Friday, July 25, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, July 25, 2008
video podcast
Special bonus podcast (The Soup)

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guests: Bob Barr, Jason Bateman, Howard Fineman, Rachel Maddow, Chris Kofinis

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The Pentagon meddling in the presidential race. At the last minute, it pulls the rug out on Obama's visit to injured soldiers at a Landstuhl base in Germany because he was going to have campaign staff not Senate staff with him, even though the Pentagon knew that days earlier.

Now, McCain has slammed Obama for, you guessed it, not visiting the troops.

The trip as campaign turning point. The Gallup daily tracking poll goes from Obama plus two to Obama plus six with only minimal polling done after Obama's speech in Berlin. Cue the McCain sleaze machine.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama and I also faced a decision which amounted to a real-time test for a future commander-in-chief. America passed that test. I believe my judgment passed that test. I believe that Senator Obama's failed.


OLBERMANN: Well, oh, well, it's Senator Clinton's commander-in-chief test, who could have seen that coming?

The "no duh" moment except it is Scott McClellan admitting it on Hardball - the Bush White House, Bush's talking points out through FOX noise.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, Hardball: They call Sean, call Bill, call whoever, did you do that as a regular thing?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It wasn't necessarily something I was doing, but something that we, White House, just were doing, giving them talking points.


OLBERMANN: Who needs a ministry of propaganda when you can outsource it to a private form?

The impeachment hearings that will evict no one.


VINCENT BUGLIOSI, AUTHOR, "PROSECUTION OF GEORGE W. BUSH.": How dare they do what they did. How dare they.

REP. DAN LUNGREN, (R) CALIFORNIA: Maybe what we're here for is something called impeachment-lite.


OLBERMANN: What are we here for? Witness, former congressman, current libertarian presidential candidate, Bob Barr joins us.

Worst: "Bill-O, The Clown" and Ingraham blast Obama for suggesting this country torture when it's so obvious we didn't torture; and Rupert Murdoch claims "Batman, The Dark Knight" is a movie about President Bush.

Which of these broadcasters would you not want to be vacationing next to Limbaugh, Matthews, O'Reilly, or that other guy?

And arresting developments on a possible "Arrested Development" movie from Jason Bateman.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening, from Los Angeles, this is Friday, July 25th, 102 days until the 2008 presidential election.

In a campaign of non sequiturs, Senator McCain has, tonight, reached a new high and low. First announcing in Denver today that Senator Obama has failed the so-called "commander-in-chief test," then on TV endorsing Obama's plan for bringing U.S. forces home from Iraq.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Senator McCain is now saying a 16-month withdrawal timetable based on conditions on the ground is a pretty good timetable. The presumptive Republican nominee had already smeared his opponent for not having supported the surge, never mind that the Arizona Republican cannot define that surge nor pinpoint when it started.

Senator McCain is claiming that because he supported the surge and Senator Obama did not, the Democrat failed, what - thank you Senator Clinton - quote, "amounted to a real-time test for a future commander-in-chief."

But by the time he sat down for an interview with CNN, Senator McCain had embraced the failure strategy for bringing the troops home. Hypothetically, McCain was asked: what would he do as president, should Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki persist in saying as he said as late as Monday that he wants U.S. forces gone?


MCCAIN: He won't. He won't because it has to be condition-based.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: How do you know? How do you know that?

MCCAIN: Because I know him and I know him very well. And I know the other leaders and I know, I know I've been there eight times, as you know. And I know them very, very well. And the point is -

BLITZER: So, why do think he said - why to you think he said that 16 months is basically a pretty good timetable?

MCCAIN: He said it's a pretty good timetable based on conditions on the ground. I think it's a pretty good timetable as we should our horizons for withdrawal. But they have to be based on conditions on the ground.


OLBERMANN: To recap, Senator Obama has failed the commander-in-chief test so Senator McCain steals the 16-month timetable for withdrawal depending on conditions on the ground from the failure and then claims it as his own good idea.

At least Senator Obama will always have Paris. French President Nicolas Sarkozy heaping praise upon the presumptive Democratic nominee at the Elysee Palace this afternoon, what was not an actual endorsement.


PRES. NICOLAS SARKOZY (through translator): Of course it's not up to the French to choose the next president of the United States of America, whomsoever that might be. We will work with him happily and gladly. But I am especially happy to be meeting with the senator. So, good luck to Barack Obama. If he is chosen then France will be delighted. and if it's somebody else, then France will be the friend of the United States of America.


OLBERMANN: The last meeting between the Illinois Democrat and the French president took place on September 12th, 2006. Mr. Sarkozy, then himself, a presidential candidate, at that time, as Senator Obama explained today, Mr. Sarkozy having made only two stops on Capitol Hill.


OBAMA: He met with only two United States senators. That was me and John McCain. So, I would suggest that for the reporters in the room, if you want to know something about elections, you should talk to the president of France. He seems to have a good nose for how things play out.


OLBERMANN: What would not play out during this tour - a visit to the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Senator Obama calling wounded soldiers by phone today instead of greeting them there in person.

The Pentagon's chief spokesman now confirming that the Defense Department officials told the Obama campaign, the Illinois Democrat would be barred from visiting the military facility with any of his campaign staff because of regulations prohibiting any campaigning or electioneering at military facilities. Only Obama's Senate staff and Secret Service detail would have been allowed in.

One problem - the Obama campaign claiming it was not told this by the Pentagon until Wednesday, one day ahead of the scheduled visit, by which point the congressional delegation portion of the tour, Iraq and Afghanistan had ended and Senator Obama's Senate staff had gone home. The Obama campaign, thus, yesterday, canceling the whole visit and getting slammed by Senator McCain as a result.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers saying yesterday that, quote, "Barack Obama is wrong. It is never inappropriate to visit our men and women in the military." Except, it seems, when the Bush administration tells you a visit to our men and women in the military would be inappropriate.

Let's turn now to our own Howard Fineman, senior correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: If Senator Obama failed the familiar to all of us, the so-called "commander-in-chief test," why would Senator McCain believe that his 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq is good enough to claim as his own 16-month timetable to get out of Iraq?

FINEMAN: Well, John McCain was clever enough not to say it in so many words. But what he did say is - if the facts on the ground are such that we can meet that timetable - excuse me - we will. And, of course, right now, the Iraqi leadership is saying that the conditions on the ground are such that that timetable can be met.

So, the actual distance between John McCain's position and Barack Obama's position on the issue of timetables is now zero. And it's pretty much up to what the Iraqi leadership says and what the American military leadership says. General Petraeus has said he doesn't like arbitrary timetables but he's also talking about the progress that's been made there. So, it seems like everybody is sort of backed in to being on the same page at this point.

OLBERMANN: But, is it, I mean, this is not the first time something that was on the Obama's platform sort of wound up in McCain's little red basket. I mean, is the plan here for McCain to slowly co-op (ph) every aspect of McCain's policy while demeaning his military judgment? I mean, is this not apart from a kind of M.C. Escher drawing? Is it not a definition of intellectual dishonesty?

FINEMAN: Well, it's political hardball is what it is. McCain's team's position is, "Hey, if Barack Obama will admit that we were right about the surge, however you define it and whatever the timing was, then, you know, then we can talk. But until he admits that, we're going to claim whatever we can claim." And that's exactly what McCain is doing.

I think it's interesting to see how hard McCain has been forced to fight on this front, Keith, because whatever else Barack Obama has done on this trip - and I think he needs to be careful not to overstep the sort grandeur of it all, but whatever else has done, he's forced McCain to fight defensively on what should have been McCain's turf and that was the main objective of the Obama trip.

OLBERMANN: Turning over to that Landstuhl visit, does Wednesday seem suspiciously late to have informed the Obama campaign of these regulations that did not appear to have concerned anybody at the Pentagon before the Obama overseas visit turned into a bigger media success than probably even that campaign suggested it would be?

FINEMAN: Well, at its most innocence, there was lack of communication here, but I think the onus was probably on the Pentagon to tell the Obama people earlier on what the detailed rules were if these were going to be the rules, which I think, they, in fact, are. But they sort of may have let the Obama campaign dangle there and get into a situation that they couldn't correct by not giving the Obama campaign a heads up.

I think that's really what happened here. When the Obama people were getting all ready for their trip to the Landstuhl facility to see the wounded soldiers, and the Pentagon said, "Hey, look at fine point number five, six, seven and eight," and it was too late for the Obama people to do anything about it. So, they were kind of sandbagged, I think.

OLBERMANN: But they were, also sandbagged but silent initially. They haven't revealed why this thing had been cancelled. And only after the right-wing blogosphere and McCain's campaign slammed Obama, did they make plain what the Pentagon's involvement that would have been on this. Did we just see an attempt by a political campaign to go the high road of sort of abandon in mid-high road?

FINEMAN: That would be shocking, wouldn't it?


FINEMAN: I don't think it was entirely that. It may have been partly that. But there's also the fact that the press corps is involved here. The press corps couldn't come either and, I think, what the Obama people are also concerned about was looking like they didn't want to go somewhere if there couldn't be a photo-op.

The press really wasn't the issue, it was the staff. But it's something that could have been twisted to look like too much grandstanding.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman, great thanks for your time tonight, have a good weekend, sir.

FINEMAN: Thank you. You, too, Keith.

OLBERMANN: After telling us repeatedly how important, how vital it was that Obama travel to Iraq, the McCain campaign has spent much of this week whining, joking, accusing that the media gave too much coverage of Obama's trip to Iraq.

An appearance last night with Lance Armstrong focusing on cancer and health issues, McCain who has said he does not think the coverage is unfair, suggested otherwise with a joke about Obama's trip.


MCCAIN: My opponent, of course, is traveling in Europe and tomorrow his tour takes him to France. In a scene that Lance would recognize, a throng of adoring fans awaits Senator Obama in Paris. And that's just the American press.



OLBERMANN: Stop that crazy laughter, please.

While we have already made the point that Barack Obama visiting the Mideast and visiting European leaders is, by any definition, news. Our colleague, Brian Williams, yesterday confirmed a key difference between this trip and McCain's trip abroad in March - Obama invited journalists to come with him, but McCain chose not to use campaign funds for his trip, leaving reporters to travel separately, make their own arrangement and unsure what, if any, access they would have had to McCain, and resulting smaller contingent, and perhaps it was, in fact, lucky for McCain as his bizarre foreign policy announcements on that trip like saying "Iran was training al Qaeda for function in Iraq" may have gotten more stunned attention.

Let's turn now to Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis, former communications director of the campaign of John Edwards.

Thanks for your time tonight, Chris.


OLBERMANN: Is McCain's real problem with this trip that we're getting the first polling to even have some questioning done after the Berlin speech now coming in - the Gallup tracking poll which went from Obama up by two to Obama up by six and suggests that, you know, this trip might be looked back on as a turning point in how Americans see the Democratic candidate?

KOFINIS: You know, possibly. I mean, the interesting, I don't like to put a lot of stock into polls because they can change, especially at this early point, but, you know, elections do turn on key moments. And they do turn on key mistakes.

And what I think you've seen Senator Obama do is really seize the moments, and because of that has had, I think, three big wins the past week. You know, one win, he won the argument on Iraq and Afghanistan. You saw that with Prime Minister Maliki, a huge significant event. He wanted the commander-of-chief and head of state imagery - you saw that today in France. You saw that yesterday in Germany and also today in the U.K. and in the Middle East - very powerful.

And he also won in the imagery between the two campaigns. You know, the imagery of Senator Obama looking extremely presidential, as a commander-in-chief, versus John McCain in front of a German restaurant and a cheese aisle. I mean, just unbelievably that juxtaposition was so damaging for the McCain campaign, but overall for Senator Obama, a key week - key week.

OLBERMANN: Yes, always - rule number one - always stay away from the cheese.

The former Bush communications director, Mr. Bartlett had just told that he thinks the Maliki call for a timetable at the beginning of the week was very close to a game-changing event in this campaign.

Is that because of, to quote Bartlett, again, "It neutralized an Obama liability" or is it because the media and the public are starting to realize that there is a whole list of events like this which have validated Obama's approach over McCain's - I mean, particularly today, McCain just taking Obama's 16 months timeline off the ground and saying this is a good timeline?

KOFINIS: Yes, I'm not sure I ever bought the argument that it was a liability for Senator Obama, but, you know, and I think, what's happening here, you know, Senator Obama was very, I think, prescient in terms of his strategy and his ideas about Iraq, in terms of the deadline and the timeline for withdrawal. I think Prime Minister Maliki served up an incredible gift to the Obama campaign by justifying that strategy. But I think there's something else going on here that's really been missed.

You know, there's two types of voters, if you will - voters that kind of look to the past and voters that look to the future. You know, the Obama campaign from the very beginning has focused on message and their strategy looking forward. And when they're talking about ending the war, that really is a great strength to them in terms of being able to attract and build support amongst voters.

Whereas, the McCain campaign are so fixated in the past and arguing about the surge, all they do is remind you that this is a candidate that is living over the last eight years and that is not what voters want to be reminded of, because the last eight years of the Bush administration has been a disaster.

OLBERMANN: Last point here and it's back to another set of polls. There were several swing states that came out in the last 48 hours in which the polling shows real improvement by McCain - Colorado, in particular. And some indication from the polls that this is a response to the spiel about more drilling. What does Obama do about that having encountered a parallel to it in a gas tax during the primaries?

KOFINIS: Well, I mean, I think these polls are going to ebb and flow, especially over the next few weeks, especially going to the convention and seeing how the coverage turns out.

To me, you know, the focus for the Obama campaign and also arguably for the McCain campaign, is first and foremost on the economy. You know, we have 100-plus days left in this election. Whichever candidate and whichever campaign can seize that argument, make the best argument to the American people that they are going to be the one candidate that's going to help rebuild and build their economic future, I think, is going to have an incredible advantage and going to win this election.

And I think the other thing to look at the polls - don't look at the horse race numbers - look beneath the numbers, in particular, the strength of support, the excitement for the candidate. That is where the Obama campaign is really blowing out John McCain by 15, 20, 30 points. If John McCain cannot excite his base, his supporters, he can't win this election. That's the difference.

OLBERMANN: Cris Kofinis, the former communications director for the Edwards campaign. Have a great weekend, Chris.

KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith. You, too.

OLBERMANN: The truth isn't shocking but the confirmation still is. A former Bush White House press secretary, tonight admits, the administration has used FOX News to spread its talking points. Examples in the news tonight, applause for Barack Obama in Germany might be a, quote, "red flag for Americans" and the new "Batman" movie is actually a tribute to the valor of George Bush.


OLBERMANN: It is like the moment in the film classic, "Casablanca" when Claude Rains as Captain Renault announces he is shocked to discover "there is gambling going on here" and then Marcel Dalio as the croupier hands him a wad of cash and says, "Your winnings, monsieur" - former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, tonight confirming what we all suspected but could never prove until now. The Bush administration sent talking points directly to the decision-makers and talent at FOX News Channel.

Rupert Murdoch's TV network is a contractor for U.S. government-issued propaganda. Next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It is one of those things you kind of assumed to have been true all along, and yet you are shocked when the hard confirmation actually shows up on your door.

Our fourth story tonight: From the former White House press secretary himself, word that the Bush White House routinely sent, and as far as we know, still sends literal talking points to FOX News for its primetime propagandas. Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and the others spout, as if the ancholic (ph) was dummies (ph), as if they had thought of it themselves, as if they had come to those opinions independently, as if there had been a process that was either fair or balanced.

Former Bush secretary, Scott McClellan, appearing this evening on MSNBC's Hardball, ripped once and for all, the fig leaf of the FOX News claim of fairness and integrity, ending one would hope forever - the debate over whether a government has really used private media as a propaganda outlet.


MCCLELLAN: And certainly, there commentators and other pundits at FOX News that were helpful to the White House. And then certainly, yes, we got talking points to those people.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) they call Sean, call Bill, call whoever.

Did you that as a regular thing?

MCCLELLAN: Certainly. It wasn't necessarily something I was doing, but it was something that, we, at the White House, yes, were doing and giving them talking points and making sure they knew where we were coming from.

MATTHEWS: So, you were giving them talking points -

MCCLELLAN: But I would separate the journalists.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE). You were using these commentators as your spokespeople.

MCCLELLAN: Well, certainly. And I mean, and I think that happens to both ways when people go on other networks as well that are favorable towards the Democrats and so forth.

MATTHEWS: Nobody has ever fed me any crap like that. So, I don't know what you're talking about.

MCCLELLAN: Well, you're an independent-minded guy.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. But, aren't you a little embarrassed by the fact that your White House used a television network which is purportedly fair and balanced as your mouthpiece?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think everybody in this town uses people that are going to be helpful to their cause, to try to shape the narratives to their advantage.

MATTHEWS: But a whole network?

MCCLELLAN: Again, I would separate the journalists because the journalists that I worked with were people just like the rest of the White House press corps who were trying to report the news.

MATTHEWS: So, you won't use Brit Hume in some of this sales stuff (ph) for but you'd use the night time guys.

MCCLELLAN: Yes, I would separate that out and certainly, you know, and they'll say that's because they agree with those views in the White House.

MATTHEWS: Well, they didn't need a script, though, did they?

MCCLELLAN: Well, probably not.


OLBERMANN: That Rupert Murdoch put neocons on the air under the leadership of GOP operative Roger Ailes is no secret, but FOX has always maintained with more or less a straight face, that it was striving for some sort of journalistic objectivity.

Over the phone tonight, Scott McClellan told us it was done frequently, especially on high-profile issues and Countdown asked whether FOX ever gave the White House its results. Scott said, "Yes."

We asked the White House about McClellan's statements on Hardball, current press secretary, Dana Perino said, quote, "I'm not aware of that" and declined to comment further.

Let's bring in MSNBC political analyst, Air America Radio host, Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.


OLBERMANN: Set this in proportion for us. I mean, yes, it's Claude Rains in "Casablanca," but if we knew this, what does this mean? Do you suddenly feel like 4 percent less paranoid than you did this afternoon?

MADDOW: I'm worried that it makes me naive, that I'm angry.


MADDOW: I'm worried - this actually makes me mad. I'm not mad at FOX, I feel like, you know, they make their peace with themselves and their God and, you know, they pledge allegiance to nobody other than the bank in which they cash their paychecks every week.

But I'm not at a government for facilitating this. I'm not at the leadership of our government who swears to uphold the Constitution and it's supposed to be illegal in America to propagandize the American people. It is supposed to be illegal for our government to covertly choose some sort of press organ that is represented to the American people as if it is a press organ - laughable as that may be - and it's feeding us stuff that is actually propaganda from our government.

The American government is not supposed to have a state organ in the press that is shoving (ph) the stuff down our throats, as if it is news. It's not supposed to work this way in this country.

OLBERMANN: All right. To McClellan's point - everybody in the business has contacts, friends, et cetera in politics and campaigns and so on. Your principal outlet, Air America is openly allied with Democrats and Democratic causes. Explain where the line is between appropriate communications there and how the O'Reillys and Hannitys and friends and the White House, in this case, cross that line?

MADDOW: It's not rocket science. It is sixth grade journalism class level stuff - don't lie. Be transparent about what it is that you're doing. If you've got a statement from the White House, you say, "We've got a statement from the White House about this today." If you've got a statement from the McCain campaign or from the Obama campaign or from your Aunt Millie, you say, "Aunt Millie, John McCain or Barack Obama told us this today."

It doesn't even sound bad when you put it that way. You just have to be transparent about where your content comes from. Don't lie, don't be a propaganda (ph).

OLBERMANN: The fact that the White House paid people to echo its opinions and the Pentagon uploaded its own opinions to military guests, and comedian Rush Limbaugh described himself as a water carrier, expressed relief after the midterms in 2006 that he could stop carrying water for the undeserving, but now FOX. Does anyone actually believe the right-wing stuff they spout or are all they doing just sort of making a buck to keep the masses hypnotized?

MADDOW: I don't know if the question is so much about - about FOX and about the right-wing talk show host. Because it's well-known, it's well-documented that the conservative movement made a deliberate decision to sort of erect a pageant around their conservative media, a sort of pageant of journalism - that they would dress it up like journalism, they would make it look like journalism and they would even call it journalism in some cases but it would be designed to advance the conservative movement agenda.

And what we're seeing, it's come to fruition in a very, you know, monetarily successful way in FOX News but also in talk radio and a lot of other ways.

I don't think their credibility is the thing that we learned something new about or the thing that was even really in question in terms of where the country goes from here. They can do whatever they want. The question is - whether or not the elected government of the United States of America will help them and will enable them and will sell it to us as if that's real news?

It is one thing for the White House to say, "We like what FOX News does or we like what Rush Limbaugh does." It's another thing for them to use them as, Chris, I think, rightly pointed out to Scott McClellan, to use them as spokespeople without acknowledging that's what they're doing. That's propaganda and it's supposed to be illegal.

OLBERMANN: Here we go. Just for the record, the White House declined to comment and we're expecting Dana Perino is probably waiting for somebody to write her some talking points, they transferred us to FOX, FOX did not return our call. So, just for the record, and I wrote all that myself.

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Air America - thanks, Rachel. Have a good weekend.

MADDOW: You, too, Keith. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: A purpose pitch so far off its purpose that it hit a fan. Nothing quite like a Minor League Baseball brawl with a Hall of Famer in the middle of it.

And back to the last point: FOX asks, quote, "Barack Obama looking like a rockstar in Germany today, but is the fact that they love him there a red flag for Americans here?" Sure, because, you know, we want the world to hate our president and everything he stands for. It works really well. Worst Persons is ahead.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. And the first hint the driver was drunk was that he was pulling his car by a rope.

First, on this date in 1775, Thomas Sparrow's dream of protest became a reality. The Baltimore silver smith's design appeared on the new currency of the colony of Maryland, which was issued then. It showed King George stomping on the signal of legal freedom, the Magna Carta. Who knew Mr. Sparrow was two and a quarter centuries ahead of his time?

Let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: First in Oddball sports, we begin at the minor league game last night in Dayton. What started with two managers, including Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, later drawing at home plate - that was a coach there. Led to an all-out brawl when Peoria Chief's pitcher Jose Castillo threw a fastball at the Dayton Dragon's bench. He missed the target so wildly, the ball whizzed into the stands and hit a fan, not my mother.

As the teams dusted up on the field, the fan was taken to the hospital, treated and released. Castillo was arrested on a felony assault charge and is expected to make his next start in the Ohio penal league.

To Pompano Beach, Florida and the story of Sandra Durdin (ph) and Richard Tibido (ph). This is the church where the two love birds were married. Today, they are both under arrest for repeatedly robbing it. Police say the two are crack addicts and that they stole electronics and musical equipment from their house of worship. Coppers tracked the couple down after they pawned stolen instruments at a store called Dixie Guitar Traders. No thanks to the dude who runs Dixie Guitar Traders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detective first came in and she asked me if I saw a skinny white guy that looked like he was on crack selling music gear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told her that that describes about 80 percent of my clientele.

OLBERMANN: That's Dixie Guitar Traders, where the customer is always right and is also always goofed up on the rock.


OLBERMANN: The administration hasn't just alienated the left and much of the middle. Some on the right testified at today's impeachment hearing in the House. One of them, the former Congressman, now presidential Congressman Bob Barr joins us.

Who would you least like to spend your vacation sitting next to, comedian Rush Limbaugh, Bill-O the Clown, Chris Matthews or me? "U.S. News" takes a poll and the results are a landslide. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best sign to the police that you're drunk, 18 year old drive Luke Atherton broke down on a city street in Forpar (ph), Scotland, so he got a rope, tied it around the front bumper and began pulling the car by hand. Also, he didn't have any license plates.

Number two, best panic, summer school students, including a group of high school cheerleaders, attending the University of Texas at Austin. A unidentified smell engulfed their dorm and 45 students reported being overcome by the noxious fumes. All 200 people in the dorm were evacuated. That obnoxious smell proved to be burnt popcorn.

Number one, best reason to leave lawn care to the professionals, 57-year-old Keith Walendowski of Milwaukee. Evidently drunk and unable to get his lawn mower started - well, as he's quoted on the police report, I'll tell you the truth, I got pissed because my lawn mower wouldn't start, so I got my shotgun and shot it. I can do that. It's my lawn mower and my yard. I can shoot it if I want.

Actually, no, they arrested him. Plus the garden place that sold him the Lawn Boy explained that they will now not fix it for him. Said the manager there, quote, anything not factory recommended would void the warranty.


OLBERMANN: Officially it was a House Judiciary Committee hearing on, quote, executive power and its constitutional limitations. Yet, in our third story on the Countdown, even though the speaker of the House has explicitly said that Congress will not impeach the president, that was the theme of that hearing. Among the charges leveled at the Bush administration today by panelists and representatives, that it withheld information from Congress in order to start the war in Iraq, that it violated the Geneva Conventions by advocating torture, that it politicized the Justice Department, that it retaliated against critics by doing things like outing an undercover CIA agent, that it unlawfully wiretapped Americans, even that it unlawfully killed American troops by taking this country to war on a lie. All potentially impeachable offenses, offenses that will not be moved.


REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: To the regret of many, this is not an impeachment hearing.

REP. LAMAR SMITH (R), TEXAS: Nothing is going to come out of this hearing with regard to impeachment of the president. I know it, the media knows it and the speaker knows it.

REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: Never before in the history of this nation has an administration so successfully diminished the constitutional powers of the Legislative branch. It is unacceptable and it must not stand.

REP. DAN LUNGREN (R), FLORIDA: One wonders what we are becoming here. When I was a kid growing up, we used to watch the Friday night fights and now it looks like we have the Friday morning show trials. Maybe what we're hear for is something called impeachment light.

VINCENT BUGLIOSI, FORMER LA COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Whether Republican or Democrat, all Americans should be absolutely outraged over what the Bush administration has done. How dare they do what they did? How dare they?


OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by one of the witnesses in today's hearing, the former Republican Congressman from Georgia, current presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, Bob Barr. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: Without the possibility of impeaching the president, what did this accomplish today in your opinion?

BARR: What we accomplished today was to highlight something that ought to be an awful lot more important to the other presidential nominees or presumptive nominees, and that's the Constitution of the United States, and what has happened to the fabric of our national governing system during this past administration. We had a hearing today that focused on issues that ought to be of prime importance to any presidential candidate and that is what are the - what is separation of powers; what are abuses of powers; do we have a nation that is ruled by laws, not of men. These are fundamental questions. And we began to focus on them today in this House judiciary hearing.

OLBERMANN: Is impeachment the only club on the rack there? Is the only alternative to curb executive power that, or is there something else Congress can do, if the powers that be in Congress are saying no impeachment for political reason?

BARR: Actually, there's an awful lot the Congress could do. And one of the points that I've made to the Congress today in response to that very question was, at the very minimum, Congress cannot make matters worse as they did recently in passing the expansion of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance capability. That not only provides a vast increase in the power of the government to wiretap its own citizens and their own country, but also provides both retroactive and prospective immunity for telecommunication companies that cooperated unlawfully with the government.

OLBERMANN: You pointed out also in the hearing today that four times as many Americans have more faith in the Post Office than have in the Justice Department. How do you propose to remedy that if things don't change drastically in this country?

BARR: That was a very telling point that I made and I appreciate your mentioning that. That tells you how low we've sunk with this administration, that the most trusted institution of the government is the U.S. Postal Service. And one of the least trusted is the U.S. Department of Justice. This is a prime reason why I've chosen to run for president of the United States on the Libertarian ticket, and that is to try and rekindle people's faith in government by getting back to our Constitutional roots and by reducing the power of the government it wields over the people, not continuing to increase it.

OLBERMANN: I would be remiss if under these circumstances I did not ask you specifically about your own presidential candidacy. All the early polling here has suggested that both you and Mr. Nader, separately and collectively, would get not insignificant support, but that virtually all of it would be drawn away from Senator McCain. Is your potential impact in terms of the two major candidates of concern to you or is it irrelevant in this part of this process?

BARR: It's certainly not relevant to my reasons for running for the presidency. And the early poll numbers, which are very favorable, actually, to my candidacy as a third party nominee. My concern is to bring these issues, such as those that we've been discussing here, before the House Judiciary Committee, before the American people, and to show the American people that they really do have a choice, that they don't have to go into the polling booth, as they've done year after year, cycle after cycle, and just voted for the lesser of two evils.

OLBERMANN: Is it reparable at this point or are the parts of the Constitution already gone, do you think?

BARR: It is reparable. I don't think, no matter what government can do, no matter what this administration has done and continues to do in its remaining months in office, can ever extinguish true liberty. So it's always going to be there. It might be flickering very dimly. But I think there's an awful lot that can be done. And the fact that we had this hearing today, and we'll be having more of these, will highlight the real problem and the fact that there is a solution.

OLBERMANN: Bob Barr, libertarian candidate for president, witness at today's House Judiciary Committee hearing on Executive power and its constitutional limitations. Thank you for highlighting some these issues and thank you for some of your time tonight.

BARR: Yes, sir.

OLBERMANN: You might think this new Batman flick was just a Batman flick. No, Rupert Murdoch's "Wall Street Journal" explains to us today that it is really a tribute to the greatness of President Bush.

And you can vacation here, but one of the following four people will be vacationing next door. The poll that asks who would you most hate to be next door this summer, comedian, Bill-O the clown, Chris Matthews or me? It was a landslide. Details ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good news, you get to vacation on Martha's Vineyard. Bad news, you have to stay next to me or to Matthews or Limbaugh or Bill-O the Clown. Who is worst next with Jason Bateman. But first time for Countdown's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Rupert Murdoch, who actually had this printed in his "Wall Street Journal" today - this is the review of the new Batman film "the Dark Knight" by a conservative mystery writer. Joseph Claven (ph) wrote this, but I'll read it as Murdoch because, well, because I want to;

"There seems to be no question that the Batman film 'The Dark Knight,' currently breaking every box office record in history, arrr, is at some level a pain of praise for the fortitude and moral courage that had been shown by George W. Bush, arrr, in this time of terror and war, matey."

Seriously, the only thing Batman and George W. Bush have in common is that some time late in their teens, they started dressing up in cheerleader-style costumes and then jumped around a lot.

Runner up, David Assman of Fixed News. In a graphic and then verbally the unfortunately named sub host over there said, quote, of Obama's speech rather, he said of Obama, "Barack Obama looking like a rock star in Germany today, but is the fact they love him there a red flag for Americans here?"

Well, obviously it is because who would want the other countries of the world to like us again? I hate to spoil the fun, but we are not at war with the entire damned world, boys.

So, to our joint winners, pumping up the paranoia, Bill-O the clown and side-kick Laura Ingraham - of Obama's speech, he said, trying to rally a cowardly world against terrorism is a good thing. But he called Obama's rhetorical question, will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law his weakest point. So Ingraham says, he got up there in front of 200,000 people and he glommed on one of the most ridiculous, one of the most hateful stereotypes of America, which is that we torture. The fact that he did that on foreign soil, I think, is absolutely atrocious."

The clown added, I pointed it out. But I feel the way you do. He should absolutely not mention, that's ridiculous.

I'll repeat what I said last week. The crap you guys at Fox used to make up when you were, as Scott McClellan described you tonight, Bush's means of disseminating his talking points, your junk used to be creative and occasionally plausible. Now it just sounds like you're all stoned. We torture people. The CIA has admitted to water boarding. We torture people. It's no stereotype, though it is hateful. In your name, O'Reilly, in your name, Ingraham, torture done in your names, the same way the terrorists do it. Bill-O the clown and Laura Ingraham, today's worst persons in the world.


OLBERMANN: The cliche of a vacation is to get away from it all. Most notably, work and the rattle and grind of everyday life. In our number one story on the Countdown, an amusingly narrow poll finds that 14 percent of people would evidently like to stay away from me. Not to worry, I'm not taking this personally, and you'll see why soon, and all of it will be leavened by Jason Bateman, who is right over here.

The latest Washington Whispers poll conducted for us by "U.S. News and World Report" asks, quote, you just rented a vacation home on Martha's Vineyard, where the political and media elite go. Who is the last person you want as a summer neighbor. You are given four choices, Comedian Rush Limbaugh, who wins or loses, 53 percent; Bill-O the clown is in a strong second place, and then it's me and Matthews splitting the rest.

The magazine also notes that among 1,000 Internet voters, all demographics consistently ranked Limbaugh as the one they really wanted to avoid, rich and poor, rural and urban, young and old. Since there is no expressed margin of error, there is no Keith number, so to speak. As promised, here is my friend, most recently starring in "Hancock," Jason Bateman. Hi.

JASON BATEMAN, "HANCOCK": Hi. What does leavened mean?

OLBERMANN: Made lighter.

BATEMAN: I watch your show with a dictionary next to me, you and Charlie Rose. I'm just a dumb actor and didn't go to college. You're responsible for my education.

OLBERMANN: But you went through the college of hard knocks so that's what counts.

BATEMAN: This is why you're hosting a show.

OLBERMANN: Why is Limbaugh is worst on this, do you think? Is it because of the cigars or the chance he'll break in and steal everything in your pharmacological cabinet?

BATEMAN: That's what it is. When you're vacationing, you go there to get sun and eat food you wouldn't usually eat. If you're living next to him, chances are he would eat that food instead of you, like a bear. If you hang it from a tree, you're all set. And he will eat all your meds.


BATEMAN: How Bill-O finishes second to anyone in a poll on unpopularity -

OLBERMANN: More than two to one.

BATEMAN: I don't think he has ever finished second. So congratulations to that tool.

OLBERMANN: It's a big, big night for him. Now, I don't have any complaints with this poll; 14 percent sort of suggests that that's, you know - maybe there's 86 percent that wouldn't mind having me stand there.

BATEMAN: There is one person below you.

OLBERMANN: Matthews is at 13 percent. I have spent many hours figuratively living next to Chris Matthews, and this is just one of observation, not being critical. Chris is louder than I am. I mean, much louder than I am. I am loud, but he is much louder than I am. Does that not count for something?

BATEMAN: Clearly, only the people who would not want to live next to him are those that would like to get a word in edgewise. Right? That's why they don't want him around. People who wouldn't want you around -

OLBERMANN: I didn't say that, by the way.

BATEMAN: Well, listen, I watch TV. People who wouldn't want you around are - those people that were polled were probably fantasy baseball players who would like to feel that maybe they know something every once in a while. But if you're around, then you just feel stupid.

OLBERMANN: We can break in with breaking news her that Pittsburgh traded Zavier Nady (ph) and Damaso Marte (ph) to the Yankees tonight. How about that?

BATEMAN: Marte went, too?

OLBERMANN: For three prospects.

BATEMAN: Can I use your computer?

OLBERMANN: You have to make a roster move.


OLBERMANN: This man was - We'll go off and then we'll stop on this topic. This man traded Nady three weeks ago to our friend David Cross, anticipating this moment when you would lose all rights.

BATEMAN: I did not anticipate.

OLBERMANN: I'm helping you out here. All right, let's skip the rest of this crap on the poll.

BATEMAN: That is a fantasy win. That does qualify as a fantasy win, trading a guy who goes to another league.

OLBERMANN: You don't have the rights to him anymore, because it's a one league operation. There has been a lot on the wires and the blogs, the various Internets, some sky writing. What's going on? It's "Arrested Development." Are there arresting "Arrested Development" developments?

BATEMAN: Things are still progressing northerly. We're not yet there to the summit. I'm going to go with this analogy until you throw the ball of paper at the camera. And things - things are still moving. And things still look positive. But by no means is there a deal done. It could very well not happen. But things are moving in the right direction.

OLBERMANN: If you do not get this done soon, the fellow who played your son, Michael Sarah, is going to be the most expense of the bunch of you. Right?

BATEMAN: I think he already is.

OLBERMANN: You won't be able to get him, because he'll be too big.

BATEMAN: The trick is that I will be a grandfather and he will actually be the father of somebody.

OLBERMANN: Oh, so the movie - instead of you as the focus of this family, it will be -

BATEMAN: It will be like a "Juno" sort of tie in there where he's the father of something.

OLBERMANN: With Jason Bateman down there -

BATEMAN: Barely.

OLBERMANN: And my cameo is somewhere down here?

BATEMAN: I guarantee - I did guarantee you that if and when it does happen, you will get the on-air announcement of that. Our sweet friend Tim Goodman could get the press or the paper or the print, but it's also -

OLBERMANN: How is that going to work, because the moment you give the on-air announcement it will be on all the blog. People really care. Unless you have a simultaneous hold for release in HFR and Goodman and me in the same room.

BATEMAN: We'll settle it by who is ahead in the standings in our fantasy baseball league.

OLBERMANN: Does that mean he gets it because he's not ahead in the standings.

BATEMAN: You'll be leading so you'll get to announce it on your show.

OLBERMANN: Goodman will suddenly do a terrible review of the show. Jason Bateman, hopefully of a soon to be announced "Arrested Development" movie, great thanks and I'll see you soon at some point.

BATEMAN: Yes, let's get to the game.

OLBERMANN: Programming reminder, major guest on "The Soup" tonight on the E! Network. Watch me overact my way into the record books on Joel McHale's "The Soup."

BATEMAN: Self-plug?


BATEMAN: Can I throw the ball? I want to throw the ball.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1,913th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From Los Angeles, I'm Keith Olbermann, he's Jason Bateman, good night -

BATEMAN: And good luck.

OLBERMANN: Well done. You throw like - yes.