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.