Guests: Rep. Anthony Weiner, Bob Cavnar, Scott Walker, David Weigel
Guest Host: Lawrence O’Donnell
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Having made clear everything he is not at yesterday‘s hearing—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, BP CEO: I‘m not stonewalling. I‘m not the drilling engineer. So, I‘m not actually qualified to make those judgments. I simply was not involved in the decision making process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: BP chief executive Tony Hayward can add one more “not” to the list—not in charge of day-to-day operations in the Gulf of Mexico, at least not anymore.
Tonight, Congressman Anthony Weiner on the end of the Hayward era and the Republicans who defended him; industry veteran Bob Cavnar on holding BP accountable, we still don‘t know what went wrong or why.
Also, what BP still doesn‘t want you to see—the company‘s campaign of intimidation continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why do you want to eliminate the EPA when we‘re in our worst environmental disaster in this country?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Sharron Angle takes questions from the press finally, but perhaps it would have gone better if the Nevada Republican Senate nominee had actually known her own positions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: Where are you getting these questions?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Still, more questions than answers about the official Democrat nominee for the Senate in South Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALVIN GREENE (D), SOUTH CAROLINA SENATE CANDIDATE: I have no comment on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: But have you asked yourself this: Wouldn‘t Alvin Greene still be a better senator than the incumbent Republican Jim DeMint?
And yes we will have another chapter of “Fridays with Thurber.” Tonight, “The Black Magic of Barney Haller”—confusion with language that has nothing to do with politics for a change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH OLBERMANN, COUNTDOWN HOST: Bime by I go hunt grotches in de voods?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.
And Bob Dudley is in for Tony Hayward. Mr. Dudley, BP‘s managing director, will replace Mr. Hayward overseeing day-to-day operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
Our fifth story tonight: fallout or spillover from Mr. Hayward‘s testimony—and the remarks of House Energy and Commerce lead Republican, Joe Barton, with whom we begin.
Barton apologized to BP executives yesterday for the White House shaking them down for money to compensate Gulf Coast residents. Then he withdrew the words shakedown and apologized for apologizing—after Republican leadership threatened to strip him of his committee leadership post.
Today, despite a few outliers, like Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, voicing sympathy for Mr. Barton, he continued to draw fire from both parties. The DNC today released a new ad expected to air on both this network and CNN, urging voters to tell Republicans not to apologize to big oil and used Barton for a fundraising e-mail.
Gulf Coast Republican Congressman Jo Bonner of Alabama today released a statement calling for Barton to step aside as ranking member of the energy committee. Mr. Bonner wrote that Barton‘s apology to BP, quote, “simply does not reflect the position of the vast majority of House Republicans.”
In fact, Barton was apologizing for a shakedown and a shakedown is exactly what the Republicans Study Committee whose membership includes both Bonner and the vast majority of House Republicans called it just the day before.
But while the GOP was apologizing to Hayward, BP was moving him.
The Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said today that Hayward had made remarks that upset people. Svanberg, who himself called Gulf Coast residents the small people, said Hayward will be replaced as day-to-day supervisor of spill operations by BP managing director, Bob Dudley—even though it‘s not clear that Hayward ever was in charge of day-to-day operations in the Gulf judging by his answers at yesterday‘s hearings.
Despite two months of this spill, despite the fact that the committee sent Hayward questions in advance, Mr. Hayward repeatedly had no answers as demonstrated in this montage pulled from a span of less than five minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Did BP use the single-casing method to save time and money?
HAYWARD: I wasn‘t part of that decision-making process.
QUESTION: Did BP use only six centralizers to save time and money?
HAYWARD: I was—I was not involved in that decision. So, it‘s impossible for me to answer that question.
REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: All right. Could you tell us how much money BP saved by not using the proper number of centralizers?
HAYWARD: I‘m afraid I can‘t recall that.
DINGELL: How much time was saved?
HAYWARD: And I don‘t recall that either I‘m afraid.
QUESTION: How much would the cement tests have cost?
HAYWARD: I can‘t recall that number I‘m afraid.
QUESTION: Did BP not fully circulate the mud in order to save time and money?
HAYWARD: I can‘t answer that question because I wasn‘t there.
DINGELL: Thank you.
How much money did avoiding this procedure saved?
HAYWARD: I‘m afraid I can‘t recall.
QUESTION: How long would it have taken to circulate mud fully?
HAYWARD: I‘m afraid I can‘t recall that either.
QUESTION: Did BP not install a casing hanger lockdown sleeve to save time and money?
HAYWARD: That was a decision I was not party to.
DINGELL: How much did the installing of the lockdown sleeve save BP?
HAYWARD: I don‘t know.
DINGELL: How much time did installing the lockdown sleeve save?
HAYWARD: I‘m afraid I don‘t know that either.
QUESTION: When will BP respond to these questions in writing?
HAYWARD: Oh, you‘ll get it as soon as we can make it available to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: With us tonight is a Democratic member of the energy and commerce committee, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Thanks for coming in tonight, Congressman.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thanks.
O‘DONNELL: You were at that hearing yesterday. How surprising was this testimony?
You‘ve had many hearings over the years where many business executives come in to you to testify about their practices and procedures. They prepare for it. They anticipate your questions. You often let them know what the questions are going to be.
Is this what you expected?
WEINER: I‘m afraid I can‘t recall.
WEINER: No. I‘m just kidding. Actually, I‘ve never seen anything like it. We counted in my office how many times he said either “I can‘t recall” or “I don‘t know” or “it wasn‘t my responsibility” -- 77 times, which even by the standards of Congress is an enormous amount.
And what troubles me is, I find it hard to believe that BP decided today to make this change. I believe what they did is they sent this guy up there, said don‘t tell them anything. Stonewall because you‘re on the way out anyway and we don‘t want the guy who‘s actually in charge to take these questions.
This has been a dance being done by BP from the very moment go and the only thing I‘m surprised at, is anyone expected anything different from Hayward when he came to Congress.
O‘DONNELL: Now, do those answers “I don‘t know,” are they being legal functional equivalent of trying to take the Fifth Amendment with Congress? I mean, this, remember, starts to my mind as a homicide case involving 11 victims of industrial homicide on that rig and everybody at BP knows that and they‘re trying to protect themselves from these investigations.
So, wasn‘t this just an alternative to taking the Fifth?
WEINER: Well, that‘s exactly what I said. I said they really should have cut out all of the hearing and just taken the Fifth. That‘s effectively what they did.
But what‘s troubling to me is, is every time someone from BP claiming to be the guy in charge steps forward, he steps forward only for the purpose of saying “I wasn‘t in charge” or “I didn‘t know.” I don‘t expect that to change tomorrow. I mean, in some degree, I think what Hayward was doing was taking the BP company line here which was: we know we‘re dead to rights here. So we better just not say anything at all.
And it‘s just what is it doing, it‘s salting the wounds even deeper and deeper for the victims and the victims go beyond just the families of those 11 people who tragically were lost. It‘s now the entire country. And I got to tell you something, it is stunning to me, if Congress lets them get away with this rather than calling the new guy back right away, and asking those same questions again, I think we‘re making a mistake.
O‘DONNELL: Now, you know Joe Barton. You served with him on the committee. He is the Republican leader of the committee. He would be the chairman of the committee if the Republicans controlled the Congress now. And if the Republicans controlled the House next year, he will be the chairman of that committee.
I assume he wouldn‘t even be having hearings on this subject or he‘d only be having apology hearings where he could bring in the executives and apologize to them as he did yesterday. I hate to keep asking you how surprised were you—but I‘ve never seen anything like that moment in congressional hearings before.
WEINER: Well, you know, I like Joe Barton and I spoke to him about it on the floor and I—he apologized. But let‘s remember something you pointed out in your intro, this is effectively the company line for the party. Now, to see I‘m shocked that Joe Barton holds this position—a lot of them were saying very similar things.
The instinctive, knee-jerk reaction of Republicans when it comes to big oil is to support them. That should not come as a very big surprise.
I think what is surprising is that they‘re acting so shocked. I—you know, I like Joe Barton. I don‘t think he should lose his seat or anything on because I think, frankly, he does reflect his caucus.
O‘DONNELL: I mean, doesn‘t—don‘t the rest of them have to apologize for joining this notion that right before this hearing, that it is a shakedown?
WEINER: That‘s exactly right. You know, Barton was not the first to say any of these things.
WEINER: This was the company line among Republicans after the president—and, you know, the irony is for weeks they‘ve been saying, why doesn‘t the president call in BP and grab them by the lapels and shake money out of them? He does exactly that as he should and takes BP out of the decision-making process and immediately, he‘s criticized for doing that. That‘s the problem.
Right now, the Republican Party really doesn‘t know where they are because they have such a love affair with big oil and now, even big oil in their minds is indefensible.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York—thanks very much for your time.
WEINER: Thank you. I apologize for not being prepared.
O‘DONNELL: You‘re prepared enough for us.
Now, let‘s bring in a veteran executive from the oil and gas industry, now a contributor at “Huffington Post,” Bob Cavnar.
Good evening, Mr. Cavnar. Your thoughts on Hayward‘s testimony yesterday, or a lack of testimony yesterday.
BOB CAVNAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Hi, Lawrence. I‘m afraid I can‘t recall either.
I was really pretty surprised at the answers that Hayward gave yesterday—and I guess surprised in a certain way, but then—but then this has been the typical position BP has taken. You certainly know that Hayward knows the answers to all of these questions. He was clearly coached to not answer, and I do agree that he was basically taking the Fifth without taking the Fifth and clearing the way for Dudley to take over operations after he steps aside today.
O‘DONNELL: Will we be able to get the answers to some of those questions, especially the ones about how much did you save by this particular maneuver and how much did you save by that one? Won‘t that be in memos and in budget documents somewhere that the Congress will eventually discover?
CAVNAR: I think there‘s going to be a lot of that to come out, Lawrence, but you recall these wells are very complex and it‘s going to be difficult to bifurcate some of the numbers to where it‘s clear what was—what option saved more than another. But I think the pattern of behavior is going to be fairly clear as the investigations go forward.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Senator Grassley has released a letter saying BP, as a matter of practice, was not complying with Minerals Management Services regulations governing blowout preventers because MMS never asked them to. So, who is at fault there?
CAVNAR: One of the issues here, Lawrence, that needs to be addressed during this moratorium is the relationship between MMS and companies, especially in the offshore, but also the regulations themselves.
The problem we have with the MMS and a lot of the offshore regulations and rules is that they‘re self-enforced, they‘re self-certified. And the MMS for years has depended on the companies to just tell them that they‘re doing the right thing. And I think that‘s one of the things that needs to be changed.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Mr. Hayward frequently said he has to wait until the investigation is complete to draw any conclusions about what went wrong, what should have been done differently. But surely, there must be at this point some obvious, preliminary findings that they know about, about who was at fault at what point in the operations of this rig.
Are we really going to be in the dark until the completion of some investigation that could go on for who knows how long?
CAVNAR: No. I don‘t think we‘ll be in the dark at all, Lawrence. As a matter of fact, I was really surprised at the thoroughness of the letter from Waxman and Markey pointing out the five faults in the completion that led up to the blowout. I think that‘s going to give a real good path to future investigators as to what went wrong here.
I think it is going to be very clear. In fact, most of us in the industry pretty much have figured out what‘s gone on here. So, I don‘t think it‘s going to be a mystery at all.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen today said that the relief well might be done in a few weeks rather than mid-August as was first thought. Now, I feel funny asking this question because we‘ve asked it about so many procedures before: Is this—is what we‘re hearing today actual good news that we might be able to believe in?
CAVNAR: You know, I think it may be. When they started the first well—when they started drilling the first relief well, most in the industry thought it would kind of be mid-July when that first well was down. So, a lot of us, especially me, were surprised to hear that it would be mid-August before the well was finished. I think there was a little bit of sandbagging in the numbers going on, but I think that mid-July is probably a pretty good number, especially if they only have about 2,000 more feet to drill to intersect the blowout wellbore.
O‘DONNELL: Bob Cavnar, oil industry veteran—thank you very much for your unique insight tonight.
CAVNAR: Great talking to you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up next: BP‘s security guards blocking public beaches. We‘ll talk with one reporter about his attempt to get the story.
And later, it wasn‘t chicken for checkups but it was close. The Nevada Republican Senate nominee comes unglued when a reporter asks about her positions on the issues.
O‘DONNELL: This BP executive put out a memo telling employees they are allowed to talk to the media. So, why didn‘t the word filter down to the security guards working on a public beach?
This Senate candidate has been trying to convince Republicans she is not extremist. Instead, Sharron Angle‘s latest interview might convince them she‘s extremely confused.
And we all know that this man is perhaps the most mysterious Senate candidate of all time, but shouldn‘t we be asking if Democrat Alvin Greene might actually be a better senator than incumbent Jim DeMint?
All that and more—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: COUNTDOWN has catalogued this week the many instances of BP preventing journalists from gaining access to the Gulf oil spill and of BP intimidating its own cleanup workers to keep them from wearing protective gear.
In our fourth story tonight: WDSU News anchor Scott Walker who was prevented from speaking to cleanup workers will join me in a moment.
You will recall that BP is trying to stop its own cleanup workers—many of them fishermen—from wearing protective gear as the executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Marylee Orr, told us this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARYLEE ORR, LOUISIANA ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION NETWORK: When our folks, our fishermen folks had their respirators on, they were told to take them off, that they would be fired if they used them. I think that perhaps they‘re afraid they‘ll admit some sort of liability that there‘s a problem in the air if they allow them to use the respirators.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Another guest on this program confirmed this. Monique Harden, the co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, whose group was providing protective gear to workers at no charge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONIQUE HARDEN, ADVOCATES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS: 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 the 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: And our next guest sparred with BP‘s on-site supervisor on Grand Isle, Louisiana, over access to parts of the beach cleanup workers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every security guard here has been given instructions to every single news crew you can be outside of a hundred yards of the workers along the boom.
SCOTT WALKER, WDSU NEWS: Who is saying that? Because nobody can tell me unless you‘re the Jefferson Parish sheriff‘s office, you‘re the Coast Guard, or you‘re the military, can you tell me where to go on this public beach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you where to go because I am employed to keep this beach—I am employed to keep this beach safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Joining me now, WDSU News anchor Scott Walker.
Thanks for your time tonight, Scott Walker.
WALKER: No problem. Glad to be here.
O‘DONNELL: OK. Now, can you describe the rest of that exchange that you had there?
WALKER: Well, from there they continued to block us from walking toward the tent where the workers were under during their break. Eventually, they called the Jefferson Parish sheriff‘s office on us. We didn‘t call the sheriff‘s office. They called them to intervene.
The sheriff‘s office basically said it‘s a public beach. They can go where they want to go. So, we eventually got over to that tent which was my goal in the beginning was just to get to the tent with the cleanup workers. I didn‘t really expect them to talk but wanted the opportunity to be able to ask them if they had anything to say.
O‘DONNELL: And so, when you got to them, were you able to ask some questions of those workers?
WALKER: I was able to ask. Once I got there and had some—had clearance—but I did have to tell the supervisor there that the guy down the beach told me I could and he, after I told him that, told the workers:
“Don‘t answer his questions. Don‘t answer his questions.” Point blank. And I said, “Well, this guy down the beach told me I could ask the questions. Now, you‘re telling them not to answer the questions.”
So after—after that, I did ask the questions with, you know, ignoring his objections. And the workers there ultimately all said, no. We don‘t want to be on camera. But that was, as I‘m asking the questions, another guy was saying, you don‘t have to say anything if you don‘t want to. You don‘t have to say anything if you don‘t want to.
So, I think they were definitely intimidated and fearful that they may lose their jobs if they were to talk to the media. And I‘ve talked to several off-camera who say, yes, we, you know, not only were we forced to sign this early that we don‘t talk to the media, but now that it‘s not in the contract, from I understand, they still aren‘t willing to really talk to the media much because of that underlying fear that they could lose their jobs. And a lot of these people need the work.
O‘DONNELL: And what was your sense of what you walked into there? Did this feel like an isolated incident where a couple guys might be overstepping their authority bounds in trying to control what you were doing? Or did you get the feeling that this is the program—this is what they‘ve been told to do by BP wherever they are?
WALKER: It‘s clearly what they were told to do, because I‘ve had several run-ins other than the one that was documented on camera. One the day before where we ran into security guards that told us the same thing. And every time we pressed them, they repeated time and time again, we‘re here in support of the cleanup effort. Different people said the same thing. We‘re here in support of the cleanup effort.
So, they were well-versed in what to say to the media as well and to not give away much.
O‘DONNELL: And is this what you expected when you went out there? Had word been filtering through the local media that this is what‘s going on out in these beaches?
WALKER: Absolutely. We expected to be hassled because we heard of different print and broadcast organizations that had problems on the beach with security. And we knew what our rights were and we knew we could go down there and we could walk up to the boom that separated the contaminated area from the uncontaminated area. We did not have to stay outside of 100 yards from the workers and we could talk to the workers, according to what the BP CEO said two days prior to that run-in.
So, we knew what we could do, yet the word hadn‘t filtered down to the people charged with securing the beach. So, there‘s a big disconnect from the top of the organization to the people charged with enforcing the regulations they want to put in place.
O‘DONNELL: And what are the people charged with enforcing the regulations going to do now? I mean, they‘ve learned now that they cannot prevent you from access to the public beaches. Where do you think this coverage goes from here?
WALKER: Well, to BP‘s credit, after our story aired on Friday and it sort of blew up on the Internet over the weekend, when we went back this Tuesday, this past Tuesday for a follow-up, we had no obstructions on the beach. Complete access. Anywhere we wanted to go. We talked to who we wanted to talk to, went to the tents.
Still, none of the workers would talk, but we weren‘t hassle at all by anybody.
O‘DONNELL: Scott Walker—
WALKER: So I think from here—
O‘DONNELL: Go ahead.
WALKER: -- we‘ll have to stay with it.
WALKER: We have to stay with this story.
O‘DONNELL: OK. We‘re getting a little satellite delay here. Don‘t worry about it.
Scott Walker of our NBC affiliate WDSU in Atlanta—many thanks for your time tonight.
WALKER: In New Orleans. Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Oh, in New Orleans. OK. Well, we‘ll get that one straight next time.
Still ahead, it‘s still “Thurber Friday” here on COUNTDOWN.
And coming up next: remember Katie Couric‘s Palin interview? Nevada Republican Sharron Angle is starting to make Sarah Palin seem very well-prepared in comparison.
O‘DONNELL: Ahead on COUNTDOWN: Since winning the chance to face Majority Leader Reid in the general election, Sharron Angle has largely avoided talking to reporters. We‘ll show you why.
And Alvin Greene might not be the most polished candidate when he talks to reporters, but wouldn‘t he be an improvement over the alternative Republican Senator Jim DeMint?
O‘DONNELL: Before yesterday, the Sharron Angle media strategy had been flawless: don‘t talk to anyone except FOX News Channel.
But in our third story—that was before she showed up at a so-called Harry Reid retirement party at a Las Vegas restaurant yesterday where the local news media finally got a chance to ask her some questions.
Stoney‘s North Forty Restaurant was the scene of the crime. Nevada‘s Republican candidate for Senate was on hand to greet well-wishers and do a talk radio interview. For 10 days since coming from behind to beat Sue Lowden in the Republican primary, Angle had successfully held local Nevada media at bay. Instead of speaking with them, Angle came to New York for friendly interviews on the FOX News Channel with “FOX and Friends” and Sean Hannity.
Yesterday back in Nevada, Angle relented for a brief chat with a reporter Nathan Baca of the Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS.
The first topic for discussion was Angle‘s position on Social Security, which taken directly from her campaign Web site reads, “Free market alternatives, which offer retirement choices to employees and employers, must be developed and offered to those still in their wage earning years, as the Social Security system has transitioned out. Young workers must be encouraged to investigate personal retirement account options.” In other words, she would end Social Security, pure and simple.
Here is Angle‘s defense of that position.
NATHAN BACA, KLAS REPORTER: Why do you want to eliminate it for younger folks, because your plan calls for transitioning out?
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: You have believed that Harry Reid lie.
BACA: Your own Web site says transition out of the program. What does that mean?
ANGLE: Transition into a personalized account.
BACA: But ending Social Security as we know it?
ANGLE: Personalized Social Security account that they can‘t raid.
BACA: The stock market though almost crashed in 2008. Millions of seniors would have had their savings account—
ANGLE: Now, you‘re putting words—you‘re putting words into my mouth from Harry Reid and I want you—and I want you to be very clear on this. I‘m here to save Social Security. Harry Reid is here—
BACA: By transitioning out of it?
ANGLE: Harry Reid is here to bankrupt Social Security.
BACA (voice-over): We then asked Angle about her quote calling for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency in the midst of the oil spill.
(on camera): Why do you want to eliminate the EPA when we‘re in our worst environmental disaster in this country?
ANGLE: Where are you getting these questions? The issues are not about the EPA.
BACA: But you want to eliminate the EPA, correct?
ANGLE: The issues are homes here in Nevada. He is trying to make this a campaign about me, but where is Harry? Go ask Harry.
BACA: But your own Web site calls --
ANGLE: Please go ask Harry about the EPA and why they have failed.
BACA: And why you want to eliminate it.
ANGLE: Why they have failed to do what they need to do in the Gulf.
BACA (voice-over): Angle walked away when we asked about her Web site once advocating withdrawal from the United Nations. She then gave a 20-minute long interview to conservative radio talk host Roger Hedgecock.
She told the assembled media she‘d answer four questions. But refused to answer our question about this statement of hers: “If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking towards those Second Amendment remedies.”
ANGLE: Thank you so much.
BACA: What do you mean—what do you mean Second Amendment remedies?
Second Amendment remedies, anything?
(voice-over): We kept asking into the parking lot but received no answer.
(on camera): Why won‘t answer what Second Amendment remedies means?
Nothing at all. It‘s a simple question.
O‘DONNELL: Dave Weigel is a “Washington Post” political reporter and he is the author of the blog “Right Now.”
Dave, you know politics. You‘ve read the Second Amendment. What could she possibly have meant by Second Amendment remedies?
DAVID WEIGEL, WASHINGTON POST: She was teasing out a line of rhetoric that you hear a lot at tea parties that things are so bad, that we look wistfully back at the way the Founding Fathers dealt with problems, and that‘s by rebelling. You know, as this day went on, I talked to the Angle campaign a little bit and got a sense that they realized instead of just running away from this people, if people are going to stick cameras on her face, they should come to a point where this was a metaphor she was using.
To make it clear, she was going a bit over the top, but this is what happens when you talk at tea parties and you talk on, you know, that was the Roger Hedgecock show. She talked on the Lars Larson show and said this and, you know, no one would have noticed, but my colleague Greg Sargent found this audio clip. She—the problem is she keeps going on conservative forums, saying things like this and people like us notice them.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Angle was trying to say that this election is not about me, it‘s about Harry Reid. It sure was about Harry Reid—until the Republican primary went off the rails and now, it seems it is absolutely going to be about Sharron Angle and Social Security as we know it, and all of these issues that she has staked out some very extreme opinions on.
Is she going to be able at any point to turn this back to being about Harry Reid?
WEIGEL: Well, I think she got a break today with this news that unemployment in Nevada is 14 percent. And she immediately tried to blame that on Harry Reid. The problem is, you can‘t just, as a candidate, tell the press what they‘re supposed to cover. And you can‘t do that especially if you don‘t give them access to yourself. And if you turn every question as you saw in that video into aspersion that you‘re getting talking points from a politician.
So, I think the Reid campaign had a pretty good week as far as bad economic news goes, as far as the rest of the agenda being bogged down a bit, it wasn‘t great. But they‘ve really succeeded in making this about Sharron Angle‘s inability to answer questions and, yes. They scrambled in the last day because the electorate has a long time to look at both candidates. You can‘t just tell them that all they‘re willing to do is look at the record—sort of the record of the incumbent.
O‘DONNELL: Now, there is no worse image in a political campaign than the candidate literally running away from the camera, refusing to answer questions about things they‘ve already spoken on.
O‘DONNELL: Not irrelevant things that the reporters are making up.
Is this the fate of tea party candidates? Is this what Rand Paul and Angle are going to be doing until November, whenever you get to that, you know, third question that they‘re uncomfortable they just start running for the car?
WEIGEL: I think there‘s, you know, there‘s one worse that you can get, which is getting so angry that you grab the camera or grab the reporter. But this is pretty bad. And yes, they can‘t do it.
I mean, Rand Paul I think just benefited from the fact that our news cycle is so busy and Sharron Angle is so much more obvious and curious in her media strategy that we paid a bit less attention. But in the media, back home, he keeps getting drilled on the points of his—of his policies, of what he said when he‘s been speaking in more conservative groups. And, you know, on the radio shows he‘s appeared on, he‘s talked about how it‘s all opposition and it‘s all unfair.
You know, these candidates, I think they‘ve really just been talking to their base for so long for a year—for both of these candidates—in tea parties and forums that made them feel very, very safe, that they‘re not quite used to talking to the rest of the country. And that‘s—you know, and every campaign you win the base over and then you pivot to the middle. But rarely has the base been so dominant as the Republican Party‘s base has been via the tea party movement.
You know, even during a Democratic primary for president, all you need to do is make sure the voters in Iowa and the voters in New Hampshire don‘t hate you too much.
Here, what Sharron Angle and Rand Paul need to do is make sure the most avid out there activists, yes, who listen to Glenn Beck, hang on their every word and they can‘t disappoint them. They‘ve been trapped by that.
O‘DONNELL: Dave Weigel of “The Washington Post”—thank you for hopelessly offering campaign advice to the tea party candidates tonight that they cannot possibly follow.
WEIGEL: Thank you for that. Have a good night.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up on COUNTDOWN: it takes a lot to be the wackiest politician in South Carolina. Why Jim DeMint actually deserves to lose to the Democratic challenger.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, millions of jobless Americans could soon be without unemployment benefits unless Democrats in the Senate reach a compromise fast. Senator Debbie Stabenow is her guest.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, isn‘t anyone going to rise in defense of South Carolina‘s Senate candidate Alvin Greene? I guess that‘ll have to be me—next.
And later, it wouldn‘t be Fridays around here without James Thurber readings. I‘ll keep that tradition alive.
O‘DONNELL: Ten days after winning South Carolina‘s Democratic senatorial primary, it is now official. Democratic Party officials in South Carolina yesterday upheld the election results after a challenge by second place finisher Vic Rawl. That means in November, it‘s Democrat Alvin Greene versus Republican Senator Jim DeMint.
And even though Alvin Greene may not be a dynamic public speaker, even though he may not be fluent in the intricacies of governing, isn‘t he still much better than his opponent?
After all, it was not Alvin Greene who pledged to make health care reform President Obama‘s waterloo. It was not Alvin Greene who voted against expanding Children‘s Health Insurance Programs. It was not Alvin Greene who politicized air safety by holding up the confirmation of a TSA nominee over unionization. It was not Alvin Greene who voted against requiring FISA court warrants to monitor U.S-to-foreign calls. Nor did he vote against implementing the 9/11 Commission report or vote against expanding stem cell research.
Alvin Greene did not vote against modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures, against the stimulus packages, against removing oil and gas exploration subsidies, against reducing oil usage by 40 percent by 2025, against raising CAFE standards.
South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint cast all those votes and DeMint voted for banning guy adoptions in D.C., for allowing some lobbyists‘ gifts to Congress, for capping damages and setting time limits in medical lawsuits. Not to mention the war in Iraq and the Bush tax cuts during the war in Iraq.
Alvin Greene is unlike any candidate you and I have ever seen. We know precious little about him, but I do know this: Alvin Greene would be better than Jim DeMint in the United States Senate.
And Keith Olbermann is, of course, the better choice to bring you tonight‘s edition of “Fridays with Thurber.” “The Black Magic of Barney Haller”—still ahead. Keith takes over when we come back.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Well, sorry I missed the show tonight, but we have taken the liberty of keeping our “Fridays with Thurber” going via tape to remind you only that I am reading from the “Library of America: Thurber Writings and Drawings” published in 1996.
This is one of my favorite of the short stories of James Thurber originally published in the middle age man on the flying trapeze in 1935. It is called “The Black Magic of Barney Haller” by James Thurber.
It was one of those hot days on which the earth is uninhabitable even as early as 10:00 in the morning, even on the hill where I live under the dark maples. The long porch was hot. And the wicker chair I sat in complained hotly. My coffee was beginning to wear off and with it, the momentary illusion it gives that things are right and life is good. There were sultry mutterings of thunder.
I had a quick feeling that if I looked up from my book I would see Barney Haller. I looked up and there he was, coming along the road, lightning playing about his shoulders, thunder following him like a dog.
Barney is or was my hired man. He is strong and amiable, sweaty and dependable, slowly and heavily competent. But he is also eerie. He traffics with the devil. His ears twitch when he talks.
But it isn‘t so much that as the things he says. Once in late June, when all of a moment‘s sabers began to flash brightly in the heavens and bowling balls rumbled, I took refuge in the barn. I always have a feeling I‘m going to be struck by lightning and either riven like an old apple tree or left with a foot that aches in rainy weather and a habit of fainting. Those things happen.
Barney came in not to escape the storm to which he is or pretends to be indifferent, but to put the scythe away. Suddenly, he said the first of the things that made me when I was with him faintly creepy. He pointed at the house. “Once I see this boat come down the rock,” he said.
It is phenomena like that of which I stand in constant dread—boats coming down rocks, people being teleported, statues dripping blood, old regrets and dreams in the form of lunar moths fluttering against the windows at midnight.
Of course, I finally figured out what Barney meant or what I comforted myself with believing he meant, something about a bolt coming down the lightning rod on the house, a commonplace, utterly natural thing. I should have dismissed it. But it had its effect on me.
Here was a stolid man smelling of hay and leather who talked like somebody out of Charles Fort‘s books like a traveler back from Oz, and all of the time the lightning was zigging and zagging around him.
On this hot morning when I saw Barney coming along with his faithful storm trudging behind him, I went back frowningly to my copy of “Swann‘s Way.” I hoped Barney seeing me absorbed in a book would pass by without saying anything. I read, “I, myself, seemed actually to have become the subject of my book, a church, a quartet, the rivalry between Francis I and Charles V.” I could feel Barney standing, looking at me. But I didn‘t look at him.
“Dis morning bime by,” said Barney, “I go hunt grotches in de voods.” “That‘s fine,” I said and turned the page and pretended to be engrossed in what I was reading. Barney walked on. He had wanted to talk some more but he walked on.
After a paragraph or two, his words began to come between me and the words in the book. Bibe by I go hunt grotches in de voods? If you are susceptible to such things, it is not difficult to visualize grotches. They fluttered into my mind: ugly little creatures about the size of Whippoorwills, only covered with blood and honey and the scrapings of church bells. Grotches—who and what, I wondered, really was this thing in the form of a hired man that kept anointing me ominously, in passing, with abracadabra?
Barney didn‘t go toward the woods at once. He weeded the corn. He picked apple boughs off the lawn, knocked a yellow jacket nest down out of a plum tree. It was raining now but he didn‘t seem to notice it. He kept looking at me out of the corner of his eye and I kept looking at him out of the corner of my eye.
“What dime is it please?” he called to me finally. I put down my book and sawed it out to him. “When you go for these grotches,” I said firmly, “I‘ll go with you.” I was sure he would not want me to go and I was right. He protested he could get the grotches himself.
“I‘ll go with you,” I said stubbornly. We stood looking at each other and then abruptly just to give him something to ponder over, I quoted, “I‘m going out to clean the pasture spring. I‘ll only stop to rake the leaves away and wait to watch the water clear I may. I shan‘t be gone long. You come too.”
It wasn‘t very good abracadabra but it served. Barney looked at me in a puzzled way. “Yes,” he said vaguely. It‘s five minutes to 12:00, I said remembering he had asked. “Then we go,” he said. And we trudged through the rain over to the orchard fence and climbed that and opened the gate and went out into the meadow that slopes up to the woods.
I had a prefiguring of Barney at some proper spot deep in the woods, prancing around like a goat, casting off his false nature, shedding his hired man‘s garments, dropping his Teutonic accent repeating diabolical phrases conjuring up grotches.
There was a great slash of lightning and long bumping of thunder as we reached the edge of the woods. I turned and fled. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Barney standing and staring after me. It turned out, on the face of it, to be as simple as the boat that came down the rock, grotches were crotches. Crotched samplings which he cut down to use as supports under the peach bough because in bearing time they became so heavy with fruit that there was danger of the branches snapping off.
I saw Barney later putting the crotches in place. We didn‘t have much to say to each other. I can see now that he was beginning to suspect me, too.
About 6:00 the next evening, I was alone in the house and sleeping upstairs. Barney rapped on the door of the front porch. I knew it was Barney because he called to me. I woke up slowly. It was dark for 6:00. I heard rumblings and saw flickerings.
Barney was standing at the front door with his storm at heel. I had the conviction that it wasn‘t storming anywhere except around my house. There couldn‘t, without the intervention of the devil or one of his agents be so many lightning storms in one neighborhood.
I had been dreaming of Proust, and the church in Combray, and madelines dipped in tea and the rivalry between Francis I and Charles V. My head whirled and I didn‘t get up.
Barney kept on rapping. He called out again. There was a flash followed by a sharp, splitting sound. I leaped up. This time I thought he is here to get me.
I had a notion that he was standing at the door barefooted with a wreath of grape leaves around his head and a wild animal skin slung over his shoulder. I didn‘t want to go down, but I did.
He was as usual solid, amiable, dressed like a hired man. I went out onto the porch and looked at the improbable storm now on in all its fury. “It‘s getting pretty bad,” I said, meaningly. Barney looked at the rain placidly.
“Well,” I said irritably, “what‘s up?” Barney turned his little squinty blue eyes on me. “We go to the garrick now and become warbs,” he said. “The hell we do,” I thought to myself quickly.
I was uneasy. I was you might even say terrified. But I determined not to show it. If he began to chant incantations or make obscene signs or if he attempted to sling me over his shoulder, I resolved to plunge right out into the storm, lightning and all, and run to the nearest house. I didn‘t know what they would think at the nearest house when I burst in upon them or what I would tell them, but I didn‘t intend to accompany this amiable looking fiend to any garrick and become a warb.
I tried to persuade myself there was some simple explanation that warbs would turn out to be as innocuous as boats on rocks and grotches in the woods, but the conviction gripped me in the growling of the thunder that here at last was the moment when Barney Haller, or whoever he was, had chosen to get me.
I walked towards the steps that lead to the lawn and turned and faced him grimly. “Listen,” I barked suddenly, “did you know that even when it isn‘t brillig, I can produce slity toves? Did you happen to know that mome rath never live that could outgrabe me?
Yes, and furthermore I can become anything I want to; even if I were a
warb, I wouldn‘t have to keep on being one if I didn‘t want to. I can be a
playing card at will, too. Once I was the jack of clubs, but I forgot to
take my glasses off and some guy recognized me. I—“
Barney was backing slowly away toward the petunia box at one end of the porch. His little blue eyes were wide. He saw that I had him. “I think I go now,” he said. And he walked out into the rain. The rain followed him down the road.
I have a new hired man now. Barney never came back to work for me after that day. Of course, I figured out finally what he meant about the garrick and the warbs. He had simply gotten horribly mixed up in trying to tell me he was going up into the garret to clear out the wasps, of which I have thousands. The new hired man is afraid of them.
Barney could have scooped them up in his hands and thrown them out the window without getting stung. I am sure he trafficked with the devil. But I am sorry I let him go.
“The Black Magic of Barney Haller.”
That‘s COUNTDOWN portions written by James Thurber. “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next.
I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
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