'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 30
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yummy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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 nytimes.com 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: President Bush with Brian Williams. You can see the entirety of that interview on MSNBC.com.
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.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
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 TMZ.com 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.
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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.
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