'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 16
Guests: Jonathan Turley, Craig Crawford, Mo Rocca
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The Iraqi prime minister says his troops are ready so Americans can go if they want to go. Then he says, well, maybe by the end of the year. Then the co-chair of the Iraq Study Group says, he doubts Prime Minister Maliki can get his troops ready anytime soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he understands the importance of bringing progress, but does he understand the urgency?
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I believe he does.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?
SNOW: I just believe he does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Ask Mr. Snow if he also believes in pixies and elves. Those may be the bulk of the remaining support for our president, with 64 percent of us deeming his surge a failure, he is suddenly embracing the big picture from the Iraq Study Group after ignoring it for eight months. Could you all just get on a conference call and stop wasting time? Yes, this means you.
We know the president doesn't believe in the difference between al Qaeda classic and al Qaeda in Iraq. That's relevant now since counterterror experts now say al Qaeda in Iraq has no capacity to attack the United States.
But don't ask the White House about it, it will not tell you about anything, executive privilege invoked over the death of football star Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.
Follow the money, the fundraising numbers are in. Democrats $80 million. Republicans $50 million. John McCain just watching. Three more staffers walk. Combined, the two parties will not make as much as "The Simpsons" film.
But there is controversy. Attorney General Gonzales asked to intervene, controversy over which Springfield is "the" Springfield vote? Springfield, Oregon, claims voter fraud. All that and more now on Countdown.
Good evening from Los Angeles. It is one of the most fabled and valued axioms of our history. You can fool all of the people some of the time and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time. It is seemingly disproved by the simple fact that while 99 percent of Americans would probably agree it was Abraham Lincoln who said that. There is no contemporary evidence that he ever did. Yet the truth of those words outweigh even the myth of who said them.
Our fifth story in the Countdown, a new poll tonight, and in it, nearly two-thirds of the American public is no longer being fooled all the time by President Bush's surge in Iraq. For fooling, you might substitute the phrase B.S.-ing. The president seems to have lost that skill as well, 64 percent of those surveyed in the new Newsweek poll, believing the escalation of U.S. troops in Iraq has a been failure, less than one-quarter, 22 percent, feeling it has been a success. Nearly one-third of Republicans, 31 percent, declaring the surge a failure as well.
The Iraqi prime minister, meanwhile, appearing to call bull on his own bull. Over the weekend, Mr. Maliki having said that Iraqi troops could handle security any time American troops withdrew. By this morning, Mr. Maliki, having backtracked, to say he now he believes his troops would be ready by the end of this year.
At the White House this afternoon, the press secretary, Mr. Snow, unable or unwilling to give a compelling reason as to why Mr. Bush continues to have such inordinate faith in Prime Minister Maliki.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Prime Minister Maliki is our guy because?
SNOW: Again, Jim, I know that you want me to start talking about things that have been discussed confidentially between the two heads of state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you did say why we support this guy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said he understands the importance of bringing progress, but does he understand the urgency?
SNOW: I believe he does.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?
SNOW: I just believe he does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This just in, "teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings."
Meanwhile, another Republican in the Senate believing it is time for the White House to institute a plan that begins to bring the troops home. CNN reporting that Senator George Voinovich of Ohio has charged in private that the administration has "F'd up the war." And he didn't say "F'd."
His public comments, marginally kinder, or at least G-rated, the senator saying that he warned White House adviser Karl Rove last week that conservative support for the conflict is ebbing and ebbing quickly and that, "the fur is going to fly, perhaps sooner than they may have wanted."
If the president himself is no longer safe from criticism from members of his own party, it is now officially open season on Mr. Bush's surrogates in Congress. Democratic Senator Jim Webb, speaking for many Americans on Sunday's edition of "MEET THE PRESS" when confronted Republican Lindsey Graham over his "support the troops" rhetoric when American soldiers are being denied even equal time at home between deployments to that which they are being forced to serve in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "MEET THE PRESS")
SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: The traditional operational policy has been if you've been gone for a year, you get two years back. We're now in a situation where the soldiers and the Marines are having less than a one to one ratio, and somebody needs to speak up for them rather than simply defending what this president has been doing.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: When they re-enlist in the highest numbers anywhere else in the military, they're speaking...
WEBB: You know, this is one thing I really - this is one thing I really take objection to...
GRAHAM:... the soldiers are speaking, my friend. Let them win.
WEBB:... is politicians who at the...
GRAHAM: Let them win.
WEBB: Politicians who - may I speak?
GRAHAM: They want to win, let them win.
WEBB: Is politicians who try to put their political views into the mouths of soldiers.
Less than half of the military believes that we should be in Iraq in the first place.
GRAHAM: Have you been to Iraq? Have you ever been and talked to them? I've been seven times.
WEBB: You know, have you ever been to these - I've been - I've covered two wars as a correspondent...
GRAHAM: Have you been to Iraq?
WEBB: I have been to Afghanistan as a journalist.
GRAHAM: Have you been to Iraq and - have you been to Iraq and talked to the soldiers?
WEBB: You know, you haven't been to Iraq.
GRAHAM: I've been to - I've been there seven times.
WEBB: You know, you go see the dog and pony shows.
GRAHAM: I've been there as a reservist, I have been there and I'm going back in August.
WEBB: That's what congressmen do. Yes, I have, I have - I've been a member of the military when the senators come in.
GRAHAM: Well, all - listen, something we can agree on, we both admire the men and women in uniform. I don't doubt your patriotism.
WEBB: Don't put political words in their mouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Not once, it should be noted, did Senator Webb give in to the temptation to put words of his son's recent service in Iraq into his own mouth. Let's turn now to the words of our own Dana Milbank, national political correspondent of The Washington Post.
Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There seem to be a true "boy who cried wolf" quality to the administration's current attempt to buy more time for Iraq? I mean, the effort to delay, is it so desperate now that the smokescreens and the distractions don't even have to make any sense anymore, let alone coalesce as some sort of unified theory?
MILBANK: Well, I think so. And what are we really delaying here? We're talking about waiting until September. Well, September is 46 days away, so the debate pretty much is now. And as we see whether it occurs this week in the Senate or next week or whether we wait 45 days until it is actually resolved, it is pretty clear that the Republicans are turning against the president. A new course is going to be set here.
It does not mean there is going to be any imminent pullout from Iraq, but it's sort of we have reached the point at which there is going to be a change.
OLBERMANN: Is there another risk for the White House about September, putting some much weight on it that you are raising expectations that almost necessarily have to collapse of their own weight?
I mean, the Republican senator, Collins of Maine, told Newsweek that the fact that the Iraq politicians are going on vacation for the month of August while the troops are not and will be dying during the month of August, she said, "does not make me think we're going to see any more progress by September." That kind of just deflates the whole idea of waiting until September, does it not?
MILBANK: It does. Except, of course, our own Congress is out for pretty much all of August. But look, this is essentially a trap that the administration set for itself in trying to stall the earlier debates that happened this spring to postpone things into the fall.
Well, OK, that has been done now. Obviously, the military folks are going to say, we cannot get the full results from the surge at this point. Nobody expected they could. But in essence, all of the sand has gone out of the hourglass.
OLBERMANN: The Iraq Study Group report is back in the news today because the co-chair, Lee Hamilton, weighed in on Prime Minister Maliki's comments to say there is no chance Iraqi forces will be ready to take over the security in that country anytime soon.
The president, meantime, finally said about the recommendations from the ISG, for the entire region he devoted some of his attention to Middle East, to the whole playing field there.
I mean, is there a sudden shift in foreign policy here or did the president just read the Iraq Study Group report?
MILBANK: Right. That was chapter eight, he had only been through the first seven. But no, I think this is a fundamental development and it sounds very much like a real one. You never know with the Middle East where things are going to go, but the president certainly gets some credit today and that is, I think, the biggest news development of the day.
That is, it is not easy for this administration to change its position. And it has fundamentally. They're going to be requirements on the various parties participating in these talks, which will also be in the fall. But this is a very substantial change for this administration.
OLBERMANN: Well, and also - but as you say, if you never know about the Middle East, you also never know about the administration. And to that point, General Petraeus looks like he is just being pushed further and further out onto that limb.
What happens to him if September does arrive? I mean, if nothing else, has he at least created the perfect conditions? The president, meaning, has he created these conditions for General Petraeus to become the fall guy?
MILBANK: Well, we have to watch and see if he is brought in for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, we know there is trouble ahead. But look, I think the president has in essence run out of the fall guys here. Certainly, Petraeus can be given some of blame just as Pete Pace was and others before him.
But look, when you are sitting at 26 percent or wherever you are in the polls right now, the president is himself the fall guy. There is nothing that can get him out of this. And there is no particular military man who is going to take the blame, regardless.
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of MSNBC and The Washington Post. Dana, as always, great thanks.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Despite the complete dismissal of any link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden more than three years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Mr. Bush's references to al Qaeda seem to be, if anything, occurring with even greater frequency within his comments about that conflict at last Thursday's news conference, the president, having made 20 specific references to al Qaeda while speaking about Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What is realistic as well is to understand the consequences of what will happen if we fail in Iraq. In other words, people are not just going to be content with driving America out of Iraq. Al Qaeda wants to hurt us here. That is their objective. That's what they would like to do.
The same folks that are bombing of innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on the September the 11th. And that is why what happens in Iraq matters to security here at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Here we go again. Time to call in MSNBC terrorism analyst, Roger Cressey, counterterrorism coordinator of the National Security Council staff until the September of 2003.
Roger, good evening.
ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This is a conversation we have had so many times before we could probably just act it out in mime. But so long as the White House keeps making these claims, I guess we're going to have to keep knocking this down. Let's start here with this equation: al Qaeda, the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, was in all the papers, to the organization that calls itself al Qaeda in Iraq.
Is that an honest parallel connection merging to make?
CRESSEY: No, it is completely and misleading. The organization that attacked us on 9/11 is still trying to attack us. That is the group that is primarily on the Afghan/Pakistan border that you have seen all of the intelligence community assessments about in the past few days.
The group inside Iraq is very indigenous. It is a function of what happened in Iraq after Saddam was overthrown. In effect, we have actually helped create the conditions that allowed al Qaeda to take root in Iraq.
It is clear that al Qaeda in Iraq has ideological sympathies with al Qaeda central. That clearly there has been some communication between the two, but it is false and misleading for the president to make that direct linkage the way he did.
OLBERMANN: And part and parcel with that direct linkage, this claim that if the U.S. forces leave Iraq, al Qaeda would use Iraq as this base to launch attacks against targets, conceivably here in the United States. Is that something that al Qaeda in Iraq would even be capable of doing?
CRESSEY: You know, Keith, regardless of what happens in Iraq, let's say for a moment Iraq magically turns into a stable democracy, al Qaeda the organization is still going to try to attack us inside the United States. In that respect, the two are not linked.
Now if somehow al Qaeda in Iraq is allowed to assume supremacy in that country, then certainly they are going to look at a strategy of regional instability, of overthrowing the other governments in the region: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, et cetera.
And ultimately they could project power into elsewhere in the Middle East and maybe even Europe. But the central threat we face inside the United States is not from the jihadi presence in Iraq, it is from al Qaeda the organization.
OLBERMANN: And the central threat in Iraq, to listen to Mr. Bush, you would think, is solely al Qaeda in Iraq, as if that is the only enemy that we are facing there, the Iraqis who do not want violence are facing there. Does not al Qaeda in Iraq account for primarily a small percentage of the attacks on U.S. forces just in that country?
CRESSEY: And that is the intelligence community's assessment. When you look at the director of the CIA, Michael Hayden, and other senior intelligence officials, they say al Qaeda is one component of the problem that we face. It is basic sectarian violence of Shia on Sunni. It is criminal activity and organizations. And it is Iran.
So if al Qaeda magically disappeared inside Iraq, you would still have major threats to U.S. forces, a major challenge to security and stability. It is one component of the problem, Keith, but it is not the only component. And the false assumption the president makes about that frankly prevents the type of national consensus we need in the United States to deal with the real al Qaeda threat.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Roger, give us a preview, what are we expecting to learn out of the release this week of the National Intelligence Estimate?
CRESSEY: I think you're going to see some of the same themes that were previewed in last week's reports, that al Qaeda the organization has reconstituted itself, that Iraq serves as a recruiting tool for al Qaeda on a global basis because of what the - what we see going on in Iraq in terms of the images and the successes unfortunately that the jihadis have had against U.S. soldiers has become a tremendous recruiting tool and ideological tool.
And I think you're going to see trends like that identified in this national intelligence assessment, and it's in a very wrong direction.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC counterterrorism analyst Roger Cressey. Roger, great, thanks for your time, as always.
CRESSEY: All right. Keith, thanks.
OLBERMANN: Executive privilege, it can exist, it can be justified, but can it possibly be invoked over the investigation of the death of Army Ranger hero Pat Tillman?
And who raised the most money, Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, or Harry Potter? You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The White House is just two days from a deadline to clear the record and its own conscience about how this administration used the death of Pat Tillman for propaganda purposes rather than telling the truth about it to his family and us.
In our fourth story tonight, the White House remaining defiant about the Tillman cover-up and its cover-up of the role played by Karl Rove and others in the U.S. attorney firings.
We told you on Friday that President Bush had invoked executive privilege to prevent Congress and Corporal Tillman's family from learning the truth about what the White House knew and what the Pentagon knew about the friendly-fire death of the former football star, and when they knew it.
Today, the House oversight committee invited six current and former Pentagon officials, including former Secretary Rumsfeld, to testify about what they knew at a hearing on the first of August.
And then there is, or then there is not, Harriet Miers, former White House counsel, integral to the U.S. attorney scandal, who defied a House subpoena last week, facing a deadline of tomorrow to change her mind or have Congress begin contempt proceedings against her.
And while observers speculated that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would decline to enforce such a finding, the House warned last week that it might circumvent Gonzales and try Ms. Miers in-house on a charge of what is known as "inherent contempt," one that was last used more than 70 years ago. Let's turn now to constitutional law scholar Jonathan Turley, professor at George Washington University.
Jonathan, thanks for your time again tonight, sir.
JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV.: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's start with the constitutional history here. Walk us through this phrase I doubt many people have heard of before, "inherent contempt." What is it and what could it mean for Harriet Miers?
TURLEY: Well, people may not realize this, but Congress routinely used to try people. In fact, in 1796, they held a full trial for a person for congressional bribery. They would routinely send the sergeant-at-arms who had arms and weapons to use and men to collect people and bring them to the Congress against their will, and they could hold them for the period of that session of Congress.
And they did this so often it actually became something of a burden. They still have that power, to hold the trial on the floor for someone in contempt. But they decided that they would be best to leave that to the Department of Justice so that they could increase the penalty and so that they did not have trials every week on the floor.
OLBERMANN: So is this still on the table and if it could be used against Harriet Miers - it sounds like it's a new-found weapon or an old weapon that has been newly found. Could be used against anyone in the administration who tries to hide behind executive privilege?
TURLEY: Technically, it can be, it is more likely that they would first proceed under the Section 192, which is the congressional contempt statute. And under that they would ask the U.S. attorney in D.C. to prosecute her.
This is a classic form of contempt. The sort of most straightforward act of contempt is not showing up. And I am not too sure why the White House did that. It was, in my view, a rather silly thing and dangerous thing to do.
She could have shown up and still invoked privilege, but instead, she did not show up and there were plenty of questions that might have been asked her which did not involve privilege.
So go to the U.S. attorney. The U.S. attorney who did earlier, in the Anne Gorsuch scandal in the Reagan Administration, refused to follow such a contempt procedure.
But the White House eventually backed down in that case. She resigned and they handed over the documents.
OLBERMANN: And of course Sara Taylor who, by contrast to Harriet Miers, did show up and then invoked executive privilege. But now let's say there is some sort of response in either of the matters that we are talking about, politically, legally, what could either the president or House Republicans do to block this?
Are we seeing a filibuster, or what happens? A pre-emptive pardon?
What happens first?
TURLEY: Well, you cannot filibuster in the House. You can in the Senate, but they could certainly try to break - block the vote procedurally. It is more difficult in the House. In terms of a pardon, you really cannot keep on pardoning her because she could keep being held in contempt. This would get rather old.
The best way to do it, of course, is to cooperate. Usually, presidents will cooperate. And the Tillman case is a great example of that. It is unbelievably weak as an assertion. But the White House seems to be invoking executive privilege if anyone is within a 25-mile radius of the building.
It is as clever and as elegant as a meat cleaver. It is a rather bad way to go about this. Past presidents have compromised. On something like Tillman, I don't think past presidents would have said, let's fight this one out.
OLBERMANN: About the Tillman case, what would be the possible executive privilege claim be in a case about which the president has denied any knowledge?
TURLEY: Right. Well, I think this - it is hard-pressed to me. This is really coming out of Vice President Cheney's shop, which views executive privilege as almost an absolute thing, which is invoked whenever a White House official is mentioned or questioned.
But the important thing for people to understand is that past presidents have issued conditional waivers. They have said, look, we are invoking executive privilege, but we're going to waive it in this circumstance because the public has a right to know.
I can't imagine a case stronger than the Tillman case. What occurred in Tillman truly shocks the conscience. A dead soldier was basically used as a propaganda ploy to help out the war. And the record seems pretty clear on that.
Why? Why anyone in the White House would stand on executive privilege instead of giving a conditional waiver? I do not know. It baffles the mind.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University, as always, John, great thanks. Have a good night.
TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The movie is making a mint. The new and final book is going to make a surprisingly large number of people read it backwards. And tonight we can reveal the surprise ending to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," Harry gets hopped up on goofballs and runs over Voldemort with a tank. Hallo!
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1949, Cindy Treuhand Garvey (ph) was born, the ex-wife of former baseball star Steve Garvey. She was the focus of perhaps the meanest banner ever hung by a fan at a World Series game. At a time when the missus was reportedly involved with another celebrity, somebody draped a huge banner from the upper deck in right field at Yankee Stadium, before the Yankees played Garvey's Dodgers in the 1981 World Series, which read in huge block letters, "Steve; Marvin Hamlish (ph)?"
On that note, let's play "Oddball."
OLBERMANN: We begin in Sydney, Australia. And it's "Oddball" chase
of the week. John Robert Patterson is the disgruntled man behind the wheel
or controls. He swiped the armored personnel carrier so he could knock down the mobile phone towers of the company he used to work for.
While we award him points for his creativity in getting back at his old bosses, Sydney police were not as impressed. Thus begin this slow speed chase, extremely crappy gas mileage, and Patterson could only run for so long.
The tank ran out of gas, police nabbed the perp. Now this is a Mad Max wannabe will have a chance to offset his carbon footprint in the big house.
To northern Japan where we find a newborn pooch with a brown heart-shaped patch of fur on its side. It's "Heart Puppy."
(MUSIC PLAYING, HEART'S "WHAT ABOUT LOVE?")
OLBERMANN: Uh, yes, "Heart Puppy," the puppy with the coronary mutation on its belly belongs to the owner of a pet shop who says that since "Heart Puppy" came along, he has received several offers to buy the dog. The shopkeep, however, refuses to sell because of the great luck "Heart Puppy" has brought them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It may sound strange, but since I saw him, my luck has been picking up. I won the Lottery and won a concert ticket. That must have been thanks to the power of heart.
OLBERMANN: Did you say, concert ticket? I wonder which concert.
OLBERMANN: Right now, it looks like John McCain's campaign couldn't buy a ticket to a Thursday matinee by a Heart tribute band. Three more staffers out the door today alone.
Let me see if I got this straight, you think the vote over which Springfield is the Simpsons Springfield was fixed? You're asking the attorney general to investigate. Somebody's going to wind up in Gitmo.
These stories ahead, but first here are Countdown's top three news makers of this day. Number three, Joseph Sutton, arrested in Palm Bay, Florida after asking a policeman for a lift at 5:00 a.m. on a deserted street. The officer said, sure, but I have to pat you down first before you get in the car. It's regulations. Mr. Sutton complied, which was kind of foolish, because he had marijuana on him at the time.
Number two, Deborah C. of Lindaugh, in Germany, who was asked to get off the city bus because of her bust. The 20-year-old had a summer outfit on with a revealing neck line and the driver pulled the bus over and shouted at her, your cleavage is distracting me every time I look in my mirror and I cannot concentrate on the traffic. The company defended their man, saying the bus driver is allowed to do that and he did the right thing. I hope at least she got a free transfer.
Number one, Stumpy the duck from the New Forest in England. He was born with four legs, but irony of ironies, he got one of them caught in chicken wire the other day. So now he only has three. But his owners says since the accident, Stumpy has also gotten himself a girlfriend. He now has a third leg and a girlfriend. If you think I am making that joke, you are crazy.
OLBERMANN: With polls not yet open and zero percent of the precincts reporting, MSNBC can now report the first results of the 2008 presidential elections. That's right, we're now predicting that Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore will not, repeat not, be the next president of the United States, unless something really fun happens in the electoral college, or the Supreme Court.
Gilmore, and the women who support him, who must necessarily be Gilmore Girls, have officially dropped out of the race. But in our third story tonight, the real 2008 story today, the unprecedented dominance of the Democratic candidates in the new fund raising figures, and the record breaking numbers racked up by Barack Obama.
From April 1st to June 30th, the eight Democratic candidates raised more than 80 million dollars among them, averaging 10 million. In the same period of time, the 10 Republicans took in less than 50 million, averaging less than five million each. Senator Obama raised the most, nearly 33 million, to Senator Clinton's 27, making Obama one of just three top candidates, along with Rudy Giuliani and Bill Richardson, to improve over the first quarter.
Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain, on the other hand, spent more than they took in. McCain cutting expenses yet again today with the resignation of his three top media aids, who apparently left without suggesting a way to spin their own departures. Let's turn now to our political analyst, Craig Crawford, columnist for "Congressional Quarterly," and author of "The Politics of Life."
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": You're on a roll. I hate to interrupt you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much. At the risk of picking on a guy who is clearly not on a roll, the McCain Straight Talk Express; did the wheels come off the vehicle? Or is there some kind of spin about lean, mean, fighting machine still possible at this point?
CRAWFORD: The wheels might have come off. He sort of looks like Fred
Flintstone going down the road with this new leaner campaign. I tell you,
if McCain can get back to being Luke Skywalker like he was in 2000, instead
of trying to be the Galactic Empire, which he tried to do and couldn't fund
I don't write him out completely. I am a little bit more charitable than my fellow chatterers about that.
OLBERMANN: The Democratic dominance in fund raising to this point; obviously recent history it's notable. What is its real meaning, and have the Republicans basically winnowed themselves down to three or maybe just two candidates already?
CRAWFORD: It's a tangible evidence of what we've been seeing in polls, which is an enthusiasm deficit between the two parties. Republicans are very demoralized and even depressed, I guess I would say, about their party, and that is starting to show in the fund raising. Democrats are riding high with their voters and their sympathizers wanting to give them money.
Right now, the Republican side is just still looking for someone to get excited about.
OLBERMANN: The record breaker, in terms of if the moneys raised, Senator Obama - let's turn to him for a moment. In addition to the total, they keep pointing out in that campaign that it's the type of donation that he is getting that raises eyebrows. Walk us through that. Some of us have heard it before. But walk us through it again, if you could.
CRAWFORD: Well, his overall numbers of donors are so unprecedented and so much larger than his rivals. One thing he is doing, he is using some techniques that goose those numbers up. Now the other campaigns are starting to play catch-up in this regard. For one thing, Keith, he does paid events. Low dollar, I mean, they charge maybe 25 dollars to go to an Obama speech. That counts as a donor.
Also, if they sell a bumper sticker for two dollars, they count that as a donor. Of course, they capture those peoples' information and can go back to them for money. This is all valid and legal. But it is one reason they have been able to goose those numbers up. That is nothing to take away from the genuine enthusiasm he is generating out there.
OLBERMANN: Analyze one more number for me about Obama, the "Los Angeles Times" reported this curious - let's call curious - is it curious or is it troubling, less than 14 percent of his money is coming geographically from the south. Does that necessarily mean he has less support there or just less big donors there?
CRAWFORD: I would imagine something similar for all of Democrats. The south is the Republican base. Obama is going to probably have more voters in the south. The African American voters are really an influential vote in the southern states. But in fund-raising, that didn't - did not surprise me too much.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you finally - considering the source here - but I am just wondering to what degree this is actually floating around behind the scenes. Robert Novak said yesterday that the one thing that might energize the Republicans is the prospect they feel of facing either a woman or a black man in this campaign. Is just the cynical view of a very cynical, bitter old man or is there something to that, is that actually running around in Republican circles?
CRAWFORD: Well, he does probably call himself the Prince of Darkness. There may be some light to that theory. I see the possibility emerging of a Clinton/Obama or an Obama/Clinton ticket. That will raise those kinds of concerns among some Democratic operatives about whether a black and a woman on a ticket is a problem.
But I would say, if you look at the blue states that Gore and Kerry won in the last two elections, I don't think a ticket like that would lose any of those blue states. So then it becomes a question of whether they can pick up some of the swing states like Ohio, Florida or maybe a collection of the Western states.
I think the math is there. It may be the enthusiasm that would generate for such an unprecedented type ticket would overwhelm the traditional concerns people have.
OLBERMANN: Yes, we'll see if there is a Republican dumb enough to actually play that up. Craig Crawford of MSNBC and "Congressional Quarterly," thanks as always, Craig.
The Harry Potter movie, of course, has already earned more money than all the Democrats and Republicans combined, which A, tells you a lot about America and B, tells you one of the candidates should probably make his own Harry Potter movie.
And Paris Hilton claims she has voted. When she is asked. Last year, she answers. Which election, she is asked. The president. Think about that for a second and then Countdown continues.
OLBERMANN: One hundred hours and counting until Harry Potter fans in this country will get their first chance to crack open J.K. Rowling's seventh and final installment in the wizardry series. And if the weight seems excruciating, so too could be the race to the final pages of the book. Our number two story on the Countdown, Potter patience or lack their off. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" starts flying off store shelves Friday at 12:00 midnight prevailing local time.
A new poll finds that at 12:01 a.m. a surprising number of us are likely to head right to the last page. A survey of British readers found 17 percent, nearly one in five, will go straight to the final page to see who is left standing at the end of the series. Author J.K. Rowling says at least two main characters will die in this book.
Meantime, at the box office, the Harry Potter movies are doing anything but dying. And that has people here in Hollywood breathing a huge sigh of relief. Our correspondent is Peter Alexander.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Concentrate Potter, focus.
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a darker, more mature Harry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is just a boy. You see much more and you might as well induct him into the order straight away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good, I want to join. If Voldemort is raising an army, I want to fight.
ALEXANDER: Six years after he first started at Hogwarts, Harry is still winning the fight at the box office. In its first five days, the latest Potter film has brought in 140 million dollars in the United States, thanks in part to an unorthodox campaign of opening the film this past Wednesday with midnight screenings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This film opened with record-breaking numbers on Wednesday, doing a 42.4 million dollars. It had 12 million dollars in midnight previews alone.
ALEXANDER: Harry's most loyal fans said the midnight shows just added to the magic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love going to midnight shows because everyone dresses up or I get to dress up. And it is lots of fun.
ALEXANDER: The rest of the world is wild about Harry too. "The Order of the Phoenix" has already hauled in another 190 million dollars in foreign markets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harry Potter, you will lose everything.
ALEXANDER: Films with a child stars can risk losing their appeal as the actors age. That has not happened in the Potter series, as the audience has grown up alongside its on-screen heroes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The order of the Phoenix" is definitely more sophisticated than the earlier films. Of course, that makes sense because the characters are older. Harry Potter is a very rare instance of a franchise that seems to get better with age.
OLBERMANN: An easy segue then into our nightly round of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs, with Lindsay Lohan out of rehab and wearing an alcohol sniffing ankle bracelet. I have to see this. Well, in essence, the alcohol monitoring bracelet detects vapors from the skin for traces of Ethanol, the body's byproduct when it's digesting alcohol. Miss Lohan voluntarily choosing to wear the device having checked out of the Promises Alcohol and Drug Treatment Facility in Malibu last Friday, and last Saturday checking back into the club scene.
Miss Lohan reportedly partying at Pure Nightclub in Las Vegas. Her beverages of choice were Red Bull and water. As for Miss Lohan's on-going out patient treatment, it will include Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and therapy. The therapy might be handy indeed, since TMZ.com claims a celebrity blog is threatening to post nude photos of Miss Lohan taken by a former boyfriend.
And when it comes to "The Price is Right" getting to the bottom of who will host that show, it may take a while. Although I can tell you without fear of contradiction, it is not going to be Dan Patrick and he was flattered, but he never auditioned. The mystery continues, with unconfirmed reports that Drew Carey is now top choice. That according to the "New York Daily News," which said the deal is contingent upon Carey doing a full hour trial run of "The Price is Right." Executives are also reportedly interested in seeing Carey's performance when he hosts a prime time game show on NBC next month called "The Power of Ten."
As for replacing Bob Barker, Mr. Carey says, it is nothing but humorous rumors. And yet, he says, quote, why not? It would be fun to do I think. If something happens, yes.
The great Springfield vote. An Oregon Congressman asks Attorney General Gonzales to investigate if there was voter fraud over the selection of the Simpson's hometown. And your asking the right guy there. That's ahead but first here are Countdown's top three Worst Persons in the World.
The bronze tonight to Thomas Lepsche (ph) of Kingsport, Tennessee. A private pilot upstairs looking for good fishing holes of Kentucky, landing at Middlesborough (ph), Kentucky. Landing lights on, check. Radio contact with the tower, check. Landing gear down, oh, I forgot. Nobody was injured when Mr. Lepsche put his plane down without putting his landing gear down first. He generously described it as pilot error.
The runner up tonight, Sirius Satellite Radio. It offers political channels of both prominent descriptions, talk channels that is. It turns out that for liberals, there is Sirius left and for conservatives there is Sirius Patriot. You might want to re-brand that conservative channel before people start calling it, say, Sirius fascism.
But our winner, Robert Novak, the linchpin in the Valerie Plame leak, revealing to C-SPAN that Karl Rove has been a source of his since the 1970's. Speaking of Rove, I've never enjoyed such a good source inside the White House. Mentioning also, he tries not to ever criticize a source in one of his columns.
OK, just put aside the image you have of one of those cartoons with the rhetorical question, how many things can you spot that are wrong in this pictures. Mr. Novak, you do understand at some level, back in some unused corner of your brain, where your ethics could be, you do realize that Karl Rove played you like a two dollar banjo, right? Robert Novak, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: It was meant to be a simple choice, vote for which Springfield is the Springfield in the Simpsons. But with last week's winner, which as we told you was Springfield, Vermont, now comes the controversy. Our number one story on the Countdown, a Congressman from Springfield, Oregon wants Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to look into possible words. In other words, Mr. Gonzales has finally been given something he can sink his teeth into. Mmm, Simpsons election irregularities.
Mind you, the protest letter form Representative Peter Defazio is meant as a joke. It begins, "Heidely Ho, Attorney General Gonzales." And yet, it includes language probably found in scores of letters to the attorney general; "I know there is a strong possibility that you may come back and say that you don't recall to what I am referring, so let me refresh your memory."
Defazio wonders how Springfield, Vermont garnered more than 15,000 votes in the "USA Today" online vote when its population is only about 9,000. "Unless they passed a law giving cows the right to vote," the Congressman writes, "the smacks of election fraud."
Mr. Defazio grudgingly acknowledging the giant donut in Vermont's winning audition tape, but insists that a sinister undercurrent is at hand, and if we have not yet gathered that Congressman Defazio's letter was a joke, here is the real tipoff; "knowing how passionately the Bush administration feels about counting every vote, I'm sure you will want to investigate the matter."
Mr. Defazio signs off with "Okely Dokely." No response from the attorney general's office, like that's news. Let's turn now to television personality Mo Rocca, also publisher and editor of "MoRocca180.com." Mo, good evening.
MO ROCCA, MOROCCA180.COM: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is there any particular reason to believe that the attorney general actually would have figured out on his own that this is a joke?
ROCCA: No, not at all. This is a Justice Department that has aggressively investigated those meddling kids from Scooby Doo for their use of marijuana. They have looked very closely at "Family Guy," the characters, because they don't believe that they are espousing family values. It is certainly not beyond them to investigate this.
OLBERMANN: If this brouhahas has, in fact, somehow tricked the Bush administration into investigating actual voter fraud, could the congressman here be onto something? Could we use other cartoon characters? Could we use "Family Guy" or Scooby Doo to get the administration into other things like privacy rights, health care, the constitution?
ROCCA: Sure, I think one thing we could do is we could get the Justice Department to investigate the firings of Barney Rubbel from the Bedrock Quarry, because that would set a precedent and the Justice Department would have to investigate the firing of those prosecutors, definitely.
OLBERMANN: Damn you, Mr. Slate. Switching gears a bit, away from the animated cartoons to just the elected cartoons. Senator David Vitter, the Republican from Indiana, regarding his connection to the D.C. Madame and the scandal, and he kind of obliquely apologized, but otherwise seemed to be pretty much in denial about the whole thing. His wife in leopard skin. And by the way, this was not worthy of live coverage on Fox News tonight.
Is this the end of that whole D.C. Madam story, at least as far as Mr.
Vitter is concerned?
ROCCA: Well, I think Mrs. Vitter, first of all, wants to make sure that he is never, ever tempted again. If David Vitter is telling the truth, then he is guilty of sin, sinful stupidity in registering for an escort service and never partaking. That is just dumb.
OLBERMANN: Get yourself in - Never mind. We're going to switch over to Paris Hilton and this is a political story. MSNBC.com's Jeanette Walls reporting that during the commercial breaks in that very deadly Hilton/Larry King interview, he asked her if she votes. She said yes, quote, last year. And then he asked in which election she voted and Miss Hilton said, presidential.
It seems to me there's only two choices here, Mo, was she really early on this or was she really late?
ROCCA: Here's what happened, she went to vote in 2004. She tried to do it, but she did not know how to use the lever. And so she was held back by the electoral college. It's a first. She has returned every year since then to fulfill her obligation, but she fails every time. That is simply what is happening.
Hopefully, she will manage to pass one of these years.
OLBERMANN: Like pulling a lever would not remind her of anything. When presidential candidates claim they want a country of informed voters, they're not using Paris Hilton in mind as the model?
ROCCA: No, they are not. They're talking about somebody like Nicole Richie, who knows the issues, who knows the candidates. While Nicole Richie knows how to pull the lever, she is not strong enough to do it. It takes a lot and she is about 73 pounds.
OLBERMANN: That has assisted voting. She gets someone to go in and help her. This list that came out which celebrities gave money to which presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had this slew of celebrities. Other Democrats did pretty well. But the Rudy Giuliani list has Kelsey Grammar, Melissa Gilbert from "Little House on the Prairie," Alex Rodriguez from baseball.
So Giuliani is almost as good as the Democrats at getting named donors?
ROCCA: I'm not sure about that, but we do know from Giuliani's list that half pint likes it rough. Who knew. But Hillary Clinton's list is actually really exciting. It is packed with more stars from the "Towering Inferno," minus O.J. Simpson. She's got Paul Newman. She's got Tom Hanks. She's got Marla Maples. I just wish she had Fred Astaire. That would be great.
These lists are very interesting. Mark Ruffalo, an actor that I like very much, is the only celebrity on Mike Gravel's list, so I think his agent needs to advise him on better candidate selection.
OLBERMANN: TV personality Mo Rocca of MoRocca180.com. Where did you get that name?
ROCCA: I know.
OLBERMANN: Great thanks for your time, Mo.
ROCCA: All right, thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this the 1,538th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From Los Angeles, 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