Guests: Rick Steiner, Jonathan Turley, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Derrick
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
BP caught breaking its own rule, in bed financially with Republicans. “The Washington Post” exclusive: BP proclaims it will “make no political contributions, whether in cash or in kind, anywhere in the world.” Yet tonight, it proves it gave $4 million to Republican-aligned, pro-big oil political action committees. What else has BP lied about?
Day 71, suddenly, the relief well solution looks a lot less absolute -
the backup plan to the backup plan.
While tropical storm Alex wreaks havoc with the oil skimming effort.
The Kagan hearing, Senator Sessions lies about Elena Kagan‘s position on military recruiting on Harvard, then is shocked when she disagrees with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS ®, ALABAMA: I‘m just a little taken aback by the tone of your remarks, because it‘s unconnected to reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: How a hearing to decide if a Supreme Court nominee will be confirmed is turning into a hearing in which the Senate from Keebler elves tree self-destructs.
The Petraeus hearing—the chicken hawks turn the return of the man they once worshipped into an excuse to stay longer in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: In addition to being harmful, the July 2011 withdrawal date increasingly looks unrealistic.
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OLBERMANN: “Worsts”: Sharron Angle on tape saying no abortions, even for rape or incest or life or death of the mother.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA GORMAN ®, ARIZONA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Pamela Gorman and I approve this message.
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OLBERMANN: And—“Sex in Space.” The question to NASA: Can the astronauts join the 238,000 mile high club? NASA‘s new answer: No, never. Never, never, never.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sex in space, I think you might want a seat belt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And what about those three-year trips to Mars? Derrick Pitts on liftoff, we have liftoff.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
As the BP oil gusher slimes the Gulf of Mexico, revelations today about BP greasing the political process.
Our fifth story tonight: Against its own stated corporate policy, BP has been contributing millions of dollars to mostly Republican-leaning political organizations to protect the company‘s bottom line. And BP‘s explanation raises a new to the credibility of its already battered claims of transparency and trustworthiness. BP broke its own policy, which according to “The Washington Post” exclusive report on this this afternoon called for the company to, quote, “make no political contributions whether in cash or in kind anywhere in the world.” That corporate code of conduct was initiated in 2002 to create greater transparency in BP‘s dealings with various governments around the world.
But over the past seven years, BP North America donated nearly $5 million to political organizations of various kinds, according to “The Washington Post.” The largest contributions about $4 million went to Republican-aligned political action groups working to defeat ballot initiatives in California and Colorado in support of new taxes on the oil industry. An Alaska political organization got BP money for a similar reason, to defeat a tax on gas reserves in that state.
BP also gave $75,000 to the Democratic Governors Association and $15,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee.
Now, BP spokesman telling “The Washington Post,” quote, “The types of spending that we reported here fits within our policy. Our policy on not making corporate political contributions relates to candidates for political office at the state and federal level. That weak attempt at a distinction raising serious questions about BP‘s professed transparency, according to experts on corporate accountability included in “The Washington Post” story.
For the record, a donation accountability Web site shows just over $77,000 donated to the Obama presidential campaign. That would be from BP employees. And it is about $4,000 more than the employees donated to the campaign of Alaska Congressman Don Young.
In the Gulf of Mexico today, even with tropical storm Alex 650 miles southwest of the Deepwater Horizon site, skimming operations have now been halted. BP and the Coast Guard ordered all skimmer ships back to shore due to surging waves caused by the storm. Alex is also expected to push the oil farther inland to beaches, to marshland, to bays. As storm waves overwhelm many containment booms, preparations on the Helix Producer, a ship that could nearly double BP‘s capacity to capture oil, has been delayed now due to high seas, but Alex is not yet affecting current containment efforts at the Deepwater Horizon site and work on the relief wells continues.
However, there is now a backup plan for those relief wells should they fail when they are supposed to go online sometime in August. More on that in a moment.
For now, tropical storm Alex is expected to remain far from the spill zone. It‘s projected to make landfall possibly as a hurricane over Mexico and/or Texas sometime Thursday is the latest guess.
Meantime, there is a renewed suggestion to blow up the well if BP‘s efforts do not work. Former President Clinton saying that the Navy may need to resort to that, but nuclear weapons will not be necessary. We‘ve explored that issue before here and it‘s crazy.
The current vice president, Joe Biden, visited Louisiana and Pensacola, Florida, today and the Obama administration said that BP met the deadline to pay the government‘s first bill for costs associated with responding to the disaster: $71 million—obviously just the beginning.
Let‘s turn first to MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe.
Good evening, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: BP creates this worldwide policy about corporate donations, breaks it. Is the biggest casualty this already shredded issue of credibility and coming at a time when the company still insists that we need to trust its own statements about this disaster?
WOLFFE: Well, I actually think this is even bigger than credibility. I mean, let‘s face it, BP, for a start, has much tougher questions to face than political donations and credibility, that‘s to plug the damn hole and to clean up a damn ecosystem. So, those are much bigger issues for them and challenges.
But what this story really gets to isn‘t whether or not BP lived up to its own standards because, you know, they can redefine those standards as they like. The question is what kind of company was BP? And you—to answer that question, you should look at how they spent this money. A big chunk of it went to blocking Proposition 87 in California. That was designed to move the Californian economy, among other places, beyond petroleum.
BP spent a fortune trying to pretend that it was interested in alternative energy, the new economy, and in fact they were spending their money trying to stop the kind of taxes that would have made alternative energy sources viable and the economic future of at least one state and maybe the entire economy. So, I think there‘s more than credibility at stake here. It‘s what kind of strategy were they playing? Was it just marketing or is the whole thing just a charade?
OLBERMANN: And speaking of a charade, the idea that BP‘s answer to this is—the spokesman says, well, no contributions were made. We meant no contributions to actual candidates directly—which does not seem to be in the original statement.
WOLFFE: No, it does not. And it‘s—they‘re—when you‘re a corporation and you‘re trying to influence votes, actually giving money to an individual candidate is not always that much of a bang for your buck. I mean, look at all the banks that gave money to Chuck Schumer. Has he gone out and stood between them and financial regulatory reform? Well, no.
But if you put money directly into these 527s, these action groups that can hide behind regulations and keep their donors secret, you can actually lobby directly to the American people, you can advocate directly for a cause. And in this case, stop initiatives that would have cost them money, but ultimately help the greener future that people profess to want.
OLBERMANN: The intent of the largest of the political contributions, that one $3 million dose in one spot, that‘s obvious, that‘s telling. It is to protect the bottom line of the corporation. And despite the corporation‘s suggestion and then agreement to create this $20 billion escrow fund, and the government payment that we just heard about today, the start of 70 some odd million dollars.
Do we—is there any reason to doubt that BP‘s prime interest remains to protect its bottom line, not just in the future when everything is sort of stabilized again, but right now, this minute, while it is claiming its only focus is cleaning all this up?
WOLFFE: You know, I‘m going to defer on this one. I think all corporations want to defend their bottom line, there‘s no question that‘s what they‘re put there to do. But if BP was going to nickel-and-dime its way out of this one, it would not have agreed to $20 billion up front. There are clearly—it is a desire to try and limit this and resolve questions about their future. But if they were trying to be ExxonMobil, then they‘re not doing a very good job of it.
OLBERMANN: Our own Richard Wolffe, also the author, of course, of “Renegade: The Making of a President”—as always, Richard, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: About the Gulf and the storm, let‘s turn now to marine conservationist, Rick Steiner.
Rick, good evening.
RICK STEINER, MARINE CONSERVATIONIST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Give us your own assessment of the likely effect of this tropical storm on the broad range of the cleanup efforts in the Gulf, including the skimming operations that were shut down today.
STEINER: Well, it could be a big deal, there‘s no question about it. The biggest implication would be if they have to discontinue the relief well drilling. And right now, they have a 40-knot wind emergency shutdown and move off the site threshold.
But I think they ought to push that envelope a little higher to maybe a 60-knot wind. These are enormous rigs, the Development Driller 3 and 2. They‘re a football-field-wide-by-a-football field-wide, 50,000-ton vessels.
They‘re very stable and waves and sea and winds.
They‘re designed to withstand 100-knot winds and 40, 50, even 60-foot seas. So, they need to stay drilling as long as is safely possible. If they have to disconnect from the drill string, which is a fixed structure, we understand that, but they shouldn‘t move off to Florida, spend a week getting back on site.
If they miss a week of drilling the relief wells, that‘s equivalent to another Exxon Valdez or two going into the Gulf of Mexico. So, they need to stay there.
Forty knots of wind is a good day in Alaska fishermen‘s life, so these huge rigs ought to be able to take it.
OLBERMANN: The relief wells, this backup plan that we‘re now hearing about, if they fail, it‘s to collect oil at the current wellhead through various systems and then direct the oil through a pipeline to existing platforms several miles away. But doesn‘t that assume that the current gusher could be ultimately captured to 100 percent tolerance?
STEINER: I think so. I don‘t think 90 percent collection rate is going to be acceptable to people. Ninety percent of 60,000 barrels a day still leaves 6,000 barrels of oil going into the Gulf of Mexico a day for years conceivably. So that‘s certainly unacceptable. They either have to get 100 percent of it or—the number one thing they have to do is kill this darn thing with the relief wells, and that‘s where all of our hopes need to be.
OLBERMANN: And the reintroduction of the idea of blowing up the wells, we had a Professor Michio Kaku here about blowing them up with nuclear weapons, which was one of the original, crazier suggestions, you know, along with having, as David Letterman likes to say, “Superman” fix the thing. The dangers of using nuclear weapons under such circumstances are just countless.
Is using non-nuclear material to blow up a well a mile deep, is that even within the recommend of possibility? Does President Clinton know what he‘s talking about here?
STEINER: Well, I have a lot of respect for President Clinton.
OLBERMANN: Me, too.
STEINER: But I think this would be your absolute last-ditch Hail Mary initiative. We need to get the relief wells down there and see if they can kill it. And there are several other suggestions, like the one you just posed: of trying to produce the reservoir with the existing infrastructure. But the very, very last thing you would consider is using an explosive. What that could do is fracture the wellbore and the geology there and you could have this thing spewing for years, if not decades.
So that‘s—that‘s a Hollywood scenario, a last-ditch, and we‘re not even close to considering that, I don‘t think, at this point.
OLBERMANN: That‘s the Hail Mary just before we abandon the planet and move somewhere else.
STEINER: That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: Last point, back to the storm here. There has been some reporting that if the storm were to break up patches of oil, it‘s not necessarily a bad thing at this time. Is it likely to do that? Is it likely to serve as a kind of natural dispersant?
STEINER: Sure. And that‘s what will happen, and there‘s some good and bad to that. One, it will, with all the turbulent mixing on the sea surface, the oil that‘s near the sea surface will break into smaller droplets, disperse down into the water column.
The bad news is all of that will travel with the storm surge wherever that goes. If it goes up into the bayous, a lot of areas will be contaminated that have not yet been contaminated. The bird nesting islands near shore will all be flooded. So, while the oil has just been around the perimeter so far, are the entire islands will be oiled. There‘s very little question about that. Even a three or four-foot storm surge will do that.
The other thing a storm will do is it will suspend a lot of sediment in the water. That will attack to the oil droplets in the water column. And when the storm subsides, guess what? All that stuff settles out into the sea bed, so there‘s going to be a lot more oiling of the sea bed ecosystem after this. We‘ve seen this in several large oil spills around the world.
OLBERMANN: Perfect. Rick Steiner, marine conservationist and one of the men helping us understand this as the nightmare continues—once again, great thanks for your time, Rick.
STEINER: Indeed. My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: The gushers on Capitol Hill today were at the Kagan and Petraeus hearings, the nominees almost incidental to the story lines—
Senators Sessions and McCain trying to sell. John Turley on the former and Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson on the latter—when COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: Embarrassing himself during the Sotomayor hearings last year was not bad enough. Now, this quote, “senator,” unquote, all but called Solicitor General Kagan a liar in her hearings, says he knows better than she did what happened at Harvard while she was at Harvard and he was still up in the tree baking the fudge-covered shortbread.
The nomination was not an issue. How long his mission will last, that was the issue. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson joins us.
Move over, Sister Sarah, the heavy breathers of the far right may have a new heroine—“Machine Gun Gorman.”
And NASA‘s latest cut back: no sex in space? Not even during reentry?
OLBERMANN: Perhaps the first Republican rule of Supreme Court nomination hearings pick a fight club should be: we do not talk at Supreme Court nominations hearings pick a fight club.
In our fourth story: The judiciary committee began questioning nominee Elena Kagan and she might not have won confirmation yet, but for the most part today, she won them over.
A few senators however did not fare as well. There was Chuck Grassley who argued against getting law from other countries and from getting—forgetting law from God. Grassley arguing that God created the right to bear arms before the Constitution was amended to include the presumably after God created arms.
Senator Graham appearing like a yea vote, suggested Kagan earlier had called him a “dictator” and then joked that this would probably help him in South Carolina.
Senator Kyl renewed the assault on Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to suggest that Kagan would be an activist judge. Kagan, Marshall‘s former clerk, said she endorsed Marshall‘s view that the court is a branch of the government in which everybody can pursue their claims.
“Talking Points Memo” talking to three Republican senators about their attacks on Marshall and finding that none of them were able to identify a single Marshall ruling they considered activist. One of them, Tom Coburn, criticized Kagan tonight because he does not know her liberal positions on various issues, which she then proceeded to list.
Another, Jeff Sessions, now ranking member of a committee that once rejected his own judicial nomination, is stealing the spotlight right out of the gate this morning. Sessions not merely criticizing Kagan for excluding as dean of Harvard law military recruiting from the school‘s career services office, but calling Kagan anti-military, fostering an anti-military atmosphere on campus by referring to “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” as a, quote, “military policy rather than a law,” blaming it on the military.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: In fact, you were punishing the military. You keep referring in your e-mails and all to the military policy. Isn‘t it a fact that the policy was not the military policy, but a law passed by the Congress of the United States, and that you were taking steps to treat them in a second-class way, not give them the same equal access because you deeply opposed that policy? Why wouldn‘t you complain to Congress and not to the dutiful men and women who put their lives on the line for America every day?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Ms. Kagan refuted the claim, but not better than Sessions did when he himself, as you‘ll now see, referred to “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” as—yes, military policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Senator, the military at all times during my deanship, had full and good access. Military recruiting did not go down. Indeed, in a couple of years, including the year that you‘re particularly referring to, it went up. And it went up because we ensured that students would know that the military recruiters were coming to our campus, because I talked about how important military service was, because our veterans organization and the veterans on campus did an absolutely terrific job—a terrific service—to their fellow students in talking to them about the honor of military service.
SESSIONS: Well, I would just say while my time is running down, I‘m just a little taken aback by the tone of your remarks, because it‘s unconnected to reality. I know what happened at Harvard. I know you were an outspoken leader against the military policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s bring in Jonathan Turley, scholar of constitutional law and professor at George Washington University School of Law.
Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. I‘ll just resist my temptation to spend four minutes talking to you about Senator Sessions and where he got any of his degrees from, which Kellogg‘s cereal he sent the most box tops in for.
How did she do today?
TURLEY: Well, you know, the standard for nominees in modern confirmation is basically to look like Nancy Reagan and sound like a Hallmark greeting card. They‘re kept to doing things like Kagan did, repeatedly promising a fair hearing for people, which is a lot like, you know, surgeon general nominee, you know, bravely coming out against rickets. I mean, it‘s—that‘s the level of most confirmation hearings, not just Kagan.
But I thought she did very, very well. The key is not to get upset, not to get emotional. She didn‘t. She held it very, very well. And they haven‘t really gotten any traction on these attacks.
OLBERMANN: Is there—defining narrative for her critics that you saw today, were they just all pursuing individual pet issues.
TURLEY: Well, many of the comments seemed to be talking past her to people back in their states. I mean, they were bringing up things that really were not her doing or she played a role in, things that she was supposed to be assisting the administration in. You know, it was like they were raising, you know, coastal erosion and why haven‘t you done anything about that.
So, a lot of it was sort of disconnected. Now, one of the things that they hammered on was this idea that you would be a results-oriented justice. And that was a little bit curious, because many of the people that the same senators like would constitute the demonstrably results-oriented jurists.
I mean, you consider, if you go back to Bush v. Gore, in that precarium (ph) opinion, they actually not only determined the outcome of that election, but the majority put in a line saying we‘re just going to do this, but you cannot use it as precedent to benefit anyone else. That would seem to me a pretty results-oriented opinion.
OLBERMANN: The notion of the activist judge, will that survive these hearings? Is it—is it gaining traction or is it just now like a brand name like, you know, Super Bowl?
TURLEY: I think that that has, thankfully, lost a lot of its traction. I think, but I—as you note, I‘m surprised that you don‘t hear that much anymore. And I think that the American people are beginning to understand that activism is very much in the eye of the beholder. That‘s not to say that there aren‘t judges and justices who make political decisions and go outside their legitimate role. But saying that someone is a judicial activist leads to more questions than answers.
OLBERMANN: Thurgood Marshall was able to get himself on the table in somebody else‘s hearing—confirmation hearing—yet again. The implication now from the right was that he was an activist judge who put his own notion of right and wrong above the law. In a legal context, who was more mainstream, Justice Marshall or the people who were criticizing him in the Senate today?
TURLEY: Well, this is a much tougher confirmation for Marshall than he faced when he first went onto the court. But it‘s really ironic because I can‘t think of the case that they‘re thinking of, that Marshall was not an activist jurist in that sense. I think most of the cases they‘re thinking of were authored perhaps by Brennan and not Marshall.
Marshall was the one in dissent and said, power, not reason is the new currency of this court. He objected to that type of thing.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it‘s code. It‘s about Brown v. Board of Education, of course, which he was not on the court for, he was in front of the court for. That‘s what this is about.
Jonathan Turley of George Washington University—as always, great thanks, Jon.
TURLEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The other hearing had other grandstanding. Lawrence Wilkerson on the Petraeus confirmation—and a World Cup soccer coach picks a winner.
OLBERMANN: Funny how the Petraeus hearings turned into the “we need to stay in Afghanistan longer” hearings. Thank you, John McCain.
First, the sanity breaks starting with the Tweet of the Day, highly topical, from Polpaca. “Want Kagan to pull out softball bat, jump on table and shout, ‘I‘ma get medieval on your ass.‘ Not tweet of the day material.” Evidently wrong about that.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
Where we keep our nose to the grindstone; still covering the World Cup, even after the U.S. ouster. Fortunately for us, this talk show, from some country with different accents, has given us a reason, discussing Germany‘s victory over England, and German coach Joachim Low‘s apparent stress eating habit. Allow me to translate and quote from “Caddieshack” at the same time: “50 Bucks says the coach guy picks his nose; 50 bucks more says he eats it. Don‘t do it, coach. There he goes. He‘s going for it. That coach will eat anything.” Coach Joachim Low picking his lineup.
And another prediction from Oberhausen, Germany‘s resident psychic. No, it‘s Oberhausen, Germany‘s resident psychic, Paul, the octopus. The process goes like this; two different plastic containers, each bearing food and a team‘s flag from the World Cup lowered into Paul‘s tank. The container, Joachim‘s first, considers his winning pick for the cup. This time, the aquarium oracle is forecasting Deutschland over Argentina in the quarter final on Saturday. So far, he has a 100 percent hit rate, predicting Germany‘s win over Australia, its loss to Serbia, and, wouldn‘t you know, Germany‘s victory over England.
While Paul is enjoying his success as the country‘s clairvoyant, suddenly we understand the method behind Coach Low‘s madness. He‘s predicting left is a German win and right would be an Argentinean win.
There goes any need I have to repost nose shack. Let‘s just do that in English. Back up the prompter. So there goes any need I had for a post-show snack. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson on the Petraeus next.
OLBERMANN: The end result, a foregone conclusion if ever there was one. The Senate Armed Services Committee not even putting in a full day. Only five hours after the witness first sat down, committee members today voting in favor of the nomination of General Petraeus to become the next commander of the war in Afghanistan. But in our third story, even if Senate lawmakers agree on the leadership of General Petraeus, they are far from united on how he should lead and, more importantly, how long he and we should be there.
The general nominated last week to become the Afghan war commander, taking what is essentially a demotion after General McChrystal‘s post-controversy resignation. General Petraeus today pledging to cooperate with his commander in chief and others, starting with President Obama‘s promise to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in one year‘s time, July, 2011.
The GOP making it seem as if the general‘s cooperation might be forced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Was there a recommendation from you or anyone in the military that we set a date of July, 2011?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER NATO FORCES, AFGHANISTAN: There was not.
MCCAIN: It was not by any military person that you know of?
PETRAEUS: Not that I‘m aware of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Two can play at that game. Cue the next Democrat to ask questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JACK REID (D), ARMED SERVICES CMTE: You‘re fully supportive of the president‘s policy, including beginning a transition, based upon the conditions on the ground, in July of 2011.
PETRAEUS: Let me be very clear, if I could, senator. Not only did I say that I support it, I said that I agreed with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Jack Reid then asking if the Taliban are simply waiting out a U.S. withdrawal, why are they fighting so actively now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETRAEUS: That‘s actually a great point. The reason they‘re active on the ground militarily—there are probably a couple of reasons. One is they‘re fighting to retain safe havens and sanctuaries that they have been able to establish in recent years. They lost a great deal when they lost Marjah and it‘s not surprising that they fight back.
The other reason, though, is they‘re also fighting to break our will. This is a contest of wills. And they can sense concern in various capitals around the world, and of course they want to increase that concern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: General Petraeus leaving open the possibility that he might recommend delaying the start of troop withdrawals next summer, if he is unable to turn the stalemated conflict around. No stalemate for the lawmakers when they convened behind closed doors, swiftly announcing they had voted to send the nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. Since it was a voice vote, no count of the vote was taken, nor a recording of the voices.
Let‘s call in Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff at the State Department during Secretary Powell‘s tenure there, currently the Pamela Herriman visiting professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. He‘s in Washington with us tonight. Colonel, good evening.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON (RET), PROFESSOR, WILLIAM AND MARY: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Was the debate in the hearing room today merely a preview of the kind of fight we might witness a year from now as that July 2011 deadline approaches?
WILKERSON: I think it is, although it was pretty much a love-in today, I thought. The man whom everyone, I think, regardless of political stripes, believes is the best man for the job is going to be confirmed for the job. I would say one thing too; I take exception to your demotion. George Marshall would have left Washington in a heartbeat and FDR‘s side to be Overlord‘s commander.
So I think, in this case, this is where a military man belongs. He belongs in a theater of war. And I think General Petraeus is, at base, a military man.
OLBERMANN: We congratulate him on his demotion, if that‘s what it is then. General Petraeus left open that he would recommend changes to this withdrawal policy if he is unable to turn this conflict around. And then the question, obviously, is raised, if General Petraeus can‘t turn things around in Afghanistan, realistically who could?
WILKERSON: Keith, I‘ve heard that so many times. All through my military career, I‘ve heard that we‘re going to reexamine things based on conditions on the ground and so on. My best example is—and the country I know best in Asia is Korea. Let‘s look at ‘53 to ‘88 when they hosted the Olympics. That‘s 35 years to really build a stable, reasonably prosperous, well governed, beginning to be a democracy. And there was no insurgency there, none whatsoever. At best, we had students rioting in the streets against the dictatorship.
So 35 years with no insurgency, how long is it going to take in Afghanistan? Are we talking about half a century? Is the American taxpayer willing to expend the blood and treasure for that time period? It seems Senator McCain is.
OLBERMANN: The last two years on the ground in Afghanistan have been more deadly than the previous seven were. Might not being able to turn things around be a good argument for getting out?
WILKERSON: Well, I think General Petraeus and General McChrystal before him were right that it‘s going to be tougher before it gets any better. My problem is I can‘t see it getting any better. I only see it getting tougher. I just do not see, with basically an illegitimate government, basically a civil war between Pashtuns and everybody else, and us more or less lining up and supporting, through our training and security policies and other means, including millions of dollars, that division and that dichotomy in the country.
I just don‘t see how we‘re going to solve it. Petraeus said our objective, as the president has said, is to get rid of al Qaeda. We got rid of al Qaeda several years ago. The remnants are in Pakistan. They‘re not in Afghanistan. And I can‘t, for a moment, imagine that any government in Afghanistan would allow al Qaeda to return. They know exactly what we‘d do. We‘d come back and drive them out again.
OLBERMANN: To that point, does it trouble you that no large part of that hearing today was devoted to recognizing the fact that we had an actual victory in Afghanistan in hand as early as December, 2001, and by lack of maintenance, essentially, Mr. Bush basically gave it away?
WILKERSON: I couldn‘t agree with you more. In fact, some people—some friends of mine in the Pentagon did a little back of the envelope stubby pencil analysis, and said for the amount of money we spent to this point, even limited though it was in the Bush administration, we could have gone and come back two or three times.
OLBERMANN: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff at the State Department, saying it eloquently off the back of that envelope. Great thanks, sir.
WILKERSON: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: The latest NASA outrage: no sex in space. Well, then why was “Fly Me to the Moon” such a big hit for Frank Sinatra, huh? Huh?
Tea Time, and simply put, this may be the best psycho commercial—no, you‘re supposed to show the commercial there. Should I wait for it or is not going to appear? There it is. The best psycho commercial yet.
And in worsts, Sharron Angle‘s refusal to accept abortion, even for rape or incest or the mother‘s health.
When Rachel joins you, Ms. Angle‘s first mainstream interview is happening at about 9:30 eastern. She will exclusively show you the highlights right after it ends.
OLBERMANN: The newest road warning sign, look out for vampires.
Worst persons ahead.
First, no, this is not your water coming to a boil, it‘s our nightly checkup on the something for nothing crowd. It‘s Tea Time. John Boehner has now credited the Tea Party with stirring a political rebellion not seen here since 1776, because the Democrats are, quote, “snuffing out the America I grew up in.”
He was born in 1949 in Cincinnati, so the America he grew up in still had Jim Crow, anti-miscegenation laws, lynchings, political assassinations, jail terms for gays and Polio. Mr. Boehner may be the last politician to try to jump on this bandwagon, because it is ever more apparent that if it is remembered at all by history, this Tea Party will be recalled for 100 percent completely insane campaign commercials.
You‘ve got the guy shooting at the sign stealers, the Alabama clown who sees all the dead presidents, the F, C, I, and O, electronic vampire sheep, the guy who almost unintelligibly says, we speak English; you want to live here, learn it.
And then we have Pamela Gorman and her ad pretty much speaks for itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This year, a lot of folks think this is our best shot at changing Congress. Course, that all depends on the caliber of our candidates.
Meet Pamela Gorman, candidate for Congress in Arizona Three, conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot.
The insiders in the state Senate wanted to have her hide when she fought against their plan for higher taxes. But Gorman, she can take care of herself. Rated 100 percent by the NRA, conservative Pamela Gorman is always right on target.
PAMELA GORMAN, TEA PARTY CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS: I‘m Pamela Gorman, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So, vote for Pamela Gorman in the Republican primary for Congress in the Arizona Third or she‘ll kill you with a machine gun!
OLBERMANN: Sex in space, and something called the three porpoise theory, with Derrick Pitts. First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world, brought to you by Tri-Corner, the hat people, bringing you Glenn Beck‘s perversion of the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln memorial. Beck attacked the parents today. Who will he attack on August 28th? Tri-Corner, the hat people, now available in tin foil.
The bronze to an unidentified woman in Pruta (ph), Colorado. She was driving down a dirt road in the grand valley town when she suddenly threw her SUV into reverse and crashed into a canal. The driver says she backed into the canal because she was startled by something in the middle of the road, a vampire. Police say they found no evidence of drugs, alcohol, wolfsbane, garlic, crosses, holy water, Edward or Jacob.
The runner up, North Carolina Congresswoman Sue Myrick. You may recall her conclusion that the Capitol was being infiltrate by Muslim spies disguised as congressional interns. She‘s now written to Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano demanding a multi-platform task force to investigate the new risk that only she can see along the American-Mexican border:
Hezbollah and Iran. She‘s convinced that Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, is crossing the Mexican border on Iran‘s behalf. Congresswoman loony bin‘s evidence, some inmates in southwestern prisons are turning up with tattoos written in Farsi. Police said they found no evidence of drugs, alcohol, wolfsbane, garlic, crosses, holy water, Edward or Jacob.
Our winner, Republican and Tea Party Senate candidate Sharron obtuse Angle of Nevada. Former Nevada Republican Congresswoman Barbara Buchanavbich (ph) says she may not even vote for Angle. “She‘s very rigid and I have a little bit of trouble understanding her position. She‘s a very difficult person.”
One of Angle‘s positions just became very understandable today with the distribution of an interview she gave in January about how pro-choice she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE, TEA PARTY CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: I‘m pro responsible choice. You know, there is choice to abstain, choice to do contraception, all kinds of choices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any reason at all for an abortion?
ANGLE: Not in my book.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So rape and incest would not be something?
ANGLE: You know, I‘m a Christian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
ANGLE: And I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives, and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations, and we need to have a little faith in many things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So, Miss Angle, we‘re now talking about a theocracy. A rape is God‘s plan? Incest, God‘s plan. A pregnancy that kills the baby and the mother and could have been prevented by an abortion, God‘s plan. Presumably, a murder is God‘s plan. Of course, Miss Angle, you have to ask yourself if the medical knowledge to safely conduct an abortion isn‘t also God‘s plan. And if you have to accept that Roe v. Wade and the far right‘s inability to turn it over, despite Supreme Court conservative majorities and seven Republican presidential terms since, is also God‘s plan.
Sharron Angle, Tea Party and Republican candidate from Nevada—excuse me, Nevada—today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Abstaining from sex in space is nothing new. Just ask the 14 billion-year-old Virgo. For that matter, any of the 335 astronauts NASA has sent into space, except for two of them. In our number one story, leading scientists agree that colonization of space is essential to the long-term survival of our species. Yesterday, a NASA space shuttle commander revealed that astronauts on his shuttle are prohibited from knocking anti-gravity boots.
On April 5th, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On board, three women and four men, led by Commander Allen Poindexter. Their mission is a 13-day tour at the International Space Station. Yesterday, more than two months after returning safely to Earth, the crew of Discovery was on a media tour in Tokyo when Poindexter was asked a hypothetical question about coitus among the stars.
According to the “Agence France Press,” Poindexter was quite serious, responding, quote, “we are a group of professionals. We treat each other with respect. And we have a great working relationship. Personal relationships are not an issue. We don‘t have them and we won‘t.”
As far as an official policy regarding sex in space, NASA as an organization doesn‘t appear to explicitly prohibit it. As we stipulated before, at some point reproduction in micro gravity is going to have to happen. Our future kind of depends on it.
Luckily, our friends at the History Channel already took the trouble to explore the pitfalls of sex in space and how to work around them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing everyone does agree upon is that one or more of the mating partners needs to be restrained.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you could have is some hand holds and perhaps leg holds, similar—made out of bar kind of material, similar to the hand holds you have to assist you in the bathtub.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any mechanism that would simulate constraints on motion, that would at all mimic gravity, would probably facilitate mating in space. It could be Velcro.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And one of the parties could wrap legs around something and then perhaps foot holds similar to the kind of thing you put your feet in in water skis, to secure the bottom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For sex in space, I think you might want a seat belt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, we should perhaps be talking to Isabella Rossellini for a demonstration, but who gets to follow that? No, a scientist. Derrick Pitts, the chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, who is probably regretting that choice right now. Good evening, Derrick.
DERRIC PITTS, FRANKLIN INSTITUTE CHIEF ASTRONOMER: Thank you, Keith.
I‘ll try to keep a straight face.
OLBERMANN: That‘s one of us. If it‘s going to take several years to get to Mars, are those people just out of luck?
PITTS: No, I don‘t think they are because, you know, it‘s such a long trip, this is one of those things that‘s going to have to come out of a relationship of people traveling together. They are going to have to figure out what to do with their sexual urges, and I‘m betting that something interesting is going to happen on that trip.
OLBERMANN: But isn‘t there already a report that supposedly that—it was never really answered whether the couple on the Shuttle, that fell in love in the lead-up period to the launch and got engaged just before they took off, so to speak, that they never really denied that perhaps the marriage began in a physical sense somewhere in sub-orbital space?
PITTS: Yes, you‘re right. They essentially refused to answer that question, saying it was nobody‘s business and we really didn‘t need to get into that, because of their level of professionalism. I really doubt that anything has happened in any of the American space program missions. And partly the reason is that, you know, if you‘re an astronaut, you really do not want to jeopardize your future chances for returning to space, so you‘re going to do everything you‘re told, and you‘re not going to do anything that you shouldn‘t be doing.
OLBERMANN: Well, but that begs the question, doesn‘t it, that on some of these three-year trips, that you might be instructed to procreate on the way to Mars. What if you don‘t want to?
PITTS: I think they‘ll figure out how to set up the pairings. I think maybe they‘ll do a little space computer dating system, you know, to figure out who‘s going to be an astronaut and who isn‘t. It‘s just an extra box you check, Keith, that tells you what happens.
PITTS: You got it, there you go.
OLBERMANN: We showed a little of the History Channel, which actually did a special about this. And they had some great ideas for how to get it done. Is, in fact, the space station big enough where there would be any privacy anywhere?
PITTS: The space station is a really good size, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies where people could sort of get themselves away in a corner and have a little fun. So there‘s plenty of room. And when you take a look around the various components, you find out that, you know, the Russian areas are a little bit more—have a little bit more privacy in some of their spaces.
But I think those kinds of spaces and those kinds of opportunities are going to continue to develop and present themselves.
OLBERMANN: You just hit the nut of the point here. Is there a space sex race and did we lose it to the Russians?
PITTS: You know, I don‘t think anybody is going to tell us whether that has happened or not. I think we have to just look at the faces of the cosmonauts and see if they‘re smiling or not. That might give us some hint as to what happened.
OLBERMANN: Whether it‘s a cosmonaut or an astronaut, is there downtime enough to have done this on your own at some point?
PITTS: Actually, Keith, that‘s a very good point. You know, this is such an expensive endeavor that the ground controllers absolutely schedule every last second of time they possibly can to get the most efficiency out of this, out of the work that‘s being done. And so there really isn‘t very much time. Although astronauts always do have some personal time and, you know, let‘s—
We should just mention that where there‘s a will, there‘s a way. If there‘s time, somebody can get to it.
OLBERMANN: Derrick Pitts of the Franklin Institute, who‘s our champion tonight for getting through this in one piece, great thanks.
PITTS: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for June 29th. It‘s the 2,216th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,205th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, the 71st day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.
Before I go, Larry King announcing tonight he will leave his nightly show this fall. Larry King is a lovely and generous man, who repeatedly tried to convince his bosses to hire me to precede him at CNN, as long ago as the spring of 2001. I will always be in his debt. Larry King, great broadcaster, hello.
I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now anticipating Sharron Angle‘s first mainstream interview being done with our friend Jon Ralston, minutes hence, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
Guests: Rick Steiner, Jonathan Turley, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Derrick