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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, May 14th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Will Carter, Dave Weigel




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

The Gulf: This is not 200,000 gallons of oil a day.  This—one independent expert estimates—is 2,940,000 gallons of oil a day.  B.P.  did not just break the Gulf of Mexico—it was not accurate about how seriously it broke it.

Tonight, a man who frequently prosecuted oil spillers on what the law can do about this, and Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon on what the government can do about this.

Stop thinking of it as a bad oil spill—start thinking of it as a brilliant way to drain the Earth‘s oil supply.

The president peels the paint off the Republicans on the economy.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back.  No!


OLBERMANN:  Ms. Bendy Straws.  Ms. Bendy Straws sees a billboard.  Ms.

Bendy Straws reads “Miss me yet?” with a picture of George W. Bush.  Ms.  Bendy Straws agrees.  Ms. Bendy Straws then attacks TARP which was George W. Bush‘s idea.

Just the right time for a Senate candidate to promote offshore drilling, right?  Or a sitting senator to claim our troops are so bigoted they will not try to save the guy in the foxhole with them if the guy is gay.

And a story of man versus the bathroom medicine cabinet.  James Thurber‘s “Nine Needles.”

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

First, B.P. and the government told us that oil was gushing into the Gulf at the rate of 1,000 barrels a day.  On April 27th, the environmental group SkyTruth used satellite imagery to estimate the flow at five times faster, 5,000 barrels a day.  The next day, over B.P.‘s objections, the government raised its estimate to 5,000 barrels.

Today—in our fifth story—three separate research scientists telling National Public Radio using calculations based on new video of the gushing pipe, they estimate that the rate is 10 times faster, at least 56,000 barrels a day, possibly as many as 84,000 -- meaning, if true, this spill has been producing the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every five days.

Researchers are calculating independently based on new video showing the oil‘s release from a 21-inch pipe 5,000 feet down, some of it apparently methane—most of it, clearly crude.

“The New York Times” reporting that the administration got its 5,000 barrel figure using a formula explicitly not recommended for large spills, and that B.P. has—without explanation—decided not to have two veteran analysts measure this one.

The president said today stopping it is what matters and criticized the executives responsible.


OBAMA:  I have to say, though, I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter.  You had executives of B.P. and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else.  The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn‘t.


OLBERMANN:  As yet another regulatory failure came to light, Mr. Obama also blamed the federal government—“The New York Times” reporting that MMS, the Interior Department agency responsible for oversight on drilling, violated environmental laws by approving leases, including the one spilling now, without getting permits from environmental agencies.

Mr. Obama blamed a decade of MMS coziness with big oil, neglecting to mention that the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, was applauded by big oil when Mr. Obama chose him to fix these problems.  President Obama today putting Salazar front-and-center at his meeting today on the spill and charging Salazar again to fix those problems—after almost a-year-and-a-half of his having failed to do so.


OBAMA:  For too long, for a decade or more, there‘s been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill.  It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies.  That cannot and will not happen anymore.  To borrow an old phrase, “We will trust, but we will verify.”

Now, from the day he took office as interior secretary, Ken Salazar, has recognized these problems and he‘s worked to solve them.


OLBERMANN:  Since Mr. Obama and Mr. Salazar took office, the MMS has approved three massive leases and 346 drilling plans without getting the environmental permits required by federal law—so reports “The New York Times.”

While B.P. tries two separate methods on two of the gushing holes down in the Gulf, one, the so-called “top hat” to cap and funnel the leak, the other, a smaller pipe inserted into the main gushing pipe, new drilling has already begun in the same oil field to vent the oil in controlled fashion before it reaches that breach.  The oil industry newspaper “Upstream” reporting that work on the relief well was stalled so that its blowout preventer, the same kind of device that failed to stop the original spill, could itself undergo a battery of tests based on new protocols from MMS.

B.P. telling COUNTDOWN tonight the relief drilling will resume this weekend; but when we asked whether government regulators had overseen the design, the construction, the testing or the installation of the relief well‘s blowout preventer, B.P. spokesman, John Crabtree, said, “I assume they did.  I don‘t know.”

And whether this second relief well to be drilled will employ acoustic switches, backup devices for activating blowout preventers remotely, Crabtree is saying also, “I don‘t know.”

The MMS is not replying at all today to the same set of questions supplied by COUNTDOWN earlier.

We‘re joined now by Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, vice chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Congressman, thanks for your time tonight.

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), OREGON:  Always my pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Should we not know whether or not two new rigs operated by Transocean, contracted for by B.P., are going to use those acoustic switches or whether or not the blowout preventers are going to be up to snuff, not to mention whether or not the cementing process will be better?

How is it that not you, not I, not B.P., maybe not MMS can answer any of these questions at this point?

BLUMENAUER:  It‘s appalling, isn‘t it?  You would think that in the aftermath of this disaster—which clearly represents multiple failures—that we would be much more aggressive to make sure that we know the fundamentals.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re now one-third way through the president‘s, presumably, first term.  If Mineral Management Service still needs fixing, in your opinion, why does the president think the last two-thirds would be different under the same guy supervising this?

BLUMENAUER:  I share your frustration.  But in all fairness to the president, this is a hopelessly flawed system.  We saw in the last administration vivid examples where people in MMS were literally in bed with the people that they were supposed to regulate, snorting cocaine, having sexual affairs—I mean, it is shameful.

The administration has a whole series of things that they are seeking to address.  I personally think that this is a reason why we should not be going ahead with more offshore drilling until we get it right.  But, frankly, this is a result of eight years of disastrous, non-oversight, and putting people in there who had no business being in charge.

OLBERMANN:  To the question of what to do about drilling in a moment, but let me finish up on the agency here.  If it‘s that corrupted and your point about literally in bed is absolutely legitimately verifiably true—would you not need to really go into there and have a team designed to replace that culture of corruption?  I mean, you can‘t—is it necessary to do it piecemeal, to accept the idea that there will be this lingering structure of corruption over a certain period of time?

BLUMENAUER:  Well, I mean, they have put in—they‘ve installed there, a really very capable woman.  The recommendation of the secretary to split it is wise, I think a little overdue.

But I don‘t disagree with you at all.  But there is so much going on that needs to be dealt with.  I hope that this is a wake-up call that we stop moving ahead with these leases and that there is more attention to getting this right so that we are not moving further over the edge.

OLBERMANN:  About the evolution, finally, Congressman, of this number of how much oil has been gushing.  We started at 1,000 barrels a day.  Then it was 5,000 barrels a day after the environmental group used the satellite imagery.  Now we‘re hearing from the NPR experts, 56,000, 84,000.  That‘s barrels, not gallons.


OLBERMANN:  In gallons, it‘s closer to 2.9 million gallons a day.

Do we have yet any measure just how bad this is?  That five times Exxon Valdez or an Exxon Valdez every five days—


OLBERMANN:  -- suggests an environmental disaster.  Is the response proportional?  Is there something else that should be done?  Should we have National Guard troops there?  Should we have submarines there?  What are we missing?

BLUMENAUER:  Well, I mean, your point is spot on.  If we are having the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez more than every week, it suggests that it isn‘t just an incidental question, as B.P. suggests.  What we‘re concerned about is stopping it rather than measuring it.  If you don‘t know the magnitude, it really suggests that you may well be hampered in getting it right.  And I don‘t think there‘s any reason to sugarcoat this for the American public.

OLBERMANN:  Do we need to temporarily shut down and do emergency inspections on all offshore or at least deep offshore oil rigs at this point?

BLUMENAUER:  I mean, I don‘t want to extend the drilling perimeter at all.  And I think it does raise serious questions about what is going on now.  If there is such fundamental lack of following the law, and the procedures that routine environmental assessments were not made—that what we just heard a day ago in the energy and commerce committee that the so-called dead man‘s switch, you know, that‘s supposed to automatically activate.  You had to have three separate conditions, all simultaneously before it would operate, as opposed to any single one of which ought to push the panic button, it does raise questions about the integrity of what is going on now.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, a pleasure, sir.  Great thanks for your time.  Have a good weekend.

BLUMENAUER:  Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN:  Lets turn to Will Carter, who used to run the environmental crimes section of the U.S. Attorney‘s Office in L.A., now serves in the city‘s attorney‘s office there.

Mr. Carter, thank you for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  This was hinted at yesterday.  You have experienced prosecuting these spillers.

Is it reasonable to suspect the Justice Department has already begun compiling evidence for possible prosecution?  What would the parameters be?  What would they be looking at?

CARTER:  Well, it‘s not only reasonable, it‘s essential.  For two reasons: one, you had a tragic loss of life on that platform.  Plus, a significant environmental harm that has been caused.  Also, disruption of business and the economy in the Gulf.

Under the law, systems are supposed to be in place to prevent this loss of life and environmental damage.  Obviously, something went wrong out on that platform to cause this problem.  The investigation will answer those questions, and what they‘re going to be looking at obviously is the harm.  We know that happened.

Second thing is intent.  This investigation will answer why did this

happen.  Was it an accident?  Or was it the result of intentional conduct -

someone decided not to do something they were supposed to do.


And thirdly, why they‘re going to look at this as a criminal investigation is because of the history of the target.  B.P. has had a history in 2005, they had an explosion at a refinery in Texas that killed 15 people and they were criminally prosecuted for that.

For those reasons alone, the Department of Justice should be opening an investigation.  And it would be a shock if they did not.

OLBERMANN:  Between the explosion, and we‘re getting these awful pictures as we speak, of exactly what happened to that rig at least above the surface.  You have—you have the—almost all the physical evidence is gone.  You have the records missing.  You have the sinking of the rig.  You have everything else that you might want there.

How do you—how do you go about finding evidence to build a case?

CARTER:  Well, the evidence is floating on the water.  You‘ve got millions of barrels of oil on the water.

So, you‘re going to—at a minimum, you‘re going to have a violation of the Federal Clean Water Act, whether it‘s a negligent discharge or intentional discharge.  At a minimum, it‘s negligent—something happened that caused that oil to spill.  So, you‘re going to have millions of dollars of potential penalties for the spill of the oil.

You‘re also going to have the evidence of the wildlife and habitat of the wildlife that is floating in the water now or washing up on shore and being treated.  So, you have wildlife violations.

Now, the most serious—and those are all six-month violations or misdemeanors.  The more serious violations are the ones that could be felonies, 10 years in federal prison—not just for people working on the platform, but for corporate officers.  These laws specifically list corporate officers as responsible.

What you would have to do is empanel a federal grand jury which would issue subpoenas to witnesses at both current and former employees to come before the grand jury and testify under oath; also issue grand jury subpoenas for documents.  There would be test records, diaries, production logs, test records, inspection notices—all those things that you could gather now to determine whether this was an intentional violation or a negligent violation, based on testing failures or the lack of testing altogether.

OLBERMANN:  William Carter, former federal prosecutor, now on the L.A.  City‘s attorney‘s office with experience in this field—great thanks for your time, sir.

CARTER:  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  From oil to money and if is suddenly less than six months to the midterms, and the oddity that while the Democrats have not sold the effectiveness of the stimulus yet to the electorate, the president does have significant credibility on the economy—and he may have just coined the Democrat‘s catch phrase for the looming elections.  Howard Fineman joins me next.


OLBERMANN:  It could be the first catch phrase of the 2010 midterms:

They drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us

to pull it back, now they want the keys back.  The president has coattails

economy coattails.


Ms. Bendy Straws endorses the last president, then trashes the TARP bailouts which were started by the last president.

The dangers of assuming everybody is as hateful as you are, another senator says our military men and women would not try as hard to save a life of the soldier next to them if that soldier is gay.

And saving others tough week, through James Thurber.  Tonight, man versus medicine cabinet—Thurber‘s “Nine Needles.”


OLBERMANN:  Everything is cyclical, especially in politics where yesterday‘s new blood is today fueling rampant anti-incumbent fever.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Fewer than 20 months after years of Republican policies brought this country to the edge of another Great Depression, President Obama now no longer subtly hoping that voters will infer that last fact, instead telling them bluntly why they might not want to return to GOP rule.  What the president and his party hope is a winning strategy for this fall‘s congressional midterm elections.

The president is testing out new campaign metaphors at a fundraiser here to help Democrats win elections to Congress, painting Republicans as not only having messed things up but also standing in the way of reform.


OBAMA:  After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as impossible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back.




OBAMA:  You can‘t drive.


OBAMA:  We don‘t want to have to go back into the ditch.  We just got the car out.

It would have been nice to get a little help from the other side of the aisle, just once in a while.  You would have thought at a time of historic crisis that Republican leaders would have been more willing to help us find a way out of this mess—particularly since they created the mess.


OLBERMANN:  The new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll revealing a huge gap between how President Obama is viewed compared to Democrats in Congress.  On the issue of financial reform, the majority, 51 percent, is saying Obama was looking out for average Americans versus corporate interests, but only 35 percent believing that of congressional Democrats, a 16-point gap—even fewer, 20 percent for Republicans in Congress.  Seventy-one percent of the opinion that the GOP places the interest of large corporations higher.

Meanwhile, Republican senators are now saying that the bailout worked but they‘d really rather you keep that to yourself.

Senator Cornyn of Texas reluctantly admitting to that bailing out the financial sector was a necessary evil, but he and Senator Alexander, both of whom, of course, voted for TARP, quick to add that they feel President Obama has abused the legislation.

Now that Senator Bob Bennett lost his nomination bid in Utah, Senator Cornyn, whose job it is to get fellow Republicans reelected, struggling to protect his colleagues from anti-bailout backlash on the right-wing of the party.  He tells “TPM,” quote: “The facts are what they are.  I think it depends on the ability of each person to articulate the rationale for their vote.”  In other words, good luck, boys.

Lots to talk about with our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  The Republicans drove the economy into a ditch.  We can‘t give them back the key.  Does the president think that he‘s hit upon sort of the winning catch phrase or strategy, et cetera, for his party in the midterms?

FINEMAN:  Well, I‘m not sure it works in midtown Manhattan where nobody drives.  But yes, I think he‘s going where he has to go here, Keith.  If you look at “The Wall Street Journal”/NBC poll, which is always, I think the most fascinating and neutral, you see that people don‘t like Washington.  They‘re distrustful of government.  The opinions are divided about the president.

But anywhere on the political landscape in that poll and in the country, the least liked political entity are the congressional Republicans, in every number that you look at.

And so, that‘s what the president is focusing on.  He‘s saying—you know, yes, there‘s a talk that Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats, Republicans are going to gain a lot of seats.  Wait a minute, folks.  Do you realize who those people are?

That‘s what the president said last night.

OLBERMANN:  In terms of style, campaign 2008 Obama back there?  Do they need to see a lot more of him before November?

FINEMAN:  Yes, and in a subtle way, I think the Obama from 2008, Keith

for the most part—was not a table-pounding guy.  He was the guy who said, “We need to fix the way Washington works.  We need some bipartisanship.”


Now, the Republicans will blame the president and so forth and so on, but the president—rather than a frontal attack at all times, although there will be that—is going to say, part of the problem here is that Republicans just won‘t play ball.  They won‘t even extend a hand to help in any way, even though it was their problems and their mistake that‘s got us involved here.

The only problem the president has is, if he goes hard partisan himself, everywhere over the country, if he pounds the table and attacks Republicans frontally on his own, he‘s also going to bring out a big Republican turnout in a low turnout election.  That‘s why he‘s got to—he‘s got to be the philosophical president, not just the attack man.

OLBERMANN:  And he‘s got another problem, although maybe it‘s not his problem, maybe it is the Democrats‘ failure to do this—the selling of the economic recovery.  It seems to have worked OK for him, but the other question in the NBC News poll that‘s worth looking at—only 18 percent of voters surveyed believe the stimulus plan is already helping to improve the economy, 20 percent is saying it will still help in the future, 42 percent saying it‘s not going to help at all.

The administration, the Democrats—maybe the president—have failed to sell the stim.  They‘ve lost that message war to the Republicans, at least to this point, five-plus months to go.  What do they do, if anything, to try to turn it around?

FINEMAN:  Well, having talked to some Democratic strategies this afternoon and one of the top White House people, they have—they say they‘ve got to be patient about it because the fact is, that four out of five Americans think that the economy is still a mess.  That many think we‘re still in a recession.  Yes, there‘s some hope for the future, but not right this minute.

And you can‘t really get out there and argue and bang the drum about the huge success of the stimulus when you‘ve got high unemployment and people still worried about the recession.

So, they‘re counseling patience and time, but they‘re also going to make the contrast.  Keith, if I‘ve learned anything about politics in all my years of covering it, is that it‘s a game of contrast—a game of compared with what, compared with whom.  That‘s why the president said last night, you know, yes, we‘ve got our problems and we‘ve still got a long way to go, but don‘t let those people back in power.  You don‘t like them and they made the mistakes of the past.

OLBERMANN:  And was that, in effect, that message from Cornyn to anybody else who voted on the Republican side for TARP—was that in fact, good luck?

FINEMAN:  Well, the problem is that the Republicans have no message.


FINEMAN:  If you look at the poll, Keith, and you look at Republican voters in that poll, why they want to come out and vote this time—we asked them.  Most of them want to come out and vote because they don‘t like Obama, very few of them want to come out because they like their own Republicans.  As a matter of fact, they like the tea party better than they like the congressional Republicans.

And there are no ideas there in the congressional Republican Party, you know—if you look at the contrast from when Newt Gingrich was running his revolution so called in the early ‘90s, the similar number was: people wanted to come out and vote for Newt‘s Contract with America, Republicans don‘t want to come out and vote for Republicans.

OLBERMANN:  The voters of no.  Howard Fineman—

FINEMAN:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  -- of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as we prepare for no theater in the fall—great thanks, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Ms. Bendy Straws praises Bush, attacks Obama for TARP—

Bush‘s idea.  She admits Obama hasn‘t tried to take away your guns but knows he wants to.  Next thing you know she‘ll be claiming he pushed a reporter into a hovercraft.  What, he did?  He pushed a reporter into a hovercraft?

And why is John McCain in a commercial with Darth Vader?


OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin caught in public once again not wearing any facts.  That‘s ahead.

First, the Twitter report: just hit exactly 60,000 followers.  Kate Gooch of northern Kentucky, number 60,000.  Right at that, it stuck there.

Tweet of the day, pertinent to Lewis Black‘s rant about Lonesome Rhodes Beck and his obsessive and ludicrous comparison to American 2010 and the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, GeorgeK1029 -- is his avatar President Garfield?  President Garfield asks, “can somebody send Glenn Beck a plane ticket to 1943 Germany or 1960 USSR?”  I believe that was the plot of the Gary Graham (ph), the Philadelphia experiment to—in which Hitler‘s scientist‘s son goes back in time to give the Nazis the atomic bomb and an iPad.  Let‘s play Oddball.

Buffalo, hello.  Yesterday, the president ordered a reporter to ride a hovercraft.  In town for a speech, the president brought TV and print reporters along for a tour of the Industrial Support Incorporated, a metal fabricating operation that also happens to make hovercrafts. 

Intrigued by the leaf blower technology, the president determined he was too big to take a ride, so he volunteered “New York Times” reporter Cheryl Stolberg to take a ride. 


OBAMA:  Cheryl, you‘re pretty small.  You can fit on this thing. 


OBAMA:  Whoa, there she goes!  Isn‘t this fun? 


OLBERMANN:  Cheryl will be out of the hospital any time now.  Now if they could just make the hover skateboard from “Back to the Future” to hide behind that. 

Times Square, everything is back to normal, pornography and everything. “Playboy‘s” first ever 3-D issue is out today.  Reuters took out the smut to test it out on the street.  The magazine‘s centerfold shows a playmate holding a glass of wine.  For some reason, they make the wine come off the page.  The two men Reuters talked to called the issue cool and interesting.  This woman channeled Helen Lovejoy from “the Simpsons.” 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The—it pops out at you, so the picture is far more vivid.  If a child gets ahold of this, I‘m a little bit concerned if they‘re looking at this in 3-D.


OLBERMANN:  Plus, the people look silly in those glasses.  Finally, to Arizona‘s border with Mexico, the setting for John McCain complete the dang fence ad, in which the beleaguered senator is on patrol with a sheriff from a county far, far away from the border.  Yes, it‘s already been widely mocked, everywhere including the Internets, where it has now gotten the “Star Wars” treatment.  Behold, complete the dang Death Star. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Drug and human smuggling, home invasions, murder. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re out manned.  Of all the illegals in America, more than half come through Arizona. 

MCCAIN:  Have we got the right plan? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The plan‘s perfect.  You bring troops, state, local and county law enforcement together. 

MCCAIN:  And complete the danged fence. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It will work this time.  Senator, you‘re one of us. 

MCCAIN:  I‘m John McCain, and I approve this message. 


OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Sheriff Vader.  Miss Bendy Straws says she misses President Bush.  Miss Bendy Straws says she hates the Tarp bailout program.  Who hath the cold heart to tell Ms. Bendy Straws that President Bush started the Tarp bailout program?  That would be me, next.


OLBERMANN:  Former half Governor Sarah Palin had a busy day today, and experienced criticism.  In our third story, she says she misses President George W. Bush.  In the next breath, she bemoaned bailouts, including the one President Bush engineered on the way out of office.  And Palin said that if President Obama had his way, he would gut the Second Amendment.  First, her speech before an anti-abortion group, she called the president, quote, “the most pro-abortion president ever to occupy the White House,” and also spoke of her decision to have a baby with Downs Syndrome, her daughter‘s decision in the face of an unplanned pregnancy. 

Her first statement about her daughter‘s pregnancy during the presidential campaign included the quote, “we‘re proud of Bristol‘s decision to have her baby.”  Palin still doesn‘t address the fact that the decision implies choice, which she, if she had her way, would deny woman who face an unwanted pregnancy. 

But on the topic of George W. Bush good, bailouts bad, Palin really hit her stride. 


SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  Oh, of course, I always like seeing those, too, the sign of the billboard, George Bush saying, miss me yet?  I love that one.  We do, because when Washington goes on a spending spree and starts borrowing money to take over and bailout insurance companies and financial institutions and the banks, the automakers, and keeps spending endlessly, and running up dangerously unsustainable debt and deficits, and expect that our kids and our grand kids are going to pay the bills for us, for our over-spending today—I think that‘s immoral.  It‘s unethical.  It‘s not right.  And I think that all of us agree on that. 


OLBERMANN:  Of course, the bank and financial institution part of that bailout litany kind of thing was heartily pushed by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, who were willing to try anything to keep an all out Depression from happening during their watch.  As for deficits, Palin did not mention Bush‘s two wars, massive tax cuts for the rich, even the Medicare prescription drug program. 

At her second event today, the National Rifle Association, she attacked President Obama on the Second Amendment, even though Obama as a candidate had spoken favorably of a Supreme Court decision that said Washington‘s ban on handguns had gone too far.  And as president, Obama signed legislation which expanded gun rights, including a law permitting gun owners to carry concealed weapons in national parks. 


PALIN:  President Obama and allies, like Nancy Pelosi, have been relatively quiet on the gun control front.  Not because they don‘t want to limit your rights, but because they‘re afraid of the political consequences.  Don‘t doubt for a minute that if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the Second Amendment. 


OLBERMANN:  That woman is an idiot. 

Let‘s bring in the political reporter of “the Washington Post,” Dave Weigel.  David, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  John O‘Connor from “The State Newspaper” Tweeted that people in the back at that meeting were holding signs saying, “we love you, Tina Fey,” and “Sarah Palin was born in Kenya.”  I can only guess—you were not at that speech, or at the other one.  But I can only guess those signs probably weren‘t up that long and might have been a surprise to the former governor if she saw them. 

WEIGEL:  Oh, no.  I guess she‘s—she‘s getting a taste of what it‘s like to be a normal political candidate, which is new, which is a new experience for her. 

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.  To the first speech, the one you were at.  She praised the Tea Partiers before, saying she missed President Bush, which was right before she slammed government bailouts.  Is anything with the inherent conflict there, the discrepancy relative to the facts?  Or am I just shooting too high? 

WEIGEL:  During the campaign, she supported the bailouts too, and her running mate, John McCain, supported the bailouts.  This was in his pre-dang fence completing days.  He voted for the bailout. 

I think that the story you brought up earlier—TPM‘s Brian Boitler (ph) talking to these senators got this out there—Republicans admit that bailouts actually kind of worked.  They kind of maybe is a little bit too weak.  They did work.  We‘re getting a lot of that money back. 

But there‘s a narrative that I think—Michele Bachmann said this, Palin said this, that they started a bailout nation.  They started a pattern of the administration giving money to everyone.  It‘s not quite true.  It‘s a bit more complicated than that.  It‘s just convenient for Republicans to go back and rewrite this and say they never really wanted this to happen. 

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of convenience, you wrote today about the remarks on abortion.  And she does express sympathy for women facing unwanted pregnancies.  But does she ever really talk about the consequences for those women if the Supreme Court had five justices who agreed with her on the question of abortion? 

WEIGEL:  It‘s implied.  The way she put this at the speech—and obviously it was a choir of people who agreed with her.  The way she put it was just that if these women look deep down, they‘ll realize that the greatest gift they can have is having a kid, whatever the circumstances.  She talked about looking into Trig‘s face and Trig kind of giving her the sense that everything would be all right. 

So it‘s kind of papering over that and saying, you‘ll be happy if you don‘t have the choice.  And, you know, we don‘t really get to follow up with her about this.  But I think she‘s actually pretty good, pretty—one thing, politically I think she trips over things.  She is eloquent when she talks about the life issue.  The room sort of freezes.  People sort of freeze when they hear her bring it up in those terms. 

OLBERMANN:  Last point, the traditional amoral, unacceptable Palin crossover with Fox; some event every day something crosses over.  Was there one today? 

WEIGEL:  Well, Fox was the only network I think getting real good access to Palin during the speech.  One of their hosts, and—Greta Van Susteren and her husband, John Cole, who is a big Palin ally, were walking around the speech.  They left part of the way through to go backstage.  And we were informed from the stage that Palin was doing an interview with Greta right now, so there was a sort of a wink and a nod in the audience that Palin‘s talk with Greta, with Fox was part of the plan all along. 

OLBERMANN:  Fabulous.  What a journalist.  Dave Weigel of “the Washington Post,” I mean that sincerely with you, not with Greta.  Great thanks, Dave.

WEIGEL:  Oh, thank you.  Thanks, have a good evening.

OLBERMANN:  A story of a man meeting the modern equivalent of the bottomless pit, James Thurber versus the bathroom medicine cabinet in “Nine Needles.”

He was driving an 18-wheeler like this, erratically.  He wouldn‘t stop.  They had to bring down spike strips.  You might not believe the cargo he turns out to have been transporting. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Senator Murkowski personally blocks an expansion of corporate liability for oil spills.  Senator Sanders joins Rachel to call bull spilt on the lady from Alaska.


OLBERMANN:  Thurber‘s “Nine Needles” next.  But first, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.  Twersts on Twitter just ahead.

The bronze to the unidentified driver of an 18-wheel semi—truck and driver from Canada—who led police on a 23 mile high speed chase that ended in Sparta, Wisconsin.  When cops tried to pull him over for erratic driving, he would not stop, so they put down spike strips.  When they finally stopped him, it took him an hour to get him to get out of the cab.  Ultimately, they had to shoot him with bean bags.  The driver was described as sleep deprived and confused.  In fact, inspection of the cargo proved he was carrying a big shipment of energy drinks.  Did you find any empties? 

Runner up, Linda McMahon, the wrestling candidate for senator from Connecticut.  Her timing is impeccable.  She recently mailed a lush 12 page color campaign booklet to the voters.  Here are pages 10 and 11.  Ms.  McMahon says it‘s time for Connecticut to embrace deep water oil rigs.  “Offshore oil drilling will create jobs and increase energy supply without cost to the taxpayer.”  Unless you count the death of the fish and the beaches and your coastline.  Remember, when you see the BP Gulf spill, think McMahon for Senate. 

But our winner, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, still making a jack ass out of himself.  But oddly enough, this is not about climate change this time.  He‘s the world‘s foremost ostrich on that subject.  He‘s now fighting the repeal of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell, because he says the military is full of homophobes like himself.  “You have women, men, then you have a third group to deal with, and they‘re not equipped to do that.  You know, you hear the stories all the time.  A military guy—I happen to be Army.  And Army and Marines always feel that when we‘re out there, we‘re not doing it for the flag or the country, we‘re doing it for the guy in the next foxhole.  And that would dramatically change that.” 

Apart from the question of why Inhofe assumes that our military heroes are as bigoted as he is, Inhofe also has his categories all wrong.  You have women, men and yes a third group to deal with.  The third group is the group that can‘t love or care or just tolerate.  That‘s the group brought up by bad parents and toxic environments, the group with the terrorists and the sadists and the bigots in it, and the James Inhofes.  Senator Inhofe, homophobe, today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  We close, as we always do on Fridays, with another reading from the works of the American humorist James Thurber.  This week‘s offering dates to 1937 and Thurber‘s book “Let your Mind Alone”. 

I‘m reading it from “James Thurber, 92 Stories,” published by Long Meadow in 1985. 

“Nine Needles,” by James Thurber. 

“One of the more spectacular minor happenings of the past few years which I am sorry that I missed took place in the Columbus, Ohio, home of some friends of a friend of mine.  It seems that a Mr. Albatross, while looking for something in his medicine cabinet one morning, discovered a bottle of a kind of patent medicine which his wife had been taking for a stomach ailment. 

Mr. Albatross is one of those apprehensive men who are afraid of patent medicines, and of almost everything else.  Some weeks before, he had encountered a paragraph at a consumers research bulletin which announced that this particular medicine was bad for you.  He had thereupon ordered his wife to throw out what was left of her supply of the stuff and never buy anymore.  She had promised and here now was another bottle of the perilous liquid. 

Mr. Albatross, a man given to quick rages, shouted the conclusion of

the story at my friend.  ‘I threw the bottle out the bathroom window and

the medicine chest after it.‘ 

It seems to me that must have been a spectacle worth going a long way to see.  I am sure that many a husband has wanted to wrench the family medicine cabinet off the wall and throw it out the window.  If only because the average medicine cabinet is so filled with mysterious bottles and unidentifiable objects of all kinds that it is a source of constant bewilderment and exasperation to the American male. 

Surely, the British medicine cabinet and the French medicine cabinet and all the other medicine cabinets must be simpler and better ordered than ours.  It may be that the American habit of saving things and never throwing anything away, even empty bottles, causes the domestic medicine cabinet to become as cluttered in its small way as the American attic becomes cluttered in its major way. 

I have encountered few medicine cabinets in this county which were not pack jammed with something between 150 and 200 different items, from dental floss to Borasic Acid, from razor blades to Sodium Perborate, from adhesive tape to coconut oil. 

Even the neatest wife will put off clearing out the medicine cabinet on the ground that she has something else to do that is more important at the moment or more diverting.  It was in the apartment of such a wife and her husband that I became enormously involved with a medicine cabinet one morning not long ago.  I had spent the weekend with this couple.  They live on East 10th Street, near Fifth Avenue.  Such a weekend has left me reluctant to rise up on Monday morning with bright and shining face and go to work. 

They got up and went to work, but I didn‘t.  I didn‘t get up until about 2:30 in the afternoon.  I had my face all lathered for shaving and the wash bowl was full of hot water when suddenly I cut myself with the razor.  I cut my ear.  Very few men cut their ears with razors.  But on the other hand, I was one of them, possibly because I was taught the old Spencerian free wrist movement by my writing teacher in the grammar grades. 

The ear bleeds profusely when cut with a razor and is difficult to get at.  More angry than hurt, I jerked open the door of the medicine cabinet to see if I could find a styptic (ph) pencil, and out fell from the top shelf a little black paper packet containing nine needles.  It seems that this wife kept a little paper packet containing nine needles on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet. 

The packet fell into the soapy water of the wash bowl where the paper rapidly disintegrated, leaving nine needles at large in the bowl.  I was, naturally enough, not in the best condition, either physical or mental, to recover nine needles from a wash bowl.  No gentleman who has lather on the face and whose ear is bleeding is in the best condition for anything, even something involving the handling of nine large blunt objects. 

It did not seem wise to me to pull the plug out of the wash bowl and let the needles go down the drain.  I had visions of clogging up the plumbing system of the house, and also a vague fear of causing short circuits somehow or other.  I know very little about electricity.  And I don‘t want to have it explained to me. 

Finally, I groped very gently around the bowl and eventually had four of the needles in the palm of one hand and three in the palm of the other.  Two I couldn‘t find.  If I had thought quickly and clearly, I wouldn‘t have done that.  A lathered man whose ear is bleeding and who has four wet needles in one hand and three in the other, may be said to have reached the lowest known point of human efficiency.  There is nothing one can do but stand there. 

I tried transferring the needles in my left hand to the palm of my right hand, but I couldn‘t get them off my wet hand.  Wet needles cling to you.  In the end, I wiped the needles off on to a bath towel which was hanging on a rod above the bathtub.  It was the only towel that I could find.  I had to dry my hands afterwards on the bath mat.  Then I tried to find the needles in the towel. 

Hunting for seven needles in a bath towel is the most tedious occupation I have ever engaged in.  I could find only five of them.  With the two that had been left in the bowl, that meant there were four needles in all missing, two in the wash bowl, and two others lurking in the towel, or lying in the bathtub under the towel. 

Frightful thoughts came to me of what might happen to anyone who used that towel, or washed his face in the bowl, or got into the tub if I didn‘t find the missing needles.  Well, I didn‘t find them.  I sat down on the edge of the tub to think, and I decided, finally, that the only thing to do was wrap up the towel in newspaper and take it away with me.  And I also decided to leave a note for my friends explaining, as clearly as I could, that I was afraid there were two needles in the bathtub and two needles in the wash bowl, and that they had better be careful. 

I looked everywhere in the apartment.  But I could not find a pencil, a pen or a typewriter.  I could find pieces of paper but nothing with which to write on them.  I don‘t know what gave me the idea, a movie I had seen, perhaps, or a story I had read, but I suddenly thought of writing a message with a lipstick.  The wife might have an extra lipstick lying around, and if so, I concluded, it would be in the medicine cabinet. 

I went back to the medicine cabinet, began poking around in it for a lipstick.  I saw what I thought looked like the was tip of one.  I got two fingers around it and began to pulled gently.  It was under a lot of things. 

Every object in the medicine cabinet began to slide.  Bottles broke in the wash bowl and on the floor.  Red, brown and white liquid spurted.  Nail files, scissors, razor blades and miscellaneous objects sang and clattered and tinkled.  I was covered with perfume, peroxide and cold cream. 

It took me half an hour to get the debris all together in the middle of the bathroom floor.  I made no attempt to put anything back in the medicine cabinet.  I knew it would take a steadier hand than mine, and a less shattered spirit.  Before I went away, only partly shaved, and abandoned the shambles, I left a note saying that I was afraid there were needles in the bathtub and the wash bowl, that I had taken their towel, and that I would call them up and tell them everything.  I wrote it in iodine with the end of a toothbrush. 

I have not yet called them up, I am sorry to say.  I have neither found the courage, nor thought up the words to explain what happened.  I suppose my friends believe that I deliberately smashed up their bathroom and stole their towel.  I don‘t know for sure, because they have not yet called me up, either.” 

“Nine Needles.”

That‘s COUNTDOWN, portions written by James Thurber.  And now, to analyze Alaska Senator Murkowski‘s personal block of increased corporate liability for oil spills with Senator Sanders of Vermont, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening. Rachel.



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