updated 5/15/2009 12:53:35 PM ET 2009-05-15T16:53:35

Guest: Richard Wolffe, Sheldon Whitehouse, Shannyn Moore

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

The Senate torture hearing: Conventional interrogation of Abu Zubaydah gave us everything we needed from him, switching to torture gave us nothing -- so says Zubaydah‘s interrogator under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI INTERROGATOR:  These techniques from an operational perspective are slow, ineffective, unreliable, and harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Our special guest: The chairman of today‘s inquiry, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Photographic proof of more abuse at Abu Ghraib, elsewhere in Iraq, in Afghanistan—the president changes course, he now opposes the release of the images.

Sarah Palin‘s consolation prize: She isn‘t vice president, she may not even still be governor, but she gets a big book deal from Rupert Murdoch.

Off the hook: The White House news conference interrupted because somebody had too many bars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Give me the phone.

(LAUGHTER)

GIBBS:  All right.  This is—come here.  Let me see this.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Worsts: The network of the ambush interview, one of whose stars just decried the ambush, makes the ambush interview worse still. 

Now, they are no longer telling the victims that they‘re being interviewed

by fixed news.

               

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANEANE GAROFALO, ACTRESS/POLITICAL ACTIVIST:  Where are you guys from?  What‘s your—what‘s your dig?  What are you doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m just a blogger who reads blogs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And what the—“Resolved, that we the members of the Republican National Committee call on the Democratic Party to be truthful and honest with the American people by acknowledging that they evolved from a party of tax-and-spend to a party of tax-and-nationalize and therefore should agree to rename themselves the Democratic Socialist Party.”

Seriously, what—are you running for secretary or treasurer of the student government?  Or is there an evil, evil plan of biblical complexity and proportion unfolding before our unseeing eyes?  Tonight‘s WTF Moment.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Two steps forward, one step back—possibly even a zero sum equation when it comes to the process of shining a bright light into the many dark corners of the Bush administration torture program.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: A Senate Judiciary subcommittee holding its first hearing on the euphemist extreme interrogation methods employed by the previous administration.  The chairman of today‘s proceedings: Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island, to join us presently.

The current president, meanwhile, is announcing that he will now fight the release of hundreds of photographs documenting the abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody.  Mr. Obama today ordering the Justice Department to try to block the release of hundreds of photos like those from Abu Ghraib, that show abuse by military captors in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Pentagon having gathered the pictures while investigating the allegations of abuse, the ACLU having sued to get them.

Last month, the president having agreed to their release after the federal courts ordered that they be made public.  This afternoon, Mr. Obama announcing the reversal of that decision with the variation of the “few bad apples” defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  The individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.  It‘s therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, dramatic testimony about the questioning of Abu Zubaydah—you recall, a top al Qaeda figure who was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and who gave up valuable information.  More on how it was elicited in a moment.

The former top lawyer at the State Department, Philip Zelikow, who raised objections about the supposed legality of the Bush administration torture program and having had those objections ignored, today hinting at what could be the next bombshell memo to be declassified—his own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILIP ZELIKOW, FMR. STATE DEPARTMENT LAWYER:  My view was that I could not imagine any federal court in America agreeing that the entire CIA program could be conducted and it would not violate the American Constitution.  So, I distributed my memo analyzing these legal issues to other deputies at one of our meetings in February 2006.  I, then, took off to the Middle East on other work.

When I came back, I heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion, and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed.  That particular request passed along informally did not seem proper and I ignored it.  This particular memo has evidently been located in State‘s files and is being reviewed for declassification.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the ranking Republican on this committee, calling the hearing a political stunt and all but treating witnesses who disagreed with him as hostile.  Of course, when one of those witnesses interrogates suspected terrorist for a living, he probably knows how to deal with the likes of a senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, ® JUDICIARY SUBCOMM. ON ADMIN. OVERSIGHT:  I

mean, one of the reasons these techniques have survived for about 500 years is apparently they work.

SOUFAN:  Because, sir, there‘s a lot of people who don‘t know how to interrogate .

GRAHAM:  Right.

SOUFAN:  . and it‘s easy to hit somebody than outsmart them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That voice belonging to former FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan—not shown in your picture—testifying behind that screen to protect his identity.  During questioning by Senator Whitehouse, Mr. Soufan describing how the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah through legal, non-torturous means obtained valuable intelligence within minutes—minutes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, (D) CHMN., JUDICIARY SUBCOMM. ON ADMIN.

OVERSIGHT:  Your testimony indicates that within the first hour of your interrogation of him you had gained important, actionable intelligence.  Is that correct?

SOUFAN:  Yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Including the previously unknown information to that point, anyway, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks—all elicited before private contractors came in and started torturing Mr. Zubaydah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITEHOUSE:  And all this happened before the CIA/CTC team and the private contractors arrived, correct?

SOUFAN:  Yes, sir.

WHITEHOUSE:  And then they arrived, and immediately you say, on the instructions of the contractor, harsh techniques were introduced, which did not produce results as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking, correct?

SOUFAN:  Correct, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Whitehouse joins us now.

Thank you for coming in.  Thanks for your time tonight.

WHITEHOUSE:  I‘m very happy to be with you.  Thank you for the invitation.

OLBERMANN:  Today, you spoke of the Bush administration‘s lies.  You spoke of its near avalanche of falsehood about torture working.  This point has been made a lot recently.

Does this kind of undermine the larger point, perhaps, that it doesn‘t matter whether or not it works?  That it is illegal?

WHITEHOUSE:  There are so many points here, Keith, that it‘s hard to pick them all apart.  There‘s the point that it‘s wrong.  There‘s the point that it‘s ineffective.  There‘s the point that it‘s illegal.

There‘s the point that in order to get there, they had to disrupt and wreck a lot of American democratic process in order to get there.  And then there‘s the final part, which is the focus of my—focus on the lying, which is that there‘s a huge sales-and-spin campaign going on to misrepresent what took place.

OLBERMANN:  Based on the testimony of the man behind the screen, Mr.  Soufan, we were getting the truth out of detainees using conventional questioning.  In that—if then and A, B kind of sequence, has the second part of the nightmare of that been proved that detainees were then tortured not to get the truth out of them—the truth was already coming out of them—but it was deliberately done to get lies out of them?  That this was to backfill this nonsensical connection between al Qaeda and Iraq?

WHITEHOUSE:  That can‘t be shown yet.  All that we were able to show today was that the significant information came out.  The first information is so significant that they scrambled private doctors from America to go and treat him because the first information was so good they wanted more.

The second was the identity of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which was probably one of the biggest nuggets of information we‘ve ever found.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WHITEHOUSE:  And the third was the identification of Jose Padilla, the so-called “dirty bomb plotter,” which was such a big deal at that time that you‘ll recall the Attorney General Ashcroft had a press conference in Moscow about it.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WHITEHOUSE:  They were so excited.

All of this found came out using traditional tactics.  Every time they reverted to the harsh tactics, he shut down and they got nothing.  And they went back and forth like a seesaw.  And until, finally, he was so compromised by the harsh tactics that it no longer worked to deal with him through responsible tactics.

OLBERMANN:  To Mr. Zelikow‘s memo that he referred to, the one that was ordered destroyed, he‘ll be on with Rachel Maddow in about an hour, and obviously, will address that with her.  But a State Department‘s spokesman confirmed today that memo has—as he suspected—been found.  Do you .

WHITEHOUSE:  I‘ve seen it.

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve seen it?

WHITEHOUSE:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Is there anything you can share about it?

WHITEHOUSE:  No, it‘s still classified, but they‘re working towards declassifying it and I hope that they‘ll be able to accomplish that.

OLBERMANN:  Is it likely—is it likely to happen quickly?

WHITEHOUSE:  I couldn‘t guess.  I would—I mean, I couldn‘t guess.  I would expect—it‘s not a very long memo, and it doesn‘t have a lot of stuff in it that I think requires classification.  So concluding that from that, I would say yes, but I don‘t want to light a fire under the State Department on this.  They‘re being cooperative and I‘ll give them their time to do their process.

OLBERMANN:  And I will avoid asking whether or not Mr. Zelikow is correct in his reminiscences about the memo, so to save you having to not answer that question.

You said last night you‘re hoping to lay this foundation for an investigation.  Are you satisfied that that part of your goal was accomplished today?

WHITEHOUSE:  We accomplished three things today.  We showed that the factual predicates in the OLC memos about what had happened were false.  We showed that administration lawyers who got a look at the OLC opinions were horrified and tried to push back, and instead of engaging in a debate to see if they were right or wrong, they were just squelched and shut down.  And we showed that by the standards against which attorneys should be judged for malfeasance, experts agree that the OLC opinions don‘t cut the mustard and that they qualify for sanction.

So, there were three very good pieces of the case put in today.

OLBERMANN:  Where does this investigation go from here?  Do have you more hearings scheduled?  Do you anticipate a lengthy process?  What are you planning to do?

WHITEHOUSE:  The next step, I expect, is the Office of Professional Responsibility report coming out on the Office of Legal Counsel.  When that happens, I strongly suspect that my chairman, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is spectacularly good and interested in this subject .

OLBERMANN:  Indeed, he is.

WHITEHOUSE:  . will hold hearings at the chairman level, which is where they belong for an issue of that magnitude.  And then after that hearing takes place, I‘ll ask for a second hearing to look at other elements of this and continue going forward.  So, this is the beginning of an ongoing process.

OLBERMANN:  It is a vital one.  And I‘m obviously not telling you anything, but just—I hope that your efforts on this are met with nothing but success, and that we do see that memo that you‘ve already gotten to see.  Thank you kindly.

The chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island—again, thanks for coming in.

WHITEHOUSE:  Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN:  For more now on the politics of this, let me turn to our political analyst, Richard Wolffe.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  How many times does Dick Cheney have to go on TV now to refute one day of testimony from a man like Ali Soufan?

WOLFFE:  Well, the rational answer is not enough.  Unfortunately, the irrational answer is also not enough, judging by the way Dick Cheney has been conducting himself.

And look—in any court of law, and this is obviously the court of public opinion, you have the word of someone who was vice president, but has questionable credibility—to say the least—and was managing this process from several thousand miles away against someone who‘s testifying under oath and who had direct experience, first-hand experience of what went on.  So, the two pieces of testimony don‘t stack up against each other.

And in any case, Dick Cheney isn‘t giving any testimony.  Where he should be making his case is not on TV, but under oath, in front of an independent commission—as Zelikow has also now called for—because what we need to see here is the truth, not a political campaign to put Dick Cheney at the top of the Republican Party.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of political campaigns, Senator Graham used the phrase “political stunt” on those hearings today that Senator Whitehouse chaired.  But more importantly, he was—he was citing sort of out-of-date material, debunked testimony, in particular, the ABC News report that was since retracted by its principal, the former CIA interrogator who had falsely claimed that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques broke Abu Zubaydah within, literally, seconds.

I have a question about this.  Let me play the part first of the testimony today between Senator Graham and Ali Soufan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM:  He said that they waterboarded the guy and he broke within 35 seconds.

SOUFAN:  Is this a question for me, sir?

GRAHAM:  Yes.

SOUFAN:  Well, last week, he retracted that and he said he was misinformed and actually he was not at the Abu Zubaydah location.

GRAHAM:  OK.  So, he just got mixed up?

SOUFAN:  He retracted that.  Yes, sir.  That‘s one of the things that was mentioned before.

GRAHAM:  Right.  Right.

SOUFAN:  And now, we know it‘s 83 times, not 35 seconds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Richard, even assuming Senator Graham somehow did not know that the report had been debunked by the principal source in the report, is his goal the same as Senator Whitehouse‘s?  I mean, does he and the Republicans—do they have the same desire to get at the truth of Bush administration torture?

WOLFFE:  No.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  I mean, the goal here is a pretty clear attempt to discredit this whole process by saying that it‘s a partisan political food fight.  Of course, that itself is trying to turn the whole process into a partisan political food fight.

The problem here is that these issues are too serious—and Republicans need to understand that they should get on the right side of this.  The right side of this is not about the punishment.  We‘re not there yet.  What this is about is fact-finding.  And that‘s why an independent commission is actually the right venue for this kind of questioning.

You know, Senator Graham is a former prosecutor, he should know that he shouldn‘t ask a question unless he knows the answer.  I suspect the question was designed to undermine the credibility of the witness.  It was a political stunt in and of itself.

OLBERMANN:  Well, it was designed to throw back onto the pile with discredited information and let people who want to believe it believe it as opposed to the facts.

And turning away from these hearings and to President Obama, and talking about being on the right side of the equation.  The now—his position on not releasing these torture photographs, why did he change course?  Is this some sort of hope that the onus of the decision would then fall on the Supreme Court?  What‘s the game here?

WOLFFE:  Well, no, I don‘t think it is.  I hope to leave it up to the Supreme Court.  This is a case where the administration took a lot of heat for taking on the CIA, taking on the Joint Chiefs at a time when Afghanistan and Pakistan are both on the brink.  It‘s just too many fights to front on—too many fronts to fight on, even.

And, you know, you can understand the principle behind the initial decision to release the torture memos.  In the end, this president is a pragmatic guy at heart.  And in this case, pragmatism triumphs over principle because the stakes in Pakistan and Afghanistan are too high.

OLBERMANN:  But didn‘t he, in a sense, maybe inadvertently buy into the Cheney notion that this was bad apples—the problem here is the release of the photos, rather than what happened in the photos?

WOLFFE:  No, I think his problem is that the photos are going to be very powerful, not as powerful as Abu Ghraib but they‘re still going to have an immediacy that makes it seemed like the events were very near instead of distant, that they may be get associated with this administration and its policies and not the old one.  A possibility of confusion and the risks were too great.  But those photos will come out—and if they don‘t come out now in Congress, they‘re going to come out with an independent commission.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC‘s Richard Wolffe—as always, Richard, thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Fascinating that the White House press briefing was interrupted just as they started grilling Robert Gibbs about those “about faces” on the photos by a series of un-muted cell phone rings.  Well, that‘s luck, huh?

Like the luck of Sarah Palin—her presidential nomination, in retrospect, a bizarre aberration of history; her political future, if the polls on her own state are any indicator, a dicey proposition.  How convenient that out of nowhere, somebody is willing to pay hundreds of thousands, maybe even $1 million for a book by her about her?  The willing somebody just happens to be named Rupert Murdoch.  Now, that‘s a coincidence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin‘s new book deal with Rupert Murdoch.  No, no, to write one.

Worsts: When the victim was Governor Palin‘s husband, FOX‘s Greta Van Susteren condemns the ambush interview.  When the victim is Janeane Garofalo, FOX just made the ambush interview worse.

And tonight‘s WTF Moment: The Republican National Committee‘s plan to adopt a motion insisting the Democratic Party be renamed the Democrat Socialist Party.  Nobody could be this tone-deaf in these many different ways for this long to this degree of self-destruction.

There is something nefarious going on here—the Democrat Socialist Party.  What the .

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Governor Sarah Palin has landed a book deal, her long-sought memoir will be published, with every reason to believe in a multimillion dollar transaction and there wasn‘t even a bidding war.  Her personal story so alluring it was snapped up by Harper Collins before any other publisher could get its foot in the door.  Oh, yes, wait, Harper Collins is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Murdoch paying Governor Palin to write something.  The memoir is due just a year from now, spring of 2010, just coincidentally the same time that the Alaska governor‘s re-election campaign will be sparking up.  “There has been so much written about and spoken about in the mainstream media and the unanimous blogosphere world, Palin said, “that this will be a wonderful, refreshing chance for me to get to tell my story, that a lot of people have asked about, unfiltered.”

Palin‘s attorney, Robert Barnett, and Harper publisher, Jonathan Burnham offered few details about the as-yet untitled book.  But Palin‘s lawyer said she had formed an outline in her mind.  And while there will be a collaborator—not yet chosen—every word in the book will be hers, again according to the lawyer.  The publisher is insisting that Palin will be, quote, “engaged in the whole process of the book.”

The governor claims to have been keeping personal journals, especially over the past year, she‘s eager to draw on her deep well of experience, quoting, “I‘m excited to put my journalism degree to work and tell my story as it relates to my family.”

OK.  Titles—we‘ve got “Palin Comparison.”  We‘ve got, “I swear I really was nominated for vice president.”  I‘ve got, “One time in politics camp,” there‘s, “Shrill, baby, shrill.”  “I have my answer now, Katie,” and, of course, “The Tina Fey story.”

Let‘s bring in radio host from KBYR in Alaska: Shannyn Moore.

Good evening, Shannyn.

SHANNYN MOORE, KBYR RADIO HOST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Wait a minute here.  Murdoch pays Palin after the way fixed news covered Palin running for vice president.  Should she not actually be paying them?

MOORE:  Well, I think a couple of bowls of moose stew went a long way with Greta Van Susteren, a couple of snowmachine rides.  Yes, I actually think that we should probably thank Sarah Palin, though, for having FOX News, fixed news, discover sexism all of a sudden.  So, yes, she should be.  It‘s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.

OLBERMANN:  And—I‘m fascinated here about this one little note here, that the governor has been keeping personal journals, especially over the past year.  Don‘t—the number of investigations that have sort of simmered up about her and her conduct, and ethics questions and legal questions—aren‘t personal journals actually a very dangerous thing for a governor to admit she has, especially if there have been investigations and may yet be?

MOORE:  Well, there have been a lot of investigations and there have been a lot of ethics complaints.  And right now, you know, she‘s touting the fact that they‘ve mainly been thrown out.  She‘s even put her own ethics complaint in against herself trying to trump the troopergate investigation.

So, yes, I think it is pretty dangerous in a certain way, and she has had her e-mails hacked.  She‘s had other—you know, a lot of her communications have been requested through the Freedom of Information Act.  So, I don‘t know if those journals are—you know, anyone can get their hands on, but it will be interesting.  I guess Rupert Murdoch has his hands on them now.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of Murdoch, is this another window into why there were—any (ph) laws against one man owning too many media outlets in one market or in one country?  I mean, Murdoch can move seamlessly from Palin, the book, from Palin, the vice presidential candidate, to Palin, the vice presidential possibility, as if there weren‘t any lines being crossed, as if there was no incestuousness politically, no conflict of interest here?

MOORE:  Well, what is it—the best president money can buy?  Rupert Murdoch is an investor.  And he—that‘s what he does.  And whatever he can buy to further his, you know, empire, he‘s going to do.  That‘s business.  That‘s their idea of capitalism and it‘s worked for him so far.

OLBERMANN:  One of the Katie Couric interviews, the greatest part of that clearly, the subject of what the governor reads, and this still fascinates since she said basically she read everything in the world—which was sort of a contrast from two years ago.  She did the interview with Charlie Rose before she was nationally known in which she said her favorite writers were C.S. Lewis and a columnist for “Runner‘s World” magazine.

Yesterday, she once again called herself a voracious reader.  She said she recently read Katharine Graham‘s memoir, the publisher of “The Washington Post,” cited the memoirs of President Obama, of Senator McCain; said she recently read “My Life” by Bill Clinton.

Is—are we seeing sort of the revisionism we might expect in the memoir, those inconvenient moments of seemingly flat lining and interviews will just be paved over with, “No, that wasn‘t true, I‘m a voracious reader”?

MOORE:  Well, you know, she is the queen of revisionism.  We‘ve seen her do it many times, whether it was the “bridge to nowhere,” whether it was putting the jet on eBay, whether it was, “No, I didn‘t abuse my power,” when clearly the Branchflower Report said that she did.  There has been a great deal of revisionism going on with her.

And so, I expect nothing else from this book.  I‘m wondering if I‘ll get a call for a book report, or if you‘re going to do the dirty work yourself, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Probably, there‘d be room for both of us.  We have a year to work on this.  Do you have any last suggestions for the title?

MOORE:  Well, I was just talking to my friend, Mudflats earlier, we were arguing about some of the better suggestions.  She had come up with the “audacity of hype.”

(LAUGHTER)

MOORE:  And I thought with the—with the C.S. Lewis reference, being one of her favorite author, she could just stick with “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

OLBERMANN:  Beautiful.  Shannyn Moore, radio host, contributor to “Huffington Post”—great thanks for your time.

MOORE:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, it‘s a brassiere that hunts husbands.  Yes, I don‘t think there‘s a single joke I can make without getting into real trouble here.

Speaking of which, attempting to prove it‘s (ph) crass and inappropriate, fixed news gets crasser and more inappropriate still in a new mutation of its ambush interview-style.  Worst Persons is ahead.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and car chase ends in drive-thru lane.  First, this is May 13th, thus 21 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be water boarded for a military families charity.  Thus 20 days since I offered to donate 1,000 per second that he lasted.  Thus 19 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise.  Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.  Let‘s play Oddball.

Yes, I called him a kitty.  What do you want to do about it? 

We begin with Tokyo, with  the latest in lingerie for all the single ladies.  Behold, the husband hunting bra.  Finally, there‘s a way to tell that dead beat boyfriend of yours, if you like it, you should have put a ring on it. 

The bra comes equipped with your own biological clock.  Tick, tick, tick, girls.  First, decide your marriage deadline.  The clock will begin counting down.  Next, find your life partner, get him to propose, insert your engagement ring into the bra and the clock stops.  The bra will then play a lovely electronic rendition of the wedding march and a special pen side pocket is provided for all important prenup.  Or once he finds out you snared him with the help of a diabolical bra.  Divorce papers are in there too. 

To Tel-Aviv, where if you successfully used your husband hunting bra, you get hitched, to a large truck.  Actually, these women are the first females to participate in Israel‘s annual truck pull.  The ladies finished in record time, said they felt great afterwards, possibly because they got to pull empty trucks, but the ones the guys yanked were full of people.  Damned Title IX. 

Finally, to Bucharest, in Romania, covering 223 square feet and requiring four hours of cooking, it‘s the world‘s largest omelet.  You think this is big, you should have seen the chicken.  It‘s all part of the International Championship of Open Air Cooking.  The omelet comprised of 30,000 eggs, 1,500 kilograms of potatoes, was heartily consumed.  Over there on stage two, the world‘s largest known Lipitor pill. 

Well, young man, you can get it back after class.  The press briefing interrupted at an incredibly convenient time by cell phones.  And it worked so well.  Calling candidate Obama a socialist, now the Republicans want to rebrand the Democratic party the Democrats Socialists.  And the secret, subtle plan I think is behind what only looks like a panicky, desperate mistake. 

These storied ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best reason to clean the office fridge, the AT&T Building in San Jose, evacuated by firefighters, Hazmat summoned to the scene.  Dozens of workers sick to their stomachs.  What happened?  Food left in an office refrigerator.  The refrigerator had been unplugged.  A worker decided to empty it and scrub it down with cleaning chemicals.  The combination of those smells overwhelmed 28 people.  But not the woman who was doing the cleaning, because she has allergies that rob her of her sense of smell. 

Number two, best dumb criminal who got away with it, whoever dropped the proverbial dime on Craig Williams of Holly Hill, Florida; 911 in Volusia County got a phone call from a man who said I was just held at gun point trying to buy drugs.  Police raided Mr. William‘s home and arrested him.  The caller, who failed to buy the 20 pounds of marijuana he was seeking, was apparently not charged. 

And number one, best dumb criminal who did not get away with it, Jermaine Cooper of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  The accused drug deal was apparently in the middle of leading police on a 90-mile-an-hour car chase when Cooper suddenly stopped it.  He pulled into the parking lot of a Taco Bell. 

Police say Mr. Cooper told them later he knew he was going to jail for a while and he just wanted to get one last burrito. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The subject was the detainee abuse photo controversy.  Press Secretary Gibbs getting a grilling on the administration‘s new decision to advocate against the release of the images; when suddenly there comes the unmistakable sound of salsa.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, a press briefing interrupted; the White House press corps getting distracted by shiny objects this afternoon.  Mr. Gibbs fielding questions from ABC‘s Jake Tapper when calamity strikes, courtesy of John Gizzy (ph) of the website “Human Events.” 

The briefing room then erupted into comedic routines, not the ones of who is on first, but can you hear me?  Can you hear me now? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Those determinations are indeed made by this president and—and are being made. 

Just put it on vibrate, man.  We did this before. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sorry. 

GIBBS:  That‘s all right.  It‘s all right.  Third, actually.  It happened twice that day. 

JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS:  What is this new argument that the president wants his team to present? 

GIBBS:  Not seeking an exception for law enforcement -- 

Give me the phone.  All right?  This is—come here.  Let me see this thing. 

(CROSS TALK)

GIBBS:  I‘ll be right back.  No, somebody caught it.  Don‘t worry. 

Somebody caught it. 

I made the determination that the illumination of the sound was distracting to the briefing, as the press secretary to the president of the United States. 

You too?  Do you want to do this too?  Here.  Come on. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gibbs wants to take my phone but I don‘t think it‘s a good idea. 

No favoritism. 

I‘ll explain later. 

GIBBS:  I assume it‘s your banker with a suit like that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I asked Bill Plante if it was a good time to talk, and he said yes. 

The latest Republican brain storm, try to rebrand the Democrats as the Democrat Socialist Party.  No, seriously, that is their plan.  I‘m beginning to smell a rat.  This is too good to be true.  Analysis ahead in tonight‘s WTF Moment. 

And the tea bag gang, round two; why is a grassroots effort being led by two governors?  Worst persons ahead. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Philip Zelikow, after his testimony today in the torture hearings. 

But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals, still Bushed.

Number three, sleep gate.  After water boarding, what was the CIA inspector general‘s second biggest complaint about interrogation techniques when he first blew the whistle on torture in 2004?  Sleep deprivation.  So reports the “LA Times,” saying interrogators thought you could keep a man awake for 180 hours without injuring him.  The prisoners had their feet shackled to the floor and their hands cuffed close to their chins, according to the Justice Department memos.  A prisoner who started to drift off to sleep would tilt over and be caught by his chains. 

Apart from scars, there was psychological damage.  But the Justice Department, of course, issued a memo in 2005 saying there were no lasting after effects to sleep deprivation.  When the Obama administration banned sleep deprivation, it got a frantic call from Mr. Bush‘s last CIA chief, Michael Hayden, who was still pumping the party line that sleep deprivation was not serious.  “Are you telling me that under all conditions of threat, you will never interfere with the sleep cycle of detainees,” Hayden asked. 

Number two, shut up gate.  Dick Cheney should heed this development between his self-rationalizations Sunday and yesterday.  A U.S. senator decided he had had enough.  Quote, “no, we‘re not less safe.  I suppose that‘s the short answer and probably as good as I can give.  I disagree with some of the things the administration has done.  Even in the closing of Guantanamo, they‘re being very methodical at this point.  Our guard is up.  On balance, we remain as safe as we can possibly be in a world in which there is Islamic extremists who want to attack us.” 

Who has gotten offer the Dick Cheney team?  Who did the ex-vice president yak, yak, yak back to reality?  Senator Joseph Lieberman. 

But number one, water-gate.  Channel 11 in Houston reporting from Iraq that our soldiers there are not getting enough water, in Iraq, where temperatures can hit 130 degrees.  “We were rationed two bottles of water a day,” the station quoted Army Staff Sergeant Dustin Roby (ph), now back from his tour.  That would be three liters in a climate where you can lose 15 liters a day just walking around.  Sometimes the water, most of it supposed to be supplied by the Halliburton spin off KBR, was over-treated with chemicals.  So Roby and his men would get nauseous.  So they stopped drinking it. 

So then Roby and his men would get kidney stones.  So they would instead drink the local water.  That‘s when they got dysentery.  Sergeant Roby says he now takes 26 different kinds of pills per day.  He‘s been forced to retire at a fraction of his pay because of all that insufficient water supply has done to him.  His family is now facing foreclosure.

Private Brian Hannah (ph) recalled to the TV station that two years ago his platoon ran out of water, ran out.  The sergeant then said, go find some, which meant going to the civilian contracting facility and stealing water.  This is how the Bush administration cared for the troops.  Send them to Iraq without water.  This, not what Dick Cheney says, not what Mr.  Bush tries to get recorded in his library—this is his legacy. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Democratic Socialist Party, the latest Republican brainstorm designed to—designed to what?  We reveal the horrible truth, the scheme of evil genius behind the continuing GOP path of gaffes, fumbles and self-foot shootings in tonight‘s WTF Moment. 

That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Gary Bauer, the former Christian right residential want to be, quoted now in a story by the Associated Press on the philosophical implications of torture, insists the discussion would not come down to would Jesus torture.  Quote, “the more appropriate question is what is a follower of Jesus permitted to do?  I think if believe the person we have can give us information to stop thousands of Americans from being killed, it would be morally suspect to not use harsh tactics to get that information.”

“Morally suspect to not use harsh tactics to get that information.”  Apart from whether or not Mr. Bauer still counts as a follower of Jesus after that asinine remark, do you think the irony even grazed him on its way by, that the universal symbol of Jesus‘ death, the international understand icon of man‘s inhumanity, which man, of his stupidity, in killing the supposed son of god, is the Crucifix, itself a depiction of Jesus being tortured to death? 

Runner up, Griff Jenkins, one of Fixed News‘ stalkers producers, bringing a new high in low by staking out Janeane Garofalo to interview her after her appearance at the Alternate Comedy Festival in Sumaville (ph), Mass, just out of Boston, you know, the appearance the far right promised to interrupt after her remarks about the tea bag squad.  No interruptions.  There wasn‘t even a protest outside.

Anyway, at one point, as he interviews her without her consent, in violation of the new Greta Van Susteren rules about when you can and can‘t interview somebody, Janeane asks Jenkins who he is.  He responds, “I‘m just a blogger who reads blogs.”  He would not say he was from Fox News.  Presumably, he‘s ashamed of it, or he was lying about it, or, if you‘ve ever seen this guy on the air, there‘s an excellent chance he forgot. 

But our winners, speaking of the tea bags, Republican Governors Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who have announced themselves as the host of a conference call tomorrow to arrange, organize and launch Tea Party 2.0.  Governor Sanford and Governor Perry, the big-time organizers, the spiritual hosts. 

But wait, isn‘t the premise of the tea bag festivals that it‘s just ordinary Americans, unaffiliated with any party, certainly not the tools of some big government governors, right?  Boys?  Better talk to your hair dressers, you‘re not so grass roots are showing.  Governors Perry and Sanford, today‘s worst persons in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Now, as promised, continuing our new feature and our number one story, here is tonight‘s WTF Moment.  The Republican National Committee, at a special committee next week, is, reports Roger Simon today of Politico.com, expected to adopt a resolution requiring its membership to refer to the other guys as the, quote, Democrat Socialist Party.  This on the heels of their brilliant success trying to rebrand the Democratic party as the Democrat party in 2001, which not only did not keep the Democrats out of the White House, but which still hasn‘t achieved 100 percent success inside the Republican party. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I guess the Democratic party. 

JOHN BOLTON, FMR. UN AMBASSADOR:  Committed to satisfying the left of the Democratic party. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Democratic party has consistently tried to redistribute income. 

CHENEY:  This is being done essentially to appease a certainly element of the Democratic party. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Those are all since my birthday this year.  The Democrat Socialist Party; since the election, the Republicans seem to be doing whatever has just popped into one of their leaders‘ heads.  The idea generating talent of Donald Trump, say, combined with the thorough planning and foresight of the Octomom. 

The Democratic Socialist Party; there are apparently 55 countries right now with parties with names that are some combination of Democrat, Democratic, social and socialist.  From Afghanistan to Azerbaijan, from Great Britain to Gibraltar.  From the Hong Kong League of Social Democrats to the Party of Bulgarian Social Democrats. 

And all 55, in English, or in their English translations, are known in that order, social Democrats.  The RNC does not want that built in advantage of familiarity.  They want Democrat Socialists.  Genius, I tells you, genius. 

And this just gets better and better.  A Pew Research survey last month indicated a dramatic increase in the number of people for whom that word socialist is sticking to President Obama.  Last September, it was six.  In February, it was 13.  Last month, it was 20; 20 percent of Americans are using the word socialist to describe Obama?  No wonder the Republicans are doing this.  It‘s genius.  Genius, I tells you. 

No, not percent, 20 people.  Let‘s look at the survey again.  How often people describe Obama with the word socialist.  Last September, it was six people out of 629 polled.  In February, it was 13 out of 620.  Last month, it was 20 people out of 742, 20 people, 2.7 percent.  Brilliant. 

The Democrat Socialist Party; the choice of nearly three out of every 100 Americans. 

Wait, it gets worse still.  Rasmussen, polling done by the people who founded then bailed out early on ESPN, Rasmussen polling, now done generally for and shaped by Rupert Murdoch, Rasmussen, actually asked Americans early last month what they thought of socialism.  Oh, for god sake, only 53 percent say capitalism is better than socialism; 20 percent prefer socialism; 27 percent aren‘t sure which. 

And the younger voters, adults under 30, favor capitalism, but only by 37 percent to 33 percent, 30 percent undecided. 

A question for Michael Steele or Shelby Steele or Steely Dan or whoever is running the GOP this week, do you guys read these polls?  I mean, we got them off the Internet for free.  The word socialist is not sticking.  And even when it does, extraordinarily large numbers of Americans think it‘s a compliment. 

Younger voters, including the people who may still be voting in the presidential election of 2072, think it‘s a toss up.  So of course, try to portray your opponents as the Democrat Socialist Party. 

Well, this is what this is about, of course.  The Hugo Chavez handshake.  The effort to portray Obama as foreign, un-American, sympathetic to strange cultures and ideas, the one the Republicans rolled out during the campaign, the reason that at this moment John McCain is the president of the—oops. 

Anyway, you‘ve seen the Chavez poll numbers, right?  CNN polling end of last month, Republican Party, 39 percent favorability in this country.  The unfavorable score for the Republicans in this country, 55.

CNN polling, beginning of last month, Venezuela, 42 percent favorability in this country.  Their unfavorable score is 54.  Venezuela, home of an actual socialist strong man, is more popular in the United States than the opposition party in the United States is popular in the United States. 

The Democrat Socialist Party.  I am beginning to think I understand what‘s happening here.  It is a story of political intrigue, even scandal, that is unmatched, if it‘s correct, in our nation‘s long history.  The Republicans have now gotten so turned around that Pete Hoekstra and Lamar Alexander, they are now trying to bait the Democrats into full scale investigation of torture, the kind the Democrats wouldn‘t dare do without Republicans support. 

The Republicans blast Obama‘s stimulus plan.  John Boehner presents their own version.  There are no numbers in it.  Arlen Specter bailed out of the GOP.  Joe Plumber bailed out of the GOP.  Their last vice presidential candidate couldn‘t define the Bush doctrine.  And her daughter, an unmarried teenage mother, who, after giving birth and splitting with the father, is now trying to convince people that abstinence works, even though it appears in her case to desperately not have worked. 

There‘s a Congresswoman who can‘t stop talking, who called the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act the Hoot Smalley Tariff Act.  There‘s a nut bag on TV who uses a teleprompter, who ripped the president for using a teleprompter, apparently unaware of the irony therein that that means they both use teleprompters. 

The chairman of the party had to grovel for forgiveness from a radio announcer.  A Congressman from Georgia had to grovel for forgiveness from a radio announcer while on the radio announcer‘s show.  The radio announcer is trying to expel John McCain, John McCain‘s daughter, Colin Powell, and countless others from the party.  And the Republican governor of Texas and Republicans in dozens of other states are actually proposing secession as a rallying point for the party. 

In other words, the GOP could take back America by leaving it. 

And now they want to rename the Democrats the Democrat Socialists.  It‘s genius.  Genius, I tells you.  This mass madness, this cascade of rookie mistakes, this seemingly deliberate narrowing of the Republicans to a third party, this can all have only one possible explanation: they‘re all Democratic agents. 

You heard me.  Cheney, a Democrat.  Boehner, Democrat.  Palin, Democrat.  Steele, Democrat.  Bachmann, Democrat.  Limbaugh, big fat Democrat. 

You got another explanation?  Steele said even when he seems to be making a gaffe, there‘s a secret strategy behind it.  Of course there is. 

I mean, maybe they‘re not Democrats.  Maybe they think they can simply get the Republican party absorbed by the Democrats in a kind of Trojan Horse deal, and then take over from the inside.  But even that would be too complicated.  Compared to their recent uninterrupted sequence of bone headed brain storms, it would be too good. 

They‘re moles, turncoats, spies, sellouts, political traitors.  They have to be.  They can‘t be that stupid.  The Democrat Socialist Party.  What the—

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,204th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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Guest: Jack Rice, Margaret Carlson, Howard Fineman

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Nancy Pelosi was briefed on enhanced interrogation.  She was briefed in 2002.  She was told that the Bush administration was not waterboarding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just to be clear, you‘re accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002?

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER:  Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The speaker nails the Bush lies and the current Republican‘s lies to the church door.  The Republicans, like Senator Bond, naturally take the side of those who broke the law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIT BOND, ® MISSOURI:  It seems the playbook is, blamed the terror-fighters.  We ought to be supporting them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The torturing of Muhammad Khudayr al-Dulaymi, one of the heads of Saddam Hussein‘s secret police.  He would have known of any link between Iraq and al Qaeda.  So, “Two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell the ‘Daily Beast‘ that the suggestion to waterboard al-Dulaymi came from the office of Vice President Cheney.”

Beauty pageant contestants of the world arise.  You have nothing to lose but your veneers.  Sarah Palin defends Miss California.  “I respect Carrie for standing strong and staying true to herself, and for not letting those who disagree with her deny her protection under the nation‘s First Amendment rights.  Our Constitution protects us all—not just those who agree with the far left.”

OK.  Who‘s going to tell the governor that questions from the Miss USA judges are not protected speech and that the First Amendment of the Constitution doesn‘t have diddley squat to do with a beauty pageant?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TINA FEY, ACTRESS (As Governor Sarah Palin):  And now, I‘d like to entertain everybody with some fancy pageant walking.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:   And my late mother‘s death gets turned today into a sleazy online gossip item—tonight‘s WTF Moment.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

The speaker from the House of Representatives today not only accused the CIA under former President Bush about lying to her and the rest of Congress about the use of torture, but also accused the previous administration of lying about the case for war in Iraq, and said the lies were on the record in official briefings of Congress, and invited anybody who didn‘t want to take her word for all of it to push for the public release of the records of those briefings and read the Bush administration lies for themselves.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: As if it could get more explicit than that, former Democratic Senator Bob Graham, former head of the intelligence committee, claiming that the CIA is still lying to him even now.

We begin with Speaker Pelosi.  The California Democrat today rebutting claims that she had been complicit in the use of torture by accusing the CIA and Bush administration of misleading her in official briefings about whether or not it was using waterboarding on detainees.  Speaker Pelosi is saying that during a 2002 meeting, she was told, quote, “specifically that waterboarding was not being used.”

And Speaker Pelosi is unequivocal now in her contention that she and others were purposely misled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Madam Speaker, just to be clear, you‘re accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002?

PELOSI:  Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And also .

PELOSI:  Misleading the Congress of the United States.  I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And doing it again now, as they‘ve released this list of briefings that says you were briefed on the interrogation tactics that were used.

PELOSI:  I‘m saying—I‘m quoting what the head of the CIA has said.  This is—we don‘t know if this information is accurate that he‘s talking about.

What they briefed us on—and perhaps, they should release the briefings.  I would be very happy if they would release the briefings.  And then you will see what they briefed in one time and another, House and Senate and the rest.  And perhaps with the intense interest that this has generated—because of the distraction that the Republicans want to cause with this—then you can make a judgment yourself, that what you think these briefings were.

But I‘m telling you that they talked about interrogations that they had done and said, “We want to use enhanced techniques and we have legal opinions that say that they are OK.  We are not using waterboarding.”

That‘s the only mention, that they were not using it.  And we now know that earlier they were.

So, yes, I am saying that they are misleading—that the CIA was misleading the Congress.  And at the same time, the administration was misleading the Congress on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; to which I said, this intelligence does not support the imminent threat; to which the press asked the same question you just did now: Are you accusing them of lying?  I said, I‘m just stating a fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The CIA issuing a statement today saying, quote, “It is not the policy of this agency to mislead the United States Congress,” a non-denial denial in which former Senator Bob Graham might disagree.  In a new twist tonight, Mr. Graham, the former chairman of the intelligence committee who retired in 2005, claiming that not only was the CIA lying about whether it waterboarded al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah, the agency, he claims, is also lying about when or whether it held briefings at all—lying now.

On a New York City public radio program this morning, Mr. Graham accusing the CIA of claiming to have briefed him on three dates in 2002, when, in fact, on those dates, it had not even met with him.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BOB GRAHAM, FMR. U.S. SENATOR:  When I asked the CIA on what dates was I briefed, they gave me four dates: two in April, two in September of ‘02.  On three of the four occasion, when I consulted my schedule and my notes, it was clear that no briefing had taken place on that date and the CIA eventually concurred in that.  So, their record-keeping is a little bit suspect.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Graham then repeating his claim that he, too, had no recollection of being told about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah or about the extreme interrogation of any suspect.

Minority Leader John Boehner, however, is shocked—shocked at the thought that the CIA might have ever misled Congress.  Boehner, who was not elected to his leadership until February 2006, and therefore who was not briefed on the relevant intelligence matters in 2002 and 2003, reasoning that the spies have always been completely on the level with him.  Anything else, he claims, must be Speaker Pelosi‘s creation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, ® HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  Well, I think the speaker‘s comments continue to ray more questions than provide answers.  And I‘ve dealt with our intelligence professionals for the last 3 ½ years on an almost daily basis.  And it‘s hard for me to imagine that anyone in our intelligence area would ever mislead a member of Congress.  They come to the Hill to brief us because they‘re required to under the law.

And I don‘t—there‘s—I don‘t know what motivation they would have to mislead anyone.  And I don‘t believe and don‘t feel that in the briefings that I‘ve had that I‘ve been misled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  There is a John Dean Watergate tapes quality to this suddenly.  The speaker saying the lies about torture and waterboarding would all be in the record of these briefings, but what records?  I mean, the government officials are claiming there are no records.  Is that a misleading statement, too?

FINEMAN:  Well, no.  I think the speaker has something here, because you have to follow the bouncing memos, Keith.  The torture memos—the legal documents related to torture that were released, if you read them carefully, are the source for the information about Abu Zubaydah, one of the captured terrorists, having been waterboarded in August of 2002.

One of the things Speaker Pelosi is saying is that she and others were briefed in September of 2002 and told that while there was legal authority for these various enhanced techniques, they were given the impression they had not yet been used.  One of the things she‘s saying is, wait a minute, you‘re saying they might be used.  We have other documentary evidence that shows they were used.  So, that‘s one of the lies she‘s alleging and that seems to have a lot of merit to it.

The other thing she‘s saying is that the CIA version of the account of the briefing itself was wrong.  She‘s saying that waterboarding was not mentioned.  Some of the CIA documents claim—supposedly say that, in fact, it was.

OLBERMANN:  Does the speaker not have inherent power to push for the very investigation that it would confirm her allegation today?

FINEMAN:  Yes, she does.  And I asked one of her aides about this when I was talking to them just on the way over here, Keith.  They say she‘s in favor of a—has long been supportive of a commission of some kind.

You make a very good point.  At least on the House side, as speaker, she would have enormous power basically to go to the rules committee and say, “Hey, let‘s set up some kind of bipartisan committee right now to look at it.  So, she could do it on the House side.  She couldn‘t do it for the whole Congress.

I think, right now, she‘s trying to get her—make sure she has her story exactly straight, because it hasn‘t always been crystal clear.

OLBERMANN:  Well, and to that point, why not this version of that statement now?  Why not this version of that statement earlier?  This seems to have been somewhat—one presumes—the final version of this.  It‘s certainly the most extreme version of this possible.

FINEMAN:  Well, she‘s doing it now in part because she was on a long trip over in Iraq and elsewhere.  She got back Tuesday night.  I suppose she could have done it yesterday.  She could have done it over in Iraq, I suppose.

But, you know, she‘s just back.  She‘s tired out.  You can see that actually as she tried to work her way through that stuff even now.

But the other reason is that the CIA came out, you know, in their statements made late last week saying that, you know, this is what the briefing said.  She was briefed about this.  And she‘s had to respond to it.  And this is the first chance she‘s had to do so.

And more generally, Keith, I mean, this thing has really become much more of a political, you know, problem for her than she or anybody else could have imagined a week or two ago.  And she hasn‘t handled it well because there have been imprecise statements.  And when you‘re dealing with the CIA, when you‘re dealing with a subject as litigated and as important as this, you have to be very, very precise in what you say.

OLBERMANN:  Especially if they have records of meetings for which there aren‘t records.

FINEMAN:  Right, exactly.

OLBERMANN:  The Bob Graham .

               

FINEMAN:  Possibly, yes.

OLBERMANN:  The Bob Graham angle in all of this now.  This claim he has made now that the CIA essentially invented three briefing sessions that never happened or at least ascribed them to the wrong dates.

If that‘s the case, how can anything that the agency has said or is now saying about this be believed?

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s a very good question.  Now, I have been unable to independently confirm Senator Graham‘s statement that the CIA admitted that they got the dates wrong.  But let‘s assume for the sake of argument in fact they did, that the agents weren‘t meeting with him, they were off, you know, having a cheeseburger somewhere or whatever.

I mean, no, it very much calls it into question.  And when you look back at the early hectic days in those first couple of years especially, Keith—I mean, a lot of stuff was happening on the fly.  There were a lot of rationales that were being concocted in various legal offices, a lot of documents that were put together that later turned out to be extremely flimsy—need I remind you of yellow cake.

That was the era of—that was the era of yellow cake that we‘re dealing with here.  And I don‘t think you can trust anything unless you see it in triplicate, unless you see it practically notarized by three different people at the same time.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Bigger—those are temporary things, the CIA is forever.  I know the James Jesus Angleton stories.

FINEMAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  I know everything about the history of this organization.

FINEMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  But if the president believes that agency personnel were indeed just following orders and he is saying he will not be prosecuting operatives.  Why is there such an intense campaign of CYA at CIA?

FINEMAN:  Well, this is part of a pattern that we‘ve talked about on the show before.  I think that once he became commander-in-chief, once he sort of walked through that door, once he realized that he had an intelligence community that was in revolt and in shambles, he spent a lot of time as commander-in-chief with Leon Panetta—his CIA director—and others, trying to reassure the people in the CIA that he has their back.

Now, is he going too far in that direction because he had no real previous connection with them and can‘t sort of administer tough love and instead has to say, “Don‘t worry, I‘m not the guy you thought I was”?  There may be some of that going on right now.

And I think some of his original supporters, indeed a lot of them, are getting very concerned, especially because he even used the “few bad apples” argument today—yesterday rather, when he was talking about those pictures that he wasn‘t going to release.  The “few bad apples” argument was the one that the last administration was supposed to have been, you know, the sole possessor of.

OLBERMANN:  To say nothing of the “I‘m not the guy you thought I was” argument, which you can‘t just .

FINEMAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  . direct it at a thousand people in the country.  It happens to go to everybody.

Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC .

FINEMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  . as always, great thanks, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Moreover, for the first time, a public allegation that the use of waterboarding main lines directly into the office of former Vice President Cheney and main lines directly into the attempt to fabricate a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and thus, 9/11.  An extraordinary story from former NBC investigative reporter, Bob Windrem, that when an Iraqi POW, not a detainee but a POW, would not tie Saddam to bin Laden, the word came from Mr. Cheney‘s office, “Waterboard him.”  Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Second bombshell on torture: The direct link between torturing an Iraqi prisoner to get him to state, whether true or not, that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda, and where the suggestion to waterboard came from?  Dick Cheney‘s office.

Later, Sarah Palin sticks up for Miss California, and in solidarity, she proves she doesn‘t understand the First Amendment of the Constitution or free speech either.

And when people sink so low as to turn your mother‘s death into an international gossip post—tonight‘s WTF Moment.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Waterboarding is torture, it is illegal, and it does not work.  The even darker side of Bush administration tactics would be use of waterboarding to produce false confessions, like a phony link between Iraq and 9/11.  That would tie the Bush administration‘s illegal use of torture to its desperate attempts to justify the Iraq war.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Evidence that the office of Vice President Dick Cheney suggested waterboarding a high level Iraqi prisoner to produce exactly such a link.  Vice President Cheney‘s office suggested waterboarding that prisoner in April of 2003, this according to former NBC News investigative producer, Robert Windrem, writing for the “Daily Beast.”  The prisoner was the head of one of Saddam Hussein‘s secret police association: Muhammad Khudayr al-Dulaymi, captured by U.S. forces.

And according to Charles Duelfer, the former chief of the Iraq Survey Group and a man in charge of interrogating Iraqi officials, quote, “To those who wanted or suspected a relationship, he would have been a guy who would know, so White House officials had particular interest.”

Further, “Duelfer says he heard from ‘some in Washington at very

senior levels, not in the CIA,‘ who thought Khudayr‘s interrogation had

been ‘too gentle‘ and suggested another route, one that they believed has

proven effective elsewhere.  ‘They asked if enhanced measures such as

waterboarding should be used.‘”

Mr. Duelfer, citing clearance issues, would not disclose who had proposed the waterboarding, but Windrem reports, two senior U.S.  intelligence officials from that time say the suggestion came from the office of Mr. Cheney.  And that is not the end of Mr. Duelfer‘s part of the story either.  “The executive authorities addressing those measures—waterboarding—made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism case, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related.”

Indeed, Mr. Duelfer said he considered the request reprehensible and the rationale political.

As for the political use of waterboarding, we also know it might have been used even before the invasion of Iraq.  As reported in “The Washington Note” by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department chief of staff under former Secretary of State Colin Powell: Cheney‘s office ordered the continued use of enhanced techniques of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, until under waterboarding - al-Libi revealed an al Qaeda/Baghdad connection.  Al-Lib later recanted.  He has recently died, supposedly a suicide.

Let‘s turn to former CIA special agent and former prosecutor, Jack Rice.

Good evening, Jack.

JACK RICE, FMR. CIA SPECIAL AGENT:  Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Before we look at the pieces separately, do we need a step back at this?  I mean, at what point do you think it becomes clear that a pattern is developing, is discernible—one in which a priority of the Bush administration, which is justifying the Iraq war, dovetails, fits into a key tactic of the Bush administration, namely the use of torture?

RICE:  Without question, Keith.  When we look at what we have already seen—and this seems to just support that concept—is that this was never about accurate information.  This was about justification.  It‘s outrageous on its face.  I mean, let‘s look at the torture question big picture, but then, let‘s look at the justification behind it.

Before, I‘m trying to understand how anybody would turn around and support this now.  It‘s completely dumbfounding to me.

OLBERMANN:  As for this man, al-Dulaymi, the Saddam secret police chief, that man was clearly a POW.  He was part of a nation state.  He was not being interrogated as part of some sort of imminent threat to the United States.  He was not a detainee.  He wasn‘t at Gitmo.

So, even under the strained logic of the Bush administration‘s OLC memos, it would seem that man was not a legal candidate for waterboarding, even if waterboarding had been legal.  Does this tell us anything about the motives of anybody who would suggest, “Go waterboard this guy”?

RICE:  Well, apparently the Jack Bauer of “24” approach to international security and national security just doesn‘t seem to fly.  So, what we‘ve seen now is, again, that further justification, or willingness to not just stay within the parameters that we have set.  We‘re willing to go that much further.

And, again, the fact that we‘re seeing this out of Dick Cheney again -

not for the first time—really says a lot.

               

OLBERMANN:  To al-Libi and his interrogation before the war, Colonel Wilkerson noted he had become compliant—al-Libi, that is.  Meaning that the interrogation team was recommending, you know, don‘t—you don‘t have to beat him up.  You don‘t have to torture him any further.  And yet, Cheney‘s office ordered that the enhanced methods should continue in that case and the waterboarding supposedly ended when al-Libi finally produced this link that he later recanted between al Qaeda and Saddam.

Does the simple sequence of that, does it not show exactly what we‘re talking about here, this attempt to produce—intentionally produce a false confession to something that wasn‘t true?

RICE:  Without question.  It‘s the justification argument all over again.  We‘ve been watching Dick Cheney on the road day after day after day talking about how important this was and how this saved American lives.

But I guess, in the end, you‘ve got to get out in front of cameras a lot if you get to the top of “The New York Times” best seller list.  He‘s on that pre-release book tour right now.  And I guess it‘s coming, so everybody will buy.

I can‘t see what else he‘s doing other than setting himself up for prosecution.  I just want to hear him say, “You know what, I am the one who signed off on this, I‘m the one who wanted the torture.”  That‘s maybe the last little link—as a prosecutor, I want that piece.

OLBERMANN:  Well, presumably, at the rate of boastfulness that we‘ve seen so far, you may get to see that.  He seems intent on claiming credit for this.

RICE:  Bring it on.  Let‘s see it.

OLBERMANN:  There has been reluctance—even by politicians—who are interested in pursuing the torture tactics of the previous administration, to suggest that that was the point, that it was to produce false testimony, that it was to make these men bear false witness.

Is there additional evidence that could help close that circle for those reluctant politicians?

RICE:  I think there‘s a few things.  But in the end, we have seen just about everything.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

RICE:  Again, that last element that I would really like to see is Dick Cheney—and, frankly, he seems to be more than willing to do this.  I‘m waiting for somebody to ask him this question: Tell me specifically somebody that you had tortured, interrogated at this level.  That might be the final point.

And I‘m waiting for it—because this is not just about him.  This is about us.  And we have to stand up at some point and say, “I don‘t care who you are, vice president or otherwise, it‘s been fundamentally who we are as a nation, who we are as a people.”

OLBERMANN:  Jack Rice, the former CIA officer, former prosecuting attorney, now radio host.  Thanks again, Jack.

RICE:  Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, you will recall that Vice President Cheney had requested the declassification of two CIA reports on the effectiveness of so-called enhanced interrogation.  The Obama administration today denied the request because those documents are currently part of litigation in a broader request already made under the Freedom of Information Act.  Thus, the prospective release of those documents will ultimately resolve itself based on the prior request and not the one from Cheney.

Remember those old quizzes, how many things are wrong with this picture?  Well, beside the goat nursing the horse?

And the startling admission from Harold Hill—I‘m sorry, Glenn Beck, that his mouth is a source of pollution.  You bet.  Worst Persons is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bushed in a moment, and why we stop this Sunni awakening from happening in 2004 instead of 2007.

First, this is May 14th, thus 22 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for a military families charity, thus 21 days since I offered to donate $1,000 for each second that he lasted, thus 20 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise.

This development today: A conservative blogger suggested that to get to the truth, they should waterboard Nancy Pelosi, and yet Hannity remains serenely quiet and terrified.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Science where Josie the goat is suckling Baby Boy the horse.  None of this would happen if you just listen to Rick Santorum when he was still a senator.  The young foal‘s mother abandoned him last week.  Luckily, the college‘s dairy goat said, “Yes, sure, I got a spare.”

Veterinarians are thrilled at the odd couple‘s paring because that means they don‘t have to feed the horse themselves.  And the goat is thrilled because she gets a brother from another mother‘s udder.  OK, I‘m sorry.

In Rock Hill, South Carolina, the beat goes on and on and on.  Twenty-eight drummers are drumming their way to a world record at the local galleria.  The musicians were able to sustain a single snare drum roll for 27 hours and 23 seconds.

The drummers, all students at an area high school, said the most difficult part of the challenge was keeping the beat during handoffs, one drummer to the next.  The people in the mall had no comment because they were too busy with blood pouring out of their ears from the sounds of 27 hours and 23 seconds of snare drums.

OK.  How many governors don‘t know the difference between First Amendment protected free speech and things you say at a beauty pageant?  Governor Palin, OK, that‘s one.  Thank you, Governor.

And turning my mother‘s death into a gossip item, and then calling me a liar when I say I took time off to grieve her death—extraordinary.  Our WTF Moment.

But first, because they may be gone but their deeds outlive them.  The headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals -- Still Bushed!

Number three: Bailout-gate.  Memos from the height of the banking

crisis last October ordered revealed by the courts.  Quote, “Then-Treasury

Secretary Henry Paulson is warning nine key U.S. banks that if they did not

take the bailout in exchange for the government in part buying them, quote,

‘You should be aware that your regulator will require it in any

circumstance.  We don‘t believe it‘s tenable to opt out because doing so

will leave you vulnerable and exposed.‘”

In other words, Paulson was telling them, “Sell the government $125 billion with your companies or we‘ll screw you into the ground.”  And it‘s Obama accused of trying to squeeze private business via socialism and not Bush.

Number two: Post traumatic stress disorder-gate.  That the only possibly kind explanation for what Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is saying about Mr. Bush‘s Cuban White House—better known as Gitmo—prisoners there -, quote, “wouldn‘t be treated any better in the United States, and they wouldn‘t have the tropical breezes blowing through.  It‘s a beautiful site.  If Trump had that site, he could produce a resort that would be pretty remarkable.” 

Those aren‘t the tropical breezes, Senator Sessions.  That‘s the wind whistling in one of your ears and out the other one. 

Number one, deliberately extending the war-gate.  A remarkable piece by David Rose in “Vanity Fair.”  He reports that the 2007 Sunni awakening, when vast numbers of anti-American Iraqis switched sides and began to support U.S. efforts there, it could have happened in 2004.  “The Sunni insurgents had offered to come to terms with the Americans 30 months earlier, in the Summer of 2004, during secret talks with senior US military officials and military commanders, including a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  For a variety of reasons, some of them petty, some of them ideological, and some them still obscure, these men were blocked by superiors in the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House.”

The article says there are memos still extent resulting from these secret talks that in 2004 the Sunnis asked for what we gave them in 2007, which cause them to switch sides.  Why did the Bush administration reject a deal and prolong the war?  Of course, reducing the violence in Iraq in 2004 by making a deal would have made it tougher for Mr. Bush to lie about why it was being reduced, as he lied about it and about the surge in 2007. 

A key memo, the article says, wound up in the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and was sent back to the men trying to make the deal with Wolfowitz‘s handwritten description of the Sunnis.  Quote, “they are Nazis.”  And there perhaps is the psychological key to the Bush administration, failures in their own lives, in their own time; they shared a fantasy that they were fighting Hitler, instead of fighting a minor league tyrant, whose iron fist ruled over dominions consisting mostly of sand.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  First, we learned that Miss California does not realize her First Amendment freedom of speech does not apply during beauty pageants.  Tonight, in our third story, somewhat more alarmingly, we learn that the governor of Alaska, herself a former pageant competitor, also doesn‘t know that the executives of the Miss USA Contest are not the government, trying to muzzle and incarcerate Carrie Prejean, also. 

After issuing a statement applauding Donald Trump for standing Miss Prejean, the governor added this postscript: “I respect Carrie for standing strong and staying true to herself, and for not letting those who disagree with her deny her protection under the nation‘s first amendment rights.  Our constitution protects us all, not just those who agree with the far left.”

Please, governor, stop criticizing things you don‘t know about, like the Constitution. 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances,” also. 

The governor noting that she spoke to Miss California soon after the, quote, “liberal onslaught of malicious attacks began.  Continuing the quote, “I can relate as a liberal target myself.  What I find so remarkable is that these politically motivated attacks fail to show that what Carrie and I believe is also what President Obama and Secretary Clinton believe, marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Neither of them, as Miss Prejean did, then joined or endorsed the effort to make that the legal definition.  Here is the then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking to Ellen DeGeneres about gay rights. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  States have determined age of marriage, other conditions.  And, over time, we‘ve gotten rid of a lot of discrimination that used to exist in marriage laws.  And that‘s now happening.  People are making decisions, civil unions, marriage.  They‘re deciding in the states.  And I think that‘s the appropriate place for this to be. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And then there was the then Democratic presidential nominee Obama at Rick Warren‘s Saddleback Church symposium last year. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. 

For me as a Christian, it‘s also a sacred union.  You know, God‘s in the mix. 

I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me now, political columnist for “Bloomberg News,” Washington editor of “The Week Magazine,” Margaret Carlson.  Good evening. 

MARGARET CARLSON, “THE WEEK MAGAZINE”:  Hello, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I understand Governor Palin has appealed to people with only a vague idea of the Constitution and the laws and stuff.  But, at some point, does it hurt her when she volunteers, makes a statement in which it becomes apparent that she only has a vague idea of the Constitution and the laws and stuff? 

CARLSON:  Well, remember, she wasn‘t completely familiar with the continents. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  

CARLSON:  You know, it helps to have some basic understanding when you go out, you know, on the stump and at conventions, of American history and American laws and the Constitution and other things.  I see the appeal, though, of thinking that the Constitution protects your own free speech from another person‘s free speech.  I mean, wouldn‘t your e-mails be cut in half, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  If it were the case?  I know I would get no more e-mails criticizing my choice of eye wear, for instance.  I could say, you‘re violating my Constitutional right.  But, you know, she has a broad—she has a broad reading of the—that her free speech should not be infringed upon by the government. 

OLBERMANN:  Just across the wire now, Governor Palin‘s statement on your right to have no comments about your glasses.  Great.  This—this echoing of a beauty pageant contestant‘s, taking the opinions of the president and secretary of state out of full context—and again, I know this imbues her with wonderfulness in the echo chamber.  But does she not know that she and Carrie Prejean and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are, in fact, on opposite sides of the debate over the legalities? 

CARLSON:  Well, she‘s—she‘s all over on this.  I mean, she claims, oh, Obama agrees with me.  Oh, no, I‘m totally against this.  And, you know, whatever small area of agreement they do have, which is Obama and others aren‘t in favor of gay marriage, but they‘re in favor of civil unions—Sarah Palin and Miss California, whatever they grant to gays and lesbians, they do it with their nose turned up. 

And I believe Sarah Palin said that homosexuality is a perversion and we know that from the Bible.  I do not think that Obama or Hillary Clinton or any of them have ever said that about gay marriage. 

Anyway, the criticism of Carrie Prejean came from people who don‘t like beauty pageant queens having nude photographs of them that come out afterwards, and that they haven‘t revealed in the so-called, say, vetting process that Donald Trump has his contestants undergo. 

OLBERMANN:  Oddly enough, that part of free speech was maintained for her.  Politically, though, one overarching question here.  Why would Sarah Palin ever say Obama agrees with me, because this is the same as saying, I agree with Obama.  And, if you say—if you‘re Republican and you say, I agree with Obama, no matter the context, apparently Rush Limbaugh comes and kicks you out off the Republican party.  Doesn‘t he? 

CARLSON:  Right.  We should listen tomorrow and see what Rush has to say about Sarah Palin and President Obama finding common ground.  Maybe Rush will say, I hope Governor Palin fails.  That would be interesting. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Yes.  Well, the way Rush is going, it will end with one person in the party, him.  Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg News” and “The Week Magazine,” I like the glasses.  Many thanks, take care. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Our WTF moment tonight; website claims I was mysteriously absent from the show last month.  I point out I was away mourning my mother‘s death.  Websites posts made up gossip story anyway and calls me a liar. 

Nothing better than this, national tea party coalition co-founder has liens for unpaid taxes.  Worst persons ahead. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the reporter who broke the story of Dick Cheney‘s office directly supporting the water boarding of an Iraqi POW.  Her special guest Bob Windrem. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight‘s WTF moment coming up; a website has turned my mother‘s death into a sleazy gossip item.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s other worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Fixed News; his lead story last night how Saul Alinsky is programming MSNBC and the White House from the grave.  “Let‘s put this thing into perspective.  Talk radio has always had its share of hate mongers.  Some right wingers make a living doing this.  On the left, the Air America network was all hate all the time.  Then it went bankrupt.  Then a couple years ago, NBC News began pedaling hate on its network.  Then a few months ago, the Obama administration tried to brand the Republican party as a place of fanaticism.” 

Anything missing from that chronology?  Oh, yes, first there was talk radio hate.  Then there was Fox News hate, starring failed local news reporters, which they left out. 

Our runner-up, Harold Hill—no, it‘s not that he is hiring his writers off Craig‘s List, which he is, it‘s this about global warming. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Carbon dioxide is basically this.  Look how much pollution I just put out. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Listen to how much pollution you just put out, you mean. 

Listen. 

But our winner, Michael P. Leahy, co-founder of the nationwide tea party coalition.  Now, if you‘re old enough you‘ll remember when the tea bag boys and girls were just a grass roots organization, not a bunch of sheet ordered around by professional politicians like Republican Governors Perry of Texas and Sanford of South Carolina.  They were inspired instead not by people with personal axes to grind, but just in opposition to paying taxes. 

One of the favorite memes from the lunatic fringe to criticize public figures is to trot out the record of every tax disagreement they‘ve ever had with the government.  The right has used it on me, even though if you pay seven figures in taxes every year, the government will disagree with you on some of it.  And if it‘s say more than 200 dollars, they will file a lien against you to protect the 201 dollars, even as they are discussing with you the chances that you do not owe them the 201 dollars. 

Having said that for context, the website TBlogging.com reports that an ordinary Internet search produced this startling fact about tea party coalition co-founder Leahy; over 16 years, he has had a few judgments filed against him for unpaid taxes, small claim courts judgments and civil suits, nearly 150,000 dollars worth. 

So what‘s the point in protesting taxes if you‘re not going to bother paying them anyway?  Michael P. Leahy, tea partyist, today‘s worst person in the world, except for the next guy after the commercial. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally, as promised, our number one story, tonight‘s WTF moment, which was going to be about John McCain‘s mother‘s appearance on “The Tonight Show.”  OK, I‘ll say what should have been my first thought; good for you, Roberta, defend your son. 

Most of you know that my mother passed away suddenly on April 4th.  Many of you were kind enough to express your condolences at the time and since.  And it is truly the case that such condolences are in an invaluable and sustaining thing and I thank you again for them. 

Today, my mother‘s death was turned into a sleazy gossip item online.  The proprietor of the website did not contact me for comment before posting, and did not try to contact our MSNBC media people until virtually the very moment he did post.  He has resisted all entreaties to remove the item.  And it has already been linked around the net. 

My mother‘s illness, her diagnosis with terminal cancer and her death came all in a span of just two weeks.  I did what a lot of us do in such circumstances, full speed ahead, with occasional hours or days off to see her and my family.  We had the memorial on the 9th.  We had a family plan for the next weekend.  My sister and nephew were coming down from their home upstate, so he could see his first games at the new Yankee Stadium during his spring vacation, which began on the 18th

I went to the opener of the ballpark the preceding Thursday the 16th.  Then I went downtown to do this show.  And somewhere during that day, I hit an emotional wall about my mother‘s passing.  So on short notice, I asked my bosses to extend my long weekend, which was originally Saturday to Tuesday of the following week, to Friday to Tuesday.  And they generously agreed. 

That Friday the 17th proved especially therapeutic.  Saw the Yankees in the afternoon and the Mets at night.  Some people meditate.  I go watch baseball. 

I hit another kind of wall over that weekend and by Monday I was in bed with flu or something like it.  Monday‘s game was rained out, much to my nephew‘s dismay.  But the next night, you will remember, was the game in which a player‘s bat flew into the stands and my nephew got to keep it.  A player wearing the same number, oddly enough, that Chuck Knoblauch had worn when his throw hit my mother in our seats at the ballpark back in 2000. 

By Wednesday morning, I was feeling better, good enough to take Jacob up for a matinee on a rainy day in the Bronx and then return here to do the show. 

I‘ve gone into such excruciating detail because this afternoon I discovered this posted on a website called City File.  Quote, “if you regularly tune into COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, you may remember that Olbermann was mysteriously absent from the show for three days at the end of April.  But Olbermann didn‘t just have the night off, as David Shuster, his fill in, said on the air three evenings in a row.  According to a source inside MSNBC, it was a bizarre temper tantrum on Olbermann‘s part that led him to storm of the set in protest.  Olbermann was not scheduled to take a vacation at the end of April, but he ended up missing three shows, Friday April 17, Monday April 20, and Tuesday April 21.”

This message, from a parallel universe, posted by somebody named Remy Stern, went on to explain that I had a fight with Rachel Maddow over the booking of Ben Affleck as a guest.  In fact, Ben Affleck had been tentatively booked for COUNTDOWN, then wound up on Rachel‘s show due to some really shoddy work by a fill-in publicist for his latest movie. 

This double-booking stuff happens.  It was resolved internally and quickly and the only thing it had to do with the weekend of mourning was that it happened more or less contemporaneously, if I remember correctly. 

The irony in this is even the gossip idiot recognizes the story he printed does not hold together.  “The biggest question—and no one can really answer except for Olbermann himself—is why having Ben Affleck on his show meant so much to him in the first place.  The two have a past.  Affleck spoofed the MSNBC host late last year.  Although Olbermann seemed to find the imitation flattering, as you can see in this clip.  It‘s much more likely that Affleck‘s role in this latest bit of drama didn‘t matter all that much, and this was just Olbermann attempting to once again force MSNBC to give into his demands and satiate his ego.  In which case, it was just another day at MSNBC.”

Yes, there‘s the problem with your pretend reporting right there.  It wasn‘t about Ben Affleck.  My mother died.  Mr. Stern claims a reliable source that he published before he could receive the denial which would have deflated most of his delusions, which are pretty standard stuff about me circa 2003.  He also brings Dan Abrams into this epic, which from both Mr. Abrams‘s and Mr. Stern‘s points of view, is rather unfortunate, because considering Mr. Abrams irrelevance to the rest of the story, and indeed now to MSNBC, it does rather point a finger towards a small group that could be the sources of this sad and sadly out of touch gossip. 

The site refused to remove the false story, refused to apologize for trodding on a weekend of mourning, refused to recognize its extraordinary failure and irresponsibility.  It merely printed my protest and then a really embarrassing, defiant retort. 

Our response, “we were saddened to hear of Olbermann‘s loss and found his tribute to his mother deeply moving.  But if that was the reason Olbermann took time off two weeks later, we can‘t imagine why Olbermann wouldn‘t have simply said as much.  Furthermore, we find it hard to believe one of his colleagues at MSNBC, a respected journalist no less, would have attributed his absence to the flu/allergy season if Olbermann had made the perfectly understandable decision, take a few days off to mourn his mother‘s passing.”

When didn‘t I say as much and to whom?  To you?  The journalist to whom the fellow refers, David Shuster, was told why I was out, told also that I was under the weather, was told that my return might be Wednesday, might be Thursday.  So he was on standby.  He had to clear this with you before you decided whether or not it was believable? 

The website has since called me a liar because I went to baseball games after my mother died.  The first site to link off this and swallow it whole was sadly Wonkette.  Advised of its mistake, its editor Ken Layne, who apparently doesn‘t understand that laughing all the time about everything is not wit, but more likely a serious medical condition, wrote:

“Keith Olbermann denies this one particular instance of jack-assery.  Whoo hoo.  Does this mean Wonkette is now beneath contempt in Keith Olbermann‘s mind?  Self important much?”

Yes.  My dead mother is, in fact, more important than your lousy website.  Again, I‘m sorry this has been in such detail.  But I think it serves a purpose in reminding us about both the Internet—and I know how strange this will sound coming from me—and about remembering the human equation. 

Even in the heat of public discourse—which is why I objected on air to Wanda Sykes‘s two jokes about Rush Limbaugh at the White House Correspondents‘ Dinner—political dispute is one thing.  But let‘s leave everybody‘s kidneys, their possible roles at the 20th 9/11 hijacker and their mothers out of it. 

As I mentioned, I was going to do this segment tonight on John McCain‘s mother‘s comments about Limbaugh and Michael Steele and me.  But as this nonsense broke around me this afternoon, it struck me just how absurd that idea was.  She was just a mother sticking up for her son.  My mom would have appreciated that. 

Finally, and just for the record, I also mysteriously took off Monday, May 4th, and was seen at the Yankees game that night with my friends Jason Bateman and David Cross.  Stay tuned to City File or Wonkette or Gawker or a “Boston Globe” blog, because maybe, maybe, I really had a fist fight with Brian Williams in the NBC commissary earlier in the day.  Or maybe I had gone to Westchester that afternoon to place the urn containing my mother‘s ashes in her final resting place. 

You know what they say.  We report, you decide.  To which we can add, what the—that‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,205th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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