'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 5
Guests: Joseph Wilson, Neil Katyal, Rachel Maddow
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Scooter Libby is going to jail, and Salim Hamdan is getting out. Vice President Cheney's most trusted adviser headed to the Big House, two and a half years in prison, he had wanted probation, he had wanted letters from Henry Kissinger and Don Rumsfeld to merit him a lighter sentence. You can't always get what you want.
The man at the center of the people versus Scooter Libby, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, joins us.
And the triumph of law over panic at Gitmo. A United States military judge throws out all charges against Salim Hamdan. Salim Hamdan, from the Supreme Court case that bore his name and that denied the White House the right to lock anybody up and just throw away the key. "This indicates," says the chief defense counsel from the Pentagon, "that the military commission system cannot proceed." Salim Hamdan's co-defense counsel, Professor Neil Katyal, joins us.
And happy days are here again. The TV air above is clear again to swear as long as it's ad lib again, so Bono and your top pro athletes won't get into trouble with the FCC. Same holds for others.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (expletive deleted), and (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: With Libby in jail and Hamdan not, the president's right to swear inadvertently may never have been more important than it is right now.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go (expletive deleted) yourself, Mr. Cheney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
From the White House to the Big House. Well, you knew that phrase was inevitable. After 77 months of a Bush administration that has fixed and inflated intelligence, stonewalled investigations, and otherwise maintained an arm's-length acquaintance with the truth, the consequences of those actions can now be measured in months for one of its former officials, 30 months, to be exact.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, Lewis Scooter Libby today sentenced to two and a half years in prison for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation. In a moment, Ambassador Joseph Wilson joins us to discuss the sentencing.
We begin with the details, the former chief of staff to Vice president Cheney making no comment as he left the courthouse today, perhaps of more importance, Mr. Libby showing absolutely no remorse before the packed courtroom, Judge Reggie Walton telling him that the evidence overwhelmingly proved his guilt, quoting Judge Walton, "People who occupy these types of positions where they have the welfare and security of the nation in their hands have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem," Judge Walton postponing his decision on whether to let Mr. Libby remain free pending appeal, indicating, however, that he would be against it, 30 months the minimum sentence asked for this morning by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Mr. Libby seeking no jail time, thinking community service would be nice, speaking of nice, the president and vice president saying this afternoon that the sentence could not have happened to a nicer guy, quite literally, Mr. Bush from Europe, through spokeswoman Dana Perino, saying the president, quote, "felt terrible for Libby's family," especially his wife and kids, Mr. Cheney, meanwhile, who, unlike 174 others had not offered a letter of reference on Mr. Libby's behalf to Judge Walton, commenting in a written statement on the integrity of the convicted felon as if his former aide were guilty merely of a traffic violation, quoting the vice president, "I have always considered him to be a man of the highest intellect, judgment, and personal integrity, a man fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens."
As promised, in his first live interview since the verdict, I'm joined now by the former acting U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Joseph Wilson.
Thank you again for some of your time tonight, sir.
AMB. JOSEPH WILSON: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This was the minimum sentence requested by Mr. Fitzgerald. Are you and you wife pleased, satisfied? How would you describe yourselves?
WILSON: Well, first of all, Keith, I mean, it's important to remember this was a crime against the country. So are Americans satisfied? From my perspective, somebody who's watched it perhaps more closely than others, I believe justice was served. I have nothing but admiration for Special Counsel Fitzgerald and for Judge Walton, who I think handled this masterfully.
I believe that it demonstrated and reaffirmed that this remains a nation of laws, not a nation of men. I'm sorry for Mr. Libby's family and for his friends and for the nation for the pain that he's inflicted upon them. But, again, I think justice was served.
OLBERMANN: Part of a statement that you issued today reads thusly, if I may quote you to yourself. "It is our hope that he will now cooperate with Special Counsel Fitzgerald in his efforts to get to the truth," he, of course, being Mr. Libby. Do you think there's any real chance of that, or will no one else be brought to account, either specifically for what the White House did to you and your wife and the country, or even in that larger context of their motive in doing it to you and your wife and the country?
WILSON: Well, certainly I would hope that confronting a 30-month stay at a federal prison might concentrate Mr. Libby's mind. I think that perhaps he ought to rethink his misplaced loyalties. I believe he has an obligation to cooperate with the prosecutor. Whether he does or not, I don't know.
But, of course, one of the reasons we have filed a civil suit against Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rove, Mr. Armitage, and Mr. Libby is to get the truth out. People who want to know about that can go to wwww.Wilsonsupport.org [link], by the way.
OLBERMANN: The president and the vice president both expressed great concern for Mr. Libby's family today. This is a question I've asked you before. Any change in this to date? Has either man ever expressed any concern for you or your family?
WILSON: No, nobody from the administration has reached out to us directly to offer their regrets or their apologies or any statement whatsoever. Indeed, I was struck today by one of the letters which commented on Mr. Libby's performance during the first Gulf War. Of course, when he was running in the halls of the Pentagon in that first Gulf War, I was out in Baghdad getting Americans freed from the clutches of Saddam Hussein.
I point that out because at one time, we were on the same team. I'm really sorry to see that Mr. Libby would have gone so far in the other direction, so as to commit perjury, obstruct justice, and lie to federal investigators.
OLBERMANN: The president also said today that he would hold off intervening in this case for now, emphasis perhaps on the word "now," because the appeals process continues. Does that indicate to you that a pardon might still be in the offing, should the appeal fail? And are you and Valerie steeling yourself to that possibility?
WILSON: Well, I don't know what it indicates to me. I would point out that my understanding is that there are a number of procedures that the Justice Department goes through before they recommend to the executive branch or the executive a pardon or not. My view is, it would be inappropriate for the president to short-circuit the procedures in the first place.
And secondly, given the fact that Libby was in a subordinate position to both the president and the vice president, I think Ethics 101 tells you that both those people should recuse themselves from any decision on whether to pardon Libby or not, just because it poses a potential or very real conflict of interest, given the supervisory relationship.
OLBERMANN: I'm not sure that any of these folks have passed Ethics 101. But moving on, with the possibility of a pardon out there, do you think that - and just from the general circumstances, do you think Judge Walton, or do you have an opinion on whether or not Judge Walton should allow Mr. Libby to remain out on bond pending this appeal?
WILSON: I have watched with great admiration everything that Judge Walton has done throughout this case. I believe that he is fully competent to make these decisions. He certainly knows the law, and he certainly knows the facts far better than I. I have nothing but admiration for him and for Mr. Fitzgerald and the team that put the government's case together.
OLBERMANN: Where does this - does this verdict fit into, and where does the civil case against Mr. Libby and the vice president and Karl Rove now stand?
WILSON: Well, the oral arguments on the defense's request for a summary dismissal were heard in the middle of May, and the judge promised an early decision. I think that it reinforces the fact that the civil case is a means of getting the full truth out. Cheney, Libby, Rove, Armitage, none of them testified in the Libby criminal trial. We want their statements on the record. We want Americans to know precisely what went on.
And the mechanism that's available to us under our system of jurisprudence is a civil suit. So we intend to continue to pursue that.
OLBERMANN: Do you have an increased sense right now, in the wake of this sentencing, whether or not all that is ever going to come to pass, that we are going to get, at some point, if not in, say, six months or six years, but at some point in the future, is there going to be a full accounting of and accounting for what has gone on relative to the war in Iraq and this administration in these last four years?
WILSON: Keith, I've said from the very beginning that I have a lot of confidence in the American system of justice. And I continue to have that level of confidence. And I think that confidence and that faith in our system was borne out by the way the criminal trial was handled. I have every expectation that justice, the interests of justice will be served in the civil case as well.
OLBERMANN: And on another point in a different kind of accounting, where do things stand relative to your wife's attempt to get her book published?
WILSON: Well, as you may have heard, she's filed suit against the director of National Intelligence and the director of Central Intelligence, and that suit will be heard - I don't know, sometime in the very near future.
But I don't have any particular comment on that, not being party to the suit. It's really her suit. Our interest, of course, is that since everybody else has seen fit to speak about her, she ought to darn well be able to speak about herself.
OLBERMANN: There is a certain bitter irony, but I imagine those are the wages of this. Congratulations not in order, at least congratulations on continuing to stand to this point.
Ambassador Joe Wilson, the husband of the outed CIA agent, Valerie Plame, of course. As always, sir, many thanks for your time, and please give our best to your wife.
WILSON: Thanks very much, Keith. It's good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, has the vice president indeed dodged a political bullet with today's sentencing? What happens now in the case?
And the next earthquake on deck at the White House, the detainees at Gitmo. A military judge throws out all charges against two of the incarcerated. Will the military commissions system be thrown out as well? How about Gitmo itself? Professor Neil Katyal, one of the attorneys for Salim Hamdan, joins us.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Of the 174 people who wrote to Judge Reggie Walton extolling the virtues of Scooter Libby in the hopes of diminishing his sentence, one name was most conspicuously absent, that of his former boss, the vice president of the United States.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, with the fall guy under the bus, are the others responsible for the outing of Valerie Plame in the clear? That in a moment.
First, we'll look at those who did ask for leniency for Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.
Administration adviser Henry Kissinger, who said he was impressed with Libby's, quote, "dedication, seriousness, patriotism, and essential decency." Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who poetically described Libby's heavy workload, quote, "as information flowed across his desk on a daily basis like water coming out of a high-pressure fire hydrant."
Mary Matalin, former aide to the vice president, sent a letter co-signed by her Democratic strategist husband, James Carville, pleading with the judge to think of the children. Quote, "I have seen what this trial has done to my own kids, just their reading about it. I cannot imagine the toll on Scooter and Harriet's young ones."
The children aside, considering that it was the war in Iraq that put Scooter Libby in his current predicament, it seemed singularly appropriate that many of the leniency letters came from the chief architects, supporters, and enactors of that war, General Richard Myers and General Peter Pace, Richard Perle and James Woolsey, Douglas Feith and Donald Rumsfeld.
And Paul Wolfowitz, who, in observing that it was he who first brought Libby into civil service in 1989, noted, quote, "It is painful for me to reflect on the fact that his life would have been very different if we had never met."
Yes, like Wolfowitz couldn't say something like that about everybody in this country.
I'm joined now by our political analyst, Lawrence O'Donnell, who also contributes, of course, to HuffingtonPost.com.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Did Paul Wolfowitz's observation that he is somewhat responsible in something of a roundabout way for Libby's predicament today strike you as perhaps more insightful than he meant on the surface?
O'DONNELL: Well, if what he means is, having pushed himself, Wolfowitz, for the start of the Iraq war, and somehow, once he started or helped get that war started, but then lying under oath then became a mandatory way of supporting that war, then I guess, in some perverse, twisted version of his mental processes, he could suggest that he's responsible for this.
But if what he's simply saying is, Wolfowitz feels responsible because he was the one who talked Libby into working in government, then what Wolfowitz has delivered is a biting insult to me and everyone else who has worked in this government in Washington, without ever having found it necessary or tempting to commit perjury under oath to FBI agents and to federal criminal grand juries.
How did Wolfowitz himself manage to get through government service without committing perjury to a federal grand jury, Keith, if he thinks that it is a normal risk of being in this occupation?
OLBERMANN: Yes, I think you could - it's a superb point, and you could roll it all the way back to Abraham Lincoln. He insulted a lot of people just then.
To another person connected to this, obviously, the vice president, did Dick Cheney, thanks to Scooter Libby, thanks to this actual practical presentation of jail time, did Cheney get away with a federal crime in the leaking of Valerie Plame's name?
O'DONNELL: I don't think so, because I don't think Patrick Fitzgerald was in the business of letting anyone get away with the federal crime. What Fitzgerald has said very clearly is that there is a cloud over the vice president in this case. The vice president was the one, the first one, who told Libby who - about Valerie Plame, about her identity.
Whether that was a violation of the statute protecting that identity doesn't seem very clear. It seems like it wasn't, because Fitzgerald knows about that exchange. He doesn't think that that fit the elements of the statute, which, by the way, the first time we ever discussed this on MSNBC, I said that's a very, very difficult law to break. I think that's the way Fitzgerald read it. It requires very specific intent and a bunch of conditions in it that is are hard to meet.
So I don't think Fitzgerald found a criminal exchange of that information which he chose not to prosecute. I have to agree with Ambassador Wilson's previous very graceful comments on your show here tonight, Keith, that this was justice done, as far as justice could be brought to the activity that Patrick Fitzgerald uncovered.
OLBERMANN: Returning to the subject of insults, the former CIA agent, Larry Johnson, who is periodically on this program, brought this up earlier today. How inappropriate is it that people who deal with our national security, like the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Pace, write letters asking for leniency for someone who jeopardized a member not just of the intelligence community, but if - unless we're all wrong about this, an asset in the war against weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation?
O'DONNELL: It is shocking that someone holding that position today would make that assertion that leniency is necessary here. How about Henry Kissinger, whose career was built on secretive information obtained through intelligence sources? Donald Rumsfeld, the same thing.
Now, I am waiting for every one of these letter writers, especially Kissinger, especially Rumsfeld, Especially Pace, I'm waiting for their letters to the court-martials that are going on right now in the United States, young Marines who are put in impossible situations in Iraq, Keith, who find themselves on trials now that will jeopardize their freedom for the rest of their lives, because of split-second decisions they made in a war that they should not have been in.
When those kids get sentenced in their court-martials, if they do, in this country, is General Peter Pace going to write a letter to their sentencers about what kind of mercy they deserve? Is Henry Kissinger, who never, ever saw a shot fired in his life, never spent the moments in battle, but was a champion of sending soldiers into battle in this country and to their death, is he going to write a letter asking for mercy for these American Marines who found themselves in this impossible war situation in Iraq, and now find themselves on trial for their lives? Who are the letters going to come from for them?
OLBERMANN: It is, there's a template, we have a template, at least, for that, the Wolfowitz phrasing. "It is painful for me to reflect on the fact that his life would be very different if we had never met." Maybe we can do that.
One last question. The prosecution here is complete, the appeals yet awaits. What are the prospects of a presidential pardon? Or is that simply a radioactive device that the president can't touch?
O'DONNELL: I think the presidential pardon is virtually guaranteed.
I don't know whether he waits until the last day on his way out the door. The Republican candidates in debate now are all hedging it. They're all saying, Well, I'll look at it very carefully. They're - Rudy Giuliani very strongly leaning toward favoring a pardon. I think you're going to see it increase as a presidential campaign issue for the Republicans.
And I think the Libby defense has always been aimed at the pardon, Keith. I said it on your show a year ago that they were manipulating a media campaign to try to get to the pardon here. I think they will succeed with this president on this pardon.
OLBERMANN: Political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell. Our great pleasure.
Thank you, sir.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Evangelical voters and Democratic candidates. It's the other F-word, and Senator Clinton uses it to address the days of Monica S. Lewinsky.
And holy Peruvian bullfight, turnabout fair play for the matadors.
Ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Today, June 5, is the anniversary of the day the chief narcotics investigator of New York City urged the American Medical Association to investigate whether athletes, from high school to the pros, were using performance-enhancing drugs. Sounds like it was ripped from today's headlines. But in fact, Dr. Herbert Berger suggested it on June 5, 1957. Half a century ago, he warned of amphetamines and other pep pills.
On that note, let's play Oddball.
Somebody is on something, as we begin in Juancavetica (ph), Peru. I went to see a bull's guts (ph) slaughtered, and all I got was this lousy horn in my side. It is a rare but always instance of bull strikes back. The matador promised the crowd a special show for this one. And so, after stabbing the bull a couple of times, he decided to try to ride that bull rodeo-style. As you saw, that didn't work too well for the matador.
But the crowd did, in fact, get a special show. The bull, in its last act on earth as a living creature, went on a rampage, knocking the matador out cold and giving a couple of other guys some new holes to remember him by. Later, a few idiots spilled out of the stands and began fighting each other in the ring. Unfortunately, none of the injuries were serious.
Kawasaki, Japan, hello. It is here that we find the Countdown cool-ass robot head of the week, programmed to give special specific facial expressions in reaction to more than 500,000 different words. The face is capable of a whole range of emotion, sheer terror, your dog just died. Did I say dog? I meant sister. There's a bee in your shoe. Somebody stole your car battery. And so on and so on and so forth.
Finally, someone has stepped forward to bring the world a disembodied head on a table that reacts to words o a computer. What will they think of next? That's what he's saying there.
Is the rule of law what they finally thought of next? Winning out at Gitmo. A military judge there throws out the case against Osama bin Laden's former driver. Will the entire military commission system be thrown out as well? Salim Hamdan's lawyer, Professor Neil Katyal, joins us live.
And if the president and vice president can swear in everyday conversation, why can't other people swear on live TV? The FCC gets a smackdown on its mission to sanitize the airwaves.
All that ahead.
First, time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, President Bush. "Newsweek"'s political blog points out that at a fundraiser in Jersey last week, the price for contributors for a photograph with the president was $5,000. It also points out, last summer, the same photograph cost $10,000.
Number two, Gary Milby, accused of swindling investors in his oil business out of somewhere between $4 million and $25 million. The investors wanted to know where he was. Well, they just found out. Mr. Milby and his daughter were shown getting her a new BMW and a helicopter ride on an episode of the MTV reality show, "My Super Sweet 16." Another reason to hate that thing. Kiss Daddy good-bye, princess. He's going to the Big House.
Number one, an unnamed stickup man at a Chevron station in Salt Lake City, Utah, probably the criminal with the most diminished expectations in recent American history. He approached a woman at the pump, and, jamming what he claimed was a gun into her back, he forced her to pump $15 worth of gas into his car, and then he drove away.
OLBERMANN: The White House today saying it disagrees with the two dismissals of charges against accused terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay. And in our third story tonight, it is increasingly clear why the White House would disagree, because the legal basis for dismissal applies to everyone at Guantanamo Bay.
In each case yesterday, a military judge, one Army colonel and one Navy captain, found that jurisdiction applied only to unlawful enemy combatants. Like all 380 detainees, Salim Hamdan and Omar Ahmed Kadr have been classified only as enemy combatants, not unlawful enemy combats. The military calls it semantics, a spokeswoman saying, quote, "Congress intended to grant jurisdiction under the MCA, Military Commissions Act, to individuals being who are being held as enemy combatants."
This despite Section 948 D, which says, quote, "military commissions under this chapter shall not have jurisdiction over lawful enemy combatants." Neither Hamdan nor Kadr went free. The Pentagon has not even said it will free those who are acquitted. And the Pentagon was given 72 hours to appeal the dismissal, despite the fact that nobody sits on the appeals panel because it does not yet exist.
The cases were the first to get this far. And the two strikes represent a devastating blow to the administration. After holding hundreds of people for five years, after Hamdan's lawyers got the Supreme Court to rule against the previous tribunals, after trumpeting the Military Commissions Act as his solution to the mess, the president has still not won a single trial or tribunal verdict against anyone at Guantanamo.
And it is unclear how he can do so now, leaving both the accused and the victims, including the family of Sergeant Christopher Speer, whom Khadr is accused of killing, in limbo once again.
We're joined now by the lead attorney in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Georgetown Law Professor Neil Katyal. It is a pleasure to speak with you again tonight, professor.
NEIL KATYAL, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Pleasure is mine.
OLBERMANN: What happens to these cases now? Do you know?
KATYAL: Well, of course, predictably, the Bush administration hasn't said, because they can't make up their mind. They have a couple of choices available to them. One is to try and appeal this decision yesterday, throwing out their charges, and they would appeal it to this new Court of Military Commission Review, which is the court the Bush administration advocated for last year to Congress, and which they predictably haven't filled with judges yet.
Or the second alternative is to try and redo the entire process at Guantanamo for the detainees that they intend to try before military commissions.
OLBERMANN: The defense attorneys, who are also military officers, say the dismissals mean that Guantanamo Bay itself should be closed and the detainees should be given good old criminal trials or at least courts marshal. Is that implication clear to you too, that that is the necessary outcome of these two dismissals?
KATYAL: It is not the necessary logical outcome. It is the necessary practical outcome. That is that what happened yesterday is exhibit 1,049 in the Bush administration's continual botched attempt at Guantanamo justice. These guys can't bring anyone to trial at Guantanamo. They're fundamentally incompetent and unable to do so.
And so what I think these military attorneys to whom you're referring are saying is that they're basically saying look, there's already an existing system of justice out there. It is called the court martial system. We use it every day. We use it in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All the Democrats last years said use this system. It will provide swift, fair justice and give justice to the victims who suffered so much on September 11th. But the Bush administration refuses to use it.
OLBERMANN: You spoke last week, as did I, at the ACLU dinner in Boston. It was extraordinary event to hear you and Commander Swift, who was Mr. Hamdan's counsel in this case, the military council, speak so patriotically about the rule of law. I'm fascinated by your own background and your experience and belief in a powerful unitary, if you will, presidential administration and a role of that for the president.
How much how much of it - you describe the incompetence of this. How much is his incompetence, and how much of it is just an intrinsic flaw in what President Bush has attempted to do in response to the factual crisis that is terrorism?
KATYAL: It is both, Keith. You know, I'm a strong believer in presidential power. I was national security advisor in the last administration at the Justice Department, you know, and believe very strongly people like bin Laden should be prosecuted, if not killed in military operations.
But that doesn't excuse what we all are as Americans, which is we live under a constitution and a rule of law. There's a right way and wrong way to do things. The administration for now almost six years has said, our way is no rules whatsoever. We can do whatever we want at Guantanamo. It is a legal black hole.
And predictably, not just the federal courts, but the military's own judges, are saying wait a minute. That's not what we're about. That's not what I signed up for when I enlisted to be a military judge or a federal judge court. And so now the administration's strategy is say, well, let's pass laws that block the federal courts from even hearing challenges like Mr. Hamdan's, so that we can do whatever we want again.
Again, this is fundamentally not what the founders had in mind when they left us this great, majestic document, the constitution of the United States. It is a very sad thing to see, in the name of really political power, the constitution be used in this way.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you the devil's advocate question that I always get asked about this stuff: what if these people are not victims of a system panicking or making up the rules after the game has started, but actual terrorists bent on terrible harm to this country. What is the context for what is happening now legally in Guantanamo Bay, set against that question?
KATYAL: Right. So we have to distinguish between what the judges did yesterday and what the Supreme Court did last year, which is throw out Bush's military trial system and some sort of detention for terrorists who are posing a threat. You see, these are trials - the Bush administration wants trials with literally nothing at stake. That is, they even said last week, look if someone is acquitted, found innocent, in these Guantanamo trials, we can still lock them up forever at Guantanamo.
So I understand your security concern that you're voicing here, but these trials are absolutely the wrong way to go about it. If we want to have some sort of scheme to detain people, fine. Let's have a scheme. Let's have a proper scheme with judicial oversight. But let's not corrupt what the American justice system is about in the process, and put people, as the Bush administration wants to do, literally to death in procedures that defy the constitution of the United States, and defy international opinion.
I mean, I take it that is what those great liberals Secretary Gates and Condoleezza Rice were saying when they told the "New York Times" in a front page article last month, we need to close Guantanamo, because it is undermining our national security, not helping it.
OLBERMANN: Professor Neal Katyal, the lead attorney representing Salim Hamdan, as I said of you last week at the dinner in Boston, it is a privilege to be in the same country with you, sir. Great thanks for your time tonight.
KATYAL: I appreciate it. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Religion and politics. Senator Clinton explains how her faith got her through the dark days of the Lewinsky investigations.
And the showdown over the dying moments of Princess Diana again. Television two, her son's wishes nothing. Details ahead, but first here's a special behind the scenes at a debate edition Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK Larry, the panelists are coming down.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Dave, the next segment's going to be that long?
KING: What I want to know is Anderson gets more time with his panel than we get with ours? And if so, why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You're right.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Cold War is over. It ended. The people of the Czech Republic don't have to choose between being a friend of the United States or a friend with Russia. You can be both.
I look forward to having conversations with President Putin, not only at the G-8, but up in the United States when he comes over. And my message will be, you know, Vladimir - I call him Vladimir.
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Very quickly, I'm going to give you a couple zingers. Hey, Tommy Thompson, what is your middle name? Tom?
Here's a good one here for, let's go with Giuliani. Hey, you love the war on terror so much, why don't you marry it? Oh, wait, you would probably then just divorce it a couple of years later.
OLBERMANN: If you thought Republicans had cornered the market on faith, boy are you preaching from the wrong prayer book. Our number two story on the Countdown, just as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, the era of the radical priest come to get me released, as Paul Simon sang, thus it may be anew. Senator Clinton, among others, invoking that old time political winner, old time religion. Our correspondent is Ron Allen.
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today in Hampton Virginia, Barack Obama was talking politics and religion.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Right here in this room, we believe that god is big enough to overcome the smallness of our politics.
ALLEN: Democrats have traditionally made appeals to black voters of faith, but to a wider audience, they usually keep matters of religion and faith out of their campaigns.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all fall short, which is why we have to ask forgiveness from the lord.
ALLEN: That's why at last night's forum, with the leading Democrats answering before an evangelical group was extraordinary. Clinton was asked about infidelity in her marriage.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I'm not sure I would have gotten through it without my faith.
OBAMA: Faith can say, forgive someone who has treated us unjustly.
ERIC SAPP, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There's also just been a recognition within the party that this is a community that we need to reach out to.
ALLEN (on camera): Democrats clearly saw the power of faith in the presidential race of 2004, when whether you went to church was one of the best indicators of how you voted.
(voice-over): Among voters who attended church weekly, President Bush beat John Kerry. The margin grew among voters who went to church more often.
EDWARDS: And my faith came roaring back.
ALLEN: Last night Edwards spoke of his teenage son's death.
EDWARDS: It is prayer that played a huge role in my survival through that.
ALLEN: Obama quoted the bible.
OBAMA: I am my brother's keeper. I am my sister's keeper.
ALLEN: Clinton says she prays every day. Democrats don't expect to convert the GOP's conservative evangelical base, but they see an opening with so many church goers disappointed with the Republican field.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: George W. Bush did a good job keeping faith based voters in the Republican tent. Until another Republican comes along, there's an opening for the Democrats.
ALLEN: This year, Democrats are hoping to find voters who will also answer their prayers.
Ron Allen, NBC News, Manchester, New Hampshire.
OLBERMANN: As ever, we pray for forgiveness for our nightly segment, Keeping Tabs, where we get a head start on the official 11th TV season full of the reality show known as the continuing death of Princess Diana. The British TV network Channel 4 tonight says that, despite protests from Princes Harry and William, it will air a documentary on the last moments of their mother.
The program looks at the supposedly resolved question did the chase by the paparazzi contribute to her death in a Paris tunnel ten years ago this August. A spokesman for Princes William and Harry call the crash photos deeply distressing for them and disrespectful to the memory of their mother.
From a tragic loss in Paris to the not so tragic loss that is Paris Hilton. Two days after her check in at an L.A. county lock up, reported eBay prison items are already popping up, including a prison issue jumpsuit that she supposedly refused to wear because it didn't fit right. They couldn't find that one on eBay. But don't worry, there's plenty of cheese to go around, like Paris in prison doll, complete with pet rat. Bidding starts at 50 dollars.
Her people call this ridiculous. And who could disagree.
The right to swear on television, inadvertently, without getting fined is upheld by a court, which cites as examples of people who have done this, kind of, President Bush and Vice President Cheney. That's next, first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to Bill-O, denouncing the "New York Times" for putting the JFK pipeline pipe dream terrorism scare Sunday on page 37 instead of page one. He even showed the front page, well the top half of the front page anyway. No, I'm not making this up. You see it. This is not the "Colbert Report." This is the Factor and this is the fact.
We know that, "The Colbert Report" is entertaining and occasionally factual. You see, the Times put a paragraph long headline about the so-called JFK plot on its front page. And in the main story about it on page 37, where you heard aviation expert Mike Boyd point out here last night is probably where it belonged.
No wonder Bill-O only showed the top half. So, when he said no, I'm not making this up, what he meant was, so I am making this up.
The runner up tonight, Vice President Cheney. Speaking of making it up, he's still doing it. Addresses 100 Wyoming high school students over the weekend, he again lied about an Iraq/al Qaeda link, again citing Abu Musab al Zarqawi, ignoring last year's conclusions of the Senate Intelligence Committee and its then chairman Pat Roberts, the Republican, that Saddam Hussein wanted to and tried to capture Zarqawi.
Reduced to telling it to 100 high school kids? Before this is over, the vice president may start going door to door, asking if anybody wants to hear a story.
But our winner, Glenn Beck of CNN and ABC, questioning what caused Elizabeth Harper to marry Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich nearly two years ago. Quoting Beck, "I'm wondering if it's some sort of - some sort of, you know - what's that date rape drug? What would be the drug that would be just powerful enough to make you not really realize that you're making out with Dennis Kucinich? I was thinking cyanide. That would be the only thing that would really dull the senses enough. Even then, your dead body would be like, Dennis Kucinich has his tongue in my mouth."
Now that's wit, huh? It's as if Shakespeare were living in our times.
Glenn Beck, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: The Bush administration version of the FCC, the one infused with family values, has, it seems, all this time been suffering from a divorce. In our number one story on the Countdown, a federal court saying that the FCC's remarkably strident rules for broadcast television are, quote, divorced from reality.
And the court cites as its examples of real world expletive slinging President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The issue, whether the FCC can fine broadcast TV for the occasional expletive, particularly one uttered in a live telecast by non-employees. The prime example, Cher, of all people, with the 2002 Billboard Music Awards had an answer for critics of her career.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHER, MUSICIAN: I've also had critics for the last 40 years saying that I was on my way out every year. Right. So - them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The FCC ruled that future incidents of so called fleeting expletives would be fined. Meantime, the then Republican Congress had increased those fines ten fold to 325,000 for each indecency infraction.
But in its ruling now, the appeals court in New York reasoned that, quote, "In recent times, even the top leaders of our government have used variants of these expletives in a manner that no reasonable person would believe reference sexual or excretory organs or activities."
In other words, even the occasional F bomb is OK if it's not meant to refer to actual - blank. And the specific examples included President Bush at last year's G-8 summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: You see, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and it's over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And of course there was Mr. Cheney a few years ago, reportedly telling Senator Patrick Leahy to either go blank yourself or to go blank off, depending on which witness you blanking believe.
The FCC must decide whether to appeal to the full panel of the second circuit judges or go directly to the Supreme Court. And it warns that meanwhile broadcasters should not take the ruling as a freaking green light. Joining me now the host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Air America Radio, Rachel Maddow. Thanks for your time tonight Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA: Hi Keith, nice to see you.
OLBERMANN: Of course the Cheney expletive was not broadcast, and only on tape was the Bush one. But is it the court's points here that the nation's leaders use expletives in moments of excitement or anger, so the same thing cannot be reasonably fined in a live broadcast?
MADDOW: What was amazing and wonderful about this ruling, I think, is that all of the deliberations turned on the FCC's argument that the S-word and the F-word always need to be banned from television, because they always and ever more, every single time they're used, in the case of the S word, refer to defecation, and in the case of the F-word, refer to having sex. And that nobody has ever used these words and nobody ever means these words except to refer to those things and that's why they must be banned.
In the case of those examples you cited from President Bush and Vice President Cheney, that would mean that he would mean that Bush was telling Hezbollah to cut out all the defecating, and that Dick Cheney was asking Pat Leahy on the floor of the Senate to make love with his own body. That was the FCC's argument, really. And they really lost. And it's really easy to see why, I think.
OLBERMANN: It's also really true that we had a middle ages. So all of this is understandable once put in historical context. The court said that FCC was not only divorced from reality, but that its standards were arbitrary and capricious, might not pass constitutional muster. And the FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, derided this decision as a New York ruling. There was a also a spokeswoman who I heard tonight say, who will stop Hollywood if this stands?
Without asking you to play lawyer here, do we have any idea what the chances are that this ruling survives this court?
MADDOW: I am heartened and encouraged by the fact that the court really decided to nail the FCC for being undefined and vague in their standards here. I mean, their standards are not only arbitrary and capricious, their hysterical. It's an important principle of censorship that the more vague the censorship standard is, the more chilling the effect is on free speech, as broadcasters and artists try to guess where that line is that they're not allowed to cross.
And the more vague the standard is, the more power the government gives itself, the more impingement there is on the right of free speech. And that's what the court is drawing the line about. I think it is a very common sense ruling. I would love to see that same kind of legal reasoning and legal standard applied to, for example, the rating system for motion pictures, for movies.
I hope that it stands. It seems very common sense to me.
OLBERMANN: Is there a certain irony to this? Do you think the Brent Bozells, and the other righteous E spammers, who are full of such righteous anger over so called indecency, have no one to blame for this than President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
MADDOW: You know, it could have been - the example could have been anybody who has ever used the S-word to mean something other than going to bathroom. The fact that it ended up being the president of the United States, who was the convenient example on tape with his mouth full of bread talking to Tony Blair and using that language, is I think a gift to you and I, Keith. I think it's just a gift from god to us.
OLBERMANN: Do you have the feeling that's generally the picture, based on some of the stories we've covered here tonight, from the Gitmo rulings to the sentencing of Scooter Libby to this now?
MADDOW: That we've done something very right, or at least one of our ancestors in a past life, maybe, and we're getting paid back now, could be.
OLBERMANN: Or just someone decided that it was time for the country to get hit over the head every 35 minutes.
MADDOW: Every 51st Tuesday, whether we need it or not.
OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow, of course, of Air America. Great thanks Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this the 1,497th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END