Thursday, August 31, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 31

Guests: Barbara Boxer, Rocky Anderson, Michael Musto, John Dean

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The finals of the national scaring bee, your next contestant, President Bush on terrorists.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists. The battle of Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century.


OLBERMANN: The president call his critics wrong, but not morally or intellectually confused. The man who did that continues to perch on the hot seat. "The Los Angeles Times" editorializes, "The Secretary of Indefensible." John Dean, who worked with him in the Nixon White House, joins us here on why Donald Rumsfeld's speech rang such a loud and discordant note, and Senator Boxer of California offering a nonbinding resolution demanding the president remove Mr. Rumsfeld in the wake of his speech against your right to dissent.

The senator joins us here, the Rumsfeld and Bush speeches to the American Legion in Salt Lake City inspiring protests in Salt Lake City and some of the toughest criticism yet from the mayor of Salt Lake City. Mayor Anderson joins us here.

And here come not the storms of protest, but the storms, Ernesto on the East Coast, John in Mexico.

And a familiar refrain. Trump directs it at one of his own. Shocking coincidence, she will now be replaced by his daughter. Could be worse, he could be downstairs trying to fire strangers and passersby.


DONALD TRUMP: You're fired.


OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on Countdown.


TRUMP: Is that OK?


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

This is Thursday, August 31, 68 days until the 2006 midterm elections, by which time the president may be asking you to vote for him or vote for Attila the Hun.

Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, first, the secretary of defense comparing critics of the current war in Iraq to those who tried to appease Adolf Hitler and the Nazis before World War II, today, Mr. Bush expanding on that theme to equate current terrorists not just with Nazis but also fascists, communists, and other totalitarians. Reaction ahead from Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California, from the mayor who led the protesting in the city where the president spoke, and from John Dean.

First, the president's speech, Mr. Bush insisting that his address to the American Legion in Salt Lake City would not be political, and then proceeding to frame the war debate for the upcoming midterm elections. His assertion, the current struggle against Islamic extremists is as important as was the fight against Nazi Germany, plus Mussolini, plus the cold war, and anybody else you got.


BUSH: The war we fight today is more than a military conflict, it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.

On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation, the right of all people to speak and worship and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism. They are successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century.

And history shows what the outcome will be. This war will be difficult, this war will be long, and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and (INAUDIBLE) - (INAUDIBLE) - totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty.

We're now approaching the fifth anniversary of the day this war reached our shores. As we recently saw, the enemy still wants to attack us. We're in a war we didn't ask for, but it's a war we must wage and a war we will win.


OLBERMANN: A war we did not ask for, yet for which we managed to mobilize tens of thousands of American troops along the Kuwaiti border with Iraq for an invasion some 6,000 miles from the U.S., Mr. Bush claiming as recently as Tuesday to Brian Williams that he has never said Iraq ordered the 9/11 attacks, such an overt claim not really necessary, so long as he is able two days later to fold the war in Iraq back into the greater war against terror.


BUSH: Some politicians look at our efforts in Iraq and see a diversion from the war on terror. That would come as news to Osama bin Laden, who proclaimed that the third world war is raging in Iraq. Come as news to number two man of al Qaeda, Zawahiri, who has called the struggle in Iraq, quote, "the place for the greatest battle." It would come as news to the terrorists from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen, and other countries who have come to Iraq to fight the rise of democracy.

Still, there are some in our country who insist that the best option in Iraq is to pull out regardless of the situation on the ground. Many of these folks are sincere and they're patriotic, but they could be - they could not be more wrong.


OLBERMANN: One thing that Mr. Bush did not say during his speech today, that his critics are morally or intellectually confused, that level of vitriol, for the moment, at least, still the exclusive territory of his defense secretary, and Donald Rumsfeld addressed the American Legion convention on Tuesday, day three of the fallout over his remarks prompting action on Capitol Hill, Democratic Senator Boxer of California saying she will offer a nonbinding resolution next week calling for Mr. Bush to fire his defense secretary and hire a new one.

That resolution would be offered as an amendment to the defense funding bill scheduled to be completed next week when the Senate returns from its summer recess.

Senator Boxer joins us now from California.

Good evening, Senator. Thank you for your time.


OLBERMANN: Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff told us today that Mr. Rumsfeld was not talking about critics of the administration in his speech Tuesday. He then, of course, also would not say that - who it was that the defense secretary was speaking about. Do you feel it was clear who he was aiming at in that speech?

BOXER: It's very clear that he was aiming at the American people, who do not support this war in Iraq, 61 percent by the latest poll. And he lashed out at them, and he's just gone too far. Now, twice before, he's offered to resign around the Abu Ghraib scandal, which, as you know, plummeted the opinion of the United States to all-time lows, where it sits today.

But this is just too far. He has lashed out at the American people. He can dance away from it, you can put lipstick on a pig and it's still a pig.

People know, when they make major addresses, exactly how it's going to be viewed.

I think it's time for him to go. I think it's long time passed. I agree with many retired generals who say it's time for him to go, and the many critics in the Senate in both parties that have criticized him.

So I'm looking forward to offering this resolution. I hope we get a good strong vote. But the bottom line is, enough already. This is the most compliant Congress I've ever seen. This is a rubber-stamp Congress. And we have to stand up and be heard when the secretary of defense attacks the American people.

OLBERMANN: What are your realistic expectations with a nonbinding resolution calling for him to go? What is the actual impact of something like that? What are you hoping for?

BOXER: I'm hoping to send a message that we're ready to stand up and be counted here. And, you know, I'm sure some people will say, Oh, let's not start this fuss right now. But you know what? The American people are tired of this. We are paralyzed into a situation where we can't seem to get out of Iraq, because they have melded the two wars.

And there are two wars. I voted for one, the war on terror. They're shortchanging that one. We're not doing very well. Remember Osama bin Laden, dead or alive? They just turned away from that, went into Iraq. Now they've folded these things together. This has got to stop.

OLBERMANN: The administration also insisted again today that nothing in Mr. Rumsfeld's speech Tuesday was about stifling dissent, , not even the part about those who disagree with the administration being morally or intellectually confused. Do you buy that?

BOXER: Look, it doesn't stop me from speaking out, it hasn't stopped you from speaking out. America is too strong for one man to stop us. However, this Congress has been notoriously weak, as I said, compliant. And we have to go back to Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican president, who said, If you don't criticize the commander in chief in a time of war, when you think he's wrong, you are bordering on treason.

OLBERMANN: About the commander in chief's speech today, there are several parts of that address that a professor of logic might be able to drive a truck through. But there was one in particular that troubled me. I'd like to play a short clip of it, and then call on you for your comment.


BUSH: If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities. We can decide to stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq and other parts of the world, but they will not decide to stop fighting us.


OLBERMANN: Senator Boxer, he also said, if we leave Iraq, the terrorists will follow us, that we're fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here. But is there not an implication in that that if we stay in Iraq, they suddenly will stop following us anywhere else, they won't try to attack us here? And is that not just nonsense?

BOXER: It's total nonsense. I mean, right now, what is the threat level? It's up to orange. They're scaring us every day. If there was no threat because we're in Iraq, why would they be scaring us every day?

Here's the bottom line. The president is desperate. Support for this war is falling, it's falling every single day. The midterm elections are coming up, and for some people, this is going to be the issue.

So he's trying to scare the American people by telling them that if we pull out of Iraq, if we start redeploying our troops, as many of us think we ought to be doing, starting this year, that we're going to have the terrorists on the streets.

And I have one thing to say about that, Mr. President, you are soft on homeland defense. You are not listening to the 9/11 commission, you are not investing in ways to protect this country in interoperable communications, in protecting our chemical plants, our nuclear power plants. He is not doing the right thing by the American people. He's scaring them instead of protecting them. I want to protect them. That's our job.

OLBERMANN: By the way, part of that quote that we played, "We can decide to stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq and other parts of the world, but they will not decide to stop fighting us." Senator, have you or your colleagues in the Senate or in the Democratic Party at any point ever suggested not fighting terrorists in other parts of the world?

BOXER: Not only have we not - we have never said that. We have voted, every single senator, every single senator, to retaliate against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and any other terrorists. And for the president to continue to warn the American people about terrorism, the fact is, we know that we're in this war against terror. We want to fight it. We don't want to fight the war in Iraq, which is really - 95 percent of the violence there is sectarian violence.

So there is just no truth to what the president is saying. And as you mentioned, when he is really corralled on the point, he admits that Iraq had nothing to do with the war on terror. But then he goes back to his poll numbers and tries to figure out, I guess Karl Rove is behind it, how he can get support, and that's to tell people if we leave Baghdad, you know, they're coming to the streets of Los Angeles or wherever.

And the bottom line is, we all know there are more cells in America today than there are Iraq. Of course we have to protect ourselves from these terrorists, and of course we have to win this war on terror. But that means we have to stop wasting the money that we are wasting right now, over $300 billion dollars on the war in Iraq.

We're approaching very high numbers of dead, 2,600, we've passed that number, 20,000 wounded. The Treasury is just an open book, and we're going broke here at home.

It's a wrong policy. Let's bring that to a close, concentrate on the war on terror.

There's one more point I would make. I heard an expert say that just one or two days of the cost of Iraq, we could inspect all the cargo coming into our ports.

OLBERMANN: Senator Barbara Boxer of California, great thanks for sharing some of your time with us this evening.

BOXER: Thanks so much.

OLBERMANN: And a quick note of thanks to you, and the literally thousands of you, who responded so kindly to my special comment here last night on Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks. We are simply overwhelmed, especially by those who suggested we should repeat those remarks in full on this newscast tonight.

On the theory that that would be akin to making everybody in a theater watch the same movie again immediately, we advise you instead, if you are so inclined, that the video and the transcript remain available on our Web site at

Much of Salt Lake City did not respond well to the visits of Mr. Rumsfeld or Mr. Bush, its mayor calling the latter a "dishonest, warmongering, human rights-violating president." Mayor Rocky Anderson joins us here.

And there are other reactions to Mr. Rumsfeld tonight. The newspaper that entitled its editorial "Secretary of Indefensible, and the analysis of our guest John Dean ahead.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: President Bush won over 71 percent of the vote in Utah in 2004, the greatest percentage of any state in the Union. So when his visit there this week was greeted not only by protesters but by the protesting mayor of Utah's biggest city, it definitely raised some questions about his core support.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, protesting the president. Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson joins us in a moment.

First, the protest itself. An estimated 4,000 marched to the federal building there and delivered a symbolic indictment against the president and Congress for abuse of power. But before the march began, they gathered at the Salt Lake City county building to listen to Mayor Anderson lay out his case against the administration.


MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON, SALT LAKE CITY: This is a new day. We will not be silent. We will continue to raise our voices. And we will bring others with us. We will grow and grow, regardless of political party.


OLBERMANN: And Mayor Anderson joins us now from Salt Lake City.

Thank you for your time this evening, sir.

ANDERSON: It's a real pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Salt Lake City actually voted for John Kerry in 2004. So what kind of reaction have you had from your constituents there about your protect speech yesterday?

ANDERSON: Oh, obviously it's mixed. I think that we have tremendous support for this demonstration that was held, thousands of people coming out, thousands more wished they could have come out in the middle of a workday. But also we're hearing from the other side. Of course, outside of Salt Lake City, probably 100 percent of the calls we're getting from outside the city are in opposition, except we're hearing from a lot of other areas in the nation, people very supportive, very surprised that this is happening in Salt Lake City.

But we felt that it was so absolutely crucial that even here, in the reddest state in the country, where President Bush has his highest approval ratings, we could demonstrate this tremendous opposition to this incredibly dishonest presidency, this disastrous presidency that's led us into this unconscionable illegal war.

OLBERMANN: The whole question of partisanship at this time is so superheated, nuclearly heated, it seems at times. As mayor, obviously, you don't represent just the people who voted for you, you represent the entire city. Do you think that the citizens who agree with the president have any validity in their complaint, in their objection to you, in your capacity as mayor, representing them in an antiwar, anti-President Bush protest demonstration?

ANDERSON: Well, I understand why some of my constituents, if they agree with the president, would disagree with me participating in this demonstration.

But just think about it. If I had been the nice, polite host and greeted the president at the airport and gone to the American Legion convention and stood up politely and applauded him, giving him a standing ovation along with everybody else, nobody would have any - thought anything odd of that. So it seems really, in a lot of people's views, it is only supposed to run one way.

And I am firmly of the view that those of us who see our nation being taken in a disastrous direction under this presidency, we all, especially those of us in any leadership position, have an enormous responsibility to stand up and be heard.

OLBERMANN: At a rally on the president's behalf yesterday, the attorney general of the state of Utah, Mark Shurtleff, according to the "Salt Like Tribune," said - now, let me quote it. "I have the right - I have to support the right of Rocky to be stupid, but I will not support his right to hurt people. What he is doing is hurting those people whose loved ones gave the ultimate sacrifice." That's the end of that quote. What's your response to that?

ANDERSON: Well, first of all, I'm surprised that Mark Shurtleff would stoop to those depths. I believe in civil dialogue. I also believe strongly in addressing the merits, talking about the facts, about the issues, rather than attacking someone so personally and resorting to these ad hominem comments.

But I think that's what we're seeing from a lot of these folks that are in the Bush administration, and I think that it filters down to others in these Republican ranks, that they think that attacking the person, telling people, for instance, they're like those who appeased the fascists in Germany, that we are morally and intellectually confused, making those kind of attacks, the Republican Party here actually sponsored a massive radio campaign against me, saying that I was basically un-American, that I was giving aid and assistance to the enemy.

It is astounding how desperate these people are in avoiding a discussion on the merits, because if they were discussing the merits, they would have to admit the president lied to us, many members of his administration lied us into this war. And it was a war that this president and his neocon advisers did choose. There is no question about that.

Now, in terms of whether I'm hurting those families of service people who have paid the ultimate price, that is absolutely a despicable claim. Probably the greatest cheer that came up yesterday during the demonstration was when I asked them to display for everybody our great support for our troops and our tremendous gratitude for our veterans who gave so much to preserve our freedoms, to allow us to come out and demonstrate as we did yesterday.

OLBERMANN: And we...

ANDERSON: I think people like Mark Shurtleff have completely forgotten that patriotism is about love of country. And those of us who were out there yesterday were there because we do love our country, and we have the same values that underlie the foundation of our country, and that form the foundation for our Constitution, whereas we feel very strongly that this administration has lost complete touch with those values.

OLBERMANN: And we never honor the war dead by smearing the people who did not want them to die in the first place.

The mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson. Great thanks for your time, Mayor.

ANDERSON: Thank you. And thanks for your great statement yesterday.

It was inspiring.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.

The comments of Mr. Rumsfeld this week only fueling the fires of discontent against the rhetoric in the Bush administration. John Dean, the author of "Conservatives Without Conscience," joins us ahead.

And here's an interesting fact. Mr. Rumsfeld stands five feet, seven and one-half inches tall. This youngster does not.

Next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Lot of firsts on August 31, the first football game in which all the players got paid in 1895, the first of the so-called Jack the Ripper murders in 1888, and the first episode of the comedy "The Great Gildersleeve" on NBC Radio in 1941. That starred Harold Peary (ph), and it lives on to some degree in a character on "The Simpsons" who uses Peary's trademark enunciation of the word "Yes."

All right, I don't have a Rumsfeld commentary every night.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Mira Awahawa (ph), Nepal. And hello, there, little boy. That's Kagendra Tapamagar (ph). He's 14 years old, 10 pounds - 10 inches tall, cute as a button, he is. Not sure what his condition is, but he seems to be a plucky young lad. His parents are taking him on a tour of Nepal and say they're close to achieving Kagendra's lifelong dream to play power forward with the Golden State Warriors. I read that wrong.

It's to be entered in the "Guinness Book of Records" as world's shortest boy. Family claims the honor and the untold riches that no doubt accompany it are all but in the bag. His closest competitor is 25 inches tall, and they call that kid Stretch.

To St. Paul, the very epicenter of the fashion world, the Minnesota State Fair. The main attraction this year has got to be the daring grace of designer Rebecca Yacker (ph), the sock monkey dress. It's the perfect autumn outfit for the woman who wants to project, I'm not institutionalized, but I should be. There are two pieces, actually, including a more casual number for those nights when a straitjacket is just too formal.

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind. This is not a segue. The Rumsfeld debacle, day three, why this continues to resonate. Our special guest, a man who worked with him in the Nixon White House, John Dean.

And from one The Donald to the other The Donald, he "You're fired" Carolyn. Michael Musto will tell me who Carolyn is.

Details ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Eric Kilk of Vancouver, Washington, software engineer, fan of the just deposed planet Pluto, who has launched a political campaign complete with signs reading, "Reelect Pluto, Solar System, Ninth Planet."

Number two, unknown suspect broke into a McDonald's in Lake Havesu (ph) City, Arizona, overnight. He stole nothing. He simply fired up the grill, cooked himself two burgers, and then fled. Police are looking for him to charge him with breaking and entering. McDonald's is looking for him as a potential fry cook.

Number one, the unnamed pilot of the Air Canada jazz (ph) flight from Ottawa to Winnipeg. About half an hour before landing, 50 passengers aboard his flight saw him slip in and out of the bathroom, and then heard him banging on the cockpit door after he had locked himself out. Crew members eventually took the door off its hinges so he could get back in and land the damn thing.

You know, I see another Samuel L. Jackson film in this. Draining the snake on the plane?


OLBERMANN: Our third story on the Countdown tonight is appeasement, suspected appeasement by the secretary of defense. On Tuesday, Mr. Rumsfeld explained why he evoked the Nazis.


DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I recount that history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism, but some seem not to have learned history's lessons. Can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way vicious extremists can be appeased?


OLBERMANN: Was Mr. Rumsfeld likening critics of the war to appeasers of the '30s.

Yesterday, the "Voice of America" quoted Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff as saying, "Media reports said the secretary was accusing critics of the Bush administration of supporting appeasement or being appeasers.and that is not what was said by the secretary."

Funny doggone thing about that a lot of people seem to have taken it exactly that way. It wasn't just Democratic senators like Ken Salazar who called for Rumsfeld to go, nor Barbara Boxer with who, we spoke on this topic earlier, it was the "L.A. Times":

"Rumsfeld compared critics of U.S. policy in Iraq to those to who sought to appease Hitler."

The Louisville "Currier-Journal": "He once more eluded to the appeasement of Hitler before World War II, implying that critics of the war are making a comparable misjudgment."

The "Daily News" of Lufkin, Texas saying, "They're no different than the people who downplayed the rise of fascism and Nazism.

Lufkin, Texas, and there might be someone named Neville in Lufkin, Texas, but I'm guessing his last name is not Chamberlain. So, let's put Mr. Ruff's quote back up and judge for ourselves what Mr. Rumsfeld said.


RUMSFELD: But some seem not to have learned history's lessons. Can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way vicious extremists can be appeased?"


OLBERMANN: If Mr. Rumsfeld was referring neither to critics nor, let's assume, to supporters of Mr. Bush, who was left?

Mr. Ruff was good enough to speak to a Countdown producer today and repeated this assertion. Mr. Rumsfeld was not referring to the critics of the war. He said Mr. Rumsfeld was instead addressing a broad array of people and organizations. He also declined to name any of them.

John Dean first met Donald Rumsfeld more than 35 years ago when they both worked for Richard Nixon. Mr. Dean, famously, as White House counsel, he is most recently the author of "Conservatives without Conscience."

John, good evening.

JOHN DEAN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Thank you Keith, Nice to be with you again.

OLBERMANN: This semantically dilettantism about calling people appeasers or not calling them, is this backtracking or is there some further Machiavellian or Rumsfeldian political plan behind making an obvious reference, whipping up a firestorm, and then taking the position that you were not referring to what you were referring to?

DEAN: Well, it certainly strikes me as a little bit of backtracking. Obviously they weren't expecting the reaction they got. I don't know why they didn't. What was most confusing to me about the remark, I took it exactly the way most people did, that it was a critical remark, but I didn't understand how he gets and conflates terrorism with Nazism or fascism, because they've told us earlier they don't believe that the terrorists are state-based whereas fascism is a very state-based kind of approach to governing.

OLBERMANN: When your book came out, we talked at length about the psychological study of authoritarian personalities and how they had overtaken the conservative movement. Is there room in that psychological structure for one of them like the secretary seriously misjudging the playing field and overreaching? Is that one of the symptoms of all this, and did he do that in this speech?

DEAN: Keith, this is textbook authoritarianism. I can't think of a better example. It's the typical zeal, it's the sort of blind aggression to go out and reach out and perpetuates your world view or to sell it to others using whatever means you have to. And these are very strong and typical authoritarian traits, so it doesn't surprise me and the fact that others had to call it to his attention to have some sort of critical look at it is very typical of what happens with those authoritarianism, so it is exactly what I was talking about in the book.

OLBERMANN: Can there be, in your opinion, a bigger or broader danger to our democracy then when the very notion of debates, never mind the particulars of debate, becomes not just anathema to the leader, but no is no longer seen as a requirement for the very survival of the democracy?

DEAN: Well, I think it's essential we have debate. I think it's essential that debate be honest debate and that's one of the things when I read the Rumsfeld speech, I mean, it's riddled with errors, historical and distortions, mischaracterization, as well as being rather vicious in its attack. This is not really what I would call a very high level of debate. It's sort of the - the level of civility is dubious on this one, whereas it's very important to have a good debate on these issues.

OLBERMANN: Dissent is obviously central to our history. No dissent, no revolution, no dissent, no emancipation of the slaves, no dissent, in fact, no Republican Party. So why throughout that history do some of us, like Donald Rumsfeld in this case, always turn to throwing dissent under the bus first?

DEAN: Good question. Indeed this is what is being done because he doesn't seem to want to engage and deal with that dissent on a legitimate level. Now, you look back through the Republican history starting with Abraham Lincoln who was critical of the Mexico-American War. You have people like Bob Taft who was critical of the Korean War under Truman. You have Barry Goldwater who was critical of LBJ's handing of the war. It's a long Republican tradition that apparently Mr. Rumsfeld wants to cut off.

OLBERMANN: It has not been gone into at length in the initial responses to the Rumsfeld speech, but why is the administration on this Nazi and fascism terminology kick? Especially given that the fact that the rest of Mr. Rumsfeld speech read like a quisling of Norway or Oswald Mosley of the British Union of Fascists? Is than not quite a rhetorical balancing act to be so vicious in the terminology while embracing, to some degree, the methods of the people you're supposedly criticizing?

DEAN: Well it struck me when I read it that about two or three people had worked on it, he'd cut and pasted it together and decided which sections he wanted to go with and he clearly wanted to throw a smear in there and that's exactly what he did, and now as you said, he's backtracking from it. I think it's very clearly a part of a launch of a pre-Labor Day campaign which typically happens after Labor Day, but they wanted to get a preemptive attack on it, if you will, because they're in deep trouble and '06 is an important election that they really feel great jeopardy if they should lose it.

OLBERMANN: And the president today, I got the impression that he was

you talk about conflating, he had conflated the Cold War with the fascists, with Mussolini, with Hitler. It really is - is there anything to be gained by exaggerating a threat like this, by putting it in terms of apocalypse?

DEAN: Keith, I'm struck at how they're trying to play the American people as stupid. And I think this election is going to determine whether they're right, whether they're smarter than everybody thinks, or whether they really have made a terrible mistake by playing everybody for being as dumb as they seem to think they are.

OLBERMANN: We'll keep our fingers crossed. John Dean, the latest book, "Conservatives without Conscience," as always, sir, great thanks for joining us tonight.

DEAN: Thank you Keith.

OLBERMANN: And there was a headline in this morning's "New York Times" that read a little like one of those letters in the post office misplaced for 47 years. Ken Blackwell, now republican candidate for governor of Ohio, the man who has secretary of state oversaw the troubled presidential voting in Ohio in 2004, says that he will delay the destruction of the ballots of in that election for at least several months.

Federal law allowing for ballots to be destroyed 22 months after voting is completed. Mr. Blackwell's announcement is in response to critics who want time for independent investigators to finish scrutinizing those ballots and independent partial examination of ballots has so far revealed significant discrepancies between official tallies and actual votes cast.

Significant, not least, because Ohio was the deciding vote and the official tally showed Senator John Kerry losing by about 118,000 our of five-and-a-half million votes. Mr. Kerry did not dispute the results at that time but in raising funds this week for Blackwell's gubernatorial opponent, Congressman Ted Strickland, the senator claimed Blackwell tried to suppress the Democratic vote in Ohio in 2004.

Also tonight, two more ill winds, Hurricane John threatening a popular Mexican resort. Ex-Hurricane Ernesto still reeking havoc on our East Coast.

And if you're a fan of the HBO series "Entourage," an episode you can't afford not to miss. You may not believe who will be the special guest villain. Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: Ernesto in the Atlantic, John in the Pacific. The latest storm tracks for both. And on television storms, Kevin Federline gets a role, but Carolyn Kepcher loses hers? What the hell kind of world are we living in? That and more ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: One is churning off the coast of the Carolinas, the other creeping up towards Baja, California. Our second story on the Countdown, two serious storms on two different coasts. We begin with Ernesto, after blowing across Florida, it was downgrades to a tropical depression, but it regained strength, becoming a tropical storm, threatening to become a hurricane once again. The storm is slated to make landfall on the border between North and South Carolina, this evening. Its outer bands are al ready lashing the coast there with 70-mile-an-hour winds, causing flash floods. No evacuations have yet been ordered, but campgrounds and ports are now closed.

And while the Atlantic storm season has been relatively mild, so far, the Pacific coast is dealing with its sixth hurricane of the season. Hurricane John, spinning along Mexico, heading straight up to the tip of the Baja, California Peninsula. So far the Category 2 'cane has only lashed the Mexican coast with rain, but it is set to make landfall at Cabo San Lucas office, prompting authorities there to order 15,000 residents to higher ground, while hundreds of tourists clogged the airport trying to out before the storm hit. Hurricane John could drop as much as 18 inches of rain and also cause a storm surge of up to five feet when it makes land early Friday.

Speaking of things that blow, there's Kevin Federline. That, the segue into our nightly round-up into celebrity and news, "Keeping Tabs."

Mr. Spears will reportedly appear on HBO's shape comedy, "Entourage." Well, formerly sharp. First it was Federline at the "Teen Choice" awards with a performance that made Vanilla Ice look like Beethoven. That incited an invitation from a writer on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" for him to play a gang leader. Now according to a London tabloid, the "Sun," there's a three episode arc on "Entourage." Federline would play the dead beat husband of a celebrity and he is, "Really keen and not insulted when he was asked to play the part," according to a friend. Keen? Was this friend also British or is the "Sun" making it up or does Federline think the thing is also neato? In any event, wife, Britney Spears wants no credit for this mess.

And you art history majors can stop screaming. Police in Norway believe they have recovered the stolen Munch masterpiece. They say they are waiting confirmation by experts that it is the original "The Scream" stolen in a daring daylight raid from an Oslo museum two years ago this month. They will not say where it and companion painting by Edvard Munch, "Madonna" were, considering that when a jury convicted three men of the theft last May, it was speculated they might have burned the iconic painting to destroy the evidence. There is a collective sigh of relief coming out of Norway just now. Well, it's a sigh mixed with just slight muffled gurgle of (INAUDIBLE) call it what you will.

The look on "The Scream" might have mirrored Carolyn Kepcher's face when the Donald unleashed his "you're fi-ed" at her. Live by the Apprentice" die by the "Apprentice." Michael Musto will try to make me care.

That's ahead but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The Bronze to Coultergeist. Title of her column, on Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, "They Shot the Wrong Lincoln." This is at least the fourth public figure against which she has suggested a physical attack. It's got to be worth a D.A. somewhere indicting her for repeated terrorist threats. Isn't' it?

The runner-up, Sean Hannity. Usually he keeps the blood out of it, but in telling his echo chamber about the mid-term elections, he said "This is the moment to say that there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of them is make sure Nancy Pelosi doesn't become the speaker." Yeah, meet you at the barricades, brother.

But our winner, Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, who already joked about his housepainter being an undocumented immigrant, already criticized Virginia firefighters who traveled 2,000 miles to help out in Montana. Now he's claimed there are terrorists who live among us and, "Drive taxicabs in the daytime and kill at night." The question to Mr. Burns, do you still have the stamina to offend everybody in the 68 days until the elections?

Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: There are so many ways to say it, like axed, sacked, dropped, booted, bounced, canned, cashiered. There's even the mean-spirited sound of Donald Trump "ya fi-ed" a kind of red badge of unemployment. But in our No. 1 story in the Countdown, what happened when the pink slip is accompanied by another sound, that of your computer e-mail ding?

Mr. Trump's latest ding in a moment, first, Radio Shack Corporation headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas slimming its ranks by dismissing about 400 workers this week, no arcane pink slip needed, the zap was strictly electronic e-mails. E-mails. Get fired by e-mails reading, "The workforce reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated." Workers had been warned that layoff notices would be delivered this way, and were allowed to meet with supervisors before leaving. But once notified by e-mail, they 30 minutes to pack up and they were not even offered enlargement drugs.

And anyone with even a passing knowledge of the "Apprentice" knows that Trump enjoys filling up the board room with his own ego, not to mention his hair - well, maybe not his own hair. His sidekicks are given some rope and now apparently for one of them, just enough to hang herself. The Donald fired one of his "Apprentice" costars, Carolyn Kepcher, so says the "New York Post" citing insiders, one of them saying, "She became a prima donna. Being on the 'Apprentice' went to her head. She was no linger focused on business. She was giving speeches for $25,000 and doing endorsements."

Another source saying "She thought she was a freaking movie star." Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, New York where Miss Kepcher was COO and general manager and the grass was gold-colored, no, I just made that up, will now be run by her second in command, the Donald's daughter Ivanka, will fill Miss Kepcher's shoes in season six of the "Apprentice." She's already filled in on past episodes. N-e-p-o-t-i-s-m, right?

Trump reportedly told Miss Kepcher to take some time off, spend it with her family, then get another job. The insider says they have a great relationship, thus we are left to ponder if Trump topped it off with this.




OLBERMANN: Didn't see that coming did you? Let's call in "Village Voice" columnist, Michael Musto.

Good evening Michael.


OLBERMANN: Couple more ugly details, of course there are, the "New York Post" saying that Trump tried to reach Miss Kepcher recently, but she was out of town giving a speech, that once while providing a tour of the golf course's pro shop, she didn't know the prices of the merchandise. But isn't it - is it more about the prima donna factor, maybe his rather than hers?

MUSTO: Yeah, I think his, I mean, it's not like she lied about stomach stapling or something important like that. Basically she's on a show about success and she's fired for being a success. Donald is punishing her for basically learning what he taught her on the show, about being aggressive and pursuing your dreams. She was away, OK, she screwed up, but she must have been reachable by phone.

By the way, speaking of phone, I hate Radio Shack. They once sold me a lemon phone and they wouldn't take it back because they said the serial number on the phone didn't match the one on the box. Isn't that funny?

OLBERMANN: Oh, very cute.

MUSTO: I'll send them an e-mail.

OLBERMANN: OK. Miss Kepcher released a statement, back to the story, here. It reads in part, "After 11 years with the Trump Organization, Donald and I had different visions for my future role in the company. Donald has been an extraordinary boss and a great mentor over the year, and I'll always be grateful for the opportunities and experiences he has provided me."

Could you give us - give us a guess here as to what the different vision of her future role entailed?

MUSTO: I think hers was to have a life and to enjoy her celebrity and I think his was to have an indentured servant, basically someone to learn golf merchandising prices. I think the last person to have that kind of difference with the Donald was named Marla Maples, and I believe she was also fired.

OLBERMANN: That official statement from Miss Kepcher was released by a company called Freud Communications. What would the other Freud make of Donald Trump, do you suppose?

MUSTO: I would think he would say his ego way outweighs his Id and that his constant obsession with pink slips is actually a Freudian slip, because he's really firing himself. Food for thought, no? No?

OLBERMANN: Yeah, well, maybe. He's - the idea that Ivanka, the daughter, is going to take over Miss Kepcher's role on TV, Donald, Jr. already filled in for the other sidekick, George Ross, and will continue to do so. Is the translation this, Ivanka and Junior can't get work on their own?

MUSTO: Oh, you're confusing them with Lucy Arnaz and Desi, Jr. These kids got the job fair and square. In fact I hear for the audition, they both had paper bags on there heads so there's be no favoritism, and Donald said, "Whoever you are, will you be good on the show?" And they said "Yes, daddy." And he said, "You're hired."

OLBERMANN: Is that when he also said that if she was not his daughter he would date Ivanka?

MUSTO: I think he said, "Whoever you are, I'll date you, because I like younger women."


MUSTO: Yeah, eeeewww.

OLBERMANN: Miss Kepcher is now free it do more.

MUSTO: But keep the bag on the head.

OLBERMANN: Yeah - all right, this woman, Kepcher, is now free to do what she probably wanted to do anyway, but Trump now has to ask the advice of his kids about which losers to fire on the TV show. Is this a win-win situation for him, or is he going to regret this?

MUSTO: It's defiantly not win-win for Katherine (SIC), because she wants to make speeches now, but nobody wants her anymore, she doesn't even sell golf merchandise any anymore. She's going to end up at the autograph convention next to the guy who played Chewbacca. And it's definitely not win-win for the Donald because now he has his two kids on the show agreeing with everything he says. He's lost his critical third eye. This is the biggest lose-lose since "Gigli."

OLBERMANN: I can't do the Chewbacca, my voice is not full strength.

Can't do that Chewbacca growl here, but is there any chance, could we hope

could we hod out hope that this will still get nasty, because that looked like a really toady-like statement from Miss Kepcher's. Could it wind up, you know, on "Oprah" either with a fight or reconciliation?

MUSTO: It's going to get ugly. I mean, the Donald's going to call Caroline (SIC) and say you're still fired. It's not going to end up on "Oprah," it's going to be on "Letterman" because they joined Paris and Nicole with their burial of the hatchet and I think Rosanne and Tom are going to come along, Olivia de Haviland and her dead sister Joan Fontaine. It's going to be the biggest group hug since Gianna (INAUDIBLE).

OLBERMANN: For - you know, you had me at Joan Fontaine and then you had to go for Gianna, didn't you?

MUSTO: Yeah, the dead Joan Fontaine wasn't tasteless.


The Gianna got you.

Yes, it's always..

I always go one step too far. I'm fired!

That's right, Joan Fontaine. The one and only Michael Musto. Many thanks for your time tonight, Michael.

Thank you.

That's Countdown for the 1,216th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTY. Joe, good evening.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 30

Special Comment:
Feeling morally, intellectually confused?
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer

Guests: Howard Dean, Richard Wolffe

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Day two of the Rummy fallout, the branding of the administration critics as morally or intellectually confused.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.

Once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism.


OLBERMANN: Reaction tonight from our guest, Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, and a special comment on the lesson of fighting fascism about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused, when governments believe they, and they alone, know everything.

New terminology coming from the president, the war we did not start, this has Brian Williams' interview with Mr. Bush continues.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fundamentalist world attacked the United States and killed 3,000 people before I even thought about removing Saddam Hussein from power.


OLBERMANN: Plamegate, Armitage 'fesses up, says a lawyer, reportedly.

And now Fristgate. He did not take all the continuing medical education he needed to keep his doctor's license, but he told the state of Tennessee that he did.

And the driver had no hope of survival. Death in a flooded, trapped SUV was imminent. Yet she lived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something happened for her to be able to be alive today.

OLBERMANN: And who lost all that weight? Katie did. At least, her CBS publicity photo did. The amazing new Katie Couric diet, half the carbs, twice the gravitas.

All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening.

This is Wednesday, August 30, 69 days until the 2006 midterm elections, one day after the Bush administration did not, could not even wait for the one-year mark of Hurricane Katrina to pass before moving on to the anniversary of its choice, ramping up its pro-war rhetoric in advance of September 11.

Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, at the risk of adding to the, quote, "moral or intellectual confusion about who or what is right or wrong" in this country, tonight, a reality check of Donald Rumsfeld's incendiary speech, a special comment on his attack on your right to disagree.

In a moment, the reaction of the Democratic National Committee chairman, former presidential candidate Howard Dean.

But we begin with a big - a brief refresher on the rhetoric itself, the defense secretary's remarks before the national convention of the American Legion beginning yesterday with a history lesson, before Secretary Rumsfeld compared critics of the current war in Iraq to those who tried to appease Adolf Hitler and the Nazis before World War II.


RUMSFELD: Once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism. But some seem not to have learned history's lessons.

Can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased? Can folks really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?

Any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.


OLBERMANN: The president getting his own chance to address the American Legion convention tomorrow, Mr. Bush scheduled to arrive in Utah later this evening, protesters in Salt Lake City today getting a jump on his arrival, that city's mayor even joining in, calling Mr. Bush a, quote, "dishonest, warmongering, human-rights-violating president," Vice President Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld both having kicked off the PR offensive Monday with remarks before the annual gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nevada, any notion today that Mr. Rumsfeld might have been acting as a loan wolf at Tuesday's speech obliterated by the lack of a resignation announcement from the White House, along with this comment from the Pentagon spokesman.

Quote, "Facts are facts. As the (INAUDIBLE) secretary said in his speech, America and the free world face a gathering threat of challenges from a vicious enemy that is serious, lethal, and relentless. There are important lessons from history that we ought to be mindful of as we talk about how we are going to meet the challenges extremist terror organizes present."

Both sides can say whatever they want, but the latest facts in Iraq are these, a series of bombings, killing at least 66 people today, more than 200 killed since Sunday.

Time now to call in the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean.

Good evening, Governor. Thank you for your time tonight.

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Keith, thanks for having me on. It's my first time on the show.

OLBERMANN: Indeed it is, sir.

Is it, do you know, technically possible to impeach a secretary of defense? And have we gotten to that stage after these remarks?

DEAN: You know, I suspect it probably is, but I have to say I'm not a lawyer, and I wouldn't know how to do it.

OLBERMANN: If it's possible, should we be doing it? Should we (INAUDIBLE)?

DEAN: Well, you know, I think we've gotten to - the whole government has sort of become ridiculous. You have the secretary of defense and the vice president essentially saying that 54 percent of the American people are - whatever they said, they're morally confused. When 54 percent of the American people believe something, they're the boss.

And we need a new direction in this country. And in order to get a new direction in this country, we need a fundamental change in Congress. They've rubber-stamped an incompetent administration. We can do better than this. We don't have to have this silliness.

Honestly, truthfully, I was going to say all kinds of things, but the bottom line is, the administration looks ridiculous at this point. And there's no point in refuting it all line by line. They have, in Iran, about to get nuclear weapons, South - North Korea has nuclear weapons, got more of them since the president has been president of the United States. Osama bin Laden's still at large.

We need somebody who knows how to defend the country the way Jack Kennedy did, Harry Truman did, and Franklin Roosevelt will, and the Democrats will. We need to be tough and smart, not just talk tough.

OLBERMANN: Nevertheless, in the next 69 days, there are going to be people calling for a line-by-line refutation, and obviously Mr. Rove and company are clearly going back to the playbook that has worked in the last two elections. Obviously, based on what we heard this week, they're ratcheting up even further. What are the Democrats going to do to combat that, in places where what Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Rove, Mr. Bush say is still taken seriously?

DEAN: This time, we're not going to lay down and worry about what their supposed toughness on defense. The truth is, the defense issue works for us now. They have a war on terror, they have a war in Iraq, and they have a war on the middle class. They've attacked people's - kids' ability to go to college, healthcare, wages have gone down. Katrina has been a mess. We're in a middle of a civil war in Iraq.

They don't know how to deal with anything. They can't get anything right, including defending America. You can't trust the Republicans with your money, you can't trust them to fix really big natural disasters, you can't trust them to defend America.

It's not because they don't want to defend America, the truth is, they can't. You got to be tough and smart. You got to know what you're doing. They clearly do not know what they're doing.

No amount of name-calling is going to save them. The majority of the American people do not believe the President Bush is telling the truth, the majority of the American people do not believe this administration is competent. We want a new direction in America, and the Democrats will provide one.

OLBERMANN: Back to Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks yesterday. Is there not something in them, though, that transcends political parties? Do we not need opposition and critics questioning policy, whoever's policy that is? I mean, during a Democratic administration, don't you want Republicans and media and citizens saying, Hold on, prove what you just said?

DEAN: Nobody in power ever likes to be criticized. When I was governor, I didn't like to be criticized. But it's part of the American system. And what the Republican administration and the Republican Congress has forgotten, that the voters are the boss. The voters eventually get their say. And they're going to have their say in 69 days. And my guess is, they're not going to want to continue in this direction. This is nuts.

OLBERMANN: At this late date, though, in the atmosphere that you've described, in terminology that merits someone saying, This is nuts, why are Democrats appearing always to be on the defensive on the subject of Iraq, about the need to supply an exit strategy for Iraq, when it was a Republican administration that put us there? Is there still a tentativeness among Democrats to touch this?

DEAN: I don't think there is. You know, Republicans are big on policy - on politics, but they're not very good at policy. They're good at winning elections, they're not very good at governing. So five weeks ago, they decided they would maneuver us into a political decision. So they had a vote on the war in Iraq, 75 percent of the voters - of the Democrats in the Senate and 80 percent in the House voted to get out of Iraq, not precipitously, you can't bring them home tomorrow, but they voted to have a plan to get out of Iraq.

So there's a clear difference, and the American people know that the president started this war, he decided that he'd keep it going. We think it was a mistake. We think we need a decent exit strategy. We may have some differences on the Democratic side about exactly what that exit strategy is, but there's a very clear difference.

We believe that security starts at home, and the president has forgotten about home, both in terms of our security, and in terms of our economy, and we believe we need to be tough and smart when we deal with terrorists, and not just talk tough, but have no idea what we're doing.

These guys got us into Iraq without asking the military for their opinion, and then when they got their opinion, they ignored it. You can't conduct a war without listening to the military. They know what they're doing. And frankly, the people who got us into this, very few of them ever served abroad in the uniform of the United States of America. We need to listen to the military before we do things like this.

OLBERMANN: You said the president started this war. We've already heard today from comments from the White House, even comments from the president speaking to Brian Williams in an interview we'll be playing in part in a few minutes, that the new terminology, as of tomorrow, is, we, meaning this country, did not start this war, meaning Iraq, plus counterterrorism, again merging these things. Is that going to be...

DEAN: Well, that is simply - well...

OLBERMANN:... going to be...

DEAN:... that's false. Look at Paul O'Neill, the former secretary of treasury's book, an honest, decent guy, happens to be a Republican - there are honest, decent Republicans - who ran Alcoa Aluminum. He wrote in his book, written by Ron Susskind, he said that George Bush had said he was going to get rid of Saddam Hussein when he got into office in his first cabinet meeting. That was nine months before Iraq.

This administration has simply not told the truth. The American people don't believe by almost a two-to-one margin that they don't tell the truth. We just need a change. That's all we're asking for. What we're asking for is to get out of the gutter with this debate. We want real healthcare that works, we want jobs in America that stay in America, and we want a strong, tough, and honest defense policy, where we actually have some allies who respect our country.

We were the most respected country in the world before George Bush took office. And I want to be the most respected country in the world again, before this decade is over. And with a new election and a new way of doing things in a new direction, I think we can do that.

OLBERMANN: Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on the Rumsfeld speech and the current political climate.

Many thanks, Governor, for your time tonight. Thanks (INAUDIBLE).

DEAN: Hey, thanks, Keith. Thanks for having me on.

OLBERMANN: My pleasure.

My special comment on Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks later in this newshour.

Meantime, the British government will be able to continue to hold without charge for another week five of the suspects who have not yet been charged in the purported plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners with liquid explosives. That, after a decision handed down by a judge in the U.K. That means investigators will get till September 6 to question the men, to continue to question them, at which point, they must be either charged or set free, unless there is another court ruling.

Of the 25 people originally arrested earlier this month, 15 have been charged, five others have been released, "The New York Times" reporting Monday, as many other sources have, that the alleged plotters were not prepared to strike immediately at the time of their arrest, despite the official hysteria from both sides of the Atlantic at the time of those raids.

Anyone in Great Britain, however, hoping to read that analysis on the newspaper's Web site greeted with this message instead, "On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of in Britain," the paper going on to explain that that was because British laws prohibit the publication of prejudicial information about defendants before they go to trial.

Can reasonable people disagree about how to conduct a war against terror without the government accusing you of moral or intellectual confusion, or worse? Special comment ahead.

And more of Brian Williams with President Bush. He asks Mr. Bush if the U.S. war - led war on terror has only served to create more terrorists.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: As mentioned already, the president is about to unveil some new rhetoric. He will follow Secretary Rumsfeld to the podium at the American Legion tomorrow, so don't wear your good shoes. A White House press officer flashed the new verbiage today, referring to counterterror efforts and Iraq and everything else as, "this war that we didn't start."

Our fourth story on the Countdown, few can be found who still believe Iraq in some way caused 9/11, even the president denies he has ever implied that, in the first part of his interview with Brian Williams yesterday. But history will probably judge that 9/11 in some way caused Iraq, and that's where Brian picks up with Mr. Bush tonight.


WILLIAMS: Do you see the argument that some on the left make, that the war in Iraq has amounted to a colossal recruitment poster in the fundamentalist world?

BUSH: No, I don't see that at all. The fundamentalist world attacked the United States and killed 3,000 people before I even thought about removing Saddam Hussein from power. I just don't buy that argument. It is an argument that's not based upon fact.

WILLIAMS: But it's that tie, it's the story in the paper recently of the kid who joined the National Guard, angry about what they did to us on 9/11, thought he was going to Afghanistan, killed in Iraq.

BUSH: Brian, all I can tell you is, is that we have a volunteer army full of motivated, decent, honorable citizens wearing our uniform, and morale is high. Morale is really high. You talk to the families, and you talk to these kids who are fighting for this country, they understand the stakes, and they're proud to be doing it. And this country owes them a debt of gratitude.

WILLIAMS: Do you think your father is satisfied with where this beloved nation that he fought for in World War II is in the world right now, our status in the world?

BUSH: I think, listen, America is - America's respected. People still want to come to America. You ask anybody in the world (INAUDIBLE) who wants to embetter their life, Where would you like to go? Most would say America.

What - people don't like my policies, necessarily. They didn't like the fact I didn't join the International Criminal Court. Or they didn't like the fact that I wouldn't sign the Kyoto Protocol, both of which I thought were not good for the country. Many people didn't like the fact that we went after Saddam Hussein, after - resolution after resolution. I understand that.

But what my dad also understands is, you've got to make decisions based upon what you think is right, that you can't try to be popular. And so I would tell you, America's respected. And I would, I would also say, I readily concede, our policies may not be beloved.

But I tell you what is the policies that are. We feed the hungry. When the tsunamis hit, it was the United States of America who took the lead. And my job is to remind the people of the world the good we're doing.

And I think when it's all said and done, they'll look back and say, Thank goodness America took the lead in fighting this war on terror too, thank God they helped them lay the foundation for peace.


OLBERMANN: President Bush with Brian Williams. You can see the entirety of that interview on

Also tonight, an SUV swept away in floodwaters, the successful struggle to save a drowning driver, and then the shock. No one is exactly sure how she physically could have made it out alive.

And no, this is not intended as a visual representation of tonight's special comment about Mr. Rumsfeld's speech.

But bad tomatoes we'll hurl, when Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: The late baseball great Ted Williams was born on this date, August 30, in 1918. It would take a real cynic to come up with a birthday wish in the form of a joke about cryogenics just here. Ah, not tonight. I'm going to get in enough trouble tonight.

Let's play Oddball.

It's a special fun-with-food edition tonight as we begin in Bunol (ph), Spain, home of the festival drunken tomato hurling and shattered facial bones. That is La Tomatina. It's La Tomatina time, La Tomatina time. Where you at? Where you at? There you go, there you go.

Forty thousand participants this year went through 240,000 pounds of overripe tomatoes in just a couple of hours. This is an annual event with no known religious nor political significance. They're just huge wasters of food over there, which is sad, because there are hungry people who would give anything to be smashed in the face with a tomato. But the Tomatina circle of life rolls on. Fire trucks will wash away the mess, the sewer rats will have enough ketchup until next year, and the local tomato salesman can finally afford that Mercedes he's always wanted.

Back home, it's fun with corn. Pekin (ph), Illinois, where autumn must be right around the corner, because the Green Acres Farm has opened the big annual Worlds of Fun Corn Maze. It is a 16-acre creation portraying all the planets of the solar system, which took weeks to carve using GPS technology and a really sharp knife. And, wait, is that Pluto? I'm sorry, you're going to have to start all over again.

You've heard of "HEADLINERS AND LEGENDS," how about leaks and biographies? Richard Armitage now reportedly confessing to having been the first source in the outing of Valerie Plame. Is there still a leak, then? Is there still a conspiracy, then? And the biography part, the vice president with a controversial choice to tell his story.

Details ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Colin Watson of Great Britain. He was described as the country's, quote, "most notorious collector of rare bird's eggs." He had stolen eggs from the nests of golden eagles and of rare snipes. But when he thought he saw the nest of a sparrow hawk outside the city of Doncaster (ph), he met his match. The 62-year-old Watson climbed about 26 feet up the tree in hopes of snaring the eggs, and the branch broke. He's dead now. They say it was an accident. But I saw one of those sparrow hawks smiling.

Number two, pranksters in Duluth, Minnesota. Somebody noticed that officers did not pay much attention to the planter outside the seldom-used front door of the police station on Grand Avenue. So three weeks ago, they planted something. Police say the dozen marijuana plants will be destroyed during the department's next burning of confiscated drugs.

But sharing number one, David and Michael Murphy of Brentwood, Long Island, New York. Police say the brothers were each out driving last Friday night, driving drunk. Each, in fact, had a minor drunk driving accident on the same night. They ran into other cars. In fact, yes, they ran into each other's car. Now that is aim (ph).


OLBERMANN: Our No. 3 story in the Countdown tonight is a threesome, actually. Lies, damned lies, and one truth. But we'll start with the truth. The truth revealed, possibly lost somewhat in the frenzy over a guy who did not kill JonBenet Ramsey.

It is the revelation by "Newsweek" magazine that Richard Armitage, then the No. 2 man at the State Department was indeed the first source behind Robert Novak's column, outing the CIA operative, Valerie Plame, the wife of Joseph Wilson. You will recall Wilson, of course, revealed that President Bush was quoting bogus information, the infamous 16-words about an Iraqi bid to obtain yellow cake uranium from Niger. "Newsweek's" accounts suggests, quoting a lawyer familiar with the whole thing, that Armitage was not part of an orchestrated plan to discredit Wilson, however the "New York Times" today reporting that Armitage only knew about Plame from a department memo about here that had been compiled at the request of the office of Vice President Cheney. Specifically Mr. Cheney's then chief of staff, now indicted perjury defendant, I. Lewis Libby.

And if you will recall, Novak's original column, he says, "Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him Niger." Richard Wolf sorts this out for us presently.

But speaking of Mr. Cheney's efforts to sell the war, we come now to the damned lies category. "U.S. News and World Report" say the famously secretive vice president has decided to cooperate with a biography. What experienced scholar will gain this coveted access? Which probing historian will drill into Mr. Cheney's many controversies? Meet first-time biographer Stephen Hayes. What experience does he have? Well, for the conservative "Weekly Standard" he wrote hard-hitting pieces like this one, courageously titled "Dick Cheney Was Right," he also wrote "The Connection:

How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America." Based on extensive reporting done in the remote mountains of Washington, D.C .

More famously, when Cheney has been asked to back up his claims of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda, he's pointed people to articles by Hayes, articles that back up their claims by pointing to documents provided by the minions of Mr. Cheney, and articles, we should note, that Mr. Cheney has continued to cite even after their omissions and outright refutations have been revealed. Heck, first-ever vanity biography of an American vice president.

Lastly under this heading called it a lie, call it a slip-up, but in either case, Senator Bill Frist misdiagnosed his career on the latest application to renew his license. The senator's office has acknowledged that he has not met the official requirements to keep his medical license active in Tennessee, even thought his filing with the state Health Department said he had. Turns out that in January of 2005, Tennessee started to require 40 hours of continuing education like seminars or conferences in the preceding two years, Dr. Frist's application said he had. He hadn't. Although maybe he counts his pioneering video conference diagnosis of Terri Schiavo as continuing education. Even thought it turned out to be wrong, it was definitely an education. If that does not meet the requirement the senator still has 180 days to make it up.

As promised let's call in "Newsweek's" senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe, also a political analyst for MSNBC.

Good evening, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, "NEWSWEEK": Keith, good to see you again.

OLBERMANN: After two years, we finally know, sort of officially, who first told Bob Novak about Joe Wilson's wife. Where does that leave us now? Does it require a gentler interpretation of the outing of Valerie Plame? Is it now reduced to opportunistic, pure politics?

WOLFFE: Well, there is some mitigating factors for the White House and they can say, look, it wasn't us and we didn't start this whole thing, but only up to a point, you know, Armitage fessed up to the prosecutor, to Fitzgerald, and he got a lot of credit for that. He obviously wasn't the one who was the center of the investigation because he cooperated and therefore Novak when he testified, you know, Fitzgerald knew who his source was because he came forward. So, there is a mitigating factor, both for Armitage and the White House here, but you know, take a step back here, the kind of conspiracy we saw to smear Joe Wilson was really being drive out of the vice president's office. That's not just from Fitzgerald saying that, that's from White House sources. And you know, that's why in the end it's Libby who is facing the music and not Rich Armitage.

OLBERMANN: Robert Novak, of course, said there were two sources. Mr. Armitage gone, long gone from the administration, but here's to remind everybody what the president said about leakers in this instance back in June of 2004.


QUESTION: Do you still stand by what you said several months ago suggesting it might difficult to identify anybody who leaked the - and do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?



OLBERMANN: If Mr. Novak's second source was Karl Rove, what happens to that pledge of Mr. Bush's? What does he have do in respect to that?

WOLFFE: Well, he changed the definition. He said if - he later said if there was anything criminal that was found., and so the standard changed and, you know, at some point the White House can say, look, Libby has left the White House and Armitage isn't part of the administration anymore and Karl Rove has, you know, is not under - facing indictment anymore. But, look there is a shifting standard here, the president was foolish to make such a clear pledge about firing leakers when he wasn't prepared to live up with it.

OLBERMANN: Moving on to the Cheney biography. I understand you actually know Mr. Hayes, the author. Tell us about him. And again, from the devil's advocate postion, why shouldn't somebody like Cheney turn, or anybody, turn to a total drinker of their own Kool-Aid to write a biography?

WOLFFE: Steve Hayes is a smart guy, he's very engaging, but you know, if he has a flaw as a journal - and he's a great writer, but if he has a flaw as a journalist, it's that, you know, his passionate efforts to link Saddam with 9/11 have been taken to an extreme and he sometimes does sound, and I think he's probably aware of this, like that last Japanese fighter on the island long after the war is over, long after the president has said, oh, we never made the link between 9/11 and Saddam, Steve Hayes is still out there doing it and, you know, god bless him, he's trying hard.

OLBERMANN: That last Japanese soldier, the guy who gave up in 1966, yes. Lastly, this last topic, Senator Frist, he was planning to take a little time off after leaving the senate to think about a presidential run in '08. Does the paperwork screw-up affect those plans, or is this going to be a nonissue?

WOLFFE: You know, it's more than just an embarrassment. Senator Frist wants to portray himself, reinvent himself as an honest country doctor, they guy who goes to Africa and does these great medical missions, he wants to talk about medical diplomacy and there's a problem here if your medical record has a sort of smear on it like this. I'm sure he can clear it up, but there is more than a level of embarrassment here, it's going to come up in partisan and also in 30-second attack ads.

OLBERMANN: Yep, and mix that in with that blind trust that wasn't so blind and suddenly you've got a whole little campaign chest of items to work against him with.

Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and, of course, "Newsweek" magazine, as always sir, great thanks for your time tonight.

WOLFFE: Anytime.

OLBERMANN: My special comment ahead on the political story of the week. A reminder to Mr. Rumsfeld dissent indeed is not disloyalty, especially not dissent towards an administration that insists it only knows everything when its track record shows it has rarely known anything.

And a drowning woman rescued from her sinking SUV, yet once the car was pulled out of the water, it proved her windows were all still rolled up, so how did she get out? Those stories ahead, but first time for Countdown "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.


DAVID LETTERMAN, "LATE SHOW": It's time for great moments in presidential speeches. Here we go.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: That the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think I saw one guy spitting in a can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terry Certain is absolutely certain when it comes to big trucks.

TERRY CERTAIN, TRUCK EXPERT: And when they called my name that it was first place, it was, oh, gosh, I can't even imagine the feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winner of "American Trucking's" statewide competition that tests your big rig ability. Here, close counts, just don't touch anything.

MARLA HUNLEY, ATTACKED BY OTTER: I'm squeamish about going back in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marla Hunley says she won't forget the terror the last time she went swimming in Crater (ph) Lake. She says a river otter attacked her that day and took chunks of skin from her body.

HUNLEY: She punched him in the head and that's when he finally got disoriented and let go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her sister punched the otter in the head?

HUNLEY: She punched him in the head.



OLBERMANN: Ahead on Countdown, rescues: A life and death struggle against flood waters in Colorado caught on tape. And who is going to save us from the anti-American rhetoric of Donald Rumsfeld? A special comment ahead. This Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: In the difference between life and death, it is often just one decisive moment that determines the outcome, usually, however, it is actually a string of them as in our No. 2 story in the Countdown tonight. When a woman in Pueblo, Colorado apparently tried to driver had SUV through a flooded railroad underpass, and after Saturday's torrential rains and flash flooding there. As her vehicle sank in 10 feet of water, her survival depended on others who did not hesitate to act, but who may have been assisted by some mysterious good luck. Our correspondent is John Larson.


JOHN LARSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What no one knew about 35-year-old Charlene DeHerara (ph) as her SUV was slowly swept towards deeper water was that Charlene, just coming home from work, still in her Wendy's uniform trapped inside, couldn't swim. Which explained why she called her brother on her cell phone instead of just saving herself like almost everyone here, horror struck and watching was hoping she'd do.

In sickeningly slow motion, with all four car windows shut tighter than a drum, Charlene and her car slipped into water about 10 feet deep and sank. The first to reach her was a doctor, but try as he did, that stick he had was no match for the safety glass.

DR. ROCKY KHOSLA, SAVED WOMAN: I was pounding away and she had her hands against the glass and she was terrified.

LARSON: And then Charlene was gone. Almost a full minute went by, but unbeknown to everyone was that Howard Absetz a 43-year-old unemployed store manager, the man in the middle, had some how reached through Charlene's front window.

HOWARD ABSETZ, SAVED WOMAN: For me to feel her grasp on my arm was a real shock and then the second time she grasped my arm, I knew right then that I could get her out.

LARSON: And then up she came. Of course no one knew Charlene could swim and there was a moment coming up here where she almost drowned the good doctor, but everyone eventually dragged Charlene to safety. But here's the odd part. When Charlene's car was towed from the water, all four windows were still closed. How they opened just enough to let her out and then closed again, no one knows.

ABSETZ: There was something there. I can't explain it, but something happened for her to be able to be alive today, for me to be able to pull her out. Something happened for that to happen.

LARSON: Something Charlene and Howard and everyone here is still wondering about.

John Larson, NBC NEWS, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN: Thus, there is no segue possible tonight into our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs," so we'll just start.

Next Tuesday Katie Couric slides into the "CBS Evening News" anchor chair and apparently somebody's concerned about whether or not she'll fit in it. As first reported by the weblog "TV Newser," this was the CBS issued photograph of a beaming Miss Couric at the advertising and promotional events last May, and so-called up-fronts. This was the same photo slightly altered for the September issue of "Watch" magazine, owned by CBS, distributed at CBS stations and on the flights of American Airlines. Actually sized Couric, the economy size Couric. Ms. Couric said she had nothing to do with the photo-based diet and that apparently is the case. She did tell the "New York Daily News" "I like the first picture better because there's more of me to love." A CBS communication vice president said somebody in his photo department got a little zealous and there's no truth to rumors that the alterations was meant to predict the change in size of Couric's audience from the day of her much ballyhooed debut to its dimensions around December 1.

Tara Reid was not let into so-called trendy Hollywood club. Tara who? That's the point. The actress from a movie "The Big Lebowski" stood outside the velvet rope line of Hyde last Friday night, but her former pal, Paris Hilton sauntered in with Kim Kardashian, a woman who the website described as known for nothing except that she is now Hilton's new BFF, best friend forever, here is the entertainment website's version of you are there.




OLBERMANN: Better to be de-listed than have your waste product cast in metal for the ages. Enter Suri Cruise. Parents, Tom Cruise and Katie Homes have still not released a photograph of the little one, now 134 days after her blessed birth, thus as an art gallery in Brooklyn unveiled the baby's do-do in bronze. Not the real thing, of course, this is art after all. It is untitled "Suri's Bronze Baby Poop" the sculpture will be shown through September then sold on eBay to benefit the March of Dimes. The gallery did intent this as social comment. Thought the comment may be unclear, the artist, Daniel Edwards - the same guy responsible for brining us, Britney Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug. You decide which one alarms you the most.

Speaking of baby poop there is Secretary Rumsfeld's speech to the American Leagon yesterday. That about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused on how right he is about a new form of fascism we I this country are facing in this country. My special comment next.

But first time Countdown's latest list of other nominees for today's "Worst Person in the World."

The Bronze shared tonight by a 27-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman nicknamed Bonnie and Clyde by the police in Milan in Italy. They would park on a busy street and make out in the car, any time they sensed a female passerby watching them, he would suddenly leap from the embrace and then rob the other woman at knife point. Well, that sure takes the fun out of public voyeurism.

The silver, your friendly neighborhood big tobacco company. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, an antismoking effort that rose between 1998 and 2004 as it rose, so did the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, 10 percent on average, including in light cigarettes. Just think what these tobacco scientists could accomplish if they hadn't sold their souls.

But our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh, noting that adult obesity is on the rise in 31 different states, he has found the cause, quoting him, "The obesity crisis could be the fault of government, liberal government, food stamps." Food stamps Rush? They give you food stamps? Rush Limbaugh today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: The man who sees absolutes where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning is either a prophet or a quack. Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet. We end the Countdown where we began, our No. 1 story with a special comment on Mr. Rumsfeld's remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday. It demands the deep analysis and the sober contemplation of every American, for it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence, indeed the loyalty of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land.

Worst still, it credits those same transient occupants, our employees, with a total omniscience, a total omniscience which neither common sense nor this administration's track record, at home or abroad, suggests they deserve. Dissent and disagreement with government is the life's blood of human freedom and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as his troops still fight this very evening in Iraq. It is also essential, because just every once in a while, it is right and the power to which it speaks is wrong.

In a small irony however, Mr. Rumsfeld's speech writer was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis for in their time, there was another government faced with true peril with a growing evil, powerful, and remorseless. That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld's, had a monopoly on all the facts. It too had the secret information, it alone had the true picture of the threat. It too, dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld's. Questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England's in the 1930. It knew Hitler posed in true threat to Europe, let alone to England. It knew Germany was not re-arming in violation of all treaties and accords. It knew that the hard evidence it had received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions, its own omniscience, needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth. Most relevant of all, it knew that its staunchest critics need to be marginalized and isolated, in fact it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty warmonger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused. That critics name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly we have no Winston Churchill's evidence among this evening, we have only Donald Rumsfelds demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill. History and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty and his own confusion, a confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can make the facts.

Thus did Mr. Rums make an apt historical analogy excepting the fact he has the battery plugged in backwards. His government absolute and exclusive in his knowledge is not the modern version of the one that stood up to the Nazis it is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today's omniscient ones, that about what Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this, this is a democracy, still, sometimes just barely and as such, all voices count, not just his. Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience, about Osama bin Laden's plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein's weapons four year, ago, about Hurricane Katrina's impact one year ago, we all might be able to swallow hard and accept their omniscience as a bearable, even useful recipe of fact plus ego.

But to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance and its own hubris. Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to flu vaccine shortages to the entire fog of fear which continues to envelop our nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and their cronies have inadvertently or intentionally profited and benefited, both personally and politically.

And yet he can stand up in public and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the emperor's new clothes.

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion, we as its citizens must now address, is stark and forbidding. But variations of it have faced our forefathers when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag.

Note, with hope in your heart, that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light and we can too. The confusion is about whether this secretary of defense and this administration are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek, the destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld's other main assertion of that this country faces a new type of fascism as he was correct to remind us that a government that knew everything could get everything wrong. So too was he right when he said that. Though probably not in the way he thought he meant. This country faces a new type of fascism, indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign off each night in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist, Edward R. Murrow. But never in the trial of 1,000 years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they and they alone knew everything and branded those who disagreed confused or immoral.

Thus forgive me for reading Murrow in full.

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty" he said in 1954, "We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who fear to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular."

And so, good night and good luck.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 29

Guests: George W. Bush, E.J. Dionne

ALISON STEWART, HOST: Which of these stories will you will talking about tomorrow?

Katrina, one year later. A region still in ruins marks the day the storm hit.

The president touts improvement in the Gulf.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I stood in Jackson Square, and I said, We're going to help you, and we delivered.


STEWART: As is former FEMA director Michael Brown says he was the victim of White House talking points.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "Hardball")

MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: To sit there and go and television and talk about how things are working well, when you know they're not behind the scenes, is just wrong.


STEWART: The politics of Katrina.

And the politics of disagreement. If you criticize the war on terror, are you being a fascist? That is the word Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld used when he lashed out at administration critics, liking them to those who appease the Nazis. By gum golly, those are salty words.

Donde esta Ernesto? Tropical storm number two may brush over Florida, but cause problems with the Carolinas and beyond. We are tracking Ernesto. Could it ever reach hurricane status again?

And the circus has left town. Or has it? The John Mark Karr world tour winds down. The Boulder DA takes full responsibility for bringing the former man with a mullet for the most expensive DNA test in Colorado history, complete with a side of prawns, of course.

All that and more, now on Countdown.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It did burn me out a little bit.


STEWART: Good evening. I'm Alison Stewart, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.

One year ago, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and this week President Bush made landfall in the Gulf, yesterday in Mississippi, and today in New Orleans, Mr. Bush acknowledging there was much to be desired in the government response back then, and there's much left to do today.

What he has been less willing to concede is that Hurricane Katrina did lasting political damage to his presidency and created a loss of faith in voters and even fellow Republicans.

In an exclusive interview today, NBC's Brian Williams tried to find out whether Mr. Bush is aware of the hit he has taken.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: You have apologized for the damage, but what about the damage to your presidency? And, Mr. President, here's what I mean. Most of the analysts call it your low point. A lot of Americans are always going to believe that that weekend, that week, you were watching something on television other than what they were seeing.

And Professor Dyson from the University of Pennsylvania said in our broadcast last night, it was because of your patrician upbringing, that it's a class...


I don't know Dyson, and Dyson doesn't know me. But I will tell you this, when it's all said and done, the people will down - you know, here, down here know that I stood in Jackson Square, and I said, We're going to help you, and we delivered. And that's - what matters, Brian, is that we help the good people here rebuild New Orleans, and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. And we're going to do that.

You know, commitments in politics sometimes mean nothing. I made a commitment that means something, and that's what's going to happen. And, look, I understand people second-guessing decisions, and Professor Dysons of the world say things. My heart and my soul is to help these people. And they know it.


STEWART: We'll have more of that interview a little bit later on in the program.

While the president today said he takes full responsibility for the federal response, former FEMA director Michael Brown took the brunt of the blame. Yesterday, Mr. Brown said on "Hardball" that, from the get-go of storm management, the White House communications folks were concerned about image management, even when it conflicted with reality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "Hardball")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You admitted it was a mistake for you to play along with the White House message during (INAUDIBLE) - Katrina, and you said that that message was a lie. What was the lie?

BROWN: The lie was that we were working as a team, and that everything was working smoothly. And how we could go out - you know, I beat myself up almost daily for allowing this to have happened. To sit there and go and television and talk about how things are working well, when you know they're behind the scenes, is just wrong.


STEWART: After some of the nation's top journalists saw for themselves what detractors call a disconnect between reality on the ground and the White House message, the President Bush suffered some of his toughest political moments.

There was his failed nomination of Harriet Miers, which alienated much of his Christian right base. There was the outsourcing of port management to a company based in Dubai, drawing fire from some of Mr. Bush's staunchest supporters in the war on terror.

And, of course, there has been Iraq. A poll taken last week showed a majority of Americans, 53 percent, now consider the invasion of Iraq a mistake. Fifty-one percent say they consider the war in Iraq separate from the war on terror. And 46 percent said America is focused too much in Iraq and not enough elsewhere.

Now, during his interview with Brian Williams today, President Bush says he stands behind recent political remarks by members of his administration. The reference was prompted by a new theme being sounded in the defense of the war and in attacking its critics.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spelled it out clearly today, with a history lesson on the run-up to World War II.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Over the next decades, a sentiment took root that contended that if only the growing threats that had begun to emerge in Europe and Asia could be accommodated, then the carnage and the destruction of then-recent memory of World War I could be avoided.

It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among Western democracies. When those who warned about a coming crisis, the rise of fascism and Nazism, they were ridiculed or ignored.

I recount that history because, once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism.


STEWART: In Mr. Rumsfeld's analogy, terrorists are Nazis, Mr. Bush is FDR, and critics of the war, it is understood, are Neville Chamberlains, the British prime minister who failed to oppose the rise of Nazism.

Vice President Cheney yesterday also suggested that those who criticize the war in Iraq are attempting to appease terrorists.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some in our own country claim retreat from Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone.


STEWART: Countdown contacted Mr. Cheney's office to find out who he was saying has made this claim. His staff would not name anyone, but directed us to a previous speech of Mr. Cheney's in which he referred to Congressman Jack Murtha and Connecticut senatorial candidate Ned Lamont.

We gave Mr. Cheney's office an opportunity to dispute the notion that he was referring to them. They declined to do so but also were unable to identify a single instance when either Murtha or Lamont said that leaving Iraq would make terrorists, quote, "leave us alone."

Of course, it's impossible to know whether the debate over Iraq and terror would be different today if Katrina had not happened, or if it had not changed public perception of the presidency. But as my dad tells me, Ally (ph), you don't know what if, you only know what did.

So how did a natural disaster one year ago change politics in the past 365 days?

E.J. Dionne is a "Washington Post" columnist and a senior fellow at the Brooking Institution. He joins us now to help just track Katrina's impact on the political landscape.

And E.J., let's start just simply with the basics. How did Katrina change the way people, media, politicians see Mr. Bush? Where was the president, let's say, 367 days ago?

E.J. DIONNE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, you know, I think that's a good way to ask the question.

It's good to be with you, by the way.

Because I think the president had run into trouble in the course of the year before Katrina happened. First, he tried to - his privatization of Social Security, which went down very badly. Then, as you mentioned earlier, there was the whole battle over Terri Schiavo, where a lot of Americans, including conservatives, were not on the side of those trying to rip that case out of state courts and put it in federal courts.

The month of August was actually a very a bad PR month for the administration, because it focused - the news focused on Karl Rove and Valerie Plame and all that.

So that the foundations of, I think, the president's popularity were already rickety when the hurricane hit. The hurricane then became, I think, extremely important, because when you go back and look at why did George Bush beat John Kerry in 2004, the last 4 or 5 points he got to win that election did not come from ideological conservatives, came from middle-of-the-road people who kind of trusted him more to protect us against unexpected threats.

And when he failed, when the administration failed in Katrina, he sort of threw away the best card he had to play with public opinion, and it reversed the presumptions. People used to give him the benefit of the doubt. After Katrina, people started asking a lot of questions and making a lot of criticisms.

STEWART: Let's talk a little bit about today's remarks by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Can you explain to me why a fascism analogy, of all of the analogies one could make, why that one?

DIONNE: Well, I think if you polled on the word "fascists," it would be about the most unpopular word imaginable. Everybody from left to right is against fascism. And obviously, that allusion to Neville Chamberlain.

What they're trying to say is, Anybody who opposes our policy in Iraq is some kind of sell-out who's going to appease the enemy. And what they're clearly trying to do is, they're clearly trying to shift attention away from specific questions about failures in Iraq, about why isn't Iraq going better. No one's saying any of the things they claim their opponents are saying. Their opponents are mostly saying, How did you guys make such a mess of this war?

But I also think they're trying to get Republicans to vote in the fall. Conservatives - a lot of conservatives are very unhappy. A lot don't like the big spending, the, you know, the big deficits. They're split on immigration. There are studies that show Republican can be made to be more enthusiastic about President Bush if you seem to draw this hard line on terror.

So I think a lot of this is directed at the president's core supporters, who might not vote this fall.

STEWART: All right. Before I let you go, I do want to play two sound bites for you.

First, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from today. Let's listen in.


RUMSFELD: Any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.


STEWART: All right, moral and intellectual confusion. Now, in light of that comment about confusion, here's President Bush characterizing the fight back in '04.


BUSH: We've actually misnamed the war on terror. It ought to be the, the, the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.


STEWART: OK, E.J., frankly, now, I'm confused.

DIONNE: Well, that last one sure doesn't fit on a bumper sticker, does it? I mean, they've been trying to rebrand this effort over and over again. You had that long thing the president said, which I can't remember, even though it was a couple of seconds ago. Then you had the war on terror. Now you have the war on Islamofascism.

I think it sort of reflects the difficulty they've had in making their core case, which is, this war in Iraq is intimately linked to the war on terror. Now, as you showed earlier, a majority of Americans reject that link. And that's very dangerous for the administration.

STEWART: E.J. Dionne with "The Washington Post." Thank you so much.

My pleasure speaking with you.

DIONNE: Great to be with you. Thank you.

STEWART: Ahead, much more of Brian Williams' exclusive interview with President Bush. The president on his relationship with his father, and his feelings on his impact if his presidency were to end today.

And in his brother's state of Florida, residents there are hoping tropical storm Ernesto causes no major headaches. We'll have the latest from the Florida coast and find out if the storm's expected to strengthen again.

You are watching Countdown.


STEWART: The sad federal response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster tarnished this administration's record. The war in Iraq has not helped restore any luster either.

In our fourth story on the Countdown, Brian Williams asks President Bush in an exclusive interview about that and about the public perception of his presidency.


WILLIAMS: When you take a tour of the world, you know, a lot of Americans e-mail me with their fears that, you know, some days they wake up, and it just feels to them like the end of the world is near. And you go from North Korea to Iran to Iraq to Afghanistan, and you look at how things have changed, how Americans are viewed overseas, if that is important to you.

Do you have any moments of doubt that we fought the wrong war, that there's something wrong with the perception of America overseas?

BUSH: Well, those are two different questions. Did we fight the wrong war? Naturally, I have no doubt. The war came to our shores, remember that. We were - we had a foreign policy that basically said, let's hope calm works, and we were attacked.

WILLIAMS: But those weren't Iraqis.

BUSH: No, no, they were - they, they weren't - no, I agree, they weren't Iraqis, nor did I ever say that Iraq ordered that attack. But they're a part of - Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists.

Now, in terms of image, of course I worry about American image. We, we - we're great at TV, and yet we're getting crushed in the PR front. I personally do not believe Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said, Al Qaeda, attack America.

WILLIAMS: The folks who say you should have asked for some sort of sacrifice from all of us after 9/11, do they have a case, looking back on it?

BUSH: Americans are sacrificing. I mean, we are, we are - you know, we pay a lot of taxes. The Americans sacrificed when they - you know, when the economy went in the tank. Americans sacrificed when, you know, air travel was disrupted. American taxpayers have paid a lot to help this nation recover. I think Americans have sacrificed.

WILLIAMS: Mr. President, I know how much you love deep psychological examinations of yourself. While you were at Kennebunkport this last weekend, people talked about your relationship with your dad. People mentioned that former president Clinton has been a guest at Kennebunkport more often in the last few years than you have been.

BUSH: Yes.

WILLIAMS: And there was a lot of speculation. Your spokesman, Tony Snow, recently all but said it's because of the way your father chose to end the first Gulf war that bin Laden saw weakness enough to strike the United States. Is there a palpable...

BUSH: Trying to figure out where you're going here.

WILLIAMS: Is there a palpable tension when you get together with the former president, who happens to be your father? Lot of the guys who work for him are not happy with the direction of things.

BUSH: I know. Listen, this - my relationship is adoring son.

WILLIAMS: Do you talk shop?

BUSH: Sometimes, yes, of course we do. But, but - that's a really interesting question. I mean, it's kind of conspiracy theory at its most rampant. My dad means the world to me as a loving dad. He gave me the greatest gift a father can give a child, which is unconditional love.

And yes, we go out and float around there trying to catch some fish and chat and talk. But he understands what it means to be president. He understands I have, oftentimes have information that he doesn't have. And he also understands how difficult the world is today. And I explain my strategy to him, I explain exactly what I just explained to you down there, about how I view the current tensions.

And he takes it on board, and that he leaves me with this thought, I love you, son.

WILLIAMS: If your administration ended today, would you be satisfied with the record thus far? Again, the view out there, I think, if you asked nine out of 10 presidential historians, high point, bullhorn in the rubble of the buildings that came down. Low point, we're standing on it. Is that fair?

BUSH: You know, first of all, there's no such thing as short-term history, as far as I'm concerned. I think that you can't judge a presidency based upon a moment's notice. I believe you have to take - eventually, my standing in history will be judged by people 30 or 40 years from now, who will be able to take an objective look at whether the decisions I made led to peace and prosperity.

You know, this is a job where there - you, you just - you make

decisions, and you think - do what you think is right, and you let people

But recognizing that people are going to say what's on their mind at the moment.

But I read three histories of George Washington last year. The first president of the United States is still being analyzed by historians, which ought to say to this president and future presidents, do what you think is right, and eventually historians will figure out whether it made sense or not.

WILLIAMS: We always talk about what you're reading. As you know, there was a report that you have just read the works of a French philosopher. Can you tell us...

BUSH: "The Stranger."

WILLIAMS: Tell us the backstory of Camus.

BUSH: The backstory of the book?

WILLIAMS: Well, what led you...

BUSH: Well, I...

WILLIAMS:... what led you to this?

BUSH: I was in Crawford, and I said, I was looking for a book to read, and Laura said, You ought to try Camus. Also read three Shakespeares.

WILLIAMS: This is...

BUSH: Yes.

WILLIAMS:... a change.

BUSH: Not really.

WILLIAMS: You, just a few years ago, were...

BUSH: Wait a minute.

WILLIAMS: - reading the life story of Joe DiMaggio by Richard Ben Cramer (ph), if memory serves.


WILLIAMS: You've been on a Teddy Roosevelt reading kick. You (INAUDIBLE) discussed...


WILLIAMS:... the last time we were here.

BUSH:... (INAUDIBLE) - well, I'm reading about the Battle of New Orleans right now. I've got a eclectic reading list.

WILLIAMS: And now Camus.

BUSH: Well, that was a couple of books ago.

But let me, let me, look, the key for me is to keep expectations low.

WILLIAMS: Is that what everyone doesn't get?

BUSH: I don't know, Brian, what they get or don't get. Let me - you know, my life - look - here - here...


BUSH:... here's the thing. I don't (INAUDIBLE). Here's the thing.

The great thing about the presidency is, you're totally exposed, and people spend a lot of - particularly if you're making decisions, and hard decisions, people spend a lot of time not only analyzing decisions, they analyze the decision maker. And I understand that.

But a president must never let him get off - let, let that get him off track. (INAUDIBLE)...

WILLIAMS: Even if you're frustrated that we're getting something wrong?

BUSH: You have to do what you're thinking. If we're getting some thing wrong, we change it.

WILLIAMS: How have you been read wrong?

BUSH: Oh, I don't know about read wrong. I mean, (INAUDIBLE), I frankly don't pay that much attention to it. I don't want to hurt people's feelings about...

WILLIAMS: Still not watching television, huh?

BUSH: I watched a good baseball game.


STEWART: Brian Williams with the president.

For continuing remembrances of Katrina, stay with us here at MSNBC. Tonight at 10:00 is the premiere of "Rising from Ruin," a documentary following the lives of three families hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. That's "Rising from Ruin," hosted by my good friend Lester Holt, tonight at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, only on MSNBC.

Ahead on Countdown, the formerly conjoined Herron (ph) twins hit a milestone. They are finally out of ICU, and now doctors are beginning to focus on their psychological recovery.

Laughter is the best medicine. So we've ordered a prescription of Oddball for everyone, free refills, as long as you're able to stay on your blow-up doll. Oh, like you haven't done that before.



STEWART: I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.

And once again, we take a short break from the real news of the day for the world-famous goofy news segment. Tonight, a special weird drunken sports from other countries edition.

Let's play Oddball.

And we begin along the Buwosko (ph) River in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the annual Festival of Whitewater Rafting and Inflatable Women. That is the fourth annual Bubba Babba (ph) Challenge 2006. One hundred and fifty swimmers and their blow-up companions brave the icy water and rapids for the one-kilometer race. Contestants have to complete their date - I mean, with their dolls - to be eligible for the big prize, a free hotel room and a bike pump.

What is he doing?

Oh, to the (INAUDIBLE) to the United Kingdom, home of the big annual World Championship of Bog-Snorkeling. It's snorkling in a bog. That's the drinking part. A hundred competitors here drinking booze from toilet plungers and braving the muddy bog water without the benefit of a sexy flotation device. They swam the length of the trench and back without using conventional swimming strokes, taking special care there not to drown.

A new world champion was crowned, Mr. Hayden Pitchbull (ph) of Wales, of the bog-circling pitchforks (ph), obviously.

Ahead on Countdown, Florida hoping for no surprises from Ernesto, the tropical storm making its way through the state overnight. We'll get the latest look at the conditions and the latest on the storm's track.

And JMK, John Mark Karr, this just in, he's still a big fat liar.

We'll take a look back at the media circus surrounding this sad story.

All that more ahead.

But first, time now for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Theresa Mayerik, principal of Morton High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year, she began strict enforcement of the school's dress code by suspending 128 kids on the first day of school, 10 percent of the student population sent home for wearing baggy pants, (INAUDIBLE) tops, low-cut shirts, and graphic T-shirts. An extra day of summer vacation, that'll learn 'em.

Number two, a woman known only as Mrs. Li from Wohato (ph), China. No one was injured in the head-on collision between her car and another this week. Officials say the accident occurred when Mrs. Li let her dog take a shot at driving the car.

She says the dog always liked to sit on her lap with the little paws on the steering wheel, so she figured she'd just give him a chance to work the pedals too, because animals who sniff each others' butts to say hello should really be responsible for 2,000 pounds of metal.

And number one, Dan Ruefly of Akorkick, Mellarillin (ph). I think that's how you say it. For more than a decade, he has commuted to Washington, D.C., across the (INAUDIBLE) Woodrow Wilson Bridge, one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the region.

Seven years ago he was even in a bad accident on that bridge, badly injuring his hip. Last night just after midnight, Ruefly blew up the Woodrow Wilson bridge. It was a controlled demolition. He won a contest for the honor of pushing the plunger.

It is sweet revenge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, plunge.



ALISON STEWART, HOST: Just over year after Hurricane Katrina passed over Florida, one of eight storms in the past two years, residents in the Sunshine State are prepping for rain, lots of it.

Our third story on the Countdown, the fifth hurricane of the season, Ernesto, actually he's been demoted. Ernesto has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but that still has enough force to make NASA want to get its expensive space shuttle off the landing pad and into a warm, cozy hanger. Now the trip was suppose to take 12 hours, but then the storm shifted course slightly, allowing the Space Agency to reverse their decisions six hours into the move, and return the spaceship to the launch pad in preparation for a possible flight next week.

But while NASA thinks the shuttle "Atlantis" will be able to weather the storm, many Florida homeowners still recovering from last year's hurricane season, are not so sure they will. Our correspondent Mark Potter is in South Beach Miami where residents are waiting on Ernesto.

And Mark, what's the biggest concern for people there right now, wind or rain?

MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really rain. This is not much of a storm, in fact it was just described by the director of the National Hurricane Center as mediocre. That hasn't turned out to be very much, but there is still a concern and it does have to do with the rain.

In the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, Miami-Dade, Broward County, there are some 20,000 homes that still have those blue roofs - those blue tarps on the roofs, that were damaged during last year's hurricane season, primarily by Katrina and Wilma, and the concern is that the winds the we're feeling now could blow the tarps off and then the rain, five to 10 inches or rain, could get inside those houses, collapse some of the walls, and the ceilings. And so officials have urged all the residents of those houses to seek other shelter for their own safety. We don't know how many people did that, but we do know that officials are very concerned that people could be hurt if those walls crumble because they get wet.

But again, it's not very much of a storm. It certainly could have been worse, but there are still concerns on the part of some people down here.

STEWART: And I am wondering about all those folks who also live in mobile homes. That must be still a big issue.

POTTER: It is and people who lived in mobile homes and on the beach areas were all urged to evacuate to higher ground to some other shelter, go to other people's homes, very much a concern.

STEWART: All right. We all know that this could have been lot worse. It's the fifth named storm of the season, could have been a hurricane by now. Why did it fall apart - Mark.

POTTER: In one word, Cuba. The storm actually started to dissipate when it hit the southern edge of Haiti where two people where killed, and then it hit the southeast coast of Cuba, it went across the Sierra Maestra mountain range and stayed over Cuba for quit some time and while it was there it was torn apart and it was never able to recover, even thought the storm later exited the north coast of Cuba, heading for Florida where it is now, about to make official landfall here, but it could never recover. Even though the waters out there in the Florida Straights are 88 degrees, just perfect for the development of a storm, the storm, by that time it was so disorganized it was never able to build up past a tropical storm status and will not become a hurricane.

STEWART: So Cuba helped Florida in this case.

POTTER: Uh-huh.

STEWART: Uh-huh. Mark Potter, in South Beach.

POTTER: Absolutely did. Absolutely did.

STEWART: Miami, thanks a lot, Mark.

Even though Ernesto is slated to hit Florida as a tropical storm, their neighbors to the north a little bit nervous. Officials have issued a hurricane watch for the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas. We're joined now by NBC Weather Plus meteorologist, Bill Karins.

And Ernesto seemed to have a little bit of wanderlust - Bill.

BILL KARINS, NBC WEATHER PLUS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, this storm is going to defiantly going to be interesting in the future here, because this storm, Alison, as he was just talking about, has kind of done a little like, well, tourism. It went to Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, now it's going to the Keys in South Florida. And then it's going to take that path all the way up the East Coast, and this is where things get nervous because it's one thing for rain in sandy soil there in Florida, it's a whole different ballgame when you get that heavy rain in the mountainous terrain here of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, even some of that higher terrain there in New Jersey. And that's the big concern.

Heading through the Labor Day weekend of all things, too, so Saturday into Sunday is when we really could see some of the worst weather going through that entire region.

Now, we have to talk a little about what's going to happen in South Carolina and Georgia. It's been a long time since Georgia and Savannah and even Charleston has been hit by a storm. With this forecast path, coming off the coast, here around Daytona Beach, it's going be over the warm water here for about 12 to 24 hours. Now, this time it didn't strengthen down the Florida Straights for South Florida, it's still a change it would restrengthen here, and head up maybe as a strong tropical storm, or possible a weaker Category 1 hurricane. And this area has a lot of old trees, it hasn't been hit by a hurricane in a long time around Charleston. We would definitely have a lot of downed trees with all of those dead tree limbs, so that would probably be the biggest concern. After that, Alison, it's going to be that flooding concern as we continue to watch this storm tracing up further towards the north.

STEWART: And Bill Karins, I am going ask you to keep me honest, five storms, not hurricanes, right, I misspoke?

KARINS: We've had five tropical storms, this was the first hurricane. I can almost argue that was barely a hurricane. It was like 12 hours, Alison, that was it. This year has been very polite, we've been very lucky so far.

STEWART: All right, knock wood.

KARINS: I know, knock something, right?

Knock plastic. Knock anything you got. Meteorologist, Bill Karins with NBC Weather Plus, thanks a lot.

STEWART: Three weeks after doctors separated the Herrin twins, the 4-year-old sisters are out of intensive care. Now doctors are making sure they recuperate psychologically, as well.

And poor Paris Hilton, her new album, so not a hit. And so not a hit with Cher's son, either. A little kiss and tell, Hilton style. Details ahead, but first here are Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every department of my administration (BEEP) response to last (INAUDIBLE).

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Brothers have to be perfective. Except for mine, I have to be protective of him.

Oh, yeah, he's married, three kids, but his wife is just a control freak.

Yeah baby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kyra, your mic is on.

JAY LENO, "TONIGHT SHOW": I guess the guy is just crazy. He - it looks like John Mark Karr will not be charged with a crime. But the good news, woo, he's now free to go back to teaching. Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jenny has traffic.

JENNY, WXII WINSTON-SALEM TRAFFIC GIRL: All right, I'm all nervous, but here's my rap. All right, you're gonna have a good, good drive today. There ain't no problems on the major roadway. Lookin', lookin' at country club things a look pretty good like Robin Hood. Now I'm movin' across the Triad (ph), yo, it ain't too bad, no, no, no, no, no now things look nice on 68 and I know you ain't going to be late. So that was your traffic rap today. Ma'am let's get some weather from our weather girl, (INAUDIBLE), come on give it to us the weather, boy, give it to us, word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh boy, Jenny, it's weather guy, by the way.


STEWART: A look into the future for the Herrin twins. How ill the formerly conjoined sisters cope mentally after their separation?

And a look back on the whirlwind media frenzy surrounding John Mark Karr from suspect to liar and every crazy twist in between. That's next, this is Countdown.


STEWART: In so many important respects they were two people living as one for four years. Kendra and Maliyah Herrin were born eight weeks early and joined at the abdomen and pelvis until 22 days ago. In our No. 2 story on the Countdown, after 26 hours of separation surgery, their condition is improving. The twins moving from intensive care to separate recovery rooms. After four years of literally sharing the same space, even the same organs, the young girls will have to learn to live alone after being in each others constant presence as long as they can remember. With more on how the Herrin twins will need to make that vital adjustment, our correspondent is Ed Yates from our affiliate KSL in Salt Lake City.


ED YATES, KSL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Primary Children's support team is learning right now just from simple things Kendra and Maliyah do and don't do. Those cues will become even more evident when the girls leave intensive care and later when they go home.

KATIE STEVENS, PRIMARY CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: These girls are only four, but they're extremely bright, and they're very connected. So sometimes we find out what is going on with one by the reaction of the other.

YATES: Katie Stevens, who heads up medical social work at Primary, says it's important to understand how the girls are adjusting psychologically to their separation.

STEVENS: How comfortable are they in being apart? Of course we want to encourage them to be independent. We also want to respect the fact that they haven't been independent.

YATES: Again, little things. Kendra takes a wagon ride, then comes back. Down the road as the girls maneuver more, learning how to distribute on their own bodies.

STEVENS: What's it going to be like if one of you goes somewhere and one of you doesn't, how can you still communicate with each other? How can you still maintain the closeness they had without being conjoined?

YATES: Body language, verbal cues, play patterns, all these come into play once the girls leave ICU.

(on camera): A doll in a hospital gown, building blocks, Playdough, for example the girls may want to mold something, then tresh it. Play therapists say that cue is OK since it's an outlet for frustration or agitation.

(voice-over): Down the road, brothers, and sisters have always played with Maliyah and Kendra at home as one. Now they'll have to share that time with both. And for Kendra and Maliyah.

STEVENS: If they had something they were both kind of playing with it. Now they'll have separate space, with separate things, the whole dynamic will be different.

YATES: Ed Yates, at Primary Children's.


STEWART: Turn to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." In a Simpson double feature, and if only I was talking about Homer and Marge.

Songbird Jessica Simpson, at the very start of a very massive P.R. blitz for her new album has just lost her voice. Her publicist says because of a bruise on her vocal cord the former Mrs. Nick Lachey has been ordered to stop singing by doctors. That edict doesn't extend to her sister, Ashlee, who famously got busted lip sinking on "Saturday Night Live." The recent rhinoplasty poster girl just landed a gig playing with Roxy Hart in the London stage production of "Chicago," meaning she'll be Tony Blare's problem until the end of October.

Speaking of blond wannabe singers, surprise, surprise, Paris Hilton's debut CD has tanked. In its first week the self-titled "Paris" sold a paltry 75,000 copies in the U.S. putting it at the bottom of the Billboard charts, despite the release of the first single "Stars are Blind." And to pump (ph) sales Hilton's record label rushed out her second single, "Turn it Up" but most people wanted to turn it off. And the hotel chain heiress is facing a new embarrassment in addition to her album flop.

Cher's son, Elijah Blue Allman, went on the "Howard Sterm Show" last night to relay that he had had sex with Paris Hilton before she was famous. Now he added that he was so worried he might catch a disease off Ms.

Hilton, he scrubbed his nether regions with Tilex after the encounter.

Now, according to's Jeanette Walls, a source claims Paris Hilton is "not happy" about his comments, even though he described her as a sweet girl. And I'm sure that sweet girl bit made up for the Tilex comment, Elijah.

Now, if you're planning a wedding sometime over the coming months, watch out, wedding crashers may be on the way. Inspired by the hit film, "Wedding Crashers," NBC has given the green light to a reality TV series of the same name. The show will feature hidden cameras following improvisational actors as they go undercover at real weddings. It'll be produced by Ashton Kutcher and other producers from MTV's "Punked." An NBC vice president said, this series has a big upside potential for hidden camera humor. So hide your wedding plans now, if you show up at mine, someone will die.

Patsy Cline said it best, "Crazy." The man in the media, the Boulder district attorney meets the press to do some splainin' (ph).

And the press meets John Mark Karr. Karr and Cosby, will this ever end? That's next, this is Countdown.


STEWART: When John Mark Karr became a suspect in the killing of JonBenet Ramsey he claimed he was with the girl when she died. The 10-year-old case suddenly moved to hyperactive center stage for almost two weeks, but late yesterday the revelation that his DNA did not match that at crime scene led the Boulder district attorney not to file charges against him, and as they say, let the recriminations begin.

In our No. 1 story on the Countdown, yes our long national cable news nightmare is over, just not for the Boulder D.A., Mary Lacy. Ms. Lacy stepped up to full responsibility today for every inch of the investigation, including the expense of getting Mr. Karr back to the U.S. and she was well aware of some public anger.


MARY LACY, BOULDER, CO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The decisions were mine, the responsibility is mine and I should be held accountable for all decisions in this case. Last night I was preparing to leave, I received a telephone call and he said, this was a voicemail, he said you should be tarred and feathered and run out of town and I want to you call me and tell me you are going to resign. His first question was, why didn't you surreptitiously take DNA in Bangkok before you took this person into custody> We did. We took surreptitious DNA on multiple occasions.


STEWART: But the bottom line, D.A. Lacy said was it a pristine sample was need and ultimately that meant getting Mr. Karr to Boulder.


LACY: I'm not embarrassed. I feel bad for a community that questions what we did because, you know, they've lost some trust in the system. Before you become judgmental, try to place yourself back in our spot starting in May and coming forward, would you have made decisions differently or would you have found flight and safety of children an important factor? Important enough to proceed the way we did?


STEWART: Today's 90-minute news conference came complete with one unwelcome interruption.



LACY: Oh my gosh. We had nothing to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire alarm is going off.


STEWART: A fire alarm seemed fitting in a case that sets off all kinds of false alarms and often sent the media scurrying over the most minute details and for the record, Countdown does not exclude itself from that judgment. Here's some of the highlights or perhaps lowlights.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: NBC NEWS has learned that JonBenet Ramsey's father believes that authorities in Colorado have made some sort of arrest in connection with his daughter's murder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Mark Karr, a 41-year-old man who has been charged in connection with the death of JonBenet Ramsey.

IAN WILLIAMS, ITN NEWS: He was picked up from his cell at that immigration detention center in the middle of the afternoon.

Intriguing Lieutenant General Suap (ph) who is the of the immigration police and said that he has invited Karr to sing along the Bee Gee's song, "Words," after Karr had told him that he liked that band. But, Karr declined the offer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are also getting in brand new video right now. You may not believe this, take a look. This is video from 1987 of John Mark Karr singing at a friend's wedding. You can see him here, playing the guitar; he's got much longer hair, much more hair, quite frankly. John Mark Karr here, holding up a pair of shorts hiding his face. Incredible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The journey home has begun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: JonBenet Ramsey's confessed killer flying back to the U.S. in the lap of luxury. On the menu, pate, roast duck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fried king prawns and chocolate cake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Steamed rice, broccoli and chocolate cake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Champagne, drank beer and wine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Karr had roast duck with soy sauce and yellow noodles. And meal No. 3 consisted of pizza, chocolates and Evian water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like the BBIB (ph), let's be honest about it. So, you can understand when he goes to the bathroom there will be 20 people watching him on him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any idea what's on the menu today for him?

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: He is going be getting jail chow.

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC NEWS: There's a lot of traffic outside the courthouse. Inside what we're looking at is a ceiling.

RITA COSBY, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: As we're looking again, this is the ceiling of the courthouse there in Los Angeles.

BREWER: There's the ceiling of the courthouse.

COSBY: (INAUDIBLE) to be getting underway, and again, looking at the picture, that is the ceiling.

BREWER: There's the ceiling tiles we are getting to know by heart at this point.

OKWU: We're told from inside the courtroom that a glass box has been transported into the courtroom and they're putting it into place.

BREWER: Michael, let me interrupt you, I got to just clarify here, when you say glass box, is that your assumption that - or are you getting details that this is a person-sized glass box that he's actually going be in it or are you talking about a small glass box?

OKWU: No, we're certainly not talking about a small glass box. He was expected to be placed in some sort after of a cage - Contessa.

BREWER: Michael, are you prepared to be on John Stewart's Comedy Central show tonight, talking about your big glass box and how many people are going to be inside it?

OKWU: I know I was really dancing around that, Contessa. But you know, my duty as a correspondent is to bring you latest from the courtroom and...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is breaking news out of Long Beach, California it is our understanding at this moment, that this is the airplane that has been sent to pick up John Mark Karr.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's cuffed, he's shackled, they'll put him in the back of the plane, they'll sit him down, and he won't be drinking alcohol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're looking at a picture, also, on the right side of your screen of a small - relatively small turbo cropper, just taking off from Long Beach Airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The International Astronomical Union coldly announced in (INAUDIBLE) today, Pluto is dead. Ouch!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news into MSNBC, wheels on the ground in Boulder, Colorado.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looks like they're going to go ahead and make a right-hand turn, so that's where they're going, not sure - the destination as far as we know is the Boulder County jail.

STEWART: KUSA is reporting that the John Mark Karr DNA is not, I repeat not a match.

COSBY: And now we're getting word no charges will officially be filed against John Mark Karr.

BREWER: OK, I wanted to ask you about the picture making the round.

There you are pressed up against the car window.

COSBY: He gave me a 30-45 second stare looking only, seemingly, at me.

BREWER: Did that creep you out?

COSBY: It did creep you out.

BREWER: Was he creeped outlook out looking back at you?

COSBY: Yeah. Well, he - yeah, yeah, it was worse for him.


STEWART: The John Mark Karr media circus from Bangkok to Boulder to bust. Look for the sequel, "Smut in Sonoma" as Karr will be facing child porn charges there. That's it for the Tuesday edition of Countdown, I'm Alison Stewart for Keith Olbermann. Thanks for watching.