'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 18
Guests: P.J. Crowley, Thomas Ricks, Chris Cillizza, Thom Geier
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The filibuster, the Democrats tried finally to put the brakes on the war. The Republicans, even those who claim they are now anti-war, schemed to let the killing continue. The Republicans not supporting the troops, supporting only the president.
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SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: They are saying that you need 60 votes. That is a new math that was developed by the Republicans to protect the president. That's what it's all about.
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OLBERMANN: Is it what it's all supposed to be about, protecting the country? Then how come the new national intelligence estimate says in essence, for all the gutting of the constitution, all the fear, all the dead in Iraq, this might as well be the summer of 2001 in terms of our actual risk of terror.
The actual result when we leave Iraq, the president said it would be an al Qaeda stronghold, but even the military's own war games predict it becomes three separate nations, none of which is under al Qaeda's control.
Who controls the Republican Party? The favorite candidate with the largest piece of the nomination puzzle. Not Giuliani, not Romney, not McCain, not Thompson. Speaking of not under control and peace, the conscience of the nation does it again.
Bill O's interview of a young woman turning into the revelation of his darkest fantasies.
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BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Do you have clothes on? Is it two women together? Is this a fantasy picture thing where you are dressed up in a certain way?
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OLBERMANN: Bill O'Reilly, the conscience of a nation, since, since, well, maybe he will start on that tomorrow. All that and more now on Countdown.
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O'REILLY: It's not a negligee situation or anything like that.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from Los Angeles, where if the great Frank Capra had directed it, last night's Senate all nighter would have been a lot more entertaining. Where had Francis Ford Coppola been at that helm, going to the mattresses would have involved far more than a few folding cots.
Instead tonight in our fifth story on the Countdown, we are left with yet another Republican filibuster that has blocked an up or down vote on a plan to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.
President Bush and Senate Republicans still employing a solid zone defense in their effort to run out the clock in the administration's second term before the White House is forced to even consider a troop withdrawal plan.
The early morning hours of the Senate's first all-nighter in four years giving way to a late morning vote in which Republicans put the kibosh on the Levin/Reed amendment, which would have withdrawn American combat troops by the end of April 2008.
The Democrats getting only 52 of the 60 votes they needed to survive the filibuster. When Republicans controlled the last session of Congress, the GOP threatened to use the so-called "nuclear" option to do away with filibusters forever. So in sense were they over the Democrats use of the procedure to prevent the confirmation of conservative federal judicial nominees. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, the filibuster is the Republicans' new best friend. The Democrats are accusing Republicans of a short memory and also of hypocrisy.
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REID: My friend, Senator McConnell, says everyone knows it's 60 votes on controversial issues around here. Well last November, Iraq wasn't very controversial because we had simple up and down votes. It is obvious to the American people that the war in Iraq has gone the wrong way. All of a sudden now seven months after the last defense authorization bill, they are saying you need 60 votes. That is a new math that is developed by the Republicans to protect the president. That's what it's all about.
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OLBERMANN: In the wake of the filibuster, Majority Leader Reid pulling the entire defense authorization bill from consideration on the Senate floor. And for that, the Republicans underline their own efforts to keep the bill from passing, managed to accuse Democrats of not supporting the troops or giving them the care they need.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My friends just a short time ago, we were outraged at the conditions at Walter Reed Hospital and we vowed that we'd fix it. That we would take care of these men and women who have been wounded. That is part of this bill.
Now what happens? Now what happens? And I can't tell you how much I regret it. And I am much more sad that I am angry.
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OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at "Newsweek" magazine. Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me see if I've got this straight. Republicans see to it that nothing gets done in the Senate about Iraq, undermined legislation that was intended to support the troops, guaranteed that it is a do-nothing Congress, at least for the moment, and the Democrats are responsible for all of that?
ALTER: Yeah, well, but I don't think that, as they say, that dog won't hunt for the Republicans. If we are in a different climate right now, then this idea that the Democrats don't support the troops, that they're using legislative games to prevent us from doing what needs to be done in Iraq. That might work out of John McCain's mouth, but that period has passed, Keith. And the onus is now on the Republicans to start to wind down this war and what's interesting to me about this filibuster fight is you have three or four Republicans, people like John Warner and Richard Lugar, who clearly have changed their view on the war, but they did not have the courage of their convictions last night. And they couldn't go along in great enough numbers to break the filibuster.
OLBERMANN: The exact criticism from the Republican base and from the White House today was the all-nighter was just political theater. Was that not the point of it? To put the GOP's continued use of the filibuster to block the legislation about Iraq under proverbial limelights?
ALTER: It was the point of most things in Washington is theater, but in this particular case, I think the message didn't get through really that it was Republicans who were obstructionist. The Republicans are better at playing pin the tail on the donkey when they have the majority and making the Republicans look like obstructionists then the Democrats aren't making the Republicans look bad.
But the theater was directed at another target in this case, Keith, and that is the Democratic base. Remember, you and I have talked in the past about how angry a lot of liberal Democrats were when the Democrats in Congress couldn't push through the cut off of funding.
This was a way for the Democratic leadership to say, hey, we're going to pull in an all-nighter, we're going to bring in the cots, we're going to signal to you as strongly as we can that we're doing everything we can to end this war. The problem is, they can't end the war without Republican help. And so far, there is not enough of that.
OLBERMANN: All right, four Republican senators: Snow, Collins, Hagel and Smith were the only ones to vote both against the war and the president.
So ultimately, with the theater, with that small increase of
Republican dissent here, has the ball been moved at all in terms of ending the war?
ALTER: Yes, it has been in a pretty significant way. I know that it is frustrating for people that legislation has not passed, but look at the Baker/Hamilton commission report. Six months ago, it was rejected by President Bush. It was rejected by Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Now, quite a sizable number of Republicans want to revive that. And the Democrats, Harry Reid and others, are saying no, no, no, that was not tough enough in terms of winding down this war.
So the Baker/Hamilton commission report is now back in business as a possibility. And that shifts the center of gravity from the whole debate toward the anti-war position.
So this is a process, Keith, it is not going to end overnight. But I do believe that six months from now, events and Republicans are going to force this president to change course just in order to save their own skins in the 2008 election.
OLBERMANN: And they will then claim credit for it. Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and "Newsweek." As always Jon, great, thanks.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That we are in Iraq coming at great cost to the fight against terrorism. That according to the national intelligence estimate. The conflict there causing the Bush administration to drop the ball in the fight with al Qaeda in Pakistan.
Privately, according to the "New York Times" the White House recognizes its failure. Publicly of course, nothing doing, it's still contending that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. As for Pakistan, well, it's on the to do list.
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TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is obviously very difficult business, but make no mistake about it, we are determined to get bin Laden. We're determined to get Zawahiri. We're determined to get senior leadership of al Qaeda. Furthermore, we are determined to continue to develop methods by with we interrupt, intercept, kill and capture those who were involved, but also use whatever means at our disposal to make it more difficult.
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OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to the former Pentagon spokesman P.J.
Crowley, now senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
P.J., good evening to you, sir.
P.J. CROWLEY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Good evening to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For all intents and purposes, as was described in some places today, could this be the summer of 2001 again? I mean instead of the title "The threat to the U.S. homeland," could that new report just as easily have been headlined "Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S."?
CROWLEY: Sure. I mean, the NIE is only two pages long, but it makes crystal clear that while the threat is more complex, it is just as dangerous as it was in 2001.
I think it is an indictment of the decision in 2002 to shift our focus from Afghanistan to Iraq. It also exposes a couple of presidential myths. The president is fond of saying "We are fighting them in Iraq so we don't have to confront them here."
The NIE makes clear they have a variety of ways to attack us here. And so obviously - at least the White House is now mentioning bin Laden's name again. I remember Condi Rice at one point saying that in conversations with the president, bin Laden's name never comes up.
OLBERMANN: In the wake of this release of the NIE, in responses to charges that the president had ignored warnings pre-Iraq invasion that al Qaeda would only gain influence from what happened there, this White House homeland security adviser, Ms. Townsend said today in effect that just because you provoke a swarm when you poke at a hornet's nest, does not mean that you should not be poking at everyone's hornet's nest that you can. But three years ago, Dr. Rice said the administration didn't do anything basically about al Qaeda during 2001, because the president had said he didn't want to swat at flies. So this is our replacing the old orange threat level system, this is our new terror symbolism. You attack hornets, but you don't swat at flies?
CROWLEY: Well you know, regrettably, the NIE makes clear that what we have done since 2003 has made our challenge that much more difficult. That we have given al Qaeda time to recover, a rallying point so they can recruit new operatives and raise resources.
We've given them a variety of new ways because of their contacts with regional groups and their inspiration of self starters, a variety of new ways to attack the homeland.
OLBERMANN: And yet then as now, what is the administration planning to do about this threat, other than continuing to claim that Iraq is the central battlefront on the war on terror? And while privately acknowledging Pakistan is a problem and central in some way, it doesn't seem to have a clue or any wherewithal to do anything about Pakistan.
CROWLEY: And this is a very complex situation because Pakistan has never had - the central government has never exercised authority over the tribal areas. These guys are to some extent now in a safe haven in no man's land.
We have to find ways to support President Musharraf, push him to go further as he has in recent days to confront militants in his country. We have to find ways to strengthen the Karzai government in Afghanistan. But look, to a large extent, we have made bin Laden's job a lot easier. We have validated the al Qaeda narrative. We are the occupiers of sacred lands. We are war with Lizam (ph). So lots of this is that we have to stop doing things that gives bin Laden unjustified legitimacy in the Muslim world.
OLBERMANN: And back here of course, timing is everything and we see one of these curious sequences juxtapositions again. The Bush administration announcing today it has arrested the highest-ranking Iraqi leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. The capture took place two weeks ago, but yet the White House is announcing this arrest, perhaps politicizing it because this is one day after it was given a failing report card in the war on terror by its own investigation of it. Is this as blatant a - well we've got to come up with something big to obscure yesterday's bad news for us as we've had before?
CROWLEY: Well, as Jon Alter said, nothing's going to change the primary focus here, but I guess at least they didn't say it was another turning point.
There have been so many turning points over the past four years, we're all becoming dizzy. I mean, at some point we have to - what the NIE ultimately reminds us is that not withstanding the president's claim that we are fighting guys in Iraq today who are responsible for 9/11 - that is not true. It's dishonest. And what the NIE reminds us of is that these are the guys, core al Qaeda in Pakistan - in a safe haven, they're the ones who are responsible for 9/11. We know where they are and we also know why they still matter.
OLBERMANN: P.J. Crowley of the Center for American Progress. As always, P.J. great thanks.
CROWLEY: OK, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What happens after we leave? The Bush administration forecasts al Qaeda control. Our own military's war games say nope, the outcome will be anything but that.
And who leads among the would-be Republican presidential candidates? Not him, not him, and not him. An amazing new poll tonight. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Every day in Iraq, on average, American soldiers are dying because President Bush says of his ability to see the future, specifically his guess that if we leave, al Qaeda will take over.
In our fourth story tonight, the U.S. military has conducted a series of war games simulating withdrawal from Iraq to see what would actually happen. The military men who led those war games have now revealed the results to the "Washington Post."
And as has been the case with so may of his predictions about both al Qaeda and Iraq, President Bush's central claim in his argument for staying in Iraq appears to be very wrong.
In fact, the most likely result appears to be a three-way split. Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the west, Shia in the south. There would be considerable bloodshed. There would not be considerable American bloodshed. The war games did not lead to al Qaeda's save havens in Iraq, nor Iraq's use as a launching pad for attacks on America, a scenario the new NIE says is likely now under the president's current plan. Furthermore, the war games suggested that Iran would not benefit from a U.S. withdrawal. It would instead, and who saw this coming, get sucked into the quagmire of Shiite civil war.
Let's turn now to the co-author of the "Washington Post" report, Thomas Ricks, also author of course of "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq." Great thanks for some of your time again tonight, sir.
THOMAS RICKS, WASHINGTON POST: You're welcome.
OLBERMANN: How credible are root findings of these war games that you reported on today?
RICKS: Well look, obviously no one knows what's going to happen. But the consensus that came out of these war games and the simulations and scenarios was that you probably, as you said, would have a break up of the country, a very ugly break up of the country with lots of bloodshed, maybe tens of thousands of people dying, but that you wouldn't have an al Qaeda takeover of the country of any stretch of the imagination.
OLBERMANN: Is there an indication from these games what would happen in these scenarios and these plays to indicate what would happen to that organization known as al Qaeda in Iraq if the U.S. did withdraw?
RICKS: Well, the thought was that they would probably be pushed out into the west into the Anbar Province. But the Anbar Province right now is not a very receptive for them out there. The tribes have gotten sick of them out there and have expelled them. So they might try to have small hiding places, but wouldn't be able to actually take over large chunks of the country.
OLBERMANN: Is it fair to make the conclusion based on what they have found here, that the best way for confronting whatever Iran is doing in Iraq is actually for us to get out of Iraq because our departure would redound negatively toward Iran?
RICKS: Well, I think getting us out of Iraq also would make it easier for the United States to deal with Iran because they would not have the leverage.
They can step up the violence against U.S. troops whenever we pressure them on nuclear weapons, for example. That said, there are no good answers.
You used the word best. I think the point you begin with in Iraq is that there are no good answers left. There are only bad answers. In this whole national discussion we're having is what is the least bad answer. Yes, getting us out of Iraq would certainly make it easier to deal with Iran in a variety of ways.
And Iran might suddenly find itself dealing with a civil war in the south between different Shiite factions.
OLBERMANN: What if anything, is the administration doing with the results of these war games? Are they ignoring them? Is this being taken to heart in some corners?
RICKS: Well, I think it's being listened to inside the U.S. military. And the U.S. military in a variety of ways is going to have to tell the White House by mid-September not only where it thinks things are in Iraq, but where things are going and what to do about it.
So I think that's being taken on board. When I was out in Baghdad, about six weeks ago, a senior official said to me, one thing you need to take away from here is that al Qaeda is not going to take his place over.
OLBERMANN: You also reported this week on military speculation that Mr. Bush is pushing General Petraeus now so that he will have a the scapegoat if September brings back news. Obviously, that's been speculated about outside the military for quite some while. If true, what is the goal of that? Is it to protect the dwindling public support for the president's position on this? Or is to keep the debate focused on what to do in Iraq rather than when and how to leave?
RICKS: What I am told is that the president is leaning on the general quite a lot because General Petraeus has more credibility than the White House at this point.
What you hear from Republican operatives is that when the president begins to talk about Iraq, people kind of just blank it out. They juts don't listen anymore.
But that General Petraeus is listened to and does have the respect of people. So they're leaning quite a lot on General Petraeus right now.
But there's also a pattern in the administration that Larry Korb and other people have pointed out that when things go sour, the president stops saying, "I listen to the military" and instead starts blaming them.
You saw that with General Shinseki early on before the war began on and later General Casey, who was the U.S. commander for a couple of years, has been described as somebody who presided over a failed strategy that the White House finally had to pull the plug on.
OLBERMANN: Is the listening to General Petraeus now or is he listening for the right moment to push General Petraeus under that same bus?
RICKS: Well, I think they are listening to General Petraeus quite a lot. I think they see him as their last best hope. At the same time, by making Petraeus such a central figure, as of September 15, this is going to be General Petraeus' war, as much as it is Bush's war and I think that is quite a heavy load to hang around the neck of someone who is not a political actor and is really not in a position to respond to the White House or to attacks on him by Senator Reid and Senate Democrats.
OLBERMANN: Thomas Ricks, who has done such insightful work for the "Washington Post," and his book "Fiasco" as well. Great, thanks again, sir.
And a sad note that has hit all of us in the NBC News family today that relates to all this. General Wayne Downing, our longtime military analyst, died suddenly overnight after a brief illness. Four star-general Downing shared his generous knowledge of military affairs, helping to guide our coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the trips he took the region with our own Brian Williams, frequent appearances on this newscast and others here on MSNBC.
He served two combat tours in Vietnam as a junior infantry officer. He led a special ops unit during the 1989 invasion of Panama and he commanded a key special ops task force during the first Gulf War.
After his retirement, he continued to serve his country in the war on terror, advising Presidents Clinton and Bush on terror threats. General Downing was also Professor Downing to many. He was the chairman of the Combating Terrorism Center of West Point and also a professor of leadership at the University of Michigan. General Wayne Downing will be remembered and greatly missed by all of his friends and his colleagues here. He was 67-years-old.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1938, an airplane touched out down at Baldonnel airfield in Dublin and out popped pilot Douglas Corrigan who probably began to wonder why everybody there in California was speaking in an Irish accident. Corrigan had left New York City nine days earlier bound for Long Beach, but had accidentally gone east and not west and did not notice for about 26 hours that that was ocean below him not say, Ohio. Forever after dubbed Wrong-Way Corrigan, he became slightly famous even though it was widely believed that he had not made a mistake so gigantic that it became charming, but rather, that it was a stunt designed to make him a slightly famous.
On that note, let's play Oddball. We begin in France, back to the Tour de France or Tour de France on stage 10 where a guy from Denmark currently wears the yellow jersey. Who needs a yellow jersey when you've got a yellow thong?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they can't see the tail of the convoy because they're now five minutes and 15 seconds - that man there looks like Borat, I think, isn't he?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's got to be.
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OLBERMANN: It looks like an imposter. The faux Borat remained in front of the pack momentarily. Unfortunately, if you look closely at Tour de France rules, competitors must be on a bicycle for official consideration. He seems to have lost his. Where, there's your steroid rage right there.
At the British parliament, MPs in an effort to get improved performance from the House of Commons, have invited Indian yoga guru Baba Ramdev to teach them how to relieve stress using breathing exercises and some hot, open-shirt chest heaving, Swami Ramdev is hoping his brand of spiritual relaxation will help parliament become more energetic and creative.
And if particular spiritual tactic does not work, MPs say they will follow the California state legislature's head and bring in some Shaolin monks to kick them in the jimmies.
In our politics, speaking about a kick in the jimmies. A new polls on the preferred presidential candidate of Republican voters, the identity of the leader is absolutely startling.
As are several vendors startled tonight, hit by Scholastic books with lawsuits after they evidently since decided to start selling the final version of Harry Potter novel early. These stories next. But first time for Countdown's top three newsmakers.
Number three, the fire department of Braintree, Massachusetts. They got an invitation from the owners of a home - the owners were going to tear it down. They said use it for practice. So all the fire fighters hurried over to 30 Coolidge Avenue and practiced knocking ventilation holes in the rough of the place.
The problem was the home that was going to be torn down wasn't at 30 Coolidge Avenue. It was at 6 Harrison Avenue. Owner Jeffrey Loo (ph) says he would like it if the fire department came back and rebuilt his roof, please.
Number two, Ben Czislowski of Australia's rugby Football League. He has been suffering from severe headaches and an eye infection for 15 weeks. Doctors were very frightened. That is when someone noticed the tooth in his forehead. It belonged to rival player Matt Austin. Czislowski and Austin banged heads in a game 15 weeks ago and Austin left his tooth there.
Number one, Dr. Markus Heinrichs of University of Zurich in Switzerland. He and his team believe they have come up with a medicinal cure for shyness. It is a nasal spray made up of a synthetic form of feel good brain hormone called oxytocin. Sorry Rush, I said oxytocin.
OLBERMANN: A recent AP/Ipsos poll reveals a stunning showing in the GOP presidential race from a dark horse candidate who has not spent one dime, who has given no interviews and will definitely not even enter the primaries. In our third story tonight, this latest poll showing that out of the nine declared Republican presidential candidates, the leader right now is Mr. none of the above.
None of the above picked up the support of 23 percent of Republicans polled in last week's survey, edging out former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had 21 percent, undeclared candidate Fred Thompson at 19, and Senator John McCain at 15. John McCain is running in fourth place with only one declared candidate ahead of him.
A recent Gallup poll, on the other hand, showing McCain, Thompson and Giuliani running slightly ahead of none of the above. But overall, polls suggest Democrats are much happier with their slate of candidates than Republicans are with theirs. The AP-Ipsos poll finding almost one out of four Republicans are wishing for some kind of alternative. Little more than one in 10 Democrats feel similarly.
Let's turn now to Chris Cillizza, who writes the Fix blog as national political reporter for WashingtonPost.com. Chris, as always, great thanks.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How seriously do we take this? What doe this mean, this Republican none of the above championship?
CILLIZZA: I think what it means - This is the most recent of a lot of polls that have shown essentially the same thing - is that there are a lot of candidates selling themselves and a lot of GOP voters not buying. We have seen this over and over again that Republicans, when asked if they would like an alternative, say yes. Now, we all thought that alternative was going to be Fred Thompson, actor, painting himself as a conservative, southern.
But unfortunately for Fred Thompson, at least yet, he is not filling that void. People just want something else. You know, I think it shows that there is a lot of fatigue with the president and there is a lot of fatigue with this war, even among the Republican base who remains loyal to both of those principles.
OLBERMANN: Is there anybody - if it is not Thompson, is there anyone who can take advantage of that gap? Is this the call to arms that Newt Gingrich keeps hearing in his sleep?
CILLIZZA: I'm skeptical. I think one of the candidates we currently see in the field - and I'll put Fred Thompson in that field, because I think he is going to get in the near future - I think one of them is going to be the one to fill that gap. Mitt Romney, I think, is in a pretty good position to fill it. He is running as a social conservative. Obviously his record in Massachusetts tells a slightly different story. But he is going to have the money. He is organizationally very well set up in Iowa and New Hampshire.
So I think one of the four candidates - that's McCain, Thompson, Giuliani, or Romney is going to fill that void. I do not think Newt Gingrich or I know a lot of people like to throw out Jeb Bush. I don't think we're going to see some candidate no one knows about come in to fill it.
OLBERMANN: Where is the much vaunted Christian right is these numbers? What you just said begs that question. Why did it not ensure it had somebody running. If it did, why are its members not supporting him. Because this suggest if they meant Giuliani to be their guy, it's not working, at least not now.
CILLIZZA: You know, it's fascinating. I did a story earlier in the year in the Post where I talked to a lot of social conservative leaders and what they told me, almost to a person, was we know we need to be more practical. You know, we supported a Gary Bauer or an Alan Keyes in 1999 and 2000. And they didn't have a chance to win. We want to get with someone who can win.
Well, a lot of them went with McCain and we see where that has gotten them. Many went with Romney. They're still there. I think we're going to see a lot go with Thompson. But the reality is the Christian right that existed in the 1990's is not there anymore. It has fragmented in a number of different ways, and it is not this one block of votes that they get behind a candidate and all of a sudden that's the socially conservative candidate.
OLBERMANN: The Democratic side of things; we learn that Oprah Winfrey is going to host a fund-raiser for Barack Obama. Apart from the nice phrasing here of Oprah/Obama, does she help him more about money, with tapping into the African American vote, which is still Senator Clinton's game to lose there? What is the point of this?
CILLIZZA: One is it is celebrity and its excitement and it is going to get people like us talking about it. And there is value in that. The other thing is money. Look, Oprah Winfrey, the last time I saw, was worth 1.5 billion dollars. What is a few hundred million between friends?
This is someone who has extensive networks in both financial and celebrity culture. The reality, especially on the Democratic side, is a lot of money that is donated to political candidates comes from that celebrity culture. I think it is a nice press hit for him and I also think it is going to give him a nice financial boost.
OLBERMANN: Chris Cillizza, author of the Fix at WashingtonPost.com. As always, great thanks, Chris.
CILLIZZA: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One quick item from New York City tonight, where there was an hour of terrible deja vu. The reality appears to be an accident and a serious one, but this was the moment. Dozens of terrified people, some literally running out of their shoes with a cloud behind them at street level after a sound equated by witnesses to the roar of a 747 taken off rumbling just east of Grand Central Station.
It was not terrorism, but a steam pipe 24 inches in diameter exploding and sending geysers of steam and dirt and pavement and debris skyward. The plume reached as high as the 1,047 foot tall Chrysler Building, just a block up from the apparent epicenter. It threw transportation in the city in rush hour into utter chaos.
there is an SUV in the big hole there. And New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at a news conference going on in Manhattan, says there is one fatality having been caused by cardiac arrest. The mayor also says at this hour there are about 20 other people injured, but that is still being sorted out among area hospitals.
The mayor also says the explosion was a failure of infrastructure. Not yet clear what caused the pipe, which was installed in 1924, to blow.
It is not a negligee (ph) situation or anything like that; one of the hard hitting questions that only America's conscience, Bill O'Reilly, has the courage to ask. She could be dressed as some kind of dominatrix thing or something like that? You will not believe what he asked Miss New Jersey.
And this famous mug shot of Nick Nolte, he may have topped himself. That's next. This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: In our number two story on the Countdown, Bill O'Reilly is at it again, even when it puts him in the kind of bind only a contortionist can escape. His guest last night was Bruce Barron (ph), a lawyer for the sister of a Texas man, Luis Conrat (ph), who committed suicide last November when police arrived at his home to arrest him for having solicited sex online from a person identifying himself as a 13-year-old boy.
Because NBC's "Dateline" crew was outside as well to record the arrest for the "To Catch a Predator" series, Conrad's sister is suing NBC for millions of dollars. Although O'Reilly never mentioned it in his segment, NBC representatives have said there is no evidence to suggest even that Mr. Conrad had any idea that the Dateline cameras were there and that the lawsuit is without merit.
Certainly O'Reilly is quite comfortable trying to demonize NBC, when, in fact, he is really going after me. And he is no stranger to sensationalizing somebody's death if it suits his needs. By defending a man who was about to be arrested as a child predator? He danced around that subject, neither pretending to be fair or balanced, when he told the lawyer that, quote, if NBC can prove that this guy did try to stalk a 13-year-old boy, then you have another problem.
Having created a whole segment about this, having painted himself into a corner, Bill-O finally reached the essence of what he really wanted to say. "Look," he said, "we don't have any use for NBC News. You know that. We think that this is an out of control outfit over there and Americans are bailing out of it in droves. So I'm not going to argue for them."
Could have just said that at the start and saved everyone some time, fat head. But funny you should be fixated on sexual predators. Some of O'Reilly's stuff is outright dishonesty. Some of it is him prostituting himself for the sake of the vendettas and machinations of the people who own him. Every once in a while he becomes transcendent, perfectly merging the creepy with the unintentionally self-revelatory and the utterly hilarious.
For this next edited version of his unbelievably sexual interview with the embattled and photographed Miss New Jersey Amy Polumbo we are indebted to Joel McCale (ph) and our friends over at the Soup on the E Network. They did this first. And that, by the way, is the right letter for it.
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BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: What are they?
AMY POLUMBO, MISS NEW JERSEY: They're normal college pictures, my friend and I having fun.
O'REILLY: Do you have clothes on?
POLUMBO: Yes. No nudity?
O'REILLY: There's no nudity in the pictures. Are you drunk or anything?
O'REILLY: It's just you and your friends cavorting?
O'REILLY: Is it two women together, could it be in a provocative way?
POLUMBO: Not at all.
O'REILLY: Any sexual nature in the pictures?
O'REILLY: OK, it's not a negligee situation or anything like that?
O'REILLY: There's nothing provocative in the pictures?
POLUMBO: Not really.
O'REILLY: Is this a fantasy picture thing? Were you dressed up in a certain way?
She could be dressed in some kind of dominatrix thing or something like that.
POLUMBO: My mom has seen the pictures. She really was not that upset.
O'REILLY: But if they were innocent pictures, then I'm wondering what she was upset about. Can you just give me a hint?
(END VIDEO CLIP
OLBERMANN: Is it found around the home? Is it bigger than a bread box? Is it a loofah? Everybody just take a psychic shower and let's quickly get to our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. Nick Nolte is getting some stiff competition for best celebrity photo ever from himself.
Of course, who could forget the creme de la creme of all mug shots, Nolte after the California Highway Patrol pulled him over for DUI back in 2002? This however is Mr. Nolte at the Kuoi (ph) airport Monday night in Hawaii, passed out on the terminal floor. We suppose this is one way to avoid those big travel delays this summer, just blackout and forget that ramp saturation has ever happened.
Passengers said he was very agreeable to having his photo taken, although not really that functional. Thankfully, TMZ.com obtained these photos for safe keeping and our collective Nick Nolte scrap book.
Apparently, no amount of time behind bars or reading the bible has helped save us from Paris Hilton's next project. Despite Miss Hilton's first foray into singing, someone is allowing her to step back into the recording booth to make yet another album. No word if she will be singing the blues after doing time.
But if nobody stops this, we will be doing pain killers. Her first album so lackluster in sales that when reporters checked out the story, Warner Brothers had to check to see if she was still on its payroll. Stop the presses - well, stop people from stealing the final Harry Potter book from the presses and leaking it. Hogwarts and all.
That is next, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze to the good old PR department at the Fixed News Channel. So, we are all out here at this convention of TV critics in L.A. - not Fox News, of course. They are afraid to have their guys interviewed by actual reporters.
Anyway, while I am being interviewed by about 50, 75 of them, somebody from Fox slips into the reporters' main workroom and plasters the place with this. It is a Xerox thing about the ratings using a horse race gimmick with Bill-O and Miss Zahn and Nancy "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" Grace as jockeys and me as you see. And it claims since June one, this show has been fourth in the key ratings 24 percent of the time.
OK, they cooked the books. They use the old rating system that only Fox uses anymore. In fact, we have been fourth one time since June 1st. By the way, I have been on vacation 27 percent of the time since June 1st. So Fox makes up facts, big whoop. Swing and a miss.
Have another look at this thing. On the right side, where my head is. You bastards. That is the body of the late Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. How dare you deface the sacred image.
The runner up, Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend talking to NPR about the National Intelligence Estimate. Asked about the obvious fact that al Qaeda was not in Iraq before we went in in 2003. She answers, I don't know. I was not at that briefing. I'm going to rely on the intelligence community. I would refer you to them.
Thank you, Miss Townsend, for acknowledge what your answers implies, that you have nothing to do with intelligence.
But the winner, Bill-O. After the tidal wave of protest across the political spectrum as to his comparison of the liberal website the Daily Kos to the Nazis, he is still sticking with it. "Hate is hate. That website traffics in it, as do the Nazi websites. No difference."
Bill-O does not understand the difference between Nazis and the Daily Kos. Well, we already knew he didn't understand the Nazis and the American victims of Nazi war crimes at Malmedy in World War II, so this should not be surprising. His stupidity is effervescent. It glows. It ungulates and vibrates. I will stop now. I am getting Bill-O excited. Bill O'Reilly, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: The official release of the final Harry Potter novel now little more than 51 hours away. Dark forces have converged, bent on revealing Harry's fate prematurely and inflicting Potter enthusiasts with a kind of psychic scar. In our number one story on the Countdown, we are not going to reveal what may or may not be the leaked details. But what is supposedly the entire 748 page manuscript is online now.
Also, Scholastic, the U.S. publisher of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" says that two distributors have illegally sold the actual book ahead of its official release. And that book has now been reviewed by the "Baltimore Sun."
Scholastic is taking legal action against those two distributors, Levy Home Entertainment and DeepDiscounts.com, saying they distributed and sold copies in violation of an agreement to wait until 12:01 Saturday morning. Meantime, despite unprecedented security for a book, the purported text has been posted on several file sharing websites and has photographs of actual book pages. Scholastic has subpoenaed one of those websites, but the publisher's president says there are several versions of supposedly leaked text on the web and they contradict one other.
Joining me now, the senior editor for "Entertainment Weekly," and a Harry Potter expert, Thom Geier. Thom thanks for your time tonight.
THOM GEIER, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: There are also now reports of people who ordered the book online getting their deliveries early. There is one case that we know of. It was an order from one of the two distributors that Scholastic is suing. The book is already being reviewed now. Is Scholastic just in damage control at this point?
GEIER: It's interesting. We actually had reporters at Scholastic offices yesterday as the story was breaking and as some of these supposedly leaked copies were hitting the Internet. I have to say that everyone seemed very calm there. It was business as usual.
They were busy in preparation for obviously a big launch of a very big book. But I have to say that to have leaks at this point is a huge success for Scholastic. They kept everything under wraps up to this point. It is just a few days away. It is kind of an inconvenience for even a die-hard fan wanting to know what happens to download 800 pages and try and sift through that, as opposed to waiting two more days for the official copy.
OLBERMANN: As for the leaks on the Internet, this time around it felt more ominous. Even if there are, as the publisher claims, versions that contradict each other, was one of those versions probably the real thing?
GEIER: It seems, in light of today's announcement, that there were some illegal sales of early copies. At least a handful of the copies out there are real copies.
OLBERMANN: There is a segment of Potter fans - we already heard something like 20 percent of them, ones surveyed in England, who plan to just skip the first 786 page and go right to the finale and see what happens and read that first. But for the people that just want to buy the damn book and read the damn book, start to finish, are they approaching the point of peril here about over hearing something about this book before midnight Friday?
Is it time for wearing blinkers and stuffing cotton in their ears or what?
GEIER: I think a lot of us fans are in lockdown mode and very wary of any emails from ex girlfriends saying, cute kitty pictures inside for fear that the explosive secret will be revealed if we click on that e-mail.
OLBERMANN: Some of the specifics about security have been entertaining, not as entertaining as the books are. In England, they have GPS devices in trucks. They have alarms inside cartons of books. Here in the U.S., there is a book printing plant that searches its workers' lunch boxes. Its forbidden them to bring in cell phones.
But there's really no way, with the sale of millions of books imminent, to get the proverbial air tight security, correct?
GEIER: I mean, once Scholastic has released the books from the distributors and sent them out to bookstores and to libraries around the country, that is about as much as they can do. The fact that they have kept the lid on it to this point is pretty remarkable. When you look at the Hollywood studios, you can probably go to Chinatown now and get a copy of one of this Friday's big openings.
So there is only so much you can do at this point.
OLBERMANN: And it's entirely new territory? Are we not likely to see stuff like this again, in terms of security, before the publication of a book?
GEIER: I can't imagine any other book that people are going to be as passionate about as the Harry Potter series.
OLBERMANN: So what happens, as somebody who has enjoyed it and somebody who has become expert on it, if they handed a copy as you got off the set there, what would you do?
GEIER: I would go home and read it right now.
OLBERMANN: Would you tell anybody?
GEIER: Not unless they asked. I would probably then hand my copy over to someone else.
OLBERMANN: And do you think there is some honor among the fans? are they going to try to look out for each other between now and Friday and just say here are the places to avoid, where some of these details may be inadvertently slipping out?
GEIER: I think true fans are true believers. No one wants to peal the curtain behind and say that there is no Santa Claus.
OLBERMANN: What about this guy who said he was going to reveal the ending so he could fulfill the Pope's wishes? What about that guy?
GEIER: I think he is going to have his own issues to deal with when he gets to the pearly gates.
OLBERMANN: Thom Geier, senior editor of "Entertainment Weekly," in advance of the Potter publication. Great thanks, Thom.
GEIER: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this the 1,540th 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