Guests: Eugene Robinson, Howard Fineman, Laura Flanders, Sam Seder
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The far-right roars back after the overturning of Prop 8. Sharron Angle: make adoption by gays illegal. Does she also want to make it illegal retroactively?
And the dismissal of the ruling portrayed as just one man‘s personal preference.
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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: What we have is a results-oriented liberal judicial judge—one judge, a judge who happens to be gay.
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OLBERMANN: A judge so liberal he was nominated by Ronald Reagan and opposed by the left.
Pedestrian job numbers for July, but a Republican stepping off the stage. Senator Voinovich admits the awful truth: The Bush tax cuts did not, cannot, never will pay for themselves.
And the president lashes out at the GOP, blocking a $30 billion lending fund for small businesses.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A minority in the Senate is standing in the way of giving our small businesspeople an up-or-down vote on this bill. And that‘s a shame.
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OLBERMANN: The shame in Arkansas. The Democratic hierarchy stuck up for Blanche Lincoln instead of Bill Halter. Now, they‘ve decided they can‘t re-elect Blanche Lincoln.
“Fridays with Thurber”: His time in the State Department and how the paranoia of 1948 is the same as the paranoia of 2010. “Exhibit X.”
And “Worsts”: Is it possible we did not make calling 911 difficult enough?
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DISPATCHER: OK, you‘re going to have to call somebody else, sir. You called 911. We can‘t come give you a ride.
CALLER: Even the sheriff said she‘d give me a ride, ma‘am.
DISPATCHER: The sheriff said they‘d give you a ride to the liquor store?
CALLER: That‘s correct.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And Lonesome Rhodes explains what he‘s based his political philosophy on.
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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: Mountain Dew and Cheetos!
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OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
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BECK: What planet have I landed on?
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
As right-wing politicians ramp their ongoing assault on gay rights and gay Americans, a disturbing scenario tonight: Sharron Angle, a Republican Senate candidate for Nevada who opposes gay adoption, refusing to say tonight whether she would forcibly remove children from their homes if they have already been adopted by gay parents.
Our fifth story tonight: A tax on gay Americans now, including a tax on the conservative judge who struck down California‘s gay marriage ban.
But, first, a questionnaire of an obscure Bible-over-government PAC and what we know and what we don‘t know about how some of the nation‘s leading Republicans answered. The “Associated Press” last night obtained Angle‘s answer to that questionnaire. Among them, Angle‘s opposition to laws that let gay Americans adopt children.
Today, we asked Angle‘s campaign whether her composition to gay adoption would be retroactive, whether she would remove adopted children from gay parents—we have so far not received an answer. Nor is Angle alone in winning that PAC‘s endorsement, a prerequisite for which, the group claims, is filling out its questionnaire, including that question about gay adoption.
House Republican whip, Eric Cantor, did. And we have asked him to release his questionnaire, along with Florida Senate candidate, Marco Rubio, who also won the group‘s endorsement, as well as California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. Although Fiorina‘s office says it did not fill out the questionnaire.
As “Talking Points Memo” reports, Angle has a long history of anti-gay attacks. The executive director of Nevada‘s Independent American Party telling “TPM” that Angle agreed in general with the party‘s positions, which included a 1994 anti-gay leaflet portraying gays as child-molesting sodomites out to pervert the country—Angle retaining her membership in that Independent American Party for three years after that was published.
Nor is that political action group alone in pushing an anti-gay agenda this election year. Following Wednesday‘s ruling, which overturned California‘s ban on gay marriage, a host of right-wing advocacy groups have come out attacking not just the ruling, but the judge personally because he is gay.
Let me remind that Judge Vaughn Walker, years ago, established his credentials as a conservative, even a libertarian jurist, for that he was nominated twice by President George H.W. Bush after Democrats, including then Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, blocked his nomination by President Reagan, claiming that Walker would be hostile to gays from the bench, because as a lawyer, he had brought a suit against the Gay Olympics for copyright infringement, and he put a lien on the home of their leader while he was dying of AIDS.
No, because George Walker agreed with the arguments of lawyers, including President George W. Bush‘s former solicitor general, Ted Olson. His ruling citing over and over the decisions of Justice Anthony Kennedy, also in support of gay rights, anti-gay religious groups are claiming Vaughn for those reasons was biased in his ruling because he‘s gay.
Leading to the question: what sexual orientation would render one impartial about marriage?
Tony Perkins‘ Family Research Council says, quote, “The judge behind Proposition 8‘s undoing was just biding his time until he could unleash his ultimate agenda, decimating marriages that have defined civilization since the beginning of time.”
Ted Wildmon of the American Family Association on his Web site is directing people to pressure Congress to impeach Judge Walker. Quote, “His situation is no different than a judge who owns a porn studio being asked to rule on an anti-pornography statute.”
How open and overt as the Republican Party‘s anti-gay agenda become?
This is Nathan Deal, former Republican congressman of Georgia. He‘s trying to be governor there. On Tuesday, he has a run-off for the Republican nomination against former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who is so conservative she just won the endorsement of Sarah Palin, but that‘s not anti-gay enough for Mr. Deal. He put out this new ad blasting his conservative Republican rival for not being anti-gay enough.
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ANNOUNCER: The last straw. For some, it‘s Karen Handel‘s support of taxpayer funded gay partner benefits. For others, the last straw is Karen Handel‘s vote to give our tax dollars to Youth Pride, a group that promotes homosexuality among teenagers as young as 13.
But for all, the lies Karen Handel tells about Natal Deal, a veteran, former prosecutor, and judge to hide what she‘s done are the last straw.
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OLBERMANN: We leave the grammar to somebody else. Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, also associate editor—excuse me—Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post.”
Gene, thanks for your time tonight.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Sharron Angle won‘t tell us whether she supports removing adopted kids from families headed by gay couples. Does that help her in any conceivable way? Is there a group out there looking to do that?
ROBINSON: You know, I‘ve been thinking of what sort of group that would be. Maybe if somewhere in Nevada, there‘s a club for historical re-enactors of the Salem witch trials, maybe that‘s the sort of group that she ought to go to looking for an endorsement. Beyond that, I find it hard to imagine and maybe it‘s just my failure of imagination, maybe it‘s my hope over imagination, but it‘s hard for me to fathom how this really helps her in this tight contest against Harry Reid.
OLBERMANN: Well, obviously, you hope to get the support and the endorsement and whatever money there might be to it without having to get any of the crazy stick to you. I mean, all the candidates that got support from the PAC and it‘s called Government Is Not God, how do they avoid the extreme positions like, you know, taking adopted kids away from their parents, without losing the anti-gay base or whatever that is?
ROBINSON: Well, if they were courageous, they would go to Government Is Not God and explain what their title means, and that there is a separation between church and state in this country, and that there is no state religion and that the Founders set it up that way for very, very good reasons. That‘s part of the fabric of this country.
Barring that sort of courage, I think they try to kind of mumble mouth their way through it and not address that question, for example, of retroactively doing some sort of Gestapo raids on the families of—same-sex families that have happened to have adopted children and hope no one pays attention.
OLBERMANN: They would be called—they‘d call themselves liberators under those circumstances. I think that would be the term we‘ve heard before.
The attacks on Judge Walker—there‘s a strong anti-American streak in the social right. Don‘t they get that even—that it‘s the judge‘s job to overrule the majority and the majority is infringing upon the rights of the minorities, and those literally are fill in the blanks, it doesn‘t matter which the minority is today? It might be gay parents, and tomorrow, it might be government is not God members.
ROBINSON: Apparently, that doesn‘t matter. Apparently, for all the historical references and illusions that the Tea Party and that the social right in general likes to make, they‘re not aware that the Founders specifically wanted separation of powers and that‘s why we have a Bill of Rights. It is to protect the rights of the few over the proclivities of the mob, and they would have been appalled at the idea that a vote or a referendum or—could take away what they consider fundamental rights of American citizens. And so, they set up all these checks and balances, but that‘s a flashing red light that the social right is often willing just to crash right through in pursuit of an agenda.
OLBERMANN: What about the standards of politics here? The strategy being once you won the primary, you attack back towards the middle. Why would the Sharron Angles of this world almost dare us to have a conversation now about this just when America is about to start paying attention, saying nothing of Nevada?
ROBINSON: Well, if you thought this was calculation, you would—you would wonder, and you would say, boy, it‘s a wrong calculation.
I tend to doubt that this is a calculated political move, some sort of variation of the standard political strategy. It sounds to me more like a spasm. Just a kind of reaction that really wasn‘t thought through that may reflect her true beliefs, which is actually one of the more frightening possibilities as we try to contemplate this whole thing. That she actually thinks, well, gee, maybe we really might want to confiscate the children of same-sex couples.
That‘s—to me, that is—that is an appalling commentary on where our politics finds itself in this country in 2010.
OLBERMANN: I think God told her, but government as we know is not God, so what he was saying to her was don‘t mix them.
MSNBC political analyst Gene Robinson, of “The Washington Post”—as always, have a great weekend, Gene.
ROBINSON: You too, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also with us tonight, Laura Flanders, host of “GRITtv” on the Dish Network‘s Free Speech Channel and on GRITtv.org.
LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV.ORG: Good to see you, too.
OLBERMANN: We found one study from 2007, 65,000 kids have been adopted by gay or lesbian parents. What are we talking about if we‘re talking about outlawing any more or perhaps even retroactively outlawing?
FLANDERS: Well, we‘re talking about—I mean, this is really where the hating hurts. You know, it‘s not just those kids. It‘s also—there are something like half a million kids in foster homes right now. I think what we‘re saying to them is, you know, we love you, but we love discrimination better, and what kind of message is that?
I mean, they‘re going to look back years from now and say, with so much hurt in this country right now, we‘re going take offense at the loving? This is craziness.
OLBERMANN: Judge Walker noted and there have been studies that suggest that there‘s no qualitative difference in upbringing or environment for children in gay homes versus straight homes. Is that—is that sort of an accepted science or what?
FLANDERS: Yes. I don‘t know whether he‘s been to the movies recently, but the kids really are all right, and if they don‘t want to believe Hollywood, they can believe the child welfare league, the AMA. They can believe the Association of Pediatricians.
I mean, it‘s kind of offensive, frankly that, we‘re being studied gay and lesbian people for our ability to parent. Let‘s talk to the kids. Let‘s be sensible here.
This is a question of—as the judge said yesterday, Judge Walker, as you said, he—it really makes you wonder. What he really said was, there is nothing inferior about gay and lesbian people, and it makes you wonder what is the attachment to having—what do they think if you don‘t have a state-sanctioned superiority, you just won‘t be able to compete in the world? Relax. You can handle it.
OLBERMANN: Well, then—that‘s the other thing. Perhaps you have some insight unto this phrase that was used here by—I guess this is from Mr. Tony what‘s his name‘s group—
OLBERMANN: “The judge—yes—behind Proposition 8‘s undoing was just biding his team to unleash his ultimate agenda, decimating marriages that have defined civilization against the beginning of time.”
How does a gay marriage decimate a straight marriage? Just one example.
FLANDERS: Well, straight marriage probably doesn‘t need any help being decimated. It‘s really in trouble. And I think what we got a problem with here is not the judge or his sexuality which they‘re all worried about now, but his reality-based reasoning. I mean, this is a guy that lives in the reality-based universe. Well, we know that‘s problematic.
OLBERMANN: What happens—what happens now? What if the economy or the anti-Obama sentiment leads to the actual election of people who are openly anti-gay?
FLANDERS: Well, you know, we‘ve always had plenty of people in Congress who were openly anti-gay and this is an issue of gay equality has never had serious leadership at the political level. It‘s a movement that has moved forward from the bottom up. Love will find a way.
You know, that‘s how Barack Obama‘s parents got to get married. This movement—believe it or not—is being led in large part by the children of gay and lesbian couples who say, “Get over yourselves, people.” We, I think, are going to find a whole lot of politicians whose constituents, as well as their children, are just embarrassed by them.
OLBERMANN: Laura Flanders of “GRITtv”—thanks for your insight.
Thanks for coming. Have a good weekend.
FLANDERS: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: The mixed jobs numbers. Unemployment did not get worse in July. Private sector jobs increased slightly, and the most mixed number of them all, the Republicans numbers man in Congress wants to raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans so he can raise tax cuts for the richest Americans. Good plan if you‘re Daddy Warbucks. Next.
OLBERMANN: The supposed economics genius of the House Republican Caucus reveals a program so tilted towards the rich that they would actually get more than 100 percent of his proposed tax cuts.
First, the Democratic establishment refused to listen to the claims of her challenger that she could not be re-elected as senator from Arkansas. The establishment supported her. Now, they seem to have figured out her challenger was right.
And a story he wrote 62 years ago that reflects the political climate of 62 seconds ago. “Exhibit X” on “Friday‘s with Thurber”—as COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: The GOP strategy relying in equal measure on interference and amnesia. One part obstruction, the desire to grind the economic recovery to a halt in order to use the lingering recession against Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections; and one part diversion, attempt to convince voters if not themselves that Republican policies under a Republican president were not responsible for driving the economy to the brink in the first place.
Our fourth story: a new jobs report out today—either a bad sign for the economy or good one, depending on whom you ask.
We begin with the numbers. The unemployment rate holding steady in July at 9.5 percent. The public sector having lost 200,000 jobs last month; the private sector having gained 71,000.
The president hailing that as the seventh straight month of private job creation.
House Minority Leader Boehner with a different view, surprisingly enough. John of Orange saying in a statement, “Welcome to the reality of President Obama‘s broken promises, out-of-control spending sprees, and failing stimulus policies.”
The huge chunk of public sector jobs that went away last month: Census jobs that expired.
And how did Mr. Boehner feel when those jobs were added to the economy back in May? “It is disappointing,” he said then, “that nearly all those gains are temporary, taxpayer-funded government jobs.”
To recap, this brings Mr. Boehner upset about all the temporary Census jobs. Today, he is despondent to see those temporary Census jobs gone.
More hypocrisy evident of the GOP‘s ferocious desire to embrace tax cuts at all cost—usually your cost. The party‘s plan to do just that having been mapped out by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin—the mainstream media‘s new visionary of purported fiscal responsibility. Mr. Ryan‘s claims don‘t hold up to anybody who actually checked the math on his numbers.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman revealing in “The New York Times” that Mr. Ryan aims to give the nation‘s richest 1 percent, 117 percent, of his plan‘s total tax cuts—more than the total. How is that even possible?
It‘s possible by raising taxes for 95 percent of the population. That‘s how. That‘s how you do it. It would be a tax hike. You would invert Robin Hood. You would steal from the poor and the middle class and give to the rich—quite literally.
Thus, to make appear that the GOP‘s numbers add up, Mr. Ryan assumes zero growth in all domestic discretionary spending—basically everything that is not defense, which is actually at 25 percent cut in spending once you factor in inflation and population growth from—which programs would Mr. Ryan slash funding by one-quarter, he does not say.
The facts so undeniable that one Republican lawmaker now admitting the truth about extending the Bush tax cuts. Senator Voinovich saying the Bush tax cuts will not, cannot pay for themselves. He is retiring.
More Republicans smoke and mirrors in assigning blame for the economy. Ahead of today‘s jobs report, Senator DeMint, calling this Obama‘s recession.
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SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: This is no longer something we can blame on President Bush. In fact, the Democrats have been in control of policy-making, economic policy spending for four years now. This is not Bush‘s recession. This is a result of Democrat economic policies.
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OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own list political analyst, Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Despite what Senator DeMint claims there, in the downturn that started two years ago or more and Republicans policies were in place because there was a Republican executive in chief. Does anyone—can anyone actually believe that the Democrats had then done nothing and had maintained that status quo that the current economic situation would be better instead of worse?
FINEMAN: No. I don‘t think anybody can claim that, and when Barack Obama took action initially, and when he started making decisions or putting out the idea that he would make decisions even before he was inaugurated, Keith, you tend to forget, he had a firm hand there early on. He had Larry Summers advising him. They knew they were going to pump more money in with Ben Bernanke right away.
Any fair-minded observer would say in those first months, those first key months, Barack Obama‘s leadership and the decisions they made, which actually had their roots with Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke in the previous administration, were good ones and smart ones and saved the day.
You know, it‘s an old American motto, an old Navy motto: Don‘t just stand there. Do something. That‘s practical American strategy—and that‘s what Barack Obama did in the early days, and he was rewarded with very high poll numbers at the beginning for doing that.
OLBERMANN: But, the results being what they are, that would seem to be—even though it‘s nice to follow that Navy procedure and the code book and such, it does seem to be a bit of a strategy bummer for the Democrats, never mind the tone. Is it not impossible to prove: “Look, you think it‘s bad now, it really could have been bad if we hadn‘t done this”?
FINEMAN: Sure. That‘s not a bumper sticker that‘s going to work. You know, it could have been worse. It‘s a lot different from hope. It‘s a lot different from hope—you know, it could have been worse.
And I don‘t—and they understand that, especially because—at the White House—because in talking to them, they know, look, the unemployment number, despite some of the progress you mentioned there today, is still very high. People‘s view of the future and the economy is still very gloomy. That‘s just a plain fact.
It‘s based on the reality that people see in the streets. It‘s based on foreclosures. It‘s based on the reality people see all around them.
The White House isn‘t planning to make that argument that way.
OLBERMANN: What then do the Democrats need to do to convince voters not to give the keys back to the GOP?
FINEMAN: Well, they‘re going to try to frame it, Keith, as you know, in terms of future and past. They‘re not going on sort of directly try to blame things on George Bush, even though it began many those years. They‘re going to say, look, those policies of the past failed. The policies we‘re trying now are beginning to bear fruit.
Have they all born fruit yet? No. But to go back to the past would be a mistake. So, that will be one thing to try to frame it future versus past.
The Democrats are also going to talk about issues that they know will sell with voters in terms of loss of jobs to overseas firms. You‘re going to see a lot when the Congress comes back in September, I‘m told, of legislation trying to limit the exporting of jobs overseas, and I think there will be a lot of talk about taxes. It‘s risky for Democrats because taxes are not their natural terrain, but I think the Democrats are going to have to make the points that you were making about tax cuts for the rich.
OLBERMANN: Well, Congressman Ryan made the points with the interpretation from Dr. Krugman. I mean, what sort of softball math is he offering here? What kind of—to borrow a phrase—voodoo economics has he come up with?
FINEMAN: Well, first, let‘s say that the deficit and the debt are both very serious issues. There‘s for question about that. To the extent that Congressman Ryan seems like he‘s really concerned about that, you know, he gets a few points.
Senator Voinovich, the guy who‘s retiring, is a real deficit hawk. He‘s voted against spending and tax cuts time and time again. One reason he‘s leaving, one reason he‘s not, he doesn‘t feel comfortable in the modern Republican Party.
I think Paul Krugman was right that there are a lot of things that Representative Ryan leaves out of the equation. He leaves out a lot of tax loss stuff from tax cuts.
You know, it‘s interesting—Congressman Ryan isn‘t really making the Laffer curve argument because he isn‘t even dealing with that side of things, and what he‘s doing on the spending cuts side, as you pointed out, has a lot of holes in it.
Everybody is for balancing the budget. I‘ve been through this movie a million times, Keith. Everybody is for spending cuts until it involves something in their state or some program they believe in. Just check and see what Representative Ryan cares about in his home state, in his home district, and you‘ll see—I bet—that he‘s not being very specific.
OLBERMANN: It‘s all fun and games until some rich person gets hurt.
OLBERMANN: -- great thanks. Have a good weekend.
FINEMAN: Thank you. You too, Keith.
OLBERMANN: An update on our Government Is Not God questionnaire story from the campaign of Carly Fiorina in California. This statement, “Carly supports civil unions and the current domestic partnership laws. She‘s not opposed to same-sex adoption.”
That doesn‘t really address the questions about the questionnaire.
Upcoming: Sam Seder on how two wrongs not only don‘t make a right in Arkansas, but how they might make a Republican senator there.
OLBERMANN: How to back the wrong candidate in the Democratic primary and only realize after that you have gotten her the nomination she can‘t win. First, a contrast in what you can and cannot do on short notice. On this date in 2001, President Bush was delivered a security briefing reading “bin Laden determined strike in U.S.” Still no evidence he read it. On this date in 1912, the Bull Moose Party met in Chicago to nominate a presidential candidate, Theodore Roosevelt. New third party, doesn‘t have a nominee until 90 days before the election. They finished second, ahead of the Republicans.
Now, the sanity break. Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Boston, where this turtle is thinking of if a digital frog can cross a busy street, why can‘t I? He gets off to a strong start. Dusts himself off. And he is on the way once again. Most drivers slowed down or went around, but some decided they were not going to let a reptile in the road slow them. Why is no one stopping to help him get across? Oh, now I get it. Eventually they broke out the latest in turtle moving technology and prodded him to safety. Get. When asked to comment on his adventure, turtle said he was just trying to keep up with drama.
To Burgis (ph), Bulgaria where we find people playing with sand big-time. Twenty different artists joined together to create circus-themed sand sculptures. Now you know why people are scared of the circus. Monkeys, strong men, all the classic acts. Lenin? A clown? Not quite sure what this is. Anyway, they used 3,000 tons of sand, 1,000 tons of clay, which helps the sculptures—Manny, Mo and Jack—sculptures survive in the rain. And bozo over there will be scaring children for weeks to come.
Finally, in Pennsylvania, someone has finally combined wine and the classiness of the vending machine. Meet the wine kiosk, a quick, convenient way to get you (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). After a quick swipe of your driver‘s license and a breathalyzer test, you are free to grab your favorite vintage. A few customers worried that this made alcohol too easily accessible, but all of them agreed it‘s safer than trying to stomp your own grapes.
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OLBERMANN: That last clip had nothing to do with the wine vending machine. It is, in fact, a recreation of the Democratic establishment picking Blanche Lincoln over Bill Halter in the Arkansas primary, only to now decide Lincoln might be unelectable and they need to bail out on her. Next.
OLBERMANN: The Democratic party establishment may be facing the very real possibility that the incumbent senator in Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln, cannot win. In our third story tonight, the fight or lack thereof to retain that seat and the implications for the Democratic strategy at large. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is beginning to face such tough choices, like whether to spend money on Senator Lincoln‘s campaign, when polls over the past month place her about 20 points behind her Republican opponent.
An unnamed senior aide on the Democratic Senatorial Committee telling “The Hill,” quote “Lincoln won‘t get millions and millions of dollars, but she‘ll get more than a token. She might get more if she tightens up the race.” Comparing Senator Lincoln to another incumbent, Senator Boxer of California, “we‘ll spend on Boxer. She‘ll get the money she needs. A Republican senator from Arkansas? We can deal with that. A Republican senator from California? That‘s not going to happen.”
The Democratic strategist helping with Senator Lincoln‘s campaign, Robert McClarty (ph) said that internal polling shows a closer race. You may recall that the chairman of the DSCC, Senator Robert Menendez, had been typical among the Democratic party establishment in calling Senator Lincoln the best candidate for the general election back when there was still a chance of supporting somebody else. Namely Lincoln‘s Democratic primary opponent, Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. After Halter‘s narrow loss, an unnamed White House official said, quote, “organized labor just flushed 10 million dollars of their member‘s money down the toilet on a pointless exercise.”
Let‘s bring in political satirist Sam Seder, co-author of “Fubar, America‘s Right Wing Nightmare.” Sam, good evening.
SAM SEDER, AUTHOR, “FUBAR”: How are you, Keith?
OLBERMANN: This is the flash point—one of the flash points of party regulars versus progressives. And I‘m guessing the progressives are being proved correct in Arkansas. Would Halter be fairing better than 20 points down?
SEDER: I mean, all the evidence points to that. I mean, I think prior to the primary, Halter had better numbers against Boozman. And like you mentioned, Lincoln‘s numbers haven‘t moved at all. And he had better favorables. So I think there‘s every reason to believe. Plus, you would have had all the union support.
OLBERMANN: Reading the tea leaves, is the establishment, which now decided that that was not going happen, that she was the best candidate and Bill Halter was some sort of interloper—are they now abandoning Blanche Lincoln to her fate?
SEDER: Yes, I think when you see a story like that in “The Hill” saying that she‘s not going to get a token amount, it usually means she‘s going to get a token amount. I mean, I think it‘s pretty obvious. A story like this comes out. It‘s basically setting the table, unless something dramatic happens.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, something dramatic can happen. The polls can change. The majority leader, Mr. Reid, is an example of somebody who is now fairing much better in his own re-election efforts, albeit against a—the seven veils of the Tea Party being unwrapped in Nevada with good old Mrs. Engel. Is there time for Senator Lincoln to turn this around when it‘s 20 points?
SEDER: I suppose theoretically. But that‘s the point. There is no Sharron Angle in Arkansas. And short of like a—some time of bathroom scandal, I just don‘t see how she does it. The polls haven‘t moved in three or four months.
OLBERMANN: What was—in retrospect is there any explanation for that antagonistic right after the primary about organized labor just flushed 10 million dollars of their member‘s money down a toilet in a pointless exercise? Any explanation for why anybody in the White House, unless they were a Republican mole or somebody left over from the Bush administration, why anybody would say that about the unions or the voters in Arkansas who supported Lieutenant Governor Halter?
SEDER: I guess because they‘re not smart. I mean, you know, the bottom line is that had Democrats listened to their base, they would have a better candidate there. And you look on the Republican side, they listened to their base, and they‘ve actually helped the Democrats out. You have Paul and Angle, and that‘s the most interesting dynamic between the two parties‘ establishment.
OLBERMANN: In a bigger picture, the election cycle was obviously unfavorable to incumbents long before the last couple of weeks when the polls got so dramatic in Arkansas. Is the Democratic party, the hierarchy, now going to wish that it had not so automatically backed incumbent during the primary phase, and, as you suggest, listened to the base or just listened to what was being said about Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas?
SEDER: I suppose, but I can‘t imagine they‘re going to admit that. I mean, the fact is that the base was basically supporting a guy like Halter not just because he was more progressive, but because they saw him he had a better chance of winning. So now they‘re stuck with Blanche Lincoln, and, you know, she‘s off voting against health care, voting against—or to maintain George Bush‘s tax cuts. I would hope they had some remorse, but I can‘t imagine they would ever express it.
OLBERMANN: Is there any lesson, do you think, the hierarchy has learned out of that?
SEDER: No. They could have, but I don‘t think they will. I think there‘s too many people who have too much pride. And they—frankly, they have to maintain some measure of we were right, so that, you know, they maintain their power in the administration.
OLBERMANN: Plus, the number one job of being an incumbent is to make sure incumbents stay incumbent. Sam Seder, great thanks. Have a great weekend.
SEDER: Thank you. You too, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Tonight, I will read you a James Thurber story that sounds like it was written last month. It is written about 1918. It was written in 1948. It‘s called Exhibit X.
If you ever wondered why this man‘s TV channel looks like it was designed to be watched by irrational people carrying weapons, we have an answer for you.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, blow hole O‘Reilly is upset that she outed him and his network as a bunch of race-baiters. She will prove her point and show her math.
OLBERMANN: James Thurber‘s peace mission to Paris—well, Woodrow Wilson‘s but Thurber was there, as we‘ll hear tonight in his story, “Exhibit X.” That‘s next. But first get our your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Roger Ailes of Fixed News. One of a series of employees over there who are packing heat. The NYPD released its list of handgun permit holders. Ailes is on it. So is Howard Stern, Don Imus, Donald Trump, and Sean Hannity. When Hannity shoots himself in the foot, at least you know he won‘t be charged.
The runner-up, George McMurrin of St. Johns County, Florida. We join him and his third call to 911 of the evening, already in progress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is 911.
GEORGE MCMURRIN, FLORIDA RESIDENT: I need a—I need a ride.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need a ride?
MCMURRIN: Yes, to the liquor store.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Umm.
MCMURRIN: Sheriff said she‘d give me a ride.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You‘re going to have to call somebody else, sire. You called 911. We can‘t come give you a ride.
MCMURRIN: Even the sheriff said she‘d give me a ride.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sheriff said they‘d give you a ride to the liquor store?
MCMURRIN: That‘s correct.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Instead of giving him a ride to the liquor store, they gave him a ride to the big house. As I suggested earlier, we have perhaps not made it difficult enough to call 911.
But our winner, Lonesome Rhodes Beck. I know, you heard it already.
It‘s just me bashing this punching bag again. He needs help. No argument. Safe to say he hasn‘t been on this list for three weeks, though I was on vacation for two of them.
But anyway, there are two flashes of Beckian magnificent that lift this one from the realm of the gratuitous. First, listen for the funny noise, the bizarre mismatched rage against the junk food which might very well be in the pantries of his own viewers. But do not miss at the end the self-revelatory hypocrisy as he goes nuts about the rich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This is like your wife coming home and saying, honey, we‘re out of money, we got to cut down on our expenses. But we got to stay healthy. We got to do something. We can‘t afford all of this food.
You‘re right, honey. We got to cut the milk and the meat and the organics. We got to cut all that out. We‘re only going to buy Mountain Dew and Cheetos. Mountain Dew and Cheetos! How about we get the rich who never pay their fair share to buy their stupid, snotty opera house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: How about we get the rich who never pay their fair share to buy their stupid, snotty opera house. But Glenn, you make 32 million dollars a year. You‘re rich. Are you saying you never pay your fair share? Lonesome Rhodes Beck, angry at those rich people like him, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: We finish as always with Friday‘s with Thurber. If you are unfamiliar with this ritual, it began when I would read these stories to my late father in the hospital. He suggested I read them to you. To my great honor, the Thurber family enthusiastically agreed, and here we are.
Thurber served in World War I and was a code clerk in Paris during the peace talks. He was supposed to go to Switzerland. You‘ll discover why in this abridged reading from “The Beast in Me and Other Animals” from 1948. He did not go to Switzerland. In a story about 1918, that as ever with this extraordinary humorist, speaks to us as if it had been written yesterday.
“Exhibit X” by James Thurber.
“I had been a code clerk in the State Department in Washington for four months during the First World War, before my loyalty was investigated. If you could call my small, pleasant interview with Mr. Shand an investigation.
He had no dossier on Thurber, James Grover, except a birth certificate and a draft board deferment paper. In 1918, Americans naively feared the enemy more than they feared one another. There was no FBI to speak of, and I had neither been followed nor secretly photographed. The snooping photographer could have caught me taking a code book home to study one night and bringing it back the next day, an act that was indiscreet and properly regretted when I learned the rules.
But a pictorial record of my activities outside the Bureau of Indexes and Archives in Washington would actually have been as innocent as it might have looked damning. It would have shown me in the company of Mrs. Nichols, head of the Information Desk at the State War and Navy Building, a psychic lady I had known since I was six.
George P. Martin, proprietor of the Post Cafe, and Mrs. Rabbit, his assistant, Frank Fehrington (ph), a movie actor who played the part of a crook named Brain in “The Million Dollar Mystery,” and Jack Bridges, a Los Angeles air mail flyer and Hispano Swiza (ph) expert.
I doubt if any such photographs, even one showing me borrowing 20 dollars from Bridges half an hour after meeting him for the first time in my life, would have shaken Mr. Shand‘s confidence in me. Mr. Shand called me to his office about a week before I was to sail for France and the Paris embassy. He was a tall, quiet, courteous gentleman, and he had only one to request of me. He wanted to know if all my grandparents had been born in the United States.
I said yes. He wished me God‘s speed. We shook hands. And I left. That‘s all there was to it. Waking up at night and looking back on it now, I sometimes wonder how would I have come out of one of those three-man inquisitions the State Department was caught conducting last year. Having a great as guilt sense as any congressman and a greater tendency to confession, it might have taken me hours to dredge up out of my mind and memory all the self-indictments that must have been there.
I believe then and still do that the generals of the Southern Confederacy were in the main superior to the generals of the Northern Armies. I suspected there were flaws in the American political system. I doubted the virgin birth of United States senators. I thought that German cameras and English bicycles were better than ours. And I denied the existence of actual proof that God was exclusively a citizen of the United States.
But, as I say, Mr. Shand merely asked me about my grandparents, and that was all. I realize now that as a measure of patriotism, the long existence of my ancestors on American soil makes me more loyal than Virginia Dare (ph) or even George Washington. But I hadn‘t given it any thought at the time.
Before I sailed on the SS Orazaba (ph), a passenger ship converted into an Army transport—and looking rather sheepish about it—I was allowed to spend four days in Columbus, Ohio. And my mother has preserved, for reasons known only to mothers, a snap shot taken of me on the last day of my leave. The subject in the photograph is obviously wearing somebody else‘s suit. Which not only convicts him of three major faults in a code clerk: absent mindedness, carelessness and peckability. But it gives him the unwanted appearance of a saluki (ph), who through some egregious mischance of nature has exchanged his own ears for those of a barn owl.
If this would not be enough to cause a special agent to phone Hoover personally, regardez as the French Surritez would say excitedly, the figure of this alarming indiscret, his worried expression indicates that he has just mislaid a code book, or what is worse, has sold one. Even Mr. Hoover‘s dullest agent could tell that the picture is that of a man who would be putty in the hands of a beautiful or even a dowdy female spy.
The subjects curious but unmistakable “you ask me and I‘ll tell you” look shows that he would babble high confidences to low companions on his third parno alliou (ph). This man could even find some way to compromise the Department of Agriculture, let alone the Department of State.
The picture would have aroused no alarm in the old days, however. For it is almost impossible to be a security risk at the State Department of 1918, no matter how you looked. All our code books, except one, were quaint transparencies dating back to the time when Hamilton Fish was secretary of state under President Grant, and they were intended to save words and cut telegraph costs, not to fool anybody.
The new code book had been put together so hastily that the word America was left out, and code groups so closely paralleled true readings that love, L-O-V-V-E, for example, was the symbol for love.
Whatever slight illusion of secrecy we code clerks may have had was dispelled one day by a dour gentleman who announced that the Germans had all our codes. It was said that the Germans now and then got messages through to Washington taunting us about our childish ciphers and suggesting on one occasion that our clumsy device of combining two codes in a desperate effort at deception would have been a little harder if we had used two other codes which they named.
This may have been rumor or legend, like the story current at the time that six of our code books were missing and that a seventh, neatly wrapped, firmly tied and accompanied by a courteous note, had been returned to one or another of our embassies by the Japanese. Either because they had finished with it or because they already had one.
I had been instructed to report to Colonel House at the Hotel Crion (ph) when I got to Paris, but I never saw him. I saw instead an outraged gentleman named Otchenclaus (ph), who plainly regarded me as an unsuccessfully comic puppet in a crude and inexcusable practical joke. He said bitterly that code clerks had been showing up for days, that Colonel House did not want even one code clerk, let alone 12 or 15, and that I was to go on over to the embassy where I belonged.
The explanation was I think as simple as it was monumental. Several weeks before, the State Department in Washington had received a cable gram from Colonel House in Paris urgently requesting the immediate shipment of 12 or 15 code clerks to the Crion, where headquarters for the American Peace Delegation had been set up. It is plain to me now what must have happened. Colonel House‘s cable-gram must have urgently requested the immediate shipment of 12 or 15 code books, not code clerks.”
That‘s COUNTDOWN for this August 6th, 2010. Portions written by James Thurber. It‘s the 2,654th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,243rd day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 109th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.
Rachel Maddow and “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” next. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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