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Wednesday, March , 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Erich Pica, Rep. Barney Frank, James Risen, Richard Wolffe

HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you

be talking about tomorrow?


Amaze your friends, confuse your enemies.  OK, just confuse everybody.



the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration.  And this is not a

decision that I‘ve made lightly.


OLBERMANN:  The president attacked by the right for not drilling

enough, attacked by the left for drilling at all, attacked by both sides

for contradicting himself from the campaign.

And for what?  The maximum yield on this: 63 billion barrels of oil. 

We use 7 billion barrels of oil per year.  The likely return on this, a

fraction of that may be as little as two weeks‘ supply.  Drill, Barack,


The Republican who is for protecting the consumer from the big banks

before he was against it, Senator Corker, flip-flops, now opposes the

reform bill he said last week he supported.  Our special guest: Congressman

Barney Frank.

“They were subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance”—the

federal judge‘s ruling today against the Bush administration wiretaps of an

Islamic charity and two American attorneys.  Wiretapping which the Obama

administration is defending under state secrets laws.

The tea party Senate candidate in Florida suggests, “I don‘t love this

country and should be traded from it.”  Tonight‘s “Quick Comments.”

“Worsts”: That was quick—a right wing radio freak defends the

Hutaree on grounds of faith and freedom of speech.

And Sarah Palin‘s interview with LL Cool J for fixed news.  It was

news to him.  It turned out it was lifted from somewhere else.  FOX turns

tail and runs.

And, baseball player hits ball, baseball player‘s hit ball hits

baseball player‘s own mother?

All the news and commentary—now on tonight‘s seventh anniversary

edition of COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  This is COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

President Obama today stunning supporters and getting only a faint

cough from his opponents, announcing he has approved a limited offshore oil

and gas exploration increases much of the eastern seaboard from Delaware

down through central Florida, also along other parts of the outer

continental shelf.  Drill Obama, drill.

This while the administration insisted new mileage standards will save

an estimated 1,800,000,000 barrels of oil—the proverb about trying to

please everybody and ending up pleasing nobody seems appropriate, even

though it too pleases nobody.

At a military base outside Washington, President Obama declaring that

he has cleared the way for expanded oil drilling along the Atlantic coast,

the eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Alaskan shoreline.


OBAMA:  Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth

and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need

to harness traditional sources of fuel, even as we ramp up production of

new sources of renewable homegrown energy.


OLBERMANN:  It is a change in policy from when then-Senator Obama

started running for the White House, when he first supported the moratorium

that prevented oil companies from drilling off Florida‘s coast, and then in

autumn of 2008, signaled willingness to consider some drilling.  Now,

President Obama is claiming it was a tough decision that had to be made.


OBAMA:  This is not a decision that I‘ve made lightly.  Ultimately, we

need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between

business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim

drilling is a cure-all and those who would claim it has no place—because

this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we

fight the same old battles over and over again.


OLBERMANN:  The policy is not going to gain much of anything in terms

of actual oil production.  The maximum yield for these areas: 63 billion

barrels.  We consume more than 7 billion barrels a year.  So, if every

spoonful of oil they think could be there is there, he did this to get nine

years‘ supply, likely way less than half the oil is really there.  And to

start at least, there is only a five-year window to drill.  This could be

the actual yield, might equal as little as a month‘s domestic consumption. 

Maybe just two weeks.

So, what might be president actually be hoping to get in return for

this controversial decision?  Earlier in the month, Republican Senator

Graham hinting that the president was going to need to make a grand gesture

if he wanted Republican support on energy and climate change to any degree. 

Today, John Kerry, without endorsing the specifics of the president‘s

proposal today, is saying that offshore drilling could help get 60 votes

for climate legislation.  But for which climate legislation exactly?

This morning on CNBC, the energy secretary, Ken Salazar, backing away

from cap-and-trade, saying, quote, “I think the term cap-and-trade is not

in the lexicon anymore.”

His drilling proposal certainly hasn‘t won the president any

Republican n votes in the House.  Minority Leader Boehner today is saying

in a statement that the plan does not go far enough, quote, “Opening up

areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but

keeping the Pacific coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising

resources off the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense.”

Except that makes no sense.  President Obama did open new areas for

drilling in Alaska‘s Arctic Sea, only Bristol Bay remains protected—the

most environmentally fragile waters of the Frontier State.

Speaking of which, the former half-governor of Alaska today saying in

a tweet—you guessed it—“Drill, baby, drill.”  And actually, it was

only her first tweet, supposedly after reading the Republican talking

points or at least Congressman Boehner‘s statement, Mrs. Palin posting an

apparent self-tweeting correction, quote, “Rep. Boehner spot-on Obama goal

equals cram through job-killing, energy-depleting burdensome cap and tax

scheme on the heels of Obama‘s new pro drilling msg.”

Environmentalists—no happier.  The executive director of Greenpeace

asking, quote, “Is this President Obama‘s clean energy plan or Palin‘s

drill, baby drill campaign?”  The executive director of the Sierra Club,

“What we need is bold decisive steps towards clean energy, not more dirty,

expensive offshore drilling.”

Lots to talk about thus, with our own Howard Fineman, senior

Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Republicans obviously think this does not go far enough. 

Progressives feel betrayed to one degree or another.  The actual amount of

oil could be ridiculously small.

Hasn‘t this president traveled this no-man‘s land before, the

triangulation nation?

FINEMAN:  Yes, he has, and he almost got lost in it.

They held this very close, Keith, at the White House.  So, this really

was a surprise to everybody around town, because the administration knew

they wanted to try to control the message to avoid the very problem that

you‘re talking about.

What‘s of interest to me here is that Barack Obama has prospered with

big picture, with big concepts, for example, on health care.  But the

equivalent, if this were the health care bill, this would be like

introducing the health care bill by saying, “You know what?  Let‘s start by

redecorating all the doctors‘ offices.”  I mean, this—this is small ball

for what is supposed to be another big picture plan here on energy.  That‘s

why it‘s kind of puzzling.

OLBERMANN:  In terms of the energy independence, which is at least the

public goal of this, is there—is there really any there there?  I mean,

from the Boehner perspective, it would—it would seem as if this does not

go anywhere near far enough towards meeting Republican objectives, let

alone producing any large supply of oil.

FINEMAN:  No, it doesn‘t.  I mean, I think it‘s largely symbolic. 

He‘s saying, you know, yes, I believe in extraction.  So, I don‘t want you

to think I‘m against extraction—and by that philosophical statement, if

nothing else, because it will be years before any of this would be

developed, as you pointed out, he‘s trying to get Republican votes I think

in the Senate.

I think Lindsey Graham has said, “Look, I need some stuff for my guys

to get any of them to possibly participate in a bill in the Senate.”  A

bill had passed the House.  Nothing has happened in the Senate.  They‘re

taking a lead from Lindsey Graham here, but it may be a fool—another

fool‘s errand in terms of getting Republican support.

OLBERMANN:  The terms about what the president might be hoping to

leverage here and what Secretary Salazar said cap-and-trade is not in the

lexicon anymore, did he mean the phrase or the actual legislation that

would either be cap-and-trade or have the same effect as cap-and-trade?

FINEMAN:  Well, the real big deal here, Keith, is still the question

of carbon pollution, of CO2 pollution, which comes from coal-fired power

plants.  It comes from industry.  It comes from cars, et cetera.

If there‘s going to be a serious effort to both make us more

efficient, in terms of energy, more independent but also greener, you‘re

going to have to do something about the social cost of carbon-based


Now, you can call it whatever you want it.  You can have whatever kind

of mechanism you want.  That‘s the key thing here, and that‘s the problem

politically for the president, that this thing today about drilling

offshore really doesn‘t deal with at all.

OLBERMANN:  Is—do you suppose, and I know we‘re at guesswork stage

here because nobody‘s figured this one out here, but is the calculation

look through all the yelling from both sides about health care reform, the

president got his victory, and he got some health care reform—


OLBERMANN:  -- that perhaps all of this—and really, the over—

this is the first time in a long time that the overwhelming response out of

Washington has been, huh?  Rather than, we hate this.  We‘re going to

protest this.


OLBERMANN:  There‘s now going to be an oil party with people dressed

up as gasoline pumps.  Will it all be forgotten if he gets any kind of

climate legislation into law?

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s a big if.  It‘s just as big an “if” as health

care was.  And don‘t forget, it only passed by three votes in the end.  The

big sticking point here is coal, as I look at it.  And maybe it‘s because I

began in Kentucky.  I used to cover the coal industry.

But we still get almost half our electricity from coal.  Coal is a

huge pollution problem.  In states where the Democrats need support, where

Obama needs support, you‘ve got Democratic senators, whether it‘s Bobby

Byrd in West Virginia or Casey or Specter in Pennsylvania, or Bayh in

Indiana, who are going to vote “no” if there‘s any kind of tax on carbon-

based pollution.  That‘s the big problem that Obama is going to have to

deal with if he‘s going to get a bill.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—as always, great

thanks, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on reaction to the president‘s proposal, let‘s

turn to Erich Pica, who is the president of Friends of the Earth.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  The Obama move here does a lot to a longstanding

moratorium on oil and gas drilling off of much of the east coast.  Your

reaction to hearing the news today was what?

PICA:  Well, we‘re—from Friends of the Earth‘s perspective, we‘re

seriously disappointed with the president.  He‘s turning his back on 25

years of what we believe is sound energy and environmental policy for maybe

blowing a kiss to the Republicans and Senator Graham on this drilling


OLBERMANN:  If it—if there is the political calculation behind this

more than the—than the, you know, 7 billion or 8 billion barrels of oil

that might be—that might come out of it, or even if that number were 70

billion, if it‘s more about getting enough Republican support to pass

significant legislation in terms of climate change, in terms of energy and

emission standards, is it—is it in any way, to your mind, worth the


PICA:  We have to see a bill first.  I mean, this—the president is

essentially, unilaterally, disarming himself.  We saw two or three weeks

ago where he pledged to do new nuclear power in Georgia, we saw this only

on gas development pledge he‘s making and then he starts to talk

significantly about coal.  And so, he‘s got the trifecta of the Republican

energy plan.

And we don‘t see what we‘re getting out of it.  We are basically

empowering these dirty energy subsidies, these dirty energy sources, and

we‘re not getting strong commitments on renewable energy, on energy

efficiency, on solar.  And we need to make a significant step forward in

these technologies to solve global warming and to reduce our energy

dependence.  And he‘s just not stepping up right now.

OLBERMANN:  Well, under those circumstances of not stepping up and not

presenting a bill that would at least encourage you that there‘s some light

at the end of this tunnel he‘s just decided to go into, what is Friends of

the Earth planning to do to fight this proposal?

PICA:  Well, already there is a letter sent to Majority Leader Reid,

10 senators said if there‘s additional drilling in this climate energy

bill, that we would likely oppose this bill.  So, that‘s one part.

The other part is that we‘re sending actual letters out to our members

right now saying, sign a petition: tell senator—President Obama that

this is unacceptable energy policy that he‘s putting forth.

And then thirdly, it‘s just talking to you, and I‘m glad you‘re having

us on the show—but talking to other media outlets and blowing the

whistle on this, how much of a fraud that this proposal is.

OLBERMANN:  How about the new increased mileage standards that the

administration claimed today is going to save a billion eight in terms of

oil, which is, of course, about 90 days worth of domestic consumption. 

Does way against or mitigate against what you see as a bad day?

PICA:  That‘s a really good proposal he made, and we‘re highly

supportive of it.  But we look at it and say, why do we have to have these

two linked?  I mean, this is a proposal to move—to make cars more

efficient and cleaner, and something that we should be doing regardless of

oil and gas drilling or nuclear power.  And so, we support it.  Kind of

questioning why he‘s packaged all this together, because this is a very

green victory when we start implementing these new fuel economy standards.

OLBERMANN:  Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth—great thanks for

your time tonight, sir.

PICA:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Unless you‘re returning to shore from a year on a drilling

platform without a radio, you already know that the likelihood of

Republican support for anything is far harder to find than that oil.  A GOP

senator today reneges on his support for banking reform that would protect

you instead of the banks.  House Financial Services Committee Chairman

Barney Frank joins us.

And what amounts to a plagiarism scandal at FOX News involving Sarah

Palin and LL Cool J now also involved Sarah Palin and Toby Keith—ahead.


OLBERMANN:  Democrats needed one Republican senator to support banking

reform that would have protected you instead of the banks.  Last week they

had him, today he‘s flip-flopped.  Congressman Barney Frank on that.

A federal court judge rules the Bush administration‘s illegal domestic

wiretapping was illegal domestic wiretapping.  Explain for us by Pulitzer

Prize winner James Risen of “The New York Times.”

A candidate for the U.S. Senate implies “I don‘t love this country and

I should be traded to another country.”

And the foulest foul ball in 50 years, the Minnesota Twins outfielder

who lined one off his own mom.  Why does this sound so familiar to me?



OLBERMANN:  The one Republican senator most likely to help Democrats

pass new law to reform the way our banks work and do not work now says he

absolutely cannot support the bill in question.

Our fourth story tonight: the bill‘s intent is to prevent another

devastating financial meltdown.  But Tennessee‘s senator, Bob Corker, says

he cannot support it because it gives consumers too much protection.

The House bill shaped by Democrats, including our next guest,

Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, establishes exactly what

President Obama called for—an independent agency to protect consumers

against predatory banking practices.  The Senate bill authored virtually

single-handedly by Banking Chairman Chris Dodd of the Senate locates the

consumer protection agency inside the Federal Reserve, which is primarily

responsible, not for consumers, but for protecting the system.

Senator Corker in today‘s “Wall Street Journal” says the agency Dodd

proposes still has too much power to protect consumers.  In a speech today,

Corker explained his opposition.  According to the newspaper “The

Tennessean,” Corker objects to Dodd‘s proposal that banks would have to

hold on to, not sell to another institution, at least 5 percent of any

loans they make—which would give them at least some incentive to ensure

that the loans were repayable because they would lose money when they were

not repayable.

Even though Dodd‘s proposed consumer protection agency would be part

of the Federal Reserve, Corker also wants banking regulators, those charged

with protecting the banks from themselves, to have veto power over any

consumer protection agency, quote, “I don‘t want an overzealous consumer

protection agency.  We need balance.  Right now in the bill, there‘s too

much independence and too little coordination between the regulators and

the consumer protection side.”  He said this out loud.

And while Dodd‘s talks with ranking banking member, Richard Shelby,

broke down, Corker says he is still optimistic about negotiating changes to

the bill before it is taken up by the full Senate potentially as early as

this month or next.

Joining us now as promised, chairman of the House Financial Services

Committee, Congressman Barney Frank.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


Glad to, Keith.  It‘s a very important issue, obviously.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously.

“The Wall Street Journal” writes, Democrats need support from at least

one Republican to pass the measure in the Senate.  Are Republicans already

backing off on repealing health care, seemingly getting away from that

crazy idea—why not let them filibuster on behalf of the banks, if that‘s

what they want to do?

FRANK:  I agree with you.  This is a “bring it on” moment.

Senator Dodd—let me say, senator Dodd is doing an excellent job,

and the bill he wrote originally was a very good bill.  He has gone every

possible step to accommodate them.  And what happened with this, Senator

Corker was trying to negotiate with Senator Dodd.  He was overruled by the

Republican leadership.

Let‘s be very clear.  Senator McConnell and Shelby told Corker, no. 

They have, I think, a fantasy that they‘re going to vote 41 Republicans

stand up and say, there should be no reform.

Understand, Keith, that when the House voted on this bill last

December, and the bill that came out of the House is a good bill.  It‘s not

everything I wanted, I would have liked to have a little more strength, but

we did a pretty good job.

Our problem was, frankly, that health care was dominating the news, so

we were kind of left alone with the lobbyists.  We still did a pretty good


But what—they wanted—when we wrote on that bill in December,

every single Republican—I‘m not exaggerating, Casey Stengel used to say,

you can look it up—every single Republican in the U.S. House of

Representatives voted to kill every single form of financial reform.  They

didn‘t say, make it better.  They didn‘t say better balance.  They said

nothing.  Nada.  Kill it all.

Now, Shelby and the House minority leader, John Boehner, went before

the American bankers a couple weeks ago and promised them that they would

use parliamentary tactics to kill the bill.  That‘s when Boehner

outrageously said to these bankers, don‘t let these punk staffers push you

around, the very hardworking people we work with.

So, I agree with you completely.  Let‘s call their bluff.  I don‘t

think the American people want to see a consumer agency that has to check

with the banks‘ supporters before it does anything.

And the other issue you mentioned, we call it securitization.  Thirty

years ago when you borrowed money, you borrowed money from the person who

expected you to pay him back, and he or she was pretty careful about

lending it.  Then they came up with this scheme whereby I lend somebody

money, I lend 1,000 people money, and I sell the right to be repaid by

other—to other people.  That gives me no real incentive to have the


So, we‘re asking for a fairly small, 5 percent to 10 percent hold.  By

the way, if I buy insurance from a company and that company gets worried

and wants to get reinsurance, they cannot reinsure the whole risk.  They

have to have what we call a risk retention.

So, what you have is the Republicans apparently deciding as a party

that everything worked wonderfully and there should be no reform


And last point, (INAUDIBLE), I have a contest going on.  I want

someone to tell me an example in American history, in the financial area,

where we overregulated on behalf of consumers.  I can‘t think of one,


OLBERMANN:  Well, this begs that point, and you included it in that

great summation of what‘s going on here.  But I‘d like to emphasize this

one idea here about where that consumer protection agency is.  What happens

if there‘s a version created that is not the way you have outlined it?

FRANK:  Well, first of all, that‘s not going to happen until we have a

vote in the Senate.  And I am committed—you know, my Republican

colleagues go off and on like a light switch.  They wanted the health care

bill negotiated in public.

Well, I want in charge of the health care bill, but I have a lot to

say about the financial bill.  I‘m giving them their wish.  We will have a


If a bill comes out where the Republicans and over Chris Dodd‘s

objection—and let me make a point about Chris Dodd, who‘s been very

unfairly criticized in some places.  He‘s doing the best job that I think

he can do.

If he—if you get 41 Republicans filibustering, then we‘re going to

sit in public and have a nice conference and you can all cover us, and let

the Republican members of that conference from the Senate vote to kill this

independent agency, because we‘re not going to—we‘re not going to

provide cover for them.  I‘m not in the business of helping make up

Republicans so they can pretend to be what they‘re not.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that quote—I mean, Senator Corker would be

described in New England as a corker, even if his name wasn‘t that, based

on this -- 

FRANK:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  -- on this quote.  He said this aloud.  How do you get re-

elected to anything higher than dog catcher defending the banks against the


FRANK:  Well, I think they made a mistake.

Here‘s the deal—they got a little overconfident.  Last year, when

we were doing this fight—and our bill is a pretty strong.  I wish it was

a little tougher on derivatives, although we do some make great strides

there.  Everybody was talking about health care.  So, you know, they got

away with opposing it.

Here‘s their argument now.  It‘s big government, you can‘t trust.

There‘s an interesting thing going on here, Keith, with the

Republicans.  First they ran the government for six years.  They had the

president, the House and the Senate.  They messed things up.  In the

financial area, they didn‘t regulate.  They allowed all these terrible

things to happen.

Now that we‘re trying to fix it they say, oh, you can‘t trust the

government.  Well, I couldn‘t trust the government they ran, but now they

can make it better.  I don‘t think it‘s going to work.  I think the public

will them—and let me say this, I don‘t think all 41 Republicans are

going to stand up and try to kill independent financial reform.

OLBERMANN:  One would think not, but we‘ve seen worse before.

Congressman Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services

Committee—always a pleasure.  Thank you for your time.

FRANK:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  James Risen of “The New York Times” on a crucial ruling

against the Bush administration domestic spying program and against the

Obama Justice Department which is trying to defend it—coming up here.


OLBERMANN:  A federal judge with a huge ruling today against Bush

administration warrantless wiretaps.

First, on August 17th, 1957, Richie Ashburn who got to the Baseball

Hall of Fame, largely by virtue of his ability to keep fouling off pitches

he didn‘t like until he got one he did like, fouled one off into the stands

of Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia.  It struck of all people, Alice

Roth, the wife of the sports editor of the “Philadelphia Bulletin”


They had to carry Mrs. Roth and her broken nose off on a stretcher. 

And while they were so doing, Ashburn, who is still at the plate and still

fouling pitches off, hit Mrs. Roth with another foul ball.

And then on June 17th, 2000, Chuck Knoblauch of the New York Yankees

picked up a ground ball and threw it wildly towards first base.  It instead

hit a fan sitting behind he dugout, breaking her eyeglasses.  That fan, of

course, was my late mother.

All of this is mentioned because in Tampa this afternoon, in an

exhibition game against the Yankees, Minnesota Twins centerfielder Denard

Span kind of did a half-Ashburn/half-Knoblauch.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

Mr. Span of the Twins shoots a foul ball into the stands and hits a

fan wearing a Denard Span uniform.  I know.  What are the odds?  Well, it

gets worse.  The woman wearing the Denard Span uniform is his mom, Wanda

Wilson.  She was OK.  That‘s why Span ran into the stands.  He had to take

himself out of the game, he was disturbed enough, although she was fine. 

Even this is not as bad as it gets.  Hall of Famer pitcher Bob Feller

says when he was only 20 years old, he threw a pitch in Chicago, in 1939. 

It was fouled off and it hit his mother in the stands, and that was on

Mother‘s Day. 

And we showed you this last night.  It has apparently been shown

everywhere.  It happened.  It‘s funny, but it deserves, if not an apology,

then at least a little explanation.  This was Melanie Lawson, anchor at the

ABC station in Houston, slipping out of her chair as she reached over

towards the weather man. 

I don‘t know Ms. Lawson, but a good friend does and he advises me

today that part of the physics of what we saw and laughed at is something

she would never make a big deal of.  Melanie Lawson has multiple sclerosis,

has used a cane for many years, and she still laughed at herself when that

happened.  so my apologies to her and to you for not having known that

first.  My friend writes that she is an inspiration for me and many others

here in the Houston area, and now she‘s an inspiration for me too. 

An actual candidate for the Republican nomination for the Senate of

this nation suggests that there are three Americans who disagree with him

politically who do not love this country, as a result.  And one of the

three is me.  Tonight‘s comment ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Tonight, the United States government, following

guidelines set by the Bush administration‘s Terrorist Surveillance Program,

has been found guilty of illegally eavesdropping on two American lawyers

and an Islamic charity.  Our third story, there was a ruling from a federal

court in San Francisco that could be the most significant yet in unraveling

the invasions of privacy instituted by President Bush. 

The lawsuit was filed in 2006 by an Oregon branch of the Saudi based

al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, and two American lawyers named Asim Ghafoor

and Wendell Belew.  The plaintiffs claim that phone conversations they had

in 2004 were illegally wiretapped by the National Security Agency, the NSA,

after the Islamic charity was deemed a supporter of terrorism by the

Treasury Department.  They argued that the government violated the Foreign

Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, because they did not first obtain a


The Justice Department, under both Presidents Bush and Obama, argued a

warrant to eavesdrop was not necessary, claiming that the government‘s

state secrets trumped the FISA law. 

Today, US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker delivered his verdict in

favor of the Al-Haramain Foundation and the two American attorneys, writing

in his 45 page ruling that, quote, “FISA takes precedence over the State

Secrets Privilege in this case.  Under defendants‘ theory, executive branch

officials may treat FISA as optional and freely employ the state secrets

privilege to evade FISA, a statute enacted specifically to rein in and

create a judicial check for executive branch abuses of surveillance

authority.”  The lawyers and the foundation are each seeking a million

dollars in damages.  The Justice Department says it is reviewing the


Joining me now, as promised, James Risen of “the New York Times,”

Pulitzer Prize winner for his investigative reporting on the Bush

administration‘s domestic spying program.  Thank you for your time tonight,


JAMES RISEN, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Thanks for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  You have followed this issue so closely and done such

extraordinary reporting on it.  Contextualize this for us.  What is the

significance of this ruling today?

RISEN:  I think the most important thing is that by declaring this—

the eavesdropping an illegal act, that in other words, it was—the Bush

administration had no right to evade FISA, it raises serious questions

about the whole underpinnings for the whole Bush war on terror.  You could

argue that virtually all the programs that the Bush administration used,

rendition, torture, wiretapping, you know, setting up secret prisons, all

were, in one form or another, an evasion of Congressional power. 

By saying that the Bush administration had no right to avoid

congressional mandates and congressional legislation, that raises real

questions about whether everything that the Bush administration did on

counter-terrorism was illegal. 

OLBERMANN:  Practically, does that mean anything at this point? 

RISEN:  I think it raises—the really interesting question here is

this was the last major lawsuit pending on the NSA program, because all the

cases against the telecommunications companies had been thrown out by the

telecom immunity, in the 2008 legislation to update FISA, that President

Obama voted for when he was in the Senate.  But this one was targeted

against the NSA, against the government, rather than the telecommunications

companies.  By declaring this illegal, it raises questions in my mind about

whether individual government officials in the future could be held liable

for having acted in a criminal way. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there any reason to suppose, ultimately, this case will

turn out any differently than the last time there was an attempt made to

sue the NSA by the ACLU? 

RISEN:  That case in Detroit, as you may remember, the whole program

was declared unconstitutional, and an appeals court ruled that it was—

that the people who brought that case lacked standing.  But no one ever

challenged the underlying ruling by the judge that it was unconstitutional. 

It‘s unclear that anybody can argue, in this case either, that by declaring

it criminal—that the program was a crime, that you could not make a

further—you know, demand a further criminal investigation of what the

Bush administration did. 

And it‘s unclear whether the Obama administration really wants to

fight that battle.  They‘ve argued this more narrowly on the state secrets

privilege.  And they‘ve never tried to defend the Bush administration on

the actual NSA program. 

OLBERMANN:  They also did something interesting here, which also gives

context to this.  It may be a little bit different.  The Holder Justice

Department broke with the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department and gave the

judge this classified description of why the case should be dismissed, and

the judge still ruled in favor of the plaintiff.  Does that tell us just

how flawed—at least for historical purposes, does it tell us how flawed

the Bush domestic spying program really was? 

RISEN:  Yes, well, it raises real questions, because there was a

document that the al-Haramain people had been given by mistake that

revealed that they had actually been wire tapped under this program.  That

was not—they were not allowed to use that. 

But the Obama administration, the way they broke with the Bush

administration on this was by saying we are going to abide by the court‘s

ruling.  The Bush people were never going to—they were essentially

planning to ignore whatever the court said in this case, if they were still

in office.  The Obama people are now going to abide by it.  The question is

they may not appeal this case, this ruling, which would leave on the books

the idea that the NSA program was illegal.

OLBERMANN:  Does it also, the way they defended this, the way Holder

defended this, using state secrets—does that stay on the books too? 

Will this be the last time they use state secrets? 

RISEN:  Probably not.  I‘m sure they have defended that more

vigorously they have the NSA program itself, because they like that as

something they can use in other case.  But this—it raises real

interesting questions about state secrets too, the limits of state secrets

and how far they can push that in trying to shut down criminal cases

against the government. 

OLBERMANN:  James Risen of “the New York Times,” great thanks for

putting this in context for us, and again great thanks for your time


RISEN:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  The fake implication by Sarah Palin and Fox that she had

done an interview with LL Cool J for her new TV show.  Turns out she also

didn‘t do an interview with Toby Keith, even though they were implying

that, too. 

And worsts, the alleged terrorists Hutaree get their day in court

tomorrow, guess what they‘re expecting the court to do for them in court. 


And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the state attorney

general who will not sue to stop health care reform, and the Republicans

trying to impeach him.  The night the brains went out in Georgia.


OLBERMANN:  Our seven edition of worsts ahead.  First, tonight‘s quick


Mark Rubio, the Tea Party candidate for the Republican nomination for

the Senate from Florida, has yet to be mistaken for one of the bright young

lights of American politics.  Mr. Rubio gave a speech today in West Palm

Beach at which he endorsed offshore drilling, condemned amnesty to illegal

immigrants, and, according to the “Palm Beach Post,” closed with a thought

he said originated on “The Glenn Beck Show.”  No, he did not start weeping,

not even speaking in tongues. 

He said, regarding immigration, quote, “there are millions of people

in America that hate our country, so why can‘t we just do a trade?  We‘ll

send you Sean Penn, Jeanine Garofalo and Keith Olbermann, and you can send

us people that actually love this country and want to help us build it.” 

Mr. Rubio, you have long behaved like a teenager who has borrowed his

father‘s suit.  I think you don‘t understand this country.  I think you

imperil this country.  I think your stupidity is an indictment of the

education system in this country.  And I‘m sure you feel exactly the same

way about me. 

But what I would never claim about you is that you do not love this

country.  I would never even claim that in your own way, you have not

believed you have tried to build it.  You have the right to criticize

anything you want about me, or anybody else with whom you disagree

politically.  But when you question whether or not I love this country, you

have crossed a line.  You have inadvertently revealed that you don‘t see

those with other viewpoints as merely disagreeing with you.  You have

inadvertently revealed that you dismiss them as not loving this country. 

This, in turn, proves that if you are elected to office, you will not

in the slightest be representing, nor even defending, the people of your

state who did not vote for you.  And that, perhaps, is the greatest crime

against this country of which any politician can be guilty. 

Mr. Rubio, I am the great grandson of immigrants, as you are the son

of immigrants, who came to this country for its opportunity and its

freedom.  And I know one thing for sure: my ancestors and yours were trying

to get away from people like you.


OLBERMANN:  Mama says knock you out.  LL Cool J defeats Sarah Palin in

one round.  Now it turns out she didn‘t interview Toby Keith either. 

That‘s next, but first tonight‘s worst persons in the world, a special

seventh anniversary of COUNTDOWN edition. 

See all the special stuff we‘re doing tonight for it? 

The bronze to Chris Baker.  This is the Minnesota scorched Earth

hacker filling in for Lonesome Roads Beck.  You knew it had to happen and

it did.  On national radio, the Hutaree militia was defended by this

turkey.  “With everybody demonizing the militia coming up in the program,

let me give you a real glimpse of who your enemy is,” he said.  “It‘s not

the militia, OK?  You know this is nothing more than an attack on faith and

an attack on free speech.” 

Now you know why Mr. Baker is a fill-in.  Even Beck isn‘t dumb enough

to claim domestic terrorism is just faith and free speech. 

Our runners up, the good old Hutaree themselves, led by that

misunderstood faithful free speech advocate, who just incidentally wanted

to kill cops and topple the government, David Brian Stone, also known as

Joe Stonewall and Captain Hutaree. 

Whatever else they are, Mr. Stone and his fellow alleged terrorists

are excellent at irony.  After being charged with sedition against the

government they viewed as some kind of front for the anti-Christ, they have

requested the services of free government attorneys. 

But our winner, and it‘s only because it‘s the anniversary of the

show, Bill-O the clown.  First, there‘s this anniversary note.  He gave an

interview to author Marvin Kitman, who wrote the biography O‘Reilly tried

to suppress, “The Man Who Would Not Shut Up,” in which he said COUNTDOWN

didn‘t matter because it would be canceled and I would be fired before

Kitman‘s book came out.  Kitman‘s book came out January 3rd, 2007.  Another

bold and fresh prediction. 

But something new from Bill-O, something simple, gently underscoring

how nuts he really is.  “You turn on MSNBC and you see these people

attacking personally.  They‘re throwing all kinds of stuff around.  People

go, it‘s unpleasant.  I‘m not going to watch it.  And they don‘t.” 

OK, this is the highest rated cable news show not on Fox, blah, blah,

blah.  But Bill‘s implication here is he doesn‘t attack people personally,

exempt he has also said this: “MSNBC made the key mistake of hiring bad

people.  It‘s as simple as that.  They‘ve got a bunch of guttersnipes on

their network.”

So I attack personally and he doesn‘t, and then he attacks us as bad

people and guttersnipes.  Now everybody occasionally falls into utterly

self-contradictory, mutually exclusive, embarrassing claims like that.  But

there‘s usually some space between the points of contradiction, a year, a

month, something.  How long before O‘Reilly contradicted himself?  In the

transcript, it looks like about 42 seconds. 

Bill-O the clown, without whom today‘s seventh anniversary of

COUNTDOWN would not be possible, today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin‘s Fox News show “Real American Stories” debuts

tomorrow, April First, sharing the real American stories of LL Cool J and

Toby Keith, which, it turns out, comes as a big surprise to LL Cool J and

Toby Keith.  Our number one story, the whole thing is an April Fool‘s joke,

although evidently an unintentional. 

As a Fox News press detailed, the show is, or at least was to tell

real life tales of overcoming adversity, and would include special guests,

like country singer Toby Keith, rapper and actor LL Cool J, and the former

chairman and CEO of General Electric, the parent company of NBC Universal,

Jack Welch.  You can never get him for an interview. 

“Mr. Cool J and Mr. Welch,” read the release, “will both speak about

their success in this country in a segment entitled, ‘In Their Own Words,”

prompting the “Weekly Standard‘s” Mary Katherine Ham to fawn “the more time

LL Cool J spends in a Fox News studio, the closer I get to meeting him and

for that I owe Sarah Palin many thanks.” 

Ham, I don‘t think so.  Ms. Ham can save the thank you note for

another time.  LL Cool J will not spend time in a Fox News studio any time

soon, because he already did, 18 Months ago.  Mr. Cool J Tweeting, “Fox

lifted an old interview I gave in 2008 to someone else, and are

misrepresenting to the public in order to promote Sarah Palin‘s show. 


Fox News announcing it would pull the interview from the show, and

being real nice about it.  “‘Real American Stories‘ features uplifting

tales about overcoming adversity and we believed Mr. Smith‘s interview fit

that criteria.  However, as it appears that Mr. Smith does not want to be

associated with a program that could serve as inspiration to others, we‘re

cutting the interview from the show.  We wish him the best in his fledgling

acting career.”

Now, Fox has another problem on its hands with the same show.  Toby

Keith slated to explain the inspiration behind his song “Courtesy of the

Red, White and Blue,” you know, with the lyrics, “we‘ll put a boot up your

ass, it‘s the American way”—his publicist telling the “New York Times,”

“I had no idea this was going to be on Sarah Palin‘s special.  Fox has

never contacted me, not now, not when they were putting this together, not

at all.  I have no idea what they‘re using.” 

Now it turns out it was for an interview—they‘re using an interview

they did a year ago with him.  Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst,

the author of “Renegade, the Making of a President,” Richard Wolffe. 

Richard, good evening. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, “RENEGADE”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I can‘t recall the last time Sarah Palin surprised me. 

But how could anybody screw up something so obvious as the marriage between

Sarah Palin and Fox News? 

WOLFFE:  You know, Keith, your question is refreshingly quaint.  It‘s

almost like you believe the words “Real American Stories” has something to

do with reality.  That‘s like saying fair and balanced has something to do

with fairness and balance.  The idea here is, if you need some explanation,

is this a story of overcoming adversity, of a triumph of inspiration.  It‘s

a bit like being a one-time flute player and part-time sportscaster in

Anchorage, and going on to serving half a term as governor and still

hosting your own TV show and leading a political movement.  This show is a

triumph over adversity and, if needs be, reality.  It is itself


OLBERMANN:  A triumph over reality, I agree with you on that point.  I

think they‘re showing video of her swimming the English channel.  That‘s

Sarah Palin.  We‘ll get to LL Cool J in a second.  But this budding Toby

Keith thing, is that the real problem here?  I mean, wouldn‘t the

supporters of either of them be mystified that these two people would have

a rift? 

WOLFFE:  You would think so, although it‘s interesting seeing the “New

York Times”—it is, as some might call it, the lame stream media.  “The

New York Times” has quoted his publicist as saying they never got an e-mail

from Fox News.  So it‘s a surprise even to the publicist, let alone the

interviewee.  Toby Keith is an interesting guy.  He obviously is on the

conservative side of things.  He‘s called himself a conservative Democrat,

says he‘s a friend of James Jones, the national security adviser, also a

friend of Bill Richardson.  So this guy is all over the place. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, well, apparently he‘s not being interviewed by Sarah

Palin.  They‘ve now admitted that she didn‘t do any of these interviews. 

She‘s just the front person for the show.  About LL Cool J, Fox used that

standard dismissive “we wish him luck” nonsense in the press release.  But

didn‘t we just watch a fascinating dynamic in play?  First, Fox found him

inspirational and he was one of the headliners for this—I almost said

unraveling of Sarah Palin‘s first show, but it‘s already unraveled.  Then

he called them on this corner cutting, and suddenly he‘s not inspirational

anymore; he‘s just a fledgling actor. 

WOLFFE:  No, not inspirational.  You‘ve got to hand it to the comics

at the Fox press office.  They actually could have their own show.  It

would be like “30 Rock” because they cut it up every single night.  And

it‘s just a laugh a minute.  It‘s just—it‘s funny in how they try and

stretch this stuff to pretending like the stories hang together. 

OLBERMANN:  One interesting thing, the only press releases I‘ve ever

seen where the quotes are anonymous.  Nobody wants to put their names—

they don‘t have the courage to put their names to this crap.  It‘s

hilarious.  One journalistic question here, not that Fox believes it‘s

bound by journalistic rules, but if she says I interviewed LL Cool J, or

they say she interviewed LL Cool J, obviously that would be beyond the

pale.  But if you don‘t say it in the promos, you simply implying it, is

that legitimate, even at Fox News? 

WOLFFE:  The promo is one thing.  But the idea that she talked to

people, that they are guests in a lineup isn‘t just about a marketing trick

here.  In particular, you know, “the New York Times” has latched on to

something that was in Fox nation, which apparently does have something to

do with Fox News.  It takes this whole idea of promotion to another level. 

So, yeah, it would be nice if the “Real American Stories” were somehow


OLBERMANN:  Whose great idea was it, by the way, to launch a Sarah

Palin TV show on April Fools‘ Day? 

WOLFFE:  You know, every day is April Fools‘ Day.  It‘s a bit like I

wish it could be Christmas every day.  But it is April Fools‘ Day all the

time on Fox News, especially for people who watch it. 

OLBERMANN:  Last question, is she going to use a teleprompter? 

WOLFFE:  You know, only dead fish go with the flow, and only dead fish

read teleprompters. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m reading a teleprompter and I remember the day you did

this show, you did too. 

WOLFFE:  And I was pretty dead too. 

OLBERMANN:  So, Richard Wolffe -- 

WOLFFE:  That wasn‘t a joke. 

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, great thanks as always. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN this for the 2,526th day since the

previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith

Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

Now with the story of the bid to impeach a state attorney general who

will not sue over health care, plus the latest on drill B. Obama, drill,

ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.




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