Guest: Paul Krugman, Arianna Huffington, Eugene Robinson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you
be talking about tomorrow?
Russia will dispose 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.
Mexico will convert the fuel in its research reactor to safer material.
China might join in pressing for sanctions for Iran‘s nukes. South Korea
will host the next nuclear summit two years hence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am very pleased
that all the nations represented here have endorsed the goal that I
outlined in Prague one year ago—to secure all vulnerable nuclear
materials around the world in four year‘s time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And what about making this country safe from militias?
The Oklahoma Tea Party with conservative members of the Oklahoma
legislature meet to formulate their own armed militia the week before the
15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Who is the alarmist now?
Financial reforms: Suddenly, the same Republicans who insisted on
surrendering billions to save the banks too-big-to-fail are saying—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We won‘t solve this
problem until the biggest banks are allowed to fail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBRMANN: Our special guests, Professor Paul Krugman of Princeton
and “The New York Times.”
The Wall Street meltdown and Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West
Virginia. The same root cause, “a broken regulatory system,” says Arianna
Huffington. She connects the dots.
Martha Stewart fixes a wardrobe malfunction for a Major League
Al Gore out-stalks the Billo‘s stalker producer—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And while we have you here, what‘s your reaction
to the fact that—
AL GORE, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: You don‘t have me here. I‘m not
doing an interview.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- what‘s your reaction to the fact that—
GORE: I‘m not doing an interview right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And Sarah Palin‘s inconvenient taxable income. How much
has she made since she walked out as governor of Alaska?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We are not retreating. We
are advancing in another direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The direction of $12 million. How is that selly outy
thing working for you?
That woman is an idiot.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PALIN: You are naive if you don‘t see a full-court press—
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
In dozens of nations around the world, there is enough nuclear
material—the professionals estimate—to construct more than 120,000
nuclear weapons. Al Qaeda only needs enough to make one.
In our fourth—fifth story tonight: President Obama today
concluded the biggest summit of world leaders, conveyed—convened,
rather, by an American president since the end of World War II, announcing
unanimous agreement among all 47 of the nations attending to secure all
their nuclear materials, military, academic, civilian, and otherwise over
the next four years.
Among the agreements to come out of the summit over the past two
days: Mexico agreeing to convert uranium for its—from its research
reactor from weapons-grade to less highly-enriched, enabling the
elimination of that nation‘s highly-enriched uranium. Canada spending its
sending rather its spent nuclear fuel to the U.S. Chile confirming it
already gave up its last 40 pounds of highly-enriched uranium. Malaysia is
adopting stricter controls on transport of nuclear materials. Ukraine
agreeing to let the U.S. and Russia secure its stockpiles, hundreds of
pounds of highly-enriched uranium.
Russia is agreeing to shut down its last plutonium factory after
more than half century producing weapons-grade plutonium. The Russian
foreign minister is also signing with Secretary of State Clinton an
agreement under which both nations will each dispose of 34 metric tons of
weapon-grade plutonium, enough to make 17,000 nuclear weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We recognize that while different countries face different
challenges, we have a mutual interest in securing these dangerous
materials. So, today is a testament to what is possible when nations come
together in the spirit of partnership to embrace our shared responsibility
and confront a shared challenge. This is how we will solve problems and
advance the security of our people in the 21st century. And this is
reflected in the communique that we have unanimously agreed to today.
First, we agreed on the urgency and seriousness of the threat.
Coming into the summit, there were a range of views on this danger. But at
our dinner last night and throughout the day, we developed a shared
understanding of the risk.
Today, we are declaring that nuclear terrorism is one of the most
challenging threats to international security. We also agreed that the
most effective way to prevent terrorists and criminals from acquiring
nuclear materials is through strong nuclear security—protecting nuclear
materials, and preventing nuclear smuggling.
Second, I am very pleased that all the nations represented here have
endorsed the goal that I outlined in Prague one year ago—to secure all
vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four year‘s time. This is
an ambitious goal, and we are under no illusions that it will be easy. But
the urgency of the threat and the catastrophic consequences of even a
single act of nuclear terrorism demand an effort that is at once bold and
pragmatic. And this is a goal that can be achieved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And while China is sending representatives to negotiate
with the U.S. over possible sanctions against Iran, China has not gone as
far as Mr. Obama did in suggesting sanctions will result. Like Iran, North
Korea not in attendance today, having pulled out of the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty in 2003, but clearly in mind as Mr. Obama announced
the follow-up summit to take place in 2012 in South Korea.
“The New York Times” reporting, the French president, Nicolas
Sarkozy, is proposing an international court for any national leader who
transfers material to terrorists.
Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, also, of
course, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist of
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What successes ultimately did the president get out of
FINEMAN: Well, aside from the specifics that you mentioned, I think
more and more important than those are the sense of momentum and attention.
I think Barack Obama clearly views this, and rightly so, as a grave threat
that needs to be viewed in the 21st century way. He brought attention to
it by bringing those 47 leaders from 47 countries here. There were some
Beyond that, it also allows him to say that whatever limitations the
United Nations may have as a supervisory body, as an enforcement body, he‘s
going to get these countries together on his own to try to oversee this
And I think he also wants to put a focus on building momentum to
confront Iran in the long-term. And to show that in the 21st century that
security is about links. It‘s a different paradigm from the Cold War.
It‘s almost like the Internet in which you prosper, you profit by the links
you make to the other people on the net. He‘s trying to do that in terms
of diplomacy globally.
OLBERMANN: The downside—I know momentum is essential, and as the
old saw goes, we have time so that everything doesn‘t happen at once. But
the president acknowledged that essentially none of these agreements have
any enforcement mechanisms. And does that take any of the wind out of the
sails of the momentum?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it does to some extent. If you read the
document, it says voluntary in several key places there. That‘s true. And
as the president said, there are no magic wands in this business and no
automatic enforcement mechanisms.
But I think the fact that nations are voluntarily doing things can
in turn create a sense of shared responsibility. After all, Keith, no
nation I can think of, or almost no nation on the planet, wants on its
collective conscience the idea that its sloppiness and lack of care in
controlling these materials led to a global human catastrophe.
And so, I think there is a moral sense even though you don‘t think
there‘s morality in diplomacy, most people don‘t, that that can weigh on
the conscience of countries. And I think that‘s what Obama is appealing
OLBERMANN: Was there anything in here though—I guess what I‘m
asking is: was there anything in the summit that was not low-lying fruit?
I mean, you had good guys agreeing to be good guys. Was it—was there
more to it than that?
FINEMAN: Well, Russia is a former bad guy.
FINEMAN: Now behaving as a good guy.
And I think it‘s important to note that the Chinese were here, the
Russians were here, the Pakistanis were here, the Indians, the Israelis, et
cetera—people who have a lot of deep and conflicting interests in terms
of nuclear policy generally.
The president is operating on several levels at once. Yes, this is
voluntary. Yes, this is low-hanging fruit. But he‘s also got the new
START treaty with the Russians that he wants to implement. There‘s going
to be a big meeting at the United Nations on comprehensive test bans and on
enforcing control of research and nuclear power. And he‘s serious.
And I think, politically, most of the country and most of the world
they may view this effort as naive to some extent. But they certainly
view it as necessary. I think even Republicans you talk to here, you know,
they‘re not going to come out and criticize this effort at this summit
because they know it‘s something that most people in this country and the
world are in favor of.
OLBERMANN: Plus, they also have the arms reduction treaty with the
Russians to push back on, correct? Where does that stand?
FINEMAN: Exactly. And I think they‘re going to do that. Although
talking to them today, even they understand that the world has changed and
that Russia has changed. As one of the Republicans I talked to this
afternoon said, you know, we understand, the Russians can‘t afford this
stuff anymore—which is true.
What the Republicans are going to do is over the course of the
summer—and it‘s going to take a while for this to be considered—is to
make three points. They‘re going to say, do we know this is verifiable?
This new deal with the Russians. Are we going to spend a lot of money to
update our own nuclear arsenal? Which is allowed to a limited extent under
People like John McCain are going to demand a lot of money for the
nuclear power establishment or what‘s left of it. And they‘re going to
say, we can‘t give up entirely on nuclear weapons as a possible option.
Whether that means the Republicans as a whole will oppose this, I
seriously doubt that, Keith. Because in talking to them today, both about
this summit and about the START treaty, they have other things they want to
be the “party of no” on. I‘m not sure that, in the end, this is going to
be one of those things. And when I was down at the Southern Republican
Conference over the weekend, I heard absolutely nothing about nuclear power
OLBERMANN: I hope you‘re right. MSNBC political analyst Howard
Fineman, also of “Newsweek”—great thanks as always for your time,
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Foreign threats however, nuclear or otherwise, are
hardly the only dangers facing the U.S. Anti-American groups are making
inroads both online and in one state now with the help of elected
And we start in Oklahoma. One week before next Monday‘s 15th
anniversary of the Murrah Building bombing that killed 168 people,
sacrificed them to somehow spread the anti-government sentiments of the
right wing domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh and just two weeks after the
FBI charged members of the Hutaree militia with planning attacks on the
American law enforcement officers, Oklahoma Republican Representative
Charles Key has thrown his support behind a Tea Party effort to create a
state militia in Oklahoma for the explicit purpose of fighting the U.S.
Key is telling the “Associated Press,” he thinks there‘s a good
chance of introducing legislation for the militia next year, presumably to
be funded with a tax increase. This as an active duty member of the
military, Marine Sergeant Gary stein, is beating a hasty retreat from
remarks about his group, Armed Forces Tea Patriot Patriots, after first
saying the group would, quote, “defend our Constitution that is threatened
by a tyrannical government”; now issuing a statement saying his group,
quote, “in no way supports a military uprising. Furthermore, we recognize
Barack Obama as the commander-in-chief and we do not support disobeying
orders that are lawful.”
The group, actually a Facebook page, claimed almost 500 fans earlier
today and had disappeared entirely by this afternoon.
Let‘s turn now to MSNBC contributor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell,
associate professor of politics and American studies at Princeton, and a
columnist for “The Nation” magazine.
Good to see you.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: Can it be a coincidence that we only get these proposed
Constitution-lovers during Democratic presidencies?
HARRIS: I think none of this is a coincidence. I mean, there are
two very troubling things going on here. In the first, you can hardly
understate the importance to a stable democracy of having a civilian-led
military. I mean, this is really the key to making it a democratic system
that will peacefully move from one political party to another in terms of
And so, this moment where we hear the possibility of soldiers
suggesting that their orders might not be legitimate because they have to
protect America by rising up against their commander-in-chief, rather than
following the orders of their commander-in-chief, should produce great
anxiety for us.
On the other hand, you know, as progressives, we have to care about
the question of conscience. And so, we have to be worried about wanting
soldiers to also be human beings. And so, I think we have to be really
careful about what elements of this particular piece within the military we
OLBERMANN: Right. But now—are we to be more encouraged by—
more discouraged by the fact that their, you know, Representative Key, an
elected representative in that state, is connected into this? Or this
military officer was connected into this? Is that more discouraging than
it is encouraging that there was such a—as we said before—hasty
retreat from this, such a blowback to this that the military officer had to
bend over backwards to indicate he‘s not, you know, going to get himself
shot for treason?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Yes, absolutely. I mean, it‘s always a good thing
to see the retreat. But I am deeply concerned about the fact that elected
leaders are encouraging movements against the federal government.
Listen, you know, secession is real in this country. This is the
history of our nation. It‘s a bloody Civil War, the whole nation of—you
know, concept of brother against brother. These things are not just sort
of concepts or possible, you know, theories or images. These are the
realities of our nation.
And so, particularly in the powder keg that is Oklahoma, and at the
moment that is IRS tax-filing time, elected leaders have a responsibility
to be much more careful in the ways in which they are describing their
anxiety about the out-party being the in-party.
OLBERMANN: To what degree does an—does an elected—I mean, I
would stand here forever and defend those tea parties and whatever they say
in a broad context, I think specifically, they are inaccurate and dangerous
in many ways. But as a concept, I would defend them.
When a congressman says, we‘re going to set up a state militia to
defend ourselves against the federal government—is there—is there not
something prosecutable about that? Is it not something—I mean, the
movie “Seven Days in May” was supposed to be fiction, this is a sort of
miniature “Seven Days in May” that it just obtains in Oklahoma.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, and they‘re defending themselves,
apparently, against the fact that about 90 percent of American households
received a tax cut. They‘re defending themselves against the extension of
health care benefits to Americans who don‘t have it through a private
system. They‘re defending themselves against a democratically-elected
president. And they‘re defending themselves against a country which—if
it‘s unhappy, can even put a Republican in the seat that was Ted Kennedy‘s.
What exactly is it that they‘re afraid of? I mean, I think we
should be as concerned about the content as we are about the form here.
OLBERMANN: And what is the—what is the America that they claim
to represent if it doesn‘t—if it ignores majority rule, tries to
invalidate democratic non-contested elections, and believes in guns over
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Yes. See, here‘s the thing. I mean, we really do
have a system of accountability.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: And it‘s called elections, right? So, every two
years, you get to vote. The whole House of Representatives are out. And
every four years, you get to make a choice on the U.S. presidency. Every
six even on your senator.
I mean, I sort of feel like we need a “there are three branches of
government” conversation about how the system works. Maybe we can have it
on Twitter, you and I.
OLBERMANN: Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton and MSNBC—many
thanks for coming in and my regards to Pierre.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: Another Twitter joke, taking over the show.
It was the fundament of the last six weeks of the 2008 Republican
campaign: we have to bail out Wall Street because the banks are too-big-to-
fail. Now, says the Republican leader in the Senate, he must oppose
Democratic financial reform because it doesn‘t kill off those banks that
are too-big-to-fail. Seriously.
Professor Paul Krugman next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: This Nobel Prize-winning economist on the Republicans‘
flip-flop on bank bailouts while they try to reassure the banks that the
GOP is the only friend the banks have.
She ties the financial panic of ‘08 and the mining disaster in West
Virginia last week into one neat deregulatory disaster.
She ties up the fatigued Velcro in the batting glove of the new
centerfielder of the New York Yankees.
And this professional public speaker, who you may not remember once
made a cameo as governor of Alaska, has made $12 million since she left the
voters high and dry. If you‘ve got the changy to pay her, she‘s got the
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It may be the most counterintuitive anti-populist
position since President Obama took office. But today, Republicans opened
another front in their battle against financial reform.
And among their arguments—in our fourth story tonight—
government takeover. But, GOP leaders also continue to meet regularly with
Wall Street executives to ask for campaign contributions to elect more
Republicans, to keep the markets, you know, free.
Paul Krugman joins me in a moment.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, today, is unveiling a piece
of the GOP‘s opposition to the financial reform bill, saying that it fails
to end the phenomenon of banks too-big-to-fail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: This bill not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailout to
Wall Street banks, it institutionalizes them. The bill gives the Federal
Reserve enhanced emergency lending authority that is far too open to abuse.
It also gives the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the treasury
broad authority over troubled financial institutions without requiring them
to assume real responsibility for their mistakes. In other words, it gives
the government a backdoor mechanism for propping up failing or failed
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Just last week, Senator McConnell met with some of these
financial monoliths he claims to show concern about. He and Senator
Cornyn, the chair of the GOP senatorial committee, met with about 25 Wall
Street executives, many of them hedge fund managers. McConnell and Cornyn
made clear that they need Wall Street‘s help to elect more Republicans.
This is according to FOX Business.
Likewise, House Republican Conference chair, Mike Pence, met with
hedge fund managers this morning—according to Politico.com—telling
them the Democrats‘ solution for financial reform consists of two words:
House Minority Leader John Boehner met with an executive from
JPMorgan back in February and you may also recall that Boehner recently
told financial lobbyists not to let, quote, “punk staffers,” unquote, take
advantage of them.
But Democrats have also cultivated corporate interests, and part of
their challenge is to not allow the further weakening of financial reform.
To that end, tomorrow, the president will meet with leaders of both parties
to discuss financial reform. An unnamed White House official telling
“Reuters” news service that the president will not allow a race to the
bottom on regulations.
Meantime, the DNC is airing a new TV ad that blasts Wall Street,
calling for financial reform, framing the issue as a common sense approach
that still allows banks to succeed while protecting the interests of
families and consumers.
Let‘s bring in as promised, “The New York Times” Nobel Prize-winning
columnist and Princeton University professor, Paul Krugman, also author of
“Conscience of a Liberal.”
Good evening to you, sir.
PAUL KRUGMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Is any part of Senator McConnell‘s criticism valid?
KRUGMAN: No, it‘s wonderful. It‘s Orwellian. You know, the system
what the Democrats are proposing—we can talk about how good it is—
is, look, last time we had to step in and prevent the collapse of these
financial institutions, and because we had no ground work, because we had
no prevailing regulations and so on, it was a very badly-handled, maybe—
anyway—badly-handled rescue which let the bank executive, the
stockholders get away with a lot. It didn‘t, it wasn‘t a clean, you know,
protection of the interest of the economy.
So, the objective of financial reform is to set things up so that
next time—first of all, we try to make it less likely this will happen
again—and next time when it happens, we have the mechanisms in place.
We have the authority to seize these institutions, you know, protect the
assets that need to be protected. But otherwise shut down the profits of
And what the Republicans are doing is turning around and saying, oh,
well, to do that—even to think about how we‘re going to handle it next
time is admitting that you‘re going to do a bailout. And what we have to
do is swear up and down, cross my heart, we will never bail out these
institutions again. And then, of course, when the crisis comes, they‘ll do
OLBERMANN: If the Democrats want both the good bill to pass and to
keep the potential populism of this issue on their side in the midterms,
what do they have to do in this scenario they face right now?
KRUGMAN: Well, they have to keep on hammering. I think it‘s
helpful that we actually have documented—the documented fact that
Republicans are there meeting with the bankers. So they‘re claiming to be
against the big banks. But in that case, why are they raising money from
them, right? That makes it easier to explain.
And then you try to go after the specifics. Unfortunately, it‘s
looking like the real place where the fight is going to be is over
derivatives, over complicated financial instruments, which the White House
wants to be traded in an open transparent fashion. The banking industry
wants to keep on, you know, making the public doesn‘t understand. And it‘s
going to be hard to explain that one.
But you just keep it up and try and make sure that you get the
message. Look, these people—these people are campaigning against the
bankers, but they‘re actually the friends of the bankers.
OLBERMANN: Particularly in terms of these—of these casino
measures that have come to take over the investment industry in this
country in the last 10 years. In your essay—
KRUGMAN: Yes, we—
OLBERMANN: -- in your essay from “The Times” magazine this past
weekend, you wrote about the need for market incentives that would
encourage people and businesses to do the right thing relative to polluting
the environment. That same argument market incentive, can that be applied
in regard to financial regulation? Is particularly this—
KRUGMAN: Not really, because the whole point, the financial crisis
is a moment when the markets break down. It‘s a moment when everything
goes wrong. So, you can‘t—you know, who is going to be given an
incentive to behave well in the event of a financial crisis. There‘s
nobody in control. So, it‘s very different.
We had a system—you know, for 35 years after the Great
Depression, we had a system that worked quite well, which was one of fairly
highly regulated banks—regulated in terms of capital, liquidity. There
was deposit insurance to protect depositors. As long as those regulations
were in place, we were free from major crises. What we need to do now is
to recreate something like that system, but scaled up for the 21st century
OLBERMANN: Paul Krugman, columnist of “The New York Times,” also,
of course, at Princeton—and as always, we thank you kindly for your
KRUGMAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: One part of the economy is looking up, earnings by ex-
half-governors. Sarah Palin‘s take since she took her walk and the perks
she demands be written into the contracts for her speaking engagements:
bendable straws at the lectern. I don‘t know, maybe the unbendable ones
are too dangerous for her or something.
OLBERMANN: The mortgage meltdown and the West Virginia mining
disaster with Arianna Huffington. First, Twitter, day six, number of
followers 38,000. Number of photos I Tweeted to myself today, only two,
but one had two different pictures of me, so that‘s a 50-point fine. Tweet
of the day, from @MarthaStewart: “Curtis Granderson just asked me to fix
the Velcro his batting gloves and then he hit a very, very long fly ball to
the end of center field.”
It‘s true, Granderson of the Yankees approached her at Yankee Stadium,
bottom of the seventh, opening day today. She also showed him how to turn
a chew of tobacco into a decorative Mother‘s Day bouquet. She Tweeted all
day from the ballpark. Back to non-celebrity Tweets tomorrow.
Let‘s play Oddball.
To Tulsa, where a burglar broke through the roof of a drugstore
overnight, then tried to escape the same way, but after an intense struggle
with the ceiling, an effort worthy of the Three Stooges. Wait. Down goes
burglar. Unphased, he tried and tried again. Meanwhile, he set off the
security alarm. They took their time getting to him because they were
enjoying it so much. He seemed to be extra frustrated, but he eventually
got out. And police are on the hunt. He‘s considered armed and bruised.
To the International Space Station in space, where two Japanese
astronauts offered a musical performance for those of us down here.
It wasn‘t their hair. It was the sound of a miniature Koto (ph), a
traditional Japanese harp. After being tuned by one of those special
astronaut wrenches, the astronauts played a Japanese folk song. And
because they were worried they had not yet earned a standing O, they
finished with some cool weightless tumbling. Always a crowd-pleaser. Wee.
What does the West Virginia mine disaster have to do with the Wall
Street bailout? Arianna Huffington connects the dots, next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It may be too soon to explain the exact cause of the worst
mining disaster in four decades. But a closer look at the government
watchdog charged with enforcing mine safety provides insight to the root of
the problem. As the “New York Times” reported, the Mine Safety and Health
Administration suffers from political cronyism, corporate lobbying, and,
quote, “remains fundamentally weak in several areas.”
Add in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, as Arianna Huffington points
out, those same broken regulatory conditions describe what preceded 2008‘s
economic meltdown. She joins me in a moment.
Early this morning, the last nine bodies were recovered from the Upper
Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Massey Energy has defended its safety
record despite being cited for hundreds of violations and millions in fines
over just the past few years. Steeper federal fines implemented after the
Sago Mine tragedy, as the “Charleston Gazette” reported, didn‘t stop
various coal firms from using high-priced corporate lawyers to dispute two
thirds of new fines, and, to continue to quote, “Massey exceeded the
industry average by appealing three fourths of them,” the fines.
The Associated Press reporting, “by tying the violations up in legal
proceedings for months or years, Massey was able to delay the Mine Safety
and Health Administration from using them in determining whether the mine
showed a potential pattern of violations.”
West Virginia‘s Governor Joe Manchin announcing an independent panel
will conduct its own investigation there. Meanwhile, the chair of the
Senate Labor Committee, Tom Harkin of Iowa, says it will meet at the end of
this month to look at the, current “weaknesses in our laws that provide
incentives for employers to skimp and cut back on health and safety
No witness list yet, but the AP reporting it could be the first time
Massey Energy‘s chief, its CEO Don Blankenship, is called to testify. Mr.
Blankenship previously called federal regulations nonsensical. Noting just
last year, quote, “a lot of the politicians, they get emotional, as does
the public, about the most recent accident. And it‘s easy to get laws on
the books that are not truly helping the health or safety of coal miners,”
29 of whom died on Mr. Blankenship‘s watch last Monday.
Joining me now here in New York, as promised, the co-founder, editor
in chief of the “Huffington Post,” Arianna Huffington. It‘s good to see
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Connect those dots here. Is this the pattern with how
regulations are not enforced, but how they are made or not made?
HUFFINGTON: Well, yes, that‘s the problem. Even when regulations are
made after a disaster, like after the Sago disaster, what happens is that
there are so many loopholes put in the regulations that, in the end,
they‘re not really enforced. Here we have a classic example of how that
works. The mine had 515 violations in 2009, and already 124 in 2010. But
by abusing due process and challenging them, this could not be held against
them to create what is called a pattern of violations, and therefore close
down the mine.
And then there are all of these fines that they are charged. But
again, they challenge them and they end up paying an infinitesimal amount.
It‘s probably like in the third world, where they consider it part of the
cost of doing business.
OLBERMANN: Proponents of less argue that regulation is bad for jobs.
How is that argument at all relevant after a disaster such as this?
HUFFINGTON: This is really the classic argument. It‘s bad for jobs.
He had the chutzpah to say that it‘s bad for the health and well being of
the health of the miners. And the other thing that it creates a punitive
environment. Last February, Congressman George Miller tried to have a
hearing and the ranking Republican, Congressman Glenn Thompson, said this
would be a punitive environment. He said we need to use more collaboration
and less conflict.
And this is the kind of code words that are really being used to
undermine any effort at regulation.
OLBERMANN: And yet these were some of the same congressmen who were
ready to fricassee (ph) the car industry because that wasn‘t largely their
territory that they represented? Your writing on this subject includes a
lot about the political cronyism with mine safety and how it goes back to
the regulations—cronyism and the regulation go back to the Bush
administration. Mr. Blankenship, not surprisingly, a huge Republican
donor. We are a year in. Where is the Obama administration on correcting
those atrocities of the Bush administration and cronyism?
HUFFINGTON: Well, what is missing, both in how we‘re dealing with the
impacts of the financial meltdown on Main Street and how we‘re dealing with
what‘s happening in the mining industry is the sense of urgency. Remember
the sense of urgency when we had to save Wall Street?
HUFFINGTON: We somehow managed to do it over a weekend. And where is
that sense of urgency now? The new head of the Mining Administration was
not nominated until July, confirmed in October. And everything is moving
slowly while 29 miners are dead. And, Keith, the reason why we at the
“Huffington Post” intend to stay on the story—and I‘m so happy you‘re
putting the spotlight on it—is because when 29 people die, there‘s a
sense of drama about the impact of what is happening. I mean, you would
have thought that when there‘s millions of people out of work, millions of
stores closed, there would be the same sense of drama and urgency.
But dead people does that to us. So if we can keep this spotlight on
this, we perhaps avoid what happens after each disaster, whether financial
or in the mining industry, which is we‘ll do something; it‘s full of
loopholes; we don‘t know how bad it is until the next tragedy.
OLBERMANN: Or until somebody else beats us to it, in terms of
repairing. “Consumer Reports” gave this Lexus,the GX 460 SUV, a don‘t buy
warning. Toyota stopped selling it. Officially it meets or exceeds all
federal government testing requirements. So we need a third party to serve
as the watchdog of our supposed watchdogs? Should we just turn the
government enforcement over to “Consumer Reports?”
HUFFINGTON: Maybe we should. While the lobbyists are running
Washington, maybe that‘s what we should do. After all, even in the
financial industry—remember, there were regulators within Lehman
Brothers. There were regulators overseeing Fannie and Freddie. There were
regulators there. But if they don‘t do their job, if they don‘t actually
use everything in their power, if there are that many loopholes, we are not
OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington of “the Huffington Post,” as you said,
you‘ll be staying on this. Good for you for doing so. Thanks you. Thanks
for being here.
There‘s nothing wrong with making 12 million dollars, but don‘t claim
you walked out on elected office to serve the people when you were really
just serving your real God, Mammon. Gene Robinson on Sarah Palin.
The real culprits at Upper Big Branch. Limbaugh says it‘s the union.
Except these mine owners kept these union out, even out of the rescue and
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, never before heard
tapes of the Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh explaining why he chose
the Morrow Federal Building as a target, completely apropos from today‘s
news from Oklahoma, and the supposed militia supported by a state
OLBERMANN: The 12 million reasons Sister Sarah really walked out on
her job as governor of Alaska. First, tonight‘s comment, which I‘ll be
devoting to the reality of Tea Parties for as long as and as often
necessary as possible. The Springboro (ph), Ohio Tea Party—that‘s near
Dayton—is in turmoil tonight after more details about the despicable
Tweet sent out late last month by the group‘s founder, Sonny Thomas.
You‘ve seen the thing and the demeaning term for Hispanics, the threat
of violence. I‘m not even going to read it out loud. The “Dayton daily
news” reporting that last September, Mr. Thomas lost the visitation rights
to his own son in a domestic dispute with the boy‘s mother. Alana Turner,
who is the mother of the child, may have explained everything when she told
the paper that the boy she had with Thomas is part Hispanic.
While Thomas then made a ridiculous excuse about quoting a Bee-gees
song, the truth here may be contained in a common psychological phenomenon.
It is why the most fire and brimstone of televangelists can turn out to be
gay, how the loudest of family value conservatives can be found e-mailing
porn and perversion to friends. They so desperately want to deny something
about themselves that publicly they act in the opposition direction, as if
to prove the something about themselves is not true. Couldn‘t be because
they lean so far the other way.
And so a man with a xenophobic mistrust of others turns out to have a
Hispanic son. And his hatred spills out around the edges, amplified by
fantasies of violence. And the hypocrisy, the self-contradiction and the
pure hate, which is fuel for the Tea Parties, is fed once more.
OLBERMANN: Why was Palin bailing as her Alaska governorship was
failing? Because she‘s made 12 million bucks since she walked out, and her
speakers contract mandates bendable straws, because the ordinary ones are
too complicated. That‘s next, but first time for tonight‘s worsts.
Award the bronze to Bill-O, again hiding behind his anchor desk. He
has sent his stalker producer out on a mission that‘s a new low for Fixed
Noise, the stalking of former Vice President Al Gore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSE WATERS, FOX NEWS PRODUCER: Mr. Vice president, Jesse Waters,
Fox News, how are you?
AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: How are you, fine.
WATERS: Why won‘t you come on “The O‘Reilly Factor,” Mr. vice
president? You know Bill‘s not a big anti-global warming guy. Mr. Vice
GORE: I don‘t like ambush journalism.
WATERS: Why won‘t you come on the show? Come on, it‘ll be fun.
There‘s two sides to this story.
GORE: Well, I‘ll consider it.
WATERS: You will consider it?
WATERS: All right. Great. So while we have you here, what‘s your
reaction to the fact that—what‘s your reaction to the fact that the
Arctic Ice is actually increasing.
GORE: I‘m not doing an interview right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You don‘t have me here. However, I must completely
disagree with the vice president, that term ambush journalism is incorrect,
because O‘Reilly does not practice any kind of journalism.
The runner-up, Virginia Attorney Ken Cuccinelli, rapidly ascending to
Michele Bachmann levels of the crazy. He‘s already spoken to a Tea Party
or more than one. Next he‘s going to hang out with a faith healer. Now
he‘s making Virginia embarrass itself again, joining a climate change
denial lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Cuccinelli
mocked the idea that too much CO2 could possibly affect the environment,
and mocked the professionals at the EPA. Quote, “now let‘s make them all
happy just for a moment and everybody just hold your breath.”
Good idea, Mr. Cuccinelli. we‘ll let you know when you should stop
holding your breath. I would think sometime in 2014.
But the winner, Orly Taitz Limbaugh. Who does he blame for the Upper
Big Branch Mine disaster? “Was there no union responsibility for improving
mine safety? Where was the union here? Where was the union? Unions
generally holding these companies up demanding all kinds of safety. Why
were these miners continuing to work what apparently was an unsafe
Are there no prisons? Are there no work houses? The union wasn‘t
allowed to stand up for worker safety in the Upper Big Branch Mine because
the mine‘s owner would not allow it. The CEO of Massey Energy, Don
Blankenship, busted three different attempts over the years to unionize
that mine. Seventy percent of his employees showed support for a union, 70
percent. Blankenship told them if they voted for a union, he would shut
the mine down.
Just how deep is union distrust at Massey Energy? Union rescue
workers, rescue workers offered to provide help during the tragedy last
week, and they were turned away. Those rescue workers could now obviously
provide humanitarian assistance by trying to pull Rush Limbaugh‘s head out
of his ass. Orly Taitz Limbaugh, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: According to ABC News, in the nine months since Sarah
Palin quit as governor of Alaska, she‘s earned at least 12 million dollars
from book money, TV deals, and speaking fees. That‘s about 100 times more
than she earned in a year as governor, and about 30 times what the
president of the United States makes.
In our number one story, Palin in ‘12 or Palin makes 12? Which did
you think she would choose? And that‘s the conservative estimate, no pun
intended. The ABC News figure came from public documents. The biggest
chunk of Palin‘s post governor income came from her book deal, seven
million dollars. “The Daily Beast” previously reported that Palin‘s
upcoming Learning Channel show will earn the governor 250,000 per episode,
eight scheduled. That‘s another two million, or just 250,000 if it gets
canceled after the first show.
Nobody really knows what Fox News pays Palin to do fake interviews
with LL Cool J and Toby Keith. So that‘s a question mark right there.
Then there are her speaking fees. “Politico” reported earlier this year
the Washington Speakers Bureau books Palin for 100 grand per appearance, a
little less for the West Coast. And that‘s without the contract writers.
Palin is scheduled for an upcoming speech at Cal State Santaslaus
(ph), which this week students discovered six pages of the Palin contract
in the trash, no pun intended, in which she requires, quote, “bendable
straws waiting upon a wooden lectern upon her arrival at an event.”
So? When you say Palin sucks, you‘re not being gratuitously
insulting. It‘s right there in the contract. ABC notes that Palin will
sometimes wave her speaking fee for charity, or Michele Bachmann The
appearance in Minnesota last week was reportedly on the house. When ABC
asked the Palin camp for a response to its reporting, a spokesperson said
Sarah Palin is now a private citizen. As a result, her fees and earnings
Plus, she‘s busy swimming around in the gold coins she bought from
Glenn Beck and G. Gordon Liddy. Time to turn to Gene Robinson, associate
editor, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of the “Washington Post,” also
MSNBC political analyst. Good evening, Gene.
GENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How does the striking it rich affect effect Sarah Palin‘s
choice about whether or not to run for president in 2012? Like I don‘t
know the answer to this question.
ROBINSON: Right. The less likely possible effect is that she would
say somebody had to provide for this family. Now I‘ve done it. I can
afford to take the massive pay cut that would be involved in actually being
president of the United States. That‘s much less likely. I think more
likely is 12 million bucks in nine months, this is great.
And this—remember, this is a woman for whom serving a full term as
governor of Alaska was way too much of a hassle, and just, you know, too
many papers to sign and commissions to, you know, nag her. And so it‘s
kind of hard to imagine that she‘s going to take it as a sign to go for it.
OLBERMANN: And think of the savings in bendy straws. This is at
least 11 dollars a month in bendy straws. The CNN poll that was released
today said if there were a vote today for president, the Republican
candidate, Sarah Palin, would lose by double digits, 55 to 42. Huckabee,
Romney would also lose, but would fair slightly better. Are the
Republicans making Sarah Palin‘s mind up for her these two choices? A,
Money, B, humiliating defeat?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, I think there‘s actually fairly good
reason, if you extrapolate to think that she wouldn‘t do even that well in
the presidential contest. If you look at a graph that plots her approval
ratings and disapproval ratings, it‘s linear. Her approval has gone from a
peak in the high 50s down to the low 30s. Her disapproval has gone from
the low 30s up to the high 50s. And the lines seem to want to continue in
It seems fairly clear, or a fair inference to draw that the longer she
stays in the public eye, the less people see her as a potential president.
And indeed, more than half of Americans do not believe she‘s qualified to
be president, period.
OLBERMANN: There‘s nothing wrong with making 12 million dollars.
Nothing wrong with making 32 million dollars, like Glenn Beck did,
reportedly, last year selling socialist conspiracy theories. Con men of
all sorts have been able to do this, from late night real estate
investments folks to, you know, any simple person. They‘ve been able to do
this as long as there‘s been a country here.
But Sarah Palin has now joined this, you know, industry of providing
misinformation. Does this—does this give us some sort of societal gauge
about our appetites for an alternate right-wing reality? And should it
make the non-believers nervous?
ROBINSON: It‘s intriguing. You know, a quick theory on why this is
happening is that we are, indeed, beset by a whole lot of complicated
forces, and we have a lot of extremely complex problems to deal with. And
nothing is simple. But in Glenn Beck World and in Sarah Palin World and in
Rush Limbaugh World, everything is simple. Unions bad, Obama bad, you
know, conservatives good, real Americans good.
It‘s all simplified. It‘s all in black and white. And I think
there‘s a certain attraction—attractiveness, to some people, in that
sort of simple dialectic that she puts out there. Dialectic is not what
she would call it.
OLBERMANN: No, of course not.
ROBINSON: She would call it the way a real American talks.
OLBERMANN: And don‘t forget bendy straws good, non-bendy straws, you
could poke your eye out. Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC.
Always a pleasure, Gene. Thank you.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,539th day since the
previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith
Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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