Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 24

Guests: John Garamendi, Rachel Maddow, Dana Milbank

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Good evening, it is an awful calculus, the words of one resident of San Diego today, if your house did not burn down, it just means someone else's did. Our fifth story on the Countdown, the Southern California wildfires raging for a fourth consecutive night, the destruction far from its end. State authorities and the FBI investigating arson as the cause of at least one of these fires calls for an investigation, no doubt, eminent with the rediscovery of two reports which warned last spring that the Bush administration was not adequately prepared to battle an inferno like this or, in the carefully crafted lingo of the White House, even to support those who would be battling the flames. We begin with the latest details on the conflagration. What is already one of the largest and most destructive fires disasters in California history still growing tonight.

In San Diego County, the director of emergency services saying today, that quote - "Clearly this is going to be $1 billion or more disaster."

The other numbers associated with the fires no less staggering. The

evacuated numbers still all over the place but estimated to be at more than

half a million people tonight. More than 1400 homes destroyed with another

28,535 structures threatened. California still under a state of emergency

a total of 18 different fires now burning up and down the Pacific Coast.

The $1 billion question tonight, how much more effective the emergency response might have been if equipment and some 3,000 members of the California National Guard had not been tied up in Iraq.

The "San Francisco Chronicle" having reported it in May that half of the equipment of the National Guard needs is not in the state either because it is deployed in Iraq or other parts of the world or because it has not been funded. The General Accountability Office, having issued a report in June that cited the U.S. Forestry Service, the Department of Agriculture and other agencies for their woefully inadequate plans for fighting wildfires. And at a Senate hearing yesterday Barbara Boxer of California saying: "Right now, we are down fifty percent in terms of our National Guard equipment because they're all in Iraq, the equipment, half of the equipment. So, we really will need help." In response to Senator Boxer's plea for help, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino claiming she hadn't heard that specifically but that California had other places to get assets such as from the Department of Agriculture, asked to comment further, Ms. Perino alleged that Iraq was a higher priority than the California wildfires.


DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When we are a nation at war, there are priorities that you have to make sure that the National Guard units that are serving - that live in California but are serving right now in Iraq, you want to make sure that they have the equipment that they need in order to protect themselves, and so you have to weigh those priorities but I think that there are ways that we can make sure that California has what it needs.


OLBERMANN: White House to California drop dead. At the Pentagon the Chief of the National Guard Bureau disputed any claims that there are not enough resources available to fight the wildfires because of the war in Iraq.


LT.GEN. STEVEN BLUM, NATIONAL GUARD CHIEF: There is absolutely no skill, no capability, no piece of equipment that's in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, the whole of Africa or any place where the guard's serving overseas that would be required and essential to the fire fighting capabilities that are need in California today.


OLBERMANN: Brian Williams anchoring NBC NIGHTLY NEWS from the scene of the fires again tonight again from just North of San Diego and, once again, kind enough to join us now. Brian thanks, good evening to you.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS - SAN DIEGO: Thank you for having me Keith, thanks.

OLBERMANN: Given how critically the winds, the Santa Ana's fueled the flames of the fire storms, hindered the rescue efforts, let me begin by asking you the simplest of questions, how is the weather?

WILLIAMS: Right now the winds are perfectly calm. We are at a point several miles North of San Diego. But, at the height of the Santa Ana's they would have been blowing pretty well right here. And it's notable that we also right now cannot smell smoke. There is a fire to our east and with the Santa Ana's cranked up they would normally be blowing it in this strange configuration west and directly into us. But tonight, what is burning is staying where it's burning and there's been no real migration. Now, we've been pointing out all day it's not a complete panacea to say that the Santa Ana's have stopped. Because that means fires can grow off into new directions, a wind from the west brings its own problems as well. These embers, remember, as we pointed out last night, traveling three to five miles airborne in some cases. That's why you have the spot fires still breaking out.

OLBERMANN: As the live images with which you are currently sharing the screen suggests, it looks almost like Hawaiian lava flows, despite the optimism regarding the wind. What is this estimate on the largest and presumably most tenacious of these fires in terms of the expectation as to how long it could continue to burn?

WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, forgive me; I should probably set the scene. We're on a 300-acre site that is a staging area, really an incredible, extraordinary place. We had 160 some odd fire trucks here tonight. All the men and women who fight the fires are taking shifts, relaxing here and then heading out on their next run. We have 500 prisoners here from the California system. They earn the right to come do outdoor work even though it's hot and grueling. And then once they fought fires they can be considered for early sentences. Two-year question, the largest of the fires they're fighting has a target containment and completion date in November. I said to somebody earlier today, American families will be gathering for thanksgiving and there will still be hot spots underground from these fires burning right now.

OLBERMANN: You mentioned the jailed criminals who have been helping out. We will get to that in a moment. I want your impressions here. You have had the full day out there to survey some of this damage yourself. Those of us who watch NIGHTLY NEWS saw you shifting through that one inch of essentially debris of what was on a hillside is now just post fire dust:

What else have you seen? What does it reminded you of?

WILLIAMS: It really - I said on the air tonight it, reminded me, Keith, of those early pictures from the Mars rover - excuse me two days of inhaling smoke as everyone on the air it's funny to watch local news at night, no one has a voice left. But it's almost an orange, brown and then charcoal tinged earth. You can't believe the distances these fires have traveled. Listening to local radio at night, I visited our local NBC station last night, the calls come in. People are absolutely desperate. They see an orange glow near their home. People are going to Web sites, if they have power - power has been disrupted, water has been disrupted. It has consumed this part of the country and it's fewer than six degrees of separation. Everybody has a personal tie to this tragedy. Everyone is putting someone up. The people have been absolutely extraordinary -

Southern Californians have, in dealing with this. They actually had too many volunteers at one point at Qualcomm stadium.

OLBERMANN: As we always see throughout whatever the crisis is, whether it was 9/11, we are never short of volunteerism among Americans. And you will see a great example of that right now under those most unfortunate and in some cases terrifying circumstances. Brian Williams just North of San Diego and for more of Brian's reporting, we would encourage to you go to for video blogs on that story of those prisoners helping out under these dire conditions. Brian, as always, great thanks, and stay safe out there.

WILLIAMS: Keith, thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: President Bush expected to survey the damage in Southern California tomorrow. Yesterday on MSNBC's Hardball the lieutenant governor of the State of California, John Garamendi voiced concern that the trip might distract from fire fighting efforts. Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi joining us now, thank you for your time tonight, sir.

LT.GOV. JOHN GARAMENDI, (D) CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you. That was a good report that Brian did.

OLBERMANN: And it speaks to what's good about this. But what's bad about this, obviously, besides the fire and destruction, the Pentagon is denying tonight that a single piece of equipment, a single guardsman is being withheld from the fire fighting response in California because of the war in Iraq. Do you buy that statement?

GARAMENDI: Well, I think that really misses the issue. The issue that I raised yesterday is one that the California National Guard is very seriously stressed by that war. Fortunately, there are very dedicated people in this guard. They've done three different tours off to Iraq in many, many cases and I've signed more letters than I ever want to think about to the families who will have members, husband, wives, children, never coming back from Iraq. But the point here is that the California National Guard is stressed. We are short of equipment. Nevertheless, we are meeting the needs of this - of these fires and the necessary evacuation and support of the evacuation. The guard is doing that. That doesn't mean it's as good as it could be. It means that the job is getting done and it's also getting done at the fire fighting level. We knew that we're going to face major fires this fall. We've been planning for that.

Governor Schwarzenegger's Office of Emergency Services, the governor, myself, others, knew it would happen. We've done the coordination and we put in place the resources. The point about the president's visit tomorrow is basically it is a public relations visit. He's coming out here to show his concern - terrific. He says he wants to make sure that we have all that we need - wonderful. Now, president, follow through and make sure it gets done because we do have big needs. We've spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this fire fighting. We have the necessity of the Federal government to help reimburse us on that as the law requires them to do. Secondly, most of this fire has occurred on Federal land, in the Federal forest. The Federal firefighters did a terrific job, working in coordination with the state. We know that it's going to rain; at least we pray it's going to rain here. If it does, we're going to be facing floods coming off of those mountains. We're going to have the gully washers, the flash floods, the mud flows, in the 2003 fire, following those fires; we lost six people in San Bernardino County with mud flowing off the national forest. We don't want that to happen again. Mr. President, we need your support in the Federal forest to make sure that those forests are stabilized where the fires have occurred.

OLBERMANN: Anything - do you plan on pressing the president for directly? Is there anything he should pack with him rather than just his photo-op kit?

GARAMENDI: Well, I think I just said it. Mr. President, when you went eight times to New Orleans you made promises. Those promises have yet to be kept. New Orleans still hasn't been repaired. Don't let that happen in California. Don't put us in a situation where promises are made and the money is not delivered. We need that and by the way, we need our National Guard rebuilt. We need that equipment in place here. I just saw the National Guard out here with a 1970 blazer. Come on. That's old, ancient equipment and underneath it, they had to put an oil pan to keep from having this stadium spoiled by oil flowing out of the crank case of that machine. We'll get by, we're tough in California. We pull together. We've got thousands of volunteers here who brought in food and supplies, wonderful. We'll do it. But, Mr. President, we need your help, not just your words, we need your money. We need the Federal government to meet the needs of this state in this emergency.

OLBERMANN: Lieutenant governor of California John Garamendi. Mr.

Lieutenant Governor, great thanks for your time, best of luck there.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: One possible cause of the disastrous California blazes has been ruled out unless you watch FOX NEWS which told its audience of a new memo that said it might be al Qaeda, except the memo is four years old. And the president today eliciting more than a few giggles of his own, rhetorically asking Americans which attack he would have preferred he not stop, you mean besides when you didn't stop 9/11? You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: It is postulated by some historians that the original reign of terror, the endless cycle of rises to power followed by denunciations followed by horse-cart express to guillotine in revolutionary France finally collapse because ordinary citizens just couldn't take it seriously anymore in a grizzly, costly, nauseating way. The idea that there were enemies everywhere, even among those who just said there are enemies everywhere had become laughable. Our fourth story on Countdown, we may be nearing that tipping for the terror Republicans, their president and their television propaganda channel as FOX NEWS breathlessly reports a four-year-old memo as breaking terror news about the California fires. And as the president sets up the ultimate, stupid straw man argument the old Avis commercial comes to mind. Ever get the feeling some people just stop trying? First the president.


GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: We established a program at the Central Intelligence Agency to question key terrorist leaders and operatives captured in the war on terror. This program has produced critical intelligence that has helped us stop a number of attacks including a plot to strike the U.S. Marine Camp in Djibouti, a planned attack on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, a plot to hijack a passenger plane and fly it into Library Tower in Los Angeles, California or a plot to fly passenger planes into Heathrow airport and buildings into downtown London. Despite the record of success, and despite the fact that our professionals use lawful techniques, the CIA program has come under renewed criticism in recent weeks. Those who oppose this vital tool in the war on terror need to answer a simple question - which of the attacks I have just described would they prefer we had not stopped?


OLBERMANN: Setting aside all the intelligence community skepticism about all of those alleged plots; including the one which Mr. Bush could not get the name of the L.A. skyscraper in question correct, there is additional element when the culture of fear begins to inspire not terror nor outrage but laughter. FOX NEWS today on the California wildfires, believe it or not, its morning team TODAY wanted America to see al Qaeda's shadow in these flames. Pay close attention because it's almost all wrong.


BRIAN KILMEADE, CO-HOST: The June 25th memo from the FBI Denver offices which reported three days ago, excuse me, five days ago by the "Arizona Republic," that was in the newspaper that carried this story and they continue to expand on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brian, the plot they say, according to this detainee and they don't know if the detainee is telling the truth or if he is just lying. The plot was to set three or four wildfires but they don't mention California. They mention Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.


OLBERMANN: OK? Apart from the irrelevancy just the major factual mistakes on the air there, the memo was reported not three days ago, excuse me five days ago but six days ago plus 1560 more days ago. The memo was from July 11, 2003. "The Arizona Republic" is a newspaper. Congratulations FOX but it is not been carrying the story nor continuing to expand upon it. The guy who reported it doesn't work there anymore. They never confirmed four years old plus old plot not only didn't mention California, the fires were also supposed to be set simultaneously, unlike these, and they were intended for the middle of summer. Let's turn now to Rachel Maddow whose show airs every night on Air America radio. Rachel, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Overall question, am I being too optimistic or has giggling now past paranoia in response to the president and these macaw parrots working at FOX?

MADDOW: Yes, the al Qaeda started the wildfires line? The Barack Obama went to Madrassa line and the new line, too, which is that the only barrier between us and peace in Iraq is that we haven't yet started a war with Iran. Because, once we do that then there will be peace in Iraq. I mean, it would be one thing if this was just a news network that was wrong a lot. That would be amusing enough. But they're wrong for a reason. They're wrong to try to make Republicans seem right and they're wrong to try to make what is an extreme and, therefore, kind of an extremely indefensible Republican agenda for the country seem sane and because it's about such serious stuff, I feel a little guilty thinking that it's funny and finding hilarity in it but in the same time when I heard this morning that FOX was saying that al Qaeda started the wildfires. I will admit to coffee streaming out my nose on to my desk, and laughing very hard.

OLBERMANN: And just yesterday, the same team in the morning, with its consistent veracity attacked Senator Obama for not putting his hand over his heart during the National Anthem and cited totally incorrectly a U.S. statute that it claimed required him to do so, that he broke a law by not doing, so that anybody who hears the anthem everywhere even though it's if their own head and does not put their hands over their heart is subject to, I don't know, prosecution. Why are these guys and the rest of the right so in love with the trappings of patriotism and at the same time helping al Qaeda by manufacturing these super human powers that al Qaeda supposedly has? I mean, I heard al Qaeda causes night to fall.

MADDOW: They have to come up with super human powers for al Qaeda because they want to use al Qaeda to justify a super extreme agenda for the United States of America. And if you really, really want to radically transform our government and radically transform who we are as a country. If you want East German-style policing and people informing on their neighbors and if you want to get rid of the Fourth Amendment and if you want endless wars that are conducted for profit, if you want to completely get rid of the safety net function and regulatory function of the government, if you have an agenda that radical, you better have a really radical justification for it and so they had to elevate this band of, you know, death cult fundamentalist criminals into a threat that is greater to our country than the Soviet Union ever was when they not only had a military but had thousands of armed nuclear weapons pointed at our country.

They have to make al Qaeda seem even worse than that

OLBERMANN: Yes, instead, they're putting and turning them into a weak version of Goldstein from 1984. Now to the head of this terror Republicans, Mr. Bush and his superficially power question - which attack do you permit, which Americans have to die because Americans didn't do anything possible to stop it? I heard this and I thought of the British politician in the '30s who's trying to answer the question in Parliament - why did you guys lie to us and fall behind German aircraft production? And he said, "Well, look what happens now I mean, if we had built our planes, our new planes when we said we were going, to they'd already be out of gauge. And they laughed the guy out of Parliament and out of office completely. Who is George Bush kidding at this point?

MADDOW: Yes. I think what we are learning right now is that great government secrecy, if we always wondered why they had such a pinch on (ph) for secrecy, we're now learning that great government secrecy really clears a lot of rooms of great rhetorical flab. Things that can't be checked but sound great in the half second before you think about them. And the question is whether or not we're going to keep letting him charge us that every time somebody disagrees with him politically that they've got the blood of phantom Americans on their hands. How long we get to be threatened by that and still see it as an asset that 3,000 real Americans died while he was at the helm of the nation ignoring the warnings about it.

OLBERMANN: Precisely and the endearment, the lighter part of that the bubble keeps him from understanding that he is perceived as the head in the bubble or if you want to phrase it the other way the bubble head. Rachel Maddow of Air America, as always, great thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: St. Rudy of 9/11 gets a big surprise. A New York newspaper's front page headline describes him as a, quote, "Traitor." And it's the moon over Miami. Well, the moon over Ottawa Ontario, Canada. Several, next on Countdown.



OLBERMANN: On this date 150 years ago, the first organized soccer team in the world was founded. Sheffield in England, created by two cricket fans who were literally unable to figure out anything else to keep them busy with during the winter. Sheffield won England's amateur championship in 1904. The city also has two pro teams, Sheffield Wednesday, founded in 1867. It has not won the English championship since 1935; and Sheffield United, founded in 1889, which hasn't won it since 1925.

So why exactly are they celebrating the anniversary of the founding of Sheffield F.C.? Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Ottawa for another edition of our award winning series, the perils of live television. Besides the ones we show you every night here. Anchor Kurt Studly (ph) of the A Channel Morning Show was trying to interview a couple guests earlier this week when, hello. That bare bottom was pressed against the studio window. Undaunted, Mr. Studly continued and then undaunted, the mooners continued to moon.

They are running them through in pairs now, treating viewers to at least two more scenes of northern exposure.

To the Internets, where someone has cleverly disguised a horse as a poodle to sneak into a local dog costume contest. At least we assume that's why somebody would put floppy ears and butt pom-poms on this noble steed. The other possibilities, well, they are just too disturbing to even contemplate. That's no dog.

Governor Romney does it again. Talk about too disturbing to contemplate. It's just a slip to confuse Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden. You know, like if somebody said Romney is a polygamist when they meant to say Romney's grandfather was a polygamist.

And with luck this was the worst day of the California fire storm. What we saw, terrifying yet compelling and inspiring. These stories ahead but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen. He says he believes it would be a mistake to run immediate attacks on Iran, either to stop its supposed influence in Iraq or to hit its nascent nuclear facilities; "We are at war in two Muslim countries," he points out. "Hitting a third one," quote, "has extraordinary challenges and risks associated with it."

I give it a week before Dick Cheney calls the admirable a terrorist.

Number two, best dumb criminal, Timothy Scott Short, accused of stealing a printer from the Missouri Department of Revenue and trying to print fake official documents. Not just any printer, a special kind that the state of Missouri uses to print driver's licenses. Why do they suspect him? When he couldn't make the printer work, Mr. Short allegedly called the manufacturer's tech support line. Brilliant!

And number one, best headline, "The Bangor Daily News" of Maine. The story first, 22-year old Nicholas Palmer (ph) fled into the woods after getting into a brawl with his 18-year-old sister. Their cat had fleas and ticks. So she decided the simplest solution was to shave the cat. He said this was nuts. He tried to cut the cord of the clippers she was using. A brawl ensued. Mr. Palmer is still missing.

The newspaper's headline, "Police Seek Man After Fight With Sister in Cat-Shaving Case." You say she shaved her cat?


OLBERMANN: If you are running for the president of the United States, it cannot be a good sign when your hometown newspaper calls you a traitor. But former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is being called that and more now that he says he will root for the New York Yankees' arch enemies, the Boston Red Sox, as they start up against the Colorado Rockies as the World Series begins tonight. Although there is baseball tradition to back him up, as a politician, he may want to rescind his announcement.

Just as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney may want to make a different kind of embarrassing remark and take that back too. Romney twice saying Barack Obama when he apparently meant to say Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Giuliani first, a Yankee fan so obnoxious that he must announce at regular intervals that he is a Yankee fan, being portrayed as a traitor and a flip flopper for his answer to a question at a Boston restaurant yesterday about who he would support in the World Series.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am - I'm rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series. I'm rooting for the Red Sox because I'm an American league fan. I go with the American league team maybe with the exception of the Mets. That would be the one time I probably wouldn't because of my loyalty to New York.


OLBERMANN: Before Red Sox fans in the adjoining state of New Hampshire he also explained, "I will be rooting for the Red Sox because I'm and American league fan and my tradition has been to root for the American League team. In this case, you own the division and we lost. Somehow, it makes me feel better if the team that was ahead of the Yankees wins the World Series, because then I feel like well, we're not that bad." He added, suffering sukotash (ph).

There is indeed tradition to support that. Well into the 1970s it was considered baseball etiquette for fans in American League cities to root for the American League team in the All-Star Game, and the American League team, even if it was not their own, in the World Series. True for the National League too.

Having said that, I have been a baseball fan for 41 seasons and a baseball reporter for 32 of those. I have never heard of any Red Sox fan rooting for the Yankees in the World Series or visa versa.

As for Governor Romney, he claims it was just another moment of mental fogginess that occurred while campaigning in Greenwood, South Carolina; quoting, "Actually just look at what Osam - Barack Obama said just yesterday, Barack Obama calling on radical jihadists of all different types to come together in Iraq."

Normally we talk political football with "Washington Post" national political reporter and MSNBC political analyst Dana Milbank. It's baseball this time. And you are here. I didn't know you were in Three-D.

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I'm right here in the ballpark.

OLBERMANN: Welcome. Rudy is regretting this now, maybe?

MILBANK: I suspect so. The baseball pander is the most insidious of all panders. There is a precedent for this. Howard Dean in 2003, you will recall; he started as a Yankees fan, then went to the Red Sox, then the Phillies, and finally settling on the Cubs, before having a nervous breakdown in Iowa. So we can see where this is headed for Rudy and that's good.

OLBERMANN: That's what he was doing in Iowa, he was listing the cities in the National League. Would Giuliani actually even have gotten a pass here if he had not made such a point just a few weeks ago about Hillary Clinton and this hypothetical Cubs/Yankees World Series, and ripping her years ago in that ill-fated - or never finished senatorial race for her supposed new Yankee fan status when your paper documented her as having this duel citizenship between the Cubs and the Yankees in like 1994.

If he had left this alone, would they be leaving him alone now?

MILBANK: I'm sure in New York they would never be leaving him alone for such a treasury. It certainly doesn't help the case, particularly because the campaign against Hillary is one of saying she is a flip flopper. They want to do a replay of the whole wind surfing thing. Now here the likely or possible Republican nominee has given up his civic religion.

OLBERMANN: Also he keeps it so quiet and subtle. I was once at an even with him, a baseball event, and he referred to being a Yankee fan, a Met fan - if he had been mayor when the Giants and the Dodgers played here, he would have - they would have had four teams. They all would have stayed. There was another thing he said that had nothing to do with baseball. Let me read this exactly, regarding his time in New York, "I took a city that was known for pornography and licked it, to a large extent."

How do you get out of that? You can't say whipped it to a large extent. It's just as bad.

MILBANK: I think the word he was looking for is he spanked it out of the city. There is precedent here too, as well. Remember Bob Barr, the Clinton impeachment manager?


MILBANK: He said the flames of hedonism are licking at our democracy. Then it was recalled that, in fact, he had licked whip cream off of the bosoms of two people at a fund raiser.

OLBERMANN: All right. This other thing about Romney and Osama Obama. In July, he posed for the photograph with the supporter who made this kind of poetic - I'm not going to say poetic license, but poetic - rhyming pun about Osama and Obama and - what was the rest of it, somebody's momma.

MILBANK: Hillary's momma?

OLBERMANN: Whatever. Chelsey's momma. At this point, is anybody buying the slip of the tongue stuff? If they are buying it, does it have a shelf life? If you keep making this Osama, Obama mistake, doesn't some part of the electorate finally go, this guy is not smart enough to tell the difference between his Osama and his Obama.

MILBANK: I'm not sure Romney is going to be happy to know this, but he has company in his fellow from Massachusetts. Ted Kennedy once referred to the senator as Osama Obama and then roughly tried to correct himself. But the thing I'm very surprised about is nobody has actually started yet to pick on Osama Obama's middle name, which is Hussein.

OLBERMANN: I think that has been mentioned in a couple quarters, Dana.

MILBANK: Wait until the general election, should he survive.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of general elections, the campaign of Stephen Colbert may be illegal because he has sponsors? Don't all the candidates have sponsors, only they call them contributors?

MILBANK: Yes, they do. Although they cannot be corporations, and there are two corporations in play here. One is Comedy Central and the other, of course, is Doritos. And if Colbert is a serious candidate, defined as spending more than 5,000 dollars on his campaign, which you can do in on dinner, then he can't take these corporate contributions. I'm just waiting for this to end up in Comedy Central having to give equal time to all the other candidates in the race. Picture the Bill Richardson comedy hour.

OLBERMANN: This is truly time to bring back the fairness doctrine then, right? Just so that marathon of presidential candidates?

MILBANK: It would be most unfair.

OLBERMANN: Give them each a day or something? I don't know how they would do that. Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the "Washington Post," a pleasure to have you here and help Chris in the new studios.

MILBANK: Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN: What happens in Vegas may mean O.J. Simpson stays in Vegas

in jail in Vegas. Additional charges tonight against him. Sometimes even the usual suspects in worst persons defy imagination. Michelle Malkin calling for ethnic profiling of Asians who have contributed to Hillary Clinton's campaigns, because they are, quote, smellier than stinky tofu. She said it. Worsts next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: For O.J. Simpson, the athlete and performer, it was always about increasing his statistics. More yards gained, more commercials made. And now, in our number two story on the Countdown, Keeping Tabs, he is still breaking his own records. As of tonight, he is up to 11 separate felony counts in Las Vegas. Prosecutors today in Nevada filing an additional charge of coercion against Simpson and three other men in last month's alleged armed robbery of sports memorabilia dealers in a Vegas hotel room.

Simpson was also already facing 10 felony charges, including kidnapping, which by itself could bring a life sentence. All this after two former defendants, Charles Cashmore, and former Simpson golfing buddy Walter Alexander, pleaded guilty and turned states evidence. Simpson's attorney accusing them of being in a frenzy to get a sweetheart deal, in their case up to six years in prison apiece.

There is so much news about Britney Spears tonight, we are not sure where to begin, although graphic details about inner most secrets sounds like a good starting point. This assumes that there are inner most secrets. "Life and Style Weekly" reports one of her closest confidants is pitching her diaries to a British tabloid. These are said to include her deepest thoughts about drug use, failed marriage, spats with parents, much of it taken from emails.

That doesn't sound like a diary. It sounds like emails. Philosophy like that don't come cheap, asking price two million. There is this from "E Online," friends and colleagues of Spears posting an appeal on MySpace to boycott her new album, saying she needs a wakeup call about her young sons, quote, they need a mother figure and they don't have that. Maybe an Oscar would help. This Oscar?

Britain's "Daily Star" says Britney will be singing a "Sesame Street" duet with Oscar the Grouch, a perfect match since we already know Oscar would be lip synching while there was some guy's hand on his butt.

Half a million evacuations, and as many heart rending or heart stopping images. The words and the pictures of the California wild fires ahead. First, time for Countdown's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to CNN's Glenn Beck. On Monday he announced, quote, I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today. Beck was promptly eviscerated about making jokes about people who are losing their homes in the California fires. Now he says, when you tune in and try to figure out whatever it is he's doing on that program of his, quote, you actually have to think I might be making a joke. I'm pretty sure I was joking then.

There is your problem right there, sparky. We were complaining that you were making a joke, because that kind of joke reflects a big hole in your humanity. Go away and come back if you grow up.

The runner-up, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, in a two-for. He's going to start a bi-weekly column in the "Philadelphia Inquirer Newspaper." Bi, senator? Bi-weekly; are you sure that couldn't lead to man on dog weekly?

Furthermore, Mr. Santorum has participated in Islamo fascism week and declared Islam was dangerous because, it's, quote, not just something you do on Sunday, Friday, senator, Friday. The sabbath in Islam is Friday not Sunday. That's the other - Santorum, by the way, hates Islamo fascism because he prefers good old American fascism.

But our winner, Michelle Malkin, self-destructing before our eyes, questioning the propriety of donations to Senator Clinton's campaign, writing they were from, quote, dishwashers, cooks and other suspect Hillary campaign contributors in New York's Chinatown, Flushing, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, who were limited income, limited English proficient, and smellier than stinky tofu.

Incredibly, she was not yet done; "If it's ethnic profiling to be extra careful of Chinatown donors who can't speak English, then ethnic profiling should be the standard procedure of every responsible campaign." Michelle Malkin's maiden name is Maglagang. She was born to Filipino parents in Philadelphia. And what has evidently eluded her all these years is that she has been violently and viciously supporting a party which not only endorses ethnic profiling of people who were born to Filipino parents in Philadelphia or Manila or Mars, but she has been supporting a party that includes most of the idiots in this country who would judge her entirely and exclusively on her appearance, Republicans who would happily lump her in with the people in Chinatown, Flushing, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, whom she has just so hatefully, moronically, ethnically slandered.

Michelle Malkin, today's Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN: So many people evacuated that the number is actually unknown, could be a million, could be half that; a billion dollars worth of damage in one county alone; and 18 fires still burning, one of them expected to burn until November, until Thanksgiving. We end the Countdown where we began, with the devastation in southern California.

Fires that raged uncontrollably until the Santa Ana winds started to die down a little bit today. Still, as seen from pictures from the International Space Station, from the Space Station, the smoke can be seen stretching miles out to sea. And even when the fires are finally put out, it will take months, maybe years for the lives, the livelihoods, the properties disrupted, damaged, and destroyed to recover.

Tonight, we will let the images of this disaster speak for themselves.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that. That is a shot, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four hundred thousand acres have been burned.

At least five people killed so far. And more than 1600 homes destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taking a look here at what looks to be the advancing line of this live fire and the grass valley fire. It's traveled a lot of distance over night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overnight and into the early morning, a river of flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire personnel battling the fire, protecting lives and structures. They are -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tired, dirty, and hungry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fire fighters are starting to fight fire with fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are still at zero percent containment. But it's a far cry better than yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fire fighters doing air drops. They have got crews on the ground doing structural protection in the Hamilton Community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are used to fires. We have never, ever seen anything like this or even close to this before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a home that hasn't burned yet. But, unfortunately, it looks like this is soon to be another structure lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking at live pictures - look, you can see the wind, the massive smoke out there. It is just one huge cloud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number of animals killed or displaced from the fires has not been tallied. Some, like these llamas in Orange County, were rescued after being found wondering in a panic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through my front window I saw the fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty four make shift shelters have opened their doors to evacuees. Thousands of them are at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to say, I've got the trailer half way packed and here comes the flames down over the hill. And I said - I just dropped everything. I didn't even lock the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mountain behind me was - it looked like it erupted like a volcano.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is finally good news on the front lines of the fires. The howling Santa Ana winds that have whipped the flames are starting to die down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that tornado.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In some evacuated neighborhoods, neighbors are slowly being allowed home. But those residents, in many cases, are finding bad news.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like you are watching a movie. I don't think you feel that it's real yet. I don't know when it will be real. But it's not real yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really hard to describe the situation out here, other than, you know, this really looks like a war zone out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saved that house. We saved the big white one.

We lost the garage, but we saved the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not our house. This is not the home we know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We never thought that our house would burn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, it's been 38.5 years and when we started out we didn't have anything. And he said, you know, I can't think of anybody I would rather start over with.


OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,638th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Coverage continues next with "MSNBC LIVE" with Dan Abrams. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.