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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, May 20

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Greg Smith, Jonathan Alter, Ryan Lizza


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

Durbin, Harkin, Leahy, Levin, Reed, Whitehouse—the only senators to vote to supply the funds the president needs to close Gitmo.  Democrats insist on a full dispersal plan before agreeing to close one of the greatest blights on this nation in its history.

And Senator Inhofe echoes the Ensign Freudian slip that detainees have a better health care plan than the average American does.  “Any detainee over 55,” he actually says, “has an opportunity to have a colonoscopy.”  Voluntary?

Of course, we couldn‘t move the detainees on to U.S. soil, even though the “Blind Sheikh” was incarcerated here and the Unabomber and Tim McVeigh -- and there‘s a town in Montana with an empty high-tech prison that has volunteered to take the Gitmo folks.  The head of its economic recovery authority says it could save his city—he joins us.

Newt on Nancy—


NEWT GINGRICH, ® FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  Speaker Pelosi‘s comments last Thursday—particularly the ones in which she alleged that the Central Intelligence Agency routinely lies to Congress—that she really disqualified herself to be speaker.


OLBERMANN:  Well, if anybody‘s an expert on disqualifying oneself to be speaker, it‘s Newt Gingrich.  Some assuming you also want Pete Hoekstra to resign after he alleged the Central Intelligence Agency lies to Congress?



GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  You‘re accusing me of lying.  Let me tell you what .

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, “THE VIEW” CO-HOST:  You did lie!  What do you mean I‘m accusing you?

BECK:  I‘m sorry.

GOLDBERG:  You sat there and you were a lying sack of dog mess.


BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW” CO-HOST:  You‘re a reporter.

BECK:  No.  I am not.

WALTER:  So, you check no facts at all, right?

BECK:  No.


OLBERMANN:  Well, there you have it.

And WTF—


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I challenge you on, MSNBC!  Thirty days without anything mentioning me.  No video of me, no guests commenting on me.  Let‘s see if you can do it.


OLBERMANN:  Oh, look—we hit a nerve.  Limbaugh begs for a truce. 

Truce this!

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


LIMBAUGH:  No mas, no mas.




OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

All but six members of the United States Senate just got played by the remnants of the Bush Pentagon, as it re-leaked a fabricated number about the percentage of released detainees who, quote, “returned to terrorism”—a number that included as terrorists, ex-detainees who did nothing more sinister than appear in a documentary film about Gitmo.  The senators:

Republicans, all but the toughest of Democrats, caved.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: They talked a good game about closing Guantanamo Bay, but when it came to a vote, they ran away.

Only four months minus one day since President Obama signed the executive order to close the prison there, Democrats in the Senate reportedly claiming the president lacks focus for not yet having road-mapped a precise plan for closing the facility and dispersing the inmates.  The Democrats are allegedly using that as their reason for overwhelmingly supporting the effort to withholding funding necessary for Gitmo‘s closure from a supplemental war spending bill by a vote of 90 to six.

Scare tactics over the havoc Guantanamo prisoners would purportedly wreak if they were to be moved to American prisons surely having nothing to do with this—an unreleased Pentagon report suddenly leaked to the media today, claims to conclude about one in seven of the 534 detainees who‘ve already been released from U.S. custody somewhere have returned to terrorism.  That would be around 76 of them.  That would be the Pentagon‘s 43rd alteration of that number, as tracked by a professor at the law school of Seton Hall University.

The only source ever cited from the numbers supposedly return to the battlefield, 11 ex-detainees—the source was California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

And as FBI Director Albert Mueller testified to Congress, that holding Gitmo detainees, even in maximum security prison would pose risks—telling a Senate Judiciary Committee they could radicalize the other prisoners and raise, quote, “the potential for attacks in the U.S.”

And what about the maximum security prisons in the U.S. that already hold terrorists, including the two dozen now being held at ADX Florence, the federal supper-max facility in Colorado?

Republican Senator Inhofe declaring that those individuals are not actually terrorists, they‘re actual criminals—adding that Gitmo should remain open forever, because of the excellent health care benefits it provides prisoners.


SEN. JAMES INHOFE, ® OKLAHOMA:  Any detainee over 55 has an opportunity to have a colonoscopy.  Now, none of them have taken up on it because when we explain what it is, they don‘t want to do it.  But nonetheless, those are opportunities that they have there in addition to better health and better care and better food than they‘ve ever had before.


OLBERMANN:  Thanks for admitting we need better health care in the states, Senator.  By the way, did they tell you whether or not those are voluntary colonoscopies?

Majority Leader Reid having declared that, quote, “Democrats do not want terrorists to be released in the United States.”  When it was pointed out to him by a reporter that “no one is talking about releasing them, we‘re talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States,” Senator Reid is responding, “Can‘t put them in prison unless you release them.”  Yes, it makes sense.

California Democrat Dianne Feinstein holding a more nuanced position.  Although she voted against funding, the senator still believes Gitmo should be closed as quickly as possible, that her home state could see if it takes some of the detainees, and that everything else is fear-baiting she hopes will not succeed.

The White House is responding to the fear part of the fear-baiting.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The president understands that his most important job is to keep the American people safe and that he is not going to make any decision or any judgment that imperils the safety of the American people.


OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe.

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  So, how much use is a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate if 50 of them will still fold up like card table chairs when the Republicans play the terror card?

WOLFFE:  Well, I‘m going to start by being reasonable here and saying that the administration did itself no favors in failing to give these Democrats a narrative, a story to say about what‘s going to happen to the detainees when Guantanamo Bay is closed down.  We‘re giving them a part of a story.  But that‘s the extent of my reasonableness on this one, because frankly this is a spineless position for Senate Democrats to take.

For start, 2008, the whole campaign was in large part debated and argued and contested about the politics of fear.  You would think that the results of that election could draw an easy conclusion about where that politics should be left.  Secondly, if they‘re worried about polls, about terrorism, they should look at different polls because there‘s plenty of numbers out there that suggest Democrats, for the first time in a very long time, have drawn up in parity with Republicans on national security questions.

And thirdly, Democrats gave this one of the biggest applause lines through the whole campaign.  Closing Guantanamo Bay was part of restoring America‘s position to the world.  Isn‘t that obvious to people, even inside the Senate?

OLBERMANN:  The president was meticulous about keeping much of the national security apparatus in place, same head of the FBI, same secretary of defense.  Did we just see today the problem with that?  That once again, somebody threw out leaked—with the precision of Joe McCarthy in 1950 - the number of recidivist terrorists, one-in-seven, there‘s no support for it, there‘s no evidence, and it doesn‘t match any of the previous 43 numbers that the Pentagon threw out, and 90 percent of the Senate fell for it.

WOLFFE:  Yes, I don‘t know that this is about sort of rogue elements with inside the administration, because you‘re always going to find someone making that argument.  I think this is a group of elected officials who have been conditioned and beaten down by seeing fear being thrown against them.  The terrorism card played against them in 2002, 2004 -- and they don‘t understand that things have changed.  And so, you‘re always going to get Dick Cheney or anyone else making that case, if it‘s not from a leak inside the Pentagon.

The question here, the broader question is: If there are people who are determined to fight against the United States, the best place to deal with them is actually on the battlefield, because American forces can deal with them there.  These aren‘t terrorists in that sense—they‘re not being released to attack civilians.  They‘re going back on the battlefield where they should be dealt with using the force of the United States military.

And other that that, they should be locked up and dealt within a judicial way.  Let‘s be rational about it these many years out.

OLBERMANN:  And the first one of them, we understand, now, “The Associated Press” is quoting an Obama administration official who says that the first of them, a top al Qaeda suspect, a man from Tanzania, named Ghailani, will be sent to New York City for civil trial.  We‘re going to have him out here somewhere and we‘re going to take care of him there supposedly.

But—I mean, this claim that U.S. prisons or even military bases or city like New York are not equipped to handle emphasis “suspected terrorists,” are the Republicans really saying that that terrorists are already being held in federal prisons or the ones in the naval brigs—they are not terrorists?  And also, one side question to that: How many attempts have been made by terrorists to storm Gitmo and free the detainees who are all in one place?

WOLFFE:  Right.  You‘re not talking about individuals, sadly, who are killing with their bare hands, although Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is a special case here.

The key thing here is—again, come back to rational analysis.  Even Lindsey Graham said it was not rational to think that American prisons couldn‘t hold these terrorists.  There are terrorists in these prisons.  There‘s nothing about them roaming the streets.  And it‘s a straw man that, again, the Democrats and the Senate have fallen for.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, they‘re going to have probation officers and be asked to come in, you know, to check in by phone.

MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe—great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The second or third level of the backlash against closing Gitmo was what George Carlin coined as NIMBY, “Not in my backyard”—the panic over the mere thought of Guantanamo detainees setting foot, even a shackled foot on U.S. soil—as we‘re hearing tonight, the first of them to come right here to New York.

Ron Adams—the mayor of Hardin, Montana, right outside Billings, population: 3,500 -- says his small city would be happy to take 100 detainees from Gitmo.  That would be about 40 percent of the men still being held there.

Hardin‘s town council has voted unanimously in agreement.  With an empty 464-bed, state-of-the-art corrections facility in town, in a town hit hard by the financial crisis, Greg Smith, Hardin‘s economic development director, is among those who feel it‘s a matter of simple math and that many jobs would be created.

Greg Smith joins us now from inside the Two Rivers Detention Center in Hardin.

Thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.

GREG SMITH, HARDIN, MT. ECON. DEVELOPMENT DIR.:  Hello, Keith.  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  So, you and your neighbors are willing to take 100 detainees that the FBI director and some senators and foreign countries are afraid to?  Why are you willing to do this?

SMITH:  Well, they‘re going to be in here, they‘re not going to go anywhere.  I think we have a secure lockup.  And the next part is really the outside issue is how do you protect it?  I guess we maintain—if you look around, we‘re pretty flat—we think that it‘d be easy to protect.  And if you can‘t protect 3,400 people in Hardin, Montana, we‘ve got larger problems in this country.


OLBERMANN:  The simplicity of your logic is overwhelming and correct.  There‘s no—there‘s no second thoughts about this?  There‘s no—there‘s no fear inside the community, “Oh, we might become an al Qaeda target now”?

SMITH:  I think there‘s a little bit.  But, you know, this has been empty for two years.  We went through looking at bringing in sexual offenders, and I have people say, “I‘d rather have the terrorists than the sexual offenders.”  So, I don‘t know.

OLBERMANN:  How does it happen that Hardin has an empty 464-bed state-of-the-art prison facility like that?

SMITH:  Well, politics.  Our own government did a feasible study.  The former governor brought the project to us.  The new governor decided they didn‘t want it—and we‘ve been fighting ever since to make it even worse.  We got the attorney general to rule against us.  We had to fight them in court.  Last year, at this time, we‘re in court, and we won.  And sometimes, you win the battle and lose the war.

OLBERMANN:  So, how many jobs do you think would be generated if you got 100 detainees switched from Gitmo to Hardin?

SMITH:  Well, it‘s hard to know exactly, because we‘d—you know, I would feel that it‘d probably be the federal government running it.  As a detention center, with 464 beds, it would be around 105 to 120.  In a town of 3,400, that‘s very significant.

OLBERMANN:  Put that in context for me.  How did—how did the financial crisis hit your town?  How many people are out of work?  How many businesses closed?

SMITH:  Well, quite honestly, we never got on the train to prosperity.  When everybody else was doing well, we weren‘t.  So, we probably didn‘t get hit as hard, other than we are the poorest county in the state and one of the poorest counties in the nation.  And on the reservation, the unemployment is about 47 percent, and it‘s over 10 percent in Hardin alone.

OLBERMANN:  Greg Smith, his voice echoing through the empty Two Rivers Detention Center in Hardin, in Montana, the head of the economic development office for that city, in crying need for exactly what everybody else is afraid—Mr. Smith, all the best.  Thank you for your time tonight.

SMITH:  Thank you very much for having me.  Anytime.

OLBERMANN:  The mental gymnastics of the right: Nobody in America wants the detainees in their backyard except those people in the heart of Cheney country that you just heard from—those mental gymnastics face tests today at seemingly every corner.

Newt Gingrich is still insisting you have to quit as speaker if you accuse the CIA of lying, but you don‘t have to quit as minority leader or as top Republican on the intelligence committee or as Republican president if you accuse the CIA of lying.

But confronted in person by the victims of his lies, Glenn Beck dissolved into a bowl of jelly on national television this afternoon.

And the most amazing thing anybody has ever asked us, “Please, MSNBC, for 30 days, stop showing videotape of me.  Stop playing sound bites of me.”  The humiliating request that we stop beating him up, from Rush Limbaugh.


OLBERMANN:  He remains a firsthand expert on only one topic.  When you are too indefensible to your own party to remain as speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich suggests that moment has arrived for Nancy Pelosi, but not for the Republicans who claim the CIA has lied.

And we are often astounded by both these men.  But tonight—not to be missed videotape.  First, Glenn Beck reduced to bite-sized bits of Glenn Beck by the hosts of “The View.”  And Rush Limbaugh pleading with this network for some kind of 30-day armistice—admitting he just can‘t take our criticism anymore.

You are watching COUNTDOWN—where we‘re all astounded here—on MSNBC.  Whew!


OLBERMANN:  The problem with being a pathological hypocrite is that the illness comes with the utter conviction that nobody could possibly realize that you‘ve just contradicted yourself.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Just ask former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, insisting that accusing the CIA of lying is indefensible—if a Democrat does it—not if a Republican does it, or four of them.

Mr. Gingrich, screwing up even in his only remaining area of expertise

namely, when a speaker is so up to his neck in partisan politics that he must or she must resign—you know, like Newt was.



GINGRICH:  I think that what Speaker Pelosi‘s comments last Thursday -

particularly the ones in which alleged that the Central Intelligence Agency routinely lies to Congress—that she really disqualified herself to be speaker.  I mean, there‘s no problem with her being a member of the House.  But .


DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS:  So, you think .

GINGRICH:  I think the Democrats should get a new speaker.


OLBERMANN:  Gingrich—and Gingrich, rather, has claimed that this is not about politics, but rather national security.  But the former speaker was utterly unprepared for Diane Sawyer‘s immediate pivot to those in his own party who have also accused the CIA of lying to Congress.


SAWYER:  For instance, Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who was head of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, wrote a letter in which he, on another issue, said this about the CIA.  “We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress.”  That‘s a Republican saying it.


SAWYER:  And they‘re saying, where were you then?  You didn‘t call for him to resign.

GINGRICH:  Well, I think in that particular argument, he‘s fighting with them over a particular report he wants—this is about a year and a half ago.

SAWYER:  So, should he be repudiated for those words, too?

GINGRICH:  Well, in that case, he‘s writing a specific letter asking them to change something that they were doing.


GINGRICH:  He did not say in that letter .

SAWYER:  “Lies,” he said.

GINGRICH:  . the CIA routinely lies to the Congress.

SAWYER:  Well, he says, “Lies.”  He says, “What it does and then lies to Congress.”

GINGRICH:  And I think—I think that they actually had to come back and testify.  I think that it‘s important for Congress to keep the CIA under observation, it‘s important for them to have the CIA report regularly.  But I think what Panetta said Friday is very telling.  It is illegal to lie to Congress.  And the CIA doesn‘t do it.


OLBERMANN:  Oh, my God, that much distension for reality is impressive.  And still, so factually wrong on so many points, what CIA Director Panetta actually said in a statement on May 15th, quote, “Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to misled Congress.”  As points out, that wording careful sidesteps the issue of whether the CIA did, in fact, lie, despite having a policy not to.  Besides, Mr. Panetta has conceded that the CIA accounts of those meetings might not be accurate.

And where was Gingrich in December of 2007 when Republicans like Minority Leader Boehner were crucifying the authors of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran because they have concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program?  “The NIE is so professionally unworthy, so intellectually indefensible and so fundamentally misleading that it is damaging to our national security.  The NIE appears to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the policies of President Bush by members of his own government.”

Oh, yes, that was written by Mr. Gingrich in his weekly “Winning the Future” newsletter.  And though Gingrich claimed to be directing his wrath at highly partisan State Department bureaucrats, the fact is, that the CIA is pivotal in compiling those National Intelligence Estimates.

Let‘s turn now to “Newsweek Magazine‘s” senior editor, MSNBC political analyst: Jonathan Alter.

Jon, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  If Republicans want to call for the speaker‘s resignation, is Newt the best messenger because there‘s nothing left for him to resign from?

ALTER:  Let‘s turn back the clock to 1998 when Newt Gingrich had to resign as speaker.  Why?  Because he had been calling for Bill Clinton to be removed from office as president because of a sexual matter, at the very time that Gingrich was having a torrid affair with a staffer—whom he subsequently married.  So for that hypocrisy, he was forced by members of his own party .


ALTER:  . to resign.

So, he is a bit of an expert on this area of what merits resignation. 

His problem is, Keith, that he comes from the pre-Google era.


ALTER:  And he actually thinks that you can just say things that totally contradict something you‘ve said in the past and get away with it.  And I think it‘s such contempt for what he considers to be the bubbleheads of television that they won‘t catch him on it.  And he‘s just forgotten that it‘s elemental now in any research or a few key strokes can prove him a hypocrite.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  We‘re getting to the part where we can do it with robots.

The other point he made, he had—look, this really—sort of arcane as usual, a sort of sophistry argument, sounded beautiful on paper, and if you think about it and it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  That as being third in line for the presidency, to question the veracity of the CIA disqualifies Nancy Pelosi on national security grounds.  Is there not in there also this idea that if she‘s doing her job correctly, she can‘t be the leader of the House or she couldn‘t be third?  I mean, there really is over here and over here on this one.

ALTER:  Yes.  The thing about Gingrich is, unlike most Republicans, he actually has some interesting, fresh ideas.  He talks about nanotechnology and other things that are intellectually compelling.  He‘s a smart guy.  But he has a sort of a Tourette‘s syndrome problem that appears every so often, where he spews forth this hyper-partisan nonsense that clearly disqualifies him, for instance, from running for president or otherwise .


OLBERMANN:  Ten years ago, a matter of fact.

ALTER:  Yes.  And it pops off like Tourette‘s at the strangest times, and it doesn‘t really make a lot of sense.  And you kind of wonder why the good Newt—the one who actually offers, you know, provocative issues for debate—can‘t appear more often.

OLBERMANN:  As in the clip with Diane Sawyer, where he was clearly nonplussed by the sudden realization that he was—oh, yes, this—sort of this hand is contradicting that one.  We, of course, know this is the first—the first time that any Republican has attacked Nancy Pelosi for something they have been themselves done.

ALTER:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  But we‘ve got Hoekstra accused the CIA of lying, Boehner did it about Iran, after the NIE on Iran, Bush essentially accused the CIA of contributing at least false information.  I don‘t think he used the word lie.

ALTER:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  So, as a political strategy, how is this supposed to help Republicans if it reminds people of every time the Republicans did exactly the same, bloody thing?

ALTER:  Well, they hope that people don‘t notice that.  And Nancy Pelosi—remember, Keith—she‘s from San Francisco.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  That‘s almost Guantanamo.

ALTER:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  It sounds like Guantanamo.

ALTER:  If you back to the 1984 Republican convention, they talked about the San Francisco Democrats and they thought they were hitting pay dirt with the American public to go after people from that part of the country as being these weak-kneed liberals.  It has worked for them in the past.

There‘s new survey data showing it no longer works.  The American people are not responding to those kinds of arguments.  The base does, but nobody else.

OLBERMANN:  San Francisco Bay, Guantanamo Bay.

With all these holes that we‘ve seen this week in the CIA recordkeeping about these briefings—wrong dates, they have the anachronistic use of acronyms, wrong people, wrong job descriptions, months without dates in them and unidentified briefers from the CIA and misidentifying the director of the CIA as a sitting congressman.

Where is this headed?  Is it an investigation—and if so, of whom?

ALTER:  Well, there should be an investigation of the CIA.  And we could turn it into what we had in the 1970s—a far-reaching investigation of how effectively they do their job, but would go into the torture matter and other things.

I would argue the country needs that right now.  That‘s a separate issue from prosecutions.  But to shed light on what happened on what sorts of interrogation techniques they used, on whether they know which end is up at the CIA, is clearly in the national interest.

The White House doesn‘t want it, they want to move forward.  Pelosi, who is covering her own rear end in this, throughout this matter—would do well .


ALTER:  . to now move forward with a full investigation.

OLBERMANN:  She has no choice, does she?

ALTER:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  I mean, she is now in the shark position.  She has to keep going forward.

Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—as always, thanks for coming in, Jon.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s golf.  It‘s played by the general manager a Major League Baseball team standing on a downtown roof.  I mean, man, ESPN 9 just does not have the programming.

They should have shown this.  Have you seen Glenn Beck‘s head? 

Because it got handed to him on “The View” this morning and he dropped it


Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  This is May 20th, thus 28 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for a military families charity, thus 27 since I offered to donate $1,000 a second that he lasted, thus 26 during which Mr. Hannity has reneged on his promise.

Today‘s development, a letter to the editor published by the Upstate New York newspaper, “The Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin,” “As almost every viewer of FOX News knows, waterboarding is not torture.  Now, one of the hosts is in a unique position to prove it.”  Recently, Sean Hannity said he didn‘t think water boarding was torture and would agree to be water boarded.  He said he would let actor Charles Grodin do it, who declined.  Then he said he would do it for charity.  The liberal Keith Olbermann took him up on his offer and pledged to donate 1,000 dollars for every second Sean was water boarded.  I urge all of Sean‘s fans to email him to take Olbermann up on his pledge.  Think of the money that could be raised for Sean‘s charity.  I hope that Fox News picks up on this and promotes as much as they promoted the tea bagging.  Sean can prove that water boarding isn‘t torture.  He can make Olbermann put his money where his mouth is.”

That‘s from Linda Schwartz of Vestal, New York.  I happen to think it‘s a plant, but so what.  Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, Sean.  Let‘s play oddball.

And how many times have you been here before, on the roof of the Omny Hotel in San Diego, where Monday professional golfer Branny Baird (ph) and Padres GM Kevin Towers chipped golf balls into the stadium there Petco park, during a baseball game—no, I‘m sorry, it was an off day. 

The video is from the “San Diego Union Tribune.”  The pin was about 270 yards away and 340 feet down.  Closer to the flag, the more money for charity.  In all, the duo earned 25 grand for the San Diego Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society.  And Mr. Towers became the first Padre this year, besides Adrian Gonzales, to hit any ball more than 300 feet. 

To outer space, where disturbing news today that three astronauts aboard the International Space Station drank their own urine.  Just a moment, I‘m being told by Wally Schirra that this is, in fact, a good thing.  The team in Houston chuckling along with them, three astronauts orbiting the earth tested out the Space Station Urine Process Assembly Recycling System, UPARS, for the first time this afternoon.

NASA says turning space wee-wee into space wa-wa is a huge milestone, because it means future space expeditions will need less water to be carried with them, meaning they can go further, faster. On the downside, the business at the Moon‘s Vince Lombardy Rest Stop is expected to tumble. 

Michael Steele‘s huge triumph, he talks the Republican National Committee out of selecting a new name for the Democratic party, that the Democrats, the liberal media, the non-partisan media, and even the conservative media would never have used. 

And the startling submission, take away the bravado, and what has he done?  He has asked NBC to stop beating him up for the next 30 days.  Tonight‘s WTF moment.  Rush Limbaugh conceded.


OLBERMANN:  They will not have to change their name to the Democrat socialist party.  Said members of the Republican National Committee have voted today to simply condemn the Democrats‘ march towards socialism.  And while Michael Steele could claim a small victory in this rebranding of the rebranding, in our third story, the GOP party chairman may have gotten his way, but does it matter? 

Day two of the RNC‘s session in Prince George‘s County, Maryland.  This morning, rumblings that the language of the original rebranding proposal was being, quote, massaged.  Perhaps to appease what‘s left of the moderate wing of the party.  There‘s that guy over there on the right.  Or just to recognize that the label of Democrat socialist did not fall trippingly off the tongue. 

Out it went.  In came the resolution stating the Democrat party is, quote, “dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals.”  Mr. Steele releasing this statement shortly after the vote, quote, “I am pleased the committee adopted a resolution that focuses on the Democrats‘ policies and their destructive effects on America‘s economic engine, rather than attempting to rename our opponents.” 

Meanwhile, those in favor of the original language are still claiming victory.  David Norcross, a committee man from New Jersey, said the first resolution was a bid for Americans to be properly fearful of the Democratic agenda.  Indiana Committeeman James Bopp going one further, quote, “it has generated the debate we had hoped for.  It was an effort to educate the American people, and it was successful.” 

Bopp.  Even though inside the GOP, it failed.  Regarding Steele‘s GOP comeback speech yesterday, one, declaring that change comes in a tea bag; those remarks drawing at least one high profile admirer, Sarah Palin.  She released this statement, “we have a friend in RNC Chairman Michael Steele.  And his bold and courageous speech defines his leadership goals that will guide us all through this most difficult time for our nation.” 

To guide us through this most difficult time, here is the Washington correspondent for “The New Yorker,” Ryan Lizza.  Ryan, good evening.

RYAN LIZZA, “THE NEW YORKER”:  Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The great semantic debate of 2009; is this a victory for Michael Steele?  Is it a victory for anybody?

LIZZA:  I mean, I suppose it‘s a kind of victory for Steele.  Given his recent track record, any time he‘s looking like the reasonable guy, it‘s—you know, it‘s a win for him.  I‘ve never seen a party spend so much time on resolutions trying to define the other party. 

Most people don‘t really care what one party says about the other.  The Republicans, it seems to me, need to be doing right now is defining what they believe.  And that seems to be the problem that they have. 

OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin‘s statement about Steele‘s speech yesterday, is that the real news out of this gathering of the RNC?  I mean, the prospect of a Steele/Palin alliance? 

LIZZA:  Yes, that was the most intriguing thing that happened, I thought.  And what‘s in it for her?  I suppose, she‘s preparing to run for president in 2012.  And Steele doesn‘t have a lot of power.  But one thing that the RNC chairman does have control over is the nominating convention, the schedule of primaries, the caucuses.  There are all kinds of little things that he controls that are very important if you‘re running for president. 

So there‘s nothing wrong if you‘re Sarah Palin with building an alliance with the party chairman.  It can only help her. 

OLBERMANN:  Shifting gears a little bit to the Cheney/Limbaugh wing of the party, and last night Colin Powell responded to the criticism he has received from both of them.  He said, “I may be out of their version of the Republican party, but there‘s another version of the Republican party waiting to emerge once again.” 

Are there enough Republicans to survive any kind of split?  I mean, even if Powell is right, isn‘t even his version of a Republican party, which is separated from the Limbaugh version, aren‘t both of these versions the size of actually a third party? 

LIZZA:  Well, I don‘t know if I agree with that.  I think the version that Powell represents right now—if you are a Powell Republican, whatever that is, you‘re basically an Obama Democrat, right?  Obama is occupying about 60 percent to 65 percent of the space in this country.  And that‘s why I think Colin Powell endorsed him in the last election. 

So I don‘t think there is a space necessarily for a third party.  I think Obama and the Democrats are doing a pretty good job right now representing both the liberal wing and a moderate wing, and representing people like Colin Powell. 

The Republicans aren‘t doing such a good job of that right now. 

OLBERMANN:  Does anybody on that side of the equation see the way out of the thicket, the way out of the wilderness for the Republican party? 

LIZZA:  You know, I think things will probably get a little worse before they get better.  I think it could take one more bruising loss before you reach the sort of point of desperation that they need to sort of fix things. 

I mean, they have a demographic problem.  They need to win back young people, to win back Hispanics.  And they‘re not quite there yet on the policies to win back some of those demographics that they lost in the last election.  And so far, the field of candidates that are looking at 2012 are not the kind of candidates that can win back that middle that they‘ve lost. 

And Barack Obama was very smart in making the one guy who was saying interesting things his ambassador to China. 

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Huntsman won‘t be heard from for a while.  Or perhaps, who knows?  He could be back and running against him in 2012.  We‘ll see.  Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for the “New Yorker.”  Great thanks, Ryan. 

LIZZA:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  He can‘t take the heat, so he wants out of the MSNBC kitchen.  Rush Limbaugh asks that we not mention him for the next 30 days.  Tonight‘s WTF moment, possibly the next 30 days WTF moments. 

And a concurrent meltdown from the Limbaugh wannabe in worst persons. 

Glenn Beck is frickaseed (ph) live on “The View.”  Save the liver.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Michael Isikoff, with exclusive details of a tense meeting the president had with human rights groups today, as the left draws the line.


OLBERMANN:  Rush Limbaugh pleads with MSNBC for some sort of armistice.  Tonight‘s WTF moment.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the word. 

The bronze to Governor Rick Perry of Texas, facing the Republican primary challenge from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.  That would be Ms. Kay Bailey Hutchison, in case you don‘t know.  So it would be a problem if Governor Perry‘s political consultant Dave Carney said the governor believes in bringing in new members, but, quote, that doesn‘t mean you take your principles, throw them out the door and become a whorehouse. 

Perry has refused to apologize, saying through another spokesman that Carney does not speak for the governor.  He just did. 

Our runner up, Skeesics (ph) and Limbaugh.  Listen to this quote, “here in America, I‘ve had some people come to my aid.  They see the bigger picture.  They‘re not like O‘Reilly.  They‘re not like Limbaugh, who is the biggest disappointment of all.  Limbaugh has turned out to be the biggest phony of them all.  All of them; amongst all of them, he is the biggest fraud.  Rush Limbaugh is a fraud.  When he was accused of drug usage, I supported him.  But that man is a one-way street.  It‘s all about him.  He‘s in it for nobody but himself.” 

Wow.  Skeesics and Limbaugh called out by Michael Savage. 

And if you think that‘s embarrassing, our winner, Harold Hill—Glenn Beck.  Moral in advance here; never lie about sharing your train trip with panelists from “The View” when you are going to be appearing as a guest on “The View.”


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, “THE VIEW”:  You were on the train when we got on the train.  Had a perfectly decent ride.  You introduced yourself to Barbara, said you were going to be on the show.  I gave you a look like I gave you just now.  And so that was all fun.  We got off the train and we went on our merry way. 

The following Monday, I got this link from somebody sent to me.  Really pissed me off, because I don‘t want to say, Glenn Beck, you lied, but—take a look. 

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  And so, there were four seats at this table and it was empty.  So we get in and we sit down at the table and the lady says, no, no, no, you can‘t take those.  Why not?  They‘re reserved.  They‘re reserved?  I didn‘t—you can‘t reserve—no, no, these are reserved. 

It‘s Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg.  Oh, and Steve Croft.  How did they reserve seats on Amtrak when you can‘t reserve seats on Amtrak?  Now, as the train took off, and Barbara said, Glenn Beck; and I said, yes, Mrs. Walters, how are you?  You‘re going to be on our show in a couple weeks, I understand.  I said, oh.  And Whoopi looks up over her glasses.  Oh, yes, Glenn Beck.  Yes. 

GOLDBERG:  And that‘s why. 

BECK:  Mischaracterization of you, Ms. Walters. 

BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”:  You said she came over here. 

BECK:  You didn‘t—I came over to you.  You‘re exactly right. 

WALTERS:  I was very nice and polite to you. 

BECK:  Yes, you were.  So I‘d like you to apologize for—

JOY BEHAR, “THE VIEW”:  Why did you lie about that? 

BECK:  Why did I lie about that?  I don‘t know.  I came over.  I don‘t know.

BEHAR:  A brain fart or what?

BECK:  I guess so.  Wait, wait—

GOLDBERG:  I wanted to make sure before I brought this up to you.  We didn‘t reserve seats.  I don‘t know—let me just—no, no, because wait a minute. 

BECK:  You‘re accusing me of lying. 

GOLDBERG:  What do you mean I‘m accusing you.  You sat there and you‘re a lying sack of dog mess. 

WALTERS:  You are an investigative reporter. 

BECK:  No, I‘m not. 

WALTERS:  You‘re a reporter. 

BECK:  No, I am not. 

WALTERS:  So you check no facts at all, right? 

BECK:  No, I am not.  I am a commentator.  I am a commentator.  I commentate (sic) on life.

WALTERS:  Do you ever check your facts? 


OLBERMANN:  The memorial services for Glenn Beck‘s credibility will be held at St. Ego of the Arrogance on Friday afternoon. 


OLBERMANN:  Finally tonight, in a span of 24 hours, two of the titans of knee-jerk right wing, brains free, racist, xenophobic, delusional, greedy, unfeeling, inept, indifferent, self-inflating and unconscionably profitable voices of the lunatic right wing have self-destructed. 

Our number one story tonight, Boss Limbaugh, WTF.  Glenn Beck‘s sad end, pecked to death, carcass consumed, nothing left but the veneers from his teeth, and swallowed whole in only six minutes by the hosts of “The View.”  We showed that to you earlier.

But even more titanic than that, Rush Limbaugh‘s startling admission that he cannot take it any more, that this network‘s coverage of him has not only gotten to him, but gotten him to a point perhaps never reached before by any other megalomaniac.  He‘s suddenly gone all Greta Garbo on us.  He wants to be left alone. 

He has surrendered.  He cannot say it that way, of course.  Were he to, the entire edifice that is Rush Limbaugh would come crashing down and then we‘d have to get one of those rescue squads from ski resorts to go and look for survivors.  No, suddenly the impact of being accurately called out day after day, hour after hour as a faux populist, press release regurgitating lackey of repressive and regressive political flunky, that has hit bone, finally.  Took a while. 

In sum, Rush Limbaugh, who told me in person years ago that his dream of dreams was to be on television, to be on ESPN, perhaps to sit next to me on “Sports Center,” an utter television failure who yearns to somehow undo that permanent label, Rush Limbaugh does not want to be on TV anymore. 


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW:  It seems that the liberalism that is

MSNBC isn‘t selling as well as they would like, because they cannot, from

the Scarborough show in the morning all the way into the night, they cannot

they cannot go any appreciable length of time without showing video of me, the CPAC speech or excerpts from this radio show, or having a bunch of hack guests on to discuss me. 

So my challenge is this.  To MSNBC, let‘s see if you can run your little TV network for 30 days.  Let‘s see if you can do Rush withdrawal.  Let‘s see if you can run your little TV network for 30 days without doing a single story on me.  And then let‘s take a look at your ratings during those 30 days.  And see what happens. 


OLBERMANN:  F you.  You‘re in charge of this?  You‘re not in charge of this.  You put your bile out into the public airwaves for three hours a day and you get to decide how people react to it?  The hell you do. 

There are rules about who we can and cannot react to the peril to this nation you successfully strive become?  There are no rules.  You built this little world.  Either man up and live through the bad press or get out. 


LIMBAUGH:  Obviously MSNBC thinks they cannot get numbers without focusing on me. 


OLBERMANN:  To the degree that the numbers we are getting have anything to do with Rush Limbaugh, it‘s like the numbers we got after Hurricane Katrina.  There was a blight upon the land.  There was a huge campaign to BS the American public that the problems were actually the solutions.  We told the truth about it and people watched. 

Rush, you are the radio equivalent of heck of a job, Brownie, and the Bush flyover, and the refugees in the Superdome.  You are a human federal disaster area. 


LIMBAUGH:  It is clear to me that MSNBC is hoping to build its ratings on my back. 


OLBERMANN:  This is where he would say, of somebody else, but there‘s so much room back there.  Instead I will go here.  This man, this publicity addict, this fame junkie, this victim of the unquenchable thirst for attention, all of a sudden he‘s afraid of being criticized on a television network which he believes has no viewers, no reach and no impact. 


LIMBAUGH:  See if can you do it.  You know, stand on your own two feet.  Stand on liberalism.  Stand on what you believe. 


OLBERMANN:  Rush, this is in part what we believe.  This isn‘t a bid for ratings.  We believe you suck.  We believe you have contributed to the coarsening and deadening of the political dialogue in this nation.  And I‘m saying that as a guy who just said, F you. 

We believe your fixation on Bill Clinton‘s sex life lessened the chances that everybody in this country could have begun a serious discussed of terrorism before terrorism hit. 

We believe that you used chicanery, trickery and outright lies to influence gullible people, whose entire understanding of complex issues vital to their own happiness and survival is then reduced to a bunch of your catch phrases, and they don‘t even understand the catch phrases. 

We believe that the day you stop doing your show, even if you‘re replaced by one of those buffoons who fill in for you, that the collective intelligence of this nation will jump by at least one IQ point simply because you shut up. 

We believe that as you boast that you are listened to by 14 million Americans a week, you cannot see the forest for the ratings trees.  All the rest of us, the crushing majority of the other 292 million Americans, we divide into three groups: those who are hating you, those who are laughing at you, and those who will go blissfully through their lives not having any earthly clue who the hell you are.  Or were. 


LIMBAUGH:  So I challenge you, MSNBC, 30 days without anything mentioning me.  No video of me, no guests commenting on me. 


OLBERMANN:  No video, you say?  You mentioned the CPAC video, where you forgot the first rule that guys like you and me, the hefty of this world are supposed to remember.  Never undulate late.  You don‘t like us showing it.  I can understand that. 

You got it.  How is this?  You know, if you look at this long enough, it‘s got a strange, soothing effect.  Kind of a lava lamp of hate speech and condescension and subconscious reminder to everybody to check your support columns under your front porch.  Do it today. 

The video, let‘s just make that permanent.  All right?  Dear viewer, this is our new logo. 

So, Mr. Limbaugh, your challenge, with all this yet, am I still up for negotiation?  It‘s one of the problems with having a liberal heart.  When the wounded animal, no matter how venomous, no matter how much at fault, begs to be left alone, I still listen.  I will go 30 days on this program without referencing what has been done or said or boasted about by Rush Limbaugh, provided you go 30 days on your program without mentioning what has been done or said or boasted about by Rush Limbaugh. 

Hannity would last longer on the water board.  WTF. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,211th days since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Follow the bouncing Rush.  Good night and good luck.



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