really think you see the beginnings of a fissure between the people in the right wing coalition who want to double down and follow Limbaugh-ism off the cliff. I think they have already gone off the cliff. So I don‘t know, wade through the canyon. And then the people that have some sense that this is actually going in the wrong direction. Something needs to be recouped here.
OLBERMANN: As nice as it is to see an occasional outburst of the real world passing through those sound proof walls, are we not seeing the danger, the essence of the problem, of an echo chamber; if you miss one word as you repeat the catechism to Rush Limbaugh, you are out. And out of his movement, which is the Republican party and the GOP and the conservative movement. Any other name you want to give it, it is his, at least in his perspective.
Everybody is going to miss one word eventually. Everybody is going to wind up being out. It‘s going to be Limbaugh and that slave camera that shoots him. That‘s it.
HAYES: That‘s right. And that is a point that holds across the ideological spectrum. There is coccooning, you know, in every kind of political ideology. As someone who is of the left, I know that I have seen it on my side as well. I do think, though, one of the things that has been frustrating for progressives is how disputatious people on the center-left can be. There is, I think, a more kind of instinct to fall in line on the right.
What you‘re seeing now is, even though that disputatiousness has been a political liability in the past for the left, and the authoritarian, kind of fall in line instinct has been a benefit for the right, you are seeing now, at a moment like this, when there‘s tremendous political peril for the center right coalition in American politics, that they need to be more disputatious. They need more internal fissures. They more internal conflict and discussion of the future of conservatism, because the way things are going right now is not reaping particular dividends.
OLBERMANN: What I don‘t get—maybe you have a thought on this, from broadcasting and from journalism points of view or even entertainment points of view, why didn‘t Limbaugh punt that phone call at some point? Why didn‘t he just hit that little red button and make him go away?
HAYES: Well, I think Limbaugh is not at all cowed or ashamed of what he is and what believes in, as horrible as the things he believes in are. I don‘t think there is an iota of shame in Limbaugh or Limbaugh-ism. That is one of the things we are seeing now. We see it in the House Republican caucus. We see it with a lot of the movement organs of conservatism.
There is a large part of the conservative base that doesn‘t feel it has anything to apologize for.
OLBERMANN: That or just forgot where the button was. Chris Hayes of “The Nation.” Great thanks, as always, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Her ex-convention prop and former future son-in-law has spoken again. The perils of Palin continue.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, with that ground on the far right for Norm Coleman to give up the ghost, she will ask the big question of Minnesota‘s Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty.
And did you know Social Security went bankrupt? Either that or Gretchen Carlson thinks this is the year 2082. Worst persons coming up.
OLBERMANN: Bill-O the clown announces a legal defense fund for Governor Sarah Palin. Some days here it just is like Christmas because of that dear man. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to the ever brilliant Gretchen Carlson of Fixed News; said this morning, “Social Security is already bankrupt.” Close. Its board of trustees reports that without any increased revenue stream, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits through the year 2041, and three quarters benefits through the year 2082. So Gretchen‘s only off by 73 years, which is damn good for her.
The runner up, Rupert Murdoch. Content thief? Speaking to the cable TV conference in Washington, he complained about the “Wall Street Journal” and Fox News material being lifted by Internet search engines. Quote, “the question is, should we be allowing Google to steal all our copyright, not steal, but take. Not just them, but Yahoo!.”
An interesting point of copyright law and one that Murdoch might want to drop immediately. A columnist at “Politico” notes that Murdoch‘s “Wall Street Journal” frequently takes excerpts from other publications and websites. One day, there were 15 of them in the “Wall Street Journal.”
But our winner, Harold Hill again. It‘s about his continuing attempt to disassociate himself and his inflammatory paranoia about an attack on the Second Amendment, an infringement of gun rights and the need to take your government back from an duly elected president, from a man shooting and killing three policemen in Pittsburgh, because he was afraid of, quote, the Obama gun ban that is on the way.
But now there has bee located criticism so clear, so pertinent that it is unanswerable. A conservative TV host warning that video games and television have a direct cause-and-effect relationship with violence and murder and even the murder of policemen. About the game Grand Theft Auto, this man said “we are training our kids to be killers. If you think that video games are just harmless fun, which everybody always says, you should know that the military, our leaders at the Pentagon, have never seen it that way.”
Who made that pithy observation? The same man who, last May 1st, described what one character in Grand Theft Auto and the people playing the game as him could do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: When a police officer comes after him, he can either light that police officer on fire or cut him in half with a chain saw. This is entertainment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oh, hypocrisy and self-absorbed righteousness in unparalleled purity. But it gets better. According to Beck 2008, and no doubt to the surprise of Beck 2009, it is not just video games that can lead to murder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: According to the journal of American Medical Association just television, the introduction of television in the 1950s caused a doubling of the homicide rate in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So video game can cause people to try to kill police, and television caused the doubling of the homicide rate. But Glenn Beck reducing the complexities of the world to the level of a video game for his television viewers, and telling them they need to rise up and take back their country before the government takes their guns, that couldn‘t possibly have anything to do with one of those viewers rising up to take back his country before the government takes his guns.
Glenn Beck, accessory, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: A legal defense fund for Governor Sarah Palin, set up by a political action committee calling itself Free American Citizens, which is a free enterprise advocacy group that complains about, among other things, mandatory seat belt laws. The defense fund inspired by none other than Bill O‘Reilly, who promised to kick in 1,000 dollars, American.
So, in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, with friends like that, why should Governor Palin be concerned about the escalating public enmity with her former future son in law, Levi Johnson. The governor, now complete with Sarah Palin‘s defense fund—the director of FreeAmericanCitizens.org, Clayton Paslay saying, quote, “O‘Reilly said, someone needs to put together a fund. I already had one in progress. I asked how quickly we could get it up. Boom, we had it up the next day.”
Back to that mouse again. Indeed, Bill-O, looking into the camera, as if speaking directly to the governor, said, quote, I‘ll do you the solid. If you set up a defense fund, here, I will publicize it for you. I will kick in a thousand.”
As for Governor Palin‘s actual and flailing political career, her spokeswoman says she will be holding a fund-raiser for Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, a fellow Republican, ostensibly evidence that Palin really, really will not be challenging for that Senate seat.
Meantime, Mr. Johnston, having made his post-breakup TV debut on “The Tyra Banks Show,” and having been severely upbraided by a Palin family statement, was back at the well, with “The Early Show‘s” Maggie Rodriguez. Johnston talked about how the governor treated him and when that changed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEVI JOHNSTON, FATHER OF TRIP PALIN: She was great. I mean, she treated me like a mom. I think she‘d do anything for me at the time. And now I don‘t know.
I think it was all when she lost. That is when it started happening, when she got back. I think it is when it went downhill. They said I didn‘t live there. I stayed there. I was like, OK, whatever you want to call it. I had my stuff there. So if you want to call it staying there, that‘s fine.
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ, ABC CORRESPONDENT: You had all your things there, toothbrush, pajamas?
RODRIGUEZ: You stayed there every night?
JOHNSTON: For a while, yes.
RODRIGUEZ: So they are lying?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn to CQPolitics.com columnist, MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford. Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM: More gifts, just in time for Easter.
OLBERMANN: I‘m telling you, it never stops.
Governor Palin now has a defense fund. Is that a sign that she is hitting the big time.
CRAWFORD: Yes. You would think it was some sort of badge of honor, the way politicians haven‘t arrived on the national level until they have a scandal and hire lawyers and have a defense fund. This one—wouldn‘t you know, Palin made a wrinkle of this one, because this is an outside group. It is a little questionable how she can even accept money from this group.
Plus, she is going to later, they say, set up her own legal defense fund.
She may need a legal defense fund to defend against the legal defense fund.
OLBERMANN: She may need one against Levi Johnston too. The problem first reads as soap opera. But it keeps screaming politics too, because the more Mr. Johnston speaks out, the more he seems to contradicts that picture that Sarah Palin had painted when she was running for vice president, the story she would have us believe about the interactions with her daughter and this man.
CRAWFORD: There is something inarticulate in this kid that almost makes him seem more genuine. I think he is doing some real damage, because he‘s sort of lifted the curtain, lifted the veil behind the scenes. And it doesn‘t look quite like it was presented. I think we‘re going to find this may be one story that she doesn‘t have teflon to protect against.
OLBERMANN: Back to this legal defense fund for a second. What is it with tight wads pretending that they are being generous here? I had this chart made up of donations made by 8:00 p.m. cable hosts in the last month. Bill-O made this big deal about 1,000 dollars to a Sarah Palin defense fund. Nancy Grace, screaming on the left, teared up and sent out a video press release because she bought 100 boxes of girl scout cookies for our troops, with the high end price of four dollars a box. She ponied up exactly 400 bucks.
I gave 25 grand to the It Happened to Alexa Foundation, at which O‘Reilly spoke. I‘ve mentioned it on the air once before tonight. Is generosity being more loosely defined than it used to be?
CRAWFORD: It does seem like generosity is being dummied down. I think in some cases, it‘s clear it‘s for show and it‘s OPM, other people‘s money. In other words, you are getting lots of people to contribute to the cause and take credit for it, when you are not putting that much of your own skin in the game.
I think, in the long run, charitable contributions from journalists to a politician ought to be considered a little different and suspect and wrong. But that‘s a different world Mr. O-Factor lives in.
OLBERMANN: He might have just given her some girl scout cookies. That would have been a thing. Quickly, Palin is not going go after Murkowski‘s seat. What is the odds on favorite?
CRAWFORD: It was never clear she was really serious about that. If she was, she might have taken a look at her polls. Her approval—overall approval rating is about ten points lower than Murkowski‘s. Her negative rating is 15 points higher than Murkowski‘s. And her very negative rating, Sarah Palin, among Alaskans is three times Murkowski‘s.
That might be a reason. Down the road, there is another Senate seat in 2014, and the presidential race or re-election for governor. So plenty of options.
OLBERMANN: Those numbers you quote, that is how you get to host a fund-raiser, rather than have a fund-raiser hosted for you. Craig Crawford of CQPolitics.com and MSNBC, as always, many thanks, Craig.
CRAWFORD: You bet.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,160th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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