Guest: James Moore, Christian Finnegan, Richard Wolffe
DAVID SHUSTER, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Take the money, then run? After first saying “thanks but no thanks” to stimulus money for their states, three conservative governors bow to local pressure and say that they‘ll now accept federal funds to help out folks at home. But at least one is still trying to have it both ways by spending the money and running ads against it.
Nothing to see here: CIA Chief Panetta says he will not keep any secret. Secret prisons, that is. But the president is still keeping mum on one topic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When is the dog coming?
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: Oh, man, that‘s top secret.
OBAMA: A top secret.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Let‘s play the feud: Still the good soldier for the former administration, Karl Rove sets the sights on the current vice president, stops just short of yelling “pants on fire.” That‘s right. Karl Rove is passing judgment and lying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH AIDE: I hate to say it but he‘s a serial exaggerator. If I was being unkind, I‘d say he‘s a liar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Landing in the net on the Net: One woman gives police the play-by-play as she watches her own house robbed on webcam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. This is crazy. They‘ve got things in their hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: You‘ve got to be in it to win it. What‘s “it” exactly? How about tickets to the “American Idol” finale or an entire day with Bubba? Both could be yours for a price. But will you be willing to pay it?
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
SHUSTER: Good evening from New York. I‘m David Shuster, in for Keith Olbermann.
Whether or not you agree with all of the president‘s economic policies, Mr. Obama increasingly looks like the adult in the room—particularly, compared to certain Republican governors who are still almost desperately trying to turn down some of that stimulus money.
And in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: State legislators have a message for those recalcitrant governors, “Show us the money or else.” After meeting with members of his economic team and the Federal Reserve chairman, the president noted definite glimmers of hope on the economic front today: Like a significant increase in mortgage refinancing, progress towards unlocking lending—including a 20 percent increase in small business loans—and stimulus package money beginning to flow to taxpayers in the form of tax cuts and to infrastructure projects.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We‘re starting to see progress. And if we stick with it, if we don‘t flinch in the face of some difficulties, then I feel absolutely convinced that we are going to get this economy back on track.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: In the meantime, of what now seems like an old fight over the stimulus money, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina flinched. Both parties of his own state‘s legislator are so angry with the governor he‘s been forced to advertise to try and explain his opposition to taking all of the stimulus money available to his state.
What you will not hear in that commercial, however, are the specifics of what Governor Sanford still opposes—like extra money for unemployment benefits. But the governor says, quote, “There is a better way than saddling our children with massive debt.”
Yet, rather than saddling, Governor Sanford is actually straddling or rather awkwardly trying to do so—because despite his so-called principled stance, he recently submitted the necessary letter asking to be eligible for those federal funds. As have other potential 2012 GOP presidential contenders, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Indeed, one day after Governor Palin said she would refuse 31 percent of the stimulus money, her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, was trotted out to soften that stance, explaining that all the money was still on the table. While not ready for prime time, Governor Jindal still opposes $98 million in extra unemployment benefits, and $9.5 million for health spending.
Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe.
And, Richard, good to see you as always.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, David.
SHUSTER: Richard, Governor Sanford recently said he‘s trying to compromise, but that, quote, “I got beaten up pretty bad on it.” Putting aside, for the moment, the unemployed people that would be beaten up by Sanford‘s policies, how much more do you think the governor will get beaten up over this politically?
WOLFFE: Oh, there‘s plenty more where that came from. I mean, there‘s a sign here of what he expects to come because he‘s out there spending so much money on these TV ads. These are not cheap ads.
And the problem here is that all of these governors face a terrible credibility problem. They blinked. They tried to stand up to the federal government, to the president himself, and they had to back down. They really gave themselves no room for maneuver here.
And it‘s no surprise when you think that Governor Sanford‘s best friends are actually John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the kind of people who made those big gambles in the presidential campaign. It‘s a bit like John McCain saying he‘s going to suspend his campaign and then not suspending his campaign because of the economic crisis. You cannot say you‘re going to turn down the dollars, and then take them, and build out from there as we expect Governor Sanford to do into a national figure.
SHUSTER: The crux of the matter is that the constituents of all three of these states want this money, and these governors are literally acting against these states‘ economic self-interests. Nevertheless, will the governors succeed, logistically, in trying to refuse even some of the money?
WOLFFE: Well, I don‘t know if it‘s going to be a logistical thing. I think there‘s going to be some symbolic measures. Governor Sanford is already trying to get the state legislature to do some measures to pay back debt, which is his supposed goal here.
So, these symbolic things may be face-saving measures. They may be really token gestures, because they‘re so small compared to the amount of dollars they‘re taking anyway. But I expect this will run because these governors really do need to have something to show at the end of it. And right now, they just have something foolish to show.
SHUSTER: Well, never mind just the tone-deafness of all of this. The arguments actually feel old at this point. Because while it seems like the president has four or five initiatives beyond the stimulus, isn‘t that sort of a peculiar contrast?
WOLFFE: Well, the contrast is between the sort of small-bore policies that these governors are trying to enact here and the kind of bigger stuff that the White House and that voters want to do, which is to fix the economy. So, this isn‘t really about ideological positioning or about making a big statement, no matter how worthy, about the federal debt and about the debt incurred by future generations. It‘s about getting people into their jobs right now—or in the case of South Carolina, keeping people like teachers in their jobs.
So, until these governors move on from ideological position to where the voters are right now, which is people needing help, then they‘re going to be failing and that‘s what makes them smaller. It‘s not just the contrasting position with the president.
SHUSTER: Is it a political out for these governors, say, by invoking teachers—the example you just gave—in other words, invoke them, accept all the money despite your initial objections, or are they so far down this road that they have no choice but to dig in?
WOLFFE: Well, the road they‘re really down here is running for national office in the next general election, the next presidential election, and that‘s the problem here. Because if they cannot find a way out, a neat way out that saves their credibility or saves their stature—you know, it‘s no good just preaching to the choir, the conservative choir who may give them money for their future presidential runs, they need to look like they are responsible governors right now. That‘s what they‘re failing at.
And until they figure out how to get off this branch, this limb that they‘ve climbed on, they‘re really going to have credibility problems.
SHUSTER: MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe—and, Richard, thanks as always for coming on.
WOLFFE: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: And now to the so-called “teabagging parties” you may have heard about. They have been fluffed repeatedly by FOX News. Citizen protests over the government‘s collection of taxpayer money, specifically that the wealthiest taxpayers in our nation will see their rates go up 3 percent two years from now. Scenes like this are getting heavy rotation, especially on FOX.
But as “The Atlantic” smartly notes, the “tea party” movement is a tricky one to observe, since protests happen in different cities at different times. It‘s hard to know how heavily each was promoted. So, it‘s hard to gauge whether turnout was impressive or lame.
But limp or not, since more of these things are supposedly unfolding on or near Tax Day, April the 15th, a prominent Republican has tried to jump on the teabagging bandwagon, reportedly offering to join in and participate. But he has been rebuffed.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele, the party official now says Steele never asked to speak at the April 17th Chicago event of the “Don‘t Go Movement,” but a “Don‘t Go” organizer said in a statement, quote, “It appears that he, Steele, has only just decided to reach out after realizing how big the movement has gotten and how much media is now involved.”
In the meantime, a Washington, D.C. teabagging party has given a speaking slot to, failed GOP senatorial and presidential contender, Alan Keyes.
Let‘s bring in “Newsweek” magazine‘s senior editor, Daniel Gross. His book, “Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation,” is now out in paper book.
And, Dan, always good to see you.
DAN GROSS, NEWSWEEK: Good to be here, David.
SHUSTER: Dan, the Republican groups behind this alleged movement have long advocated for things like domestic oil drilling. The people trying to gin up the most planning for these parties work at FOX News. Fair to call this a conservative echo chamber?
GROSS: It‘s a great example of, you know, what‘s known as “astro turf,” which is sort of the opposite of grassroots. Grassroots grow from the bottom up; astro turf comes from Washington, you know, conference rooms.
SHUSTER: Well, since the stimulus package gives tax cuts to most wage earners, those who are making under $250,000 a year, who are these protesters, and what exactly are they protesting?
GROSS: That‘s a very hard question to answer.
We know they‘re against the bailout, which were passed last year by the prior administration. They‘re against the TARP, which was passed last year by the prior administration. The bailout of AIG—passed last year by the last administration. The initial loans to the automakers, again, a product of the last administration, and the last year.
They seem to be against the stimulus package, which includes several hundred billion dollars in tax cuts for people like themselves. And they seem to be against large deficits, they don‘t like these massive deficits. Who does? By the same token, when there are measures proposed to do something about those huge deficits, i.e., letting taxes to back to where they were in 2001, they‘re against it too.
So, I have a hard time what it is they‘re for, other than buying large quantities of leaves of tea and dumping them into tepid water.
SHUSTER: Obviously, there is a perfectly legitimate position to be taken about reining in government deficits and debt, particularly when the recession ultimately ends. But isn‘t the message of these teabagging parties essentially a kind of Herbert Hoover-like approach?
GROSS: Well, if your attitude towards this massive rise in unemployment is to essentially do nothing except cut taxes for a few people, and if you‘re attitude towards the entire financial system melting down and the prospect of people‘s deposits disappearing is to sort of do nothing, that‘s, you know, almost as bad as—in fact, that‘s probably worse than Hoover, because he did, after sitting around for a couple years, try to do some stuff to alleviate the suffering.
It seems like the things they‘re in favor are largely those things that would aggravate the situation, rather than improve it.
SHUSTER: And again, the basic point is that the government has lowered rates as much as it can. With the economy suffering as much it has and continues to suffer, it‘s the government really that can only inject more money into the economy. That‘s the whole point, right?
GROSS: There are three sources of demand in an economy. There‘s the government, there are consumers, and there are businesses. Consumers and businesses have been flat on their back for the last year. The economy is shrinking at a rate of 6 percent, which is really, you know, unseen—virtually unseen in our lifetimes. So, in that situation, it‘s the government that has to step in.
There‘s this sense when you listen to these people that the government is stepping up and running these deficits because it‘s what the people in charge really want to do. They felt that, you know, this is their chance to run $3 trillion deficits. The reality is, that the situation we‘re in is one that, A, is largely inherited, and, B, they are making what they deem to be the least bad of a bunch of bad choices on their table.
SHUSTER: And then, to the extent that there is opposition to some of Mr. Obama‘s policies, whether it‘s mouth by FOX News or anybody else, should President Obama ignore it, speak past it, or counter it? I mean, we see the video of them holding up the tea bags and—I suppose the symbolism of that can be read a lot of different ways—but what do you think the president ought to do?
GROSS: I think, when it comes to teabagging, the president should probably just ignore this. He‘s got 10 other things on his plate, you know, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the banking crisis, the overall economic situation, health care. To get bogged down with a—you know, what seems to be a fringe group of people throwing consumer products into the lakes and rivers of this nation doesn‘t seem to be worthy of his attention. And in fact, you know, there is a possibility that this is a brilliant, kind of viral PR move by Lipton.
SHUSTER: Daniel Gross of “Newsweek,” also the author of “Dumb Money”—Dan, thanks as always for coming on. Great to see you.
GROSS: Happy to be here, David.
No more secret CIA prisons, but no punishment either for any agency officers who might have tortured people at those facilities—the good news and the bad from Obama‘s CIA director, Leon Panetta.
And from those so-called black sites to the pot calling the kettle black. Karl Rove accuses Vice President Biden of being a blowhard and a liar. The irony detector is fully operational—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
SHUSTER: CIA Director Panetta tells his employees that the agency has stop using secret prisons to interrogate suspects, thereby confirming the existence of those secret prisons. So why isn‘t he investigating what went on there?
And when “Turd Blossom” attacks, Karl Rove stops just short of calling Vice President Biden a “liar.” What about does it say about, “It takes one to know one”?
SHUSTER: The CIA‘s illegal prisons overseas have been closed, and with them a dark chapter in American history is closing, too. But in our fourth story tonight: The Obama administration still stands in the way of writing the final chapter to that sad, toxic portion of our history.
First, the good news. CIA Director Leon Panetta now has admitted the existence of so-called “black sites,” secret U.S. prisons overseas. He says the CIA is no longer holding anyone there, and is in the process of shutting them down, and will no longer conduct the torture, he calls it “enhanced interrogation” authorized by the Bush White House and Bush Justice Department. All of this is in accordance with one of President Obama‘s very first directives, and not surprisingly, in accordance with fundamental U.S. law and principles.
Now, the bad news. In an e-mail to employees yesterday, Panetta wrote about the enhanced interrogations committed by CIA officers saying, quote, “Officers who act on guidance from the Department of Justice or acted on such guidance previously should not be investigated, let alone punished. This is what fairness and wisdom require.”
Panetta specifically says private contractors will no longer interrogate suspects, but he does not explain why “fairness or wisdom require” not even investigating CIA officers such as Mark Swanner, whose interrogation to one detainee led to his death, as well as a recommendation for prosecution by the Bush CIA‘s own inspector general. The recommendation the Bush Department of Justice and now the Obama CIA:
With us tonight is John Sifton, blogger for “The Daily Beast” and a private investigator and attorney who‘s firm does research for human rights group.
And, John, thanks for your time tonight.
JOHN SIFTON, THE DAILY BEAST: Good evening.
SHUSTER: You have written before about the reasons behind Panetta‘s reluctance to look into what the CIA did. Can you explain?
SIFTON: Well, one of the issues here is that the senior leadership of the CIA is still infected with people who themselves are implicated in the torture and other abuses that occurred back in 2002 through 2006, when the CIA prisons were fully functioning. So, right beneath Panetta, for instance, the deputy director of the CIA, Stephen Kappes was a senior officer, and the director of operations. Beneath him, Michael Sulick, who‘s now the director of the National Clandestine Service of the CIA.
Both men are essentially implicated in the secret prisons and in the torture that took place there. They‘re supposed to give good advice to the director and to the president. The problem here is that you‘re not going to get unvarnished objective advice from people who themselves are implicated in this. And so, they have a reason and an interest to convince their director and the president that investigations are not the way to go.
SHUSTER: And as far as the president is concerned, by some accounts, Mr. Obama feels out of his comfort zone when it comes to intelligence and counterterrorism issues. Is that also what‘s going on here—the president feels a bit inexperienced on this stuff and the intelligence community is so fiercely against any sort of investigation that the compromise White House position is: Well, OK, we will not look back?
SIFTON: There might be some truth to that. He‘s a grown man, but a new president. I mean, I think the fact of the matter is the CIA always plays this game with any new president and with any member of the executive branch or Congress. They come in and they razzle-dazzle you with the truth -- I mean, with the secrets and the classified information. And then they suggest that if you mess up what they‘re doing, that the earth will stop spinning on its axis.
The fact of the matter is the Obama administration should just push back and say—look, we have a serious problem here. There‘s a huge credibility problem. We‘ve got to bring the United States back to where it was, where it was a beacon to other countries, where, you know, State Department officials could challenge Egypt about their rights record and not be told, who are you to lecture us?
So, you know, it‘s time to push back against the CIA and say, “Let‘s get our house in order, let‘s prosecute these people for the past, and move on, and take us back to where we were.”
SHUSTER: What do the law and even the Geneva Convention dictate that we should do?
SIFTON: Well, look, I mean, to be fair, the Department of Justice has a lot on its plate right now. They have to prosecute white collar criminals for massive fraud. They have to deal with the, you know, the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay who are going to be—the alleged terrorists who are going to be brought to U.S. territory.
But I think Obama could make a great example and set a great symbol for the piety to law, if you were able to prosecute those—the alleged September 11th perpetrators and the alleged tortures who tortured them into confessing even though that wasn‘t necessary at the same time. And so, you know, that is something that can be done. That‘s something that President Obama should tell the Department of Justice to do.
SHUSTER: If the CIA will not look back; and the Justice Department perhaps, because of guidance from the White House, doesn‘t want to look back, is that the end of it and all we‘re left with is this nagging feeling that something very bad happened but we can‘t know exactly what?
SIFTON: Well, that‘s another good point. The fact of the matter is this, regardless of what President Obama decides to do, these issues are going to stay with us and that‘s for one simple reason—the perpetrators of September 11th are going to be tried in federal court or in military courts here in the United States some day. And when they are, the issue of their torture and what happened to them will come out, whether the Bush administration wants it or not.
So you might as well, if you‘re the Bush administration, have the truth come out on your own terms, prosecuting the torturers instead of having it come out from the mouths of the perpetrators of the September 11th.
Let‘s not let the victims of September 11th down by allowing the perpetrators of that massive crime become victims and sort of steal the show. Let‘s have Obama say we‘re going to do both. We‘re going to prosecute 9/11 and we‘re going to prosecute these tortures and show that we are a nation committed to the rule of law.
SHUSTER: John Sifton of TheDailyBeast.com and OneWorldResearch.com
and, John, great stuff and thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome.
It is the nexus of art and Easter‘s tastiest, sweetiest treat.
Marshmallow Peeps are coming soon to Oddball and a shoe box near you.
And it only took a bird strike to force Captain Sullenberger to make that emergency landing in the Hudson River. Thousands of pilots just like him have told the government all they know about presenting the problem. So why hasn‘t that study been released?
SHUSTER: Bests in a moment, with the vanity plate noting the love of tofu.
But first, on this day in 1971, before the advent of smart power, there was ping-pong power. The U.S. table tennis team began a week-long trip to China. At China‘s request, the players received an all-expenses paid trip to the People‘s Republic. “Time” magazine dubbed it “The Ping Heard Around the World.” Nine players, four officials and two spouses were the first Americans allowed in the country since the communist takeover in 1949.
So happy anniversary ping-pong diplomacy! And on that note, let‘s play Oddball.
We begin on the Internet. It‘s almost Easter and that means it‘s time for a self-induced sugar coma and the “Washington Post” Peep‘s show three. Entrants were asked to create a diorama of the famous occurrence or pop culture using Peeps marshmallows. The top 40 finalists are now online. This year‘s entrants cover everything from Beyonce to M.C. Escher, a Peep Octomom, a peep Sully landing in the Hudson River, an Aretha Franklin Peep performing at President Obama‘s inauguration. And it will the last year for this one, Peep-tanamo Bay.
To Bewdley, England, where one local painter is taking the art world by storm, meet Five the elephant, specializing in abstract art. Five learned how to hold a paint brush with her trunk after watching travelers (ph) paint their toenails, giving new meaning to “My elephant can paint that. This pachyderm Picasso has completed 50 works of art since picking up the hobby two years ago. Although Five has tried her trunk at portraiture, most of her pieces consist of shapeless blobs. Untasteful (ph) nods of that Planters Peanut guy.
Karl Rove talks smack about the vice president and we don‘t mean Cheney. Would you believe he‘s kind of, sort of almost calling Vice President Biden a liar?
And what do Paula Abdul and Hillary Clinton have in common? No, seriously. This morning, the answer might cost you. Both of those stories ahead.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.
Number three: Best bumper stopper. Kelly Coffman-Lee, a vegan, from Colorado, wanted to profess her love for fresh bean curd on a vanity license plate. But the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles denied her request. See if you can guess why? She wanted a shorten version of “I love tofu.” Of course, not everyone might read it that way.
Number two: Best elephant story. In Warsaw, Poland, a politician is fit to be tied over the zoo‘s acquisition of what he thinks is a gay elephant. Nino the elephant appears to prefer in his enclosure the company of other males over females. Michael Grzes, a conservative lawmaker, is fuming, and told Reuters, quote, “we didn‘t pay 37 million for the largest elephant house in Europe to have a gay elephant live there.” The zoo says the elephant hasn‘t reached sexual maturity, so it‘s too soon to tell if it is in fact gay. The emotional maturity of that politician also remains in doubt.
And number one, best publicity stunt, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Europe, or PETA, have asked the British pop duo the Pet Shop Boys to consider changing their name to the Rescue Shelter Boys. PETA claims animals at pet shops are treated inhumanely and a name change would help them shed light on the problem. On their official website, the Pet Shop Boys have respectfully declined to change their name and they‘re asking, quote, what have I—what have I—what have I done to deserve this?
SHUSTER: In his first speech after leaving the White House, former President George W. Bush said he would not criticize President Obama. He noted the new commander in chief, quote, deserves my silence. Bush‘s inner circle didn‘t get that memo. In our third story, Karl Rove is calling Vice President Biden a liar.
That‘s right. Karl Rove, the man who lied to Bush spokesman Scott McClellan, knowing McClellan would repeat those lies and mislead the public, that man, Rove, AKA Turd Blossom, is taking issue with the veracity of Joe Biden.
It all began earlier this week, when Vice President Biden sat down with CNN and addressed comments made by his predecessor, Dick Cheney. Biden called Cheney‘s assertion that the Obama administration‘s foreign policies have made us less safe dead wrong. In the middle of that interview, Biden also recounted a meeting with then President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office—he was a great guy. I enjoyed being with him. He said to me—he said, well, Joe, I‘m a leader. And I said, Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one‘s following.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: No comment from the former president, but no need. Enter Karl Rove. The architect went into attack mode on Fox News. He denied that such a meeting ever occurred. And then Rove added this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I hate to say it, but he‘s a serial exaggerator. If I was being unkind, I‘d say he‘s a liar. But it is a habit he ought to drop. You‘ll notice, every one of these incidents has the same structure. Joe Biden courageously raises the impotent question. The befuddlely answers. And Joe Biden drives home the dramatic response.
It‘s his imagination. It‘s a made up, fictional world. He ought to get out of it and get back to reality. There are very few presidents who spend hours with somebody in the Oval Office, particularly a—with all due respect, a blow hard like Joe Biden was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Joining us now, “Huffington Post” contributor and co-author of “Bush‘s Brain,” James Moore. Jim, good to see.
JAMES MOORE, AUTHOR, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”: Hi David. Good to see you.
SHUSTER: In the CIA leak case, Karl Rove lied to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, knowing that McClellan would go out and repeat those lies. Later, Rove nearly got indicted for lying to federal investigators. Rove must know that he‘s damaged goods when it comes to issues of veracity. So what‘s he trying to do here?
MOORE: I‘m not sure. But how do you say, with all due respect, he‘s a blow hard? On the other hand—but I have to suggest that there‘s something about Karl that is very—we ought to, in many ways, feel sad about. There‘s something pathological about Karl‘s inability to integrate reality into what he views to be reality.
This is a man who has made things up pathologically. There‘s a pathology to what Karl is doing and it goes on and on and on. And we‘re talking about a man who basically ran a lie factory in the White House under the White House Iraq Group, and has completely ignored everything that contradicts what Karl wants to be true.
This is what‘s going on in his brain. He has this little world that he sees on a videotape in his head, and he believes it to be true. I think there‘s a great sadness in there. And I think that we might want to pity Karl. Because Karl is completely disconnected from what‘s going on in the real world.
SHUSTER: And by the Iraq Study Group, we should remind our viewers, that was the group that was put together to help sell the Iraq war. And their primary argument was that Saddam had or was about to have nuclear weapons, something of which there was no evidence of that.
President Bush, in the midst of all this, is trying to stay above the fray while his inner circle is dispatched to go after the Obama administration. Is this part of an attempt to rewrite the Bush legacy?
MOORE: I don‘t think there‘s any question that every single thing that they do right now is connected to changing the way the public views what happened in the past eight years, David. They are going to consistently—and Karl included. They‘re going to try to rewrite history, to make us think that X did not mean Y, that the fact that there were no WMDs was not the reason we invaded. We invaded because of more important or pertinent reasons.
Karl and everybody else involved in this is going to continue to take this kind of approach. But to assume that Karl is lying for effect is kind of wrong, because I think, frankly, that we‘re talking about somebody who doesn‘t really know what he‘s doing anymore. And again, I would like to stress that I think there is a kind of reason for us to dismiss anything and everything Karl says as a consequence.
SHUSTER: We should note that Joe Biden‘s spokesman, Jay Carney, told Fox News the vice president stands by his remarks. Ari Fleischer, on MSNBC earlier today, demanded that Joe Biden supply a date for this alleged meeting with President Bush. Is this simply a coordinated effort to try and distract the Obama administration?
MOORE: I‘m not even sure they‘re paying attention, the Obama administration. I think that they do, from time to time, want to fire the bow shots at the Obama administration and see if they can throw them off of their game or whatever. But I think, frankly, their major concern is they realize, all of these people realize that they have been connected to what is probably the worst administration in the history of our country. And they‘re trying to fix that.
Karl Rove doesn‘t want people to think of him anymore as a George Bush guy. Karl Rove is trying to convince people that there‘s more to him than that. And everybody associated with that administration is now either distancing themselves or they‘re trying to fix essentially what is the public‘s general view of what happened the past eight years.
They‘ve got a big, big mountain to climb. I don‘t think they can do it.
SHUSTER: And “Politico” is reporting on another bizarre altercation involving Karl Rove. Rove was eating a meal at the Charlie Palmer Stake House when he was aggressively approached by an ex-chief of staff to Former Republican Congressman Tom Feeney. The staffer apparently told Rove he was offended by comments that Rove made about Feeney on Fox News following last year‘s election. So now Rove is essentially getting criticized from both sides of the aisle.
MOORE: I think this is funny, actually, because when I read this, David, I first thought, well, you know, this is typical Karl. Karl is the kind of guy who is going to condescend to people who are right. And condescension, of course, is the refuge of the intellectually insecure. And Karl is going to take that kind of approach, because when the facts are against him, he‘s going to try to make you think that you‘re just not very smart. It‘s kind of sad, actually.
SHUSTER: Jim Moore, co-author of “Bush‘s Brain,” and a contributor to the “Huffington Post.” Jim, thanks as always for your time. We appreciate it.
MOORE: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome. You‘ve no doubt heard it called a Nanny Cam, but how about a robbery in progress cam? The dramatic 911 tapes, with the home owner watching on the web as her house was being ransacked.
Plus, it‘s kind of amazing what five dollars will buy you these days.
The opportunity of the season from the secretary of state.
And ahead on Rachel, Kumar goes to the White House. Without Harold, Kal Penn joins Rachel to discuss why he‘s putting his acting career on hold to work for the president.
But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering form the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals, Still Bushed.
Number three, business before people-gate. Remember Captain Sully Sullenberger landing his plane in the Hudson River after a bird strike crippled his jet? Maybe, you‘re thinking, if the government knew how prevalent bird strikes were, the government and private industry could look into new measures to mitigate problem. Turns out NASA did an 11 million dollar study, interviewing 30,000 pilots between 2001 and 2004 about safety issues, and then killed the study without ever revealing what the pilots told them. According to the Government Accountability Office, one thing that killed the study was resistance from the Federal Aviation Administration, which claimed pilot answers were subjective, which should have been obvious.
But then there‘s this: in 2007, the “Associated Press” reported that one reason NASA killed the study is because the results, which we still do not know, might have hurt airline profits. As if landing in the Hudson would not?
Number two, business before people, the sequel-gate. For years, critics of the Bush administration have been howling that he let big business essentially run all the regulatory agency that were supposed to protect Americans from the damaging excesses of corporate greed. Nowhere has that been more apparent than the Food and Drug Administration. Today, we know the problem wasn‘t just peanuts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that US efforts to reduce the number of food born illnesses essentially stalled three years ago, and that some illnesses are now on the increase. The GAO found last year that the Bush FDA did not even have a formal setup for inspecting fresh produce, even as fresh produce became a bigger source of food borne illness. Of all the fresh produce imported between 2002 and 2007, the Bush FDA inspected approximately one percent.
And number one, the revenge of business before people-gate. When Mr. Bush allowed polluters to pollute on the honor system, it was to save you, the taxpayer, the financial burdens that would surely be passed on to you if polluters were forced to pay for their pollution. The Bush Republicans remaining in office are still using that argument to call President Obama‘s pollution fees a tax on you. Doing nothing about global warming gases is actually cheaper for you, the consumer, they say.
Except, they never seem to mention that doing nothing has its own cost. Consider one small part of the economy, corn. Its optimum temperature range is 62 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. So global warming will actually make the growing season longer. But a new report from the advocacy group Environment America says that projected global warming increases that push the temperature above 72 degrees will have an overall negative effect on corn crops.
How negative? One point four billion every year. See if you can find that tax listed in the Bush Republican‘s budget.
SHUSTER: Ever had the sneaking suspicion that something might be going on in your home in your absence that shouldn‘t, well, you‘re not alone. In the number two story on the COUNTDOWN, there‘s also the Florida woman who said she had a sixth sense that something was happening. As she put it, maybe her dogs were acting up. So she decided to log on to the web camera she had installed, only to find out it wasn‘t her pets making mischief.
What she saw was a live picture of thieves breaking into her home. She quickly called 911 and gave the dispatcher a play-by-play of the robbery in progress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Hi. My name is Jeanne Thomas. I‘m watching my home on live monitor. There‘s somebody in my house and he‘s robbing it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you calling from?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m calling from my office, and I have a live video monitor. He‘s in my home. He‘s in my bedroom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long has he been in there, Ma‘am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t know. I just called 911 as soon as I thought it. Oh god. I can‘t believe this. There goes my cat. She‘s running.
I‘ve got three dogs in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the cat is like freaking out. He‘s walking next to my stereo. He‘s looking at my son‘s video games. He‘s rummaging through the house.
Are they there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They‘re on the way, ma‘am. I just need as much information as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He‘s in my living room, in the main part of the house. He‘s looking around. He has a white shirt. He‘s picked up something in his hand. Oh, he‘s picked up the Wii video game. Oh god, please hurry.
I can‘t believe this. This is unbelievable. Doesn‘t even know I‘m sitting here watching him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, hold on just a second.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh God. Oh God. I can‘t believe this. This is unbelievable. He‘s running out the back door. He‘s going out the back door.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He‘s running out the back door.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He‘s going up—two people in the house. Here comes another one and a big one. Another one in a big jacket. He‘s in the back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We‘ve got another subject.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Yes, now they‘re running into the back. They‘re looking out the back window. They‘re looking. OK, here‘s this one. He‘s running to the front. The other one is trying to figure out which way to go. The cat is freaked out. The dogs are hiding.
My god, this is crazy. They‘ve got things in their hands.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ma‘am, it‘s OK. Officers are surrounding your house. They‘re not going to get away with anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, god. They‘ve got there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: One of the burglars even took a bag of shredded cheese from the refrigerator, and could be seen on the video stuffing it into his mouth. What might have been his last good meal. All four robbers were caught. One of them was a neighbor, a neighbor that Miss Thomas remembers helping with Easter egg hunts when he was a child. And her husband used to give him rides to school.
If the 250 dollars spent on that web camera was a good investment, how much would you be willing to pay for a chance to see the season finale of “American Idol” in person? Or to spend the day with a former president? Those fabulous prizes and the unusual raffle that makes them available in our number one story when we come back.
SHUSTER: To the top of the COUNTDOWN. And almost a year after Hillary Clinton ended her quest to become the Democratic nominee for president, the financial hangover lingers. The campaign is still roughly six million dollars in the red. But today, we can report there are reinforcements on the way.
In our number one story, word of a new Hillary in ‘08 fund raising tactic, the high-end raffle. The entry fee? Five bucks. The prize? Lunch with Paul Begala. It‘s not clear who pays. The solicitation is from friend of Hillary James Carville. There are actually three big ticket raffle prizes for the minimum gift of five dollars.
Number one, a weekend in DC with Carville and Begala, during which you will talk politics, eat lunch, and, quoting the email‘s description, “who knows what else.”
Another lucky winner will spend the day with President Clinton, attending several interesting events with President Clinton, followed by your special New York City weekend. And a third lucky raffle winner will be whisked away to the “American Idol” finale in Los Angeles. Quoting Carville‘s email, “you and a guest will watch live as the ‘American Idol‘ judges make their final comments and decisions in this year‘s most anticipated season finale.
Yes, for as little as five samolians (ph), you too can blubber over your favorite contestant at the “American Idol” finale, courtesy of the Hillary Clinton campaign. The kicker here? Of the roughly six million the Clinton campaign still owes, about 5.3 will go to the firm of Mark Penn. Penn, of course, was the campaign‘s chief strategist and one of the main players who helped Hillary Clinton snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Time now to call in comedian Christian Finnegan, whose one hour comedy special, “Au Contraire,” debuts May 9th. Christian, welcome.
CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN: Thank you for having me.
SHUSTER: Where are you plunking down your five bucks?
FINNEGAN: Definitely lunch with James Carville, if for no other reason than I can finally find out what the atmosphere is like on his home planet. I do wonder, what is it the Clintons have on these guys that they can continually pimp them out like this? I imagine Begala gets some late night phone, hey, Paul, it‘s Phil. Listen, Thursday, 2:00 p.m., Chili‘s, you‘re having lunch with Ernie Markowitz. You‘ll be there. I got two words for you my friend, garter belts. I‘ve got one more word for you, Youtube. Oh, and Paul, no appetizers.
SHUSTER: Christian, does it hurt fund raising when the lion‘s share of the cash you owe is to a man that many consider a villainous figure in Mark Penn?
FINNEGAN: Yes, it‘s kind of like donating a million dollars to Jerry‘s kids and finding out the money is going to Jerry Lewis, which is just sad. I find it insane that this dude actually expects to be paid after basically running the campaign into the ground. Although I suppose he needs money for a lot of polish for those massive brass balls of his.
SHUSTER: Changing topics. Sarah Palin squeezed off a few rounds against Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah Palin‘s grand child, for coming clean on his relationship with Bristol Palin. She effectively called him a liar and a bad father. He said she was snobby. Where do you come down on this melodrama?
FINNEGAN: Why do we have to pick sides? Can‘t we all agree that they‘re all awful people? If I had to choose, you can‘t get mad at Sarah Palin for defending her daughter. That‘s what moms do. I remember in eighth grade whether I got dumped by Bonnie Barns, my mom also released a scathing press release to Reuters. Then Bonnie Barns went on the “Morton Downy Jr. Show.” That‘s just small-town family stuff.
SHUSTER: I want to play some of the Tyra interrogation of Levi Johnston and get your reaction. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TYRA BANKS, “THE TYRA BANKS SHOW”: Every time you practiced safe sex?
LEVI JOHNSTON, FATHER OF TRIP PALIN: Yes.
BANKS: Every time?
JOHNSTON: Every time.
JOHNSTON: Most of the time.
BANKS: Most of the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: What do you make of her interrogation technique there?
FINNEGAN: She really made him crack. But let‘s be honest, Levi Johnston is not the toughest of nuts. I don‘t see Ron Howard directing a movie called Banks/Johnston any time soon. Honestly, I don‘t even know if that was the point. I feel like this was less about defending the family name and more about compiling a reality TV demo tape. I guarantee you, within the halls of VH1 at this very moment, there are discussions about a show called “For the Love of Levi.”
SHUSTER: Finally, there‘s a squabble between Steven Colbert and Congressman Bill Posey. Posey introduced some ridiculous legislation to fuel the Obama isn‘t an American citizen rumor. Colbert started rumors that Posey is part alligator. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: Once again, this is just something I‘ve heard, Bill Posey‘s grandma, allegedly, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) an alligator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Posey has finally responded, saying, quote, “there is no reason to say that I‘m the illegitimate grandson of an alligator.” Is he right?
FINNEGAN: So, I guess if you‘re part alligator, there‘s something wrong with that, Congressman Posey? I understand. You‘re a freshman Congressman. You want to make a name for yourself. But how long is it going to take these dummies to realize that there is nothing to be gained by returning Stephen Colbert‘s phone calls, especially if you‘re a Republican. It‘s like that classic hole in the wall in the barn. If you stick something in that hole, you deserve whatever happens.
SHUSTER: Christian Finnegan, his one-hour comedy special debuts May the 9th. Christian, a pleasure as always. Thanks for coming on.
FINNEGAN: Thanks, champ.
SHUSTER: And that is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,162nd day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m David Shuster, in for Keith Olbermann. And now, with her special guest, actor turned White House staffer Kal Penn, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
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