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Morning Rundown: Mystery surrounds company at center of Graceland battle, Utah grief author breaks silence in husband's fatal poisoning, and the Trump campaign takes hands-on approach to GOP platform

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, September 21, 2009

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Chris Hayes, Steve Clemons, Craig Ferguson



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

The 80 percent solution: Despite 564 proposed Senate amendments, the president thinks that‘s the overlap of agreement in all health care reform bills.

Also, he‘s now done 80 percent of all TV programs.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The key is now just to narrow those differences.  And if I don‘t feel like it is a good deal for the American people, then I won‘t sign a bill.


OLBERMANN:  But if there‘s 80 percent agreement, there‘s also 20 percent disagreement—and we all know who the national distributor is for disagreement.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  It‘s really time for the president to hit the reset button.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Do you think the plan is dead?

BOEHNER:  I think it is.


OLBERMANN:  Good thing, though, Boehner says Obama is not a socialist

even though he‘s disagreeing with himself.

But where the military industrial complex, Eisenhower validated again in Afghanistan.


OBAMA:  I am now going to take all this information and we‘re going to test whatever resources we have against our strategy.


OLBERMANN:  The president hesitates on more troops to Afghanistan.  So somebody promptly leaks the dire forecast of the NATO commander in Afghanistan—no new troops equals “likely failure.”

The ethical failure of the year: The 9/12 protests in D.C. completely organic—except for this person here egging on the crowd to make more noise.  She happens to be a FOX News Channel associate producer.

How did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN miss this story?  Actually, we all covered it.  We just got out of your way, Rupert, once we saw you were fabricating it.

Oh, and the Values Voter Summit on Friday gave Billo a “Media Courage Award,” and neither he nor the voters had the courage to allow the media in.  What values does he represent exactly?  Blaming kidnapped children of infidelity?

No media allowed for her big international speech.  It‘s international and she‘s in another country, too.  So, who better to comment than the “American on Purpose,” TV‘s Craig Ferguson.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


CRAIG FERGUSON, TV HOST:  This time, it‘s personal.




OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Anyone who still holds out hope that the Republicans might be serious about health care reform, please refer to Hatch F7, one of the 564 Amendments that members of the Senate Finance Committee have been introduced to the Baucus bill, which would—and this is not from The Onion or “Daily Show”—which would, quote, “add transition relief for the excise tax on high cost insurance plans for any state with a name that begins with the letter U.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Republican Senator Orrin Hatch representing the only state in the union that begins with the letter U.

And so, it begins.  The next phase of watching government sausage being made among the hundreds of amendments, Republican Senator Snowe and her so-called “trigger option” for a public plan getting the most a attention today in amendment, speak a “provision of safety net fallback plan to ensure access to affordable coverage.”  Other senators on the committee, Democrats, are calling for the creation of one national exchange otherwise known as the “public option” outright.  Yet, should his amendment covering Americans of all ages fail, Senator Rockefeller also calling for universal coverage for children.

Meanwhile, Senator John “Take me to FedEx” Ensign, Republican of Nevada, resisting the temptation to extend health care to mistress, staffers, and especially, mistress staffers, asking simply to strike the word ‘fee” everywhere it appears in the bill and replace with the word ‘tax.‘”  Well, that would certainly make it easier for him to argue against the measure later in an effort to defeat it.

You might think Senator Ensign might want to pass the bill if his amendment calling for “Transparency in Czars” survives its snow ball chance in hell of surviving the markup process.  Various proposals that would either exempt certain workers from the excise tax on high cost insurance, the so-called “Cadillac” plan tax, or make changes to it, paid for by either capping itemized deductions at 35 percent or closing corporate tax loopholes.

Many, if not the majority, of Republicans not even bothering to provide offsets, literally leaving those ways of paying for it blank when all they seem to do is talk about how much government costs.

Meanwhile, Senators Kerry and Schumer would replace the Free Rider provision with an employer mandate that would require all companies to provide health insurance.  As it stands now, the so-called Free Rider provision would penalize employers that do not offer insurance only if their employees obtain government subsidies which could have the perverse effect of discouraging employers from hiring workers from low-income families.

Senators Grassley and Kyle both looking to eliminate proposed fees on health insurers, well, not just the insurance companies, but also all medical device manufactures—misspelled—clinical laboratories, and pharmaceutical drug companies.  Senator Grassley suggesting this be paid for with money that has not been spent out of the—wait for it—stimulus act.  The same stimulus act he voted against.  This proposed offset from the same man who, in March, believed a three-year spending freeze would be the best way to fix our economy, otherwise known as the “depression express route.”

In one of their amendments, Democrats Schumer, Menendez and Bingaman are proposing the, quote, “inclusion of Puerto Rico and territories in the exchange.”  Wait until the right wing gets wind of that.  Who would like to be in charge of explaining to Congressman Joe “The Heckler” Wilson and the rest of the immigration bunch to places like Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are part of the United States?  You don‘t even need a passport to get into them.

Over the weekend, President Obama discussing health care reform on all of the key Sunday morning talk shows.  On Univision, he said that the Republicans have already made a political decision to oppose his plan no matter what is in it.  On “Meet the Press,” he repeated his previous claims that there is agreement on 80 percent of what has been proposed.

And tonight, with David Letterman, the president touching on President Carter‘s contention that part of what is fueling the right-wing rage in this debate is race.


OBAMA:  First of all, I think it‘s important to realize that I was actually black before the election.  So.



OBAMA:  This is true.  This is true.

LETTERMAN:  How long have you been a black man?


OBAMA:  And so, the American people, I think, gave me this extraordinary honor and that tells you, I think, a lot about where the country is at.  I actually think that what‘s happened is that whenever a president tries to bring about significant changes, particularly during times of economic unease, there is a certain segment of the population that gets very riled up.


OLBERMANN:  Also on “Meet the Press,” House Minority Leader Boehner declared that the public option is dead, but also refused to say that President Obama is a socialist—even though he has said just about that in the past.


GREGORY:  Do you think the president is a socialist?

BOEHNER:  Listen, when you begin to look at how much they want to grow government, you can call it whatever you want.  But the fact is.

GREGORY:  Well, what do you call it?  This is important.

BOEHNER:  This is unsustainable.

GREGORY:  That‘s right.  Do you think the president is a socialist? 

Because that‘s.


GREGORY:  OK.  Well, the head of the Republican Party is calling him that.

BOEHNER:  Listen, I didn‘t call him that.  And I‘m not going to call him that.


OLBERMANN:  Wow.  Time now to call in our own Lawrence O‘Donnell, contributor to the “Huffington Post,” and, of course, of MSNBC.

Good evening, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Baucus said today, he intends to ease the financial burden that his bill would impose on middle-income families.  That basic $13,000 tax or up to $13,000 “Max Tax,” as it has been called.  Among other ways, he thinks more subsidies would be paid for by paring back the amount of deficit reduction in the legislation.

So, instead of the socialism of the government option, we would just take federal money that would have been used to pay down the deficit and give it instead to private insurance companies?  I mean, if you‘re going to have to bribe the private insurance companies to make private insurance affordable, isn‘t it still government insurance only with no control or oversight?

O‘DONNELL:  And most especially, no price control.  So, this is the government‘s subsidizing the purchase of a product from an industry which gets to just pick whatever price it wants for that product, thereby making the subsidy worker not work, or putting political pressure again to drive the subsidy up higher.  I mean, this is a—this is an unworkable situation.  The idea that the insurance companies‘ product, you know, is unaffordable, therefore, we will give people money to buy the unaffordable product, and then leave control of the price in the hands of the insurance company executives.  So, this is a hopeless situation.

OLBERMANN:  As this would play out, the health insurance lobby would get to go after Democrats for subsidies to make the Baucus bill affordable for the middle-class.  Meanwhile, it would lobby Republicans on the absence of a government-run plan, and it stands to profit billions pretty much win or lose.  This is more health care reform for insurance companies basically.

O‘DONNELL:  This is—this is a dream for the insurance companies.  They won this game before it started because before it started, the president and the practical—the so-called practical Democrats in House and Senate ruled out the possibility of simply opening up Medicare.  That was Anthony Weiner‘s idea, that was the idea of the liberals in the House.  It was Senator Kennedy‘s idea a couple years ago before Barack Obama got elected.

But, you know, the wise men decided we shouldn‘t go with that simple explainable thing because they might be accused of being socialists if they do that.  And now, they‘ve ended up with the ugliest bucket of socialism you could possibly have written.

OLBERMANN:  And now, of course, they still outnumber Republicans on the finance committee, 13 to 10.  So, how do Republicans win in the next step—this markup process—if the Democrats don‘t also tank, don‘t essentially let the Republicans win in markup?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, there‘s only one way for Republicans to win an amendment in any committee in the House or Senate, and that is Democrats have to vote for that amendment.  In the case of the finance committee, you have to get at least two Democrats to join a Republican amendment.  There are some possible candidates for that as this thing moves along.  And so, we‘ll see how they get their amendments in.

OLBERMANN:  What else should we look for during the markup process this week?  Who or what should we be looking at?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, what it‘s come down to, in many ways, is the standoff between Senator Rockefeller and Senator Snowe.  If Olympia Snowe gets her way, Jay Rockefeller will vote against the bill.  If Jay Rockefeller gets his way, Olympia Snowe will vote against the bill.  This is over the public option, whether it will be real and in place, or triggered, as Olympia Snowe would go for it.

The other person to watch who‘s been ignored all year is Blanche Lincoln.  She is possibly the most conservative Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.  She‘s from Arkansas.  She‘s in a tough re-election situation there next year.  She has not been forced to comment and take hard positions on any of these things.  She has come out against the cap-and-trade bill that has been passed by the House of Representatives.

So, she is definitely the one to watch in terms of the ability to be peeled off by Republicans for some of their amendments and possibly—possibly—vote against this bill on its way to final passage.  If Chairman Baucus loses Jay Rockefeller on the public option for final passage of this bill of the committee, then he needs every other Democrat.  He can‘t lose one.  And Blanche Lincoln is very iffy.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  And Senator Lincoln with another one of those huge ratios of health sector donations compared to overall campaign donations.  So, you can see where that‘s turning out.

Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSNBC and the “Huffington Post”—as always, great thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the 564 amendments that have been introduced, let‘s turn to Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation.”

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Grassley has put in at least 10 of these 564 proposed amendments and they directly benefit the health care industry, all 10 of them.  Never mind getting excluded from the center of the supposed bipartisan negotiations about this, how does Senator Grassley avoid being questioned by local police and other officials over large-scale bank robberies or embezzlements or Ponzi schemes around the nation?

HAYES:  Well, I mean, the Republicans are sort of—they‘re kind of playing two different angles here, right?  On the outside, they rail against the bill.  They want to kill it.  They, you know, go along with crazy accusations like death panels and they say it‘s a government takeover.

On the inside, they are basically, you know, schilling for the insurance companies.  And I should note, schilling for the insurance companies is sadly not limited to the Republican Party in this whole sort of affair.  But so, they‘re—on one—you know, they‘re banking that no one really is going to take a look at these amendments very close.  And if they do, it will sort of be in there, in the front of their mind for about two minutes and come election time, it‘s not going to be.

So, it‘s this inside/outside game, you know?  You say one thing back home when you‘re in Nebraska, and you do another thing when the lobbyist is at your door and you‘re in committee markup.  And sadly, that‘s very standard operating procedure for both parties in Washington.

OLBERMANN:  Well, let‘s see if we can burn that—particularly that “Sesame Street” one from Hatch into people‘s minds.  If Senator Hatch believes it‘s so unfair that the states with high insurance costs are the only ones.

HAYES:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  . that would be provided with this transition relief, why didn‘t he just ask for exemption for more than any state with the name that begins with the letter U?  Why not just propose to do away with transition relief altogether?

HAYES:  This is really classic.  I mean, this is—everything you need to know about the Republican Party‘s philosophy of governance and so-called commitment to small government is embodied in that amendment.  It reminds me of back—back when, you know, the omnibus budget bill being was passed and the top people who are bringing home the pork were all these Republicans who are reeling against pork.

I mean, these guys are—they‘re vegetarians between meals, you know?  They‘re constantly saying, you know, that whenever they don‘t—whenever they can‘t bring the bacon home for their constituents or the interest groups funding them, then they‘re against spending.  But as soon as they get a chance to sort of, you know, smuggle a little in, they‘re totally fine with it.

OLBERMANN:  By the way, what is the arcana behind the use of the phrase that Hatch put in here—any state that begins with the letter U?  I mean, I like my stick-up men to address by name when they hold me up, not just say, “Hey you!”

HAYES:  I don‘t know if he‘s trying to—I don‘t know if he thinks people are that dumb they won‘t figure it out.  But.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  And perhaps, maybe he thinks we‘re going to go next to Uganda or something like that.

HAYES:  Yes.  Right.

OLBERMANN:  It looks like there are three public option amendments among this, you know, unbelievable tide of amendments.

HAYES:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Are there any odds that any will survive markup week?

HAYES:  They‘re slim.  I mean, there‘s five bills, right?  Four of them have a public option.  The health committee bill in the Senate and three that were passed in the House.  This is the fifth.  This is the only one—if it passes at mark up without a public option—that won‘t have a public option.

The odds of public option getting into legislation are much better when the bills are either reconciled in the Senate, or ultimately, when there‘s conference committee between the House and Senate bills.  Right now, there‘s such conservative Democrats on that finance committee, the only way I see a public option getting through is if in a kind of tactical feint Republicans decide to vote for it to get it in, thinking that it will essentially be a poison pill that will spell the doom for it on the floor of the Senate.  Short of that, I don‘t think it‘s going to get out of committee.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  If you don‘t like sausage—Chris Hayes of “The Nation”—as always, Chris, great thanks.

HAYES:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  In the midst of the nation‘s latest version of political turmoil, one clear-minded visionary has had a flash of inspiration.  I‘ll quote it.  September 28th, “Let‘s make it a day of fast and prayer for the republic.  Spread the word.  Let us walk in the founder‘s steps.”

Fast and prayer on September 28th.  Why does that sound so familiar?  September 28th.  September 28th.  Yom Kippur!  Somebody wants to take the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and turn it into a political stunt?  Any guesses as to who?


OLBERMANN:  The president expresses the slightest hesitation about sending more troops to Afghanistan, and within 12 hours, a secret Pentagon assessment that a failure to escalate in Afghanistan leads to a mission failure somehow leaks out to “The Washington Post.”  Wow.  What are the odds?

And the bid to change Yom Kippur into a national day of atonement and prayer.  Yes, I know it‘s already a day of atonement and prayer.  This would change it into a FOX News/9/12er/tea bagger day of atonement and prayer.

If when you march on the guy‘s office tomorrow, you keep some of 6th Avenue open so us good guys can still get to work, we‘d appreciate it.  “Worsts” ahead.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Less than 24 hours after President Obama first voiced skepticism about sending more troops to Afghanistan, a secret report by the top commander in Afghanistan was leaked, saying that without more troops in the area next year, the U.S. will lose.  Coincidence, no doubt.

Our fourth story tonight: The Afghanistan war spreads to a new front, the Pentagon.  President Obama appeared on all major Sunday morning news programs yesterday saying he will not commit to spend or sending more troops to Afghanistan without first hearing a strategy that requires it and that he believes will work.


OBAMA:  The question that I‘m asking right now is to our military, to General McChrystal, to General Petraeus, to all our national security apparatus—is whether it‘s troops who are already there or any troop request in the future, how does this advance America‘s national security interests?  How does it make sure that al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot attack the United States homeland or allies, or troops who are based in Europe?  That‘s the question that I‘m constantly asking because that‘s the primary threat that we went there to deal with.


OLBERMANN:  This morning somehow, “The Washington Post” did obtain the classified report submitted by General McChrystal—General Stanley McChrystal.  The one he submitted to the Pentagon last month which Mr.  Obama has seen and which McChrystal writes, quote, “Continued under-resourcing will likely cause failure.”  “However,” he also writes, “without a new strategy, the mission should not be resourced.”

“The Washington Post” also quoting one unnamed Pentagon official referring to Mr. Obama‘s phase in responding, “Either accept McChrystal‘s assessment or correct it, or let‘s have a discussion.  There is a frustration, a significant frustration.”

Afghanistan, however, has been complicated since McChrystal begun his assessment, most notably, by the reelection of Bush appointee, Hamid Karzai, an election not so much marred by allegations of fraud as defined by them.  And even the Pentagon is not uniform on whether to send more troops.  No less than Defense Secretary Gates having worried about the impact of too many U.S. troops there.

Let‘s turn to Steve Clemons, author of The Washington Note blog and director of foreign policy program at the New America Foundation.

Steve, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  McChrystal‘s report actually does give the outline of one suggested strategy for which he says more troops are needed, namely, focus on protecting Afghans rather than U.S. forces.  Is the president asking a question bigger than the strategy, namely, what is the objective?

CLEMONS:  Well, I think that the president is.  And what we see McChrystal doing and, I think we all need to think about it, is saying that the top—the objective that we‘re looking at is no longer just al Qaeda, and the way we go after bad guys is no longer just blowing them up.

But essentially, what‘s not written in the headlines is this is really about a civil war, about Afghanis killing Afghanis, and those Afghanis that we don‘t like potentially setting up base for our enemies, meaning, al Qaeda.  Though, you‘d have to read in a very small print to find al Qaeda mentioned, because we‘re really talking about fundamentalist groups that we don‘t like much.  The only problem is, that Karzai and the folks who sort of seem to be running things on the side of Afghanistan that we do like don‘t like us very much.  And it‘s a very divided situation.

OLBERMANN:  Well, to the point you just raised, the al Qaeda point, the minority leader in the Senate, Mr. McConnell, issued a statement tonight endorsing the McChrystal request for more troops and in it he said, and the quote is, “Anything less would confirm al Qaeda‘s view that America lacks the strength and resolve to endure a long war.”

You said that you‘d have a hard time finding al Qaeda in that report.  Where does, in fact, al Qaeda rank in McChrystal list of three main groups the U.S. is actually fighting in Afghanistan?

CLEMONS:  Well, if you listened to Hillary Clinton tonight on “The NewsHour on Jim Lehrer,” she said that al Qaeda lies just behind all of these Taliban groups.  There are three primary Taliban groups outlined in McChrystal report.  And it‘s probably the Haqqani Network, the second network that probably has the closest affiliation not only with al Qaeda but other jihadist groups.

The issue though is not just that.  The issue is that al Qaeda most people think is operating out of Pakistan, operating on the periphery of these other issues—maybe even operating in other parts of the world.  And it‘s become somewhat peripheral.

You hear al Qaeda referenced less and less and less.  What you hear referenced are the issues about how the Taliban and its social mores and networks would run against the kind of democracy that we hope would define a victory eventually in Afghanistan.  That‘s a very different kind of mission.  Something that General McChrystal‘s report argues you need something on the order of near a doubling not only of Afghan forces and police but also American military and European military that are deployed there.

So, this would be a huge, huge upgrade in America‘s responsibility for an outcome in Afghanistan after eight years of not getting very far.

OLBERMANN:  Is the—is the problem with the McChrystal report that it‘s just about Afghanistan?  Because, you know, it‘s focused seemingly just about Afghanistan.  But even he wrote—“Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan.”  That suddenly you are talking about Afghan-Pakistan relations.  Does that explain the Obama desire to look at it in terms of big picture?

CLEMONS:  Oh, I think, Keith, you know, the reality is, that the serious strategists know that this is all basically about Pakistan.  There‘s a fear that unless you get a modern stable Pakistan in place, which people feel you can‘t do unless you stabilize Afghanistan, and Afghanistan will constantly feed in insurgent groups and groups.  And we saw, recently, just six months ago, how vulnerable and fragile Pakistan was with major towns and cities falling very near the capital of Pakistan.  So, fragile democracies and very, very committed insurgent and Islamic fundamentalists groups make us nervous when nuclear weapons are involved.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, briefly, Steve, the leak itself, we don‘t know who actually leaked it.  There are probably some good guesses.  Who benefits from this?

CLEMONS:  Well, listen, the military benefits.  And it‘s not just the timing, it‘s the question for a long period of time, Admiral Mullen, who‘s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other people had been talking about the need for a real uptick, a very big surge in American forces and resources committed to Afghanistan.  Oddly, they are talking about military resources, not the sort of private, civilian and non-military resources.  That‘s not very much a part of this report, in my view.

And so, the military benefits into some degree.  I think, that, you know, when Joe Biden said that Barack Obama would be tested by his rivals and, occasionally, his enemies in the beginning of his campaign, it seems to me the military is testing him right now.

OLBERMANN:  Steve Clemons, the author of the foreign policy blog, The Washington Note—many thanks for your time and for your insight.

CLEMONS:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Police always advise, do not try to thwart a robber.  Yes, exhibit A over there.  He didn‘t get a memo about not doing that.

And I‘m thinking when this gets out, there could be a little blowback.  Glenn Beck tries to turn Yom Kippur into a national day of fasting for his followers?  Uh-oh!  “Worst Persons” ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  “The Best” in a moment and the governor who cut-off funding to ACORN even though the state had no funding for ACORN.

First, on this day 26 years ago, Reagan‘s Interior Secretary James Watt defenestrated himself.  At a breakfast meeting of U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyists in Washington, Mr. Watt described the diverse makeup of a panel he had appointed to do a study on co-leasing a public land.  About the five-member panel he told the crowd, quote, “I have a black, I have a woman, two Jews and a cripple.”  Mr. Watt would resign within a couple of weeks.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin at a bank in West Allis, Wisconsin where there are key figures who are watching this security video.  First note the man in the back of the bank eating some complimentary popcorn in the yellow shirt.  Also note the man in the black hood who enters the bank and attempts to hold it up.

Luckily, the popcorn guy also noticed the robber dropped his kernels and cue to bingo hurdle the few robes before taking the crook down and said hello Ray Lewis style.  The would-be thief was wrestled to the ground, detained until the police arrived.  54-year-old Matt Netzger (ph) said, he leapt into action because he was worried for his wife who was at the next teller‘s window when all this happened.

Apparently, he did not need to be too worried because she is the lady here in blue seen kicking the perp while he‘s down.  Hats off to the Netzgers.

To a concourse outside studio 1-A here in Rockefeller Center, more secret socialist imagery; I can‘t believe you people didn‘t see it.  It seems like a sort—anyway Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira and somebody I don‘t even see in the shadow there are shrinking.

No the guy is just huge, he‘s Sultan Kosen of Turkey, he‘s 8‘1”, one of only ten confirmed cases of a human being growing more than eight feet.  He was here to publicize the New Guinness Book of World Records while stateside he plans to take in lots of American landmarks, possibly including the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium where he will bang his head on the video board.

Finally in “Oddball” traffic Tobacco Ville, North Carolina, we get an overturned poultry truck carrying more than 5,000 chickens when the driver who was unhurt lost control.  Some of the birds made it, some of them made a run for it.  Most chickens were just fine.

There‘s really nothing interesting or humorous to add about this chicken story but let‘s go over to the news desk and Ernie and ask this anyway—Ernie.





OLBERMANN:  And Ernie is still 9,000 times the journalist this Fox News cheerleader caught telling the crowd to protest louder at the 9/12 protest is.

This while wrong way Wilson gets caught in another lie about a colleague‘s daughter, no less.  Craig Ferguson joins us on the political news of the day.

These stories ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Best Persons in the World.”

Dateline New York, number three, best surprise for a newspaper from the group the “Yes Men, “ environmentalists who today handed out parodies of the “New York Post.”  They‘re about to climate change and they had this screaming headline “We‘re Screwed.”  Activists who tried to hand them out in front of these post offices were reportedly detained by a combination of building security and New York City police.

Presumably the Post editors who lost 20 percent of their readers in a year‘s time desperately wanted to know what the environmentalists found interesting enough about the Post that they actually bothered to parody it.

Dateline Houston, number two best on governor runner-up Rick Perry of Texas is quote, “Someone had put a report out that the first state that‘s coming out of the recession is going to be the State of Texas.  I said we‘re in one?”  Unemployment in Texas just at eight percent, the governor is being challenged for re-nomination and he doesn‘t think there‘s a recession.

And Dateline Baton Rouge, number one best dumb governor champion.  Louisiana‘s Bobby Jindal, issuing an executive order to end all state funding that goes to ACORN.  One detail Governor Jindal forgot to check from today‘s New Orleans “Times Picayune”.  According to the state‘s division of administration no state agencies have existing contracts with ACORN.

Nice try Governor Knee-jerk.


OLBERMANN:  Fix News claims the other networks missed covering the 9/12 gathering in Washington.  It‘s a lie but even if it were true, perhaps it would have been because we didn‘t want to get in the way of Fox‘s staging of their own event.

Meanwhile, Bill O‘Reilly gets a Media of Courage Award and so courageous is Bill O‘Reilly, the media was not allowed to cover his acceptance speech.

In my third in the COUNTDOWN this is another ethical failing brought to you by cluster Fox.  We begin with the already embellished corporate funded 9/12 event.  The road rage poster convention that Lonesome Roads Beck threw but did not bother to attend personally.

After the inflated lies about just how many ordinary Americans attended with the Lonesome citing the estimate of 11 billion, by the very reputable University of I Don‘t Remember, and it turns out it was not just the numbers that were made up.  Much of the rage itself was also manufactured.

Video now of a “Fid News” associate producer egging on the crowd surrounding junior stalker/slash producer Griff Jenkins perhaps mistaking the protesters for a studio audience at “Springer.”

The video shows that AP in the green there Heidi Noonan (ph) on a cell phone urging the group standing Jenkins to cheer louder.  Fix News blaming the incident on the producer‘s youth and inexperience, telling the Huffington Post she‘s been disciplined.

Meanwhile, even somebody at Fox was ashamed enough to have leaked an internal e-mail from managing editor Bill Sammon, that‘s S-a-m-m-o-n, “As journalist we must always be careful to cover the story without becoming part of the story.  At news events we‘re supposed to function as dispassionate observers—I‘m sorry—not active participants.  We are there to chronicle the news, not create it.  And again, we‘re journalists and not participants and certainly not performers.”

You didn‘t really explain though if why it was all her fault she was on a cell phone and that couldn‘t imagine who as to anybody besides her office since they were live and they probably could hear her deliberately staging the news before they took the live report to the news actor.  But that‘s just a note.

The war on propaganda campaign continues, this time the former one-page ads placed in Friday‘s Washington Post and Rupert Murdoch‘s own Wall Street Journal and New York Post, the ad brags that Fix News was the only network to cover their own manufactured event; the problem with that claim, the video that exists of all the other networks also covering the event.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m joined now live from Washington by WRC reporter Derrick Ward.


OLBERMANN:  MSNBC covered the event.

Meanwhile, NBC‘s Tom Costello filed a report on the event for Nightly News.  ABC, CBS, CNN were all there too.  Maybe the ad meant how come the other networks missed the opportunity to have manufactured the news?

Meanwhile, the Family Research Council hosting its Values Voters

Summit over the weekend.  A veritable jamboree giving platforms to the

likes of Carrie Prejean and Michelle Bachmann—that‘s your future Carrie

and look who else showed up.  Why it‘s the senior stalker producer of Fix News Jesse Waters, who found himself questioned by the very people he sought earlier in the year after having followed the (INAUDIBLE) Think Progress for several hours earlier in this year.  Think Progress found little Jessie in return and held him accountable for his ambush tactics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He said that the reason you do ambush interviews are to get answers from people who aren‘t willing to come on and answer the questions on the O‘Reilly Factor.  But she said she was never asked to come on the show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, is this guy you‘re from ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m a co-workers of hers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, ok.  UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And you‘re trying to ask me why she wasn‘t contacted?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Because you said that the reason we do ambush interviews are to get answers—she said she got no call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We called her office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She said she got no call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, no I called her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who in the office did you call?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I called the main number.


OLBERMANN:  And at the same event little Jesse‘s boss was awarded the summit‘s first ever Media Courage Award.  So courageous was Bill O.—the event was closed off to the media.  The Family Research Council in its explanation of the award—“We want to express our gratitude to a culture warrior who uses his national platform to promote life—no matter what the personal or professional costs.”

Especially life with two or more women, I think the cost was $10 million for that.  Or life would have spent asking who will rid me of this meddlesome killer the killer and bang suddenly a doctor‘s assassination—assassinated and the award recipient winds up playing Captain Reno in Casablanca and is shocked—shocked that the guy he wanted dead is dead.

Nevertheless, blogger Mike Stark was not only able to infiltrate the closed O‘Reilly event; he managed to list some of Bill O‘s values out loud.  The Values involving (INAUDIBLE); Stark was led out of the event by security although a video taken by another attendee shows Bill O. felt more than a little threatened by Mr. Stark‘s remarks.

Incredibly it gets worse tonight, Glenn Beck is trying to turn September 28th into a day of fast and prayer for his 9/12 TEA baggers.  See September 28 is already a day of fast and prayer.  I think that‘s what it says on the calendar.

Worst ahead and my special guest, “American on Purpose,” Craig Ferguson as Sarah Palin gives a speech to Chinese Communists.  No freedom loving Americans allowed.

And when Rachel joins us at the top of the hour the eyebrows raised by Representative Roy Blunt‘s joke about a monkey at that Value Voters Summit in D.C.


OLBERMANN:  Craig Ferguson here to talk why Sarah Palin wants to talk to Chinese Communists.  But first, in “Worst Person” seven words that may yet liberate a nation.  Glenn Beck tries to steal Yom Kippur.  Next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin to give a speech to rich Chinese Communists.  No American media allowed.  Just remember, country first; I didn‘t say which country.  That‘s next.

First on COUNTDOWN‘s number two story tonight: “Worst Persons in the World.”  The bronze shared by the group Change Congress, its head Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford.  The Web site Mediaite‘s writer Robert Quigley and editor Colby Hall—don‘t get crowded in there.

Mediaite posted a piece today hinging on this phrase asking if Olbermann—that‘s me—who considers himself a serious journalist and not just another pundit crossing the line by appearing in a political ad.  Professor Lessig and his group apparently put together a minute-long video criticizing Blue Dog Arkansas Democrat Mike Ross and about half of is taken from my special comment of August 3rd.

Change Congress never contacted or us at the network for our permission to use the video—permission they don‘t have.  We‘ll be asking them to remove the video.  Just as importantly, Mediaite Mr. Quigley never contacted me or us for comment.  In fact, their post was the first anybody here had heard about the video.  Yet the site had the audacity to write, “It‘s not clear if Olbermann explicitly volunteered to be in the ad.  He almost certainly could have put the kibosh on it if he wanted.

How exactly would I have done that if I didn‘t know anything about it? 

I‘ll wait.

Also, you guys should explain how you think you‘re a journalism-based Web site if you closed the piece with, “We‘ve reached out to MSNBC for comment and are waiting their feedback.”  That‘s not the way it works.  You‘re supposed to get the comment first before you write.

Thank you.

Our runner-up, Senator John Cornyn of Texas described a mailing from the U.S. Senate health care task force as its chairman—it‘s a Republican mailing dressed up in bipartisan clothing but asked recipients questions which include, “Are you concerned that health care rationing could lead to 23. Denial of treatment in cases where the patients prospects are deemed not good?  24, a “lottery” system of determining who will get priority treatment?  25, and quota system that will determine who would determine who gets treatment on the basis of race or age.”

The sleaziness of that thing might be mirrored by a Democratic mailer reading, “Are you worried that Senator John Cornyn of Texas could be a fascist, a totalitarian or just a nitwit?  Except there would be some truth in those choices.

But our winner, Lonesome Roads Beck; he stepped in it this time.  On Saturday he got it into his brain that this tweet would be a good idea.  “September 28th, let‘s make it a day of fast and prayer for the republic.  Spread the word.  Let us walk in the founders steps.”  September 28th, I‘m not Jewish but isn‘t that a full day of Yom Kippur?

Beck went further today.  “September 28th is the Day of Atonement for the Jewish faith and I thought it would be a good day for all of us to fast and pray.  I got this idea from Thomas Jefferson.  He‘s dead, by the way.  After they put together the Continental congress the first thing they did was put together a day, a national day of fast and prayer.  I thought the Day of Atonement would be a good day to do it.”

So you want to politicize Yom Kippur or pre-empt Yom Kippur or co-op Yom Kippur?  When Becker heads out there, they fast and pray for the republic to honor founders and Glenn goes to count them, and say how many there were from the University of I Don‘t Remember?  He‘ll add in all Jewish people who also just happen to be fasting on September 28th and maybe he‘ll get a producer to go out to the synagogues and try whip up the absurd a little bit.

Oh, dear.  Bye Glenn.  Glenn “doesn‘t quite understand the whole religious thing” Beck; today‘s worst person in the world.

Tomorrow will be worse.


OLBERMANN:  Some politicians might fare better if only the media would not get in their way.  So, in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, former governor Sarah Palin is giving a big foreign policy speech that conveniently will be closed to the press.  She‘s going to speak to Communists and keep out those who like democracy.  Good thinking.

Congressman Joe “Wrong Way” Wilson meanwhile tried again to buff up his image with another swing and another miss.  Joining me in a moment, Craig Ferguson, author of “American on Purpose.”

The Palin keynote address this Wednesday before the CLSA Investors‘ forum in Hong Kong; the Subject U.S./China relations as well as governance and health care.  According to the CEO of the investment brokerage firm that‘s hosting the event, Mrs. Palin choosing to opt out of media coverage.  She said, “If I‘d do that with press in the room, I‘ll have to say different things.

Only Congressman Wilson could so easily thwart the pesky media.  Mr.  Wilson recently tried to demonstrate his friendly relationship with the House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.  Wilson claimed he had supported Clyburn daughter for a state position in South Carolina in 1998 but Mr. Wilson, then a state senator, had supported somebody else.  A Wilson aide later acknowledged the mistake quoting, “He honestly thought he had voted in favor of her.”

Joining me now for comments, the host of “The Late, Late Show” on CBS and author of “American on Purpose” in bookstores tomorrow.

CRAIG FERGUSON, CBS HOST:  Tomorrow, yes.  I‘m very excited.

OLBERMANN:  Craig Ferguson.  Welcome. 

FERGUSON:  I thank you Keith.  It‘s very, very nice to be here.  I want to tell you that my wife just texted me and said how lovely your glasses are tonight.  I have to agree.  You look dashing.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.

FERGUSON:  Yes, they‘re nice.

OLBERMANN:  And thank Megan for me as well.

And in fact, I‘ll give them to you as souvenirs.

FERGUSON:  No don‘t because you won‘t be able to do the last segment.

OLBERMANN:  They‘re brand new.

As my guest here, let me throw out—you can throw out the first interruption.  I‘ll be Joe Wilson and I‘ll say I voted for Clyburn‘s daughter and you can say...

FERGUSON:  You lie. 

OLBERMANN:  Of course.

FERGUSON:  Absolutely.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re now living in this sort of post-Joe Wilson world. 

Is it to your benefit to have a Joe Wilson out there? 

FERGUSON:  Wait, wait, wait, wait, and wait.  Were we ever living in pre-Joe Wilson world?  The world is defined by the existence of Joe Wilson?

OLBERMANN:  Everyone will have 15 minutes.  This is his. 

FERGUSON:  I don‘t know.  I got very upset with him when he did.  Not because—I don‘t care if he disagrees with the president.  He should disagree.  If he disagrees, he disagrees.  You‘re all American‘s, that‘s fine.  He can disagree.

What he did was he turned Congress into the Jerry Springer Show. 

That‘s not acceptable.  You don‘t do that.  He‘s going, “You didn‘t, Mr.

President.”  You can‘t do that.  That‘s not right.

OLBERMANN:  You almost had that opportunity.  You did have that opportunity.  You could have done that, couldn‘t you? 

FERGUSON:  When I was at the White House—you were mad at me when I did the White House Correspondents Dinner.  You didn‘t go because you were saying, “I‘m not getting cozy with the British administration.” 

OLBERMANN:  Not at all.  I just thought my wife would not be worth—

I could not get insurance to go.  It had nothing to do with you. 

FERGUSON:  What amazed me at the White House Correspondents‘ Dinner is the amount of people that were there and everyone was just excited because the Jonas Brothers turned up.  That‘s who the big starts were there that night, I‘m afraid.

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a certain—someone called it the prom for the not so attractive people but they didn‘t use that phrase. 

FERGUSON:  That wouldn‘t have been me.  I wouldn‘t have said that. 

OLBERMANN:  No.  You had too much fun as you recounted in the book with this anecdote from the evening.  Can you recount any of the unexpected views of the presidency as it were or at least part of the presidency? 

FERGUSON:  It was one of the things that my wife who I mentioned earlier, Megan noticed from we were in the little reception beforehand that when Laura Bush stood in a certain light, could you see her underpants.  If your sense of humor is as infantile as mine, I was like, “I see England, I see France, I see the first lady‘s underpants.”

It really made the event for me.  May I say, by the way, the Bushes were charming and very nice people and weren‘t in any way ungracious or rude or standoffish.  They warm and welcoming but I couldn‘t help but notice that I could see her underpants and it delighted me.  Not in anything but a patriotic way, though. 

OLBERMANN:  In a kind of inside Washington kind of way. 

FERGUSON:  Very inside Washington, yes.

OLBERMANN:  One other topical thing here I mention this speech that Mrs. Palin is going to give. 

FERGUSON:  I‘m with Palin on this.  This is going to show...


FERGUSON:  Yes and I‘ll tell you why.  Because when you do your best material and there are cameras in the room, you can‘t do it again and then chuckle and sell it later on.  You can‘t do you‘re A material if those cameras are in there.  You save it for the comedy special. 

OLBERMANN:  She‘s not a comedian. 

FERGUSON:  That‘s what you say.  I don‘t know about that, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Now you‘re a published American author.

FERGUSON:  Yes.  Yes, I am.

OLBERMANN:  Part of the inspiration for the book was the citizenship process.  Do you, you discuss that it is a surprise that we couldn‘t all—the natives here couldn‘t necessarily pass the same civics test that you had to get through your stamp of approval.

FERGUSON:  I say that with a certain amount of—I don‘t really mean that.  I think there are a lot of times when if I‘m in Scotland an American tourist will say, “Do you know?  This is from the battle of (INAUIDBLE).  I was, like, “Yes.  I did know that.  Did you know that?”  I‘m just making crap up.

I think that the great tragedy is when you—have you been up in the Empire State Building recently? 


FERGUSON:  There you go.  You know what I mean.  You tend to not take advantage of what you have.  You take for granted what you have around you quite a lot of the times. 

OLBERMANN:  Last time we were on together Mr. Obama was on “The Tonight Show.”  He‘s just on Dave‘s show.  He joked about whether or not some opposition to him was due of race.  He said he was born a black man and in fact was a black man before the election.  Is that the smart way to handle that issue from both a comedic and a presidential point of view in your opinion? 

FERGUSON:  Oh, boy.  I don‘t know.  It‘s such an odd and difficult thing to do.  I just think, the thing that he did wrong was he did “The Tonight Show” before he did Dave.  He should have done “Letterman” first.

He managed to squeak by in the election, fair enough, but he should have done “Letterman” first.  That would have been—A statesman would have done that, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  After Dave got him elected?  You‘re damn right.  He should have...


FERGUSON:  He could do that Dave—Because McCain let down Dave.  I think that was written into history, wasn‘t it.  

OLBERMANN:  Unbelievable to this day.  Sitting next to Wellington at Waterloo as he‘s defeating Napoleon; it was that good to watch.

FERGUSON:  Yes, it was fund.

OLBERMANN:  Anyway.  Craig Ferguson‘s book “American on Purpose” is out tomorrow.  Best of luck with it. 

FERGUSON:  Thanks.  Now I want to say about the book—I don‘t know if it‘s any good but I did my very best on it. 

OLBERMANN:  I think you did.  I read it.

FERGUSON:  I know.  Thanks very much.

OLBERMANN:  You‘re very welcome.

Great thanks for your time.  Your show, of course, is “The Late, Late Show.”  It‘s on another network—actually a network—this is another network.  Thanks Craig.  

FERGUSON:  Thanks Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,335th day since the previous president declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  As my friend Ernie Anastos would sign off, “Keep plucking that chicken.”



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