Guests: Rachel Maddow, Bobby Ghosh, Jonathan Landay, Jonathan Alter
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
And the supreme leader chooses door number three.
“This has been great. Now, everybody gets the hell off the streets and go home before we start shooting you and tip your waitresses.”
“And the western nations are full of hungry wolves ambushing us, and removing the diplomatic cover from their faces. They are showing their true enmity towards the Iranian Islamic state and the most evil of them is the British government, especially that guy in the back.”
So good thing we didn‘t overdo the rhetoric from here, huh?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, MINORITY WHIP: When America hears the call for freedom, we ought to answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: “Time‘s” Bobby Ghosh on what Iranian protestors do now;
“Newsweek‘s” Jonathan Alter on American politicians who offer great sound bites that make terrible policy.
Take out the torture trash day: The CIA concludes its investigation into the secret detention and interrogation program, a report on secrets—how much of it will they keep secret?
Keeping Dick Cheney safe from late night comics. The Obama administration seeks to keep secret the former vice president‘s 2004 interview with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about Valerie Plame. “The government doesn‘t want to have what‘s in these documents end up on a late night comedy show.” Yes, this is Jimmy Kimmel unnecessary censorship series right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: (BLEEP) you all very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And live coverage of the second big night of the Obama “Def Comedy Jam” from the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner in Washington. You remember the last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: I am Barack Obama. Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me.
OBAMA: Apologies to the FOX table. They‘re—where are they?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And—oh, no! More e-mails from “Don‘t call me Liz.”
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
I think it‘s rude.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Residents of Tehran are climbing to their rooftops tonight, shouting “God is great” and “Death to the dictator,” in open defiance of the supreme leader of their nation who warned today that all protests against Iran‘s disputed presidential election results must cease. Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: The question of what happens tomorrow, overnight our time.
Protests are planned while three opposition presidential candidates say they will be there and the Iranian government has refused to issue a permit for a march, which gives police implicit permission to crackdown. In the last words of an Iranian journalist in Tehran to “The Huffington Post” tonight, before his cell phone was cut off, “Tomorrow, there will be blood.”
The ayatollah, the most powerful man in Iran, today, is breaking his silence, using a sermon at a Friday‘s prayers to do it before an audience of Ahmadinejad supporters who had been bust in as well President Ahmadinejad himself.
The supreme leader is telling protestors to drop their demands for a new election, declaring that last Friday‘s vote had been on the up and up, quote, “The Islamic republic doesn‘t alter vote counts. Our system doesn‘t allow cheating. There is an 11 million-vote difference. How can you rig 11 million votes?”
The supreme leader also accusing the western nations, the U.S., and especially Great Britain, as well as the foreign media, of trying to foment the unrest in his country, quote, “Some of our enemies intended to depict this absolute victory—this definitive victory—as a doubtful victory.” The audience then chanting: “Death to America, death to Israel, death to England.” Some in attendance are seen burning an American flag after the speech.
Near the end of his sermon, the ayatollah also referencing the 1993 siege on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas, quote, “Even inside America, during the time of the Democrats, time of Clinton, 80 people were burned alive in Waco. Now you are talking about human rights?”
As we mentioned, the Iranian opposition is still planning a protest for tomorrow afternoon. The big question, whether the supreme leader‘s veiled threats of force will affect turnout.
Here in the U.S., the ayatollah‘s words against perceived American involvement not affecting today‘s political response. Both houses of Congress are voting to condemn Iran‘s crackdown, the resolution condemning the ongoing violence by the Iranian government and its suppression of the Internet and cell phones. The resolution having been initiated by Republicans as a veiled criticism of President Obama, who has been reluctant to speak out too strongly out of fears the U.S. might become the predominant political football in this Iranian crisis.
White House Press Secretary Gibbs is saying this afternoon that the resolution from Congress is consistent with the president‘s message. In the House, that resolution approved by 405 lawmakers, only one voted against it. That congressman‘s name: Ron Paul.
In a statement on his Web site, the Texas Republican and former candidate for president is saying, in inarguable fashion, quote, “I have always hesitated when my colleagues rush to pronounce final judgment on events thousands of miles away about which we know very little.”
Not so much for Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary during the Bush administration writing in a “Washington Post” op-ed with a titled, “No Comment is Not an Option,” quote, “Obama could send a powerful message simply by placing his enormous personal prestige behind the peaceful conduct of the demonstrators and their demand for reform. Now is not the time for the president to dig into a neutral posture. It is time to change course.”
Jonathan Alter‘s analysis of domestic politics in a moment; first, let‘s turn now to “Time” magazine‘s senior editor, Bobby Ghosh, who is joining us once again this evening.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
BOBBY GHOSH, TIME: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, until today, the protesters were essentially protesting against President Ahmadinejad. Now, if they go to the streets tomorrow, they would be directly challenging the supreme leader himself. Can—is there a way to overstate the significance of the change in that dynamic?
GHOSH: No, there‘s no way to overstate that. The supreme leader has essentially put his cards down on the table. If the—anybody who protests from here on in will be acting against the state and acting against his person. And this makes it a much more formidable challenge than before.
We‘re also picking up reports that the Revolutionary Guard, the Elite Revolutionary Guard Corps are taking—beginning to take over the security, and law and order of Tehran itself. So, we‘re clearly seeing an escalation of—on the government side, on the side of the authorities.
OLBERMANN: The ayatollah said today, “How can you rig 11 million votes?” Might that explain the sort of “go big, go home” nature of that 63/34 vote split, that they might have wanted to make it just that unbelievable, that this couldn‘t possibly be fixed? And even if it was, there‘s no way to argue against a 31-point spread or 29-point spread?
GHOSH: Well, it‘s a part of the world where vote-rigging is a long and well-practiced art. After all, just across the border in Iraq, Saddam Hussein would routinely get 99.8 percent of the vote. I think, if there was vote-rigging and there are plenty of indications that there were, the idea was to try and prevent any kind of a runoff, and the only opinion poll that came out before the elections suggested that they may have been a two-for-one—that Ahmadinejad may have had two-for-one lead over Mousavi, and the vote, lo and behold, seemed to mirror that exactly.
I think, perhaps, it‘s possible that some of the supreme leaders‘ underlings were a little too enthusiastic in the counting. Let‘s put it that way.
OLBERMANN: We‘re going to talk about this more from the American perspective with Jonathan Alter in a moment, but the supreme leader‘s comments about Waco and remarks about interference by the U.S., foreign media, especially the United Kingdom, and the crowd chanting in response, “Death to America.” Would all that not be reason enough for President Obama and his administration remain reluctant about speaking out too strongly even over this weekend?
GHOSH: No, I think—I think it was an attempt to try to provoke a response from President Obama, and if the president responds every time an angry mob in the Middle East chants “Death to America,” then he‘ll be doing nothing else.
I think the wisest course is for the president to maintain the low key that he has, because to speak out now would be to weaken whatever resistance there is and, in fact, it would put people in direct harm‘s way. We don‘t want to get into a situation where, like 1991, President Bush senior asked, encouraged the Iraqi people, particularly the Shiites to rise up against Saddam Hussein and then sat back and watched as Saddam Hussein then slaughtered tens of thousands of these people.
As someone who has personally seeing the mass graves where these people were buried, I wouldn‘t want to see, you know, I know the cost of empty rhetoric. An American president should not encourage people to resist their totalitarian leaders unless he‘s prepared to back that with action. And there‘s no—there‘s no—that card can‘t be played at the moment.
OLBERMANN: A great point. There seem to be some uncertainty late this afternoon, our time, from some of Mousavi‘s supporters about whether or not there really is a protest planned for tomorrow. I guess they‘re leaving themselves that option. Given your expertise in this area, what do you expect to happen in Tehran, in Iran as a whole tomorrow?
GHOSH: I think a great deal will depend on basically the show of force we‘ll see from the government side. If there are large numbers of Revolutionary Guards in the street, and we‘re beginning to get some reports of that may be happening—if there are large numbers of the Basij, this militia out in the streets, then people may be a little reluctant to come out.
There are also—there are also mixed reports about whether Mousavi has actually asked for a demonstration, or asked people to stay at home. But, basically, in the morning, Iranians will wake up, look out the window and see whether they see large numbers of armed guards and make their minds up then.
OLBERMANN: Prudence may decide this one. Let‘s hope so.
“Time” magazine‘s Bobby Ghosh—great thanks for your help on this whole week, sir.
GHOSH: Any time, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Now the domestic political fallout which continues, let‘s turn to “Newsweek” magazine‘s senior editor, MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Alter.
Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The house and Senate resolutions today. Is there no awareness—was there no awareness those things could be turned so quickly into a club if this man is invoking, you know, Waco and the club, by the way, it‘s not going to be used against the system in Iran, it‘s going to be used against the dissidents in Iran.
ALTER: Yes. Well—look, you‘ve got to understand there‘s a long history of American intervention in Iranian affairs. Go back to 1954 when democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddeq was overthrown from the CIA; we put the shah of Iran on the peacock throne.
Then, in 1979, when we were siding with the shah, giving him refuge for medical treatment in the United States, that fueled the Iranian Revolution that we‘re living with today. So, you‘re playing with fire here if you try to intervene in Iranian politics.
And, you know, caution is clearly the best path right here, but maintaining vigilance when the president said the whole world is watching, using that line from the 1968 Democratic convention—which, by the way, was coined by David Axelrod‘s mentor, a guy named Don Rose. We‘ve said that, that was the right response, to say, “We‘re watching this, we‘re on top of this situation. We‘re reserving the right to speak out if there‘s slaughter in the streets, but we‘re not going to be perceived as intervening into politics.”
OLBERMANN: Is intervention—and it would have to be, as has been pointing out—it would have to be military intervention. You can‘t just say, “Well, the president doesn‘t approve of this, President Obama,” therefore, the Iranians are going fold up over this. What is it exactly that Wolfowitz wants or John Bolton wants or anybody wants who‘s presenting some sort of hard line or suggesting we need to be doing more? I mean, do they have, out there, ready bombs that would only kill Ahmadinejad supporters?
ALTER: It‘s good question. You know, Wolfowitz wrote this op-ed piece for where his historical comparison was 1986 when you had people power in the Philippines and Ronald Reagan had first responded too cautiously, and then finally got with the program and helped push Marcos out, but Marcos was our ally.
ALTER: I mean, this is almost completely different situation. And, you know, to suggest that somehow, you know, rhetoric is going to affect the situation, I think was absurd—as, indeed, Henry Kissinger, who‘s not always wrong pointed out. But it may change. And there may be a point, even in the next few days, where we do need to speak out. So, just because we haven‘t needed to speak out in the last few days doesn‘t mean we won‘t in the next few.
OLBERMANN: Any expectation of how the dynamic though changes, what specifically sets off what kind of reaction? I mean, I would presume that if there is bloodshed tomorrow, Obama will be blamed. And if there is no bloodshed and no changing, no overthrowing of the election, Obama will be blamed. And I presume any other combination thereof, Obama will be blamed.
But is there something that actually would change the policy of the Obama administration towards this?
ALTER: No, and this blame, blame, blame—I mean, why, right now, would people want to score cheap political points on Capitol Hill? I guess that‘s a rhetorical question.
OLBERMANN: Because it‘s a day that ends in a “Y.” That‘s why.
ALTER: But, you know, there was a time when, yes, we would have a robust debate about American foreign policy and plenty of noise on Capitol Hill—but not at the beginning of a crisis. You know, there was this idea that Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg said it in the late ‘40s, politics end at the water‘s edge when you have a crisis. So, right now, they should just sit down and shut up and wait to see how it plays out.
OLBERMANN: Yes, at least, two weeks, give it a fortnight to see what the elected administration might have in mind and how it responds to the events.
Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—have a great weekend.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for coming in.
There is late domestic news note—just a coincidence that it broke at 6:49 Eastern Time. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has resigned from the all female organization Belizean Grove, saying that while the club does not practice invidious discrimination, and thus her membership did not violate codes that prohibit federal judges from belonging to any organization that discriminates, she did not wish to, quote, “distract anyone from my qualifications and record.”
The gathering dust of a Friday night is the perfect time to reveal potentially meddlesome story like an official CIA report classified since 2004 on torture due out by June 19th. Well, maybe, they‘ll send it to me during the commercial break.
As they have premiered a new JibJab video with President Obama as a superhero. We will show it to you in a moment.
OLBERMANN: The CIA‘s internal, nearly contemporaneous investigation into torture due to be released today. Anybody got one? E-mail it to me.
Speaking of which, it turns out other people have heard from Elizabeth “Don‘t call her Liz.”
And the president of the United States is live at the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner. It‘s already featured the debut of a well-done Obama animated superhero spoof. Catch phrase “pirates.” We‘ll show it to you—next.
OLBERMANN: Last month, the Obama administration promised to release the CIA‘s internal report from 2004 on torture by today, Friday, June 19th. No, so far, no.
In our fourth story—was that—was that the doorbell? No. Oh, under previous director, Michael Hayden, the CIA had already released this report, last year like this .
OLBERMANN: Under the new director, Leon Panetta, the CIA said it would consider releasing some of those redacted lines, sections, pages, especially considering that some of them already had been released. Declassified memos from the Justice Department quoted previously said unreleased passages from that CIA report, passages revealing serious doubts about the CIA‘s waterboarding, doubts about legality, safety and whether it works, and about the expertise of the CIA contractors doing it which was, quote, “probably misrepresented.” The waterboarding itself described as going beyond what was authorized.
The source speaking on behalf of the contractors, however, told “The New Yorker‘s” Jane Mayer everything they did was authorized by then-CIA Director George Tenet, who wrote in his book that everything they did was authorized by the Bush administration. Mayer reporting that D.C. officials ordered interrogators to keep waterboarding Abu Zubaydah even after CIA interrogators refused to continue to do so.
“The Washington Post” reported this week, the CIA has pushed the White House to keep much of the report secret, including graphic details of detainee treatment, that the new less redacted version of the report had not even been sent to the White House nor the Justice Department as of just two days ago.
This afternoon, the CIA wrote to the ACLU, which it sued for the report, saying the release will come next week instead. Quote, “We will need additional time to make a final determination as to what additional information, if any, may be disclosed from the report.”
Let‘s turn now to Jonathan Landay, senior national security and intelligence correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers.
Jonathan, good evening.
JONATHAN LANDAY, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: My pleasure to be here again.
OLBERMANN: You would not happen to have the new less redacted version of the CIA‘s report, would you?
LANDAY: No. I have the one that you have.
LANDAY: Yes, that one.
OLBERMANN: The one that uses up all the toner.
The CIA inspector general who wrote that report, John Helgerson, now retired, told Jane Mayer from “The New Yorker” magazine, he wants the whole thing released. He wants it out there. Who does not want it out there?
LANDAY: Well, it seems quite obvious that there‘s an internal tussle going on about the extent to which the rest of this report will be released. And as you quoted from the ACLU letter, or at least the information the ACLU got from the CIA, they‘re still looking at how much, if any, more will be released. So, it‘s obvious that there is still a lot of deliberation going on inside the CIA, as well as almost certainly within other parts of the Obama administration.
OLBERMANN: “The Washington Post” talked to unnamed former CIA officials who said the new director, Mr. Panetta, has been the—word was used—captured by Bush holdovers and that Bush holdovers in question here want to block sections of the report to avoid fueling pressure for the proposed truth commission.
But even if that full report comes out, don‘t we need answers beyond the scope of what we can reasonably hope to have in the report?
LANDAY: I think there‘s a lot of information that‘s been redacted from this report that would fill in a lot of gaps about what was known about the methods that were used, what was known about the legal justification, indeed. There may well be a section of this report that questions the legal justification.
There‘s also a very interesting—very important issue that may well be discussed within this report and that is whether or not the CIA exceeded the guidelines that the Justice Department established for the use of, for instance, waterboarding. We know that Abu Zubaydah, as you mentioned, was waterboarded 83 times and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. And that may well have—both of those instances may well have been in excess of what was established by the Justice Department and there may well be questions in here about the legality of the—of that.
OLBERMANN: Given this president‘s early track record on secrecy, do we have expectations about how much the CIA gets to keep secret?
LANDAY: It‘s a good question. You know, once a president—a president establishes a precedent for the kind of amount of information, he‘s going to release or extensions to presidential powers, why would he want to give them up? He‘s going to want to maintain as much power over the information that is released by his administration as possible. And if the previous administration had pushed the envelope and had gotten a certain amount more leeway in the amount of information it allowed to keep secret, why would another president compromise on that?
OLBERMANN: Last point. Is there also a time capsule quality to this thing because of its vintage? Is there a suggestion that there may be perspectives that show that from the beginning from five years ago, six years ago that there was considerable belief that this was not—just to pick one of the many reasons not to torture out of a hat—that this was just not working?
LANDAY: Well, absolutely. And we know that there is a finding in this report that was included in those Office of Legal Counsel memos that you talked about, issued by the Justice Department, that talked about the fact that Mr. Helgerson found that there was no solid evidence that these methods produce information on imminent threats to the United States, which was the primary justification that was used by the Bush administration for authorizing these methods. And so, I think there‘s that—discussed extensively in this and other questions, as well.
OLBERMANN: Yes, the primary justification, in fact, after they saw this report presumably. And that‘s the interesting part to it.
Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers—great thanks, as always.
And have a good weekend.
LANDAY: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: The president addresses the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner in D.C. where you hear it live. He‘s already appeared in animated superhero form. All of this in a moment—and the key word is “pirates.”
And so, you‘re telling the judge that you want to keep a special prosecutor‘s interview of Dick Cheney secret so it doesn‘t wind up on a late night comedy show. Seriously.
Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On the list of things you might not know about President Obama, his collection of Spider-man comic books. In January, to mark his inauguration, Marvel comics having issued a special edition with the president on the cover.
Tonight, we were introduced to President Obama as an animated superhero courtesy of the folks at JibJab. Their video and some of the president‘s reaction as he saw it for the first time, it‘s titled “He is Barack Obama” and it debuted minutes ago at the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: JibJab.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Darkness had descended all across the land, alone a voice in the distance uttered, “Yes, we can.” He gave good speeches, never scratched (ph). He was real good at the Internet.
He‘s Barack Obama; he‘s come to save the day. He passed a major stimulus for the bourgeois. He said he‘d half the deficit. He, he, ha, ha. Stop unemployment, economic dive, fix health care in his spare time.
He‘s Barack Obama; he‘s come to save the day.
He used his superpower too within Iraq. Then kung-fu chopped the Taliban ka chow, ka chow. (INAUDIBLE) the world humane, they make the Jews and Arabs friends. He‘s Barack Obama; he‘s come to save the day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, we‘ve got a situation. Pirates!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): He‘ll open the door, write the checks, disregard for mounting debt. Stop the globe from getting warm.
OLBERMANN: Clear winner there obviously the cigarette joke. That is a live toast, as our live coverage is coming up of President Obama‘s second comedy turn in as many months, to the annual dinner of the Radio TV Correspondents Association in Washington, and a few remarks prepared by the president.
And the mind reels at this thought, but tonight there are more e-mails from don‘t call me Liz.
OLBERMANN: We go live to President Obama at the Radio TV Correspondents Dinner as soon as he begins, even if it‘s in the middle of worst persons, which is next.
First, a postscript to last night‘s story about Elizabeth Becton, the angry, don‘t call me Liz emailer. Criticism of our dramatic presentation of these e-mails of hers has been limited but focused on one point: how could we so embarrass an ordinary person who just had a bad day at the office?
Firstly, Miss Becton, who is not shown in your picture, was not an ordinary person. She is the office manager and scheduler for Congressman James McDermott of Washington State. Those e-mails are not just crazy, they were paid for by your taxpayer.
Secondly, the website Wonkette has now posted two more e-mail chains from Miss Becton which they say are from last year, one in which she threatened another Congressional scheduler who leaked some ditsy e-mails. “If I ever find out who you are, I‘ll further inform the speaker‘s office, Standards on Official Conduct and all the other appropriate offices of what you did. If you got paid for it, my lowly, putrid little Wonkette reader, you have committed a crime and you will be punished for it when you are found.”
The second, more heated exchange is a series of emails meant to support a suspended cafeteria employee—I‘m over here—as Miss Becton got angrier and angrier because somebody got the employee‘s name wrong. Now, as promised, tonight‘s worst persons in the world, as it said over my face.
The bronze to House Minority Leader John Boehner. Before the House approved the stimulus package, he called it generational threat, and said “it‘s clear that it does not create the jobs.” Boehner‘s statement this week, after the administration funneled 57 million dollars to his state of Ohio‘s Department of Transportation, he complimented those shovel-ready projects that will create much needed jobs.
You know what is also shovel ready, the minority leader.
Tonight‘s runner-up, the California Republican Party. While the national party spent much of the last campaign bitching about Acorn and Democratic voter fraud, the California GOP hired Mark Anthony Jacoby (ph) and his business, Young Political Majors, to lead its voter registration efforts in California. Mr. Jacoby has pleaded now guilty to voter registration fraud in Los Angeles.
There is no vague association between the Republicans and Young Political Majors, like that between Acorn and the Democrats. The “L.A. Times” says Jacoby got between seven and 12 bucks for every person he registered as a Republican, and he often tricked people by saying they were signing a petition to toughen penalties against child molesters. Jacoby and Young Political Majors are also under investigating in Florida and Massachusetts. They have been sued in Arizona.
So they say Acorn, you say Young Political Majors.
But our winner, Jeffrey Smith, attorney at the Justice Department. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, CREW, wants the Obama administration to release the interview Dick Cheney gave about the outing of Valerie Plame to Special Counsel Pat Fitzgerald. Smith saying the Obama administration had vetted the position, insisted there would be a chilling effect on future vice presidents and presidents cooperating with criminal investigations.
Well, that‘s something to look forward to, more presidents and vice presidents in criminal investigations. Anyway, the money quote from Mr. Smith of Justice, “the government doesn‘t want to have what‘s in these documents end up on a late night comedy show.” Justice was told to file more detailed explanation by the first of the month when this trial continues.
In the interim, let‘s give you another example of the horror that could be wrought if the Cheney interview about Valerie Plame wound up on a late night comedy show. Again, our version of Jimmy Kimmel‘s segment, unnecessary censorship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One doctor indicated that her rates have gone up so much she‘s now to the point where she is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) patients.
I don‘t know very many Congressmen, for example, who were eager to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) 200 al Qaeda terrorists.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: As we told you, he had an accident. He was moving some boxes in his new home outside of Washington, D.C. and Mclean, Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Justice Department Attorney Jeffrey Smith, keeping us from stuff like that, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: The president‘s remarks to the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner in Washington in about three minutes. And the president‘s remarks coming up then. But first, on this date in 1846 history, history records that the Knickerbocker club of New York played the first game of baseball under the rules codified by Alexander Cartwright, more or less the rules used today. At the Lesium Fields (ph) in Hoeboeken, New Jersey, they then lost 23 to one to another team called the New York Nine.
Historians, however, now contend this was just an intra-squad game, since most on the guys on the New York Nine show up in other box scores playing for the Knickerbockers. So this was not the first modern baseball game. It was a glorified practice. Moreover, they had been having practices like that since the previous October. Plus, seven of the players tested positive for steroids, said the hell with it. Let‘s play Oddball.
I‘m betting none of them could have done this. This is outfielder Josh Womack (ph) of the Independent Baseball League‘s Long Beach Armada, and he can swing a bat real fast and catch it in his hands. The only problem, if those Bugs Bunny cartoons are factual, as I think they are, this trick counts as three swings, so you‘re out. What‘s the score, boys? What did Bugs Bunny do? What‘s with the carrot league baseball today?
In Paris, this was the final leg of the two-week-long bicycle race fashioned after the Tour de France. Instead of world class athletes, though, this one featured world class criminals, the tour de felon. Accompanied by a swarm of security and coaches, inmates spent a fortnight crawling across the French countryside, staying in hotels by night, and riding bikes by day, in formation.
The goal was to teach the jail birds to set goals and work together as a team. There were no sprints. There were no rankings. Two hundred riders began in a tightly grouped pack two weeks ago. And all 179 of them crossed the finish line together. Great success.
Finally, to Butte, Montana, where we meet James Kello (ph), professional stuntman, baker and big fan of the Butte Silver Bow Fire Department. What better way for a baker/stuntman to show love for Butte‘s bravest then by baking a cake in the shape of a fire truck and then lighting himself on fire, and presenting the cake to the fire department? Right out of the oven.
Luckily, the fire department was on hand to put Mr. Kello out. The video was shot by the “Montana Standard.” Mr. Kello said he wanted to thank firefighters for their service to the community. Later, to wash the cake down, Mr. Kello gave the department a punch bowl of Flaming Mo.
The Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, where President Obama will speak presently. The remarks will be of a humorous nature. Our live coverage of it will be next, presumably humorous in its own right, here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the president meets the press for dinner yet again. Right now inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in our nation‘s capital, the president a few minutes away from addressing the assembled journalists, the politicians, celebrities, other riff-raff at the 65th annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner. And as we await the president to come to the podium, and give his remarks, which, again, we expect to be of a humorous nature, I‘m joined now by my colleague Rachel Maddow, whose show joins us, what, I guess after the president finishes speaking. You get a good lead-in tonight for a change.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, I kind of like my existing lead-in too, but I‘m not going to turn this one down.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much. The last one, the White House Correspondents Dinner, he really did live on the edge comedy-wise. There were some really almost dodgy material. I‘m not saying he didn‘t pull it all off very well. But he certainly set the bar high for himself, did he not? I mean we both dabble in humor here. This is a pretty big beginning. Where do you go from where he went last time?
MADDOW: I think the president is actually pretty good at telling jokes. I think that John McCain is better, which was one of the true downsides of McCain having come in second in the presidential race, because I actually think he‘s better at telling jokes at these things than Obama is. But Obama is getting better at it and he is sort of brave. He is willing to go out there on a limb, and often that‘s key to whether or not these things end up being memorable.
So I sort of have high expectations. I think he generally has pretty good writers.
OLBERMANN: When I think about children, obviously I think about Michelle and it reminds me that tomorrow‘s is Mother‘s Day, he said at the White House Correspondent‘s Dinner. Happy Mother‘s Day to all the mothers in the audience. And everyone is buying along with this. It‘s like, oh, this is the sweet part. Then he says, I do have to say, though, that this is a tough holiday for Rahm Emanuel, because he‘s not used to saying the word day after mother.
That is—I mean—that‘s a big league joke right there. That‘s a big league risk for the president of the United States. I‘m sure there‘s people who went, oh, I don‘t think we should be saying things like that.
MADDOW: The implied F word from the president is sort of a big deal. I‘m not even—that sort of thing makes me blush. You know, I think these things overall are so—honestly so, they‘re so self-congratulatory. It‘s the media and the political establishment coming together to convince one another how much we‘re all the same, and we all love one another no matter what it is that we say during our day jobs.
And, you know, I think they can be a little bit—what‘s the word I‘m looking for—insipid maybe? So a little humor that punctures that veneer, that really is over-arching veneer of all these events, I think is welcome.
OLBERMANN: Also incestuous has been used, in addition to insipid. That‘s been used over the years. I wonder, the dynamic of this—that particular point is raised every one of these events. And every president and every succession of presidents and every time there‘s a first one—and who is the humorous and who‘s this, it‘s—this is always raised, this point. I mean, that‘s all we‘re talking about now and now we get to hear the president.
He has just been introduced. We will take you live to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and here is the president of the United States.
OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Thanks to all of you. Thank you. Please everybody, have a seat.
Before I get started as the father of two girls, can I just say how incredibly impressive those three young ladies were?
Dad would be proud.
To Heather and all the others who have made this evening possible, thank you so much. It is wonderful to be here. I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to tell jokes that weren‘t funny enough for me to use when we did this five weeks ago.
The jokes may not be as good, but neither is the guest list.
I‘m just joking.
For me, there‘s no contest. Why bother hanging out with celebrities when I can spend time with the people who made me one?
I know where my bread is buttered. Plus, we have our own luminaries here in attendance. The junior senator from Wyoming, John Barrasso is here.
I‘m sorry, John Barrasso skipped this evening.
Let me tell you, though, for those who haven‘t met him, John Barrasso is the George Clooney of junior senators from Wyoming.
It is great to be here with so much talent from the world of TV and radio. Despite the flood of new media, I think your programming is more relevant than ever before. At least that‘s the impression I get when I read the blogs every day.
It‘s good to see a number of hard-working correspondents here tonight.
Journalists like Chuck Todd. I think I spotted Chuck over there somewhere. At this dinner, Chuck, embodies the best of both worlds. He has the rapid-fire style of a television correspondent and the facial hair of a radio correspondent.
Mika Brzezinski is here, I believe, in the house. Mika and I have a lot in common. We both have partners named Joe who used to be in Congress and don‘t know when to stop talking.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
And happening now, Wolf Blitzer is here. He‘s the only man, the only other man in America with his own “SITUATION ROOM.”
People assume that mine is cooler, but this is not the case. As hard as we‘ve tried, we have not been able to generate the bandwidth necessary to turn Larry Summers into a hologram. We can‘t do it.
Now, one person that you know could not be here tonight is Secretary Hillary Clinton. As most of you know, Hillary broke her elbow a few days ago on her way to the White House. And we all wish her a very speedy recovery. I do have to say, though, that while it‘s been reported as an accident, there were some suspicious circumstances.
Just before the incident, Secret Service spotted Richard Holbrooke spraying WD-40 all over the driveway. So now on top of the cost of health care and energy and the recovery plan, we‘ve got another fiscal problem. Fortunately, the lawyers tell me that Hillary‘s ready to settle.
I have to admit, though, it wasn‘t easy coming up with fresh material for this dinner. A few nights ago I was up tossing and turning trying to figure out exactly what to say. Finally when I couldn‘t get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
Now, the truth is Brian Williams is actually a terrible house guest. He put an empty milk carton back in the fridge, leaves his wet towels all over the Roosevelt Room. We‘re pretty sure he clogged the toilet and didn‘t tell anybody.
Although, I must say the whole thing was worth it. “Inside the Obama White House” is my favorite new show. There‘s just something really compelling about the main character.
It‘s a wonderful narrative. In fact, the show has been such a hit that all of you guys now want to come and take one in my house.
ABC is planning a series called “dancing with the czars.” TLC‘s got something called “Jon and Kate Plus Peter Orszag.” That‘s going to be good.
“Nick at Nite” has a new take on an old classic “Leave it to Uighurs.”
I thought that was pretty good. Of course, giving the fiscal crisis in California, these shows all will be competing directly with Governor Schwarzenegger‘s new reality series, “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.”
That‘s how I feel tonight.
Look, it‘s nothing personal, but this dinner conflicts with my date night. I was supposed to be going out with Michelle for Thai food in Bangkok.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
But I have been doing a lot of traveling, I just returned from a trip abroad, as you know, in Egypt. We had an opportunity to tour the pyramids. By now, I‘m sure all of you have seen the pictures of Rahm on a camel.
I admit I was a little nervous about the whole situation. I said at the time, this is a wild animal known to bite and kick and spit. And who knows what the camel might do.
But I have to say as I traveled to all these countries, I saw firsthand how much people truly have in common with one another. Because no matter where I went, there‘s one thing I heard over and over again from every world leader. No, thanks, but have you considered Palau?
Of course, most of my attention‘s been focused here back home. As you know, we‘ve been working around the clock to repair our major financial institutions and our auto companies. But you probably wouldn‘t understand the concept of troubled industries working as you do in the radio and television industry.
Oh, we don‘t joke about that, huh?
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
That‘s not—one problem we‘re trying to solve is the high cost of health care in America. And I‘m pleased that in our quest to reform the health care system, I‘ve gained the support of the American Medical Association. It proves true the old expression that it‘s easier to catch flies with honey. And if honey doesn‘t work, feel free to use an open palm and a swift downward movement.
Now, the challenges we face are many, and I‘ll be honest I don‘t have all the answers. When I‘m not sure what‘s right, I often ask myself, WWLD. What would a wise Latina do?
I‘m proud of my nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.
OBAMA: To all those who say that there‘s no place for empathy on the bench, I say this, I completely understand how you‘re feeling.
OBAMA: When you‘re upset, I‘m upset.
Another difficult challenge is how to help our automakers thrive in the 21st century. We tried a number of different approaches and tonight I‘m announcing a new one. It‘s a plan passed on to me by a close friend and adviser, Oprah Winfrey.
So if each of you will look under your seat, you‘ll find that...
OBAMA: ...you get a car company. You get a car company. And Fox, you get AIG.
The truth is, as I‘ve said all along, I have no ambition to run an auto company. I‘m not the salesman-in-chief and G.M. will rise or fall on the quality of its products, like the taut athletic design of the new Buick Enclave. Its French seamed leather and warm wood tones make the Enclave more than transportation, it‘s a modern driver‘s retreat.
OBAMA: Come on, work with me here. I‘ve got cars to move, people.
OBAMA: In all seriousness, despite the jokes I‘ve told, I‘m here tonight because I appreciate the work that all of you do and the role you play. You report the news as it happens and you‘re covering history as it‘s made, with a handheld camera or a mike, or now even a cell phone or a blog, you bring the truth to people and allow people to bring truth to the world.
We‘re seeing that now as history is unfolding. In the sounds and images broadcast from Iran over the last week, we‘ve seen professional and citizen journalists act as a voice for those who want to be heard, bearing witness to the universal aspirations of democracy and freedom—and often at great risk, and sometimes with great sacrifice. And they do it because the rest of us need to hear the stories that they tell.
In recent years, we‘ve seen the same courageous reporting in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Congo and in every dangerous corner of the world and everywhere there‘s a story that needs to be told.
I think all of you understand these are changing times. And as journalists, you understand that better than anyone. But one thing that will never change is the need to report the news as it happens, whenever it happens. This is what you do and this is what will help us meet the challenges of our time. We are grateful to you for that.
God bless you.
And God bless the United States of America.
OLBERMANN: And so, the president of the United States making a joke about jokes, saying that these were the material that was not good enough for his first performance five weeks ago at the radio—rather at the White House Correspondents Dinner, this having been the Radio and TV Correspondents Association Dinner—making jokes about everything from Gitmo detainees, leave it to Uighurs as a reality show, no thanks but have you considered Palau as the statement that he‘s heard from every other international leader; jokes that sort of rendered him as “Shecky” Obama.
President “Shecky” Obama there, shouting out two jokes that were particularly entertaining to those of us in this building. One to Mika Brzezinski, saying they both have partners named Joe who used to be in Congress and don‘t know when to stop talking. And the other joke about tossing and turning in bed and not knowing what to say at this dinner in the way of jokes. And then he said—the president said I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought.
And entertaining follow-up to the president‘s first performance, and one that will no doubt be rehashed in the days to come—especially those jokes I think about those Gitmo detainees and punch line of punch lines, the president as car salesman.
For now, that‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 2,241st day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
And now, with more on all of that and rest of the day‘s news, ladies and gentlemen, here once again is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good evening, Keith. How have you been?
OLBERMANN: Yes, left out of that rundown of people who weren‘t there.
Yes. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks, Keith. Thanks very much.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>