Guests: Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, Chris Kofinis, Rev. Welton Gaddy, Christian Finnegan
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The president confirms somebody knew it, not enough “somebodies” said it.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It now turns out that our intelligence community knew of other red flags, that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sought to strike not only American targets in Yemen, but the United States itself.
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OLBERMANN: The president does not address whether it was cock-up or conspiracy. Richard Wolffe joins us again with more on the continuing investigation whether intel could have been deliberately withheld out of fear that the intel system President Bush created still does not work.
But the closing of Gitmo will not be delayed for a stark, almost startling reason.
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OBAMA: We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda. In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
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OLBERMANN: And yes, the far-right compares the Christmas terror attempt to health care reform—tonight‘s comment.
Helluva comment from the chairman of the Republican National Committee.
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SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Do you think you can take over the House? Do you think Republicans.
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Not this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Brit Hume and the attempt to threaten Tiger Woods into converting to Christianity—he does it again.
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BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: You speak the name Jesus Christ, and I don‘t—and I don‘t mean to make a pun here, but all hell breaks loose.
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OLBERMANN: Joan Rivers deemed a threat to in-flight security? Oh!
And the ex-FOX News commentator‘s revelation: Roger Ailes was a “blubbery Pontius Pilate.” The other women on the network were not “talking heads” but “talking blanks” and “talking legs,” and their presence close to “porn,” and the majority of FOX‘s viewers—“trailer trash.”
Tomorrow on “Glenn Beck,” a very special book-burning.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get it on.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
President Obama met at the White House this afternoon with 20 top officials representing the entire American security and intelligence apparatus. The meeting‘s goal: to assess how a 23-year-old Nigerian Muslim could bring a bomb on board a U.S.-bound plane in Yemen, carrying a U.S. visa, even though American officials knew his father feared he had become radicalized. Even though American officials knew Al Qaeda‘s offshoot in Yemen was preparing some Nigerian man for an attack on America.
The president emerged from today‘s meeting not happy. Early this evening, Mr. Obama declared flatly the system had failed. He said the U.S. had all the intelligence it needed to prevent Umar Abdulmutallab from getting on a jet headed for this country but that the intel was not fully analyzed nor leveraged. That, he said, is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
During the closed door meeting, according to the White House, Mr. Obama went further and said, quote, “This was a screw-up that could have been disastrous. We dodged a bullet, but just barely. It was averted by brave individuals, not because the system worked. And that is not acceptable. While there will be a tendency for finger-pointing, I will not tolerate it.”
He was briefed by FBI Director Robert Mueller on the bombing attempt investigation; briefed by Attorney General Eric Holder on the state of the prosecution, expected to begin this month; briefed by Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano on the review of airport screening measures; and briefed by counterterrorism adviser John Brennan on the review of U.S. terror watch lists and how the intelligence on this case was handled or mishandled.
But Mr. Obama did not identify who screwed up, nor did he say whether anything will happen to them.
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OBAMA: The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot, and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack. But our intelligence community failed to connect those dots, which would have placed the suspect on the no-fly list. In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence, it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had. The information was there, agencies and analysts who need it had access to it, and our professionals were trained to look for it and to bring it all together.
Now, I will accept that intelligence, by its nature, is imperfect. But it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged. That‘s not acceptable and I will not tolerate it.
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OLBERMANN: On the same day, his spokesperson confirmed that the suspect was given—has given the FBI actionable intelligence.
Mr. Obama said today that prior U.S. intelligence on the figure previously known as “the Nigerian” included the fact that he was planning an attack specifically on the U.S.
But Mr. Obama also revealed something about the role of Guantanamo Bay in all this. While former Vice President Cheney has argued the failed attack shows that Gitmo should not be closed, we already knew that two leaders of the group behind this attack, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, were allowed to create the organization precisely because Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush set them free from Guantanamo.
But today, Mr. Obama said that Guantanamo will, in fact, still be closed because, in part, its very existence, its creation contributed to last month‘s attempted attack.
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OBAMA: Make no mistake, we will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda. In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Approximately half of the 198 detainees still at Guantanamo are Yemenis, but none of them will be sent back for now, Mr. Obama said.
After several years in which the Bush/Cheney administration allowed al Qaeda to take root there, that impoverished nation has only in the past year begun to get serious about al Qaeda with multiple strikes prior to Christmas and thousands of Yemeni troops battling al Qaeda just this week. Yemen is reporting the death of two al Qaeda members connecting to those threats that had led the U.S. to close its embassy there, and that embassy reopening today.
With us again tonight MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also author of “Renegade: The Making of a President.”
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Last night on this program, you reported the White House investigation includes, among many things, addressing whether somebody had critical information but did not pass on perhaps intentionally. Can you explain some nature, some more clear nature of the scenario they might have been looking at, and why it remained on the—on the radar?
WOLFFE: Yes. Well, for start, the president effectively close the door to, much of this inquiry today by calling in the White House—telling everyone, he called it, a giant screw up. In that sense, it‘s closer to the cock-up rather than the conspiracy I talked about.
And, by the way, let me just clarify when I mentioned conspiracy a cock-up yesterday, I wasn‘t talking about—some online commentators have interpreted it a political plot to embarrass the president by allowing civilians to die. This really gets to the heart of intent versus pure accident. An intent can be non-malicious, it can be a failure to cooperate. It can be a lack of confidence in the system, which the president has also concluded that‘s where he‘s at.
And one thing that the president didn‘t refer to today, which is very revealing, was what he picked out first of all in Hawaii, the story about Abdulmutallab‘s father going to the CIA in Nigeria and telling them about the radicalization of his son, and the fears about his son. That information in the early reports was not shared. The president confirmed that it wasn‘t shared. The CIA and other reports compiled a dossier on Abdulmutallab which was not also apparently shared.
He doesn‘t want this blame game any more. The president understands that can be corrosive. He wants to look at the “how things can be fixed” rather than the “why they were broken” in this case.
OLBERMANN: Lack of confidence in the system, and the response to it being “Don‘t put the information in the system.” It sounds like something we had in football the other day, the player who refused to play, so the team announced it was benching him.
How do you protect the value of the intelligence or the value of your own intelligence networks by not putting the information into a system, no matter how broken that system might be?
WOLFFE: Well, ultimately, you don‘t actually protect the value, of course, because people cannot act on it, and intelligence that cannot be acted on is not actually useful in terms of disrupting these plots. So, if you stand back and look at it like that, to look at it from the end point, of course, it doesn‘t make any sense.
But this is a system that the administration has inherited, and look, the way they‘re talking about it tells you a lot. You would not have heard President Bush saying that the edifice established after 9/11 could be this faulty and this prone to error and also to this lack of cooperation, which gets you to a totally dysfunctional system as we saw it after Christmas.
OLBERMANN: To the on-the-record stuff from today, what else do we know about today‘s meeting?
WOLFFE: Well, some classic Obama positions here. He goes around the table asking people to blame themselves. So, it‘s a blame game on your own house, and they seem to think that that‘s effective. Clearly, the president has increased the pressure on everyone.
We, in the media, of course, love the blame game. It‘s insightful for us. It‘s a great story.
But the president made it very clear that this is going to be about moving forward, not looking back.
OLBERMANN: But, Mr. Obama said in that public statement earlier this evening that there will be accountability but no finger-pointing. How do you know who to hold accountable if nobody‘s pointing out who they are, the finger or otherwise?
And the White House said all relevant agencies took responsibility. Much as you said there. But how do you take responsibility if you‘re not doing so in public but rather in private?
WOLFFE: You don‘t. And this is the same set of problems that the Bush administration faced, how open can you be.
Here, you have a president who is admitting fault. He doesn‘t obviously mind, as President Bush would have minded it, that the terrorists find out all sorts of spots of weakness here. The weaknesses are exposed because this guy broke through every piece of the system, and all the intelligence was out there.
I think that what we‘re going to see typically for this administration is that changes are made over time. People are eased out and there will be shake outs but it won‘t be one big fell swoop, one big structural overhaul.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also author of the book, “Renegade: The Making of a President”—as always, thanks for your time tonight, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Time now to bring in MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for “Newsweek” magazine—first time this year.
Happy New Year, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSBNC POLITICAL ANALYST: Happy New Year, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Does today put any kind of end to political attempts to somehow suggest Mr. Obama is, at best, somehow inferior to Mr. Bush on counterterrorism, or at worst, utterly soft on terror?
FINEMAN: Of course not. This is 2010, but it could have been any time in the last 40 years as far as the Republican Party is concerned.
What the Republicans are focusing on right now, both Sarah Palin and Michael Steele were doing it this afternoon and this evening, is the notion that Abdulmutallab will be tried in an American court as though that were some sign of weakness. The fact is, the Bush administration did exactly the same thing with the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, did the same thing with Jose Padilla. It‘s actually been a proven and very effective way of not only getting information, but getting justice.
But that hasn‘t stopped as I said, either Steele or Palin, and they‘re probably as representative figures as can you get. And they‘re going to go after President Obama because this is what Republicans do, and it‘s what they‘ve done arguably since at least 1972, if not 1966.
OLBERMANN: Bill O‘Reilly just said that al Qaeda thugs have no rights and should be shot on sight, which, of course, leaves out that part of the equation which is: if somebody says, “Hey, you know what, Bill O‘Reilly is an al Qaeda thug,” unfortunately he never gets to say, “No, I‘m not.”
I just—I just throwing this as a reminder of the flaw in the logic behind the Palins and the rest of them that point. But let‘s get to some of practicalities and their political impact.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Obama, I thought, was startling when he said that this prison camp that was created by Bush and Cheney at Gitmo was one of the explicit rationales for the creation of that group in the Arabian—al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni group we‘re talking about. Is that not a major headline here, this Republican initiative that abandon based on American principles which now they want to do again, abandon more of them, more or less main lines to a would-be suicide bomber onboard an American airplane? It is almost cause and effect.
FINEMAN: Well, that spin, that kind of information, and that kind of connecting the dots by President Obama is precisely what he was hired for by the American people, Keith. Barack Obama‘s campaign, he did not present himself as a pacifist. He said there were wars that were necessary, but he said, “I‘ll be smart as well as tough.” And that‘s sort of what he‘s saying there.
What matters, among other things, is how we‘re viewed by the rest of the world, especially the Muslim world, and it‘s stupid not to believe that, and not to follow that for the sake of our own security as a country.
Where the president has fallen into problem here is not that he‘s weak. I mean, he can defend that business about being soft on defenses, baloney, everybody knows it. But he‘s got to be smart. And if he‘s politically vulnerable here at all, Keith, it‘s that the administration doesn‘t look smart in the way it handled the Christmas events and the lack of coordination that Richard was speaking about leading up to it. That‘s what he‘s got to address. That‘s what‘s important here politically.
OLBERMANN: But after 9/11 and the shoe bomber and the anthrax mailings, and after the failure to catch the anthrax killers or killer, or bin Laden, or the people from the USS Cole, Mr. Bush promptly and decisively fired nobody and held nobody accountable and give the head of the CIA a medal.
Why did nobody care then, but everyone seems to care about that now?
FINEMAN: Well, that‘s a very good question. And I‘d say, one reason is that the Republicans are much better at sticking together and keeping their mouths shut, as Scooter Libby showed, than the Democrats are. The Democrats and their media critics sometimes, you know, like to form a circle and fire at each other. The Republicans are pretty good about staying disciplined.
In the case of the former head of the CIA, it was outrageous what happened with George Tenet. George Tenet, under Bush, said it was a, quote, “slam dunk, Mr. President, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” He had no such thing. He got a Medal of Freedom, instead.
OLBERMANN: Well, what‘s little known about that quote actually is that Tenet—the full quote from Tenet was: “Mr. President, it‘s a slam dunk in our own basket.” That was the problem. He left that second part out.
OLBERMANN: I‘m sorry.
Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—I apologize for making a joke about that.
FINEMAN: No problem.
OLBERMANN: But that‘s what it feels like sometimes. Thank you, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, some of the Democrats‘ ideas for counterterrorism presented thusly, and some of the ideas of the professional counter-terrorists presented thusly, as to the conservatives‘ ideas, a separate check-in line at the airport to scrutinize anybody with the name Abdul or Ahmed or Mohammed. See if you can spot the logical flaw contained in that piece of genius in the one minute remaining before tonight‘s first “Quick Comment.”
OLBERMANN: This is the second day of a new feature, a pair of short comments each night. This would, thus, be the first of those for tonight.
There is nothing that racists in this country like better than an excuse to tell themselves that they are not being racist, just a coincidence that it‘s a black president who‘s, quote, “destroying,” unquote, this country—when in fact he has done very little that a white Republican president would not also have done. Just the coincidence that the Christmas Day terror attempt in Detroit has led to repeated right-wing calls for a special profiling of all people who are like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, people from Nigeria, students from Yemen, big fans of British soccer?
No. If you are an 18 to 28-year-old Muslim man, then you should be strip-searched, so says Tom McInerney, a frightened ex-general who works for FOX. Racially profile all Muslims, so says Peter King, a frightened ex-national guardsman who works in Congress. And at the airports, quote, “There should be a separate line to scrutinize anybody with the name Abdul or Ahmed or Mohammed,” so says Mike Gallagher, a frightened ex-radio station manager who works on the air.
Here‘s a question to Mr. Gallagher and Congressman King and Lieutenant General McInerney and it‘s a two-word question and it‘s in the form of a name. Richard Reid?
Also to Mr. Gallagher, there‘s one special flaw in your plan, what would you do if everybody, the suspect and the pious alike named Abdul or Ahmed or Mohammed suddenly changed his name to Mike Gallagher?
OLBERMANN: Michael Steele may have finally nailed it. The chairman of the RNC now says that his party, “A,” will not take back the House this year, and “B,” may not even be ready to do so. And Steele clearly implied that, “C,” the last time the party was in control, it got drunk with power.
So while his honesty and dignity numbers just shot through the roof briefly, his shelf life in that job would now be best described as—tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
All this comes as Steele was promoting his book on how to defeat the Obama agenda. This is genius right here.
Sean Hannity asked Steele to offer his predictions for the midterm elections. And when Steele got himself into a lather about, quote, “nice pickups,” Hannity asked if Steele thought the party could take back the House.
Listen carefully as Steele answers “not this year,” before trying not very successfully to soften the answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Do you think you could take over the House? Do you think the Republicans.
STEELE: Not this year. And, Sean, I would say honestly.
HANNITY: You don‘t think so?
STEELE: Well, I don‘t know yet, because I don‘t know who all the candidates. We still have some vacancies that need to get filled. But then the question we need to ask ourselves is, if we do that, are we ready?
HANNITY: Are you?
STEELE: Are we—are we ready?
HANNITY: Answer your own question. Do you think they are ready?
STEELE: I don‘t know, and that‘s what I‘m assessing and evaluating right now. Those candidates that are looking to run have to be—have to be anchored in these principles. They have to be—they have to understand.
HANNITY: I‘m agreeing with what you‘re saying. I think.
STEELE: They have to understand these steps, because if they don‘t, then they‘ll get to Washington and they‘ll start drinking that Potomac River water and they‘ll get drunk with power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Calling Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. Chris, good morning.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, Michael Steele finally says something you and I can agree with?
KOFINIS: It‘s a New Year‘s miracle. And the miracle is not that he became a Democrat, it‘s that he‘s actually telling the truth for once. Republicans are not going to win back the House, and the Republicans did screw up mightily when they controlled Congress, and when George Bush was in office for eight years.
The problem with his answers was, in terms of the logic, you know, how he got there. I mean, he believes—as he pointed out in that segment—he believes it was—it was because they weren‘t true to their conservative principles.
And the problem that Michael Steele and others in the Republican Party just don‘t seem to want to ever understand or embrace is that those principles that got them in trouble. And they seem to keep wanting to put this square hole in a round peg. And they don‘t understand the country doesn‘t believe in those principles, especially when we saw through their governing that they don‘t work. They don‘t make the country better.
OLBERMANN: The NRCC had to put out this statement today, saying the Republican Party does—to have a shot to taking back the House this year and then Steele echoed that tonight on “HARDBALL” and, you know, kind of half retraction that is, I think, he patented. I hope he got a trademark on it at least.
This is the ultimate Steele/cage death match, Steele yesterday versus Steele today?
KOFINIS: You know, the evolution of the Republican civil war has taken a very interesting turn. We‘ve gone from candidates fighting other candidates to now, the RNC fighting the NRCC, to now Michael Steele fighting Michael Steele. I mean, this is where actually the first Michael Steele is right, in contrast to the second Michael Steele and the NRCC.
The Republicans won‘t win back the House is for three reasons. One, they don‘t have a message. And whatever message they had, it just doesn‘t work. Being negative and saying no is not the way you‘re going to win over voters.
The second thing is money, the DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has done a fantastic job of raising money, the NRCC has not.
And the third thing is, that we‘re seeing—this continuing civil war between the chairman himself as well as within the Republican Party.
OLBERMANN: And, of course, there‘s one other thing in here. When, I
guess, it doesn‘t make too much of a difference if you‘re the party of the
well, I think that will be clear once I read the quote. “Our platform is one of the best political documents that‘s been written in the last 25 years. Honest Injun on that.”
It‘s just—it‘s just open mouth, insert foot, or what?
KOFINIS: You know, most of us have that internal voice that says don‘t say things, they get you in trouble. Michael Steele seems to have that internal voice that tells him to say things that gets him in trouble. I mean it doesn‘t seem to—you know, again, as a chairman, he doesn‘t seem to understand his functions to help his party, not hurt his party.
OLBERMANN: Another point here, actual breaking news of sorts. It‘s
news among Democrats tonight, Byron Dorgan announced he‘s not going to seek
re-election to the Senate this year in North Dakota.
Is that seat vulnerable now? How do you see that laying out?
KOFINIS: Yes. Unfortunately, that‘s a big loss. You know, Senator Dorgan is a great senator. He‘s been a real strong progressive voice, and fought for a lot of issues that Democrats care about.
It‘s going to be a tough, I think, seat. Especially if the governor runs, I think it‘s going to be a real tough challenge. It really is going to depend on what Democratic candidate steps up to compete. But that‘s going to be—you know, to be honest, a conservative state, it‘s going to be a real tough—real tough challenge.
OLBERMANN: And you wonder—and this is a question for another time when we have more time—whether or not this was something that may have been known in Democratic circles in advance and might not have played some factor in the watering down to get anything passed in health care reform. We‘ll see.
Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, on both subjects—great thanks.
KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There is way too much FOX News tonight—I mean, there‘s always too much FOX News, I mean, specifically tonight. Hannity with Steele; Brit Hume not only not apologizing but digging himself in deeper in an attempted forced conversion of Tiger Woods. But best of all, the ex-FOX commentator now describing her female colleagues as talking blanks and talking legs who provided porn for the viewers, the majority of whom are trailer trash.
I think I‘m in love.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1829 was born Sir Roger Tichborne, an English nobleman thought lost at sea in 1854 until 11 years later a butcher in the town of Wagga Wagga, Australia, named Tom Castro claimed he was the missing Sir Roger and stepped forward to claim his inheritance.
For a year, the British courts tried the case, even though this was Tichborne before his boat sank, and on the right now here, this was the alleged Tichborne after the boat sank. Well, it would explain why the boat sank. When the courts rule he was not Sir Roger, some of Tom Castro‘s supporters rioted in London.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
OLBERMANN: We begin in Yunlin County, Taiwan, where this little piggy played in traffic. It‘s the Oddball pig chase of the week. This miniature musk hog snarled traffic on the Ching Chong (ph) expressway yesterday. Five policemen with a net were able to track Porky down. Unfortunately, authorities underestimated their adversary. After the hog was trapped in the net, the animal wiggled his way free and the swine flew back down the highway.
Police recaptured the animal after he was found hiding in the bush. They‘re now looking for the hog‘s owners or, if unsuccessful at that, they‘re looking for a nice mint jelly.
Over to Mexico City, where we check for this round‘s predictions with the grand warlock of Mexico. Each year, Professor Antonio Vasquez Alba, AKA the Grand Warlock of Mexico, holds court for a group of journalists, delivering wild guesses about future events. Usually vague and almost always wrong, but the journalists keep reporting what he says. He‘s Mexico‘s Dick Cheney.
Bucking his Fidel Castro death prediction that he‘s made each of the last nine years, the warlock now likes the Cuban dictator to live through the year. He also predicts a coup in Argentina, more war between Mexico and drug traffickers, and Tiger Woods converting to whatever deal the warlock has going on there.
Brit Hume has tried to force Tiger Woods into becoming a Christian again. That in a moment.
But first a very different kind of sports story. Those who knew his work need not be told about its quality. Those who were not fortunate enough to know him personally need to be told about his quality. A dear friend of mine and I were on the phone this morning. We hired Rory Markas to be my weekend sportscaster on an LA TV station 20 years ago. We have known him that long, but ultimately not that well.
We were trying to decide why he was so special to us. Finally, we came up with the truth that in a business full of prima donnas and the thin-skinned—I‘ll confess to being each, and usually both—Rory‘s biggest complaint ever, whether he was out on some crazy feature assignment for us in 1990, or he was doing the play-by-play for baseball‘s LA Angels and basketball‘s USC Trojans last year—his biggest complaint was a knowing smile and a shake of the head, and then he‘d go and do his job, and do it well, and enjoy the hell out of it.
And my friend and I were fighting back tears. Rory Markas died last night suddenly, apparently a heart attack. He was 54. People like him not only have a great gift, but they are a gift to the rest of us.
OLBERMANN: Brit Hume of Fox News has not only not apologized for his bizarre on-air attempt to threaten Tiger Woods into converting into Christianity. He‘s actually gone further. Before we detail Hume‘s double or nothing bet on this subject, for context, here was his original statement: “he is said to be a Buddhist. I don‘t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would be, Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”
Now let‘s change just one word in there and try to guess what the reaction would be if his remarks had be these: “He is said to be a Buddhist. I don‘t think that faith or the kind of forgiveness and redemption offered by the Islam faith. So my message to Tiger would be, Tiger, turn to the Islam faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”
Yet, when Bill-O asked Hume whether he had been proselytizing, he said, I don‘t think so. The more he spoke, the more apparent that his original comments were merely a warm-up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: My sense about Tiger is that he needs something that Christianity, especially, provides and gives and offers. And that is redemption and forgiveness. And I was—I was really meaning to say in those comments yesterday more about Christianity than I was about anything else. I mentioned Buddhism only because his mother is a Buddhist and he has apparently said that he is a Buddhist. I‘m not sure how seriously he practices that.
But I think that Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Badly needs? Hume left it at that, right? Oh, no.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: What I‘m saying is if Tiger Woods were to make a true conversion, we would know it. It would show through in his being. And he would know it, above all. And he would feel the extraordinary blessing that that would be. And it would shine because he is so prominent. It would be a shining light. And I think it would be a magnificent thing to witness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A magnificent thing from a prominent figure, you know, kind of like when Tom Cruise displayed the magnificence of Scientology when he trashed Brooke Shields for her treatment of postpartum depression.
When asked by Mr. O‘Reilly what drives the negative comments about Christianity—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: It‘s always been a puzzling thing to me. The Bible even speaks of it, that you speak the name Jesus Christ and—I don‘t—and I don‘t mean to make a pun here, but all hell breaks loose. And it has always been nuts. It triggers a very powerful reaction in people who do not share the faith and who do not believe in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn to the president of the Interfaith Alliance, host of Air America‘s “State of Belief,” Reverend Welton Gaddy. Reverend, good to talk to you again, sir.
REV. WELTON GADDY, HOST, “STATE OF BELIEF”: Glad to talk with you.
Sorry about your friend.
OLBERMANN: Oh, thank you kindly. Mr. Hume, I think, missed a point here that really is one of those wonderful days when a cliche comes to life. He‘s not being attacked for his specific religion. If he had said, you know, Tiger Woods needs to convert to Judaism or to the Mormon faith, the reaction would have been similar if not identical. This is literally about somebody being in public holier than thou, isn‘t it?
GADDY: Yes, I think it‘s part of that, Keith. It‘s also—I would defend the right of Mr. Hume to confess his faith however he wants to. But all of us know that with rights and freedom come responsibility. And he‘s talking on a national news program. He‘s giving his opinion, as he has the right to do. But anybody who is pro-American, who loves liberty in this nation, wants to support the unity of religions and not contribute to their divisiveness.
And his statement, though he backed up on it a little bit last night -
his statement was still a judgment about another religion, a judgment he really doesn‘t have the authority to make.
OLBERMANN: And the irony on that judgment, is it not correct on theories of religion, he‘s got his facts wrong. He said Buddhism does not really have a vehicle for forgiveness? If you‘re going to go out on this limb, if you really feel you want to do that and take whatever the blow-back is, I‘m in agreement with you. Good for you and good for your faith and what you believe in. But if you‘re going to speak about somebody else‘s religion, are you not obligated to know enough about their religion not to make a big mistake?
GADDY: Absolutely, Keith. And I wish everybody abided by that principle. The fact is that Judaism has a strong doctrine of forgiveness. Other religions practice forgiveness as well.
What‘s interesting in this instance is that I personally was offended by the way in which Mr. Hume talked about forgiveness and repentance within Christianity. He described a situation in which it was almost like, here‘s a marketplace of religions from which Tiger Woods can draw, and the best one to go to, where forgiveness seems to be cheapest and redemption cheapest, is Christianity. That is a striking sign that he doesn‘t understand the pain that goes with forgiveness and that always accompanies redemption within Christianity.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. It‘s like he‘s car shopping at that point. But the other thing in here that this immediately get converted into—no pun intended—was the conversation between Hume and O‘Reilly about the war on Christianity. O‘Reilly asked what drives negative comments about Christianity. Hume made the reference to every time you speak the name Jesus Christ, hell breaks loose. It‘s not a war. Why is there so much defensiveness about this right now?
GADDY: Because there is this persistent rumor among the religious right that somehow Christians are persecuted in the United States. They don‘t understand religious persecution. If they‘d look around the world, they would. The fact is, Keith, I‘ve been a Christian minister for 50 years almost. I talk about Jesus. I talk about Jesus with members of other faiths, but I do that with respect for them, ready to listen to them, as well as them listen to me.
What Mr. Hume was doing was trying to impose a kind of pseudo established religion on someone else. And that is not in the spirit of religion generally or Christianity specifically.
OLBERMANN: Reverend Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance and Air America, always a pleasure and an education, sir. Thank you again for your time.
GADDY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Joan Rivers‘ talk show, well, I think she might even concede it might have been a bomb. But was that enough of a reason to throw her off a flight from Costa Rica to the US?
Hell hath no fury like a fired Fixed News analyst. This one is throwing around terms like porn, trailer park trash and talking blanks and talking legs.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the secretive religious organization the Family finally opens up. One member of the group joins Rachel for an interview, coming up.
OLBERMANN: Worsts in a moment. Now, continuing our debut week of our new feature quick comments. Each day it seems the lunatic fringe finds a new way to permit its adherence to view the rest of us as less than human. We don‘t count as much as they do. Ordinary Americans don‘t matter.
Newest example, hate radio host Neil Boortz yesterday: “Obama-care will do more damage,” he said, “than a successful terrorist bombing of an airliner and kill more people as well.”
So, rather than count how many things are wrong with that statement or how many times Neil Boortz must have been abused for him to wind up so dehumanized for him to say such a thing, let us answer it on his terms.
What would you do, sir, if terrorists were killing 45,000 people every year in this country? The current health care system, the insurance companies and those who support them, are doing just that.
Let‘s frame this in language even conservatives can understand. Those fighting health care reform, not those debating its shape nor its nuance, people who demand the status quo, they are killing 45,000 Americans a year. If they were killed all at once, or even 100 at a time, Neil Boortz would be demanding martial law and government by the generals. Instead, because they die individually because of disease and not disaster, Neil Boortz and all those who ape him approve this. Forty five thousand a year in America.
Remind me again, who are the terrorists?
OLBERMANN: Joan Rivers, threat to American air safety. Your TSA dollars in action next.
But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Roger Ailes. Years ago, he fired an especially contentious commentator named Rachel Marsden. She‘s now telling American publishers she‘s writing a novel based on her experiences as a figure on cable news, and including excerpts that seem to reference Ailes and several of his female hires. One describes reaction to the character‘s resurrection as a commenter on French TV, quote, “imagine how pissed of Pontius Pilot was to hear that Jesus‘ tomb was empty. I often try to picture the meltdown, and I picture the head of America‘s most powerful cable news network and Pontius Pilot weeping in his giant second floor office, surrounded by his ten TVs, his blubbery figure jiggling with each sob. He doesn‘t like to lose and neither do I. I was a talking head. I‘m not a big fan of the term. Talking head implies the presence of a brain, which isn‘t always the case. The American cable network from which I was sprung mostly selected their vehicle talking heads for their blanks and legs. I guess nicknaming them talking blanks or talking legs would be overdoing the obvious. It would also totally bust the trailer trash viewing majority who watch the network as the closest thing their old lady will allow them to get to porn.”
Well, it seems like we have one cat and one empty bag. When Ailes fired her, Ms. Marsden was escorted from the Fox studios by guards. Evidently they did not escort her far enough away for Ailes‘ taste.
Lonesome Roads Beck is our runner-up. Some of his wackier stuff needs a set up, an explanation, translation. Not today. “I have great hopes for the future of our children, if we—our children go through a resetting, a depression, and actually does all of the hard work, and says, OK, we‘re going to take care of those of you who are 75 years old, and, you know, people who just can‘t work—we‘re going to take care of those people. But everybody else, you‘re on your own, gang. Because the republic needs to be restored. That‘s the only way.”
So he‘s now rooting for another Great Depression and the collapse of Medicare and Social Security. I‘m guessing his sponsors just are not selling enough gold. Just remember what that one from his advertiser Merritt Financial, Peter Epstein, said, “you pay anybody on any network and they say what you pay them to say. They‘re bought and sold.”
But our winner, Karl Rove, complaining that President Obama did not address the country quickly enough after the attempted Detroit plane bombing on Christmas. He said, “I don‘t understand why keeping the president off the stage and then not have him explain it for four days is supposed to reassure us.”
Ha, it was three days, first of all. But on December 22nd, 2001, the so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid, tried to blow up an airliner. President Bush was kept off the stage until December 28th. And even then, he only mentioned Reid in passing at a news conference from his vacation home.
No, indeed, Mr. Rove doesn‘t understand, does he? Specifically, that Mr. Bush was off the stage, on vacation for a third of his presidency, and in this case, he was off the stage for six days, while Mr. Obama was off for only three. It is clear Mr. Rove does not understand that six is more than three.
Karl—that‘s all folks—Rove, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps it slipped his mind, but the president failed to mention the latest danger to American aviation this afternoon when he spoke to the media and reporters. I can report to you that this flight risk hails from Brooklyn, can be combative and is known to change appearance frequently. Of course, I‘m referring to the most recent threat to our national security, Joan Rivers.
Ms. Rivers was bumped off a Continental airlines flight from Costa Rica to Newark after a gate agent became concerned that the comedienne‘s passport had two names, Joan Rosenberg, AKA Joan Rivers. Fortunately, an airport porter took pity on her and asked a friend to drive her six and a half hours to the country‘s main airport. Ms. Rivers then boarded the next available flight to New York.
But despite her ordeal, Ms. Rivers still managed to rattle off a few one-liners to the “New York Daily News.” “If I were going to make up an alias, I wouldn‘t use Rosenberg. I‘d use Jolie or Pitt. Do terrorists wear Manola Blahniks? I can tell you Donna Karan does not make anything that hides a bomb.”
Meanwhile, in other news of the absurd, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, still awaiting trial in Chicago for trying to sell President Obama‘s one-time Senate seat, will be competing for hair time with Donald Trump on the new season of the “Celebrity Apprentice.” B-Rod told the Associated Press, “it‘s a wilderness period for me. Sometimes real opportunities develop in your life‘s journey that you can‘t really see when you‘re facing tumultuous times and the kind of storm that I‘m facing.”
Time now to call in comedian Christian Finnegan. His comedy special, “Au Contraire,” is available in stores and on iTunes. Christian, can we talk?
CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN: Keith, after hearing you do this impression, I think you‘re the Rich Little of our era.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Unfortunately, I don‘t think Rich is that good at this anymore. Neither am I. In the case of Ms. Rivers, didn‘t the system work? Or do we have to look at it—Joan Rivers can‘t board a plane in Newark; what hope is there for the rest of us?
FINNEGAN: Better safe than sorry. But if we‘re starting to worry about jihadists named Rosenberg, then al Qaeda are better at recruiting then we feared. Nigerians are one thing. But that‘s a Lee Iaccoca worthy sales job. You have to just dock your cap at that point.
OLBERMANN: Is it possible the gate agent had some other reason for keeping her temporarily stranded? Was this payback for every red carpet interview that somebody couldn‘t stand, some vengeance when she quit as Johnny Carson‘s permanent guest host to start her own show? Was this a former Fox executive working the desk in Costa Rica?
FINNEGAN: I think there are two things. You can‘t get too mad at the gate agent. One, unless it was redone in the last six weeks, Joan likely looked nothing like her passport photo.
Secondly, Costa Rica is a Caribbean nation and protective of their natural beauty, like their coral reefs. And Joan was trying to load the plane with what looked like a large barnacle, but that just turned out to be her daughter, Melissa.
OLBERMANN: Wow. Thank goodness you went back to Melissa, because that first one was unbelievable. The connection here—the irony of these two stories being interconnected, in some way, between Joan Rivers and Governor Blagojevich—Joan Rivers forbidden to leave Costa Rica to return to the US because she was considered a flight risk. Blagojevich forbidden to leave the US to go to Costa Rica to do a reality show, because he was considered a flight risk. Instead Blagojevich joins another reality show, which happens to be the one that Joan Rivers won last season. Now, that is a conspiracy theory.
FINNEGAN: Keith, the rabbit hole goes even deeper. First of all, did you know that Blagojevich once had a secretary named Rivers, and that Joan Rivers had a secretary who should be in jail? And, also, this is the most damning clue: both of these two reality shows air on NBC, a network whose very audience is a flight risk.
FINNEGAN: I could go further, but I need a big chalkboard.
OLBERMANN: If you go further than that, then tomorrow night, you‘ll be watching the Rod Blagojevich show at 8:00 here on NBC. If you are Blagojevich, is “Celebrity Apprentice” really the way to go, or are there other shows he would be better suited to?
FINNEGAN: Well, I mean, it‘s been so long, at this point, he should be on the History Channel. It was only a year ago, but in celebrity punch line times, that‘s like a whole decade. You know what I‘m saying? It‘s like, sure, you humiliated your entire state and you undermined the spirit of American democracy, and that‘s impressive, but what have you done for me lately? You better start digging up new skeletons.
OLBERMANN: Well, Donald Trump says he‘s going to be the break out star of “Celebrity Apprentice.” How does he win? How does he convince the other contestants? Does he say, I‘ve got this thing and it‘s bleeping golden or just pay everybody?
FINNEGAN: I don‘t know. I think if we start to watch “The Apprentice” and an enormous amount of the challenges are hair care related, then we‘ll know the fix is in, unless it‘s hair plugs, in which case the advantage slides over to Brent Michaels.
OLBERMANN: What about either quoting Kipling, as he did in those famous news conferences, or just filibustering, just starting to talk and never stopping, so they could never get rid of him?
FINNEGAN: Sort of like just bringing C-Span to network television, just talking? But, again, to bring back this Bret Michaels thing, who is also a contestant, he pulls out that acoustic guitar, starts ripping into “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”—you know, you get wrapped up, man.
OLBERMANN: Then the audience is a flight risk, as you suggested. Last question, disgraced politician, the next one ready for reality TV stardom—reality TV stardom is, what, Mark Sanford on “The Bachelor”?
FINNEGAN: No, a little bird told me that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is going to be a judge on this season “Toddlers and Tiaras.”
OLBERMANN: Comedian Christian Finnegan, many thanks as always.
FINNEGAN: Happy New Year, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s see if we can get out of the rabbit hole now.
That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 2,444th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now, with new revelations about, and interview with an actual member of the secretive Washington, DC religious outfit the Family, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
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