updated 9/5/2006 11:39:11 AM ET 2006-09-05T15:39:11

Guests: Chris Cillizza, Melanie Sloan

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

Rummy, sanitized.  The secretary of defense comes back for more, not swinging, but gently tapping, in an op-ed piece under his name in “The Los Angeles Times.”  Nothing this time about those who disagree showing moral or intellectual confusion, but the words “appease” and “appeased” are still there.  He‘s added a comparison between terrorists and communists, and he blames the media anew.

“Those who know the truth,” the piece reads, “need to speak out against the myths and distortions being told.”

Agreed, we‘re doing the best we can.  Tonight, another special comment.

“The Washington Post” throws Joe Wilson under the bus, blaming him for the end of his wife‘s CIA career, the curious conclusion from an even more curious source.

Just to the south, beach roads and even interstates closed, hundreds of thousands without power in Virginia and North Carolina.  But the second punch of Ernesto could have been far worse.

Speaking of punches, it‘s Brad Pitt back in New Orleans, back advocating rebuilding it green.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD PITT:  We‘re still the most powerful nation in the world.  Beyond policing the world, we could be inspiring the world, and we could be at the forefront of this kind of movement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You should watch this.  Ann Curry busted her butt for this interview.  Well, busted her nose.

Hey, look, it‘s a book, “Worst Person in the World” in hardcover.

And we may have left these guys out of it, but we‘re still working towards Oddball‘s Plays of the Month.

Plus weather with Uncle Walter and Steve Sports.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.

This is Friday, September 1, 67 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

And the leftovers don‘t taste any better than did the original serving of repression, distortion, and anti-Americanism.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld again, this time with a piece appearing in the editorial pages of “The Los Angeles Times,” a largely rehashed version of his controversial speech to members of the American Legion in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, the one in which he insisted those who disagreed with the administration on Iraq or counterterror did so at their own peril, and necessarily suffered from either moral or intellectual confusion.

If Mr. Rumsfeld can regurgitate his comments, so can I.  A brief special comment in a moment.

The secretary‘s comments first, four straight days of fallout apparently leading him to conclude he needed a second take, a kind of, Why would anybody be offended? attitude.  He dropped all references to the moral or intellectual confusion of those who dissent.  That obviously had not gone well.  But to his comparisons to Hitler and his appeasers, Rumsfeld followed the president‘s lead from yesterday and threw in the cold war just for good measure.

“Those who warned against the rise of Nazism, fascism, and communism were often ridiculed and ignored.”  And he concluded, “I do worry about the lack of perspective in our national dialogue, a perspective on history and the new challenges and threats that free people face today.  Those who know the truth need to speak out against the myths and distortions being told about our troops and our country.  My remarks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion conventions have generated much discussion.  I encourage everyone to read what I actually said.”

Not that we at COUNTDOWN have not already read or listened to the speech many, many times, despite the conclusions of Mr. Rumsfeld‘s press spokesman that we clearly had not even read it once.

But today, in the spirit of Mr. Rumsfeld‘s request, we read it again, and discovered that entire portions of what he said on Tuesday overlap with his newspaper commentary today, almost word for word.

On his basic premise, quoting from Mr. Rumsfeld‘s print rebuttal, “The struggle is too important, the consequences too severe, to allow a blame-America-first mentality.”

Secretary Rumsfeld on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  The consequences are too severe, the struggle too important to have the luxury of returning to that old mentality of blame America first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  On the media‘s role, quote, “A database search of the nation‘s leading newspapers turns up 10 times as many mentions of one of the soldiers punished for misconduct at Abu Ghraib than of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the global war on terror.”

Secretary Rumsfeld Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD:  A database search of America‘s leading newspapers turns up literally 10 times as many mentions of one of the soldiers who has been punished for misconduct, 10 times more than the mentions of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the global war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  On what should be done about it, quote, “Those who know the truth need to speak out against the myths and distortions being told about our troops and our country.

Secretary Rumsfeld Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD:  Those who know the truth, need to speak out against these kinds of myths and distortions that are being told about our troops and about our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re doing what we can, sir.  Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Ironically, someone that Mr. Rumsfeld would undeniably believe knows the truth was speaking out today about the state of the war in Iraq.  His own department, and what it had to say, was not very encouraging at all, the Pentagon telling Congress in its new quarterly report that sectarian violence in Iraq is spreading, making security problems there more complex than at any time since the U.S. invasion in March 2003, today‘s report saying that while a Sunni-led insurgency is still potent and viable, it is now being, quote, “overshadowed by the sect-on-sect killing.”

Quote, “Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife.  Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq, specifically in and around Baghdad, and concern about civil war within the Iraqi civilian population has increased in recent months.”

Attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians up 24 percent in the three months since the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister al-Maliki was seated.

Time now to call in Chris Cillizza, political reporter for WashingtonPost.com, who joins us again.

Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Good evening, Keith.  I braved the conditions, the elements in Washington to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you for doing so.

CILLIZZA:  I do my best, only for you.

OLBERMANN:  Secretary Rumsfeld‘s op-ed, titled in “The L.A. Times” today, “I Meant What I Said,” yet he sanitized a lot of what he had said on Tuesday.  He‘s blaming the media for misinterpreting much of what he said, in fact, or in effect, the whole thing reads, I meant it, at least I meant part of it, but don‘t believe a word of what you saw me say on television.  How, Chris, can all three of those things be true?

CILLIZZA:  Well, they can‘t.  I think what you‘re seeing is, and this happens quite a bit is, on both sides, politicians on both sides, when they commit not necessarily an error, but maybe they step a little bit over the bounds of where they wanted to go, or where sort of the powers that be, whether it‘s President Bush or whoever it is, wanted them to go, they blame the media.

It used to be we would get it from one side.  Conservatives said, Well, the media‘s too liberal.  Well, now we also get it from the other side.  I get tons of e-mails every day that say I‘m an apologist for the Bush administration.

So, look, the media is a frequent, common, and much-used whipping boy.  So I think you‘re seeing that again with Secretary Rumsfeld.  It‘s not that he said something that caused controversy and maybe got the administration off topic, it‘s that we interpreted it wrong.

OLBERMANN:  Or that we didn‘t interpret it at all, or didn‘t read or didn‘t listen.  This theme continues.  The secretary‘s sending letters to Senator Reid and Congresswoman Pelosi telling them, quote, “I assume your comments to the press were made in reaction to inaccurate media reporters.”  When we called the Pentagon press office yesterday, we were told Mr.  Rumsfeld was not talking about critics of the administration in his speech on Tuesday.  The appeaser stuff did not pertain to them.  But it would not tell us about whom the defense secretary was speaking.

How can it claim  an inaccuracy without providing an accuracy?

CILLIZZA:  Well, look, I think it—the best way to understand this, the best context to put this in, is exactly what you said at the top of the show, 67 days until the election.  Everything right now is politicized.  Letters back and forth.  We‘re probably going to get a vote of no-confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld by Democrats on the House floor next week.

Everything is overly dramatic.  It‘s sort of you‘re your last few days of high school.  It seems like these are the only great friends you‘re going to have.  Your boyfriend or girlfriend (INAUDIBLE) only person who‘s ever going to matter to you.

Everything, when you get that close to an election, is played out on this huge stage where people get enthusiastic one day and the next day they‘re in the doldrums.

So, look, put it all in the context of 67 days before the midterm elections.  Republicans need to make this election about security, and that they‘re the party better able to keep Americans safe.  And I think that‘s what you‘re seeing with Secretary Rumsfeld.

I would remind people that we saw Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, way back in January, frame this election in the minds of Republicans.  He said, This is a choice between a pre-September 11 party, being the Democrats, and a post-September 11 party, being the Republicans.

So this should not come as a huge surprise that we‘re seeing this theme come up again when we‘re nine and a half weeks from election day.

OLBERMANN:  But the electorate‘s enthusiasm for all the spin and all the interpretation, is there actually no burying the idea that the problem of the administration‘s message about Iraq is not how it‘s being interpreted, not how they‘re getting out, but that Americans are dissatisfied with the results?

CILLIZZA:  Look, I think there‘s some real validity there.  And look at polling.  If you looked in 2002, when people were asked, Which party do you trust to better handle the war on terror, to keep you safe from terrorists? Republicans had a huge lead, a generic Republican had a 20 to a 25-point lead.  Two thousand four, that lead was smaller, but it was still measurable, it was 10, 15 points.

If you look at that question now, it‘s dead even.  Republicans may be up a point or two, Democrats may be up a point or two.  But the saliency of this argument, I think, is up for debate.

The reality for Republicans is that they simply don‘t have that many wonderful things to talk about at the moment on most of these issues.  Education, health care, energy bill, if you ask the American public, they say they trust Democrats overwhelmingly.  So Republicans certainly don‘t want to talk about that.  Security is their best bet.  It doesn‘t make it a winner, but it makes it their best bet in a bad circumstance.

OLBERMANN:  And we‘ll see the latest version of it next Tuesday, when Mr. Bush gives his next version of the Islamofascism speech at that time.

Chris Cillizza, political reporter for WashingtonPost.com.  Again, sir, great thanks for joining us, especially under the circumstances.

CILLIZZA:  Keith, thank you for having me, as always.

OLBERMANN:  And as promised, a briefer version now of my previous special comment on the speech, and now the writing of Donald Rumsfeld.

It did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence, indeed, the loyalty of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land.  Worse still, it credited those same transient occupants with a total omniscience, a total omniscience which neither common sense nor this administration‘s track record at home or abroad suggests they deserve.

Yet, though dissent and disagreement with government is the life‘s blood of human freedom, the first roadblock against tyranny, and also essential, because just every once in a while, it is right, and the power to which it speaks is wrong.

Despite those inalienable truths, Tuesday Mr. Rumsfeld compared those who have asked merely for the receipts for the emperor‘s new clothes to those who appeased Hitler.  And today he has now added the comparison to communist sympathizers in the ‘30s.

I ask again, in what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised?  As a child, of whose heroism did he read?  On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight?  And with what country has he confused the United States of America?

The full version of the special comment still available at our Web site, Countdown.MSNBC.com.  And it will run in its entirety several times this weekend on MSNBC television.

From blaming the media to the media playing the blame game, an editorial saying the person most responsible for Valerie Plame losing her CIA career was her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson.  The Wilsons‘ attorney joins me next.

And a celebration of the end of the week, the end of the month, from ridiculous festivals, to amazing animals, to idiots with buckets on their heads.  That would be the amazing animal, that would be the idiot.  Oddball‘s Plays of the Month, Labor Day weekend edition.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, another clash in the ongoing battle over the battle over the war in Iraq.  You will recall that earlier this week, we learned the identity, apparently officially, of the first source to tell columnist Robert Novak that Joe Wilson‘s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative.  Specifically, it was Richard Armitage, top deputy to Colin Powell, who told Novak that Plame had suggested her husband for a fact-finding trip to Niger, which ultimately led him to publicly challenge President Bush‘s claim that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Niger.

Today, “The Washington Post” editorial page draws two startling conclusions from this.  One, “It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House, that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame‘s identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson, is untrue.”

You took logic 101, you know it not only does not follow, it doesn‘t even hang out with.  Armitage‘s supposed inadvertence might send the orchestra home, but it has no impact on the obvious opportunity the White House seized to discredit Wilson via his wife.

But even more shocking, perhaps, “The Post”‘s second conclusion, the real person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame‘s CIA career is Mr.  Wilson.  And even Dennis the Menace‘s neighbor, that would have made more sense.  Joe Wilson, why?

Quoting the editorial again, “Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming, falsely, as it proved—“ or “as it turned out,” rather, “that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium shopping in Niger, and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials.  He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission, and that the answer would point to his wife.”

One of the attorneys representing the Wilsons, Melanie Sloan, joins us now.

Ms. Sloan, thank you for your time tonight.

MELANIE SLOAN, WILSONS‘ ATTORNEY:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  Have you spoken with your clients about this?  And if so, can you characterize their reaction to this extraordinary editorial?

SLOAN:  Yes, I have spoken with them.  And, of course, they‘re outraged by the editorial.  And it‘s completely inaccurate.  And not only that, it is in great conflict with what “The Washington Post” itself has written about this story over the past several years.

OLBERMANN:  In fact, let me quote some of those things.  From October 5 of last year, “Wilson‘s central assertion disputing President Bush‘s 2003 State of the Union claim that Iraq was seeking nuclear material in Niger has been validated by postwar weapons inspections.”  And then from April 9 of this year, “Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the first time described a ‘concerted action‘ by ‘multiple people in the White House‘ using classified information ‘to discredit, punish, or seek revenge against‘ a critic of President Bush‘s war in Iraq,” namely, Ambassador Wilson.

How would you or your client reconcile this, theoretically, even, this violent disconnect between what is correct on “The Post”‘s front page, and what it believes to—it should be expressing on its editorial page?

SLOAN:  Well, it‘s entirely schizophrenic.  And I don‘t think you really can reconcile the two.  I think the real problem here is that the White—is that “The Washington Post” has always supported the war, and now they need new justification to go ahead and continue that support for the war.  And I think this effort to discredit Mr. Wilson on the editorial page is outrageous and is completely undercut by all of the facts.  And, in fact, none other than Patrick Fitzgerald said that it was hard for him to conceive of any evidence that could come out that would discredit that the White House was, in fact, all along had a plan to discredit Mr. Wilson and punish Mr. Wilson.

OLBERMANN:  In all fairness, your clients and this legal team is suing the alleged other source, Mr. Rove, as well as Mr. Libby and Vice President Cheney. Should Mr. Armitage be on that list?

SLOAN:  You know, we‘re looking into whether Mr. Armitage should be on that list.  But whether or not we eventually do add Mr. Armitage to the suit, it doesn‘t in any way undercut the suit against Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby, and Mr. Cheney, who were all involved in a concerted effort, a conspiracy, to discredit Mr. Wilson by—and punish him by outing Valerie Wilson.

But there are questions now that have been raised about Dick Armitage‘s role, and we‘re looking at those closely.  And we‘ll be making decisions in the coming days as to whether or not to add Mr. Armitage to the suit.

OLBERMANN:  If this—if the Armitage revelation is as it is stated, if it is factual, does it merely change this from a concerted, planned opportunity—situation to a sort of crime of opportunity?  Is that the major difference here, in your opinion?

SLOAN:  Well, it would be a crime of opportunity.  Just because Armitage first said it doesn‘t mean that, of course, Rove, Libby, and Cheney weren‘t then trying to push the story out.  They talked to at least six different Washington journalists, trying to get out Valerie Wilson‘s covert identity.

But the fact is, what Armitage did is also not OK.  He went and took information in a classified memo, and he was just dishing with Bob Novak.  And somebody who was number two at the Department of State should have known better.

OLBERMANN:  Attorney Melanie Sloan, who is representing Joe and Valerie Plame Wilson.  Great thanks for joining us tonight.  Have a good weekend.

SLOAN:  You too.

OLBERMANN:  And this guy seems well on his way to getting his dream job, becoming a U.S. senator in Washington, D.C.  Professor, is that you?  Step one, get arrested at the debates.  Step two, learn how to play golf, perhaps from the gentleman there in the hood.

His antics and other oddballs all part of the Plays of the Month, ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On September 1, 1807, probably the first guy to make most Americans realize that not everybody they would entrust to run the country would actually merit that trust learned his fate.

Aaron Burr, the former vice president, who actually killed Alexander Hamilton in a dual and then fled south in hopes of perhaps beating the U.S.  to the Louisiana Purchase, or seizing control of Texas and parts of Latin America, or something else nefarious, 199 years ago today, he was found not guilty of treason, setting another kind of precedent for our political animals in Washington.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Maryland, where luckily the democratic process has come a long way in the last two centuries.  The man in the handcuffs there Democratic and progressive U.S. Senate wannabe, Professor Alan Lichtman.  He‘s polling less than 15 percent in the September 12 primary, so it seems as if he was left off the guest list when the front runners had themselves a little debate last night.

Ah, but Lichtman showed up anyway and did a little point-counterpoint from the audience before being dragged away by the coppers.  Now he‘s been debating the business end of the billy club in the Big House.

In London, where a man claiming to be 100 years old is celebrating a century on earth with a little birthday party at work.  Yes, even at 100, Buster Martin refuses to retire.  He‘s still on the job every single day, polishing up ice cream trucks, apparently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSTER MARTIN, 100 YEARS OLD:  (INAUDIBLE) life (INAUDIBLE) working.  Money‘s not everything.  As long as you got enough for your few pints, that‘s it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Your few pints.

All right, here‘s the deal.  This is obviously a scam for free cake. 

If that guy‘s a day over 75, I‘ll buy him a pint right now.

No end to the merriment tonight.  First Friday of the month means Oddball Plays of the Month, including the innovative Russian solution to a shortage of river rafts.

And the residents of the Carolinas could use that kind or any other kind of flotation device this holiday weekend.  Seven inches of rain from ex-hurricane Ernesto.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, the U.S. Postal Service latest special stamps commemorate motorcycles.  Problem, the first-day postmark on the new collectibles misspells the word “motorcycles,” leaves out the second C.  Reads “motorcyles.”  But there‘ll be no upside-down airplane here.  They will now offer collectors both the misspelling and the correct one at the same price and the same value.

Number two, an unidentified 72-year-old woman from Vail, Colorado.  According to police, she went to her kitchen for some coffee and found two surprise guests there, a bear and her cub.  The bear hissed at the woman, so she did what she learned on the Fox series “When Bears Attack.”  She clapped her hands and yelled at it, Go away, and stay tuned for an all-new “Family Guy.”

Number one, former Miss Universe, now Australian TV star Jennifer Hawkins.  When 17-year-old Daniel Dibley (ph) wrote her a letter inviting her to be his date at his senior prom, Ms. Hawkins thought it was sweet.  She accepted immediately.  And then came the nonstop publicity and media circus.  And yesterday, Ms. Hawkins called young Daniel and said she‘d have to back out.

“It wasn‘t really like, Oh, actually, I just don‘t want to go,” she said.  As to young Daniel, we understand his only comment was, quote, “I suppose this means a photo-op in the parking lot is out of the question.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Today a national weather forecasting service downgraded its expectations for this year‘s Atlantic storm season saying will come in below average, that average 10 named storms, six hurricanes.  But in our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, tell that to the 400,000 who had their power knocked out in Virginia and North Carolina as Ernesto raped those state‘s eastern shores overnight. 

Ernesto had strengthened to a tropical storm, it was feared it could regain hurricane strength, but did not.  But the water it‘s dumping is more than a holiday weekend inconvenience.  Our correspondent in Alexandria, Virginia is Tom Costello—Tom. 

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening from Alexandria, Virginia where they‘re expecting six to eight inches of rain tonight and already they‘ve got the sandbags out.  Behind me the Potomac River is running absolutely full and in some cases running its banks.  The storm has already created significant travel problems on the highways and also in the nation‘s airport, significant delays. 

We‘ll talk about that in a moment, but first we‘ve got flashflood warning up and down the east coast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  After churning in the Atlantic, Ernesto roared back ashore just before midnight, lashing the Carolinas with torrential rain and gusting winds topping 70-miles-per-hour.  Wilmington, North Carolina seemed to take the brunt of the storm, 10 inches of rain in a little more than 24 hours.  Downed trees and stalled cars.  In Guilford County, some four-legged residents need rescuing while further north in Elizabeth City, five to eight inches of rain with the National Guard called in to evacuate families from homes suddenly submerged. 

GOV.  MIKE EASLEY, NORTH CAROLINA:  People need to pay attention, because everything, as we‘ve seen with this storm, in particular, everything could change. 

COSTELLO:  In Norfolk, five plus inches of rain with widespread flooding.  In Newport News, door-to-door evacuations and across the region, power outages, 80,000 without electricity in North Carolina, 320,000 in Virginia. 

The storm did lose some of its punch as it moved north, downgraded to a tropical depression with winds clocked at 35-miles-per-hour. 

DENNIS FELTGEN, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE:  So, now it‘s interacting with the land and all that friction is breaking the storm up and opening it up and all of that tremendous energy that is in the storm is breaking apart in the form of heavy rain. 

COSTELLO:  But forecasters say Ernesto is still going to dump a tremendous amount of moisture on the mid-Atlantic states, just as heavy traffic is forecast for the holiday weekend.  The governors of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, have declared states of emergency, cautioning residents to steer clear of high running streams and rivers. 

GOV.  TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA:  So when the rain is done, the emergency response doesn‘t stop until it looks like the—those—the surges on the river start to come back down. 

COSTELLO:  In Washington, crews spent the afternoon piling sandbags in front of government buildings anxious to avoid a repeat of the flooding in late June that inundated the IRS and National Archives buildings. 

While in Baltimore, umbrellas and slickers, as the East Coast prepares for a very wet weekend. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Now more about those travel delays at airports up and down the East Coast, everything from Washington, D.C.  to Baltimore to Philadelphia, to Newark and into New York City, significant travel delays, in some cases one, two, and three hours this evening, as they deal with the effects and the after effects and the spin-off effects of this particular storm now gaining strength and moving back up the East Coast.

Keith, back to you. 

OLBERMANN:  Tom Costello, in Alexandria, Virginia, great thanks. 

On the Pacific Coast, meantime, Hurricane John is making landfall on the southern tip of Baja, California Peninsula.  Looking at the forecast now for both storms is Bill Karins of NBC‘s Weather Plus. 

Bill, good evening.

BILL KARINS, CNN METEOROLOGIST:  Well, good evening to you, Keith.  We‘re watching the landfall now of a Category 2 hurricane almost a Category 3.  This is almost the same strength as Hurricane Rita was when it made landfall right along the Texas-Louisiana border and that‘s what the residents here in the Southern Baja are going to go through over the next 24 hours.  Let‘s go in and take a closer peek at this storm. 

As we go in, we‘re watching Cabo San Lucas, big resort town in the southern tip of the Baja, being spared from the worst of the winds.  The eye of the storm, you see it to the north here, now coming onshore.  So we don‘t have official landfall quite get, but at least that Western half of the eye wall is now raking the coastline.  It looks like the worst of the hurricane forced winds will be felt in the small coastal villages here, just outside of Cabo San Lucas. 

So what are we dealing with?  Category 2 storm, 110-mile-per-hour winds, gusts to 132.  The storm is moving at about 10-miles-per-hour, so they‘re going to have hurricane force conditions all across the southern peninsula of the Baja all evening long.  Finally by tomorrow we think it‘ll be down to a tropical storm. 

And so here is the wind field.  You notice the orange colors here is just our tropical storm force winds.  And so right now, just tropical force gusts in Cabo San Lucas.  Only right near the center of the storm, this is a pretty compact system, are we going to see those horrible winds and the devastation.

Now, by tomorrow morning we‘re talking about a Category 1 storm, then a tropical storm and then all that moisture could sneak up into California and Arizona by the tail end of the Labor Day weekend.  We could have a flooding threat here as we go throughout, it looks like Tuesday and maybe even possibly Wednesday. 

Now, let‘s talk about the rain from Ernesto.  Heavy rain continues to fall across Delaware, Southern New Jersey, and all through Pennsylvania.  This moisture will head north as we go throughout the weekend.  So Sunday and Monday does not look at wet for this area of the country.  But Saturday morning is going to be very rough, especially on the New Jersey coastline and out on Long Island where we could see wind gusts up to 40-miles-per-hour. 

So Keith, as we mentioned, looks like Hurricane John is now making landfall. 

OLBERMANN:  Bill Karins, meteorologist at NBC Weather Plus.  Bill, great thanks as always.

KARINS:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  It is, of course, one storm from one year ago that still shakes the Gulf Coast and our collective conscious.  The effort to rebuild getting more juice tonight from Brad Pitt. 

And in advance of Hurricane Couric, a not so smooth sign-off for Bob

Schieffer at the “CBS Evening News”—just—excuse me—I just want to

don‘t go there.  Sorry, sorry, sorry—details ahead first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W.  BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He just told me if I didn‘t end, he‘s going to make me listen to one of his songs.  And he‘s a great songwriter, but not as good a senator—as he is a senator.  And that‘s saying a lot. 

DAVID LETTERMAN, “LATE SHOW”:  Top 10 Kyra Phillips excuses—No. 5:

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN NEWS ANCHOR:  I was set up by those bastards at FOX News. 

LETTERMAN:  Yeah! Yeah!

No. 3. 

PHILLIPS:  I just wanted that hunky Lou Dobbs to notice me. 

LETTERMAN:  And the No. 1 Kyra Phillips excuse. 

PHILLIPS:  You have to admit it made the speech a lot more interesting. 

JON VOIGHT, ACTOR/GRANDPA:  Happy birthday, Maddy‘s 5-year-olds, it‘s

a big one.  Five-years-old, you‘re getting to be a young man and I send my

love to you and I send my love to Shakira and—Shahera—is it Shahera -

Shahira—Zahara, Zahara.  OK I‘m going to start over again. 

Madox, you‘re 5 years old, this is wonderful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From Branifer to Branjolina to master rebuilder of New Orleans, Brad Pitt‘s new pursuit, next. 

And August is called “silly season” for a reason.  Oddball‘s plays of the month, it‘s only on COUNTDOWN, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This interview with celebrity stuff only looks easy.  Consider Brad Pitt tries to promote the rebuilding of homes in New Orleans in an environmentally friendly way, gets ask about if everybody‘s in friendly in the environment of his home.  Consider my old local news pal, Ann Curry, preparing to interview Mr. Pitt, she‘s so focused she breaks her nose in a revolving door—a locked revolving door.  So as you watch them in our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, remember has a true nose for news. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRAD PITT, ACTOR:  The first responsibility is to help those that are most vulnerable and we failed and failed miserably and to some extent we‘re still failing. 

ANN CURRY, “TODAY” SHOW (voice-over):  Brad Pitt, disappointed by the pace of recovery in New Orleans, is a movie star playing a new part in the future of this city.

PITT:  We‘re a country of great ingenuity and the fact that we can‘t get in there and clean up this quagmire is ridiculous and it‘s shameful. 

CURRY:  Together with the environmental non-profit Global Green, Pitt sponsored a housing design competition, and Thursday he helped select the winner. 

This winning blueprint is low-income housing planned for the neglected, still almost deserted, lower 9th ward.

CURRY (on camera):  What do you love about this design?

PITT:  I love that it can be replicated, and not in a cookie-cutter style.  At the same time, where it really wins is that, if done properly, we can completely get rid of the idea of an energy bill.

CURRY:  People listening now are thinking, Oh, come on.

PITT:  It‘s not that difficult.

CURRY:  Come on.  How?

PITT:  You can cut your energy bill down 65 percent just by the way you position your house, the way you structure it for air flow and ventilation and shielding from the sun.

CURRY:  It‘s possible, you‘re suggesting, that people living in these homes will pay zero.

PITT:  That‘s right.

CURRY (voice-over):  The winning architects from New York, created a versatile model of energy efficient design, using the sun‘s rays for power, rain for the water system, and stored heat from the earth. 

(on camera):  Do you know this is going to work?

ANDREW KOTCHEN, WORKSHOP/APD: We know this is going to work.

CURRY:  Why do you know it‘s going to work?

KOTCHEN:  We know it‘s going to work because they‘re not new systems.  The difference between what existed then and what exists now is that technology has improved. 

CURRY (voice-over):  Matt Petersen heads Global Green and is something of a guiding light for Pitt‘s ideas. 

PETERSEN: We estimate that if 50,000 of the homes in New Orleans—of the 200,000 that are going to be rebuilt in Louisiana used our energy goals for this project, on a very conservative level, people would save $38 million to $56 million dollars a year, $1,200 a home, conservatively, on average.

CURRY (on camera):  You mentioned Brad‘s help.  How much do you need this kind of star power to get the message out?

PETERSEN: When somebody like Brad steps up to the plate, and he is passionate about, not just architecture, but how we build differently, how do we improve people‘s lives, how do we build green, that means that there‘s a greater chance for success because he‘s deeply committed to this.

CURRY (voice-over):  And, committed to planting the seeds of green living wherever possible.

PITT:  This is where it gets really exciting.  We‘re still the most powerful nation in the world.  Beyond policing the world, we could also be inspiring the world and we could be at the forefronts of this kind of movement.

CURRY:   But here in New Orleans, he says, his work is about something more basic.

PITT:  This is tied into that bigger issue that we talked about of justice and it bothers me to see these people left behind and not getting a big hand up.  These are the people that need the most help.  So, we gotta start there.

CURRY (on camera):  Why?

PITT:  To actually—to be able to have some small hand in improving anyone‘s life, I mean, I‘m a father now.  And it—what that does to you is make you more aware of other children and the plight of other families.  So, that makes me relate to others more and I want the same for them.  So, if we can play any hand in that, it just makes me feel pretty good.

CURRY:  I see a change in you.

PITT:  Really?

CURRY:  Yeah.  Big change.  You seem to be open to more philanthropy, to do more...

PITT:  Possibly, I‘m the same—you know, I mean, you know, I‘m the same guy.  There are a lot of great things in my life and that comes from this family that we‘ve created and it‘s incredibly grounding and, walking in the door at the end of the day and seeing these faces light up, it‘s—

I don‘t know anything more rewarding. 

CURRY (voice-over):  But as rewarding as his new family is to him, this movie star said it also gives him a greater sense of duty. 

PITT:  I believe that there is a responsibility if we truly believe—and that‘s the question that this is putting to the test, especially here in New Orleans—do we really believe that someone else‘s life matters as much as our own?  And the answer to me is obvious. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Book of Revelation tell us that when we get hard information from Brad Pitt and Bob Schieffer is tabloid fodder, either the end is neigh or our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs” is neigh.

And that the CBS Evening News may be neigh if this is any indicator.  Bob Schieffer graciously passed the baton to Katie Couric who starts Tuesday and oh, boy is that not gonna go well.  First CBS News president Sean McManus turned the event last night into that TV news landmine, the awkward segue.  Mr. McManus appearing committed to a pro-forma man-hug that executes the rare half-hug, no-air kiss jackknife with a hand-in-hand dismount.  We‘ll see if he sticks the landing. 

“Vanity Fair” is reportedly going to extreme lengths to protect the world from the sight of Tom Cruise‘s baby.  All right, maybe I‘ve got that backwards or sideways.  As you may know, an upcoming cover of the magazine is slated to feature Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and the so far unconfirmed, unseen, unauthentic spawn of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, AKA the Loch Ness Suri, or in some quarters, Surisquatch.  According to an internet gossip site, “Vanity Fair” has hired armed guards for the Kentucky printing press where the issue will be published.  Meaning we will have to wait to see her until precisely one day after we no longer give a crap. 

And if they do catch people leaking the Suri pictures, this is what will happen to them.  One of the many reasons Japanese TV is better than ours, ahead on the “Oddball Plays of the Month.” 

But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominee, of the “Worst Person in the World.”

And wait, look, it‘s here! The book version of the “Worst Person in the World” hits stores next week.  But guess what happened after the Rumsfeld special comment, the sales ranking of the “Worst Person in the World” on Amazon.com went from No. 19,000, to No. 18.  Bill-o‘s new book ranks No. 728.  Our thanks to our web boosters like “Crooks and Liars” for the love.  All right, to tonight‘s nominees.

The Bronze tonight to Albuquerque, New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson.  In past years, she has been among those who‘ve ridden at the front of the official parade at the New Mexico State Fair, but in the latest parade, a week from tomorrow, she‘ll be in the middle with a bunch of other politicians and she‘s steamed.  She‘s written a whiney letter to the head of the fair demanding to know why she‘s being discriminated against and if there are political motivations and she‘s made the letter public. 

The head of the fair says, Well, yeah there are political reasons.  Representative Wilson is up for reelection and they thought it was more fair to put all the candidates in one space rather than show anybody any favoritism. 

Our runner-up, Gary Scott Harding of Bend, Oregon, arrested after twice visiting the drive-through at a coffee stand while naked from the waist down.  He told the police that before he and his wife once used drive-through, she removed his pants and he couldn‘t stop thinking about the experience.  Yeah, you can‘t buy memories like those. 

But our winners, ABC television.  It still plans to air, next weekend, what it calls a documentary, supposedly factual, supposedly based on the 9/11 Commission report, which it calls, “The Path to 9/11.”  This, even after it was revealed that the program puts primary blame for 9/11 not on Osama bin Laden or terrorism, but on Bill Clinton. 

You know, blame America first, as Secretary Rumsfeld would say. 

ABC television today‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Engelbert Humperdinck was born 152 years ago today, not the British singer, the guy who was born Jerry Dorsey, this was German opera composer who was born—well, Engelbert Humperdinck.  But it calls to mind comedian Eddie Izzard‘s version of how in the world Jerry got talked into it, I mean, I just wanted to be in the room when they were working that one through.  Zingleburt Vembelback, Tringlebert Wangleback, Sluck Von Walla, Clingy Von Fistalvase, Zindleberg Zindledack, Jerry Dorsey, Englebert Humptyback, Zangerbert Vingledack, Englebert Humperdinck, Vinglebert Winglebank—no, go back one. 

On what better note to bring you our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, the “Oddball Plays of the Month.” 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  We begin in (INAUDIBLE).

We begin in Plymouth, England. 

We begin in Miami with covalence camera video from a porn shop, there.  Oh, this is going to be hot.  Caught on camera is a customer who police say set fire to the place.  The man reportedly walked in, asked for change and entered the video booth to watch a movie and do his dirty, dirty business.  After a time he came out and told the clerk he felt guilty.  So he proceeded to ruin it for everybody else by torching the joint.  The rest of the customers were able to zip up scramble up, unharmed.  But the guilty-conscience arsonist got away.  But I bet he still feels dirty.

While in New Delhi nothing says “Oddball” like a bunch of Indian long-haul truckers having themselves a condom party.  Woo hoo.  It is an organized effort to get truckers to protect themselves to help slow the spread of disease.  So AIDS workers handed out condemns to guys at a local truck stop and let the boys familiarize themselves with these things.  And as you see, the seem to know just what to do with them.  I don‘t think we are going have to worry about these guys at all. 

That‘s (INAUDIBLE) 14-year-olds old, 10 pounds, 20 inches tall.  His parents are taking him on a tour of (INAUDIBLE) and say they‘re close to achieving (INAUDIBLE) lifelong dream of playing power forward with the Golden State Warriors. 

To Syracuse, home of the New York State Fair and this year‘s giant-sized butter statues.  Can‘t be entirely sure here, but it appears to depict the mother knocking back a big bottle of booze while two children kneel down before her, perhaps begging mom to stop drinking.  We‘ll check on that for you, I could be wrong. 

And we begin in Ware, England where a guy from Abu Ghraib is taking some time to unwind on a local golf course. 

Security camera video from the Mont Bleu Casino showing a black bear roaming the halls.  Officials say the 150 pound bear entered through loading dock and only toured the casino for a couple of minutes, but he still managed to lose almost $800 playing Acey/Ducey. 

A robbery suspect on the run from the law dived into the Kansas River to get away.  Cops had him in the boat so he made another escape attempt, wriggling out of his pants and back into the river.  Marco! Polo! You can just tell the cops were thrilled—oh, you‘re going to come and make me get you, huh?  Then you‘re going to get the flying elbow chop.  Chicken fight!

More video we found on the internets, this of an Australian shopping channel host, Tim Stackpool, demonstrating a new product that makes cookies, except they come out looking like something else. 

TIM STACKPOOL, AUSTRALIAN SHOPPING CHANNEL HOST:  When you‘re piping (ph) and doing all that sort of stuff, decorating cakes, this is where this will (LAUGHTING) (INAUDIBLE).  I‘m making cookies.  (LAUGHING)

Olbermann:  It is a special fun with food edition tonight as we begin in Bunol, Spain, home of the festival drunken tomato hurling and shattered facial bone that is La Tomatina. 

It‘s La Tomatina time! La Tomatina time.

Where ya at, where ya at.  There ya go.  There ya go. 

Of all the morons on all the internets in every part of the world, this guy is our new favorite.  Oh, it looks like this last one here might have hurt a little. 

And speaking of nationalism, we begin once again with our award winning series, 527 reasons why Japanese television is better our is.  No.  261, when you mess up a tongue-twister on a Japanese game show, the punishment is swift and brutal. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Am I a liar?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yea, you have lied on this program about the issues. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you fat? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Hi America, good to see you, I lied about...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You get up and show them your fat. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right.  Sorry, Tony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Keep your hands off of me. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey guys, please.  Don‘t, please.  Folks, I am sorry you had to see that. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is not right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whoa!

OLBERMANN:  Now to holy apparitions in food products department.  Last night we brought you the first look at the Holy Virgin Mary of the George Foreman grill grease collection tray.  Tonight we feel like seafood Jesus Christ on the half shell that‘s Jesus Christ on the half shell.  Once again the face of Jesus has appeared, this time on the side of a shrimp.  Clearly it‘s a prophecy of coming $2.99 all-you-can-eat buffet at Shucky‘s Seafood Shack. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,217 day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now from SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Joe, good evening.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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