Thursday, March 4, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, March 4th, 2010
video podcast

Guest: Howard Dean, Rep. Maxine Waters, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Peter



LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories

will you be talking about tomorrow?

Fear and fundraising in the Republican Party. The Republican National

Committee's official fundraising manifesto is leaked to the press. Wealthy

donors described as "ego-driven." Small donors called "reactionary" and

motivated by "fear." And this official RNC document instructs fundraisers

on how to scare those donors.

Chairman Michael Steele is spinning.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: I was told that, you know, that's

typically - typical what people think about our donors or think about

donors generally, but that is not the case for our donors.


O'DONNELL: Reactions from Richard Wolffe and former DNC chairman,

Howard Dean.

Health care reform: Speaker Pelosi still confident she has the votes

in the House, but -


PELOSI: You assume nothing - assume nothing in terms of where you

were before and where people may be now.


O'DONNELL: Meanwhile, the Stupak 12 are ready and willing to take the

whole bill down over the Senate's abortion language.


REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: Yes, we're prepared to take



O'DONNELL: The Karl Rove memoir has been leaked and the rewriting of

the rationale for war continues. Quoting "the Brain": "Would the Iraq war

have occurred without WMD? I doubt it."

Meanwhile, the mission still unaccomplished in that country - more

than a dozen dead in Baghdad after attacks at polling places as the latest

round of elections begin.

And turning "Seward's Folly" into Palin's cash cow. Sarah Palin and

the creator of "Survivor" are shopping a reality show about the Palin

family's Alaskan adventures. Move over, Snooki. Here comes "The Real

Housewife of Wasilla" and what do you think happens when Palin lets lose at

a pre-Oscar swagfest?

All that and more - now on Countdown.






O'DONNELL: Good evening, from New York. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in

for Keith Olbermann.

The GOP's plan was a simple one and not at all out of character for

that party: raise money by capitalizing on fear of President Barack Obama

and by promising to save the country from socialism. The good news tonight

- the Republican plan is working. The bad news - at least from their

perspective - it looks as if the only money raised from the plan so far

has been raised by the Democratic Party.

Imagine if some of the most offensive and silly signs at a tea party

protest could all be found in one PowerPoint presentation delivered by the

finance director of the Republican National Committee to big donors and

fundraisers at a party retreat in Florida. Well, you don't have to imagine

it. That's exactly what happened.

The 72-page document obtained by explains how to

manipulate donors, starting with crude caricatures. One page, titled "The

Evil Empire" shows the president as the Joker from "Batman," while Speaker

Pelosi is depicted as Cruella De Ville and the Majority Leader Reid as


The document also shows little respect in how it characterizes target

donors. Small donors reached by direct marketing fall under the heading

"Visceral Giving." And their motivations are listed as fear, extreme

negative feelings toward the current administration, and reactionary.

That's right. The Republican Party officially labels its own donors

"reactionary." Major donors are under the category of "Calculated Giving."

And their motivations include access and ego-driven.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele today called the document indefensible.

He said he did not see it before the presentation was given. And he added

that the matter was being dealt with internally.


STEELE: We're dealing with it administratively within the RNC. And,

trust me, this is not the kind of presentation I want to make to staffers,

that I want made to our donors, or anyone else, because it cheapens the

political process. And, yes, you want to get out there and say things that

rile people up and get them excited and create images that will do that,

but this is a line that we won't tolerate nor cross in the RNC.


O'DONNELL: Chairman Steele and the RNC are also under fire for

sending out fundraising letters that look like U.S. Census forms. On

Capitol Hill today, lawmakers discussed a bill that would make all fake

census mailers illegal. At the hearing, even Republicans denounced their

own party for the deceptive practice.



mailers out there that I believe have been deceptive. I am obviously a

member of the Republican Party. I have seen the Republican Party send out

documents that say "census." I think it's wrong. I think it's deceptive,

and I wish they wouldn't do it. And I would hope that our party would

cease from doing that.


nothing could be more wrong. This has been a common practice. It has

occurred every 10 years. And it is time that it stopped.


O'DONNELL: Lots to talk about tonight with MSNBC political analyst

Richard Wolffe, also the author of "Renegade: The Making of a President."

Richard, we've asked this question before and it is time to ask it

once again. I think we have to ask it about every other week. Will

Michael Steele get fired for this one?


No, not yet. Look, this guy has a very high tolerance for embarrassment,

whether it's about the planes he takes and the hotels he stays in, or about

his lackluster fundraising operation. Remember, in this PowerPoint, they

were being outgunned by Democrats in a year when the Republicans are riled

up and Democrats don't know which way to turn.

So, there are plenty of grounds for embarrassment. His big problem is

that he lost the support of the congressional leadership a long time ago.

He is going to be the fall guy if the Republicans fail to meet their sky-

high expectations of taking the House and the Senate.

So, his days are numbered but this isn't going to be it. Why get rid

of him now when you can get rid of him just in case they don't meet those

sky-high expectations?

O'DONNELL: Now, he tried to duck responsibility by claiming he didn't

know anything about the presentation before it was given. But at this

point, without active campaigns under way, what is more important for the

head of the RNC to know than how the finance director is courting major


WOLFFE: Yes. Look, the charitable explanation here is that he's just

incompetent, doesn't know what his finance director is doing. The

uncharitable explanation is that that excuse just isn't credible.

And if you look at the way the big donors, the people who have been

the back bone of the Republican fundraising operation for many years,

certainly through the Bush years, those big donors have been drifting away

from the RNC under Steele's leadership. They have been vocal about it.

It's shown through in the numbers.

Yes, even in this presentation, it says that the fundraising base

online has been the small donors have really stepped up here. But those

big donors have moved away, and when you look at the PowerPoint

presentation you can see why. It's because they're not treated with any

kind of respect.

O'DONNELL: Now, he has said, Michael Steele has said that this was

indefensible. He said they are reviewing it in-house at the RNC. Is the

next move to fire the finance director or does that create an even hotter

situation for Michael Steele if there's a firing over this?

WOLFFE: Well, look, the finance director used to work for Rick

Santorum. So, it's not surprising that he's not exactly diplomatic with

language here. But there is a bigger issue here and it's not just about

whether this was defensible or not. There was nothing in this presentation

that was a positive agenda - nothing that would actually speak to

Republican ideals to why they should be elected.

So, I don't think this is just a matter of taste or about personnel.

It's what kind of agenda they're taking to voters and their donors. What's

the purpose of getting Republicans elected other than to get them elected

and raise money, and I guess carry on getting people to hate Barack Obama.

O'DONNELL: And consider the notion that this is an isolated incident.

It seems to me that fear, as a fundamental driver for the Republican Party,

has been there as long as I can remember - be it fear of communism, fear

of taxes, fear of - now, of socialism, fear of terrorism. Fear seems to

be the one word that always drives their campaigns, isn't it?

WOLFFE: Well, you had fear on national security. You've got an

economic fear they're playing into now. The problem they have is that you

can talk about the government takeover of health care, but if health care

goes through - as the White House frankly expects it to at this point -

people are going to wake up tomorrow and find that their health care hasn't

been taken over and that as they saw the other day in the health care

summit, the president isn't radical. He's not scary.

So, never mind what Republican - the Republican base is doing.

Independent voters are going to look at this kind of presentation, this

kind of politics and say, it's the same old same old. These people are

just the same. It's gimmicky and it doesn't track with what we're seeing

out of the White House.

So, credibility becomes key. You can play the fear card but people in

the end have to trust the people they're trying to elect.

O'DONNELL: MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe - many thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: For more, let's turn to Governor Howard Dean, former

governor of Vermont and former chairman of the Democratic National

Committee. He is now a consultant to McKenna Long & Aldridge and Democracy

for America, as well as a contributor to CNBC.

Governor, Republicans have attacked President Obama for reducing his

political messaging to one word slogans like "hope" and "change." But

doesn't this actually prove - really prove, inside proof, that Republican

messaging is now and maybe always has been reducible to the one word


HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: It's actually, Lawrence, I think is

worse than that. The Republicans simply don't respect American voters and

now, what this shows is they don't even respect their own donors and their

own voters. They - this is a small group of people who believes they are

above everybody else, that they know best, and therefore, anything they do

is OK because they're right and everybody else is wrong.

And it's astonishing to me - what is so astonishing is not that they

are propagandists. They've been doing that since Lee Atwater. What's

astonishing to me is that they'd turn the fire hose on their own people.

They just don't respect anybody who disagrees with them and they really

believe that they are entitled to run the country just because of their

far-right views. And it's just - I'm shocked. I really am. That would

never happen at the DNC.

You know, you can't even ask me what would you do if that happened at

the DNC. It never would, because we fundamentally respect other people.

In fact, when I was chairman, we actually even reached out to respect

evangelical Christians because we thought we could get some of their votes

and we did.

I'm stunned. I just can't believe that this party is so open about

how contemptuous it is for the very people they work for ultimately which

is the American people.

O'DONNELL: And you've dealt with big donors running the Democratic

Party and outreach to smaller donors. How do you think - on the

Republican side tonight - how do you think big donors in the Republican

Party feel when they're being publicly humiliated like this and the small

donors publicly humiliated, the party officially calling them

"reactionary"? How do they feel as donors to their own party now?

DEAN: Yes. That's the most interesting thing. You know, the big

donors are kind of used to getting bounced around by politicians. They rub

elbows with them all the time and they don't like it. And that's why a lot

of business people aren't supporting Republicans anymore because they're

not the same Republicans that - you know, that my parents were when they

were in the Republican Party.

But the small donors - this is why there's a tea party. And this is

why the Republicans can't rely on the tea party movement because they know

the Republicans - they may not like the Democrats but the Republicans

don't like them. This - and so, what they're really angry about is just

they're tired of being treated like dirt by the people in power and that

does not confine to the Democrats. The Republicans are doing exactly the

same thing.

And this sort of shows that they don't view the tea party as their

allies. They view the tea party as a problem, as dopes, as all the kinds

of things that the tea party people say - oh, the Democrats and the elite.

Well, guess what? This shows that the Republicans also are elitists and

that they don't have - we have no corner on the market of being elitists,

and I think the tea party is going to eat them for lunch for this.

O'DONNELL: Now, Michael Steele survived a lot of controversy up to

this one, but if the big donors revolt over this, it seems to me that he's

going to have to go. You studied the opposing team from your perch running

the Democratic Party. Who's on the bench in the Republican Party? Who

might they have to replace Michael Steele?

DEAN: Well, to be honest with you, I thought the candidate they

should have picked was Mike Duncan.

I served opposite Mike Duncan. He is actually a decent guy. He's

very conservative, of course, but he's guy you can do business with. We do

have to do some business with the Republican Party, discussing how

conventions are going to work and broadly about rules and debates and

things like that.

So, you know, he ran and he didn't win, but he is a solid guy who

knows - you know, this is probably - my endorsement of him is probably

the kiss of death. But he's a solid guy who knows what he's doing and I

think the Republican Party is badly in need of that. And you just can't

talk about people like this - like this. You can't talk about your own

team like this.

O'DONNELL: All right. Good. We've just killed the Duncan candidacy

with the Dean endorsement of it.

Now, Governor, the DCCC has sent out its own fundraising e-mail today

using this Republican plan. I mean, isn't that - ultimately beyond

anything else - the absolute worst thing you could imagine running a party

is that you come up with material that is for fundraising in your party and

it actually works to raise money for the other party?

DEAN: Yes, well, we do that a lot. I mean, we run - we run

fundraisers off each other's kind of red meat to their base. The thing

about - so unusual about this is the DCCC, I haven't seen their letter,

but this isn't about red meat that the other guy said. This is about the

other guys attacking their own team.

I just - I've never seen anything like this in politics, showing open

contempt for the very people who support you need to win. I just - I just

don't know what to say. I'm speechless and that's unusual for me.

O'DONNELL: Howard Dean, you have done a very good job of not actually

gloating during this segment tonight.


DEAN: I'm so shocked I can't even gloat.

O'DONNELL: Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont and former

head of the DNC - many thanks for your time.

DEAN: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Today, Nancy Pelosi expressed confidence about the way

forward for health care reform in the House, but another Democrat, Bart

Stupak, says he's ready to kill reform once and for all if the language

about abortion doesn't change.

And later, Karl Rove's revisionist history. Rove answers the big

question: would we have gone to war in Iraq if we knew Saddam had no

weapons of mass destruction? Lawrence Wilkerson joins us - ahead on



O'DONNELL: President Obama brings Democrats on the fence about health

care reform to the White House this afternoon. Nancy Pelosi says she's

confident she will find the votes to pass the Senate's version of reform.

But once again, the issue of abortion could be the spoiler.

And later, Sarah Palin rails against the Hollywood elite but she is

pitching a TV show to networks and grabbing all the free Oscar week goodies

she can. That's next.

This is Countdown.


O'DONNELL: The White House now says that health care reform is on

schedule to get through the House by March 18th, two weeks from today.

Whether or not that is a realistic date after an epic year-long battle,

there is now a concerted effort to get there and get there soon.

President Obama met today with two flanks of the Democratic majority

in the House, the Progressive Caucus and a group of centrist Democrats.

The separate meetings were intended to ease the concerns of groups with

sometimes disparate philosophies.

After the meeting, the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus said that

the president reminded them that, quote, "If this opportunity passes, much

of our agenda, on the progressive side, it would be difficult, if not

impossible for a generation to get back to this issue."

The chair of the centrist group, Congressman Joe Crowley, is saying

afterward that, "When all is said and done, we will have the votes to pass

health care reform."

Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also expressed confidence while

avoiding such bright line predictions.


PELOSI: I feel very confident that the up or down vote on the

majority rule proposal that will come to the House will satisfy members'

concerns about the Senate bill. Every vote - every legislative vote is a

heavy lift around here. You assume nothing - assume nothing in terms of

where you were before and where people may be now.


O'DONNELL: And Pelosi said that even after the declaration of

Congressman Bart Stupak this morning, Congressman Stupak is saying that he

and 12 other Democrats are prepared to bring down the health care bill

because the Senate version doesn't use the Stupak language on banning

federal funding of abortion.

Also today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius met

with top insurance executives to raise concerns about huge rate hikes.

President Obama actually dropped in on the meeting to show the executives a

letter from a woman whose plight was typical of many Americans. Her

insurance rates had gone up 40 percent in one year.

Meantime, Republican Congressman Nathan Deal announced today he will

not resign until after the health care vote.

And over in the Senate, one of the architects of reconciliation,

Robert Byrd, clearly said he does not oppose reconciliation for the

House/Senate changes to the Senate bill - which contradicts key Republican

talking points.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that the House and

Senate were on schedule to get something done on health care by March 18th.

The House passing the Senate version, he explained, would be the first part

of that.

Let's bring in Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California's 35th


Thanks very much for your time tonight, Congresswoman.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: You're welcome. Delighted to be

here with you.

O'DONNELL: We know what the process has to be. The House, in an

unprecedented move, has to pass the Senate bill without changing anything

in it. That bill then gets signed into law and then, immediately, you

start working on a reconciliation bill to pass both the House and the

Senate that will correct many of the deficiencies or other issues in the

Senate bill that the House wants corrected and now, including some senators

want corrected.

Is the timetable of March 18th realistic for at least getting the

House to pass the Senate bill?

WATERS: I think this timetable is perhaps more realistic than any of

the other timetables that have been set in the recent past. I think that

members of the Democratic Caucus have gone through a grueling debate -

and, you know, many of us have fought very hard, starting out from wanting

single-payer to public option to national health exchanges.

But we realize, I think most of us, that we've got to move this bill.

I think the president is correct. The American people deserve

comprehensive universal health care reform, and that if we don't get it

done now, perhaps it will be another - maybe 15, 20 years before it can

even be attempted again.

So, I think people are pretty much ready to move and get something


O'DONNELL: When this two-stage process for passing the bill was first

floated, Speaker Pelosi a few weeks ago at that time said, "I don't see the

votes for it at this time." What has changed since then in the House of


WATERS: I think what has changed is an understanding that there were

central elements in this bill such as preexisting conditions, subsidized

health care for the poor beyond Medicaid, involving all of the businesses

in providing health care for their employees or paying a fee so that the

other taxpayers wouldn't have to pick up that cost. I think that people

have probably come to the conclusion that there are very, very substantial,

basic elements of this bill, that's worth passing.

O'DONNELL: Now, the public option continues to gain support in the

Senate - the 35th member of the Senate has now signed on to - wanting to

do the public option in a reconciliation bill after -


O'DONNELL: - the House passes the Senate bill. But President Obama

today has reported in the meeting with progressives from the House to have

said that in effect for him the public option is dead.

At this point, doesn't that mean that President Obama is, in effect,

the biggest opponent to the public option?

WATERS: Well, it means that the president - even though he's often

said he would support a public option - that he's not really been out

there really fighting for it. But I think, if the Senate emerges with

enough votes to put it in, I don't think he'll resist it. I think he

probably does not believe that there's enough votes in the Senate to get it


But we're all hopeful. Those of us who fought so hard first for a

robust public option and then accepted just plain old public option when we

passed it out of the House, we're thrilled at what we see happening in the

Senate. And we hold out hopes for the possibility that public option will

end up in the bill.

O'DONNELL: Well, if the House bill didn't pass the first time with

only a three-vote margin, Congressman Stupak -

WATERS: That's right.

O'DONNELL: - says that - and Congressman Stupak was included in

that group. He is saying that he and maybe 10 others will leave that group

if the abortion language isn't corrected according to his specifications.

If that happens, it seems like you don't have a winning margin in the


WATERS: Well, I think that the congressman is hopeful that he can

have his way, that he can threaten in ways that will cause his language to

be acceptable. But I think what you're hearing from Crowley and Nancy

Pelosi and others that we think that this bill is going to make it.

O'DONNELL: Representative Maxine Waters of California - thank you

for your time tonight.

WATERS: You're welcome.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: Karl Rove's shock and awe rewrite. He says

he's not sure we would have invaded Iraq if we knew there were no WMD

there. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson will guide us through Rove's ramblings.

And the man who brought us "Survivor" and "The Apprentice" - will he

soon be turning the Palins and the Alaska landscape into the latest reality

show craze?


O'DONNELL: Karl Rove does some of his best work right out in the

open. Witness the coverage of Rove's upcoming book. The focus today that

he admits Bush error, or even mendacity about WMD in the following excerpt:

quote, "would the Iraq war have occurred without WMD? I doubt it."

Of course, that is no admission of lying about WMD, but it is an

admission that Rove thinks the Iraq War might have happened without WMD,

meaning Rove thinks the Bush administration might have wanted to invade

regardless of WMD. Rove says that without WMD, Congress was very unlikely

to support the use of force resolution. But, of course, that implies that

President Bush would still have sought a use of force authorization, even

knowing there were no WMD.

Rove, himself, backs up this interpretation. The "New York Times"

reports that the chance to establish a Middle East democracy as a bulwark

against Islamic extremism, quoting Rove, "justified the decision to remove

Saddam Hussein," which, just like WMD, is also false. Saddam Hussein

actually was something of a bulwark against Islamic extremism. His removal

both thrilling al Qaeda and allowing it to spread.

We also learned Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the trial of

Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby, over the leak of Valerie Plame's role

as a CIA operative, also told Rove's lawyer he was considering indicting

Rove, too. And that Rove cried when Fitzgerald decided not to.

Rove takes the fall for political missteps like his boss's flyover of

New Orleans after Katrina. But when it comes to Iraq, the only blame he

places on himself is for not pushing back harder when Democrats criticized

the administration for lying about WMD.

"Did bush lie us into war," Rove writes? Quote, "absolutely not."

Of course, they peddled multiple falsehoods in the run-up to war. Not

just the basic falsehood that Iraq had WMD, but the knowing falsehood that

it was a certainty, a falsehood peddled by Bush's vice president, who knew

that everyone from State to Energy and, yes, the intelligence agencies, had

raised serious doubts.



there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends,

against our allies, against us.


O'DONNELL: And Bush, himself, there was never any intelligence

provided to Mr. Bush, cherry picked, inflated, or otherwise, that Saddam

Hussein was dealing with al Qaeda. In fact, al Qaeda was on the record

opposing Saddam Hussein, making the following a desperate lie.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, can you tell us what conclusive

evidence you have of any nuclear - new evidence you have of nuclear

weapons capabilities of Saddam Hussein?


prime minister talk about the new report. I would remind you that when the

inspectors first went into Iraq, and were denied - finally denied access,

a report came out of the Atomic - the IEAE that they were six months away

from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need.


O'DONNELL: As for lying specifically about WMD, the findings of the

International Atomic Energy Agency you're about to hear Mr. Bush quote are

not true. We know this because it's also not true that there even was a



BUSH: People say oh, we must leave Saddam alone; otherwise, if we did

something against him, he might attack us. Well, if we don't do something

he might attack us. And he might attack us with more serious weapons. The

man is a threat, Hutch, I'm telling you. I - he's a threat not only with

what he has. He's a threat with what he's done. He's a threat because he

is dealing with al Qaeda.


O'DONNELL: Let's bring in Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as

Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff during the Bush

administration and now serves as Pamela Harriman visiting professor at the

College of William & Mary.

Colonel, thanks very much for your time tonight. I want to start by

asking you about Rove's underlying assumption here, that without being able

to sell the war on WMD, Congress would not have approved the use of force

authorization, and the US would not have invaded. Can you dissect that for

us from where you were sitting at that time in the administration?


POWELL: Well, my first reaction to that is very clear. It's the reaction

of a soldier. And I want to know how you would comfort the families of the

4,380 Americans who have died in Iraq, the over 31,000 who have been

wounded, some of them horribly wounded, and similarly with our allies like

the British. That's not a very comforting thing to pass on to these men

and women, and to their brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and

wives and husbands, to say that if the intelligence community in the United

States, on which we spend about 60 billion a year, hadn't made this

colossal failure, we probably wouldn't have gone to war.

That's my first gut level reaction to it.

O'DONNELL: What would you have liked to hear Rove say on the question

of what would the administration have done if they knew there were no

weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

WILKERSON: I would have liked to have heard him say there were other

reasons to go to war, like I know there were. There was, for example, co-

President Dick Cheney's reason, which was essentially to stabilize oil

prices and get his hands on or get US boots on Arab soil, where the second

largest known oil reserves in the world existed. This is Dick Cheney, the

coldly realistic strategist.

This is the reason that even I, as a strategist, could have

understood, rather than have this man - this is a man, after all, who

said, "we're a super power now; we make our own reality." Karl Rove is

busy in this book doing much of what he did during the eight years of the

Bush administration; he is making his own reality, in this case trying to

burnish and protect the legacy of the president and himself. This is not

good work in my mind.

O'DONNELL: The Bush-Cheney defense on this has always been we did not

lie our way into war. We did use information that turned out not to be

true. Again, from where you sat - you were in national security meetings

in this administration - what is your feeling on the question of did this

administration lie its way into war?

WILKERSON: Well, I actually participated in one of the biggest and

most dramatic and most public lies, and that was the presentation at the

United Nations by my boss. I participated in the intelligence that got

together at Langley, at the CIA, and brought together all of the different

entities of our intelligence community, and put it before the American

people, before the international community, and before the UN Security


And we lied. Now, I'm not standing here, sitting here, telling you

that we lied knowing we were lying. But the intelligence community and the

political operators worked together in a colossal form of groupthink, in my

view, because they all thought it doesn't matter what we say here; the

details are irrelevant because when we invade, we're going to find weapons

of mass destruction. And therefore, we'll all be exonerated.

Well, they didn't find any weapons of mass destruction. And someone

should have began asking those questions earlier than they did, consulting

the wider array of intelligence that existed, listening to other people

than just the consensus builders, and we would have come out with a very

different situation.

And I agree with Mr. Rove that Congress might not have approved it.

And that's the reason - and he tells us very clearly that's the reason, as

the Downing Street Memo said, they had to fix the intelligence around the


O'DONNELL: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin

Powell, secretary of state, thank you very much for your time and your

unique insights on this history.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

O'DONNELL: Meantime, the war President Bush started in Iraq still

rages, as suicide bombers try to derail elections there. Richard Engel

examines how our US forces are handling the new mission in Iraq.

And later, in one breath, Sarah Palin asks for privacy for her family.

In the other breath, she's shopping around her family as part of a reality

show. And Mark Burnett has already signed on.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, more on Congressman Bart

Stupak's mission to derail health care reform over abortion.


O'DONNELL: There has been another day of violence leading up to

Sunday's elections in Iraq, the first parliamentary elections, full-term

parliamentary elections, since 2005. Today, voting for security - today,

the voting involved security personnel have been met with deadly attacks at

the polling centers. These are the first full parliamentary elections in

Iraq since 2005. And in the five years since then, the role of American

troops in that country has changed significantly.

Richard Engel reports from Nasiriyah.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were lined

up to vote when a suicide bomber in Baghdad slipped into the crowd. But

American troops today didn't secure any of the blast sites. America's new

mission in Iraq is now strictly behind the scenes.

To understand it, we joined a scout platoon living on an Iraqi police

station in southeast Iraq. Here Lieutenant Jesse Krim coordinated American

drones over voting stations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not kicking down doors in any way.

ENGEL: No direct combat, as US soldiers are severely limited.

(on camera): Under a new security agreement, US troops are mostly

confined to their bases. They really leave without Iraqi permission. It's

a training mission now. And some American soldiers have mixed feelings

about it.

(voice-over): When Sergeant Fogarty was in Baghdad on his last

deployment three years ago, his unit was attacked by roadside bombs 18

times a week. This time, most of his soldiers haven't fired a shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a positive thing. I mean, seeing our hard

work that we put in over the past years has paid off.

ENGEL: But some soldiers here feel they're no longer needed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it's time for us to move out. I mean,

it's come to the point where we trained these guys. They already know

everything we're trained in. And they're acting on it. And you see the


ENGEL (on camera): Time to go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time to go home.

ENGEL (voice-over): His platoon leader, Lieutenant Krim, disagrees,

but admits most of his soldiers would rather be in Afghanistan, in the

fight, not cooped up on base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say if you trained all your life to be a doctor,

and then you came to a country and all you did was help out doctors, you

had to stay in the waiting room and basically try and help them out the

best you can. That's basically what we're doing here. It's kind of

frustrating at times, but it's necessary.

ENGEL: It's a new role, and some soldiers here are struggling to

adjust. Richard Engel, NBC News, Nasiriyah.


O'DONNELL: Coming up, Sarah's search for her higher calling. Earlier

this week, it was stand up on "The Tonight Show." Now she's shopping a

reality show around Hollywood, and she must be serious because she's got

the king of reality TV, Mark Burnett, involved.


O'DONNELL: She's dismissed her future ex-son-in-law as Ricky

Hollywood, but now it looks like the hockey mom from Wasilla wants in on

some of that Tinsel Town action. "Entertainment Weekly" reports Sarah

Palin is shopping around a reality show. The first question all the

interested networks are asking, will she quit halfway through the first


Leaving her moose stew on the back burner, Sister Sarah spending the

week palling around with Hollywood types, first appearing on "The Tonight

Show." Next, hanging out in "American Idol's" green room. And now

pitching a TV docu-drama about life in the last frontier. "Politico"

reporting that Palin, alongside mega-producer Mark Burnett, is meeting with

executives from the big four television networks, as well as reps from A&E

and the History Channel. A Palin source explaining the show will be more

"Planet Earth" than the Osbournes Go North. While Fox News is reporting

the show would have nothing to do with Palin's family.

Also in the works for Palin, a sequel to "Going Rogue." Publisher

Harper Collins says the untitled follow-up will include selections from

classic and contemporary readings that have inspired her, as well as

portraits of some of the extraordinary men and women she admires. And, as

E Online reports, Palin also had time to visit a West Hollywood gifting

suite for some Oscar week swag. One witness/victim telling E, "they were

like locusts. She showed up with like 20 people, and they immediately

swarmed the place, taking everything."

After insisting the suite open two hours early, Palin and her

entourage snatched up sweat shirts, jewelry, skin products, 40 pairs of

head phones and tie-dyed jeggings. Jeggings just defined for me by the

crack Countdown research staff as a combination of jeans and leggings.

No sighting yet of Mr. And Mrs. Mitt Romney hustling free stuff from

the Hollywood gifting suites.

Joining me now is Hollywood veteran Peter Bart, vice president,

editorial director, and columnist at "Variety." Peter, just when you

thought you had seen it all in Hollywood, in your long career, along comes

Sarah Palin to take over the Oscar week gifting suites. Could you explain

to the under-privileged viewers out there who have never been in an Oscar

gifting suite exactly how these things work, and why they are there at all?

PETER BART, "VARIETY": Well, Hollywood becomes swag city during

Academy Awards season. And the reason is that all of the major brands want

to show their wares in the context of glitz and glamour. So therefore,

with celebrities cruising the town, this is a great time basically to give

away your stuff, to show it, and at the same time, they - at the same time

you're giving it away, you're also exhibiting it in the nicest possible

framework, so - and maybe raising some money for charity. It's all fair


O'DONNELL: One of the weirdest things about these suites, Peter, that

I've always - when I've seen them is that the odd thing about them is

everyone in them who is getting this stuff for free can afford to buy all

of that stuff without even blinking an eye, including, by the way, Sarah

Palin. And does she realize - she's new to this. Does she realize that

the IRS has gotten very interested in these gifts? Some of them worth

thousands of dollars. And that, as I understand it, sometimes now, when

they are giving you these bags of goodies, they stick a little tax form in

there, so they make sure you let the IRS know about it.

BART: Well, that's more as presenters, to presenters, whether it's

the Grammies or the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes. If you are a

presenter, your swag bag is formidable. Like the least expensive thing in

your bag might be a week's vacation in Barbados. Now, that's where the

taxes come in. But if you wander around the gifting suites, I don't think

tax issues are more of a concern.

O'DONNELL: Now, turning to her reality show; it sounds like a serious

product, if she's going into a room to pitch this thing. Well, I mean,

going in a room alone it should be taken very seriously. But going in with

Mark Burnett, that really puts it over the top, doesn't it?

BART: Well, Mark is indeed the king of reality shows. And I actually

talked to him today. And he was on his cell phone, in a meeting with

Martha Stewart, another rather powerful woman with whom he is working.

And, yes, he confirmed that they were - he and Sarah were pitching

yesterday. And he describes the show more in the context of, as you were

saying, that Sarah is going to be a native guide through Alaska, showing

the - we heathen from Main Stream America what - the fishing industry,

the mining industry, the mountains, all the beauties of Alaska. She is

going to be our native guide.

Mark, who is not a political person, emphasized this will be a very

non-political show. But you can bet it's going to be a hell of a hey day -

pay-day, pardon me.

O'DONNELL: Peter, did you get any hint from Mark Burnett whether the

family would be involved in the show?

BART: I got the feeling that they would not be, that this is really

Sarah. You know, it's funny, by doing this, Sarah Palin becomes the flip

side of Ronald Reagan, who, after all, you know, was a media figure, who

then involved himself brilliantly in politics. So she is now, of course, a

political figure, who clearly is enamored of the media world. Right? She

is no longer the victim of the big media. She is going to be part of the

main stream.

O'DONNELL: She certainly has gone from "Going Rogue" to going

Hollywood. I mean, how much longer can she be talking about Hollywood

elites if she becomes one of them?

BART: I think she'll change her tune radically. And, you know, the

funny thing is that Rogue is a well known company in Hollywood. It makes

horror pictures. So this is not quite the image that she has in mind.

O'DONNELL: Peter Bart of "Variety," thank you very much for your time


BART: You bet.

O'DONNELL: That'll have to do it for this Thursday edition of

Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. Our MSNBC

coverage continues now with "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." Good evening,