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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Robert Reich, Thomas Frank, Monique Harden, Eugene Robinson





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

The president gets his escrow account, 20 billion BP dollars, to be administered by the lawyer who oversaw the 9/11 victims‘ account.  And he didn‘t say it last night, but today, the president snaps the whip on the Senate: take up the energy bill in mid-July, put in the carbon caps in conference after the midterms in the lame-duck session.

And still, on day 58, the disaster is flowing nearly as uncontrollably as the oil.  More threats from BP to its cleanup crews: wear respirators or protective gear and you are fired.

And BP‘s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, lost in translation.


CARL-HENRIC SVANBERG, BP CHAIRMAN:  I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don‘t care.  But that is not the case in BP.  We care about the small people.


OLBERMANN:  Thank you.  Now, everybody will remember that speech, not last night‘s.

The criticism, quote, “You might have thought he was giving a lecture on the history of the Interstate Highway System.”  And the president‘s bounce-back today from that criticism with the man who said that, Robert Reich.

And the comic relief: Sister Sarah suggests getting a little Dutch boy to put his finger in the oil leak.


SARAH PALIN ®, FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR:  The Dutch.  They are known—and the Norwegian—they are known for—for dikes and for cleaning up water and for dealing with spills.  They offered to help.


OLBERMANN:  That woman is an idiot.

Midterm madness: Sharron Angle now the tea party, formerly of an anti-gay party, formerly of the Democratic Party?  And if Alvin Greene is a Democrat, why are Republicans now coming to his aid?

“Worsts”: How to hand the Democrats the midterms.  Michele Bachmann on the Gulf disaster says one key figure should say, quote, “We‘re not going to be chumps, and we‘re not going to be fleeced.  And they shouldn‘t be.  They shouldn‘t have to be fleeced.”

The key figure she‘s talking about: BP.  She‘s defending BP!

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  I‘m in trouble every day of the week.




OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York,

First, there was the speech, and then there were the actions which spoke louder than it did.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: President Obama today announcing a $20 billion escrow fund and a package of other concessions from BP, and the oil giant shooting itself in the public relations foot again.  Even though BP‘s view of, quote, “the small people,” may not be quite as bad as it sounds, even though that may not matter either.

Mr. Obama emerged from his meetings with BP executives today, about an hour‘s worth, with two long-sought agreements.

No, BP will not pay shareholder dividends on the 21st, nor for the second or third quarters, in fact.  Those funds, plus the sale of $10 billion in assets will help the company pay for the second concession.

Yes, BP will create an escrow fund to compensate businesses and families impacted by the spill, a fund to total at least $20 billion—starting with $3 billion in September, another $2 billion by the end of the year, $5 billion more in each of the following three years.  Claims to be administered by 9/11 administrator, Kenneth Feinberg—with rejected claims to be adjudicated by a three-judge panel or, of course, pursued in court as a last resort.

BP is also creating a $100 million fund to compensate the oil rig workers unable to work because of the ongoing six-month moratorium on exploratory offshore drilling, and announcing today two new containment measures: one, a larger cap to replace the current one, but not until the end of the month.  The other is taking effect at 1:00 this morning: a new riser siphoning oil up to the surface.  Currently, it‘s being burned off by the Q4000 vessel with BP then changing that when it gets a vessel with storage capacity in place in the Gulf.

And there were less obvious follows-up to President Obama‘s Oval Office speech last night, Marc Ambinder of “The Atlantic” reporting today that the reason the president failed to mention global warming or cap-and-trade or climate change is that he wants to pass a Senate bill by avoiding debate over carbon pricing, then adding it in conference, perhaps during a lame-duck session after the midterms.

The positive developments from today‘s meeting with BP, however, had to compete with the aftermath of that meeting—which began innocently enough with Mr. Obama revealing what he told BP‘s chairman about Gulf Coast residents.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I emphasized to the chairman that when he‘s talking to shareholders, when he is in meetings in his boardroom to keep in mind those individuals—that they are desperate, that some of them, if they don‘t get relief quickly, may lose businesses that have been in their families for two or three generations.  And the chairman assured me that he would keep them in mind.


OLBERMANN:  And so he did.  But the chairman, who is Swedish, swiftly drew anger response with his accounting of Mr. Obama‘s remarks about Gulf Coast residents.


SVANBERG:  He‘s frustrated, because he cares about the small people.  And we care about the small people.  I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don‘t care.  But that is not the case in BP.  We care about the small people.


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also the author of “Renegade: The Making of a President.”

Richard, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I wasn‘t going to say that.

The BP spokesman—and we saw Mr. Hayward in the background going, thank God it wasn‘t me who said that.  The BP spokesman told the “Associated Press” this was a slip in translation, which is fascinating on its own rights because Mr. Svanberg was speaking English at the time.  Then the only other phrase he could have been looking for was the little people.

How is this playing in the Gulf or in the White House at the moment?

WOLFFE:  Well, rather differently, I suspect.  You know, for the White House, having BP make this kind of mistake is probably quite useful.  But, look, I can give some slack here to the Swedish guy.  I‘m assured by native Swedish speakers that this translates in a way that isn‘t in any way derogatory.

What you cannot give any slack to is BP itself because why—given the sensitivities involved here—would you put someone who cannot speak English as a first language in the limelight.  I mean, you have to be particularly expert and incompetent to announce a $20 billion fund on the same day that you make this kind of error.  You know, the last company to make this kind of mistake was this big oil company that had a big environmental disaster and hired Dick Cheney‘s former spokesperson as their best communicator.  And, of course, that was BP.

OLBERMANN:  To be fair, of course, all of the English-speaking people from BP did not do such a crackerjack job as it was.  But I must ask you this, regarding this entire—the good news about the $20 billion package, the additional $100 million package about the rig workers, essentially paying for a presidential decision there.  Why did, in your opinion, did the president speak last night and then reach this agreement today, rather than the other way around, when he could have been the one announcing all this good news tonight?

WOLFFE:  Well, for a start, it‘s BP‘s money, but you really want to show some action.  They‘re trying to build some momentum and show there‘s been presidential execution here, at least figuratively.  And so, the idea that there‘s some kind of forward movement, $20 billion is a lot of money.


WOLFFE:  It is the escrow term and it‘s a starting point.  This is what‘s extraordinary here.  Not only did the president assert that there‘s no cap, but anyone of any experience in business negotiations knows that if the company starts out willing to put in $20 billion, there‘s going to be more.  This is not the end point, and BP full well knows it.

So, I think this is an important marker for the White House.  It‘s something everyone can understand, even if you couldn‘t really understand what they were trying to do last night.

OLBERMANN:  How much credence do you give the report that the White House is trying to avoid the debate on carbon, trying to avoid those scary terms like climate change, so it can pass Kerry-Lieberman, the energy bill, that‘s already gone through the House, and then get into the Senate, or the Senate version, obviously, of it, and then restore the carbon measures during the meetings with the House in, you know, the reconciling of this.

Would the reconciled version fair any better in the Senate?  Is that whole ledger domain here going to work out?

WOLFFE:  I think they are definitely looking at lame-duck session politics.  But it‘s going to be very hard to get the Senate to vote on something that constitutes an energy climate bill without referring to carbon caps or a tax on carbon emissions in some form or other.  Even if it‘s sector specific, not economy-wide, really, the lame-duck session avoids people in the House trying to have to make a second difficult vote before they‘re up for re-election.

The Senate‘s got to do this stuff before then, and that means they‘re going to bump up against the deadlines, which we didn‘t have in health care, which is the election.  These people want to go out and campaign for their own careers.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of health care, is the president trying to govern in the un-seeable way that we saw during health care, or didn‘t see during health care, and letting or making Congress take the lead?  And if so, is it working?

WOLFFE:  Well, look, there are a number of—a greater number of Republicans are involved in this one already.  So, in some ways, there‘s more to go for, but there‘s less time.  So the dynamic is very different.

You know, to the White House‘s credit, they got health care done.  So, you can criticize the leadership style, but it works in the end.  The problem is: they just don‘t have that much time on this time around.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also, of course, author of “Renegade: The Making of a President”—great thanks for your time tonight, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Clinton, now professor at U.C. Berkeley‘s Goldman School of Policy.

Professor, thanks again for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  I want to ask you your thoughts about the speech last night, but if you would like to start with taking a shot at BP and the Swedish chairman, and the “small people” line—feel free.

REICH:  Well, I‘m a small person.  I‘m under five feet tall.  So, I empathize with all small people around the country and around the world.

But more to the point, I mean, I thought that the speech last night was all right in terms of content.  Not what I would have hoped for, but also, stylistically, it didn‘t express the moral outrage, the kind of indignation that so many Americans feel against a company that—whose recklessness, whose negligence, not only caused the oil spill—the worst environmental disaster in American history—but has a history of these kinds of—this kind of recklessness, this kind of negligence.  It talks one game—BP—but actually has practiced a very different game and the safety and security of the American people are at stake.

I think the president, hopefully—I was hoping for a president who would actually act like a commander-in-chief of a nation that was under siege in some sense.

OLBERMANN:  What I don‘t understand—and I suggested this to Richard Wolffe just now—all that happened today is reflective of exactly the attitude you just saw and you wanted to hear last night and I wanted to hear last night.  Everything that was accomplished today was a commander-in-chief getting the money out of BP, getting the protection for the people who are being put out of work in an almost presidentially voluntary way.  Why—were these events—did these events take place out of order? 

Should the speech have been given after the $20 billion came from BP?

REICH:  Yes, Keith, if I were an adviser—a political adviser, I would have said, yes, wait, do the speech after you got the commitment from BP; do the speech after you have the escrow account, after you‘ve got the $20 billion; do the speech when you know that you can actually, and you already have negotiated with BP, to take over.  Have the Navy, the Army Corps of Engineers take over the actual operation.  You contract with BP for the expertise.  Make sure BP pays for it, but you show that you are commander-in-chief.

OLBERMANN:  You had asked, in the piece that you wrote, whether the president is getting bad advice, cannot express our moral outrage, or whether it‘s something deeper.  Based both on last night and what was done today, the proverbial action speaking louder than words, do you have a choice of those three—which you think it is?

REICH:  Well, I think there may be some combination.  I mean, I think that the—look, getting the $20 billion escrow fund is a great achievement, an important achievement.  I hope it is the first step.

I mean, maybe there is a kind of Machiavellian or “Emanuelian,” you might say, strategy to all this in terms of getting a real carbon tax.  I mean, I was disappointed last night.  He made no mention of a carbon tax.  He did not even say cap-and-trade.

Maybe there is this kind of complicated political calculation going on

but if you remember health care, we did hope for, at least a public option with regard to insurance and we got nothing.  We had payoffs to the drug industry.  I mean, there may be—and hopefully is—a carbon tax waiting out there, but I would not bank on it.


OLBERMANN:  Would you rather have—I‘ll give you the hypothetical that was presented to me in a couple of places today—would you rather have the reference to the carbon tax or cap-and-trade, or however it would be phrased in the speech, or rather have it put in during the lame-duck session and actually get into law?  Your choice, one of the two?

REICH:  Well, just like—I mean, it‘s very parallel, Keith, to the whole notion of having this escrow account, $20 billion.  If he can‘t make it in the speech, I‘d much rather have action—I mean, action speaks much louder than words.

If we can finally get a carbon tax by the end of the year?  Great.  But I guess I worry.  I mean, this is a man who actually riveted the country in 2004 with his rhetorical power, his power to rally the country behind him.  And I would assume that he, as one of the best education-in-chief presidents we‘ve ever had, would try to rally the country behind him in order to achieve a carbon tax.

OLBERMANN:  Former labor secretary, Robert Reich, professor of public policy with the University of California at Berkeley now—great thanks once again for your time, sir.

REICH:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Immediately after the president‘s speech, a remark was made that reminded us that in Republican hands, the oil disaster in the Gulf would have already caught fire or resulted in Florida being severed from the continent at Tallahassee, or have been used as an excuse to invade Venezuela.  The quote, “The Dutch, they are known, and the Norwegian, they are known for dikes, for cleaning up water, and for dealing with spills.”

Somebody call the Norwegian, Miss Bendy Straws is looking for them. 



OLBERMANN:  America‘s oil princess explains we need the socialist Norwegians and them Dutch in here to fix the Gulf because they‘re good at dikes.

Also, the human health crisis—more threats of firings by BP if the responders wear protective gear and now reports of insufficient training.

The tea party staggers as its chief Astroturfer warns its candidates do not admit you are in the tea party.

And five words that could swing the midterms: she is defending BP.



OLBERMANN:  There was no official Republican response to the president‘s address last night, but that does not mean they did not have anything stupid to say about it.

In our fourth story: during Sarah Palin‘s unofficial FOX News Channel response last night, she said the president‘s biggest mistake was not allowing the Dutch to come to the rescue, and she didn‘t mean Ronald Reagan -- I don‘t think.

Last night, on fixed news, Sarah Palin turned kid glove treatment from Palin booster Bill O‘Reilly into a gotcha interview.  Here is Billo asking the half-governor what a hypothetical “President Palin”—an address would have sounded like.


BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS:  Tell the nation tonight what you would have said your main point in that speech.  Go.

PALIN:  Stopping the gusher.  That‘s the number one priority of the nation.

O‘REILLY:  But nobody knows how to do it.

PALIN:  We need to make sure all technology is being thrown at this problem.

O‘REILLY:  Nobody knows how to do it.

PALIN:  But we haven‘t had that assurance the president—we haven‘t had the assurance by the president that that has been his top priority.  Instead, what his top priority is, Bill, is cap and tax.  It is using this crisis, not letting it go to waste, but to use this crisis to increase the cost of energy.

O‘REILLY:  Are you telling me that you don‘t think the president‘s top priority is stopping that leak?  Are you—is that what you‘re telling me?

PALIN:  What I—what I‘m telling you is that is not what I am hearing.


OLBERMANN:  Clearly, she wasn‘t listening.  Quoting the president last night, “Make no mistake: we will fight this spill with everything we‘ve got for as long as it takes,” or in his last news conference, quote, “This was my top priority—getting this stopped and then mitigating the damage.”

We rejoin Miss Bendy Straws already in process.


O‘REILLY:  The oil company, BP, says, we don‘t know how to stop the leak.  Obama obviously doesn‘t know how to stop the leak.  Do you know how to stop it?

PALIN:  Well, then, what the federal government should have done was accept the assistance of foreign countries, of entrepreneurial Americans, who have had solutions that they wanted presented.


PALIN:  They can‘t even get a phone call returned, Bill.

PALIN:  The Dutch.  They are known—and the Norwegians—they are known for—for dikes and for cleaning up water and for dealing with spills.  They offered to help.  And yet, no, they, too, with the proverbial “can‘t even get a phone call back.”  That is what the Norwegians are telling us and the Dutch are telling us.


OLBERMANN:  “The Washington Post” reported Monday, quote, “In late May, the administration accepted Mexico‘s offer of two skimmers and 13,779 feet of boom; a Dutch offer of three sets of Koseq sweeping arms which attach to the sides of ships and gather oil; and eight skimming systems offer by Norway.”

Thomas Frank, columnist at “The Wall Street Journal” and the author of “The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule,” joins us now.

Good evening to you, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Help us, Norway, you‘re our only hope.

FRANK:  Yes, turn to the socialists, right?


FRANK:  And this is—oh, and wait, this is after she just finished going on this, you know, this rant denouncing—in the rest of the interview with her and Bill O‘Reilly—denouncing government—you know, government can never solve any problem.  It, you know, always has to be the private sector.  Government screws up everything it touches.  That‘s why we need to turn to the government of Norway.

OLBERMANN:  Last year, Mr. O‘Reilly had asked his audience to start a legal defense fund for Ms. Palin.  He volunteered to donate the first $1,000.  Even he seemed a little surprised at some of those answers.  That‘s not a good sign, is it?

FRANK:  Well, no, that‘s—that‘s pretty awful.  But, you know, the thing that really seemed to shock him was when Sarah Palin suggested that President Obama doesn‘t really care about, you know, stopping the leak.  And that, you know—look, you can—you can criticize the president for all sorts of things, but he certainly—he definitely wants to stop that thing.  There‘s no question about it.

OLBERMANN:  There was a constant reference last night to Mrs. Palin‘s bona fides as an energy expert.  Senator McCain did the same thing when he picked her, and throughout the campaign last year.  Should he—should she, at least, not sound like she knows what she‘s talking about rather than as if she‘s about to quote the Swedish chef from “The Muppet Show”?

FRANK:  Yes, that‘s right.  And start talking about the small people or something.


FRANK:  But she—look, every now and then, she does say something about the oil industry that is shockingly true, OK?  Like she said in the interview with O‘Reilly last night, she went on and on about how BP, there‘s a huge conflict of interest that BP has control of all the facts and that sort of thing.  Very good point, Sarah Palin.  I mean, that‘s actually an interesting thing to say.

But she—and this is a problem that a lot of conservatives have:

they can never bring themselves to talk about the role of commodity speculation in the huge, you know, oil—the oil shock of 2008.  The one, remember when Sarah Palin was going around the country, yelling “drill, baby, drill,” and the crowds would cheer and, you know, she was beloved of the millions.  What was actually going on, it wasn‘t OPEC was cutting off supplies of oil to America, it was because of commodity speculation is the reason that gasoline prices hit $4 a gallon that summer.

OLBERMANN:  There are many other sincere and well-placed criticisms, I guess, to be leveled at the administration‘s handling of this disaster, throughout it, and various levels of it.  Does it—does it say anything about Mrs. Palin, really, beyond the one that you referenced there, she really didn‘t come up with any of the others?

FRANK:  She briefly, in passing, mentioned the problem of regulatory capture, right?  We know about this one, the Minerals Management Service.  I mean, it‘s a disgrace.

But this, too, this is a tricky issue for conservatives.  They can‘t -

I mean, they can talk about how awful it is and what a disaster it is, but they can‘t bring themselves to talk about the larger problem of regulatory capture.  Now, look, the Minerals Management Service was set up by James Watt.  Do you remember this guy?


OLBERMANN:  Let Reagan be Reagan.

FRANK:  Yes, that‘s right.  He was the secretary of the interior.  It was—the agency was basically designed capture—I mean, James Watt was basically capture in the flesh.  I mean, this is—you know, this is the people that want to drill and that want to mine and all that sort of thing running the agency, right?

And the Minerals Management Service has a long history of being, basically, a partner with industry.  Now, the problem with this—that this sets up for conservatives is that conservatives, when they‘re in charge in Washington, they like to do things like that.  They like to put, say, coal lobbyists in charge of the Department of the Interior, you know, that sort of thing.  So, it‘s tough for them to really get to the bottom of that one.  But she did—she gets point, she mentioned it in passing.

OLBERMANN:  And in English.

Thomas Frank of “The Wall Street Journal,” author of “The Wrecking Crew”—great thanks.

FRANK:  Sure thing.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of in English, the following statement has just been issued by the chairman of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg, who obviously was told about the early evening newscasts, the “small people” reference.

He says: “I spoke clumsily this afternoon for that.  I am very sorry.  What I was trying to say—that BP understands how deeply this affects the lives of people who live along the Gulf and depend on it for their livelihood—will best be conveyed not by any words but by the work we must do to put things right for families and businesses who‘ve been hurt.  Like President Obama, I believe we made some good progress toward that goal today,” end quote.  And end, perhaps, of the discussion.

The law says those trying to clean up hazardous materials must have at least 24 hours training.  So, why, in the Gulf, are they only getting four hours?  And why are they still being threatened: wear protective gear and you‘re fired?

Live from New Orleans—ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Sharron Angle, ex-Democrat?  Ahead.

First, the “Tweet of the Day,” from Jaywilie (ph), Jawilie, I‘m not sure.  “Keith Olbermann‘s ‘Tweet of the Day‘ should be interesting tonight.  Will he feature a tweet that was critical of his response last night?”

Indeed.  I responded more or less, the president is easily the smartest political leader I‘ve ever seen, and as good a public speaker as I‘ve ever heard.  Last October, I was privileged, along with Ms. Maddow and 10 other news people, to spend two hours with President Obama in the White House as he showed extemporaneous mastery of every one of two dozen or more topics fired at him by us in random order.  I left the room wondering if we had ever before actually elected a president, as we have now, someone who was one of the 1,000 smartest people in the country—perhaps one of the 100, or the 10.

I believe in him and his presidency and he has frequently achieved success, in health care reform, particularly, by doing that for which I have criticized him.  I hope that is again the case now, because the Gulf speech was not up to his standards, nor did it express his mastery of policy.

And if you would stop watching this news hour because I said that, I‘ll be very sorry, but you will have been watching for the wrong reason because I am not, have not been, will not be, and I‘m not supposed to be any politician‘s nor any president‘s spokesman.

OK.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”


OLBERMANN:  We begin with a Sasquatch sighting in the woods of Cleveland County, North Carolina.  I am spokesman for sasquatches, however.  Recently, Mr. Tim Peeler (ph) was out behind his house trying to scare off some coyotes away from his dogs, and then all of a sudden—


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This thing was 10-foot tall.  And he had beautiful hair.

He looked like he had six fingers on each hand.

I come out of here and rough talked him and run him off.  And I said, get away from here.  Get!  Get!  And he went right back up that path again.


OLBERMANN:  He had beautiful hair.  He rough-talked the Sasquatch. 

Deputies are taking Mr. Peeler‘s claims seriously.  No, I don‘t know why. 

They filed a suspicious person report.  It might be about Mr. Peeler.  Thanks to some fast sketching, Cleveland County‘s finest has something to go on.

Peeler produced this drawing of the well-coifed 12-fingered beast.  Well, it‘s Howard Hughes in later life, isn‘t it?  By the way, the Alabama leprechaun is also still on the loose.

To Orchard Road in Singapore, where people are walking with the dinosaurs.  Pay no attention to the man in the gray stretchy pants.  The life-sized baby T-Rex is out promoting the new Asian arena tour of “Walking with Dinosaurs.”  Organizers said their Jurassic spectacular will feature this beauty, plus more than 20 life-sized dinosaurs—oh, we assumed they‘re life-sized—representing 10 species, as if they ever existed.  Also, one 12-fingered Sasquatch and a Sleestak from “Land of the Lost.”

Republicans defending a Democratic Senate candidate?  The tea party endorsing an ex-Democrat for the Senate?  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!


OLBERMANN:  When South Carolina Democrats announced a hearing to decide the fate of Alvin Greene‘s candidacy, Republicans came to his defense.  Meanwhile, Republicans are still trying to come up with a defense for why Nevada Senate hopeful, Sharron Angle, belonged to a right-wing anti-gay group called for the armed insurrection of Congress, and from the point of view of her street creed, most worst of all was previously registered as a Democrat.

Our third story: just think, it‘s only June.

First, a Democratic senatorial candidate, Alvin Greene, of South Carolina—the state‘s top Democrat is holding a public hearing tomorrow to decide whether to overturn the results, call for a do-over of some kind, or declare Mr. Greene the winner.

Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, graciously lending his support to Mr. Greene, telling “The Hill, quote, “I hope people are not nasty toward Mr. Greene.”

Mr. Joe “You lie” Wilson following up with: “It‘s the Democratic Party that‘s not treated him respectfully.”

As of now, Mr. Greene will face Republican senator, Jim DeMint, in November.

Mr. DeMint‘s own political operation pouring thousands of dollars into the campaign of Nevada Republican Senate hopeful, Sharron Angle.  Mrs.  Angle who has previously advocated for the abolishment of the Department o Education, Social Security, Medicare, the EPA, and legalized alcohol, apparently also thinks it‘s OK to advocate armed insurrection.  Telling a conservative—I can‘t even say it anymore—Dr. Freud, telling a conservative radio show back in January—


SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE:  You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government.  If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.  They‘re saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around.  And I‘ll tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.


OLBERMANN:  “The Associated Press” now reporting that during the mid-‘80s, Reagan era, Ms. Angle quit the GOP to become a Democrat.  Her campaign says the switch was to allow Mrs. Angle to work for a Democrat.  Her campaign not commenting however on her ties to that far-right Independent American Party, a group that warns against the threat of global government and once bought a 16-page ad supplement in a newspaper claiming that HIV could be spread through water and that that was the reason that bias against gays should be legal.

Joining me now, associate editor, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post,” MSNBC political analyst, and once again, proud South Carolina native, Eugene Robinson.

Good evening, Gene.


OLBERMANN:  Your proud heritage in a moment.  But first, Ms. Angle.  What do we make of her previous affiliations, and how does the campaign begin to explain her call for, you know, Second Amendment and taking Harry Reid out?

ROBINSON:  I have no idea how you begin to explain that, or what the candidate meant to say was—not to suggest, you know, ballistic violence against the Senate majority leader.  These are outrageous things that she has said.  These are outrageous associations that she has had—especially that association with the Democratic Party, which I don‘t see how that can be forgiven.

But, you know, they‘re going try to look the other way and kind of pretend none of it ever happened.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re going to see this now.  Obviously, I saw it first in Kentucky with Rand Paul.  You can take the guy out of the tea party, but you can‘t take the tea party out of the guy, or in this case, the woman.  The GOP establishment candidate loses.  Republicans have to figure out a way to make the tea party candidate seem mainstream enough to get elected, and they brought her in as the guest of John Ensign to meet with people in the GOP members of the Senate.  Some spoke positively about her afterwards.

Were they telling the truth or were they reading prepared statements?

ROBINSON:  Oh, they‘re not telling the truth, Keith.  Come on.


ROBINSON:  Look at the choice they had in this race, right?  It was either going to be Sharron Angle or it was going to be Sue “chickens for checkups” Lowden.  They really had their work cut out for them in getting a candidate who was, frankly, presentable enough in terms of having at least basically mainstream views.  So, no, they‘re going to say nice things about her and they‘re going to, as I said, pretend that she isn‘t on the fringe, when, actually, she obviously is.

OLBERMANN:  Now to South Carolina.


OLBERMANN:  This state lawmaker, a Republican named Chip Limehouse has asked state police to investigate how Mr. Greene who was, as we know, unemployed, and was in the condition at least late last year to need a public defender after this felony charge, paid the $10,000 filing fee.

Is the issue being missed intentionally or unintentionally by Republicans like Mr. Graham and Joe Wilson, that this isn‘t about the Democrats not liking the outcome of an election or not liking Alvin Greene?

ROBINSON:  Keith, do you think they would intentionally miss such an issue?  Yes, yes, they are—intentionally looking past the fact that it is possible that a crime has been committed here.  Now in South Carolina, my understanding is that in my proud home state, it is a misdemeanor if someone induced him to run for office, perhaps by paying this $10,000 fee.

There are moves afoot, among Democrats in South Carolina, to have a full investigation, and when someone looks at the guy‘s bank records, to see where he might have come up with this money, since he had no visible means of support.

So, there could be a potential criminal violation here.  It‘s not all fun and games.  I don‘t know how deeply this will ultimately be investigated in South Carolina, however.  The attorney general is not that interested.

OLBERMANN:  Do you have any idea how deeply this will be gone into tomorrow at this public hearing?  What‘s going to happen?  Is Mr. Greene going to be there?

ROBINSON:  Well, that‘s the $1 million question.  Is he—or the $10,440 question.

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.

ROBINSON:  Will he show up?  He makes himself available for the occasional interview—

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I know.

ROBINSON:  I haven‘t been able to track him down, but I‘m trying.  So we don‘t know.  If he shows up, it‘s going to be a very interesting session.  And I don‘t know what‘s going to happen, because he won 59 percent to 41.  And if it wasn‘t the voting machines, then who knows how this happened.  For all I can tell, he could be the nominee.

OLBERMANN:  Well, then, in South Carolina, he could be the senator.

Gene Robinson of MSNBC, “The Washington Post,” and South Carolina—as always, thanks, Gene!


ROBINSON:  Thanks so much, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sorry.  Why hold your home state against you, I don‘t know.  It‘s a great place.

All right, take care, Gene.

ROBINSON:  You too, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Not just threats to fire them if they try to protect themselves, now from the Gulf, reports that first responders are getting one-sixth the traditional training.  We‘ll go to New Orleans.

Great!  Now Limbaugh is doing impressions of Malia Obama.  I‘d get somebody to do one of him, but the zoo closed at 6:00.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her version of the Oval Office address that the president should have given.


OLBERMANN:  Michele Bachmann hands the Democrats the midterms.

First, no, that is not your water coming to a boil.  It‘s our nightly check on the something for nothing crowd.  It‘s “Tea Time.”

And the tea party name is now officially toxic.  This stated by no less than authority of one of the bankrolling of this phoniest of all of America‘s litany of phony grassroots movements, from John C. Calhoun, to Huey Long, to Lyndon LaRouche, Dick Armey.  He actually told a Washington luncheon today that candidates who identify themselves as members of the tea party, Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, and all the rest, should keep it secret because the self-identification will open them up to more media scrutiny, you know, like if you had a criminal record.

First rule of tea party: you do not talk about tea party.

Mr. Armey also addressed another topic, that none of the tea partiers should go on MSNBC.


DICK ARMEY, FREEDOMWORKS:  I‘m sorry.  I just—I watch that network.  I watch Keith Olberby guy—cracks me up.  I know very well he‘s never gotten over the Americans beating the Russians in the ‘80.


OLBERMANN:  What Mr. Army and his perfect, wonderful tone-deafness does not know is that actually attended the Americans beating the Russian in the‘80.  The hockey upset at Lake Placid.  I covered not just the miracle on ice game but the crowd, too.  So, not only is it one of the most joyous memories of my life as a proud American, but I got to participate in what is believed to have been the first time voice was given to a now familiar public chant, “USA, USA!”  In fact, my report on radio was, if not the first, when one the first two to broadcast the USA chant across this nation.

But wait, he said more.


ARMEY:  Rand Paul made an amateur mistake, a freshman mistake, a rookie mistake.  He thought MSNBC was a legitimate news operation.  Now, bless his heart, any legitimate news person would be embarrassed to see them pretending to be news people.  They‘re not news people.  They‘re political hacks.


OLBERMANN:  Funny doggone thing about that.  After those sexual harassment charges forced him out of the House, but before his FreedomWorks outfit began Astroturfing for the tea party, you know what Dick Armey was?  A contributor to MSNBC—paid to come on MSNBC shows, like “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.  Bless his heart.

Last point, I‘d like to congratulate him on once again living up to his nearly onomatopoetic name, Dick Armey.



OLBERMANN:  BP again threatens cleanup workers: Bring your own protective gear to protect your own health and you‘re fired.  Witness‘ accounts—next.

First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s Worst Persons in the World.

The bronze to Italian comedian Daniele Luttazzi—accused today on the front page of Italy‘s second largest newspaper of plagiarizing at least 500 jokes from other comedians, mostly Americans.  The list includes the late George Carlin and Bill Hicks, and Emo Phillips and Lewis Black, Jay Leno, Robert Shim (ph), Lewis Black again, Chevy Chase, Woody Allen, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, and Dan Savage.  Dan Savage?

An example, the immortal Hicks once complained that the audience at a club was so stupid, that when he offered once of his priceless deep jokes, “They stared at me like a dog that‘s just been shown a card trick.”  Mr.  Luttazzi‘s joke, “President Bush stared like a great Dane that‘s just been shown a card trick.”  No truth to rumors that Luttazzi has responded to the charge of mass plagiarism by saying, “On the whole, I‘d rather be in Pennsylvania.”

The runner-up: Rush Limbaugh.  Now that Beck claims he intends to leave the families out of it and has dropped his insulting impression of 12-year-old Malia Obama, guess who‘s picked it up.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST:  So, this morning, Barack Obama wakes up, heads into the bathroom and starts shaving.  A door opens, a little daughter comes in.  “Daddy, daddy, did you shake down BP yet, daddy?  Are you going to make them pay, daddy?  Are you going to make BP pay, daddy?  Did you plug the hole yet, daddy?  Daddy, did you plug the hole?”


OLBERMANN:  You‘re a pig.  I mean, we all knew you were a pig, but, geez, Limbaugh, you‘re a pig who‘s ripping off Glenn Beck.

But our winner, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  I don‘t want to get Oracle of Delphi on you here, but this is the midterm elections right here, which you‘re going to hear me quote her as saying.  Everybody listen up, “If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there.  We‘re not going to be chumps, and we‘re not going to be fleeced and they shouldn‘t have to be.  They shouldn‘t have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest.”

She‘s defending BP!  The karate kid is defending BP!

Here‘s the election—never mind health care reform, carbons of cap-and-trade and the tea party, here‘s the election, quote, “Congresswoman Michele Bachmann ®, Minnesota, is defending BP.”

The quote is all purpose.  The quote is one fits all.  FOX News is defending BP.  The Republican Party is defending BP.  The fill in the blank is defending BP.  The people who will lose the midterms defending BP.

Michele Bachmann tonight is defending BP!


OLBERMANN:  It is the kind of work no one should want to try unless fully prepared.  Federal law requires that emergency response cleanup workers who will handle hazardous materials be trained a minimum of 24 hours, as well as demonstrate competency.

Yet in our number one story: in the midst of a burgeoning health crisis along the Gulf of Mexico, an alarming report tonight that Gulf cleanup workers need receive only four hours of training, and it‘s all perfectly legal under the Department of Labor guidelines.

In the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster, the first Bush administration sliced the required training for oil spill workers by more than 80 percent.  The specialists in occupational safety telling the investigative journalism Web site,, he does think adequate training can be achieved in only four hours‘ time.

BP today attempting damage control, announcing it has handing out millions in search grants to study the impact on the environment and public health of all of this, up to $500 million.  Nalco, the company that makes the chemical dispersant being used by BP, attempting pure B.S., claiming on its Web site, its product is, quote, “safer than dish soap,” without actually listing any of the ingredients in the dispersant.

Let‘s turn now to Monique Harden, co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, a New Orleans-based advocacy group with expertise in environmental health law and policy.

Thank you for your time tonight, Ms. Harden.


OLBERMANN:  Training: four hours.  Could that possibly be enough time?

HARDEN:  Absolutely not.  What‘s happened in this situation is that BP, with the approval of our government, has placed expediency over health protection.  The most critical part of safety training is learning how to protect your health and your body from toxic exposure.

The oil that BP has—you know, that is spewing from the Gulf of Mexico is toxic.  It‘s a hazardous waste, without question.  You can‘t dispose of it as you would ordinary trash.  Any facility that would receive any of the oil collected from the Gulf would need to have certification and meet pretty rigorous requirements, because it is treated like a hazardous waste.

In this case, we‘ve got folks who don‘t have adequate training and because they don‘t have adequate training, it really jeopardizes their health.

OLBERMANN:  What are you hearing about whether or not workers are even wearing their protective gear?  Are they being encouraged to wear it by BP or not?

HARDEN:  No, they‘re not being encouraged at all.

I serve on a small community foundation that has been giving emergency grants for—that enable local groups to purchase respirators and protective gear that are provided at no charge to people in the Gulf who are involved in the clean up.  What we have been told by the folks who are involved in the cleanup work is that when they have come to the job site wearing their respirators and protective gear that they‘ve been provided, they were told by BP representatives that they would—that they would be terminated from employment if they wore them and had to, you know, get rid of them.

OLBERMANN:  This leads to something the “Associated Press” reported, that many of these workers with their four hours of training, who are not allowed to wear their own protective gear, never mind not being provided any by BP, would be the men who were out fishing this time of year, and women I assume, too, had those fishing grounds not be closed.

Do we know how many of these cleanup workers, a percentage, perhaps—how many of them have to do this out of the economic necessity caused by this BP disaster in the Gulf?

HARDEN:  The overwhelming majority of cleanup workers are the fishermen, shrimpers, who have been put out of work by BP‘s oil disaster.  And in fact, BP representatives have spoken very glowingly at community meetings that it‘s their goal to employ as many of these out-of-work fishermen and shrimpers as they can in order to minimize payouts for a loss of compensation.

OLBERMANN:  Who‘s actually governmentally responsible for ensuring the safety and health of the people trying to do the cleanup here?  I‘m—there‘s a report I read that in that four-state region, OSHA has 25 employees.  Does it seem unavoidable that people are going to fall through the cracks?

HARDEN:  Well, I think the situation with OSHA and the few resources and staffing that they have for the Gulf region, it‘s part of this larger pattern, where we see this major failure of our regulatory agencies to protect our health and safety—in fact, giving over that protection to companies like BP, corporate polluters around the country.  And so OSHA, like the Minerals Management Services, is an agency that is kowtowed because of the lack of resources and staff to doing a adequate job.

OLBERMANN:  Is there anything to be done about this?

HARDEN:  Well, I think the more people raising hell about this, to ensure that people have respirators—I mean, think about it, all the images that we‘ve seen of folks just wearing hard hats and gloves should be unacceptable to everybody in this country and around the world.  And we should be ensuring that respirators and protective gear are provided immediately.  And BP needs to face liability for endangering the health of people as it has done by preventing them from having respirators.

BP should not be running the Gulf region like a prison ward.  We‘ve got to stop that.

OLBERMANN:  Monique Harden of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights in New Orleans—great thanks.

HARDEN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 58th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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