Guest: Stephen Hayes, Jonathan Turley, Margaret Carlson, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Richard Wolffe
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The circular firing squad reloads, and Boss Limbaugh still has the biggest gun and no aim. The new GOP remodeling efforts, National Council for a New America, is going forward without Sarah Palin so Limbaugh attacks the Republican establishment over Sarah Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: These people hate Palin, too.
They despise Sarah Palin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Except, Governor Palin had already invited into the new GOP remodeling effort. She just hasn‘t replied yet.
The tea party movement, the TP-ers, now criticized by the administrator of TaxDayTeaParty.com? He says the protest has been taken away from the grassroots. Too centralized, too many chiefs, and not enough guys dressed up as natives in Boston Harbor? “I find the tea party effort,” writes Eric Odom, “in a very movement in a disconcerting position at the moment.”
The Justice Department internal torture legal review: The judgment on the quality of the lawyerly rationalization gymnastics during the Bush administration. It is nearly finished. And former Bush administration figures now reported by “The Washington Post,” with no apparent irony, trying to water it down.
The new right wing role models against gay marriage. Joe the plumber who tells “Christianity Today,” quote, “People don‘t understand the dictionary—it‘s called queer. Queer means strange and unusual. It‘s not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that.” While Miss “Pro-Opposite Marriage” California objects to these photos posted on a Web site, and I agree with her.
And Worsts—Congresswoman Bachmann takes a new tact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michele, you‘re a hottie!
REP. MICHELE BACHMAN, ® MINNESOTA: I got my husband right out here.
Don‘t make him move.
During the last 100 days, we have seen an orgy. It is a—it would make any local smorgasbord embarrassed. If you look at this spending orgy we‘ve seen in Washington. The government spends its wad by April 26.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Could there be some sort of undercurrent there that just isn‘t registering with me?
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: The news media should do a penetrating expose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
In the GOP‘s desperation to find a new message and a new messenger, it seems to have forgotten the input of its most influential member, Boss Limbaugh.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Once again, Republican, quote, “leaders,” unquote, on Capitol Hill are learning the hard way that they apparently must do nothing and say nothing without the expressed audio permission of the party boss.
What still seems to be Boss Limbaugh‘s party and he‘ll cry if he wants to, this week crying for, quote, “standard, run-of-the-mill, good old-fashioned American conservative values,” as articulated as by none other than Governor Sarah Palin, who was ridiculed by party leaders over the weekend at the first ever meeting of the party‘s self-named National Council for a New America. A group formed in an effort to rebrand the GOP as a party with some ideas and in fact with some new ideas, as something other than the party of no.
Governor Palin apparently invited but it seemed she did not reply to the invitation. Her exclusion is no big whoop to Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Mr. No himself, who suggested in response to a question about Governor Palin‘s inclusion on the “Time” magazine‘s list of the 100 most influential people, that he wants to focus more on ideas and less on Palin or Limbaugh. Former Governor Romney joking in response to the same question, that he was not sure whether Governor Palin belonged on the list of most influential people or on the list of the most beautiful people.
Boss Limbaugh finding the entire premise of the GOP‘s new ideas operation a joke, apparently because he‘s perfectly content with all of the ideas of the old party as represented by President Reagan, even though Reagan is dead and he was a lousy president. More recently, Limbaugh thinks the old ideas have been best represented by Governor Palin. The boss believing that party leaders, the ones who lead the party in name anyway, that they do not like the former vice presidential nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: Something else you have to understand—these people hate Palin, too. They despise Sarah Palin. They fear Sarah Palin. They don‘t like her either.
She‘s—according to them, she‘s embarrassing. When you strip all the talk that the Reagan era is over and we got look and stop all this nostalgia and stuff, clearly, in the last year‘s campaign, the most prominent and articulate voice for standard, run-of-the-mill, good old-fashioned American conservatism was Sarah Palin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hey, Governor, you‘ve just been called articulate. Demand and you shall receive.
Within hours, the GOP announcing that the governor had accepted its invitation to join the national council.
Time now to call in our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe.
Good evening, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Mere coincidence I‘m sure that less than 24 hours after Limbaugh lashed out the new ideas council and the GOP announced that Governor Palin had accepted their invitation to join up, right?
WOLFFE: Total coincidence. And I think you got to look at this rebranding effort in terms of not so much a new brand, more like just putting the old Republican face on everything. I mean, Limbaugh‘s problem is that they‘re trying to rebrand at all (ph) and look to the future. And it‘s a very interesting idea that when it comes to the ideas of the future, they really need to go back to social conservatism and the personal story of an Alaskan governor who was never known for ideas.
The point here is that Limbaugh‘s problem is that he thinks this is a primary for 2012 and Sarah Palin wasn‘t there. It‘s not about ideas for him. It‘s just about getting his favorite candidate in place.
OLBERMANN: And, is there also another disconnect in that premise from Limbaugh? I mean, if Sarah Palin was the answer for the Republican Party, if she was the articulate voice, the most articulate voice of the real values of the nation—wouldn‘t John McCain be president right now?
WOLFFE: Well, who can forget her significant contribution to fruit fly research and the economic crisis? You know, she obviously made an incredible contribution to John McCain‘s election effort for all of two weeks.
So, you know, one thing that‘s interesting as this debate has played out is listening for instance to someone like Colin Powell, who actually was a Reagan favorite, and he said what Republicans need to do right now is come up with ideas for how to deal with the economy. That‘s nothing that Sarah Palin or John McCain did through the campaign. If they had, they might have come closer to winning.
OLBERMANN: Should there be any doubts that Boss Limbaugh still leads this party in practice, if not in name, if we have seen this scenario in which he puts out this premise that she has somehow being ignored by this group. She wasn‘t included and it turned out she had been invited but had not responded in time, but in the interim, they made a huge deal out of responding to his response to this. I mean, they—he cracks the whip and they—and they just line up behind him time and time again.
WOLFFE: Well, here‘s the problem. There is no one who leads the party. And in that vacuum, you have unsubstantial figure of Rush Limbaugh.
The problem is that if you‘re going to have an ideas tour, start with the ideas. Don‘t start with the marketing. Don‘t start with the—with a debate about who should be there and who shouldn‘t. You got to sit down and do some research. And again, one thing we never saw from Palin throughout the campaign or in terms of her record in Alaska was ideas.
The Republican Party is sorely in need of some new ones. It will be good for democracy if they came up with them. It‘s not about new faces or new voices. It does come back to ideas.
OLBERMANN: Two things, hey, Rush Limbaugh someone just called your figure unsubstantial, and the second thing is a question. That which you touched on—that has been the gist of the Republican Party since about 2003 I would think you could say. Whatever they‘ve said has been rejected in growing measure by the American populace. So, they have just decided that they need to say it a little bit louder. That‘s about it, isn‘t it?
WOLFFE: Say it—say it a little bit louder or come up with a new slogan. But the problem is, the policy model has been rejected. And it just isn‘t working.
Again, to come back to Powell, he said that people want right now more government and not less. How do you square that with the idea of limited government and what Republicans are advocating? It‘s very, very hard.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it would be exactly the opposite in fact.
MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe—as always Richard, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It is not just Republicans now under attack from Boss Limbaugh. Tea party protesters are now under attack from the guy who helped to conceive the tea party protest. The genius is Eric Odom, describing himself as, quote, “the guy who both developed the site and concept for the protest.”
Mr. Odom sending a letter to supporters in which he voices misgivings about the entire affair, saying, quote, “I find the tea party effort in a very disconcerting position at the moment.” Among other things, he believes that the movement is focusing too much on the federal government instead of doing what the proverbial bumper sticker advises one to do in politics, “Act locally.”
Quoting him further in this letter, “I cringe when I see people claiming to be leaders in this movement make statements about the federal government and how that is where all of our energy needs to be spent. Here‘s a memo for you—the current administration as well as the current Congress are doing a fantastic job of defeating themselves. Not to say we just ignore them, but if we devote all of our time to the federal fight yet lose our states—we do so at our own peril.”
Of course, FOX News couldn‘t make a pretend story out of that.
As one of the brains behind the original operation, Odom describing the Frankenstein he helped to create as something that was morphed into another creator entirely, quote, “Essentially, our function as a Web site was solely to market local tea parties and help organizers collaborate, that was it.”
Let‘s turn to the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine, Chris Hayes.
Chris, good evening.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, the guy who helped to conceive this idea, these tea party protests, pushed by FOX News as the federal movement focused on tax relief, of course, for the wealthiest Americans. This guy is upset that what he helped to create is now a national movement? The first question here is, did he see the video? Is it really a national movement?
HAYES: Yes. I think movement is a little strong at this point. I do, though, have quite a good deal of sympathy for his point. I mean, I think there—you know, there are conservatives and average sort of citizens who are—have a set of principles that are sort of aphorism, the ones the government is pursuing, and they‘re frustrated and angry and it‘s a democratic country in which we sort of cherish our right to protest and there was some bit of sort of actual genuine, organic grassroots feeling behind this.
And then it was completely sort of hijacked in a pretty, I thought actually, exploitative way by the Murdoch empire, by FOX News, where a lot of people were able then to sort of claim that its their own and use it as a backdrop. And I think there‘s a sort of interesting tension coming out in this letter that he wrote.
OLBERMANN: But if you stop and let the hijackers get on the truck with you—I mean, what did Mr. Odom was going to happen here? The other aphorism that applies here is when you lie down with dogs, don‘t you often get fleas?
HAYES: Yes. Although it‘s sort of—it always kind of unclear, I mean, that you had these two strains that were kind of uncomfortably merged in the organization of the whole event. So, you had people doing this who were doing it from some kind of grassroots place, and then you had these sort of professional astroturf organizations that have worked in the conservative movement, you had FOX News.
And at a certain point, everybody likes the attention for the events they‘re organizing, right? So, I think it was sort of accepted. And you see now the kind of, you know, the cost that comes with marrying yourself to these big institutions in the conservative movement that I don‘t think have much real connection to whatever there is of a right grassroots.
OLBERMANN: So, what—where did this sort of split off because Odom wrote that the issues that the tea party protestors should be focused on, at the federal level, were socialized health care—we‘re assuming he‘s against it; Internet taxation—I‘m not sure what he means by that but we‘re assuming he‘s against it; and union card check which we‘re assuming he‘s against, I can‘t really tell one week to the next.
But there are three items here and it was portrayed nationally as just one item—taxation. Where did that—where did the other two go?
HAYES: Well, you know, those are—card check or I should say the right of workers to organize for the Employee Free Choice Act, that‘s a fairly obscure issue. I mean, I don‘t necessarily think it‘s the kind of thing that‘s going to mobilize a lot of people. They clearly seized on the tax issue because that‘s the issue that has this kind of tectonic resonance in conservative politics.
And, you know, this guy, by showing that those are the things he‘s opposed to, shows that he‘s a—you know, he‘s a pretty invested right-winger who has his kind of conception of politics. But that‘s not the kind of thing that‘s going to mobilize a mass movement. You‘re not going to be able to get people out in the street saying they‘re going to make a change to union law that will allow majority to sign up for workers in a workplace. It‘s hard to see anyone coming out for that protest.
OLBERMANN: You mentioned astroturf. With this letter from Mr. Odom, can we now say that the claim that this is a grassroots movement is officially dead or at least there are groundskeepers—dozen of groundskeepers involved in the grassroots?
HAYES: Yes. I think there always were. I mean, it was never a completely genuine, you know, expression of some kind of mass revolt at the agenda being pursued in Washington. I also think that what you‘re going to really see is—it‘s going to be interesting to see if conservatism can actually develop some genuine grassroots response to the policies they don‘t like. I don‘t think it‘s going to be particularly effective or popular because I think that, largely, the country is moving in an agenda that sort of correlates to what the public will is. But there‘s a real tension in conservatism between the sort of authoritarian impulse and this kind of desire for the grassroots for something new.
OLBERMANN: Gold standard, silver coins, you shall not crucify mankind upon the cross of gold—or maybe that could work on that or maybe not.
Chris Hayes of “The Nation”—as always, Chris, great thanks for your time. Have a good night.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The irony of the tea party argument about taxation without representation. When its advocates had representation before the majority of the country voted nationally and locally to throw those Republican representatives out for the very kind of redistribution of wealth and pandering to the powerful TP people, think they are now protesting, those representatives also rewrote more than 100 years of American law about torture. And now, the rewriting part, the actual quality of the lawyering is under investigation.
But the report from the Justice Department is so tepid it may amount to nothing more than a slap on the wrists of those lawyers and the old Bush administration is reportedly acting behind the scenes to stop even that slap on the wrist—next.
OLBERMANN: The investigation into the quality of the Bush administration‘s legal rationalizations for torture. It may suggest only reprimands of those lawyers by local bar associations, but that is still too much for former Bush administration figures now trying to get the reports softened. And as Karl Rove and David Plouffe debate bipartisanship, Senate Republicans go permeable Friday, to hinting at a fight to the death today over whoever Obama names to the Supreme Court.
Worsts: The Spanish language beats the President one-nothing on Cinco de Mayo. And Michele Bachmann now starts talking about orgies and wad spending. She said it. I didn‘t.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The Justice Department has finished the still secret draft report on whether and how Bush administration top officials tried to rewrite torture law. And now, in our fourth story tonight: Former Bush administration officials are trying to rewrite the report on how they tried to rewrite the torture law, even though we learned tonight the report doesn‘t recommend any criminal prosecution of those lawyers.
“The Washington Post” reporting this afternoon that unnamed former Bush administration officials, quote, “are lobbying behind the scenes to push Justice Department leaders to water down an ethics report criticizing lawyers who blessed harsh detainee interrogation tactics.” Water down, that‘s really what it said; only they could have worked in the thwart.
At issue, the internal Justice Department report on how three Justice Department lawyers Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury, issued legal guidance declaring that waterboarding was legal conduct against U.S. detainees—an opinion rendered amid intense from Vice President Cheney to authorize such brutal treatment.
According to the “Associated Press,” Bybee, Yoo and Bradbury had until yesterday to submit their comments on the DOJ‘s internal report, which explains why “The Post” is now reporting that attorneys for the three men contacted former Bush justice officials and got them to lobby current Obama justice officials to soften the report. We do not know whether or not they succeeded.
We do know “The Washington Post” reported that an earlier draft recommended disciplinary action against Bybee and Yoo by their local bar associations. And tonight‘s reports indicate no change from that.
In a congressional hearing next week, a former Bush official who objected to their waterboarding rationales, Philip Zelikow, will testify about the genesis of Bush torture, along with whistle-blower, former FBI agent, Ali Soufan. And two members of Congress, chairman of the House Judiciary and House Foreign Affairs committees have given Secretary of State Clinton a deadline of Thursday, this Thursday, to release a pivotal memo sent to Mr. Bush‘s National Security Council deputies challenging the waterboarding rationales—a memo that was authored by Mr. Zelikow back in 2005 when he was counselor to then-secretary of state, Dr. Rice.
And both he—Zelikow—and Rice were behind closed doors in the administration vocal opponents of what its supporters call enhanced interrogation techniques and what the International Committee of the Red Cross called—here‘s the word—torture.
Let‘s turn now to Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.
Jon, thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: No recommendation of prosecution, just recommendations that local bar associations do something—and that‘s not watered down enough already for them?
TURLEY: Well, it is astonishing. It‘s like they had co-mingling of accounts or something when we‘re talking about was involvement of a war crime. And the question, what are they being referred to for? I mean, if they did nothing wrong. The fact is, this country established in World War II, we try judges who handed down decisions and said that they were just following the law. We said you can‘t get away with that.
These individuals played critical roles in the creation of this country‘s first official torture program. And, you know, we now know the answer of how long it takes a department to cover up its own war crimes. It takes five years. I mean, this is like having a hospital being given the job of investigating itself and whether it committed criminal malpractice.
And so, after five years, the Justice Department—remember, this was the Bush administration that was investigating the Bush administration at the Justice Department. And what they come out with is—no, you can‘t really charge a Justice Department attorney with playing a role in an alleged war crime.
Well, that‘s a very important piece of precedent that may come to haunt us.
OLBERMANN: You mention the Second World War. It‘s probably instructional to go and watch a movie about this called, “Judgment at Nuremberg.”
TURLEY: That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: That‘s not—that‘s not fiction. They put the people who enforce the laws, the judges, on trial in some cases for long prison sentences.
TURLEY: Well, that‘s right. Yes.
OLBERMANN: Back to the Justice—to the Justice Department report and the Zelikow memo that Congress wants, and even this hearing next week - - do any of these things look like they might be in positions to reveal exactly who made the DOJ sign off on torture? Who guaranteed that that was going to happen?
TURLEY: Yes. I think what we‘re going to see is a great deal more of details. And quite frankly, a lot of lawyers are going to want to look at this. You know, these lawyers really represent I think what Oppenheimer said when we had the first atomic explosion, that physicists have known sin.
And that‘s really this moment for lawyers. These are sort of our fallen angels, people who seem to turn their back on our training. And their stories are really stories of personal corruption—I mean, the corruption of ambition.
And in the case of Jay Bybee, he went to Gonzales to try to get a judgeship on the Ninth Circuit and Gonzales sent him to the OLC and later gave him the task of justifying a war crime. And when he did that, then he got the judgeship. And I got to tell you, I think ambition had a lot to do with that corruption of morality—not just legal judgment—that led to his authoring those memos.
OLBERMANN: And now we know somebody who never saw “Judgment at Nuremberg,” because that‘s exactly what the movie is about, that‘s the Burt Lancaster speech that it‘s actually worth—again, I‘m not trying to sell copies of a DVD.
OLBERMANN: But back in the real world, what if Philip Zelikow testifies that Dick Cheney personally told him to go and rip off every copy of the anti-torture memo, to eat every copy of the anti-torture memo? What is the point of it if Congress reveals this or any investigation reveals it, and nobody in power is going to hold anybody else accountable?
TURLEY: Well, that‘s the most astonishing thing. It‘s like we‘re having public tours of a crime scene and nobody is bothering to arrest the guy in the room who committed the crime. And it gets more and more bizarre, particularly because the destruction that he has described, which is, of course, very serious dovetails with destruction at the CIA where we know that high-ranking officials destroyed the tapes of the torture because they were afraid it would be used against them.
I mean, we have a government that‘s acting like it‘s some mob outfit in New Jersey, that it‘s destroying evidence and going to made guys to justify themselves. And nobody is pushing in Congress—seriously pushing for a special prosecutor. It is ridiculous for the Department of Justice to be investigating itself in this respect. And of course, inevitably, it‘s going to find that its lawyers shouldn‘t be charged with crimes.
OLBERMANN: Well, we‘re out of time, Jon. But I do have to say here, I think you did unfairly insult mob outfits in New Jersey by comparing them to the Bush administration.
OLBERMANN: Now, we‘ll just have to leave it like that.
Jonathan Turley of George Washington University—other than that, thanks a lot.
TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Brazil‘s soccer champions are—to borrow a phrase I heard somewhere - en fuego. Well, at least their trophy is. Wow.
And I don‘t know if I‘d use that same phrase to describe what‘s happening to Michele Bachmann, but you would be—to say the least—surprised by her choice in words to her constituents. Ahead in Worst Persons.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment.
First, this is May 5th, thus 13 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for a military families charity; thus 12 days since I offered to donate $1,000 per second that he lasted; thus 10 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise.
This development, the editorial board of the Texas newspaper, the “Austin American-Statesman,” has now noted, quote, “Waterboarding is decried as torture but Hannity described it as ‘dunking somebody‘s head in water.‘ Nonetheless, Hannity has been uncharacteristically quiet about scheduling a waterboarding session to benefit charity.”
Let‘s play Oddball.
To Sao Paolo, Brazil, where soccer is hot and the soccer trophy is hotter. It caught fire, or at least the confetti surrounding it did. Pyrotechnics gone awry, the captain and president of the victorious team, the Ronaldo‘s Corinthians, took turns trying to cool off the shining and flaming metal object. The Paulista Championship concluded with those gentlemen unharmed. The trophy is now serviceable as a spittoon or perhaps a door stop.
To a burger joint near Washington, D.C., where the president and the vice president today made an unannounced and probably unexplained visit to what has been described as a quick working lunch. Some patrons suggested that the president cut the line, Mr. Obama was having none of that, and no freebies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: No, no, no, we got to pay for it. See all these people, they‘ll write about how we were freeloading.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The gentlemen ordered their burgers with cheese. Mr. Biden had some jalapeno on his, with kind of a weird flashback to that day in January 2004 at the Nothing Special campaign in New Mexico, when President Bush bought not just himself but the White House press corps ribs, but didn‘t leave a tip.
The Republicans go from cordial to hard line in the next Supreme Court nominee, while Karl Rove actually says out loud, in public, that for 16 years, Washington‘s political climate has been too poisonous, but he didn‘t contribute to that at all.
And Joe the Plumber slams, quote, queers, and insists, quote, queer can‘t be a slur because it‘s in the dictionary. Joe, the words vacuous and yokel are also in the dictionary. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best dumb criminal, Hipolito Junior Vasquez of Bethlehem, PA, accused of having burglarized at least three apartments with an unusual calling card left behind. He would vandalized them with spray paint and chocolate pudding. He was apprehended on East 5th street when police spied a man covered in silver paint and chocolate syrup.
Number two, best admission by the far right, former Clinton hunter
David Bossie, writing in what is supposed to be a far-right website about
Hollywood. If David Bossie is Hollywood, I‘m Lawrence Olivier. Anyway,
listen to this, “it is unnecessary for me to tell any of you reading this
that the left has a stranglehold over both Hollywood and the mainstream
media. It is axiomatic in today‘s news world dominated by the likes of
Keith Olbermann and the ‘New York Times.‘”
Well, if that‘s true, and I doubt it, don‘t you forget it, Junior!
Number one, best losing by winning, Jean Musgjerd, the women‘s softball coach at Rochester Community and Technical College. Playing Central Lakes Community College in the Minnesota Junior College Softball Tournament, when a Central Lakes player hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the last inning to apparently win the game. But Coach Musgjerd, who claims I always have a rule book in my bag, got the home run not only nullified but declared an out because the home run hitter, Ashley Erickson (ph), actually slapped hands with some of her teammates before she touched home plate.
Coach Musgjerd of Rochester quoted the following rule to the umpire:
“offensive team personnel other than base coaches and runners shall not touch a batter or base runners who is legally running the bases on a dead ball award until the players contacts home plate.”
So, the Central Lakes home run was an out. The game continued and Coach Musgjerd and Rochester won in extra innings. Central Lakes was eliminated, even though Coach Musgjerd apparently forgot to tell the umpires about the second part of the rule she quoted. “For a first offense, the umpire shall issue a warning to the offending team.” No comment from the coach I always have my rule book in my bag, but she and the ump who also didn‘t know the rules and who decided the game on a stupid and, worst, factually incorrect technicality, maybe they should quit!
OLBERMANN: Turns out, if you really want bipartisanship in Washington, what you need first is tripartisanship, because, in our third story tonight, Republicans unable to agree with themselves over minor things like the president‘s prerogatives for naming Supreme Court justice. Literally, one Republican moving from malleability to code words for a nomination knife fight.
With Justice Souter‘s retirement from the bench, the president getting an earlier than expected opportunity to choose a new justice. On Friday, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, through which the nominees must pass, explained that the Republican role is not to apply a political litmus test to Mr. Obama‘s nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH: I do not expect him to appoint a conservative to the court. As long as he appoints people who are really qualified and who will abide by the rule of judging, I think it‘s going to be pretty tough to vote against him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, he did not name his nominee Friday night. Because by Sunday, Senator Hatch was instead warning Mr. Obama not to nominate anybody too—what‘s the word—human?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HATCH: He‘s saying that he wants to pick people who will take sides. He has also said that a judge has to be a person of empathy. What does that mean? Usually that is code word for an activist judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately, there an activist judge is a code word for pro-choice, which many judges are, like the majority that ruled on Roe v. Wade. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell now also warning that Mr. Obama will have a fight over this empathetic, activist, pro-choice judge who is way to liberal, despite not yet existing.
McConnell also saying Obama can pick who he wants. And also issuing another warning, this one against sympathy, which is usually a code word for sympathy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, MINORITY LEADER: The president is free to nominate whomever he likes. But picking judges based upon his or her perceived sympathy for certain groups or individuals undermines the faith Americans have in our judicial system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And if a fictional judicial nominee too sympathetic, empathetic, activist, pro-choice, and out of touch with mainstream America can trigger partisan bickering, no surprise that fictional fiction can too. Former Bush adviser Karl Rove last night spinning the tale that Mr. Obama has created, quote, this myth of attempted bipartisanship. Rove admitting in the course of the same conversation that, quote, the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. is too poisonous and has been for the last 16 years. And then, without explaining how President Clinton might be to blame for that, denied that either he or his boss, President Bush, might be, either.
Joining us now, Margaret Carlson, political columnist for “Bloomberg News” and Washington editor of “The Week Magazine.” Margaret, Good evening.
MARGARET CARLSON, “BLOOMBERG NEWS”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We wondered last week how the Republicans would play the Supreme Court, nice or lethal. Apparently, everybody who chose was wrong. It was nice then lethal. What happened here?
CARLSON: Just in case the president nominates somebody that they do approve of, or that is moderate, they‘ve decided to have the fight now again a mythical candidate that they can, you know, imply all kinds of traits, and be against. Because the worst thing that would happen is if they can‘t have a fight.
OLBERMANN: And presumably if they did get that fictionally uniformly loved candidate, they could claim they caused Obama to choose him.
OLBERMANN: By pummeling him in advance on all the other possible candidates.
CARLSON: Yes. They can take credit for eliminating all empathetic and sympathetic possible judges from the list, and getting an unempathetic and unsympathetic person.
OLBERMANN: What is the point, though, of the Republicans conceding the Obama constitutional prerogative on nominees, and then announcing they already have a problem with the nominee before the nominee exists?
CARLSON: Well, they have to concede the constitutional prerogative. I mean, they don‘t have much choice about that. But this may be all they get. Their air time could be limited if this is a smooth nomination and—and approval. So, you know, Senator Hatch gets to be on the talk shows, as you know. Some people disapprove of this; you need a little friction for the Sunday talk shows.
So, suddenly, from Friday until Sunday, Senator Hatch discovers that he really didn‘t mean what he said on Friday and, in fact, he‘s going to be very upset about this nominee.
OLBERMANN: Both Senators Hatch and McConnell suggested that empathy and sympathy somehow conflict with impartiality, and you can‘t take sides as a judge. Even though that‘s basically your job, is to choose two sides. You can‘t judge a case fairly if you feel at all for the people involved. Have they just explained an awful lot about the condition of the Republican party?
CARLSON: Well, and also if you‘re human, as if the only possible nominee would be Bo, the dog. Sympathy and empathy have suddenly become very bad words. And the litmus test is a fake litmus test, is if you have sympathy towards any group, you‘re automatically disqualified by the Republicans.
Now, within the Republican party, you cannot have any sympathy except towards their approved groups, which are, you know, the NRA and, you know, Sarah Palin people, Rush Limbaugh listeners and the Christian right. Now, if you have sympathy for another identifiable group, you are automatically eliminated from the list of nominees that will be approved by Republicans.
OLBERMANN: To this thing in California with Karl Rove and David Plouffe, this debate about bipartisanship. If you‘re Karl Rove, as practiced as he might be at this, does there not come a point at which you really have to stifle breaking up in laughter as you pitch this idea that apparently first President Clinton then Congressional Democrats manufactured partisan rancor, when it‘s the Congressional Republicans who at the very same moment are up in arms over a judicial nominee who doesn‘t exist yet.
CARLSON: Well, that exchange was so fierce. I mean, I found it very surprising. I think Karl Rove must be really rattled by President Obama, because Republicans have not mounted an opposition. In fact, I think the Republican that‘s going to break out of the pack is going to be one that finds a way to work with Obama on some issue, because the party of no isn‘t get any traction.
And, you know, I was thinking at the end of the 100 days, what if the Republicans had to do a speech at the end of their 100 days and explain what they‘ve been doing? It would have been very sad for them because they haven‘t done anything. They don‘t know what to do except not do what Obama is doing. And who would their spokesman be? Would it be Rush Limbaugh? Would it be Sarah Palin, who is busy settling scores with Levi Johnston‘s family? Would it be Newt Gingrich, the ghost of majorities past?
Any of the Republicans on the Hill, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner? None of them has emerged as somebody that can pull together a group of Republicans working towards something that looks appealing. They met at a pizza parlor over the weekend. And they had the event, but they really still didn‘t have an agenda, except there was free pizza, with pepperoni.
OLBERMANN: Maybe that‘s it. Also, they had a tea party and the Mad Hatter was there and Jim Bunting hit Mitch McConnell with a pitch. Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg News” and “The Week Magazine,” great thanks, as always, Margaret.
CARLSON: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: New old photos of Miss California. She objects. As far as the photos relate to the same-sex marriage debate, I agree with her.
Michele Bachmann telling constituents there‘s been an orgy and the government has spent its wad. I don‘t agree with her. Worsts ahead.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, as the GOP tries to rebrand again, her special guest, the guy who already kind of did that, Congressman Ron Paul.
OLBERMANN: Joe the Plumber explains why he is fighting same-sex marriage. He uses a homophobic ,slur then explains why he thinks it isn‘t a homophibic slur. He has a very small brain. That‘s next but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to President Obama for this, yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Welcome to Cinco de Quatro. Cinco de Mayo at the White House. We are a day early. But we always like to get a head start here at the Obama White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Translation, welcome to the 5th of the 4th. Or if you prefer, si se puente, yes, we tito fuente (ph).
The runner-up, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, told constituents over the weekend, quote, “during the last 100 days, we have seen an orgy. It would make any local smorgasbord embarrassed if you looked at the spending orgy we‘ve seen in Washington. The government spent its wad by April 26th.”
This new tack may have been inspired by somebody in the crowd who took the opportunity of a rare bid for breath by the Congresswoman to shout out, Michelle, you‘re a hottie.
But our winner, Laura Ingraham, filling in for Bill-O last week, ripped Michael Musto‘s appearance on this program. Fixed News once again making COUNTDOWN its lead story. Saying he had no right to criticize Carrie Prejean‘s opportunism in hitching herself to the anti-gay marriage crowd, especially since he made reference to here breast implants.
“She said: “to add insult to injury, she‘s becoming a target of some of the most reprehensible far left attacks you‘ve ever seen, savage and the most personal, vicious way about her physique. I‘m thinking to myself, where are the feminists? Are feminists not going to step and say, wait a second, you don‘t go there with a young woman?”
Ah-hem. This is Laura Ingraham talking, insisting upon a no-nothing beauty pageant contestants‘ right to go off on her political beliefs, the same Laura Ingraham who wrote a book in 2003 with instructions to the Dixie Chicks in its title, “shut up and sing.” This is Laura Ingraham talking, who just last month dismissed Meghan McCain‘s opinions of Dick Cheney by mocking her as a valley girl and calling her, quote, plus size.
This is Laura Ingraham talking, hypocrite. And, at the end of the day, today‘s worst person—oh, I‘m sorry that‘s a really bad picture—in the world.
OLBERMANN: Our number one 1 story in the COUNTDOWN Sam, Joe the Plumber, Wurzelbacher proudly resuscitates the slur queer in defense of his bigoted views against gay marriage. And Carrie Prejean, Miss California, objects to the posting of a racy photo of herself on the Internet, which is completely unnecessary and even unfair in asking whether she is an opportunist in her continued public opposition of marriage equality.
Mr. Wurzelbacher first. In an interview with “Christianity Today,” asked what he thought about same sex marriage. “At a state level, it‘s up to them. I don‘t want it to be a federal thing. I personally still think it‘s wrong.”
But there‘s always a but with Sam, the Joe, plumber. He launched into this, “people don‘t understand the dictionary. It‘s called queer,” he said. “Queer means strange and unusual. It‘s not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that.”
Later, “I‘ve had some friends that are actually homosexual. And I mean they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn‘t have them anywhere near my children.”
Meantime, the photo of Miss Prejean on a website hyped as a nude picture. It is not. We have blurred it to meet our standards. But the unaltered version does not reveal anything pornographic. She is not wearing a top, but you couldn‘t confirm that from this photo.
Miss California, you will recall, had tripped all over herself in the same-sex question at the Miss USA contest, referring to opposite marriage, and implying that California was its own country. She then aligned herself with the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes marriage equality, and he she has now released a lengthy statement, which reads in part, “I am a Christian and I a model. Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swim wear photos.” She did not describe the religion choice of the lingerie. “Recently, photos taken of me as a teenager have been released surreptitiously. These attacks on me and others who speak in defense of traditional marriage are intolerant and offensive.”
Let‘s turn now to the associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Thanks for your time tonight.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Absolutely.
OLBERMANN: Joe Wurzelbacher in a moment. But about Miss Prejean and that photo; when the pageant, the Miss California outfit, took a shot at her for politicizing things and kind of messing up their pageant, I thought covering that was fair. But about this photo, she‘s right, isn‘t she. Isn‘t that not just intrusive, but maybe, more importantly, it‘s utterly irrelevant to this debate?
LACEWELL: It‘s interesting, because in this case, she feels bad because she‘s being stigmatized based on an expression of her sexuality. She is being judged because she‘s part of a group that is generally stereotyped, that is pageant winners. And she‘s finding that her morality is brought into question because of a set of personal choices that she‘s made.
So, I think it has everything to do with this particular debate, in that it ought to be causing, dare I say it, empathy on the part of Miss California for gays and lesbians, who are simply trying to live a life of full equality in the United States, and are being judged and abused in all of these ways she is now personally experiencing.
OLBERMANN: OK. You convinced me. It‘s relevant. She actually confessed in a recent interview that she would like to be better educated on this subject, civil rights, for gay people. She could not articulate an answer to a simple question about civil unions or gay people adopting children. Isn‘t it her obligation to get that info before she becomes a spokesperson? Or am I asking too much of somebody to fall back on this stereotype of somebody who was raised on the beauty pageant circuit?
LACEWELL: Well, I don‘t know if it‘s about people raised on the beauty pageant circuit, but it clearly could be a problem of California. I think the key here is that we need to follow Iowa. The center of American openness on the question of gay marriage is going to be Iowa. Who won the first caucus for Barack Obama, Iowa. It‘s the heartland that‘s going to lead us to equality.
OLBERMANN: To Wurzelbacher, who seems to step all over himself on just about anything. This is now just unrestrained prejudice. Which fact is he more not aware of, that the majority of pedophiles are, in fact, heterosexual or that children can‘t catch the gay?
LACEWELL: Well, and certainly the idea that we need to protect our families from gays and lesbians suggests that our families aren‘t already full of gays and lesbians. I have a fabulous out niece, who has helped me in many ways to see the centrality of this particular battle.
This is not just about marriage. We‘re also shepherding through the Matthew Shepard act to push back against hate crimes against gays and lesbians. This is very much at the center of America‘s current crisis in sort of our sense of empathy, our connection with one another, and whether or not we‘re going to be a country that is, in fact, going to defeat the politics of fear.
I think fear lost in November. And so, I think this revision of Joe the Plumber, and this particular line of reasoning on divisiveness is really just the death throes of the politics of fear.
OLBERMANN: You mentioned the Shepard Act. You also had the Washington City Council voting 12 to one to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. But their laws subject to Congressional review. These are both serious issues. Don‘t they deserve more serious public spokespeople on both sides?
LACEWELL: I think that‘s true. They both deserve more serious spokespeople. As much as I feel privileged to have an opportunity to speak on LGBT issues, we also need more LBGT spokespersons themselves having an opportunity to speak. And so, yes, this is a serious issue that needs serious conversation.
OLBERMANN: Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University, great thanks for your time tonight. Thanks for your perspective.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,196th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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