Olbermann Leads with Choreographed Bush Event, Features Milbank Mocking Iraqi Soldier's Accent

<p><img vspace="0" hspace="0" border="0" align="right" src="/media/2005-10-13-MSNBCCWOMilbank.jpg" />Mirroring the same evening's <i>NBC Nightly News</i> (see earlier <a href="http://newsbusters.org/node/2192">NewsBusters item</a>), on Thursday night's <em>Countdown</em> show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann led with the rehearsed meeting between President Bush and U.S. troops serving in Iraq. Olbermann spent considerable time showing and making fun of clips from this event and from a contentious White House press briefing with Scott McClellan before proceeding to an interview with <em>Washington Post</em> reporter Dana Milbank, during which he seemed to play along with and was amused by Milbank mimicking the accent of an Iraqi soldier at the Bush event, a politically incorrect action which would bring ridicule if performed by a conservative: &quot;I just want to say thank you, Mr. Olbermann. I like you's, I like anything.&quot;</p><p><b>Video</b> of Milbank: <a href="/media/2005-10-13-MSNBCCWO.rm">Real</a> or <a href="/media/2005-10-13-MSNBCCWO.wmv">Windows Media</a></p><p>
<!--break--> Olbermann began the show by remarking that not even political cartoonist Herb Block &quot;could dream up a day like today at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It went from worse to 'hide under a table.'&quot; He also made fun of the performances at the event with the troops, quipping that it's &quot;like your fifth grade class play was carefully choreographed. You can rehearse them forever, but that does not make them Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep.&quot;</p><p>After a commercial break, before introducing his interview with Milbank, Olbermann replayed a clip of the Iraqi soldier praising Bush, in which the soldier said, using imperfect English, &quot;Thank you for anything, sir. Thank you very much for anything,&quot; and &quot;I like you's.&quot; This clip had already been played both in the opening teaser and in the first segment of the show. After this third playing, the <em>Countdown</em> host then proceeded to his interview with Milbank who, as he was being introduced, imitated the Iraqi soldier's accent: &quot;I just want to say thank you, Mr. Olbermann. I like you's, I like anything.&quot; Olbermann, amused by this imitation, seemed to play along, responding, &quot;Well, good, we appreciate that,&quot; as Bush had similarly answered the Iraqi soldier, &quot;Well, I appreciate that.&quot; Notably, since the President's question to the Iraqi soldier was the only one that was unrehearsed, the soldier's answer was the only spontaneous moment from the presentation. The spontaneity of his answer seems to have earned it the chance to be played three times on Olbermann's show with some special mockery for its imperfections.</p><p>A transcript of relevant portions of the Thursday October 13 <em>Countdown</em> show follows:</p><blockquote dir="ltr" style="margin-right: 0px;"><p>Keith Olbermann [in opening teaser]: &quot;Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The White House by the script.&quot;</p><p>Allison Barber, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense: &quot;Okay, so let's just walk through this. Captain Kennedy, you answer the first question, and you hand the mike to whom?&quot;</p><p>Olbermann: &quot;And the White House, totally off the script.&quot;</p><p>Bob Franken, CNN reporter: &quot;We ask the questions and you provide the answers?&quot;</p><p>Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary: &quot;Yes, and I was providing the answer. Can I not say what I want to say?&quot;</p><p>Olbermann: &quot;You've heard about the President's choreographed satellite back-slapping session with the troops. You may have heard about the press secretary's knee-capping session with the White House Press Corps. We'll show you each raw and at length.&quot;</p><p>Sergeant Major Akeel Shaker Nassir, Iraqi Army: &quot;I like you's.&quot;</p><p>George W. Bush, laughing: &quot;Well, I appreciate that.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>After the rest of the opening teaser airs, Olbermann got to his introduction:</p><blockquote dir="ltr" style="margin-right: 0px;"><p>&quot;Good evening. The late great political cartoonist Herb Block, or simply Herblock, was born on this day in 1909. His imagination poured out all kinds of different crazy White Houses from Herbert Hoover selling fish on a street corner during the Depression to Richard Nixon wrapping himself in the flag and executive privilege. From an Iran-Contra era Ronald Reagan made out of cardboard to Bill Clinton on a tight rope trying to balance the budget with one hand and trying to balance Monica Lewinsky with the other. But on our fifth story on the <em>Countdown</em> tonight, not even Herb Block could dream up a day like today at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It went from worse to 'hide under a table.' Perhaps the most contentious White House press briefing in 31 years. It was only the second act on a dark day for President Bush. It had begun this morning when Mr. Bush engaged in a question-and-answer session via satellite with 10 American service personnel and one Iraqi soldier. The Associated Press noted simply, 'The exchange was carefully choreographed.' Yeah, like your fifth grade class play was carefully choreographed. You can rehearse them forever, but that does not make them Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. Let's give it the 'you are there' treatment.&quot;</p><p>Olbermann shows clips from the event with the troops, including this exchange between Bush and an Iraqi soldier:</p><p>George W. Bush: &quot;Yeah, Sergeant Akeel, thanks for joining us. I appreciate your service. You got something to say, Akeel?&quot;</p><p>Sergeant Major Akeel: &quot;Good morning, Mr. President. Thank you for anything, sir. Thank you very much for anything.&quot;</p><p>Bush: &quot;You're welcome.&quot;</p><p>Akeel: &quot;I like you's.&quot;</p><p>Bush, laughing: &quot;Well, I appreciate that.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>After playing more clips from the event, Olbermann continued at about 8:06 p.m EDT:</p><blockquote dir="ltr" style="margin-right: 0px;"><p>Olbermann: &quot;Like watching the Jesse Ventura show. It's too bad you couldn't get the White House Press Corps to work from a script like that. Dana Milbank of the <i>Washington Post</i> will be along presently to try to figure out who thought that was a good idea. But first, wait, there's more from the fog of war, playing three acts, to White House Press Room unscripted. The first topic there was, guess what, whether or not the whole deal with the soldiers had been rehearsed. Once again, you are there.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>At about 8:08 pm EDT, after playing clips from the press conference:</p><blockquote dir="ltr" style="margin-right: 0px;"><p>Olbermann: &quot;Unfortunately for Mr. McClellan, the evidence that Mr. Bush's chat with the soldiers was rehearsed and rehearsed within an inch of its life was all on tape.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>Returning from a commercial break about 8:18 pm EDT:</p><blockquote dir="ltr" style="margin-right: 0px;"><p>George W. Bush: &quot;Sergeant Akeel, thanks for joining us. I appreciate your service. You got something to say, Akeel?&quot;</p><p><img vspace="0" hspace="0" border="0" align="right" src="/media/2005-10-13-MSNBCCWOIraqi.jpg" />Iraqi Sergeant Major Akeel: &quot;Good morning, Mr. President. Thank you for anything, sir. Thank you very much for anything.&quot; (As Akeel spoke, <i>Countdown</i> zoomed in on the side of the video which showed him.)</p><p>Bush: &quot;You're welcome.&quot;</p><p>Akeel: &quot;I like you's.&quot;</p><p>Bush, laughing: &quot;Well, I appreciate that.&quot;</p><p>McClellan, from the White House press conference: &quot;You all want to focus on side issues like religion. We've said from the beginning, we've said from, no, we have always publicly talked about, come on, Jim, we've always talked about her record and her qualifications.&quot;</p><p>Olbermann: &quot;As the old Bob and Ray joke about the driving of the golden spike to connect the one track of the Transcontinental Railroad went, 'And here come the trains. One from the East and one from the West.' Our fourth story in the <em>Countdown</em>, the post mortems from the twin train wrecks. Here's the national political reporter for the Washington Post, Dana Milbank. Good evening, Dana.&quot;</p><p>Dana Milbank, <i>Washington Post</i> reporter, imitating the accent of the Iraqi soldier who spoke to Bush: &quot;I just want to say thank you, Mr. Olbermann. I like you's, I like anything.&quot;</p><p>Olbermann, delivered a brief chuckle after saying this line: &quot;Well, good, we appreciate that.&quot;</p></blockquote>