Thursday, July 29, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, July 29th, 2010
video podcast

Guests: Eric Deggans, Alex Wagner

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will be talking about tomorrow?

Sherrod strikes back.


REPORTER: There have been reports you are considering a lawsuit.

Have you decided whether you're going to pursue you that action?



O'DONNELL: The former USDA official forced to resign after Andrew Breitbart will portrayed her as a racist will sue the man who started it all. But is that a good idea?


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Well, that is simply unacceptable, and Ms.

Sherrod must resign immediately.


O'DONNELL: And FOX News, who called for and applauded the firing of Shirley Sherrod, now admits they dropped the ball. Sherrod says she thinks she knows why.


SHERROD: They were not interested in the truth. I don't think they're interested in the truth now.


O'DONNELL: Redo economics. Republicans who voted for the Bush tax cuts also voted to end them in 2011. Yet somehow today, they're rebranding their tax cut expiration a "Democratic tax hike."

Catastrophic incompetence: The burial fiasco at Arlington National Cemetery, potentially thousands of misidentified gravesites of America's war dead.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: It's not complicated. It's called keeping track of who you bury where.


O'DONNELL: And not since George W. Bush went on the "Dr. Phil" show had a sitting president gone on a daytime talk show.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that word "saved" is what's troubling people -

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, no - well, it makes a difference, though, if your job was one of the ones that's saved. So, I mean, - and let me -



O'DONNELL: The president's view on jobs, Afghanistan and the important questions of our time.


JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": Do you know that Lindsay Lohan is in jail?



O'DONNELL: All that and more - now on Countdown.


OBAMA: I don't know who Snooki is.

BEHAR: You don't?




O'DONNELL: Good evening. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.

Here in San Diego today, Shirley Sherrod said that everything she has gone through will be worth it if it encourages more meaningful conversations about race in this country. But as a result of her recent experiences, she added that she personally will never have a conversation with FOX News.

Our fifth story: Ms. Sherrod also suggested that President Obama was in need of a history lesson on the south, and she offered to give him one herself on a tour through rural Georgia.

The former USDA employee, who lost her job over a manipulated videotape, joined a panel discussion at the National Association of Blank Journalists Convention and revealed that she has not yet decided whether to accept a different position with the Agriculture Department.

Two things Sherrod does sound determined to do: sue Andrew Breitbart and never appear on FOX News.


SHERROD: I will not give FOX an interview, period. You know, because they had their chance to get the truth out. And they were not interested in the truth. And I don't think they're interested in the truth now.

They are just interested in whatever message Breitbart and those who work with him, those from - I don't know whether it's the Tea Party or who it is - but that's the only message they're interested in getting out. And I think they were not interested, period, in helping me, to get the truth out there. And they would have twisted it. They won't have that opportunity from me.


O'DONNELL: No comment yet today from an uncharacteristically quiet Andrew Breitbart.

But FOX News Channel's senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, has admitted it was a mistake to run the Sherrod story before all the facts were in. "There was a breakdown in the system," Mr. Clemente told, "and it is being addressed."

Back in San Diego, Ms. Sherrod also addressed comments in which she said that younger African-Americans need to brush up on the civil rights struggles that their ancestors faced. She even said the president was among those in need of a history lesson.


SHERROD: Those of us who were in the civil rights struggle from 50 years or more ago were hurt in many, many, many ways. We tried, I think, too much to shield that hurt and pain from younger people. So, many of them don't know their history. And I really think we have to do a better job of helping those individuals who will get these positions in the media, in our educational institutions and the presidency. We have to make sure they understand the history so that they can do a better job in the positions that they have to help move all of us forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, I have to ask, were you referring to President Obama when you made that comment?

SHERROD: Well, yes.



O'DONNELL: Meanwhile, at the Urban League in Washington this morning, President Obama said it was time for all Americans to learn from the controversy in which he said Ms. Sherrod was an innocent victim.


OBAMA: She deserves better than what happened last week.


OBAMA: When a bogus controversy, based on selective and deceiving excerpts of a speech led her - led to her forced resignation. Now, many are to blame for the reaction and overreaction that followed these comments, including my own administration.

What I said to Shirley was that the full story she was trying to tell

a story about overcoming our own biases and recognizing ourselves and folks who on the surface seem different is exactly the kind of story we need to hear in America.


OBAMA: It's exactly what we need to hear because we've all got our biases. And rather than jump to conclusions and point fingers, and play some of the games that are played on cable TV, we should all look inward and try to examine what's in our own hearts.


O'DONNELL: In a moment, more on Sherrod, Obama, Breitbart and race in this country with our own Eugene Robinson.

But, first, let's turn to "St. Petersburg Times' media critic, Eric Deggans, who participated in today's panel discussion with Shirley Sherrod here in San Diego.

Eric, when Shirley Sherrod was giving that long answer about how younger people in this country, especially younger African-Americans needed history lessons on the civil rights movement, about their own heritage, we were all starting to form the question - we in the audience there and in the hall - were all starting to form the question in our head that you asked. You asked Shirley whether she was including the president in that, and she said that she was.

Did her answer surprise you?

ERIC DEGGANS, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES: I guess a little, because she seemed to be hedging. And I had a feeling that she was going to dance around it. But, you know, you learn after you talk to Shirley for any length of time that she is - she has done dancing around anything. And when I asked her a direct question, she gave me a direct answer and I appreciated that.

O'DONNELL: Yes, that was my experience with her last week. I was on a panel with her on "MORNING JOE" on this network. And it was very clear that she was past the point of trying to protect people in this story.

It doesn't seem in what we heard from the president that he's completely past that point. He referred to her firing as a forced resignation and saying these videotapes forced it. Well, the videotapes didn't actually force anything. This was a decision made by his administration.

Do you sense that the president is trying to play both sides of the firing - sort of admitting to some sort of responsibility but then pretending the forces that happened in the firing were coming from somewhere else?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, it's that old "mistakes were made" -


DEGGANS: - you know, response that we often see from politicians.

Who made the mistake? Well, often, that doesn't get specified.

I think the administration is trying to limit the damage. There's been some, I think, effort to protect her superior. You know, people have sort of asked for her to come forward and talk about whether she made the decision, whether Vilsack made the decision, you know, why it was handled the way it was. There was a question at the San Diego forum about her superior.

So, maybe there - you know, I think what they're trying to do is just sort of admit that they made a mistake and try to move on without giving the story anymore legs than they need to. We'll see if that works. If Mrs. Sherrod does file this lawsuit, as she's talking about, we could be talking about the story for a while.

O'DONNELL: Now, I may be oversensitive to presidential references to cable news. But in the speech today, the president seemed to blame all of cable TV news as a whole for this failure and the failure to have the larger conversation about race. On "The View," he seemed to say the entire episode here was the media's fault. But what Shirley Sherrod said on that panel discussion today was much simpler. She did not blame the media. She blamed FOX News.

Who's right about that?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, I do think it's more complex that just blaming FOX News. I do think that there is a network of Web sites and radio shows and TV outlets that take the sort of pseudo-news that surfaces on blogs and blows it up into a controversy that the mainstream media gets pulled in to covering.

And I think what happened here is that when mainstream media outlets started to look at this story, when the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" and CNN and even your own Rachel Maddow started to look at this, people saw that there was more to the story than they were being told. And the story started to change.

FOX News is saying that they didn't really start to report on the story until Mrs. Sherrod had already been forced to resign. But Bill O'Reilly did say what he said about her and "FOX & Friends" in the morning did also have some harsh words for her. It really wasn't until the middle of the next day that FOX News started to pivot on the story, just live everybody else.

O'DONNELL: Now, one of the things that got a lot of the attention on what she said today was that she wants to - plans to sue Andrew Breitbart. I have to tell you that among the hundreds of people in the audience, a lot of us didn't catch that. Some of us were standing out in the hall afterward saying, what's this about suing Breitbart, they were hearing news reports out of - not realizing that she'd actually said it within that fast-moving panel discussion.

Did that feel to you like a determined litigant who's pretty much walking up the steps of the courthouse? Or was that more - "maybe I will/maybe I won't" thinking about suing Andrew Breitbart?

DEGGANS: No, no, she was very definitive about it. And later in conversations during a press conference, she said that she has an acquaintance who's an attorney. And she's going to be consulting that person to help her pick someone who's experienced at this and can really help her file a lawsuit. She seems very determined.

You know, she feels her good name has been besmirched and she seems willing to go to court to get whatever back she feels that she's been cost.

O'DONNELL: Eric Deggans of the "St. Petersburg Times" - thanks for joining us tonight on this day when you helped create our top story here in San Diego.

DEGGANS: Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Eric.

As promised, let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also an associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post."

Gene, both Shirley Sherrod and President Obama want conversations about race - but do you think they want the same conversation?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's one of the issues, Lawrence. I think we all say, or any of us say we want a conversation about race. I think we may be talking about as many different conversations about race as there are people who want to have this conversation, because people have different points of view, different life experiences. And there are different nuances there.

I thought, one of the very interesting things she said was: we should know the history. We should know - we should know African-American history, which is, after all, American history. It's a huge component of American history.

It's not taught enough in the schools. It's not paid enough attention to. And, frankly, the nation doesn't know it. Even fairly recent history doesn't know it as well as we should.

O'DONNELL: Gene, I have to tell you. In the audience today and during the panel discussion here at the National Association of Black Journalists, there was a lot of agreement in that room when Shirley Sherrod said she thought that President Obama needed a lesson on race relations in the South, the historic context on that subject.

What could Barack Obama learn on a tour through rural Georgia with Shirley Sherrod?

ROBINSON: Interesting question, Lawrence. Obviously, President Obama, as a student of history, as someone who has taken the time to learn the history I've talked about, obviously, he knows it. He knows the actors. He knows the events. He knows what happened before, during and after the civil rights movement.

To - you know, I can tell you, as someone who grew up in South Carolina at the tail end of Jim Crow, knowing it and living it are two different things. And spending time in the South amid that sort of texture, hearing some of the stories from people who were there firsthand is a valuable experience. Again, he doesn't - it's not that he's ignorant of the history. But I think it was - if you have it under your fingernails, you know it better.

O'DONNELL: For Shirley Sherrod, Gene, it seems race cannot be discussed without historical context - and in her own personal history, painful historical context. For Andrew Breitbart, it seems that no context, historical or otherwise, is necessary to discuss race in America.

So, how can there be a conversation between Shirley's position and Andrew's position on this subject?

ROBINSON: Well, I think you have to define what you mean about conversation. It has to be an extremely broad definition of the term conversation.

This, it turns out, is - at least to our point in history, this is the way we have our conversation about race. Something happens. It is construed and misconstrued by people in different ways. We yell at each other or past each other about race for several days and then we kind of drop it.

But, in the meantime, some knowledge and some understanding kind of filters out and maybe slowly we ratchet forward. This thing doesn't go in a straight line. But I'm not of the opinion that the back-and-forth that we do, however rancorous it sometimes is, is totally worthless, I think sometimes it's worthwhile.

O'DONNELL: Eugene Robinson, many thanks for your time tonight.

ROBINSON: Great to be here, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: election year language spin as only Congress can do it. The tax cuts set to expire this year - an expiration Republicans voted for now labeled a "Democratic tax hike."

And the level of dysfunction at Arlington National Cemetery exposed today on Capitol Hill. The men who were in charge faced a Senate panel today. But the senators say they got only excuses.


O'DONNELL: Coming up: the Republicans must have been told there would be no math - their incomprehensible plan to somehow cut the deficit without touching the thing that created it, the Bush tax cuts.

And, the failure at the top at Arlington National Cemetery in the 21st century - how did they lose track of so many of the fallen? The men who were supposed to have the answers failed to give any.


O'DONNELL: Last night, we told you about the Democratic plan to accuse Republicans of running on a Bush platform.

In our fourth story: Today, we learn that Republicans will defend themselves against this claim by running on a Bush platform - specifically, House Republican leaders have a campaign plan for the summer.

The plan symbolically makes the point that Republicans are looking forward from Bush by featuring four even older dead Republicans and for some reason, three foreigners. But front and center is the plan to call next year's expiration of Bush's tax cuts a Democratic tax increase.

In fact, President Obama wants to extend those cuts for the middle class, just not for the richest 2 percent. Republicans meanwhile, proposed killing the stimulus, which increase on the middle class.

But why are Bush's tax cuts expiring? As Congressman Mike Pence himself admits in talking points for Republicans, quote, "Democrats are poised to allow the largest tax increase in American history." Allow? Yes, even Pence admits Democrats did not create this.

Who did? Republicans. Bush ran on tax cuts, saying that's what you do with a surplus. He still pushed tax cuts in the recession, saying, that's what you do with a deficit. But he lacked enough support to beat a filibuster.

Even John McCain then said, "I cannot in, good conscience, support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle class Americans who need tax relief."

So, Republicans used - right - reconciliation, which allows a simple majority vote. But it does not allow you to increase the deficit beyond 10 years. That's exactly what these cuts did and would do. And that's why, legally, they had to expire now.

In other words, Republicans created this coming tax hike of historic proportions. And, now, they want to stop it by increasing the deficit to historic proportions.

Let's bring in MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein, also staff writer for "The Washington Post" and a columnist at "Newsweek." Ezra, I hope some people out in the audience understood that, as well as you.

But what is the fair way to label the expiration of tax cuts? Voted into law by Republicans, the Republicans wrote the expiration date into law but a Democratic Congress plans to take no action to extend those tax cuts on the richer taxpayers. So, whose tax increase is that? Is that a Republican tax increase or is that a Democratic tax increase?

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It's a neat trick the Republicans have here. They - as you say, through a sort of a procedural move here, they had to allow the tax cuts to expire at the end of 10 years. And there are two reasons for that. One is what you said. You can't increase the deficit outside of 10 years using reconciliation.

But the other is it made the long-term budget look better. If you would have eternal tax cuts going on, essentially, Republicans would have increased the deficit by many, many, many, many trillions of dollars. But as long as it expired after 10 years, when CBO does its calculation, CBO has to say, well, these are gone after 10 years so they're not that big.

But - so, now, we're dealing with something where at one hand Republicans are saying Democrats want to increase the deficit. They've done too much on the deficit. On the other, they're saying, "And we want these tax cuts to go on," which is more than - if you don't let any of them go, more than $4 trillion on the deficit.

So, it's sort of a neat thing they get to do. On the one hand, they hammer Democrats on the deficit. And on the other hand, they advocate the popular deficit-oriented things that they like to do.

O'DONNELL: Now, Ezra, you've written about this issue as a litmus test. What do you mean a litmus test?

KLEIN: It's a litmus test on whether you're serious about cutting the deficit. Cutting the deficit requires making hard choices. And as a part of the graph that I think you guys are about to put up, Republicans attacked unemployment insurance as too much of a deficit increasers, about $30 billion to do unemployment insurance. As you can see there, moving the tax cuts is huge compared to unemployment insurance - more than 3 trillion, even if you let the tax cuts for the rich expire.

So, when you're talking about the deficit, when you're saying this is what concerns you, what really shows whether or not you're serious about it isn't whether or not you can the use the debt as a talking point. It's whether or not you're willing to make the hard decisions, which include raising taxes or cutting popular programs that would reduce the debt.

And in many cases, many Republicans are not. Jon Kyl said we shouldn't offset the tax cuts. And Mitch McConnell in a bit of magical thinking here said, you know what, tax cuts pay for themselves, so we actually don't even need to worry about it one way or the other. That isn't a serious way of looking at the debt and as such, it makes other criticisms on the subject non-credible.

O'DONNELL: Ezra, I know I've officially lost control of the show here in San Diego when you know what graphics are going to come up on the screen and I don't. But that's a good graphic. I'm glad we used that.

Now, politically, does this technical argument really matter in the end politically? The Republicans' position is: we want tax cuts. And the Democrats' position is: well, we want some of the tax cuts but we want a tax increase on the highest earners.

I mean, in the end: it's Republicans for more tax cuts than Democrats.

And isn't that always the politically popular position?

KLEIN: Right. Tax cuts tend to be more politically popular. Deficits tend to be a pretty abstract concern in American politics. People don't like them particularly when the economy is bad, even though that's when you need them.

But when you actually put deficits up against particular things, Medicare, tax cuts, unemployment insurance, people tend to worry about the deficits second. The Tea Party said they prefer tax cuts. You rarely see anybody embrace spending cuts.

Paul Ryan is a Republican who has sort of given serious specifics on what spending he would cut in order to have the tax cuts. But he's gotten no pickup on it.

So, at the end of the day, we're going to increase the deficit by a lot in order to extend these. And the likeliest outcome is that we either extend them without the tax cuts for the rich or extend all of them for two years. Either way the deficit is going to go up and the tax cuts are probably going to win out and Bush will win in the end.

O'DONNELL: Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" - thanks for guiding us through this one and keep those good graphics coming.

KLEIN: Happy to do it.


Coming up: As we wait to find out what happens next to the Arizona immigration law, a closer look at border security. How much is enough?

And Obama's view: the message sent to voters with a stop on this couch.


O'DONNELL: We want to again offer a brief reminder tonight about two upcoming health clinics made possible by generous donations from you, our Countdown viewers. On August 4th in Washington, D.C., you can register to be seen by going to, or to donate your services and time, medical or otherwise. The other clinic that we are still raising money for is a two-day clinic in New Orleans coinciding with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, taking place on August 31st and September 1st. As always, we appreciate all the efforts, time and money that you have provided to give health care to those in need. Once again, that's

Coming up, a grilling from a Senate panel but no real answers. The men who resigned over the scandal at Arlington National Cemetery cannot say why they failed to do their jobs.

And the reason Arizona says it needs that immigration law. We'll take a closer look at border security right now.

And a stop at "The View" for the president. His reason? He wanted to do a show his wife actually watches.


O'DONNELL: It is supposed to be our nation's most sacred shrine, a hallowed place for our war dead. Yet, in our third story, today we learned the magnitude of the mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery, an institution plagued by years of shoddy record-keeping and what Senator Claire McCaskill called "catastrophic incompetence." Now a congressional investigation puts the number of misidentified graves in the thousands.

The cemetery's former superintendent, John Metzler, along with his deputy, Thurman Higginbothan, appearing before a congressional subcommittee. Both men were forced to retire after Army investigators discovered hundreds of graves were mismarked.

The Army Inspector General's Office finding Metzler failed to ensure proper burials and failed to respond after the unmarked graves were discovered. Investigations by and "The Washington Post" discovering more record-keeping errors, missing headstones, unidentified urns found in a dirt landfill. The mistakes affecting the final resting places of Supreme Court justices as well as freed slaves.

Even as millions of dollars were spent to computerize burial records, cemetery officials relied on index cards and hand-drawn maps for record-keeping.


SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: We've got cell phones. We've got iPhones. We've got this and that. And you guys are still dealing in cards. I find that just - I just can't get my head around that.

JOHN METZLER, FMR. ARLINGTON OFFICIAL: As frustrated as you are with this, sir, you can only imagine our frustration at the cemetery. Arlington Cemetery was funded and is funded to this day as a separate government agency.

BROWN: Yes, but you've been given between seven million and 10 million dollars to upgrade the IT and the technology.

METZLER: Sir, not all of that money went to upgrading IT. We're maintaining fiber optics in the cemetery. We're maintaining our workstations, our computer stations. We have IT staff on board to assist the staff when they have their issues. Printers, fax machines, all that rolls into that.

BROWN: Yeah, but with all due respect, sir, the top priority should be identifying and accurately categorizing in modern times and not using three by five cards for the people who are the national heroes of this country. We should get - that priority should have been given to the fallen who were buried there.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Mr. Higginbothan, when did you first realize that there were mismarked graves, unmarked graves, improperly marked graves at Arlington National Cemetery?

THURMAN HIGGINBOTHAN, FMR. ARLINGTON OFFICIAL: Well, ma'am, having been a cemetery representative back during the Vietnam War, doing funerals, it was always - I can't pinpoint a date and time. But it was always to me conceptual that anything done by hand for 140-plus years, there has to be some errors somewhere.

MCCASKILL: I'm not asking about conceptual and I'm not asking for an isolated error. I'm asking you what year - let me just ask the question this way: the documentation that we have developed for this hearing would indicate that you had personal knowledge of unmarked graves or mismarked graves in 2003. Would you disagree with that?

HIGGINBOTHAN: I'm not sure of the date. But if it's in the report, that was probably what was looked at. I'm not sure.

MCCASKILL: Mr. Metzler, you testified earlier when I was asking you, that five years ago, you were aware of urns with cremated remains in them that had been found in the fill area of the cemetery.

METZLER: That's correct.

MCCASKILL: So at that moment, you knew that someone's remains had been dug up and dumped somewhere in the cemetery without the people knowing they were digging up remains, and not realizing they were dumping a family member's remains in another part of the fill area of the cemetery. It was unmarked. It was just in with the dirt, correct?

METZLER: That's my understanding, yeah.

MCCASKILL: OK. We are here today because people who worked for you had had enough, and they blew the whistle. Somebody wrote an article about it and finally the Army woke up and realized nobody was paying attention at Arlington. They went in and they looked and they found in three sections several hundred graves. How many sections are at Arlington?

METZLER: Seventy sections.

MCCASKILL: Right, so we've done three out of 70?

METZLER: That's correct.

MCCASKILL: And there's no indication we don't have the same problem in the other 67, none. So really what happened here is you all just decided if you didn't talk about it - and do you honestly believe, Mr. Metzler, if you would have come to Congress and said, we have a crisis; we immediately need resources and manpower so we can check this cemetery, because we're afraid that we've lost bodies of our heroes, that we've lost the bodies of our fallen heroes - we've got cremated remains that we don't even know who they belong to turning up in the fill.

Did you ever write that up? Did that ever go up the chain of the command? Did the chief of staff of the Army ever see a document from you that we've got a problem; we've found cremated remains that we don't know where they belong? Did that ever occur, Mr. Metzler?

METZLER: No. We annotated the records. We buried the remains as unknowns in the cemetery. We did not - I did not send a memo up to the chief of staff of the Army.

MCCASKILL: This is - with all due respect, this is not about a lack of resources. This is not about that you have a complicated job. You have a very important job. I agree that it is stressful and you have a lot of burials and there's a lot of protocol. But this is not complicated. It's called keeping track of who you bury where. That is not a complicated task.

And the notion that you would come in here and act like you didn't know about it until a month ago is offensive. You did know about it and you did nothing. And you knew about it, Mr. Higginbothan and you did nothing. That's why we're here. Now somebody's going to come along and clean up this mess and families have been hurt for no good reason.

If you would have sounded the alarm the minute you realized you had this kind of problem, I think we would be in a much better position now than we are today.


O'DONNELL: Senate outrage in hearings is usually manufactured. It's usually fake. I have never seen more justifiable and more genuine outrage in a hearing than what Senator Claire McCaskill just exhibited. She earned her Senate paycheck today.

Coming up, Arizona asks the appeals court to make it fast. While Arizona waits to find out what the court has to say, we head to the border for a closer look at security. What's working and what isn't.

And "The View" from here. The president makes an unprecedented stop on a daytime talk show. He answered all their questions. We wish he would answer one more. Why?


O'DONNELL: Yesterday's ruling that gutted the Arizona Papers Please Law didn't do much to deter protests already planned for today. In our number two story, several arrests were made all over the Arizona capital. Outside Phoenix at the Maricopa County Jail, at least 32 protesters were detained by police. In Yuma, police are investigating vandalism at the office of Congressman Raul Grijalva. A bullet was allegedly fired through one of the office windows Wednesday night and was discovered this morning. Grijalva has been a critic of SB-1070. But after last night's ruling, he backed off his call for an Arizona boycott.

Meanwhile, the appeal of yesterday's ruling finally materialized. The state is asking the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to expedite their case and hold a hearing in September. The whole crux of Arizona's argument for SB-1070 is that the federal government is failing to do its job securing the border with Mexico.

Tonight, we get a close up look at that border in Nogales, Arizona from George Lewis. George?

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, one of the big questions in the immigration debate is how much border security is enough. The U.S. has 20,000 border patrol agents. That's twice as many as we had nine years ago. They are a big presence here on the streets of Nogales, Arizona. And soon they'll be joined by the National Guard.


LEWIS (voice-over): It's all in a day's work for Agent Rudy Garcia. Helping his fellow border patrol agents round up people trying to cross illegally from Nogales, Mexico into Nogales, Arizona. The heavy presence of border patrol agents here has kept the streets of Nogales safe, in spite of a raging drug war on the Mexican side of the border.

RUDY GARCIA, U.S. BORDER PATROL: There have been 130 on the Mexican side. We have not had a homicide here in three years.

LEWIS: But out in the Arizona desert, there is a different statistic. In July, authorities in Tucson recovered the bodies of 57 illegal immigrants who died in the heat. So far this year, the death toll this year is 152. In the last ten years, human rights groups say 1,900 people have died trying to cross the border, most of their bodies winding up in unmarked pauper's graves like these. Rancher John Ladd says the government needs to do more to secure the border in rural areas.

JOHN LADD, RANCHER: We've been inundated and invaded. And I'm tired of it. Nothing's been done.

LEWIS: But the Obama administration says it is doing plenty.

JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The facts are that there are more border patrol in Arizona than there have ever been. The facts are that illegal immigration has gone dramatically downward.

LEWIS: Soon, these border patrol agents will be joined by National Guard troops. This as the Obama administration tries to persuade Congress to move forward on immigration reform.


LEWIS: Contrary to earlier reports, the Guard won't be deploying on Sunday. We're told there will be a period of preparations that will last several weeks before that happens. Lawrence, back to you.

O'DONNELL: George Lewis, thank you.

Coming up, the president spends time on the couch with the ladies of "The View" and continues to deny any awareness of TV's biggest star. Sorry, Snooki.


O'DONNELL: Apparently President Barack Obama hopes that you took a little time today to enjoy "The View," because there he was, the first time a sitting president has ever visited a daytime talk show. Although then President Bush was on "Dr. Phil" he did not go to the set of "Dr. Phil." So "The View" can indeed claim bragging rights here.

In our number one story, the highlights, as well as the inevitable question, why? The show was taped yesterday, touching on all the obvious subjects. And it gave the president a chance to do what all presidents do, criticize the media.


OBAMA: The things that the media may focus on are not necessarily the things I focus on. I have to sign letters to parents of children who have been killed in Afghanistan. The fact of the matter is is that the media culture right now loves conflict. And if there's a story about cooperation between the two parties, that story doesn't make the news. What makes the news is somebody who says something as outlandish or outrageous as possible.


O'DONNELL: On the Shirley Sherrod controversy, the president broadened the blame.


OBAMA: A 24/7 media cycle that's always looking for controversy, and oftentimes doesn't get to the facts first, generated a phony controversy. A lot of people overreacted, including people in my administration.

And part of the lesson that I want everybody to draw is let's not assume the worst of other people.


O'DONNELL: At various times throughout the show, the president highlighted his administration's accomplishments and he stressed an improved economy, even while acknowledging persistent unemployment.


OBAMA: Well, actually, Elisabeth, what's happened is that we've gained private sector jobs for the last five months. So we were losing jobs when I was sworn in, as I said, 750,000 jobs per month. You're absolutely right that it's not enough. And if you don't have a job right now, the only answer that you want to hear is, I'm hired.

So the frustration that people have is entirely justified.


O'DONNELL: The president also submitted to a lightning round on pop culture, including the question about whether Snooki should run for mayor of Wasilla.


OBAMA: I've got to admit I don't know who Snooki is.


O'DONNELL: And on the event that is creating angst among many Clinton supporters, the wedding of Chelsea Clinton, the president was gracious.


OBAMA: You know, I was not invited because I think that Hillary and Bill properly want to keep this as a thing for Chelsea and her soon-to-be husband.


O'DONNELL: Regular "View" fans were left wondering if there was any significance to the fact that all of the co-hosts were dressed in black and/or white. Hmm. Let's bring in the White House correspondent for "Politics Daily," Alex Wagner.

Good evening, Alex. Let's go to the big question. Why, oh, why, did the president of the United States do "The View?"

ALEX WAGNER, "POLITICS DAILY": This was slow pitch softball, Lawrence. If it was not a home run, it was a solid base hit. You know, this is part of the annual team Obama mainstream media pilgrimage. This is not the first time the president was on "The View." It's actually the third time. The last time of note that he was on, he was running for president.

If you look back at that appearance in 2008, what's really noticeable is that he's talking about three main things. He's talking about draw dawn of troops in Iraq. He's talking about health care. And he's talking about race issues. It was in the wake of the Jeremiah Wright scandal.

Two years later, what's he talking about? He's talking about the war in Afghanistan. He's talking about the health care bill. And he's talking about race issues in the wake of the Shirley Sherrod affair. These are the great themes of his presidency. Going on "The View" gives him the sort of opportunity to talk directly to America about them.

O'DONNELL: Now, the president lied - I mean, joked about the reason that he chose "The View," saying that he was looking for a show that his wife actually watched. Now, isn't this the old political tradition of just pretending the wife is some sort of, you know, not fully loaded intellectually - character. Here's a Harvard law school graduate. Michelle Obama, at 11:00 a.m. in Washington is not watching "The View."

There's no reason for anyone to believe that. Is there?

WAGNER: No, I think that's him trying to appeal to the soft side, the ladies who love to love Michelle. Michelle is either working on child obesity or harvesting organic yams at 11:00 in the morning, or otherwise leading the country. She has better things to be doing than sitting around watching television.

That said, I think this is, you know, Obama's appeal to middle class working women, women who are stay at home moms, and, you know, the female audience that wants to see the commander in chief with his sleeves rolled up talking about being a dad and giving sort of a more personal side of being the president of the United States.

O'DONNELL: Now, he - just to clear up any questions the audience might have from our open. He did acknowledge that he was aware that Lindsay Lohan was in jail. But then he told that big lie about not knowing who Snooki is. Come on. Come on. What was the - what was the right answer? That was a tough question, I got to say, because it's tricky for the president. He wants to give people the impression he's dealing with very serious, weighty matters. And Snooki is - doesn't fit into that category.

So did he get that answer right with the false claim - obviously false claim that he does not know who Snooki is?

WAGNER: Yes. Snooki leak. There's that tanning bed tax that they John Boehner and Snooki both asking him to repeal. I think that the Snooki thing was - whenever Obama breaks out into a smile, I think he wins - his popularity goes up at least a few points. That was definitely - he's talking about the very serious side of being the commander in chief, which is writing notes to the mothers and fathers of the children who have been killed fighting in Afghanistan. And, you know, he can't exactly go and segue and say, also, I watch "Jersey Shore" every day.

O'DONNELL: Alex Wagner of "Politics Daily," thanks for helping us get Snooki into Countdown tonight.

WAGNER: You're welcome.

O'DONNELL: That will have to do it for this San Diego edition of Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. You can catch my new MSNBC show at 10:00 p.m. week nights this Fall. And now to discuss the new Republican scare tactic, Chris Hayes, in for Rachel Maddow tonight. Good evening, Chris.