Guests: David Shuster, Richard Wolffe, Craig Crawford, Douglas Brinkley, Chris Cillizza>
DAVID SHUSTER, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the carpet by President Obama: Touring a Nazi death camp, the president says the Iranian leader and the world‘s most famous Holocaust-denier should see for himself the horror of Buchenwald.
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PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: Well, he should make his own visit. I was very explicit yesterday, I have no patience for people who would deny history.
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SHUSTER: The president‘s personal connection to the liberation of Buchenwald, the story of Barack Obama‘s great uncle, Charlie.
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OBAMA: He was so traumatized by the event. He is an 18, 19, 20-year-old kid from Kansas, suddenly seeing this horror.
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SHUSTER: The fallout from the president‘s speech in Cairo. The Arab world responding well; the far-right of the United States is not. Senator Inhofe is calling the address, quote, “un-American.” And about closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Inhofe says, quote, “I just don‘t know whose side he‘s on.”
Take the money and run in 2012: Everyone‘s favorite professor in Geography 101 .
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GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA: Our next door neighbors are foreign countries.
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SHUSTER: . is now lecturing the Obama administration about Economics 101. The ongoing and failing effort by GOP presidential hopefuls to reject stimulus money at the expense of their state‘s people.
The “House of Frye” from that classic John Hughes ‘80s film is up for sale. Ferris Bueller, you‘re my realtor.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The place is like a museum. It‘s very beautiful and very cold. And you‘re not allowed to touch anything.
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SHUSTER: Oh, don‘t worry, they fixed the garage.
And millions have seen this week‘s NBC News special “Inside the White House.” But how many of you have seen the outtakes?
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OBAMA: Their willingness to overcome hardship and difficulty.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: That is my BlackBerry.
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SHUSTER: Twelve crews, hundreds of hours of footage, you had to know some of it wasn‘t going to be pretty.
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ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, we do go to the bathroom. You can‘t avoid that (ph).
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SHUSTER: All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate all of you, folks.
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SHUSTER: Good evening. From New York, I‘m David Shuster. Keith Olbermann is off tonight.
In November of 1944, the Nazi government set up a war camp in Ohrdruf, Germany, a satellite camp of Buchenwald, forcing prisoners to dig a bunker for Adolf Hitler. In April of 1945, Private Charlie Payne arrived in Ohrdruf with the 89th Infantry Division, the first time the U.S. Army in a German concentration camp.
In June of 2008 -- and our fifth story tonight—Private Payne‘s great nephew returned to Buchenwald today. President Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the Holocaust memorial at Buchenwald. He was accompanied by German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, a Buchenwald survivor.
Today‘s visit was something of a bookend of yesterday‘s milestone Mideast peace speech in Cairo. Mr. Obama announced that U.S. enjoy George Mitchell will head to the Mideast next week in the bid to restart peace talks there. His German also included a two-hour tour of a U.S. military hospital at Landstuhl where he met with U.S. service members being treated for wounds suffered in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But it is also a personal trip for the president. His grandfather helped prepare U.S. troops for the Normandy landing and joined them weeks later. Mr. Obama tomorrow will be taking part in 65th anniversary commemorations at Normandy, along with his great uncle, Charles Payne—who never made it more than 300 feet inside the Ohrdruf Nazi camp back in April of ‘44, and was so horrified with what he saw, he spent six months in isolation when he returned home.
General Eisenhower, arriving a week after what Private Payne filmed what the U.S. found there because he wanted the whole world to see it.
SHUSTER: Today, President Obama recalled Private Payne‘s trauma when he was asked about Iran‘s president who once questioned whether the Holocaust really happened.
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OBAMA: Well, he should make his own visit. I was very explicit yesterday, I have no patience for people who would deny history. My great uncle, my grandmother‘s brother, was part of the unit that first liberated Buchenwald. He could not absorb that people would do that to each other. And so, going back to the president of Iran, to make light of that, to deny, to—is to create the potential of repeat that kind of horror.
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SHUSTER: Joining us tonight is MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, author of the new book, “Renegade: The Making of a President.”
And, Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, David.
SHUSTER: Richard, was I right in calling today sort of a bookend of yesterday‘s speech? And if so, what does the book itself say?
WOFFE: Well, it is sort of a bookend, in a sense that, on the one side, as you reach out—as President Obama reaches out to the Middle East, there is a feeling that has to be balanced. This is a very finely calibrated diplomatic set of diplomatic maneuver he‘s executing here. And, of course, there‘s nothing more important in terms of Israel‘s collective memory or, in fact, the fears moving forward than the Holocaust.
It‘s also, actually, a piece of fine calibration for European politics. The president is now in France, and, you know, you have to balance France and Germany, you have to balance Israel and Arab countries. And this is a very delicate maneuver that is also, of course, wrapped up with Normandy and the commemoration there.
It‘s important to recognize culture and history because in Europe and the Middle East, it‘s not just what‘s past is prologue; the past is still very present. And people feel the passions, the insecurities—the pain of recent history very much today.
SHUSTER: Richard, what‘s the reaction to this trip so far on the home front? And are we now talking 10-foot pole material for the Republican Party?
WOLFFE: Well, at this stage, yes—anything to do with the Second World War is very hard for anyone to question. I do think it‘s curious about the comments to do with the speech yesterday. I mean, the idea that it‘s un-American to try and restore America‘s place in the world or stand up for America‘s value by trying to win some few friends in a hostile region is—it just kind of begs disbelief.
I mean, there was a time not so long ago when America was very forward-leaning in trying to find friends on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Nobody suggested that you should try to alienate everyone in East Germany. It was regular people in East Germany that toppled the Berlin Wall; it wasn‘t government to government context and it wasn‘t foreign tanks.
SHUSTER: With all due respect to former Senator Mitchell, but he‘s been to this rodeo before. So, regardless of yesterday‘s speech, don‘t we have to question whether repeating past efforts will actually yield new results?
WOLFFE: Well, that‘s a good question. But Mitchell‘s real expertise, his real breakthrough was the Northern Ireland peace accord. And you have to remember how intractable that was. People thought that Catholics and Protestants would never reconcile. It was violence—unending violence as far as the eye could see and it ended because there was a concerted effort from the get-go by people like George Mitchell.
That‘s the kind of effort that needs to be applied to the Middle East. It‘s shuttle diplomacy. It has to begin early in a presidency. I think time is more important than the characters involved. And Mitchell‘s experience actually will probably be useful.
SHUSTER: We‘ve got Doug Brinkley standing by to field this question, so no pressure. But what is your sense of the intended political meaning behind Mr. Obama‘s visit to Buchenwald and commemorating D-Day tomorrow?
WOLFFE: Well, I couldn‘t possibly compete with Doug Brinkley. But let me just say that you cannot forget—as the generation that went through the Second World War gets older and passes away, we should never forget what a tremendous achievement, what tremendous suffering was represented by that war.
And actually, as archives open up—and maybe Brinkley can speak to this—as archives open up, we learn more and more about it all the time. It isn‘t actually a dead piece for the history books. And it‘s very important to have a president who can speak and feel that history vividly today.
SHUSTER: MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, the new book is, “Renegade: The Making of a President”—Richard, thanks, as always, for your time.
WOLFFE: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome.
If yesterday was not sufficient history for you, President Barack Hussein Obama in Cairo, redefining America‘s relationship with the Muslim world. And if today was not sufficient history of you, the first president to visit Buchenwald, the sub-camp of which was liberated by his great uncle, wait until tomorrow—when black president and white great uncle commemorate the Normandy landing to defeat the so-called “super race.”
With us tonight is Doug Brinkley, presidential historian at Rice University.
And, Doug, thanks for joining us.
DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thanks for having me.
SHUSTER: Doug, if journalism is a first draft of history, what‘s a historian‘s first draft of today‘s history?
BRINKLEY: Well, it‘s a remarkable set of speeches we‘re seeing here. Cairo, kind of redefining the peace process, trying to jump-start it, reaching out to the Muslim world in a very innovate way that I think is generational. In many ways, Barack Obama is reaching out to the new generation of Arabs and saying, “Look, America is your friend,” and then going to Buchenwald today with Elie Wiesel at his side, one of the Nobel Prize winners, the “conscience of the Holocaust.”
He also visited Dresden, the famous city that had been bombed in World War II by Allied Forces which Kurt Vonnegut famously wrote about in “Slaughterhouse Five.” And then going to Normandy and being with Zacharof (ph) and Brown and Harper, and mainly being there to honor.
You know, when you go to the Pointe du Hoc area there at Omaha Beach, it‘s those crosses—the white crosses that take your breath away. That even though presidents come and give wonderful speeches, like Ronald Reagan gave in 1984 -- it‘s the memory of those brave servicemen who liberated Europe in 1944 that are the real heroes of every June 6th.
SHUSTER: I asked Richard Wolffe this and I‘d like to get your take. What is your sense of the intended political meaning behind Mr. Obama‘s visit, especially, given the innuendo we‘ve seen about Obama as un-America, even anti-American?
BRINKLEY: Well, Obama is a global president. Just like we have the Internet and the World Wide Web, his message to the world is: “Don‘t blame me far lot of past sins.” I think, if you listen to the Cairo speech yesterday, you‘ll hear him talking about colonialism in the Middle East, and perhaps in the Cold War, they weren‘t treated well, were treated as pawns in a game.
And he‘s trying to strike a tone that we‘re a new generation, yet, we haven‘t forgotten our history, yet, we‘re moving forward in a new direction.
Tomorrow is going to be a day to honor the servicemen and women of America to—and to honor that generation—remember, this is 65th. So, most of those of the veterans that are still alive are in their 80s. And this is a big anniversary now. When Reagan went there, it was the 40th, and many of them were just starting to get Social Security checks. But now, this truly is the last of the greatest generation.
So, the veterans will be, I think, the stars of tomorrow‘s show. And Obama, I‘m sure, will give a great speech. But talking to men like Len Lamell, who‘s one of those boys at Point du Hoc went up the 150-foot promontory there, those are—those are great stories that Americans love to remember on that day.
SHUSTER: Let‘s talk about—well, let‘s continue on that point. As far as—as far as Normandy D-Day, the idea of a black president, the son of a white woman who married a black man, standing at Normandy tomorrow, the leader of the free world, to commemorate the turning point in the defeat of the Nazi dream of racial purity—what will future historians say about that aspect of tomorrow?
BRINKLEY: Well, it‘s incredible, isn‘t it? And just remember that these men and women, and particularly, the men of D-Day, the U.S. Army Second Rangers, and the armada of, you know, hundreds of American ship, people coming in that first wave, they were fighting for democracy. They were the soldiers of democracy.
And yet, if you were African-American in 1944, D-Day, you didn‘t have a right to vote in the South. Many of the civil rights leaders, people like Jose Williams and Medgar Evers, came back from World War II and fought for the right to vote. That‘s what the civil rights movement was about.
So, here you have a perfect segue of the “V” for victory, if you like, the liberation of Europe from fascism, and also, the fact that we‘ve overcome racial discrimination to a large degree in this country, at least enough that an African-American can be voted president. So, it‘s a day wrought with symbolism tomorrow.
SHUSTER: And perhaps, that sort of liberation from fascism, maybe that underscores why the trip to Buchenwald perhaps was even more effective than if Barack Obama, the president, had gone to Israel.
But, in any case, Doug Brinkley, presidential historian, co-author of “The Reagan Diaries”—Doug, thanks so much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
BRINKLEY: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome.
The message of the American president reaching out to the world at large, the family of the American president, members of this country‘s greatest generation—if all of that seems to be sabotaging the subtle effort to portray this commander-in-chief as something less than American, it must be time to abandon subtlety all together. One Republican senator is simply declaring President Obama un-American.
Sure, because scare tactics have worked so well for the GOP so far.
SHUSTER: The speech heard around the world to overwhelmingly positive reaction, unless you happen to be a Republican senator from Oklahoma. To Senator Inhofe, President Obama‘s Cairo address was un-American. And he just doesn‘t know whose side he‘s on. Senator Inhofe, the question might be: Whose side are you on?
SHUSTER: Day after reaction of President Obama‘s Cairo speech, remarkably positive—in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN—with a notable exception of a certain Republican senator from Oklahoma, who has actually accused the president of being un-American.
Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, told a local newspaper that the president‘s speech was quote- unquote, “un-American,” because he referred to the war in Iraq as a war of choice. The senator added, quote, “I just don‘t know whose side he‘s on.”
The fact that the war in Iraq was indeed a war of choice is obviously not a factor in Senator Inhofe‘s analysis, nor did he take into account President Obama‘s principled defense of legitimate American interest. And the senator complained that the president has suggested that torture occurred at Gitmo, quote, “There has never been a documented case of torture at Guantanamo.” Senator Inhofe must be ignoring both the FBI report and the Red Cross report that clearly documented such torture.
Meantime, President Obama‘s speech continues to draw remarkably warm reaction from the various audiences he was trying to reach. “The 55-minute address electrified many Muslims in the Arab Middle East. Even the Saudi Islamists expressed their satisfaction. ‘It is a beautiful speech in general,‘ said Mohsen al-Awaji, an activist.”
And even “The Wall Street Journal” reports, “Muslims in the Middle East and beyond praised Obama for the tone of his speech Thursday. Al-Jazeera, the Arab world‘s leading satellite channel celebrated the speech as an attempt at forging a new relationship between Washington and the Muslim world.”
Let‘s bring in “CQ Politics” columnist and MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford.
Craig, great to see you.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, David. You know, as the senator defines it, there really aren‘t many Americans left, I guess, since most people agree with Obama.
SHUSTER: Well, once Senator Inhofe decided he was going to criticize the president before the president returns from the trip abroad, this is what he wound up with, pretending that torture did not occur at Gitmo and calling Obama un-American?
CRAWFORD: Well, you know, Senator Inhofe is a very proud contrarian conservative who loves to hurl this stuff out there. He keeps a framed certificate in his office from an interest group that once proclaimed him the most conservative senator in America. And so, he‘s proud of this stuff. And, you know, he loves to shoot from the hip. I‘m surprised he doesn‘t have a holster permanently, surgically attached to his hip.
SHUSTER: Is there something else going on here though? I mean, a knee-jerk reaction that when President Obama says anything to bridge the divide with other nations, some critics take that as an affront to America.
CRAWFORD: Yes. And, you know, I often wonder, you know, the out-of-power party—the tendency for the out-of-power party in all these cycles as a result of the partisan gridlock we live with, that they seem to want the world to fall apart so they can blame it on the party in power. And, you know, you got to wonder at what point is the nation‘s interest paramount when it certainly would be in the nation‘s interest to see some peace in this region and for Obama to make progress.
But if they‘re just going to undermine it at every turn for political gain—who‘s the American?
SHUSTER: Otherwise—and mostly Inhofe—Republican reaction has been minimal. But when the president gets home, will the GOP try to get out their talking point about the president‘s Cairo speech, or do they realize that attacking a well-regarded moment like that will only isolate them further?
CRAWFORD: Well, they‘re trying to do something that I don‘t think that‘s going to work. They tried it before, tried it back in the campaign. They‘re trying to drive a wedge between the president and the Jewish community in this country.
But they‘re making two false assumptions, I think. One, that the Jewish community would react as a whole, as negatively as they expect, to some of the things that Obama said in that speech—because I find a lot of Jewish if not most Jewish voters want peace in that region and recognize some of these concessions have to be made. And the other is, it hasn‘t worked in the past. They tried to drive this wedge between Obama and the Jewish community in the last campaign and he got 80 percent of the vote.
SHUSTER: Well, the other thing is most members of the—a majority of American-Jewish community actually supports the president when he says that the settlements need to stop. But that‘s another issue.
Another thread running through this—many Republicans just do not want any kind of acknowledgment that our country committed torture. How long can they keep holding on to this widely-disproven delusion?
CRAWFORD: Well, as long as they redefine it as not being torture. As long as they insist on defining torture in ways that is different from what the FBI and the Red Cross and most everyone else defines it, they can—they can think that forever.
You know, David, it reminds me of a friend of mine whose father, you know, once taught him that to bait the hook with these little shiners, you know, these little fish that made him squeamish to stick the hook in there. And his father told him, “Oh, they like it. They like it.” And from then on, he just kept baiting those hooks, thinking the fish really liked it.
You know, so, as long as you can convince yourself of a different definition, you can believe anything.
SHUSTER: Craig Crawford of “Congressional Quarterly” and MSNBC—
Craig, thanks as always.
CRAWFORD: You bet.
SHUSTER: News and weather together. Lots and lots of weather with rain in the forecast. Oddball is up next.
And ‘80s nostalgia at a price. It‘s time to save Ferris. But you won‘t save on your bottom line if you want to own this piece of Ferris movie history.
SHUSTER: Best in a moment.
First, it was two years ago today, on June the 5th, 2007, two days after Paris Hilton reported to an L.A. county jail that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby came the highest ranking White House official since the Iran-Contra affair to be sentenced to prison. Libby got a 30-month sentence for lying and obstructing the Justice Department‘s CIA leak investigation. Of course, Scooter would later have his sentence commuted by President Bush and would never spent a single day behind bars. Paris Hilton—whose offense was driving on a suspended license—was released after 23 days.
Let‘s play Oddball.
To a river in London where that city‘s mayor is trying to bring attention to environmental project—that‘s Mayor Boris Johnson on the left holding a trash bag wading into a river alongside some volunteers, and that‘s what you get for inviting the paparazzi. Johnson took a volunteer with him into the drink then decided he had enough river keepings for the day, later telling reporters, quote, “In order to promote this to the max possibly, I took the ultimate sacrifice. I decided to fall in.”
I‘m not sure getting your chinos wet is the ultimate sacrifice—still it‘s great video.
More aqua news. Let‘s head to our NBC affiliate in St. Louis, KOMU, where we get a report from Brandon Lewis who files this story on increasing the ethanol content in gasoline.
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BRANDON LEWIS, KOMU REPORTER: Well, the Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit organization that‘s pro environment says the E-15 blend could damage a car‘s emission control system and pollute the air more than the current blend. Now, (INAUDIBLE) Growth Energy, an ethanol-lobbying group, is saying E-15 will not harm emissions or harm engines. It also says E-15 is the most tested fuel additive in the history of the EPA.
Car concerns aside, researchers at the University of Missouri released their own study analyzing the cost of using more ethanol. In a 53-page report, researchers concluded fuel prices would rise up $40 million (ph) because the increased corn prices.
Yesterday, corn futures in the Chicago Board of Trade hit an eight-month high of $4.40 for July amid supply concerns. And researchers say corn must be abundant (ph) of supply or ethanol gas won‘t lower the price at the pump. To read the entire study, click on the Web site, KOMU.com.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, what‘s going on?
LEWIS: I think the sprinklers came on.
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SHUSTER: That‘s Brandon Willis, everybody, from Columbia, Missouri, completely soaked but he never missed a beat. Send that kid to London to cover the mayor.
This former D-student in her college‘s economics class now claims that President Obama is defying Economics 101 himself, as a fellow Republican governor gets a failing grade from his state‘s Supreme Court for turning down $700 million in stimulus money.
And the president becomes the man who accompanied Michelle Obama to Paris, Malia and Sasha, too. These stories ahead.
But first, time for the COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.
Number three: Roger Penske—racing mogul and soon-to-be owner of the G.M.‘s Saturn brand. The former race car driver of Penske automotive group, has entered into a tentative deal with G.M. to buy up the struggling Saturn brand and distribution network. Penske claims it will be able to do something with it that the Detroit automaker never has done—turn a profit.
As far as we can tell, the sale would not mean all future Saturns would go 200 miles an hour, (INAUDIBLE) waving from windows, and only make left turns.
Number two—sharing the honor, Deval Patrick and David Plouffe. The Massachusetts governor says he has hired Obama campaign manager Plouffe to help run his own bid for reelection next year. And, hey, he had him first. Plouffe worked on Patrick‘s 2006 campaign and says to the governor, quote, “I feel a lot of loyalty to him. This will be the one race I spend a lot of time on.”
Because getting a Democrat elected in Massachusetts—that‘s always tough.
Number one: Michael O‘Leary, CEO of Irish budget airline, Ryan Air, who has hatched a scheme not only to start charging for using the toilets on his planes, he plans to remove two out of every three bathroom per plane, leaving only one loo on each aircraft. As for rumors he plans to charge five pounds sterling for potty visits, O‘Leary attempted to put those rumors to rest. “If someone wanted to pay five pounds to go to the toilet, I would carry them myself. I would wipe their bums for a fiver.” Talk about flying the friendly skies.
SHUSTER: Two Republican governors have still not accepted some of the federal stimulus money. But in our third story in the COUNTDOWN, they are both getting major push back, in one case by a state‘s supreme court. And one of those two governors, Sarah Palin, has suddenly become an expert on the economy, even though she once admitted to getting a D in her college macroeconomics class.
Governor Palin, in a speech on Wednesday, said that, quote, “some in Washington would approach our economics woes in ways that absolutely defy economics 101 and they fly in the face of principles, providing opportunity for industrious Americans to succeed or to fail on their own word. And mark my words,” she said, “this is going to be next, I fear, bailout next debt-ridden states. Then government gets to get in there and control the people.”
Aside from the governor‘s paranoia, it should be noted that the money the state of Alaska has received from the federal government per capita has always exceeded the money they paid in federal taxes per capita.
As for the stimulus money, the Alaska Legislature appears to have enough votes to override Governor Palin‘s veto of 28 million dollars for energy cost relief. Alaska is the only state to have rejected such funds.
And in South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford has been sent a strong rebuke by a state Supreme Court. It has ordered him to request 700 million dollars in federal stimulus money meant to help struggling schools. It comes after months of Sanford fighting with state legislators, who accused him of playing politics.
Meanwhile, the US economy lost 345,000 jobs in May, the smallest rate of job losses since last September.
Let‘s call in “Washington Post” White House reporter and author of the political blog, “The Fix,” Chris Cillizza. Chris, good evening.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening, David.
SHUSTER: In the case of Governor Sanford, the battle is over. He has said he will not appeal a state‘s Supreme Court ruling. He was obviously willing to take it this far. For what purpose?
CILLIZZA: Well, I think there‘s two reasons. One, I talked to the governor about this, and I think he really believes that taking this money would essentially burden the state down the line with money they simply can‘t make up from state funds. The second, though, of course—and I always say there‘s politics in everything. There‘s politics in this.
Governor Sanford is actively looks at running in 2012 for the presidency. There‘s no question that among the base of the Republican party, particularly fiscal conservatives, they believe that this money, just spending money from the government willy nilly is not the solution. Mark Sanford wants to be the voice of that wing of the party. And so obviously there‘s some politics tied up in there.
SHUSTER: Governor Palin, also a likely or possible 2012 presidential contender, has drowned out her dispute with her state‘s legislature as well. It must take quite a lot of chutzpah to spite your own state and its people in order to advance your posture as a future national candidate.
CILLIZZA: David, what I know Governor Palin and Governor Sanford would say is this is not about politics, this is what they believe. And Governor Palin has said repeatedly that she believes that these energy efficiency dollars, which is what she‘s rejecting or not applying for actually, are an undue burden, essentially that this is something—setting energy efficiency standards is something that should be done state by state and not by the federal government. It‘s a broader philosophical debate.
The problem, though, is of course, Republican legislators say we need the money. We want the money. No state usually turns down money from the federal government. So there‘s the real possibility that her veto gets overturned. But then we go to the a phase. She can still not apply for the federal stimulus dollars. What happens then? You have the Republican legislature versus a Republican governor, who also happened to be the former vice presidential nominee for the Republican party. It will be a high stakes gamble.
SHUSTER: And how is it that Governor Palin thinks that she can set herself up as having credibility when it comes to the economy?
CILLIZZA: Again, David, this is about a differing view. I think the majority in this country, if you believe polling, would tend to side with the way in which Barack Obama, the president has handled the economy, which is essentially to try and grow our way out of it, to use the government in the short term, to build infrastructure, so in the long term the economy gets back on its feet.
People like Governor Palin and Governor Sanford believe very clearly that it‘s not the federal government‘s place to grow the economy, that this has to happen in the states. Again, it‘s a variant viewpoint that‘s not held by a majority. But it is held by a very crucial number of people who represent the base of the Republican party, who will be picking that nominee in 2012.
SHUSTER: And if, indeed, Chris, the economy slowly but surely recovers just in time for 2010 midterm elections, what does the GOP do with this?
CILLIZZA: Very, very difficult from a political perspective, David. They took a big, big gamble by voting against the economic stimulus package. As we know, no one in the House on the Republican side, only three senators, one of whom, Arlen Specter, is no longer a Republican, voted for it in the Senate.
That is a big, big, big—I can‘t emphasize it enough—gamble. If the economy starts to turn around or shows signs of turning around, or even if people feel as though the economy is turning around, even if the signs aren‘t there, Republicans are going to be in a very hard place, because they opposed that spending unanimously.
The party of no label will very much stick. Democrats are already trying to adhere it to Republicans. It will very much stick if the economy shows signs of turning around. It would have to be probably, in truth, by the first half of 2010 for it to have political consequences. But nonetheless, they have definitely put themselves in a box, if that economy does start to get better.
SHUSTER: And then real quickly, Chris, fair to say that there‘s some nervousness, politically at least, as they start to see some of these signs that perhaps the worst is over?
CILLIZZA: If those signs continue, David, I think that it will be real nervousness, because, again, they put a big gamble down. They unified. They voted against us, believing it was the right thing to do from a policy and a political perspective. If it proves to be wrong from a policy perspective, it‘s going to be very wrong from a political perspective in 2010.
SHUSTER: Chris Cillizza of the “Washington Post.” Chris, thanks as always. We appreciate it.
CILLIZZA: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome. Ferris Buehler‘s day as a realtor. A key location from the iconic movie goes on the market. Everyone loves a good blooper reel. What you didn‘t see from NBC‘s “Day Behind the Scenes” at the White House.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the federal investigation into the death of Dr. Tiller, including the possibility that suspect Scott Roeder did not act alone.
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, Bush league justice-gate. New evidence that the Justice Department, the Bush Justice Department seems to have messed up more than the prosecution of former Senator Ted Stevens. Obama Attorney General Eric Holder has uncovered similar mistakes in the conviction of two former state law makers in Alaska. The attorney general is now asking that the two state reps be released from prison, and that their cases be retried. As they did during the Stevens prosecution, government lawyers in those cases failed to turn over key evidence to the defense. The latest examples of incompetence came to light because of the review that Attorney General Holder ordered in the wake of the Stevens scandal. Watch this space for what we expect to be more examples of incompetence to come.
Number two, protecting the troops gate. Six former contract workers and soldiers have filed suit against Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR, claiming they were poisoned by toxins and other emissions from burn pits at U.S. camps in Iraq and Afghanistan. The suit alleges the company operated the pits since 2004, burning everything from trucks, tires, plastic water bottles, medical waste, other hazardous materials, animal carcasses and yes, even human corpses.
Soldiers have experienced medical symptoms that include respiratory ailments, heart problems, lymphoma and leukemia. Some have died. The situation is likened to the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. KBR responding, quote, “the general assertion that KBR knowingly harmed troops is unfounded.” So if you did not know you were harming the troops, that makes it OK? Halliburton meanwhile is questioning why it has been named as a defendant at all. Quote, “as these lawsuits are based on KBR activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Halliburton did not complete its separation from KBR until April 2007. That means they were together, one company, for how many years after the problems began in 2004? 2005, 2006, 2007.
Number one, why are you still here gate? It turns out that spinning in advance of the war crimes trial is keeping Dick Cheney in the news a heck of a lot more than when he was vice president. The Pew Research Center pointing that in the first five months of 2009, there have been 133 stories with Mr. Cheney as the lead news maker. That‘s a 40 percent increase in the number of stories that featured Mr. Cheney as the lead in all of his final year as vice president. Do you remember the days when he was a secretive figure, spending most of his time in a secure and undisclosed location? Who would have ever thought we would look back at those days fondly?
SHUSTER: It‘s been 23 years since Ferris Buehler took a day off. Now a key location in the movie is being sold off. In our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, as NBC Kevin Tibbles reports, for the right price, that location could soon be yours. Anyone? Anyone?
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There‘s a time way back in the ‘80s when most kids wouldn‘t have argued with the logic of Ferris Buehler.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life moves pretty fast. If you don‘t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
TIBBLES: For those old enough to remember the film and successful enough to afford it, you can now live in a unique corner of Buehler‘s world, the austere but beautiful glass home lived in by his often joyless buddy Cameron.
MELADEE HUGHES, REALTOR: We‘ve had lot of interest all over the world.
TIBBLES: The 5,300 square foot house in Illinois‘ luxury Highland Park neighborhood was picked by filmmaker John Hughes to play a pivotal role in “Ferris Buehler‘s Day Off.” While it is architecturally unique, it is deemed an historic site and comes with priceless views. It is the glass garage down the hill it‘s most famous for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ferris, my father loves this car more than life itself.
TIBBLES (on camera): What this house doesn‘t come with are great tickets to a Cubs game, a parade in your honor, or a shiny red Ferrari.
(voice-over:) Just kidding. In the movie, Ferris himself didn‘t much like Cameron‘s house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The place is like a museum. It‘s very beautiful and very cold and you‘re not allowed to touch anything.
TIBBLES: The asking price for those who didn‘t skip school and made some money, 2.3 million bucks. A song for someone who perhaps wants to own a piece of movie history‘s most famous day off.
BEN STEIN, ACTOR: Buehler? Buehler?
TIBBLES: So says Allen Rock (ph), who played Ferris‘ angst ridden friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If somebody has two million plus that they would be willing to spend on a chunk of movie history, I guess it‘s as good as any.
TIBBLES: And for a few hundred thousand more, Melody will throw in a Ferrari.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, live a little.
TIBBLES: Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Highland Park, Illinois.
SHUSTER: If you want to get into the West Wing, let alone into the Oval Office to meet the president, you‘re going to have to get through them first. Brian Williams with another inside look at Obama‘s White House, this time introducing us to the young dedicated gatekeepers who keep the White House organized and running on time.
SHUSTER: Finally tonight, our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the president goes to Paris; the first daughters begin their summer vacation. A look at the 20 something gatekeepers at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, and special outtakes from “Inside the White House.”
President Obama flew to Paris today on the last leg of his Middle East and European trip. Tomorrow, he‘ll meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and he‘ll go to Normandy for ceremonies commemorating the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
The president was joined in France by First Lady Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha. The Obama women spent some time at the Eiffel Tower. Then they‘ll spend the evening with dad and will all attend Saturday‘s D-Day ceremony.
When the president goes back to Washington on Sunday, the girls are expected to stay in Paris and hang out with mom for a while. The president is hugely popular in France. But now that Michelle and his daughters are there with him, the French press are comparing the Obama‘s visit to the time in 1961 when President John Kennedy and wife Jackie-O visited Paris.
At that time, Jackie so upstaged her husband, JFK referred to himself as the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris.
When President Obama goes back to work on Monday, among the first people he‘ll see will be the White House gatekeepers. Here‘s NBC anchor Brian Williams with the story of the 20-somethings who stand between everyone and the president.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): Katie Johnson, K.J., is 28. She‘s the president‘s secretary and sits right outside the Oval Office.
KATIE JOHNSON, PRESIDENTIAL SECRETARY: That‘s what we‘ll do.
WILLIAMS: So much happens during her day, from organizing the president‘s desk, to monitoring his meetings through a peep hole in the door. Even a little chit-chat with the secretary of state.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Where did you meet her in college?
JOHNSON: I went to Wellesley. So—
CLINTON: Did you? I did not realize that. I think I knew that at one time. What year did you graduate?
CLINTON: That‘s one of my very best friends forever. In fact, I‘m going to go back for part of my reunion.
JOHNSON: Which one do you have this year.
CLINTON: Oh, please, don‘t ask.
WILLIAMS: Johnson landed her job as personal secretary after two years of hard work on the campaign, as assistant to campaign manager David Plouffe. Before that, she worked for then Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who‘s now the president‘s chief of staff.
JOHNSON: Basketball for the president to sign. Yes, sir?
OBAMA: You weren‘t supposed to throw that.
WILLIAMS: Among other things, K.J. is now the keeper of the presidential candy and cuff-link drawer.
JOHNSON: These are Frans Chocolates from Seattle, the president‘s favorite from the campaign trail.
WILLIAMS: And do presidents have a secret drawer of cuff links, tie bars?
JOHNSON: Yes. it takes a while to get all that stuff made. We have cuff-links, which we‘ll give out.
WILLIAMS: Those are good.
Darian Page is 27. She was an Army sergeant in Iraq. She is now the West Wing receptionist. And in this place that loves acronyms, the president, who is known as POTUS, has dubbed her ROTUS: Receptionist of the United States. She is the first person to greet every guest who arrives here.
DARIAN PAGE, WHITE HOUSE RECEPTIONIST: Hi, how are you?
WILLIAMS (on camera): How do you describe your job? You‘re really the first line of defense in the White House.
PAGE: Yes. When I was approached about the position, they said, how would you feel about being the face of the West Wing? I thought that‘s kind of weird. But once I got in here and got started, it‘s—there‘s a lot going on.
WILLIAMS: Are people surprised to learn you‘re a veteran?
PAGE: Most people are.
WILLIAMS: What did military service do for you? How is your life different today?
PAGE: Well, it instilled a bit of discipline in me that I didn‘t have before. Growing up, I was kind of an unruly, crazy child. So, for me, it taught me a lot of respect for other people, for myself, for the service.
WILLIAMS (voice-over): And for these folks who have reached the pinnacle of politics in their 20s, you can‘t blame them for wondering, where to from here?
Brian Williams, NBC News, the White House.
SHUSTER: When you spend an entire day at the White House, you bring 32 cameras and shoot more than 150 hours of tape, you‘re likely to find yourself in some tight spots. Here are some of the outtakes from Brian‘s day inside the Obama White House.
OBAMA: Their willingness to overcome hardship and difficulty.
SHUSTER: That is my Blackberry.
OBAMA: Well, there you go.
SHUSTER: I can‘t control it. I don‘t use the phone. This cheesy music.
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: You‘re wearing a microphone.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Am I? I just want to say you‘re doing a hell of a job, Robert.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m lost.
SHUSTER: Thank you, sir. Have a good evening.
GIBBS: Come on, man. I can‘t believe you found me in here.
Yes, we do go to the bathroom at the White House.
SHUSTER: Status report, consumption of food so far has been one Sudafed and half a banana. So I‘m ahead of the game, as I look at it.
GIBBS: I‘m tired of talking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always come in here and take—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re excited to watch, as long as this part‘s not in it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, sorry. Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, NBC personality Chuck Todd, good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s not a day in the life without Tommy throwing the ball around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is that.
RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: You can guys can go now.
I hate all of you. You guys are --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is for Pete‘s niece, who goes to UNC. He‘s apparently a Republican. So Pete has been working on her.
GIBBS: Everyone today has asked me, what is Brian really like.
WILLIAMS: We‘re out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See what you‘re making us do?
SHUSTER: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,227th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘ve David Shuster.
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