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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, May 14, 2009

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Jack Rice, Margaret Carlson, Howard Fineman


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

Nancy Pelosi was briefed on enhanced interrogation.  She was briefed in 2002.  She was told that the Bush administration was not waterboarding.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just to be clear, you‘re accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002?

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER:  Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States.


OLBERMANN:  The speaker nails the Bush lies and the current Republican‘s lies to the church door.  The Republicans, like Senator Bond, naturally take the side of those who broke the law.


SEN. KIT BOND, ® MISSOURI:  It seems the playbook is, blamed the terror-fighters.  We ought to be supporting them.


OLBERMANN:  The torturing of Muhammad Khudayr al-Dulaymi, one of the heads of Saddam Hussein‘s secret police.  He would have known of any link between Iraq and al Qaeda.  So, “Two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell the ‘Daily Beast‘ that the suggestion to waterboard al-Dulaymi came from the office of Vice President Cheney.”

Beauty pageant contestants of the world arise.  You have nothing to lose but your veneers.  Sarah Palin defends Miss California.  “I respect Carrie for standing strong and staying true to herself, and for not letting those who disagree with her deny her protection under the nation‘s First Amendment rights.  Our Constitution protects us all—not just those who agree with the far left.”

OK.  Who‘s going to tell the governor that questions from the Miss USA judges are not protected speech and that the First Amendment of the Constitution doesn‘t have diddley squat to do with a beauty pageant?


TINA FEY, ACTRESS (As Governor Sarah Palin):  And now, I‘d like to entertain everybody with some fancy pageant walking.



OLBERMANN:   And my late mother‘s death gets turned today into a sleazy online gossip item—tonight‘s WTF Moment.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

The speaker from the House of Representatives today not only accused the CIA under former President Bush about lying to her and the rest of Congress about the use of torture, but also accused the previous administration of lying about the case for war in Iraq, and said the lies were on the record in official briefings of Congress, and invited anybody who didn‘t want to take her word for all of it to push for the public release of the records of those briefings and read the Bush administration lies for themselves.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: As if it could get more explicit than that, former Democratic Senator Bob Graham, former head of the intelligence committee, claiming that the CIA is still lying to him even now.

We begin with Speaker Pelosi.  The California Democrat today rebutting claims that she had been complicit in the use of torture by accusing the CIA and Bush administration of misleading her in official briefings about whether or not it was using waterboarding on detainees.  Speaker Pelosi is saying that during a 2002 meeting, she was told, quote, “specifically that waterboarding was not being used.”

And Speaker Pelosi is unequivocal now in her contention that she and others were purposely misled.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Madam Speaker, just to be clear, you‘re accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002?

PELOSI:  Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States.


PELOSI:  Misleading the Congress of the United States.  I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And doing it again now, as they‘ve released this list of briefings that says you were briefed on the interrogation tactics that were used.

PELOSI:  I‘m saying—I‘m quoting what the head of the CIA has said.  This is—we don‘t know if this information is accurate that he‘s talking about.

What they briefed us on—and perhaps, they should release the briefings.  I would be very happy if they would release the briefings.  And then you will see what they briefed in one time and another, House and Senate and the rest.  And perhaps with the intense interest that this has generated—because of the distraction that the Republicans want to cause with this—then you can make a judgment yourself, that what you think these briefings were.

But I‘m telling you that they talked about interrogations that they had done and said, “We want to use enhanced techniques and we have legal opinions that say that they are OK.  We are not using waterboarding.”

That‘s the only mention, that they were not using it.  And we now know that earlier they were.

So, yes, I am saying that they are misleading—that the CIA was misleading the Congress.  And at the same time, the administration was misleading the Congress on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; to which I said, this intelligence does not support the imminent threat; to which the press asked the same question you just did now: Are you accusing them of lying?  I said, I‘m just stating a fact.


OLBERMANN:  The CIA issuing a statement today saying, quote, “It is not the policy of this agency to mislead the United States Congress,” a non-denial denial in which former Senator Bob Graham might disagree.  In a new twist tonight, Mr. Graham, the former chairman of the intelligence committee who retired in 2005, claiming that not only was the CIA lying about whether it waterboarded al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah, the agency, he claims, is also lying about when or whether it held briefings at all—lying now.

On a New York City public radio program this morning, Mr. Graham accusing the CIA of claiming to have briefed him on three dates in 2002, when, in fact, on those dates, it had not even met with him.


BOB GRAHAM, FMR. U.S. SENATOR:  When I asked the CIA on what dates was I briefed, they gave me four dates: two in April, two in September of ‘02.  On three of the four occasion, when I consulted my schedule and my notes, it was clear that no briefing had taken place on that date and the CIA eventually concurred in that.  So, their record-keeping is a little bit suspect.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Graham then repeating his claim that he, too, had no recollection of being told about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah or about the extreme interrogation of any suspect.

Minority Leader John Boehner, however, is shocked—shocked at the thought that the CIA might have ever misled Congress.  Boehner, who was not elected to his leadership until February 2006, and therefore who was not briefed on the relevant intelligence matters in 2002 and 2003, reasoning that the spies have always been completely on the level with him.  Anything else, he claims, must be Speaker Pelosi‘s creation.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, ® HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  Well, I think the speaker‘s comments continue to ray more questions than provide answers.  And I‘ve dealt with our intelligence professionals for the last 3 ½ years on an almost daily basis.  And it‘s hard for me to imagine that anyone in our intelligence area would ever mislead a member of Congress.  They come to the Hill to brief us because they‘re required to under the law.

And I don‘t—there‘s—I don‘t know what motivation they would have to mislead anyone.  And I don‘t believe and don‘t feel that in the briefings that I‘ve had that I‘ve been misled.


OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  There is a John Dean Watergate tapes quality to this suddenly.  The speaker saying the lies about torture and waterboarding would all be in the record of these briefings, but what records?  I mean, the government officials are claiming there are no records.  Is that a misleading statement, too?

FINEMAN:  Well, no.  I think the speaker has something here, because you have to follow the bouncing memos, Keith.  The torture memos—the legal documents related to torture that were released, if you read them carefully, are the source for the information about Abu Zubaydah, one of the captured terrorists, having been waterboarded in August of 2002.

One of the things Speaker Pelosi is saying is that she and others were briefed in September of 2002 and told that while there was legal authority for these various enhanced techniques, they were given the impression they had not yet been used.  One of the things she‘s saying is, wait a minute, you‘re saying they might be used.  We have other documentary evidence that shows they were used.  So, that‘s one of the lies she‘s alleging and that seems to have a lot of merit to it.

The other thing she‘s saying is that the CIA version of the account of the briefing itself was wrong.  She‘s saying that waterboarding was not mentioned.  Some of the CIA documents claim—supposedly say that, in fact, it was.

OLBERMANN:  Does the speaker not have inherent power to push for the very investigation that it would confirm her allegation today?

FINEMAN:  Yes, she does.  And I asked one of her aides about this when I was talking to them just on the way over here, Keith.  They say she‘s in favor of a—has long been supportive of a commission of some kind.

You make a very good point.  At least on the House side, as speaker, she would have enormous power basically to go to the rules committee and say, “Hey, let‘s set up some kind of bipartisan committee right now to look at it.  So, she could do it on the House side.  She couldn‘t do it for the whole Congress.

I think, right now, she‘s trying to get her—make sure she has her story exactly straight, because it hasn‘t always been crystal clear.

OLBERMANN:  Well, and to that point, why not this version of that statement now?  Why not this version of that statement earlier?  This seems to have been somewhat—one presumes—the final version of this.  It‘s certainly the most extreme version of this possible.

FINEMAN:  Well, she‘s doing it now in part because she was on a long trip over in Iraq and elsewhere.  She got back Tuesday night.  I suppose she could have done it yesterday.  She could have done it over in Iraq, I suppose.

But, you know, she‘s just back.  She‘s tired out.  You can see that actually as she tried to work her way through that stuff even now.

But the other reason is that the CIA came out, you know, in their statements made late last week saying that, you know, this is what the briefing said.  She was briefed about this.  And she‘s had to respond to it.  And this is the first chance she‘s had to do so.

And more generally, Keith, I mean, this thing has really become much more of a political, you know, problem for her than she or anybody else could have imagined a week or two ago.  And she hasn‘t handled it well because there have been imprecise statements.  And when you‘re dealing with the CIA, when you‘re dealing with a subject as litigated and as important as this, you have to be very, very precise in what you say.

OLBERMANN:  Especially if they have records of meetings for which there aren‘t records.

FINEMAN:  Right, exactly.

OLBERMANN:  The Bob Graham .


FINEMAN:  Possibly, yes.

OLBERMANN:  The Bob Graham angle in all of this now.  This claim he has made now that the CIA essentially invented three briefing sessions that never happened or at least ascribed them to the wrong dates.

If that‘s the case, how can anything that the agency has said or is now saying about this be believed?

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s a very good question.  Now, I have been unable to independently confirm Senator Graham‘s statement that the CIA admitted that they got the dates wrong.  But let‘s assume for the sake of argument in fact they did, that the agents weren‘t meeting with him, they were off, you know, having a cheeseburger somewhere or whatever.

I mean, no, it very much calls it into question.  And when you look back at the early hectic days in those first couple of years especially, Keith—I mean, a lot of stuff was happening on the fly.  There were a lot of rationales that were being concocted in various legal offices, a lot of documents that were put together that later turned out to be extremely flimsy—need I remind you of yellow cake.

That was the era of—that was the era of yellow cake that we‘re dealing with here.  And I don‘t think you can trust anything unless you see it in triplicate, unless you see it practically notarized by three different people at the same time.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Bigger—those are temporary things, the CIA is forever.  I know the James Jesus Angleton stories.


OLBERMANN:  I know everything about the history of this organization.

FINEMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  But if the president believes that agency personnel were indeed just following orders and he is saying he will not be prosecuting operatives.  Why is there such an intense campaign of CYA at CIA?

FINEMAN:  Well, this is part of a pattern that we‘ve talked about on the show before.  I think that once he became commander-in-chief, once he sort of walked through that door, once he realized that he had an intelligence community that was in revolt and in shambles, he spent a lot of time as commander-in-chief with Leon Panetta—his CIA director—and others, trying to reassure the people in the CIA that he has their back.

Now, is he going too far in that direction because he had no real previous connection with them and can‘t sort of administer tough love and instead has to say, “Don‘t worry, I‘m not the guy you thought I was”?  There may be some of that going on right now.

And I think some of his original supporters, indeed a lot of them, are getting very concerned, especially because he even used the “few bad apples” argument today—yesterday rather, when he was talking about those pictures that he wasn‘t going to release.  The “few bad apples” argument was the one that the last administration was supposed to have been, you know, the sole possessor of.

OLBERMANN:  To say nothing of the “I‘m not the guy you thought I was” argument, which you can‘t just .


OLBERMANN:  . direct it at a thousand people in the country.  It happens to go to everybody.

Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC .

FINEMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  . as always, great thanks, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Moreover, for the first time, a public allegation that the use of waterboarding main lines directly into the office of former Vice President Cheney and main lines directly into the attempt to fabricate a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and thus, 9/11.  An extraordinary story from former NBC investigative reporter, Bob Windrem, that when an Iraqi POW, not a detainee but a POW, would not tie Saddam to bin Laden, the word came from Mr. Cheney‘s office, “Waterboard him.”  Next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Second bombshell on torture: The direct link between torturing an Iraqi prisoner to get him to state, whether true or not, that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda, and where the suggestion to waterboard came from?  Dick Cheney‘s office.

Later, Sarah Palin sticks up for Miss California, and in solidarity, she proves she doesn‘t understand the First Amendment of the Constitution or free speech either.

And when people sink so low as to turn your mother‘s death into an international gossip post—tonight‘s WTF Moment.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Waterboarding is torture, it is illegal, and it does not work.  The even darker side of Bush administration tactics would be use of waterboarding to produce false confessions, like a phony link between Iraq and 9/11.  That would tie the Bush administration‘s illegal use of torture to its desperate attempts to justify the Iraq war.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Evidence that the office of Vice President Dick Cheney suggested waterboarding a high level Iraqi prisoner to produce exactly such a link.  Vice President Cheney‘s office suggested waterboarding that prisoner in April of 2003, this according to former NBC News investigative producer, Robert Windrem, writing for the “Daily Beast.”  The prisoner was the head of one of Saddam Hussein‘s secret police association: Muhammad Khudayr al-Dulaymi, captured by U.S. forces.

And according to Charles Duelfer, the former chief of the Iraq Survey Group and a man in charge of interrogating Iraqi officials, quote, “To those who wanted or suspected a relationship, he would have been a guy who would know, so White House officials had particular interest.”

Further, “Duelfer says he heard from ‘some in Washington at very

senior levels, not in the CIA,‘ who thought Khudayr‘s interrogation had

been ‘too gentle‘ and suggested another route, one that they believed has

proven effective elsewhere.  ‘They asked if enhanced measures such as

waterboarding should be used.‘”

Mr. Duelfer, citing clearance issues, would not disclose who had proposed the waterboarding, but Windrem reports, two senior U.S.  intelligence officials from that time say the suggestion came from the office of Mr. Cheney.  And that is not the end of Mr. Duelfer‘s part of the story either.  “The executive authorities addressing those measures—waterboarding—made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism case, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related.”

Indeed, Mr. Duelfer said he considered the request reprehensible and the rationale political.

As for the political use of waterboarding, we also know it might have been used even before the invasion of Iraq.  As reported in “The Washington Note” by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department chief of staff under former Secretary of State Colin Powell: Cheney‘s office ordered the continued use of enhanced techniques of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, until under waterboarding - al-Libi revealed an al Qaeda/Baghdad connection.  Al-Lib later recanted.  He has recently died, supposedly a suicide.

Let‘s turn to former CIA special agent and former prosecutor, Jack Rice.

Good evening, Jack.

JACK RICE, FMR. CIA SPECIAL AGENT:  Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Before we look at the pieces separately, do we need a step back at this?  I mean, at what point do you think it becomes clear that a pattern is developing, is discernible—one in which a priority of the Bush administration, which is justifying the Iraq war, dovetails, fits into a key tactic of the Bush administration, namely the use of torture?

RICE:  Without question, Keith.  When we look at what we have already seen—and this seems to just support that concept—is that this was never about accurate information.  This was about justification.  It‘s outrageous on its face.  I mean, let‘s look at the torture question big picture, but then, let‘s look at the justification behind it.

Before, I‘m trying to understand how anybody would turn around and support this now.  It‘s completely dumbfounding to me.

OLBERMANN:  As for this man, al-Dulaymi, the Saddam secret police chief, that man was clearly a POW.  He was part of a nation state.  He was not being interrogated as part of some sort of imminent threat to the United States.  He was not a detainee.  He wasn‘t at Gitmo.

So, even under the strained logic of the Bush administration‘s OLC memos, it would seem that man was not a legal candidate for waterboarding, even if waterboarding had been legal.  Does this tell us anything about the motives of anybody who would suggest, “Go waterboard this guy”?

RICE:  Well, apparently the Jack Bauer of “24” approach to international security and national security just doesn‘t seem to fly.  So, what we‘ve seen now is, again, that further justification, or willingness to not just stay within the parameters that we have set.  We‘re willing to go that much further.

And, again, the fact that we‘re seeing this out of Dick Cheney again -

not for the first time—really says a lot.


OLBERMANN:  To al-Libi and his interrogation before the war, Colonel Wilkerson noted he had become compliant—al-Libi, that is.  Meaning that the interrogation team was recommending, you know, don‘t—you don‘t have to beat him up.  You don‘t have to torture him any further.  And yet, Cheney‘s office ordered that the enhanced methods should continue in that case and the waterboarding supposedly ended when al-Libi finally produced this link that he later recanted between al Qaeda and Saddam.

Does the simple sequence of that, does it not show exactly what we‘re talking about here, this attempt to produce—intentionally produce a false confession to something that wasn‘t true?

RICE:  Without question.  It‘s the justification argument all over again.  We‘ve been watching Dick Cheney on the road day after day after day talking about how important this was and how this saved American lives.

But I guess, in the end, you‘ve got to get out in front of cameras a lot if you get to the top of “The New York Times” best seller list.  He‘s on that pre-release book tour right now.  And I guess it‘s coming, so everybody will buy.

I can‘t see what else he‘s doing other than setting himself up for prosecution.  I just want to hear him say, “You know what, I am the one who signed off on this, I‘m the one who wanted the torture.”  That‘s maybe the last little link—as a prosecutor, I want that piece.

OLBERMANN:  Well, presumably, at the rate of boastfulness that we‘ve seen so far, you may get to see that.  He seems intent on claiming credit for this.

RICE:  Bring it on.  Let‘s see it.

OLBERMANN:  There has been reluctance—even by politicians—who are interested in pursuing the torture tactics of the previous administration, to suggest that that was the point, that it was to produce false testimony, that it was to make these men bear false witness.

Is there additional evidence that could help close that circle for those reluctant politicians?

RICE:  I think there‘s a few things.  But in the end, we have seen just about everything.


RICE:  Again, that last element that I would really like to see is Dick Cheney—and, frankly, he seems to be more than willing to do this.  I‘m waiting for somebody to ask him this question: Tell me specifically somebody that you had tortured, interrogated at this level.  That might be the final point.

And I‘m waiting for it—because this is not just about him.  This is about us.  And we have to stand up at some point and say, “I don‘t care who you are, vice president or otherwise, it‘s been fundamentally who we are as a nation, who we are as a people.”

OLBERMANN:  Jack Rice, the former CIA officer, former prosecuting attorney, now radio host.  Thanks again, Jack.

RICE:  Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, you will recall that Vice President Cheney had requested the declassification of two CIA reports on the effectiveness of so-called enhanced interrogation.  The Obama administration today denied the request because those documents are currently part of litigation in a broader request already made under the Freedom of Information Act.  Thus, the prospective release of those documents will ultimately resolve itself based on the prior request and not the one from Cheney.

Remember those old quizzes, how many things are wrong with this picture?  Well, beside the goat nursing the horse?

And the startling admission from Harold Hill—I‘m sorry, Glenn Beck, that his mouth is a source of pollution.  You bet.  Worst Persons is ahead.


OLBERMANN:  Bushed in a moment, and why we stop this Sunni awakening from happening in 2004 instead of 2007.

First, this is May 14th, thus 22 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for a military families charity, thus 21 days since I offered to donate $1,000 for each second that he lasted, thus 20 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise.

This development today: A conservative blogger suggested that to get to the truth, they should waterboard Nancy Pelosi, and yet Hannity remains serenely quiet and terrified.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Science where Josie the goat is suckling Baby Boy the horse.  None of this would happen if you just listen to Rick Santorum when he was still a senator.  The young foal‘s mother abandoned him last week.  Luckily, the college‘s dairy goat said, “Yes, sure, I got a spare.”

Veterinarians are thrilled at the odd couple‘s paring because that means they don‘t have to feed the horse themselves.  And the goat is thrilled because she gets a brother from another mother‘s udder.  OK, I‘m sorry.

In Rock Hill, South Carolina, the beat goes on and on and on.  Twenty-eight drummers are drumming their way to a world record at the local galleria.  The musicians were able to sustain a single snare drum roll for 27 hours and 23 seconds.

The drummers, all students at an area high school, said the most difficult part of the challenge was keeping the beat during handoffs, one drummer to the next.  The people in the mall had no comment because they were too busy with blood pouring out of their ears from the sounds of 27 hours and 23 seconds of snare drums.

OK.  How many governors don‘t know the difference between First Amendment protected free speech and things you say at a beauty pageant?  Governor Palin, OK, that‘s one.  Thank you, Governor.

And turning my mother‘s death into a gossip item, and then calling me a liar when I say I took time off to grieve her death—extraordinary.  Our WTF Moment.

But first, because they may be gone but their deeds outlive them.  The headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals -- Still Bushed!

Number three: Bailout-gate.  Memos from the height of the banking

crisis last October ordered revealed by the courts.  Quote, “Then-Treasury

Secretary Henry Paulson is warning nine key U.S. banks that if they did not

take the bailout in exchange for the government in part buying them, quote,

‘You should be aware that your regulator will require it in any

circumstance.  We don‘t believe it‘s tenable to opt out because doing so

will leave you vulnerable and exposed.‘”

In other words, Paulson was telling them, “Sell the government $125 billion with your companies or we‘ll screw you into the ground.”  And it‘s Obama accused of trying to squeeze private business via socialism and not Bush.

Number two: Post traumatic stress disorder-gate.  That the only possibly kind explanation for what Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is saying about Mr. Bush‘s Cuban White House—better known as Gitmo—prisoners there -, quote, “wouldn‘t be treated any better in the United States, and they wouldn‘t have the tropical breezes blowing through.  It‘s a beautiful site.  If Trump had that site, he could produce a resort that would be pretty remarkable.” 

Those aren‘t the tropical breezes, Senator Sessions.  That‘s the wind whistling in one of your ears and out the other one. 

Number one, deliberately extending the war-gate.  A remarkable piece by David Rose in “Vanity Fair.”  He reports that the 2007 Sunni awakening, when vast numbers of anti-American Iraqis switched sides and began to support U.S. efforts there, it could have happened in 2004.  “The Sunni insurgents had offered to come to terms with the Americans 30 months earlier, in the Summer of 2004, during secret talks with senior US military officials and military commanders, including a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  For a variety of reasons, some of them petty, some of them ideological, and some them still obscure, these men were blocked by superiors in the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House.”

The article says there are memos still extent resulting from these secret talks that in 2004 the Sunnis asked for what we gave them in 2007, which cause them to switch sides.  Why did the Bush administration reject a deal and prolong the war?  Of course, reducing the violence in Iraq in 2004 by making a deal would have made it tougher for Mr. Bush to lie about why it was being reduced, as he lied about it and about the surge in 2007. 

A key memo, the article says, wound up in the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and was sent back to the men trying to make the deal with Wolfowitz‘s handwritten description of the Sunnis.  Quote, “they are Nazis.”  And there perhaps is the psychological key to the Bush administration, failures in their own lives, in their own time; they shared a fantasy that they were fighting Hitler, instead of fighting a minor league tyrant, whose iron fist ruled over dominions consisting mostly of sand.


OLBERMANN:  First, we learned that Miss California does not realize her First Amendment freedom of speech does not apply during beauty pageants.  Tonight, in our third story, somewhat more alarmingly, we learn that the governor of Alaska, herself a former pageant competitor, also doesn‘t know that the executives of the Miss USA Contest are not the government, trying to muzzle and incarcerate Carrie Prejean, also. 

After issuing a statement applauding Donald Trump for standing Miss Prejean, the governor added this postscript: “I respect Carrie for standing strong and staying true to herself, and for not letting those who disagree with her deny her protection under the nation‘s first amendment rights.  Our constitution protects us all, not just those who agree with the far left.”

Please, governor, stop criticizing things you don‘t know about, like the Constitution. 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances,” also. 

The governor noting that she spoke to Miss California soon after the, quote, “liberal onslaught of malicious attacks began.  Continuing the quote, “I can relate as a liberal target myself.  What I find so remarkable is that these politically motivated attacks fail to show that what Carrie and I believe is also what President Obama and Secretary Clinton believe, marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Neither of them, as Miss Prejean did, then joined or endorsed the effort to make that the legal definition.  Here is the then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking to Ellen DeGeneres about gay rights. 


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  States have determined age of marriage, other conditions.  And, over time, we‘ve gotten rid of a lot of discrimination that used to exist in marriage laws.  And that‘s now happening.  People are making decisions, civil unions, marriage.  They‘re deciding in the states.  And I think that‘s the appropriate place for this to be. 


OLBERMANN:  And then there was the then Democratic presidential nominee Obama at Rick Warren‘s Saddleback Church symposium last year. 


OBAMA:  I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. 

For me as a Christian, it‘s also a sacred union.  You know, God‘s in the mix. 

I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view. 


OLBERMANN:  Joining me now, political columnist for “Bloomberg News,” Washington editor of “The Week Magazine,” Margaret Carlson.  Good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  I understand Governor Palin has appealed to people with only a vague idea of the Constitution and the laws and stuff.  But, at some point, does it hurt her when she volunteers, makes a statement in which it becomes apparent that she only has a vague idea of the Constitution and the laws and stuff? 

CARLSON:  Well, remember, she wasn‘t completely familiar with the continents. 


CARLSON:  You know, it helps to have some basic understanding when you go out, you know, on the stump and at conventions, of American history and American laws and the Constitution and other things.  I see the appeal, though, of thinking that the Constitution protects your own free speech from another person‘s free speech.  I mean, wouldn‘t your e-mails be cut in half, Keith. 


CARLSON:  If it were the case?  I know I would get no more e-mails criticizing my choice of eye wear, for instance.  I could say, you‘re violating my Constitutional right.  But, you know, she has a broad—she has a broad reading of the—that her free speech should not be infringed upon by the government. 

OLBERMANN:  Just across the wire now, Governor Palin‘s statement on your right to have no comments about your glasses.  Great.  This—this echoing of a beauty pageant contestant‘s, taking the opinions of the president and secretary of state out of full context—and again, I know this imbues her with wonderfulness in the echo chamber.  But does she not know that she and Carrie Prejean and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are, in fact, on opposite sides of the debate over the legalities? 

CARLSON:  Well, she‘s—she‘s all over on this.  I mean, she claims, oh, Obama agrees with me.  Oh, no, I‘m totally against this.  And, you know, whatever small area of agreement they do have, which is Obama and others aren‘t in favor of gay marriage, but they‘re in favor of civil unions—Sarah Palin and Miss California, whatever they grant to gays and lesbians, they do it with their nose turned up. 

And I believe Sarah Palin said that homosexuality is a perversion and we know that from the Bible.  I do not think that Obama or Hillary Clinton or any of them have ever said that about gay marriage. 

Anyway, the criticism of Carrie Prejean came from people who don‘t like beauty pageant queens having nude photographs of them that come out afterwards, and that they haven‘t revealed in the so-called, say, vetting process that Donald Trump has his contestants undergo. 

OLBERMANN:  Oddly enough, that part of free speech was maintained for her.  Politically, though, one overarching question here.  Why would Sarah Palin ever say Obama agrees with me, because this is the same as saying, I agree with Obama.  And, if you say—if you‘re Republican and you say, I agree with Obama, no matter the context, apparently Rush Limbaugh comes and kicks you out off the Republican party.  Doesn‘t he? 

CARLSON:  Right.  We should listen tomorrow and see what Rush has to say about Sarah Palin and President Obama finding common ground.  Maybe Rush will say, I hope Governor Palin fails.  That would be interesting. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Yes.  Well, the way Rush is going, it will end with one person in the party, him.  Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg News” and “The Week Magazine,” I like the glasses.  Many thanks, take care. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Our WTF moment tonight; website claims I was mysteriously absent from the show last month.  I point out I was away mourning my mother‘s death.  Websites posts made up gossip story anyway and calls me a liar. 

Nothing better than this, national tea party coalition co-founder has liens for unpaid taxes.  Worst persons ahead. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the reporter who broke the story of Dick Cheney‘s office directly supporting the water boarding of an Iraqi POW.  Her special guest Bob Windrem. 


OLBERMANN:  Tonight‘s WTF moment coming up; a website has turned my mother‘s death into a sleazy gossip item.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s other worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Fixed News; his lead story last night how Saul Alinsky is programming MSNBC and the White House from the grave.  “Let‘s put this thing into perspective.  Talk radio has always had its share of hate mongers.  Some right wingers make a living doing this.  On the left, the Air America network was all hate all the time.  Then it went bankrupt.  Then a couple years ago, NBC News began pedaling hate on its network.  Then a few months ago, the Obama administration tried to brand the Republican party as a place of fanaticism.” 

Anything missing from that chronology?  Oh, yes, first there was talk radio hate.  Then there was Fox News hate, starring failed local news reporters, which they left out. 

Our runner-up, Harold Hill—no, it‘s not that he is hiring his writers off Craig‘s List, which he is, it‘s this about global warming. 


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Carbon dioxide is basically this.  Look how much pollution I just put out. 


OLBERMANN:  Listen to how much pollution you just put out, you mean. 


But our winner, Michael P. Leahy, co-founder of the nationwide tea party coalition.  Now, if you‘re old enough you‘ll remember when the tea bag boys and girls were just a grass roots organization, not a bunch of sheet ordered around by professional politicians like Republican Governors Perry of Texas and Sanford of South Carolina.  They were inspired instead not by people with personal axes to grind, but just in opposition to paying taxes. 

One of the favorite memes from the lunatic fringe to criticize public figures is to trot out the record of every tax disagreement they‘ve ever had with the government.  The right has used it on me, even though if you pay seven figures in taxes every year, the government will disagree with you on some of it.  And if it‘s say more than 200 dollars, they will file a lien against you to protect the 201 dollars, even as they are discussing with you the chances that you do not owe them the 201 dollars. 

Having said that for context, the website reports that an ordinary Internet search produced this startling fact about tea party coalition co-founder Leahy; over 16 years, he has had a few judgments filed against him for unpaid taxes, small claim courts judgments and civil suits, nearly 150,000 dollars worth. 

So what‘s the point in protesting taxes if you‘re not going to bother paying them anyway?  Michael P. Leahy, tea partyist, today‘s worst person in the world, except for the next guy after the commercial. 


OLBERMANN:  Finally, as promised, our number one story, tonight‘s WTF moment, which was going to be about John McCain‘s mother‘s appearance on “The Tonight Show.”  OK, I‘ll say what should have been my first thought; good for you, Roberta, defend your son. 

Most of you know that my mother passed away suddenly on April 4th.  Many of you were kind enough to express your condolences at the time and since.  And it is truly the case that such condolences are in an invaluable and sustaining thing and I thank you again for them. 

Today, my mother‘s death was turned into a sleazy gossip item online.  The proprietor of the website did not contact me for comment before posting, and did not try to contact our MSNBC media people until virtually the very moment he did post.  He has resisted all entreaties to remove the item.  And it has already been linked around the net. 

My mother‘s illness, her diagnosis with terminal cancer and her death came all in a span of just two weeks.  I did what a lot of us do in such circumstances, full speed ahead, with occasional hours or days off to see her and my family.  We had the memorial on the 9th.  We had a family plan for the next weekend.  My sister and nephew were coming down from their home upstate, so he could see his first games at the new Yankee Stadium during his spring vacation, which began on the 18th

I went to the opener of the ballpark the preceding Thursday the 16th.  Then I went downtown to do this show.  And somewhere during that day, I hit an emotional wall about my mother‘s passing.  So on short notice, I asked my bosses to extend my long weekend, which was originally Saturday to Tuesday of the following week, to Friday to Tuesday.  And they generously agreed. 

That Friday the 17th proved especially therapeutic.  Saw the Yankees in the afternoon and the Mets at night.  Some people meditate.  I go watch baseball. 

I hit another kind of wall over that weekend and by Monday I was in bed with flu or something like it.  Monday‘s game was rained out, much to my nephew‘s dismay.  But the next night, you will remember, was the game in which a player‘s bat flew into the stands and my nephew got to keep it.  A player wearing the same number, oddly enough, that Chuck Knoblauch had worn when his throw hit my mother in our seats at the ballpark back in 2000. 

By Wednesday morning, I was feeling better, good enough to take Jacob up for a matinee on a rainy day in the Bronx and then return here to do the show. 

I‘ve gone into such excruciating detail because this afternoon I discovered this posted on a website called City File.  Quote, “if you regularly tune into COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, you may remember that Olbermann was mysteriously absent from the show for three days at the end of April.  But Olbermann didn‘t just have the night off, as David Shuster, his fill in, said on the air three evenings in a row.  According to a source inside MSNBC, it was a bizarre temper tantrum on Olbermann‘s part that led him to storm of the set in protest.  Olbermann was not scheduled to take a vacation at the end of April, but he ended up missing three shows, Friday April 17, Monday April 20, and Tuesday April 21.”

This message, from a parallel universe, posted by somebody named Remy Stern, went on to explain that I had a fight with Rachel Maddow over the booking of Ben Affleck as a guest.  In fact, Ben Affleck had been tentatively booked for COUNTDOWN, then wound up on Rachel‘s show due to some really shoddy work by a fill-in publicist for his latest movie. 

This double-booking stuff happens.  It was resolved internally and quickly and the only thing it had to do with the weekend of mourning was that it happened more or less contemporaneously, if I remember correctly. 

The irony in this is even the gossip idiot recognizes the story he printed does not hold together.  “The biggest question—and no one can really answer except for Olbermann himself—is why having Ben Affleck on his show meant so much to him in the first place.  The two have a past.  Affleck spoofed the MSNBC host late last year.  Although Olbermann seemed to find the imitation flattering, as you can see in this clip.  It‘s much more likely that Affleck‘s role in this latest bit of drama didn‘t matter all that much, and this was just Olbermann attempting to once again force MSNBC to give into his demands and satiate his ego.  In which case, it was just another day at MSNBC.”

Yes, there‘s the problem with your pretend reporting right there.  It wasn‘t about Ben Affleck.  My mother died.  Mr. Stern claims a reliable source that he published before he could receive the denial which would have deflated most of his delusions, which are pretty standard stuff about me circa 2003.  He also brings Dan Abrams into this epic, which from both Mr. Abrams‘s and Mr. Stern‘s points of view, is rather unfortunate, because considering Mr. Abrams irrelevance to the rest of the story, and indeed now to MSNBC, it does rather point a finger towards a small group that could be the sources of this sad and sadly out of touch gossip. 

The site refused to remove the false story, refused to apologize for trodding on a weekend of mourning, refused to recognize its extraordinary failure and irresponsibility.  It merely printed my protest and then a really embarrassing, defiant retort. 

Our response, “we were saddened to hear of Olbermann‘s loss and found his tribute to his mother deeply moving.  But if that was the reason Olbermann took time off two weeks later, we can‘t imagine why Olbermann wouldn‘t have simply said as much.  Furthermore, we find it hard to believe one of his colleagues at MSNBC, a respected journalist no less, would have attributed his absence to the flu/allergy season if Olbermann had made the perfectly understandable decision, take a few days off to mourn his mother‘s passing.”

When didn‘t I say as much and to whom?  To you?  The journalist to whom the fellow refers, David Shuster, was told why I was out, told also that I was under the weather, was told that my return might be Wednesday, might be Thursday.  So he was on standby.  He had to clear this with you before you decided whether or not it was believable? 

The website has since called me a liar because I went to baseball games after my mother died.  The first site to link off this and swallow it whole was sadly Wonkette.  Advised of its mistake, its editor Ken Layne, who apparently doesn‘t understand that laughing all the time about everything is not wit, but more likely a serious medical condition, wrote:

“Keith Olbermann denies this one particular instance of jack-assery.  Whoo hoo.  Does this mean Wonkette is now beneath contempt in Keith Olbermann‘s mind?  Self important much?”

Yes.  My dead mother is, in fact, more important than your lousy website.  Again, I‘m sorry this has been in such detail.  But I think it serves a purpose in reminding us about both the Internet—and I know how strange this will sound coming from me—and about remembering the human equation. 

Even in the heat of public discourse—which is why I objected on air to Wanda Sykes‘s two jokes about Rush Limbaugh at the White House Correspondents‘ Dinner—political dispute is one thing.  But let‘s leave everybody‘s kidneys, their possible roles at the 20th 9/11 hijacker and their mothers out of it. 

As I mentioned, I was going to do this segment tonight on John McCain‘s mother‘s comments about Limbaugh and Michael Steele and me.  But as this nonsense broke around me this afternoon, it struck me just how absurd that idea was.  She was just a mother sticking up for her son.  My mom would have appreciated that. 

Finally, and just for the record, I also mysteriously took off Monday, May 4th, and was seen at the Yankees game that night with my friends Jason Bateman and David Cross.  Stay tuned to City File or Wonkette or Gawker or a “Boston Globe” blog, because maybe, maybe, I really had a fist fight with Brian Williams in the NBC commissary earlier in the day.  Or maybe I had gone to Westchester that afternoon to place the urn containing my mother‘s ashes in her final resting place. 

You know what they say.  We report, you decide.  To which we can add, what the—that‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,205th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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