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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, May 28

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, Chris Cillizza, Arianna Huffington, Jesse Ventura


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

Now she‘s guilty of thinking state judges make law—when Antonin Scalia said the same thing.  Now she‘s guilt of not being intellectually strong.  This talking point captained by the man who declared the permanent Republican majority, who claimed only his math was right, who believed the clown college intel on Iraq, and who nominated Harriet Miers.

Excuse me, Mr. Science.

And it‘s not why in the context of the Hispanic vote or the Republicans opposing her, it‘s why in the context of the Hispanic vote are the Republicans slandering her.

Serious question: Is Rush Limbaugh going crazy?  From this on January 16th




OLBERMANN:  To this, on May 28th


LIMBAUGH:  Ladies and gentlemen, this country is failing because President Obama is succeeding.


OLBERMANN:  Tomorrow, will he say, “Gentledies and ladymen, Obama because country president is failing succeeding”?

The enhanced interrogation techniques that worked: The FBI interrogator who broke Abu Jandal by using sugar-free cookies.  Jandal was a diabetic.  He said, “Thanks.  What do you need to know?”  Jesse Ventura on that, and the waterboarding of Sean Hannity.

Worsts: The blogger who wants Judge Sotomayor to English-ize the pronunciation of her last name now says it‘s about diphthongs or effort; it‘s about angst over immigration and bilingual education.

Thanks for letting your racism show.

And tonight‘s WTF Moment: The far-right goes nuts over Obama‘s secret plan to close down almost nothing but Republican Chrysler dealerships.  You did check to see what percentage of Chrysler dealerships that are staying open are Republican-owned, right?  Right?  You didn‘t?  Oh.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good question.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Yesterday‘s attack on Judge Sonia Sotomayor as a reverse racist, having blown up in their faces when it was discovered that much of what she had to say on the subject of heritage influencing rulings matched, almost word for word, what conservative nominee Samuel Alito said at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings three years ago.

Now, in the fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The Republicans have changed tack.  Now, Sotomayor is stupid, is a Democratic version of Harriet Miers, and believes state judges wind up making both law and policy.  The law and policy stuff turns out to duplicate what Justice Antonin Scalia said.  And as to her intelligence, the nation is now being lectured by fools, like Karl Rove, who nominated Harriet Miers and who have previously solicited and swallowed fairy tales about WMD and 9/11 culpability in Iraq.

Already having called her stupid, Mr. Rove is now using gender-loaded terms like “emotion” to describe the judge‘s decision and the judge herself, who would be only the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court.  At the same time, Mr. Rove trying to claim that Judge Sotomayor would not be the court‘s first Hispanic justice, instead incorrectly saying that Benjamin Cardozo had that distinction, even though his ancestors were from Portugal.

Others continuing to get their backsides handed to them as well by criticizing Judge Sotomayor for having said as she did at a Duke Law School forum in 2005, the very same thing that the conservative justice on the Supreme Court already had.


JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE:  The Court of Appeals is where policy is made.  And I know, and I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don‘t make law.  I know.


SOTOMAYOR:  OK.  I know.  I know.  I‘m not promoting it and I‘m not advocating it, I‘m—you know?  OK.


SOTOMAYOR:  Having said that, the Court of Appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating.  It‘s interpretation.  It‘s application.

LIMBAUGH:  Our Founding Fathers were fortune-tellers, they were prophets, they were wise beyond measure.  I‘m very much like these people, my friends, in my ability to prognosticate and prophet the future.  Thomas Jefferson warned 188 years ago that the federal government and the germ of its dissolution was in the way the federal judiciary was constituted.

Ergo, 188 years later, he is right.  We have Sonia Sotomayor, who thinks that the court is where policy is made.


OLBERMANN:  Of course, 181 years later, the majority opinion in the 2002 case, Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, Justice Scalia writing, quote, “The judges of inferior—that is lower courts—often make law, since the precedent of the highest court does not cover every situation and not every case is reviewed.”

The fallacy that not only Sotomayor makes law or wants to, the focus of today‘s racist gem, courtesy of John Derbyshire at the “National Review Online,” quote, “At SCOTUS, she‘ll make policy.  What need legislators?  More jobs!  More opportunity for two-fer second-raters.” A two-fer being, in the vernacular, is someone of two minority backgrounds that an employer can count as part of two different quotas.

Forget all talk early this week from Senate Republicans having claimed they would need ample time to adequately scrutinize the judge‘s record, Pat Roberts of Kansas today becoming the first Republican to declare, on right-wing radio, that he will be voting against her, and he don‘t care who might consider him a racist because of it.

Semper Fi.


SEN. PAT ROBERTS, ® KANSAS:  Well, I‘m a marine and nothing much scares me.  And so basically that‘s not going to be a consideration in my vote.  I voted no in 1998.  I did not feel that she was appropriate on the appeals court.  Since that time, she has made statements on the role of appeals court that I think is improper.


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

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Using this word, “emotion,” to describe the perceived shortcomings of a female judge.  Is that akin to perhaps describing whether an African or asking whether or not an African-American judge was articulate?  Is this more of a code?

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s code for desperation on the part of conservatives and indeed Republicans, who are looking for some way to get traction as they try to oppose Judge Sotomayor.

First of all, the White House was brilliant to role this out during the recess.  Republicans aren‘t here, they can‘t sort of gather in their war councils.  And while they‘re gone, people like Rush Limbaugh are in charge.  And as vehement as Rush is, it just doesn‘t seem to be getting traction.

And I know over at the White House, they‘re pretty confident, they‘re being very careful and methodical about answering every factual or emotional—talk about the side that‘s using emotion here—emotional charge.  And I think they‘re doing a pretty good job of it.  And when you talk to Republicans, they say, “It hasn‘t come together for us yet at all,” and that‘s why they‘re grasping.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, in the midst of these latest attacks today, came reports, from other sources, that no Republican actually believes the party is going to defeat or even seriously impede this confirmation.  So, what is actually being done here?  What—who is gaining from this and how do they think they‘re gaining from it?

FINEMAN:  Well, as we said on Tuesday night, nobody I talked to then or now thinks—absent some huge revelation—that it‘s likely that this thing can be derailed.  And she‘s got a lot of positive reviews.

What the Republicans and conservatives are doing are talking to themselves and to their base.  They‘re certain issues that she‘s expressed opinions on that they think they can excite their own base about, whether it‘s Second Amendment things related to gun control, whether it‘s this notion of activist judges, whether it‘s a question of affirmative action and that New Haven case involving the firefighters.

Those issues are not yet and maybe never will resonate with the country as a whole.  But to the core base of the Republican Party—and it‘s a shrinking one—those interest groups have an interest in fundraising out of them, expanding their base with them, getting them angry, upset and paranoid.  That‘s how one branch of American politics works, and the Republicans and conservatives are going to work that, even if it has nothing ultimately to do with whether or not they can stop Sotomayor—which I don‘t think they can do.

OLBERMANN:  But let‘s assume for a second that there has—there is some value to that, even just to firm up the base—which is easier to do the smaller it gets.  But, I mean, if .

FINEMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s not being done well.  It‘s two days in a row that they‘ve trotted out these titanic or pumped up, two titanic proportions events that have turned out to be—in both cases—duplicate statements, essentially, that were made first by Alito, and in today‘s case, made by the most conservative man on the bench in years, Antonin Scalia.

Nobody—is Google not available to the GOP?

FINEMAN:  Well, they don‘t have an organized effort to do it.  Rush is it.  I mean, I‘ve written that there‘s a shadow RNC—it‘s Rush, Newt and Cheney.  And there‘s no organized—I stress—no organized opposition yet and I‘m not sure there‘s going to be much in opposition to Judge Sotomayor.

The White House is superbly organized.  Their allies are superbly organized.  They‘ve got people inside the White House who‘ve been through this for years.  They‘ve rolled it out with great care and precision.

And I don‘t see any kind of organizing—any organization yet developed on the other side.  It‘s not like it was in the days when Bush was president and the Democrats and their liberal allies really worked it hard, even though they lost.  You don‘t see any of that down here, Keith, and I‘m not sure we‘re going to.

OLBERMANN:  George Bush had the Google.

Howard Fineman of MSBNC and “Newsweek”—as always, thank you, Howard.


FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Annenberg survey estimating that President Bush won 41 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2004 reelection, compared to 35 percent in his election in 2001, obviously, a six-point increase.

The same party that brought you President Bush, this week, not just opposing the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court but dismissing her as stupid, as emotional, as such a fan of ethnic food that might influence her votes.  And possibly worst of all, is being on a par with Mr. Bush‘s failed Supreme Court nominee, his former White House counsel, Harriet Miers.  Conservative blogger Ramesh Ponnuru calling Judge Sotomayor exactly that—those three words, “Obama‘s Harriet Miers.”

Curt Levey, executive director of the right wing Committee for Justice adding that, like Miers, Sotomayor was picked because she was a woman and, in this case, Hispanic, not because of credentials.  He wrote, “This is someone who clearly was picked because she‘s a woman and Hispanic, not because she was the best qualified.”

Let‘s turn now to “Washington Post” White House reporter, author of “The Fix,” Chris Cillizza.

Chris, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  As I‘ve suggested, if you‘re opposing this judge, go to town.  But what is the political benefit—considering what a milestone this is viewed as, for an entire swath of our population—what is the—what is the political value of calling her unqualified and questioning her intelligence and saying she‘s an EOE hire and talking about the food she eats?  What is the—even if it‘s acceptable political strategy, what‘s the good part of the strategy?

CILLIZZA:  I wish I had a better answer for you, Keith, and I don‘t have a great one.  The truth of the matter is—as you said—there is nothing wrong with opposing Judge Sotomayor on the merits, and you can argue whether judicial activism is on the merit or not.  But, at least, it‘s in sort of acceptable ground.  Some of these other stuff, racist, these—it‘s the name-calling, it doesn‘t do, certainly, the Republican Party any good.

And again, I think what it does is it shows—from a political perspective, that Barack Obama is a very savvy political strategist.  He is yet again forcing the Republican Party to litigate the differences between the establishment part of their party and the conservative wing of their party, and it‘s all being done in public and it‘s all being done without any rules or any leaders.

And that‘s exactly what you do not want if you‘re trying to win that Congress or you‘re trying to win the White House in 2012.

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.  Limbaugh went on today and said, “Why worry about Hispanic voters because Republicans aren‘t going to get them anymore anyway.”  Is that not akin to saying, “Oh, don‘t worry about future elections because we‘re not going to win any of them anymore anyway”?

CILLIZZA:  Keith, I understand Rush‘s point but it‘s—they can‘t write off the Hispanic vote.  It‘s the largest minority group in this country.  It continues to grow in terms of power in elections.  Places like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, even places you don‘t think about, a place like Iowa, for example—there are significant Hispanic communities in all those places.

If the southwest is the next big battle ground, and people seem to think it is—from Texas to New Mexico to Arizona—you can‘t simply say, “Well, we‘re going to lose Hispanics 90 to 10,” because that essentially, if you combine African-Americans and you combine Hispanics, that essentially gives you a recipe for failure almost every time in the national election.

OLBERMANN:  Does it also do any good to have somebody like Karl Rove question her intellect when it turns out he does not know that Benjamin Cardozo, the great Supreme Court justice, was Portuguese and not Latino?

CILLIZZA:  Well, this is a problem.  And I was nodding my head when Howard was talking, because I think he‘s exactly right.  There is no organizing group—whether it was in the White House or any where else—to handle this.  You have a bunch of people freelancing: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, any number of people—sort of freelancing, out there giving their opinions.

Now, that‘s all well and good.  The problem is: without an organized

party movement on the behalf of the Republicans, those people are the

people who are getting the attention and those are not the faces, frankly -

and we‘ve talked about this, you and I, Keith, about Dick Cheney—those are not the faces that Republicans want out there.  They are not faces that appeal to an American public who is looking for something new from the Republican Party.


So, that leaderless-ness really affects a number of things, including this confirmation fight.

OLBERMANN:  And focusing in on the ethnic origin of the nominee misses the other part of this.  Fifty-six percent of women voted for Obama in the last election.  And surely, the treatment of this candidate in terms of her gender is not helping the Republicans close this other major issue that they have for them, which is the gender gap.

CILLIZZA:  You know, Keith, talk to Republican strategists privately, and I do it, what they say is, “Look, we need to add groups, not subtract groups.”  You know, “The Washington Post” poll, 21 percent of people in that poll self-identified as Republicans, the lowest number since 1983, OK?  So, they need to be in the additive process, not the subtraction process.

And again, it speaks to the problem when you have a leaderless party or a party that doesn‘t even have a few people who could claim to be leader, a leader fight.  Voices come in and get attention that really do you more harm than good—and we‘ve seen that play out in the first five months of this administration.

OLBERMANN:  Voices that don‘t have access to Internet search engines.

Chris Cillizza of “The Washington Post”—as always, Chris, thanks.

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Turning explainable opposition into self-defeating character assassination makes no sense to you, if you‘ve obviously never listened to Rush Limbaugh.  Yet today, even his listeners were probably left scratching their heads as he made some sort of a labyrinthine U-turn.  What was “I hope Obama fails” is now “Obama succeeding by making the country fail.”  First, his strange plea to this network to stop criticizing him; and now, this bizarre bit of sophistry.

A serious question tonight: Is Rush Limbaugh going crazy?


OLBERMANN:  First, he said he was hoping Obama would fail, now he says Obama is failing—no, it‘s the country that‘s failing, which means Obama is succeeding which means—I don‘t know what it means.  Does anybody?  Serious concern tonight for Rush Limbaugh‘s mental health.

Jesse Ventura on waterboarding, Sean Hannity‘s name might be mentioned.

And tonight‘s WTF Moment: The evil plot to destroy Republican car dealerships.  It turns out the conspiracy theorists overlook one detail—one easy, obviously, mathematical detail.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Ladies and gentlemen, today even Republican Party Chairman Rush Limbaugh—“Mr. Bouncy Bouncy”—had to admit it: President Obama is succeeding.

But—and with Limbaugh, there is always a but—but in our fourth story tonight: The leader of the GOP—and if I‘m wrong about that, any Republican senator is welcome to come on the show and correct me—today, the GOP leader explained that Obama is succeeding because the country is failing.  And in fact, the country‘s failure was Obama‘s master plan all along.


On his radio show today, Mr. Limbaugh explained that the economy is in a ditch—not because President Bush handed Obama the wheel a year after he drove it off the cliff, but because President Obama wants the economy in the ditch, because he wants the power of government spending, because he wants impoverished Americans relying on him, presumably because that‘s how Bill Clinton did so well and Jimmy Carter lost because the economy did too well.

This dynamic, Limbaugh explained—political success arising from a failed economy—that is why President Obama wants America to fail.  And that, therefore, is why Limbaugh wants to succeed in making Obama fail at succeeding in making America fail.


LIMBAUGH:  Virtually, everybody who heard my comment, “I hope Obama fails,” knows exactly what I meant.  There is not a sane person in this country who genuinely believes I want this country to fail.

Ladies and gentlemen, this country is failing because President Obama is succeeding.  I don‘t care how you choose to measure it.  There is no hope on the horizon for a job.  There is no hope on the horizon for renewed prosperity.


OLBERMANN:  No hope on the horizon for a job.  From Limbaugh‘s own Web site list of his prep material for today‘s show—this headline, “Unemployment claims drop.”  If Rush Limbaugh is crazy, he‘s crazy like a FOX News anchor.

Let‘s turn now to Arianna Huffington, co-founder, editor-in-chief of, author of “The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging.”

Thanks for your time tonight, Arianna.


OLBERMANN:  I know you will say he always does not make sense to you.  But is this not something different? I mean, what point do we go from contempt to concern for his mental wellbeing?

HUFFINGTON:  You know, I don‘t think it‘s like the “five stages of grief,” that at one point he was unreasonable, and then he became contemptible, and now, he‘s foaming at the mouth.

I think, in a sense, if you look at what he‘s been saying through the years, there‘s never been any logic to it, because it‘s all about code words.  It‘s about buzz word.  It‘s about appealing to the worst instincts in his audience.

And that‘s really what is so sad and kind of dangerous, because the country is still going to go through very, very tough years.  We all know that.  You know, unemployment is going up, foreclosures are going up, credit card defaults are going up.

And the last thing this country needs is Rush Limbaugh, every day, making it sound as though this was Obama‘s master plan.

OLBERMANN:  But, what is—is that the extent of the point of him stoking this really bizarre idea that any president benefits by hurting the economy, that making your supporters poorer somehow helps you politically?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, it‘s purely looking for a scapegoat.  And unfortunately, when people are hurting, they‘re much more susceptible to finding scapegoats.  And now, of course, his audience is sort of restricted, they‘re substantial but restricted to the people who still approved of George Bush—remember—just before he left office.  That‘s the Rush Limbaugh base.

But as things continue to get worse for millions of people in this country, today, the unemployment claims were the highest they‘ve been—record unemployment claims—then the danger is that his audience may expand to people who otherwise would never be listening to him.

OLBERMANN:  If Limbaugh is wrong, though, why hasn‘t Obama fixed the economy already, considering that FDR got it done faster than he managed to house train his dog, Fala?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, remember, after—even FDR took a long weekend, right, Keith?


HUFFINGTON:  It wasn‘t—it wasn‘t just a long lunch.  But we can‘t be expected to try and understand Rush Limbaugh in normal, rational terms, because it‘s not about the head, it‘s about the gut.

And if you carefully look at his words, you know, it‘s words like, “Obama is raping the private sector.  If you are a small businessman, you have a target on your back.”  These are very emotional words that appeal to some very dark fears and anxiety in people going through tough times.

OLBERMANN:  So, what‘s the end result of this, though?  I mean, if he

if the goal is to keep his listeners and his part of this party in some sort of alternative universe in which what he says makes sense and is the way to go, how does—how does that part of the Republican Party still adhere to the other part of the Republican Party that has, you know, serious conservatives who have political disagreements with the Democrats, but, you know, don‘t talk in those code words about assassination and targeting?  Does this—at some point, do these two parties split?


HUFFINGTON:  Well, there‘s absolutely no way that the Republican Party can once again succeed in gaining majorities in the House and Senate and gain back the White House if they adhere to the Rush Limbaugh wing of the part.  Absolutely no way.

That‘s why you have people like Colin Powell, like David Frum, and basically parting company with Rush Limbaugh and you have Governor Huntsman leaving Utah and moving to China.

OLBERMANN:  And as you say, it‘s not about the head, it‘s about the gut.

Arianna Huffington of “The Huffington Post”—great thanks.  Take care.

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe it‘s just me, but I think the quality of the personal trainers at this gym is just going to the dogs.

And, Coultergeist mistakes a comedy show for reality.  We‘ll try to talk her down.  I don‘t know if I‘m good enough to do this—ahead in Worst Persons.


OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  And if you want to win the lottery, this would be the town in which to buy the ticket.

First, in this date in history, 30 years ago today, I graduated from college.  Holy crap!  That‘s me on the left, that‘s my friend Carol Hebb (ph), the greatest natural broadcaster I‘ve ever met, in the middle.  She‘s now Carol Feldbound (ph).  Her friend Doug Sage (ph) on the right.

I‘m smiling because of the amazement of my friends, and particularly, of my professors.  I was cueing up for the procession because I had graduated and graduated on time.  Because about three minutes before this picture was taken I‘d been slapped by a classmate who did not graduate on time—a disaster which gave me great pleasure about at the time but about which I felt bad later.

Also, there was a lot of champagne and our speaker was the university president, Dr. Frank Rhodes.  He was an Englishman who‘s a geologist.  He was a world class authority on fossils.  But with the champagne and I kept murmuring to Carol, why is Ronald Colman giving our graduation speech?

Let‘s play Oddball.

Thirty years ago.

We begin in South Africa with a house-breaking and entering situation.  Meet Jessica the hippo, who lives with her handler Shirley and is smart enough to unlock the door.  The only trouble is when Jessica is indoors, she still acts like an animal.  The hippopotamus has broken one of Shirley‘s beds.  When asked what do you give a hippo living in your house, Shirley replied, lots of room.  To which Jessica called her a hypocrite. 

To the Internets, this money saving tips; can‘t afford one of those fancy personal trainers?  Have Spot spot you.  Instead of telling him to sit, have him help you squat.  Here are man and man‘s best friend achieving an excellent lower body workout. 

Yes, in no time, you and your pooch can get rid of that ponch. 

Finally, in South Wales, Claire Allen (ph) was preparing the family breakfast.  After putting some yeast-based Marmite on the kid‘s toast, she noticed something on the under side of the lid. 

Jesus Christ on a jar?  Yes, that star rising from the yeast was, in fact, the Messiah in Marmite.  Ms. Allen said she‘s keeping the lid to remember the first time the holy ghost was spread on breakfast toast. 

Of those who fulfill their promise to be water boarded and those who do not, Jesse Ventura next.  And first they wanted to destroy us by putting Fluoride in the water.  Now the conspiracy is to unravel this nation by closing all the Republican-owned Chrysler dealerships.  Tonight‘s WTF moment. 

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s best persons in the world.

Number there, best imitation of a Python sketch, unnamed 52-year-old man in Tohyhanna, Pennsylvania, tried to open the gate of a gated community while still inside his truck.  Fell out, ran himself over.  He‘s fine.  His fall was reportedly broken by the heavy padding of the alcohol in his blood stream. 

Number two, best dereliction of duty, the unidentified Hearst driver in the funeral of Tito Vasquez of Bogota, Columbia.  Mourners at the Campo de Cristo Cemetery kept waiting and waiting for hours.  The hears and Mr.  Vasquez were found a few hours later parked in lot outside the El Imperio motel in Bogota, which is where the driver stopped for a few beers. 

Number one, best obvious place to buy a Lottery ticket, the Powerball ticket with five, six, 12, 16, 21, and the Powerball number seven, worth a tidy 232,100,000 was sold in south central South Dakota.  The winner was sold in the town of Winner.  Winner, South Dakota.  How in the heck do you not see that coming? 


OLBERMANN:  Seeming absurdity is matched only by a potential to reduce the torture debate into easily digestible morsels.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, the revelation that cookies trump water boarding in getting terrorists to talk.  As this debate continues, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura joins us presently. 

You will recall that former FBI agent Ali Soufan recently told a Senate panel that al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah offered up actionable intelligence while under standard interrogation, that once water boarding and other harsh techniques began, Zubaydah stopped cooperating. 

Now, Mr. Soufan tells “Time Magazine” that the turning point in another interrogation must have been the cookies, sugar-free cookies, offered to Osama bin Laden‘s chief body guard, Abu Jandal (ph),once Mr.  Soufan realized that Jandal was diabetic.  Quoting, “we had showed him respect and we had done this nice thing for him, so he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures.”  

Bear in mind that Jandal was being interrogated in the week after the 9/11 attacks.  Initially, Jandal had refused to even look interrogators in the eye.  He railed against the evils of the West.  But after the cookies, quote, “he could no longer think of us as evil Americans,” according to Soufan.  “Now he was thinking of us as human beings.” 

After further interrogations, including some trickery, Jandal became completely cooperative, and not just what the pros call crumbs of information.  Real information was forthcoming from him.

Cut to the silly and inaccurate claims of the effectiveness of torture by the likes of Sean Hannity.  Governor Ventura has vowed that if he waterboarded Hannity, he could get the Fox News host to say that Barack Obama is the greatest president.  Similar suggestion for the former vice president. 


JESSE VENTURA, FMR. GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA:  I have said it before, you give me a waterboard, one hour and Dick Cheney, and I‘ll have him confessing to the Sharon Tate murders. 


OLBERMANN:  Joining us now as promised, former Minnesota governor, former US Navy Seal, former MSNBC host Jesse Ventura, now author of “Don‘t Start the Revolution Without Me.”  Thanks for some of your time tonight, governor. 

VENTURA:  Hi, Keith.  How are you doing tonight?   

OLBERMANN:  Not too bad.  Thanks for coming on.  The “Time Magazine” article about bin Laden‘s body guard, it sounds crazy.  But if we can get real intelligence using traditional interrogation, to say nothing of sugar-free cookies, should we be assuming that we used torture not to get real intelligence, but to get people to confess to things that weren‘t true?

VENTURA:  Well, that certainly is a possibility, Keith.  There‘s no credibility to torture.  If you torture someone, they are going to say whatever it is they need to say to stop the torture.  That‘s why we don‘t allow it in the court of law.  That‘s why the police can‘t use water boarding techniques and things of that nature. 

It is brutal torture.  I‘ve been water boarded.  And I‘m a former competitive swimmer.  And I‘ll tell you what, Michael Phelps couldn‘t stand up to water boarding, because it gives you the sensation of drowning.  And we, as swimmers, would be far more accustomed to it than the average person would. 

OLBERMANN:  That dovetails exactly with the tape of this Chicago radio guy Mancow, who said—

VENTURA:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  -- went into this knowing—being a swimmer and, in fact, having drowned as a kid and having been resuscitated.  He knew what this was really like and he knew this couldn‘t possibly be that.  He lasted six seconds.  He said, not only is it torture, not only is it drowning, it‘s death.  It‘s being undersold.  How does something like what he did impact this debate, such as it is? 

VENTURA:  Well, you know, it shows that we should not be a country that tortures.  And the sad thing is, President Obama says now he‘s not going to prosecute anyone.  Well, you know what that tells me, Keith, it tells me the Democrats are involved, too.  They may have not ordered the torture, but they certainly knew it was going on.  They did nothing to stop it. 

Whenever government says to you, it‘s time to move on, you can rest assured the two parties are both involved, because both of these parties make their decisions to try to strengthen their parties.  If there were no Democrats involved, you would see the Democrats prosecute the Republicans on this one. 

OLBERMANN:  The experience of watching somebody who was adamant that this was not torture get a quick conversion; how come Sean Hannity won‘t do it?  I hesitate to call him your friend.  But you‘ve been on his show.  And how come he trashed you when you brought it up about him, rather than addressed the topic to, you know, in some meaningful way? 

VENTURA:  Well, I don‘t know, because whenever—there‘s no right in torture.  Torture‘s against the law.  We shouldn‘t condone it.  We‘re a country, if we don‘t stand for the rule of law—you can‘t just stand for it when it‘s convenient, Keith.  You have to stand for the rule of law all the time. 

They have nothing to stand on.  So, that‘s just, you know, creativity and entertainment of the news.  Hannity says he could be water boarded.  There‘s no doubt in my mind Hannity wouldn‘t last 30 seconds.  I can‘t last 30 seconds to water boarding.  And I‘ve been through BUDS, Basic Underwater Demolition Seal Training.  There is nothing more torturous than that.  If I can‘t stand it, how he‘s going to go through it? 

OLBERMANN:  Of course.  Last question about Dick Cheney and the others who continue to attack Obama on his stance about using torture now.  Setting aside for a second the question of prosecuting what went before. 

VENTURA:  Sure.  Sure. 

OLBERMANN:  What is that Cheney hopes to gain?  What is it that those who agree with him hope to gain at this point? 

VENTURA:  I think they are hoping that no one continues to prosecute them for what did, for his lawyers, all the way up to them.  I did a lot of reading.  They had lawyers making decisions on what‘s torture and what‘s not, that it is not torture unless death is inevitable.  I‘ve got news for you, water boarding can cause death.  If it is not done properly, you can easily kill somebody water boarding them. 

OLBERMANN:  The tracheotomy kit is not standing by during these interrogations for laughs.  Jesse Ventura. 

VENTURA:  When they did it to us at SERE school, Keith, they a doctor standing by anytime any serviceman was water boarded. 

OLBERMANN:  Somehow, there is still a debate about this.  Former governor of Minnesota, now the author of “Don‘t Start the Revolution Without Me,” good luck with the book.  Great thanks for your time, Jesse. 

VENTURA:  Thank you, Keith.  Always a pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  Of course, the Republicans can show you that the revolution already began.  Obama has begun his desperate campaign to eliminate that bastion of GOP power, Chrysler dealers, your neighborhood Chrysler dealer.  Tonight‘s WTF moment ahead. 

Plus, in worsts, Dennis Miller helpfully explains this, this what he‘s doing right here, his joke.  Remember when he didn‘t have to telegraph his joke?

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, timing is everything.  So a week after it was replaced by the Sotomayor nomination, the Republicans have now just launched an ad attacking Nancy Pelosi. 


OLBERMANN:  Did you know that evil militant Democrats are trying to destroy Republican car dealers?  It‘s true.  When I say true, of course, I mean it‘s utter crap that can be proven with an abacus.  It‘s tonight‘s WTF moment.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Coulter-Geist.  Her latest column has now appeared in leading newspapers, like the “Pennysaver.”  She notes, quote, “the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances is celebrated at political rallies, tea parties, marches, protests, and whenever Keith Olbermann has a fight with his cat.”

Annie.  Ann, I‘m here, over here, look at the shiny.  Look at the shiny thing.  Annie, when you saw that man dressed up as me on the television, talking about his cat, that wasn‘t actually me.  That was another man, very nice man.  He was playing pretend.  Annie, just focus for a second, dear.  Thank you.  That was “Saturday Night Live.”  It was a comedy sketch.  It wasn‘t real.  I don‘t actually have a cat.  I know, dear.  I know you want it to be real.  But just because you hold your breath and stomp your foot, that isn‘t going to make it real.  I know, I know, Annie, it hurts.  I‘m sorry.  What‘s that?  You want to go back to holding your breath until it is true and I really do have a cat?  Well, OK, Annie, you hold your breath until I get a cat. 

Our runner-up, former comedian Dennis Miller, now in the entertainment relocation program that is Fixed News. 


DENNIS MILLER, FOX NEWS:  I want to preface my answer by saying that it‘s not nearly as textured and rich as it could be if I had led the life of a Latino woman!  Sorry, it‘s my Sonia Sotomayor joke. 


OLBERMANN:  Thank god you explained.  For a moment I thought you were having trouble chewing celery. 

But our winner, two nights in a row now, a Mark Krikorian, a blogger at the “National Review” online.  He says his point yesterday about Judge Sonia Sotomayor and how the rest of us shouldn‘t have to go to all the trouble of pronouncing her name correctly has been misinterpreted.  So we‘ll quote his clarification.  “While in the past there may have been too much social pressure for what sociologists call Anglo-conformity, now there isn‘t enough.  I think that‘s a concern that most Americans share at some level, which is the root of the angst over excessive immigration, bilingual education, official English, etc.”

Well, if you say so.  You‘d rather erase the idea that when it comes to pronouncing non-Anglo names, you are just lazy or snooty, and underscore instead the fact that, no, you are actually refusing to do so in protest over excessive immigration, bilingual education, official English, et cetera.  Hey, it‘s your xenophobia and racism buddy, not mine.  Mark Krikorian—really, couldn‘t you change it to K?  K would cause less angst about immigration and hyphenated Americans such as yourself.  Mark K, today‘s worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN:  Finally tonight, the scene is the White House Christmas party.  And the movie is the “American President.”  And what this reminded me of in reality is not this bad, but it‘s close. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, militant women are out to destroy college football in this country.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ACTOR:  Is that a fact? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir.  Have you been following the situation down in Atlanta? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These women want parity for girl‘s softball, volleyball, field hockey—

DOUGLAS:  If I‘m not mistaken, Gil, the courts ruled on Title Nine about 20 years ago. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir, but what I‘m saying now is that these women want that law enforced. 

DOUGLAS:  It‘s a world gone mad, Gil. 


OLBERMANN:  Well, tonight, according to the right wing paranoia sphere, militant Democrats are out to destroy Republican car dealerships in this country.  It‘s tonight‘s WTF moment. 

It‘s true.  The “Washington Examiner,” which is like the “Washington Times,” only with fewer moonies, has breathlessly reported, that, quote, “evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Republicans.  What started earlier this week as mainly a rumbling on the right side of the blogosphere has gathered some steam today with revelations that among the dealers being shut down are a GOP congressman and closing of competitors to a dealership partly owned by former Clinton White House chief of Staff Matt McLarty.”

Oh, this gets better and better.  Obama‘s car czar, Steven Rattner, is married to the former national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee.  And what‘s worse, he used to be a reporter for the “New York Times,” as recently as 1982!  1982?  The chip implanted in his brain to make him act all liberal and anti-American must still be running on its original battery, 1982. 

He worked for the “New York Times” when Reagan was president.  Of course, he‘s leading a Democratic plot to destroy Republican car dealers. 

Then there‘s the real victim here, “Florida Representative Vern Buchanan learned from a House colleague that his Venice, Florida dealership is on the hit list.  Buchanan also has a Nissan franchise paired with the Chrysler dealer in Venice.  It‘s an outrage.  It‘s not about me.  I‘m going to be fine, said Buchanan, the dealership‘s majority owner.  You‘re talking taking over 100,000 jobs.  We‘re supposed to be in the business of creating jobs, not killing jobs.”

Before we get back to the vast right turn on red conspiracy to wreak revenge on Republicans by closing their car dealerships, an important note about the GOP stance on this auto bailout that is keeping three quarters of all Chrysler dealerships open, they all voted against it. 

Last December, before Obama became president, the Republicans, from McCain ton Bunning, from Bachmann to Cantor, preferred seeing the whole industry go under, all the jobs, not just the 100,000 Congressman Buchanan just mentioned, all the car dealerships, Republican, Democrat, socialists, communist, used.  Thirty one Republican senators voted against the auto bailout, 151 Republican congressman including, in the height of chutzpah, considering how he now alleging a political conspiracy to close his car dealership, Congressman Vern Buchanan of Florida.  He voted against the auto bailout. 

If he‘d had it his way, it wouldn‘t have been his Chrysler dealership closed.  It would have been everybody‘s Chrysler dealership being closed, all of them.  Chowder-head. 

This has been fun, this specter of Republicans who insisted we should let Detroit dry up and blow away.  With it all the parts manufacturers and all the repair shops and all the dealerships, Chrysler, Ford, GM, the people who told an entire industry and all its satellite industries to go to hell; suddenly these hypocrites are getting all riled up because only about one-quarter of just the Chrysler dealerships are being closed. 

But this misses the basic issue.  “The basic issue raised here is this,” concludes the “Washington Examiner” guy, “how do we account for the fact millions of dollars were contributed to GOP candidates by Chrysler who are being closed by the government.  But only one has been found so far that is being closed that contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008?” 

Da-da-daaa.  Of course, actual journalists would try to answer that question before posting their rage-inducing, conspiracy theory feeding, paranoia producing tattle in a semi-newspaper and not afterwards.  Then again, journalism for these guys is sticking your byline on the tape, and then writing down what Mr. Bouncy-Bouncy says. 


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Nobody can figure out exactly why certain dealerships are being targeted to be closed.  There are some people looking into it, but the evidence is sketchy.  All we know is that a whole lot of really successful dealerships are being shut down.  Some of them happen to be owned by people who contributed lots of money to Republicans. 


OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes, about the really successful car dealerships that aren‘t being shut down.  Turns out some of them happen to be owned by people who contributed lots of money by Republicans, too.  I‘m not being honest when I say that.  Nearly all of the really successful Chrysler dealerships that aren‘t being shut down happen to be owned by people who contributed lots of money to Republicans, because nearly all car dealers who donate money to either party donate it to the Republicans. 

Who else but Nate Silver did the math here?  He used “Huffington Post‘s” wonderful search engine Fund Race, and pulled down auto dealer from the occupation menu.  Results, donations by auto dealers to the GOP total over 8.5 times more than donations by auto dealers to the Democrats; 8.6 to one. 

If you list yourself as a, quote, car dealer, it is a little closer.  Maybe that includes used car dealers, I don‘t know.  Donations to the GOP are only triple the donations to the Democrats there. 

The other variations that Nate found, automobile dealer, they give ten times as much to Republicans as Democrats.  Automotive dealer—I‘m guessing those are the ones who sell the Stanley Steamers and fleets of Cadillacs—that is about a 16 to one Republican edge. 

Put them all together, as Nate did, and, as he writes, 88 percent of the contributions from car dealers went to Republican candidates and just 12 percent to Democratic candidates.  Another reality based analyst using a different data source puts the number at 92 percent. 

The gist of this is inescapable.  The reason it was nearly impossible to find a Chrysler dealership that gave to the Democrats and was just ordered closed is not there aren‘t any that were ordered closed, it‘s that there aren‘t any, period. 

In their haste to scapegoat Obama for everything and anything, Limbaugh and his wimp followers neglected to look at the larger picture, this evil, Democrat, socialist, racist, bomb-throwing, White Sox fan has secretly enacted a plan that makes sure that nearly eight out of every ten Chrysler dealers who donated to the Republicans are forced to keep their property, stay in business, to stay open, and continue to make money.  The bastard!

A conspiracy to eliminate Republican automobile dealers.  WTF. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN this the 2,219th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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