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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, May 28th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Rick Steiner, Thomas Frank, Richard Wolffe





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

Top kill plus junk shot equals treading oily water.


TONY HAYWARD, B.P. CEO:  It will probably be another 48 hours, frankly, before we know whether we‘ve met with success.


OLBERMANN:  Forty-eight hours from now?  Or 48 hours from the first time B.P. said another 48 hours.

The president goes to the Gulf to reassure the residents.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m here to tell you that you‘re not alone.  You will not be abandoned.  You will not be left behind.


OLBERMANN:  Tonight a comment, this is not Obama‘s Katrina.  He has not done less than he should.  But, Mr. President, we need you to get angry.

Rand Paul, again.


RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE:  We‘re the only country I know of that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby and then that baby becomes a citizen.  And I think that should stop.


OLBERMANN:  Yes.  He wants to overrule the 14th Amendment and two Supreme Court rulings, and he says this to a TV network funded by the Russian government.

Sestakiness.  Rahm Emanuel had Bill Clinton offer Joe Sestak a nonpaying advisory position if he would not challenge Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination for the Senate in Pennsylvania.


REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNYSLVANIA:  He said, you know, Joe, if you stay in the House, you know, Rahm had brought up, you know, being appointed to a presidential board.


OLBERMANN:  The Republicans go insane—suggesting this demands a special prosecutor, ignoring that Ed Rollins offered Senator Hayakawa an ambassadorship in the Reagan administration if he would drop out of the California primary in 1981.

“Worsts”: an oldie but a goody, the Argentine president quotes then-President Bush and saying in 2004 that “the best way to revitalize the economy is the United States has grown based on wars.”

And “Fridays with Thurber.”  Tonight, not just the stories, also the drawings—“The Pet Department.”

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

On his second trip to the Gulf Coast today since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, the current president did not tell anyone they were doing a heck of a job—far from it.

But with an oil spill that is already the worst in U.S. history and with B.P. executives who are already warning we are still days away from knowing if their latest attempt to fix the gushing oil well has succeeded, President Obama may no longer need to lower expectations for what happens next.  Ahead, a comment on what he can lift simply by rhetoric.

In our fifth story, we begin tonight with the latest details.  The president is walking the beaches of Louisiana this afternoon to see and to feel firsthand the devastation now washing ashore.  In Grand Isle, Louisiana, the president is meeting with local officials, a planned 30-minute session turning into two hours of unloading.

When he emerged, the president again is insisting today that he is in charge.


OBAMA:  I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis.  I‘m the president and the buck stops with me.  So, I give the people of this community and the entire Gulf my word that we‘re going to hold ourselves accountable to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to stop this catastrophe, to defend our natural resources, to repair the damage, and to keep this region on its feet.


OLBERMANN:  The president offering Gulf Coast residents a solemn pledge that they will be helped.


OBAMA:  I‘m here to tell you that you‘re not alone.  You will not be abandoned.  You will not be left behind.  The cameras at some point may leave, the media may get tired of the story, but we will not.


OLBERMANN:  But despite the pledges of help and the words of comfort, Mr. Obama not avoiding the stark reality of the disaster.


OBAMA:  This is a manmade catastrophe that‘s still evolving and we face a long-term restoration effort.  America has never experienced an event like this before.


OLBERMANN:  Survivors of the explosion now testifying that their last moments aboard the oil rig were marked with chaos and an alarming breakdown in the chain of command.  A 23-year-old crew member named Andrea Fleytas, who worked on the bridge, telling “The Wall Street Journal” that in the minutes after the explosion, she realized no one had used the emergency radio to call for help.

“Mayday, mayday,” she said, “This is Deepwater Horizon.  We have an uncontrollable fire.”

She says the captain then reprimanded her, saying he had not authorized her to do that.

Meanwhile, dozens of workers are desperately trying to get off the burning rig, the lifeboats filling rapidly, some workers jumping directly into the oily water 60 feet below in the dark of night.  Yet again alarmed that no one had actually issued an order to abandon ship, Andrea Fleytas, again choosing to act, announcing over the public address system, “We are abandoning ship.”

B.P. is declining to comment of whether the chain of command broke down that night.  “The Wall Street Journal” also reporting that because of the chaos, the button to activate the blowout preventer was not hit until minutes after the explosion because written safety procedures meant workers felt they had to wait until they got permission from a higher ranking manager.  So they waited.

Meanwhile, the rig‘s chief mechanic testifying that the crew was often weeks, if not months, behind on preventive maintenance because the company that operated the rig, Transocean, had cut the engine room staff in half in a bid to save money.  The chief mechanic‘s boss denies that charge.

The company that owns the well, B.P., today suspending its efforts to

plug the leak, it has now twice tried the operation known as the junk shot

pouring pieces of shredded rubber, golf balls and other garbage into the crippled blowout preventer in a bid to clog the device.  This in conjunction with the top kill maneuver, pumping drilling mud into the well.


CEO Tony Hayward is saying we must now wait 48 hours to see if it has worked—Mr. Hayward having said 48 hours ago that we would need to wait 48 hours.  This is beginning to look like a recording.

The science with Rick Steiner a moment.  First, the politics.  Let‘s turn to our own Lawrence O‘Donnell, also, of course, a contributor to “Huffington Post.”

Lawrence, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Did today‘s trip to the Gulf succeed in doing anything the White House may have wanted it to do?

O‘DONNELL:  I think it succeeded some.  It certainly addressed some of the more incoherent rantings against the president that we‘ve heard from some political observers of this situation, as if the president was Ironman or Jack Bauer or something, or super hero who could go down there and do what science has been unable to do so far.

And it definitely put him in that position of, in effect, preacher in chief, telling people in reassuring tones that they will not be forgotten, that the federal government led by him will be doing everything possible on this.  And that sort of reassurance, I think, is reasonable under these circumstances.

And he did have this very difficult political course to walk today, wherein he‘s trying to deliver that reassurance, trying to keep the pressure on B.P., and trying to all at the same time accept some kind responsibility for the outcome of this entire event when we get to the final spot of the final cleanup moment.

OLBERMANN:  But emphasizing—I don‘t think, in my analysis of this, the president has failed to do anything procedural or anything administratively, or anything as an executive, or anything as a chief executive. Is there a tipping point coming for the president in terms of separating himself from the abject failure aspect here?  I mean, specifically B.P.‘s abject failure to handle this correctly at almost any point?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, this—this is the very difficult thing that he‘s now presented with, Keith.  I think this question is really right on point.  When the president has been forced now to politically step forward and accept responsibility, to declare himself to be the person who is finally and ultimately responsible for the outcome of what is in effect an industrial crime committed by B.P.—a crime of negligence, a crime of recklessness that begins with the homicide of 11 men on that rig that night and extends now into this spectacular, unprecedented devastation that we‘re getting some pictures of, but B.P. is restricting camera access to a great deal of what we really do need to see right now.

With the president putting himself as the responsible one at the end of the line of all of the exercises that we have to go through now, it is going to be very difficult for him to, at the same time, disassociate himself where he‘s going to have to with some of B.P.‘s actions.

OLBERMANN:  People have joked at that image from the—from the oil leak is on some sort of loop and it is just repetitive video.  My contention is that it‘s much more likely that the comments from Mr.  Hayward, the CEO of B.P., are on some sort of loop and he just keeps repeating himself.  It‘s now another 48 hours and another estimate of success, 60 percent to 70 percent.

Why is anybody listening to what Mr. Hayward says anymore?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, of course, all of his pronouncements should begin with “I don‘t know what I‘m doing.  We‘ve never been here before.  We never expected to be here because much of our B.P. bureaucracy has in effect lied over the years about what the possibilities were in these kinds of circumstances.”

B.P. actually had a letter that went out to the federal government saying that basically that this kind of thing couldn‘t happen on its wells in the Gulf.  And so—and luckily, we don‘t have to trust Hayward anymore.  We have, I think, almost enough people looking over his shoulder.  We have enough of our own governmental presence now, state, local, federal.

And, of course, B.P. has absolutely no credibility.  It‘s a little bit peculiar when you look at if and you wonder, why is Hayward even going and stepping up to a microphone?  Who does he expect believes him at this point?  Certainly not the families of 11 dead in this one.

OLBERMANN:  Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSNBC and the “Huffington Post”—it seems odd to say under the circumstances, have a good weekend.

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For assessment of where the effort to plug the leak really stands, let‘s turn again to conservation consultant, Rick Steiner, marine biologist who‘s been to the Gulf Coast studying this spill.

Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Based on what we can see from the output from that oil well or what remained of it, does it look to you as if the effort to plug the leak has had any success?  Is it measurable?  Is it microscopic?  What‘s going on?

STEINER:  Well, so far, it doesn‘t look all that promising.  There‘s a lot of—the flow rate is still very high, coming out of the blowout.  It may be a lot of mud.  But still, the flow rate has not declined at all.  So, I‘m growing more and more concerned that this may not work.

And I did a very cheap and crude—no pun in tended—graphic here to explain it.  Here‘s the sea surface, here‘s the blowout at two different locations.  Here‘s the oil reservoir down here.

This is coming out, and here‘s the failed well stem.  It‘s coming out at such high pressure here, about 12,000 -- about six tons per square inch.  By the time it gets to the blowout preventer, it‘s at about four or five tons per square inch.  There‘s still some resistance in the blowout preventer.

But what they are trying to do is pump enough heavy drilling mud down

back down this well bore.  Let‘s say it‘s this.  Here‘s a blowout preventer, just put it down here to counterbalance the outward force.  They‘re going to have to put hundreds if not thousands of tons of this heavy drilling mud down the well bore to make it work.


The longer term solution of course is what‘s—this is the top kill that they‘re trying now.  But as a relief well intersecting at the top of the reservoir where the well stem starts, trying to do a bottom kill where they‘ll eject sea water and mud and cement from the bottom along with the flow.  That has a much better chance of killing this well.

OLBERMANN:  But if to any degree it‘s mud in, mud out—I mean, if this is working even to minimize or lower the amount of oil that‘s actually spurting out into the—into the Gulf, what about this?  What about while they‘re drilling the relief wells, just keep doing the top kill.  Can that be done indefinitely?  Is there some limit to it?  Do we know?

STEINER:  Well, that‘s a good possibility.  I mean, they would have to have a lot more mud than they have right now.  They‘ve got about 10,000 tons.  I don‘t know how much they‘ve used so far.

But the other thing they can do is just blow sea water down there.  It‘s heavier than the oil and gas mixture coming up.  If they can put sea water, pump sea water down there as hard and strong as they possibly can, as long as they can get enough pressure going down the pipe than is more coming up the pipe, they‘ll have negative pressure on it and they‘ll secure the well temporarily.

The only solid solution, though, is getting this relief well in there and the dynamic kill from the bottom.

But, you know, they should have been engineering all this—


STEINER:  -- years ago.  This stuff should not have been created here, like building the fire truck after your house is on fire.  It should have been on the beach, ready to go, a day after they knew that there was a blowout here—instead of engineering it right now.  And this system, the top kill, should have been there and attempted at least a month ago.

OLBERMANN:  What did you make of the testimony from the people on the rig itself about the breakdown there where nobody thought they had the authority to ask for the abandoning of the ship or they didn‘t even use the emergency radio or didn‘t hit the blowout preventer in time—what does that tell you about the human emergency process?  Not to criticize any of the victims, the people put in that position on the rig.

STEINER:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  But what does that say about your human preparations, let alone their mechanical preparations for something hellacious occurring?

STEINER:  Well, it‘s obvious that there was—there‘s failures from so many aspects here and there‘s malfeasance and culpability throughout the government and B.P. and Transocean and Halliburton and probably even Cameron International, the manufacturer of the blowout prevent.

But they‘re supposed to drill on these rigs periodically for emergency response and emergency procedures.  And the government is supposed to make certain that they do.  Obviously, they either haven‘t been drilling realistically or they—they haven‘t been doing it very well, because there was a total failure, it sounds like from the witness testimony—as to exactly what to do when in a crisis.

OLBERMANN:  A 23-year-old staffer figured out what to do.

Rick Steiner, conservation consultant—

STEINER:  Yes, yes.

OLBERMANN:  -- marine biologist—thank you, thanks for the illustrations and again for helping us understand what happened.

STEINER:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Back to the president.  There is something missing from his response to the B.P. disaster.  A comment on what it might be, next.


OLBERMANN:  And now, as promised, a comment on what I think Americans have been hoping for from the president about the Gulf disaster and have not yet gotten.

We aren‘t expecting you to solve it personally, sir.  We aren‘t expecting you to jump into a wet suit and dive in.  We don‘t want you to move to Roberts, Louisiana, until further notice.

We would, I think, like a little of our anger articulated, especially by the least angry man in American politics.  We would like to hear a little more about Mr. Salazar‘s idea of the boot on B.P.‘s neck.  We would like to hear you, Mr. President, at least talk about shutting down all offshore drilling until all blowout preventers have been vetted by third party experts.

We would like to hear you say that there at least will be no further deep water drilling licenses until an unlimited liability bill is on your desk and ready to be signed.

And, sir, we would like to hear you say that if B.P. and the others try to do otherwise, they‘ll have to go through you, through the Congress, and through the American people first, because, Mr. President, we have had enough of multinational corporations treating this irreplaceable Earth like it is a kid‘s home chemistry set and they are a bunch of not very conscientious fifth graders.

And we would like to know, know in our gut, that you have had enough of this, too.


OLBERMANN:  What would the GOP do if a Democratic Senate candidate proposed overturning the U.S. Constitution while he was appearing on a television channel funded by the Russian government?

In our fourth story tonight: Dr. Rand Paul says he opposes citizenship for some children born in the United States if their parents are illegal immigrants.

But Mr. Strict Constitutionalist might want to check the Constitution, since the 14th Amendment unambiguously grants those very citizenship rights and two Supreme Court rulings have rejected differing interpretations.  Dr.  Paul, the Republican senatorial candidate from Kentucky expressing in his views in an interview with Russia Today, an English language TV station funded by the Russian government.

But the Paul interview conducted just after his primary victory is just now getting noticed—thanks to good old YouTube.


PAUL:  We‘re the only country I know of that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen.  And I think that should stop also.


OLBERMANN:  Today, Dr. Paul‘s campaign chairman said that Paul stands by his statements.

What is not entirely clear is whether Dr. Paul supports the Birth Right Citizenship Act, the bill that seeks to eliminate birth right citizenship for children born to undocumented immigrants.  That bill while possibly serving as an immigrant bashing vehicle for its 90 cosponsors would, even if it‘s passed, have no real chance of altering the 14th Amendment—only a constitutional amendment to change the other constitutional amendment could do that.  And it is unclear if Dr. Paul supports such a constitutional amendment of an amendment or understands what it is.

In the same interview, Dr. Paul added that, quote, “I‘m not opposed to letting people come in and work and labor in our country, but I think we should do is we shouldn‘t provide an easy route to citizenship.”  Dr. Paul also favors underground electrical fences, satellite surveillance and helicopter patrols to buttress border security.

Let‘s turn now to “Wall Street Journal” columnist Thomas Frank, also author of “The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule.”

Thanks for your time again tonight, sir.

THOMAS FRANK, WALL STREET JOURNAL:  And how are you today?

OLBERMANN:  All right, and as usual in a state of confusion.

Section one of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution states, “All persons born and naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”  Twice the Supreme Court had cases in which other interpretations where rejected that would have denied citizenship, two U.S.  born children of illegal immigrants.

So, is Dr. Paul, do you think, is willfully seeing ambiguity where there isn‘t any, or is he implying that this important enough to move it through a constitutional amendment?  I haven‘t heard him say constitutional amendment, just change it.

FRANK:  I think a lot of conservatives would really, really, really like to get their hands on the 14th Amendment, you know?

But, no, of course, he‘s not going to do it.  This is just—this is just political grandstanding.  That‘s all it is.  He‘s just playing to the crowd.  The crowd in Russia, again, you know?

OLBERMANN:  It‘s also—speaking of playing to the crowd, it‘s fascinating how people who portray themselves as strict constitutionalists are just always there, ready to go.  No, we don‘t like this part, throw it out.

FRANK:  Yes, right.

OLBERMANN:  This isn‘t—this isn‘t the—you know, this would not pass five years ago, it‘s not Roe v. Wade even.  This amendment was passed in 1868.  It‘s not just settled law, it‘s 142-year-old settled law.

FRANK:  But, it‘s the 14th Amendment, this is a tricky one.  You remember, this has been interpreted in all sorts of crazy ways over the years.  The 14th Amendment is in some ways a very radical part of the Constitution, right?

It‘s the only thing in the Constitution that enshrines quality and also, remember, it applies the Bill of Rights to the states, OK?  So, if you didn‘t have that, then, you know, you‘d still have Jim Crow to this day, I mean, in a lot of the southern states.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any political liability for Dr. Paul in Kentucky for taking this strident view on immigration?  And if not, is there a risk at all from fellow libertarians who might have noticed that he supports satellites and helicopter patrols, and argues that, well, if you could get a satellite shot of me reading this piece of script here, certainly, you could get satellite shots of them aliens coming across them porous borders?

FRANK:  Well, look, libertarians—you know, making contradictions with their own doctrine.  I mean, that‘s—come on, that happens every day.  Libertarianism is this—you know, is this impossibly abstract purist doctrine.

If you really wanted to be a pure libertarian, you just have open borders, you know.  But obviously this is where the statism, as they like to call it, this is where that sort of comes back in.

So, no, I don‘t think he‘s going to face much of a challenge from the, you know, from the libertarian movement.  I would imagine that—oh, hell, I don‘t know.  Grand standing in this way is generally fairly, you know, popular, right?

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So, then was the truth burp the problem?  Because in the same interview with the damn Russians, Dr. Paul said the Democratic Party is for easy citizenship because the new immigrants coming from Mexico register heavily Democratic, his quote was, “I think we need to address that.”

Is that the truth burp?  I mean, has he conceded it‘s one of the real motivations for many Republicans on this issue?

FRANK:  That‘s obviously part of it.  But think about—you‘ve got to flip it here.  What is the Republican motivation for—remember what he also says.  He wants people to be able to come work in America.  He just doesn‘t want them and their kids to be citizens, OK?

This is sort of the great conservative kind of free market dream where you have this sort of endlessly rootless shifting workforce that has no—you know, no citizenship rights and basically is voiceless and powerless and easily exploitable.

This is what you saw in the Marianas Islands.  This is Jack Abramoff‘s great dream.  Tom DeLay was really into it.  And here is Rand Paul signing on.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  It‘s called freelance slavery.

FRANK:  That‘s right.  Indentured servitude I believe is what it is.

OLBERMANN:  Brings us back, in fact, to one of the reasons we have the 14th Amendment.  Thomas Frank—

FRANK:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  -- columnist of “The Wall Street Journal,” author of “Wrecking Crew”—great thanks.  Have a good weekend.

You remember him as the star of “Diff‘rent Strokes.”  We will remember him for his semi-serious run for governor of California and as one of this news hour‘s first and most gracious guest.  We‘ll show you some of the graciousness of the late Gary Coleman—next.


OLBERMANN:  The Joe Sestakiness comes to end with a whimper and not a bang.

First, the tweet of the day.  This is, I believe, not only the all-time dumbest tweet, but the all-time dumbest possible tweet, based on the fact the sender had to spell my name correctly to spell my name correctly to send it to me.  He had to type out: “@KeithOlbermann.  You are a retard, Ken.  Glad to see you‘re on Twitter.  I‘ve been waiting for years to say that to you say that you go back to ESPN.”

I‘ve been pointed out the Ken stuff.  Tonyd13440 did not stay down.  “Whether your name is Keith or Ken, the fact is that bipartisanship is destroying this country.  And you are on the front line.”

I don‘t want to go any further.  I‘m sure it would turn out he thinks this is FOX News Channel he‘s watching.

We pause the COUNTDOWN now to say good-bye.

You knew him as Arnold, one of the stars of TV‘s “Diff‘rent Strokes,” the scene he‘s doing (ph) for a cautious kid who originated the phrase, “What you talking about, Willis.”  Actor Gary Coleman has died today of a brain hemorrhage at age of 42.

He appeared on this news hour back in 2003 when he decided to take on a different Arnold, as one of the 135 candidates then vying for the governorship of California during the famous state recall election.  With the help of the bingo case in used at the time, I selected and interviewed several of the hopefuls.  Here now part of our conversation with then-candidate Gary Coleman. 


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s just see who the COUNTDOWN candidate of the night will be.  No.  Oh, look, it‘s actor Gary Coleman, it says here, famed for his role as Arnold in the series “Different Strokes,” who just happens to be standing by in our studios in Los Angeles.  He didn‘t even buy that.  Good evening, Gary.

GARY COLEMAN, ACTOR:  No, but you crack me up every time. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.  That‘s part of the intent.  Let me start here.  How serious is your candidacy? 

COLEMAN:  Well, it‘s as serious as East Bay Express‘ paper and its 80,000 subscribers wanted me so badly to run, because they thought I‘d be fun and interesting and keep almost everyone focused on the issues that are really plaguing California.  And when it‘s put that way, I normally will acquiesce to anyone that asks me to do something that‘s cool, fun and interesting. 

I would say, once you elect a governor in this recall election, he should be allowed to go his full term.  I mean, that‘s just me.  And that‘s something that would I certainly look into if I actually believed I had a chance against the Governorator. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll see how it turns out.  Gary Coleman, the candidate for the governor of California, best of luck.  And just remember, if it doesn‘t work out, there‘s always chance of another recall measure next year, maybe next month. 

COLEMAN:  Very true.  Very true. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir. 

COLEMAN:  You‘re welcome. 


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Coleman came in eighth in that election.  Gary Coleman was 42 years old.


OLBERMANN:  The season‘s biggest political mystery, who tried to kill Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak‘s run for Senate has been solved.  It was President Clinton on the phone with a lead pipe.  And by lead pipe I mean a totally uncompensated position on an unspecified presidential board.  It is a mirror of President Reagan‘s move on Senator Hiakowa of California in 1981, only with less bait. 

Our third story tonight, in the made up debate over whether this qualifies as a scandal, even President Bush‘s chief ethics officer—pause for laughter—says it is the Republicans hollering about this who should move on.  The news conference this afternoon following the release of an internal White House inquiry that found no wrong doing.  Congressman Sestak gave his account of exactly what kind of offer was made for him to sit out the Democratic primary against Arlen Specter, which Sestak won last week.  This took place on a phone call last summer with Mr. Clinton. 


REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  He talked about how tough this Democratic primary might be if I got in.  And he also said, you know, you‘ve done well in the House and your military background can really make a mark there.  And then brought up that during a conversation, Rahm Emanuel had brought up about a presidential board of something, you know, if I were to stay in the House.  And I almost interrupted the president and said, Mr.  President, I am going to decide to get in this or not only depending upon what‘s good for Pennsylvania‘s working families, not an offer. 


OLBERMANN:  Congressman Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the Oversight Committee, calls this a crime, leading Republican politicians and calling for an investigation, despite the fact that Issa‘s own office told “Salon” it would have been just as bad if Mr. Obama had offered a Republican congressman a post in return for appointing a Republican to replace him in office, which is exactly what happened with Senator Judd Gregg, who ultimately declined the cabinet post to which he had been appointed and accepted, and Congressman Issa never called for even one investigation about that.  Or when President Reagan—you remember him—a Republican, offered a job to California‘s own S.I. Hiakowa, if he dropped out of his primary race.  And like when Republican President Eisenhower sought help from California Governor Earl Warren by making him the 14th chief justice of the U.S. 

And even a little “Huffington Post” reports like President Monroe considering ending the Andrew Jackson presidential aspirations with an ambassadorship.  Richard Painter, President Bush‘s former top ethics officer, calling this kind of politics, quote, nothing new.  Telling Greg Sargent, quote, “based on the information disclosed from the White House, it‘s even more apparent that this is a non-issue.  No scandal.  Time to move on.”

Quoting again, “President Bush occasionally intervened in Republican primaries, including on behalf of Senator Specter in 2004.” 

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also author of “Renegade, the Making of a President.”  Richard, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  Congressman Issa actually said, quote, “Karl Rove would be right now in pretrial confinement if he had orchestrated this sort of a deal.”  Is there a wink there?  Is there a telling, you know, side turn to the camera—is he telling us that he knows this is all kitsch and camp and theater? 

WOLFFE:  No, I think that would imply a degree of self-awareness that has been genetically removed from his chromosome.  Could you pick a worse example than Karl Rove?  Here‘s a guy—no offense to Karl, but a guy who was involved in the orchestration, no less, of the removal of a U.S.  attorney in New Mexico because he refused to help people stay in their jobs, elected officials stay in their jobs by investigating allegations of voter fraud.  That‘s a two-fer.  He was helping people stay in their jobs and getting someone out of a job. 

Now, sadly this kind of thing is all too common.  I was doing research on the interwebs today and came across a congressman‘s website.  Under constituent services, this member of Congress was offering voters access to federal funds, buckets of cash for voters.  And yes, the name of the congressman was Darrell Issa. 

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, Congressman Sestak, we know he‘s known President Clinton for a while.  Would that have been why Rahm Emanuel went through Clinton?  Because going through a third party like that does suggest he thought he had reason to keep his fingerprints off this. 

WOLFFE:  Well, look, this is not the first White House counsel‘s memo that involves Rahm Emanuel and a work placement scheme.  This actually is the second time around, at least, that this has happened, because Rahm was intimately involved in the replacement of Barack Obama as Illinois senator.  So it‘s not surprising that, given that experience, how that obviously got wrapped up in the Blagojevich scandals, and given the consequences of the White House involvement in the effort to push David Paterson out of the New York governor‘s race, they‘d want to have this arm‘s length relationship to whatever outreach there was. 

Obviously there‘s a longstanding relationship, not just Clinton and Emanuel, but Clinton and Sestak.  So it‘s not surprising it played out like this.  It has not played out well for the White House, not in terms of the messaging, and not individually for Rahm Emanuel. 

OLBERMANN:  I heard a charge today that the media has been asleep on this story since it began.  How much traction will Fox News and people like those who made that charge or do cheap impressions of Fox News, how much—and the political party they serve—how much mileage will they get out of this from here on in?  Or did that mileage just run out and stop varying today? 

WOLFFE:  Well, the story that never was is no more.  But traction applies—implies that they need some kind of momentum or gravity.  This is not a news organization that requires the laws of physics.  They will keep on running with the story as much as people will listen to them.  And it makes about as much sense as investing in gold. 

OLBERMANN:  Did anybody miss this story? 

WOLFFE:  You would have—maybe “Russia Today.”  I didn‘t see that interview. 

OLBERMANN:  Ask Rand Paul if he‘s going to report on the Russian TV newscast tonight.  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, the author of “Renegade,” as always, thanks for your time and have a great weekend. 

WOLFFE:  And you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Tonight a chance to see a James Thurber short story, the marvelous and heavily illustrated “The Pet Department.”

Meantime, President Bush told the prime minister—former President, rather, of Argentina that America always grew its economy by going to war.  He‘s back and worst persons has got him. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the effort BP is making to get all of the lawsuits against it heard by just one judge and the judge has ties, bingo, to the oil industry.


OLBERMANN:  One of James Thurber‘s epics, “The Pet Department,” next.  But first, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Peggy Noonan, writes today in “the Wall Street Journal” of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, quote, “the Republican party will understandably go to town on the EPA chief who went to a New York fund-raiser in the middle of the disaster.”  The fund-raiser Ms. Jackson went to is next Friday and she had been invited in March.  And she canceled her acceptance to it, along with her acceptance to the White House Correspondents Dinner, and a “Time” 100 event, and European trip on behalf of the governor.  Peggy, you need to start vetting those talking points they hand you, not just cut and paste them into your columns? 

Runner up, an old familiar name, George W. Bush.  Remember him, 43rd

president?  It wasn‘t a dream.  In a new Oliver Stone documentary, Nestor

Kirchiner, the then president of Argentina—now his wife is the president

says that in their January 2004 meeting, he suggested to President Bush that the US should repeat its strategy of nation rebuilding from right after the Second World War, “and he stood up from his chair and got angry.  He told me, a Marshall Plan?  No, that‘s a crazy idea from the Democrats.  What needs to be done here and the best way to revitalize the economy is—the United States has grown based on wars, he told me.  That‘s what he told me.” 


Kirchiner says Bush also claimed “all the economic growth that the U.S. had had, had been based on the different wars it had waged.”  So the ‘90s boom was based on what?  Kuwait?  The invasion of Grenada?  Is it possible Mr. Bush was more clueless than we thought?  Miss him yet? 

But our winner, Lonesome Rhodes Beck.  He done it again.  The great champion of leaving people‘s families out of it today mocked the president‘s 11 year old daughter again. 


GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Daddy?  Daddy?  Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?  Daddy?  No, I didn‘t, honey.  Daddy, why do you hate black people so much? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m part white, honey. 

BECK:  This is such a ridiculous thing, his daughter—daddy?  How old is his daughter?  Like 13? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, one of them‘s I think 13.   One‘s 11 or something.

BECK:  Did you plug the hole yet, daddy?  That‘s the level of their education, that they‘re coming to—they‘re coming to daddy and saying, daddy, did you plug the hole yet?  Plug the hole! 


OLBERMANN:  She‘s still smarter than you are.  Remarkably, this afternoon, Beck apologized.  “In discussing how President Obama uses children to shield himself from criticism, I broke my own rule about leaving kids out of political debates.  The children of public figures should be left on the sidelines.  It was a stupid mistake and I apologize.  And as a dad, I should have known better.” 

Well, that obviously changes things because Beck has shown he at least realized his own hypocrisy and he deserved—wait a minute.  He did it again.  He did the very thing he was apologizing for in the apology.  Show that whole thing again.  Show it.  “In discussing how President Obama uses children to shield himself from criticism” --  In apologizing for breaking his own rule about leaving kids out of political debates, he put the president‘s kids back into political debates. 

This guy is so feral, that even in his brief moment of semi-sanity, he‘s still completely nuts.  Loathsome Rhodes Beck, today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  We close Friday night, as usual, with the works of James Thurber.  My only regret in following my dad‘s suggestion to read these stories to you is how they undersell Thurber‘s simple magnificence as an illustrator and cartoonist.  We‘re going to take care of that tonight.  His drawings started as doodles done during staff meetings at the “New Yorker Magazine.”  He‘d throw drawings away.  His colleague, E.B. White, would pick them up and submit them as artwork.  And the rest is history. 

I‘m reading, as usual, from the Library of America, “Thurber, Writings and Drawings,” just reprinted.  But this piece was first published in his earliest anthology, “The Owl in the Attic,” in 1931. 

With the kind permission of his daughter, Rosemary, I‘m reading an abridged version.  And I urge you to rush to read and see the whole thing for yourself. 

“The Pet Department,” by James Thurber. 

“I enclose a sketch of the way my dog William has been lying for two days now.  I think there must be something wrong with him.  Can you tell me how to get him out of this, Mrs. LLG?  Answer, I should judge from the drawing that William is in a trance.  Trance states, however, are rare with dogs.  It may just be ecstasy.  If, at the end of another 24 hours, he doesn‘t seem to be getting anywhere, I should get him up. 

The position of the ears leads me to believe that he may be enjoying himself in a quiet way, but the tail is somewhat alarming. 

Question, our cat, who is 35, spends all of her time in bed.  She follows every move I make, and this is beginning to get to me.  She never seems sleepy, nor particularly happy.  Is there anything I could give her?  Ms. L. Mick. 

Answer?  There are no medicines which can be safely given to induce felicity in a cat, but you might try lettuce, which is a soporific for the wakefulness.  I would have to see the cat watching you whether to tell anything could be done to divert her attention. 

My husband, question—sorry, my husband, who is an amateur hypnotizer keeps trying to get our blood hound under his control.  In contend that this is not doing the dog any good.  So far, he has not yielded to my husband‘s influence.  But I‘m afraid that if he once got under, we couldn‘t get him out of it.  A.A.T. 

Answer?  Dogs are usually left cold by all phases of psychology, mental telepathy and the like.  Attempts to hypnotize this particularly breed, however, are likely to be fraught with a definite menace.  A bloodhound, if stared at fixedly, is liable to gain the impression that it is under suspicion, being followed and so on.  This upsets a bloodhound‘s life by completely reversing its whole scheme of behavior. 

Question, our gull cannot get his head down any farther than this and bumps into things.  HLF. 

Answer?  You have no ordinary gull to begin with.  He looks to me a great deal like a rabbit backing up.  If he is a gull, it is impossible to keep him in the house.  Naturally he will bump into things.  Give him his freedom. 

Question, my police dog has taken to acting very strange on account of my father coming home from work every night for the past two years and saying to him, if you‘re a police dog.  Where‘s your badge?  After which he laughs, my father.  Ella R. 

Answer?  The constant reiteration of any piece of badmidge (ph) sometimes has the same affect on the present day neurotic dogs that it has on people.  It is dangerous and thoughtless to twit a police dog and his powers, authority and the like.  From the way your dog seems to hide behind tables, large vases, and whatever that thing is that looks like a suitcase, I would imagine that your father has carried this thing far enough.  Perhaps even too far. 

Question, we have cats the way most people have mice.  Mrs. C.L.


Answer, I see you have.  I can‘t tell from your communication, however, whether you wish advice or are just boasting. 

Question, no one has been able to tell us what kind of dog we have.  I‘m enclosing a sketch of one of his two postures.  He only has two.  The other one is the same as this, Except he faces in the opposite direction.  This is Eugeneia Black. 

Answer?  I think that what you have is a cast iron lawn dog.  The expressionless eye and the rigid pose are characteristic of metal lawn animals.  That certainly is a cast iron ear.  You could, however, remove all doubts by means of a simple test with a hammer and a cold chisel or an acetylene torch.  If the animal chips or melts, my diagnosis is correct. 

Question, sometimes my dog does not seem to know me.  I think he must be crazy.  He will draw away or show his fangs when I approach him.  HM Morgan, Jr. 

So would I, and I‘m not crazy.  If you creep up on your dog the way you indicate in the drawing, I can understand his viewpoint.  Put your shirt in and straighten up.  You look as if you‘ve never seen a dog before, and that is undoubtedly what bothers the animal.  These maladjustments can often be worked out by the use of a little common sense. 

Question, after a severe storm, we found this old male raven in the study of my father, the honorable George Morton Bodwell, for many years head of the Latin Department at Tufts, sitting on a bust of Livy, which was a gift to him from the class of ‘92.  All that the old bird will say is grawk.  Can ravens be taught to talk or was Poe merely romancing?  Mrs. H.  Bodwell Coldweather.

Answer?  I‘m handicapped by an uncertainty as to who says grawk, the raven or your father?  Is just happens that ark is what ravens say.  I‘ve never known a raven to say anything but ark. 

Question, I have three Scotch terriers which take things out of closets and down from shelves, et cetera.  The vet advised me to gather all the wreckage, sit them down in the midst of it and say, bad Scotties.  This, however, merely seems to give them a kind of pleasure.  If I spank one, the other two jump me.  Playfully, but they jump me. 

Answer?  To begin with, I question the advisability of having three Scotch terriers.  They are bound to get you down.  However, it seems to me you are needlessly complicating your own problem.  The Scotties probably think you are trying to enter into the spirit of their play.  Their inability to comprehend what you are trying to get at will, in the end, make them melancholy, and you and the dogs will begin to drift farther and farther apart.  I deal with each terrier and each object separately.  Beginning with the telephone, the disconnection of which must inconvenience you sorely. 

And we have time for one last question. 

My husband paid 175 dollars for this moose, to a man in Dorsett, Ontario, who said he trapped it in the woods.  Something is wrong with his antlers, for we have to keep twisting them back into place all the time.  They‘re loose.  Mrs. Oliphant Beatty. 

Answer?  You people are living in a fool‘s paradise.  The animal is obviously a horse with a span of antlers strapped to his head.  If you want a moose, dispose of the horse.  If you want to keep the horse, take the antlers off.  Their constant pressure on his ears isn‘t a good idea. 

“The Pet Department.”

That‘s COUNTDOWN, portions written by James Thurber. 

“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW,” surprisingly enough with Rachel Maddow, is up next.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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