updated 10/6/2006 11:25:23 AM ET 2006-10-06T15:25:23

Guests: Craig Crawford

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT ®, HOUSE SPEAKER:  The buck stops here.

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OLBERMANN:  If by buck, you mean ABC News, George Soros, and Bill Clinton.  The speaker of the House takes responsibility for the Mark Foley page sex scandal, and blames the media, the liberals, and the 42nd president of the United States.  No, I‘m not kidding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where‘s the accountability?

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OLBERMANN:  And communication.  As the House Ethics Committee approves four dozen subpoenas, the speaker insists he will not resign, and the White House press secretary insists he will not resign himself to talking about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I will dodge it, and I will tell you exactly why I‘m going to dodge it.

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OLBERMANN:  No dodging reality on the ground in Iraq.  Why American troops have to replace Iraqi national police because the Iraqi national police are peddling their influence to the insurgents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s still national police in the area, but they‘ll be leaving soon.

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OLBERMANN:  The nightmare in Amish country, and the generosity, funds established for the families of the victims, and they insist that a fund be established for the children of the shooter.

Science strikes anew.  Eleven years of studying lightning is over.  We may now have a clue about extreme storms.

And fast as lightning, Danish scientists create a teleporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STAR TREK”)

WILLIAM SHATNER:  Scottie, beam me up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And a special comment tonight, all the president‘s lies, quoting things his critics never said, claiming policies his opponents never endorsed.

It‘s time to stop lying to us, Mr. Bush.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Thursday, October 5, 33 days until the midterm elections.

During Watergate, the comic genius David Frye (ph), using his perfect impression of President Nixon, explained, the difference between responsibility and blame is that those who are to blame lose their jobs.  Those who are responsible do not.

I accept the responsibility, but not the blame.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, that was no impressionist today, that was actually speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, literally accepting responsibility for the page sex scandal, but trying to place blame on liberal activist George Soros and former president Bill Clinton, the speaker‘s borderline hallucinations coming as the House Ethics Committee finally moved into action some seven days after the first sexually explicit instant messages between Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida and a teenaged boy became public, some three years, though, after a senior congressional aide says he told Speaker Hastert about Congressman Foley‘s behavior, some 11 years after some pages say they were warned about Mr.  Foley, the Ethics Committee opening its investigation by approving four dozen subpoenas for witnesses and documents, the committee chairman, Doc Hastings, coming not, though, to bury Speaker Hastert, but to praise him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE), Mr. Hastings, do you still personally support the speaker?

REP. DOC HASTINGS ®, CHAIR, ETHICS COMMITTEE:  I think the speaker has done an excellent job.

I want to thank you all for coming.

Before I—before we quit here, I just simply want to say that that remark—the remarks that I made regarding Speaker Hastert is not related to the matter at hand here.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  Wow.

Also seemingly not related to the matter at hand here, the individuals and organizations that Speaker Hastert saw fit to blame for his predicament in an interview with “The Chicago Tribune,” when asked about the anger among the Republican Party‘s conservative base over his handling of the scandal, Mr. Hastert saying, quote, “I think the base has to realize after a while, who knew about it?  Who knew what, when?  When the base finds out who‘s feeding this monster, they‘re not going to be happy.  The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by” liberal activist “George Soros,” Speaker Hastert, of course, offering no hard proof for any of those charges before going on to suggest former president Bill Clinton was involved, quoting further, “All I know is what I hear and what I see.  I saw Bill Clinton‘s adviser, Richard Morris, was saying these guys knew about this all along.  If somebody had this info, when they had it, we could have dealt with it then,” the speaker dodging questions about his incendiary suggestions, while offering some empty apologies at an afternoon news conference outside his district office in Illinois.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASTERT:  I‘m deeply sorry this has happened.  And the bottom line is that we‘re taking responsibility, because ultimately, as someone has said is Washington before, the buck stops here.  Could we have done it better?  Could the page board have handled it better?  In retrospect, probably yes.

But I‘m going to run and presumably win in this election.  And when we do, I expect to run for leader, for speaker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Responsibility, but not the blame.

For more on the seemingly unending cascade of new developments, let‘s bring in our own political correspondent David Shuster in Washington.

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First of all, at least three new former pages have stepped forward to say they received sexual approaches from Congressman Foley over the Internet.  What else do we know about that?

SHUSTER:  Well, we know that these pages were verified by ABC News.  They served in the years of ‘98, 2000, and 2002.  They all say they were contacted by Congressman Foley shortly after returning home, and that the contacts quickly became sexually graphic.

One of the pages said that in 2003, a year after he left Congress, he received a contact from Foley, and it included an invitation to stay at Foley‘s House in Washington if this particular former page would perform a sex act on Foley.

The timing of that page‘s experience with Foley is significant, because 2003 was the year that a top Hill aide warned Denny Hastert‘s staff that Foley had a problem.  And all of this, Keith, underscores that Foley‘s behavior would have been easily—easy to discover, if the congressional leadership had bothered to look, merely with sending out a survey to some of the more recent pages who served in Congress.

OLBERMANN:  Where, David, is the Ethics Committee on this as we speak?  We‘ve heard about stacks of subpoenas flying.  What is—else is going on with them?

SHUSTER:  Well, we understand that the subpoenas were approved.  It‘s not clear yet if they have gone out yet.  Approximately 48 that will go to the House leadership, will go to the staff, seeking documents and testimony.

But right off the bat, Keith, even based on what Denny Hastert said today, there are clear contradictions here, seven days into this, that the House Ethics Committee may try to resolve.  One of them, for example, today, Hastert had one version of what the head of the page board said to Foley.  The head of the page board, Congressman Shimkus, a Republican, has a different version of what he said to Foley.  So right then and there, there‘s a contradiction for the Ethics Committee to try and resolve.

OLBERMANN:  Last night, your sources, Joe Scarborough‘s sources, ABC‘s sources, all reported Dennis Hastert would be out as speaker by next Wednesday at the latest.  Any evidence that that changed today?

SHUSTER:  Well, it‘s changed to the extent that President Bush had a phone call supporting Denny Hastert, top Republicans issued statements supporting his decision to stay on.  But some of these rank-and-file members still maintain that this is a huge mistake for Denny Hastert both to announce that he‘s not going anywhere and to announce that he plans to run for speaker again in January.

And these members of Congress are pointing us to a Republican pollster who says that if Denny Hastert stays on through the election, you‘re talking not just about a GOP loss of 20 seats, but you‘re talking about a potential loss of 50 seats.

But the thinking, according to those close to Hastert, is that Hastert believes the damage has already been done, and his stepping down would lead to a very bloody battle for his replacement, because John Boehner, who would be in line to be the next speaker, he‘s got his own unanswered questions in all of this.

OLBERMANN:  David, did anybody else notice that Hastert accepted the responsibility for this and also tried to blame Democrats for it at the same time?

SHUSTER:  Well, it‘s not even clear that he accepted responsibility, except to say that he (INAUDIBLE) expect—taking responsibility.  But one Democrat that we spoke with tonight said that if you try to follow Denny Hastert‘s logic, that doesn‘t even make any sense.  This Democrat said is what Denny—is what Denny Hastert really trying to suggest that this would have been better if this had not been discovered and if Congressman Foley would have been able to continue trying to make these bizarre contacts with teenagers?

The Democrat says it doesn‘t make any sense.  And even some Republicans suggest, Keith, that it doesn‘t do any favors to the Republican Party right now to try to shift attention, until the Republican Party is unified behind that strategy.  And at the moment, there is still no unity about whether that‘s the appropriate way to handle this.

OLBERMANN:  Well, at least the speaker did not blame it on Franklin D.

Roosevelt.

David Shuster, great thanks for your time and your reporting.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Shifting gears to the damage control aspect of all this, and whether those efforts are working, we‘ll turn to our own Craig Crawford, not only a columnist for “Congressional Quarterly,” but also himself a former page in the Senate.

Craig, good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  No, no.  That was, that was my Tom Cruise impression.  Long before “ risky business.

OLBERMANN:  And what is Dennis Hastert‘s status now after today‘s sort of multiple personality explanations that it‘s his responsibility but it‘s actually George Soros‘s and Bill Clinton‘s?

CRAWFORD:  Well, you know, let‘s stipulate that he‘s correct.  I mean, what difference does it make?  I mean, I thought this during the Clinton days, when they were talking about a vast right-wing conspiracy.  So what if it‘s true that your enemies have brought these things to light, so long as they‘re not telling lies?  What difference does it make?

Unless Hastert wants to argue that Bill Clinton or George Soros were on the other end of those instant messages entrapping Mark Foley, I don‘t see what difference it makes.

OLBERMANN:  If Republicans tamp this thing down between now and the election, could the Democrats conceivably come back and say, Well, all right, let‘s instead run on the Dennis Hastert is not stable platform, or at least the Dennis Hastert doesn‘t realize that Bill Clinton fired Dick Morris in 1999 platform?

CRAWFORD:  Yes, yes, that was a bit bizarre, associating Clinton with Dick Morris still.

I—here‘s the problem I think the Democrats have, Keith, is, is, they were doing a really good job of keeping Iraq on the, on the front burner.  This is—this story has—is very advantageous to them, but it has put Iraq off the table.  I think they‘ve got to find some balance here in the days ahead so that they can get back to some of the other issues they need to talk about, principally Iraq, and find a way to, you know, keep this alive as a story, keep legs on it for them, but at the same time, not let it overtake some of their other issues.

OLBERMANN:  The White House seeming to believe that this too shall pass.  The president called the speaker tonight, Vice President Cheney offered words of support to Mr. Hastert before attending a fundraiser for Senator George Allen.  Is this really being perceived by leadership that it‘s another macaca moment for the Republican Party?  Or is—are they whistling past graveyards?

CRAWFORD:  It seems that Hastert looks at it that way, I, the way he‘s behaving.  But I do know, as David Shuster mentioned, it‘s hard to find a Republican operative, someone who‘s been in the business a long time, who doesn‘t think this is who doesn‘t think this is a complete disaster.  And there is a split of opinion about how to handle it, whether Hastert stepping down would help or hurt, just speaking as a political analyst, I think I may side with Hastert on the politics of this if he were to step down.

Trouble is, he wouldn‘t be the only one.  It would cause a domino effect throughout the hierarchy of the Republican Party, and real chaos, including the man, Thomas Reynolds, who‘s running the House campaign.  So I don‘t think it is a good idea, politically, anyway, for Republicans to oust Hastert before the election.

OLBERMANN:  Some reporting from “TIME” magazine, based on polling it‘s done this week, they‘re not hard numbers, but it says two-thirds of those Americans aware of the congressional page sex scandal believe that the Republican leaders tried to cover it up, but only a quarter of them say that this makes them less likely to vote for Republican candidates in their districts in November.

Is that quarter enough if the Democrats have to basically run the board to regain the House in November?  Is that what the Republicans seem to be counting on, that that is not enough?

CRAWFORD:  (INAUDIBLE), it would depend on where they are, some of those voters who were saying it would cause them to vote against Republicans.  If it‘s among moderate Republicans in Philadelphia suburbs, for example, places like that, it would make a big difference.  But they are speaking to the base here.  There‘s nothing that turns out the Republican base, the conservative base, more than demonizing the media and the Democrats.  And that is what it seems, at least the Hastert strategy has been in the last day or two.  And there‘s some history that that works.

OLBERMANN:  Triple play, Soros, Clinton, and ABC, you got them all in one little hat, doesn‘t matter whether or not it‘s true.  Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly.”  Great thanks, as always, Craig.

CRAWFORD:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Ahead here a special comment on the president‘s state of denial, Mr. Bush reaching a new high and low on the campaign trail this week, making up positions the Democrats do not hold about terrorism.

And another security debacle in Iraq.  Remember, as they stand up, we‘ll stand down?  Instead, we‘re actually taking Iraqi forces off the streets, because the locals do not trust them.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  To the list of administration predictions that have failed to materialize we can now add, as Iraqis stand up, we‘ll stand down.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, they stand down, we stand up.  Despite all the training that we were told would put Iraqis up front, taking Americans out of the crosshairs, the numbers of U.S. troops there has increased this year, and in part, that owes to Iraqi perceived corruption.  Thirteen American service personnel have been killed in Baghdad since just Monday, the highest U.S. death toll there for any three-day period during the war.

And as our correspondent Richard Engel reports, the latest explanation for why we are there is simply infuriating.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENGEL (voice-over):  On patrol in one of Baghdad‘s most dangerous neighborhoods, Army Captain Kurt Rowland (ph) has an unusual mission, to tell people that Iraqi forces are being pulled off the streets, replaced by American troops, the opposite of the military‘s long-stated goal.

CAPT. KURT ROWLAND, 114TH CAVALRY, U.S. ARMY:  There are still national police in the area, but they‘ll be leaving soon, and it‘s going to be our area.

ENGEL:  It‘s welcome news.  Iraqis here accused the police of collaborating with Shiite militias to kill Sunnis.

(on camera):  This is one of a growing number of Iraqi killing fields, literally an execution grounds.  Militias will bring their victims here, bound, already tortured, barely alive, and then sit them down amid all of this trash, shoot them, and leave them to die.

LT. COL. JEFF PETERSON, U.S. ARMY:  There‘s intimidation and threats.  There‘s an attempt to homogenize neighborhoods and force people out of their homes.

ENGEL (voice-over):  Forcing U.S. troops to play cop and referee, to contain the sectarian violence some Iraqi police seem to have only made worse.

(on camera):  A military spokesman said some of the Iraqi police taken off the streets because of their alleged involvement with death squads will be prosecuted.  Others will be given, quote, “national unity training.”

Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  In addition to filling in for sectarian Iraqis, one other job being dumped on Americans in Iraq, a job some see as politically motivated, “Newsweek” reporting that the Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who runs the House Intelligence Committee, is again pushing U.S. intelligence agents to scour Iraq for any signs of weapons of mass destruction.  It was Mr. Hoekstra who, earlier this year, trumpeted the discovery of some buried munitions from the Iran-Iraq war from the ‘80s as proof that the administration‘s prewar WMD claims had been confirmed.

And if you thought the U.S. dropped the ball on postwar planning, you‘re wrong on one count.  Congress has just authorized spending $20 million for a big party in Washington to celebrate victory in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That party not yet scheduled, and that $20 million being allocated by the same Congress that has just slashed funding for research on traumatic brain injury, the signature injury in Iraq, cutting it by half, down to $7 million.

Retired general Tommy Franks knew the dangers facing this country in the fight against terrorism, besides the obvious ones, the risk that we would, quote, “potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution.”  Tonight, a special comment on how the president seems intent on making General Franks‘s worst nightmare come true, by lying.

And the healing process in Pennsylvania, the first funerals for the young Amish victims in the school shooting, and an amazing lesson from those families about the power of forgiveness.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1582, nothing happened—well, things happened, but none of them were official, because October 1582 was the first of the 10 days that were just skipped as part of the introduction of the replacement for the old Julian calendar, the Gregorian calendar, the one we use now.  (INAUDIBLE) went to bed on the night of October 4, you woke up on the morning of October 15.  And we whine about the end of Daylight Savings.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Santa Monica, California, where finally someone has stepped forward to sell toupees for babies.  The days of baby baldness anxiety are coming to an end thanks to the fine folks at This Little Piggy Wears Cotton baby store.  Now, your bald-headed little brat can feel comfortable about him- or herself by strapping on (INAUDIBLE) or the Lonnie Anderson or the late Sam Kinison look.  There‘s even a L‘il Kim model for those troubled toddlers.

Of course, they‘re being marketed as Halloween costumes, but the store is hoping there could be a year-round market for babies with the big hair.  And if that Poison comeback tour is a big success, these things will be flying off the shelf.

In suburban Chicago, where school board member Rich Mitchell‘s little comedy piece has been getting lots of buzz.  Mitchell very cleverly edited interviews with new teachers to make them appear to be saying wacky things.  And he brought the tape in to play for the school board.  Must have been a tough crowd, because for some reason, they didn‘t find this at all hilarious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICH MITCHELL:  What were the results of the last drug that you took?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE), it was passing, it was.

MITCHELL:  Who have you tried to kill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Pat Welch, Dave Corbin.

MITCHELL:  What do you do when a student comes to you with a particular ailment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE), and I run and dance at the same time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, boy, is that good stuff.  And so well done. 

Unfortunately, the board found it so offensive, they voted to suspend Mr.  Mitchell indefinitely.  He says he was just trying to be funny, and the board only wants him out because he‘s gay.  Oh, here we go.

So here tonight, learning from the greatest show on earth, lightning as seen and studied from outer space and on the ground.

And the power of a right hook from Oscar de la Hoya‘s ex-wife.  Paris Hilton‘s lips reportedly get her roughed up during a night out.

Details ahead.

But first, time (INAUDIBLE) time now for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Joel Blanton of Nashville, convict, broke out of jail.  Police had found him in his trailer, so he tried to escape again through the trap door, where the police found him stuck minutes later.

Number two, Prince, the artist formerly not known as Prince.  Partygoers at the Hollywood strip club Zenny (ph) claim the musician hangs out there all the time, but does not drink the booze, does not like the music, and has now offered the strippers twice their wages to stop dancing.  So what?  Yes, you like the upholstery?

And number one, Buddy the dog of Bellflower (ph), California.  Somewhere in that town, he was hit by a car and suffered a broken leg.  So Buddy limped into the emergency room at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital, he walked into the waiting area and promptly lay down and waited for assistance.  Doctors got him to a veterinary hospital.  He‘s fine.  Now everybody knows that Buddy understands every word he hears and can read street signs.

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OLBERMANN:  It was just one of the many extraordinary gestures of forgiveness contained in our No. 3 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight.  The family of Marion Fisher, one of the Amish girls killed in the schoolhouse on Monday, invited the widow of her killer to their little girl‘s funeral this morning.  That funeral, one of four on this sad day there, the fifth scheduled today.  The funeral processions today, simple and humble, from a community that has met this awful event with dignity and abiding humanity.  Our correspondent in Lancaster County Pennsylvania is Rehema Ellis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The horse-drawn carriage processions were in step with age-old Amish tradition.  First, the body of a 7-year-old Naomi Rose Ebersole.  Hours later, the body of a 13-year-old Marian Fisher.  And late this afternoon, the 7-year-old Lena Miller and her 8-year-old sister Mary Liz. 

Keeping with tradition, the families prepared the bodies.  The young victims clothed in white dresses, handmade by their mothers.  The services are plain and private.  There is a short sermon and scripture is read.  There is no eulogy, just respect for the life, but not praise, they reserve that for god. 

KEVIN KING, MENNONITE DISASTER SERVICE:  There‘ll be words of comfort read from the Bible, in the German Bible.  It will be a solemn time.  It will be a time of coming together once again and just being together and crying on each other‘s shoulders. 

ELLIS (on camera):  While the non-Amish community was not part of the processions, many are showing support in other ways.

(voice-over):  Much of it in the form of money.  More than $500,000 has been donated to charities set up for the Amish, something they are unaccustomed to accepting. 

KING:  Far and wild peoples are bringing meals.  We‘re hearing of corporations and companies providing food.  They said to me, you know, we could handle it on our own, but that would not be Christ-like.  Why should we stop people from being a blessing to us? 

ELLIS:  And although the Amish recognize the community outpouring as a blessing, what‘s needed most now are prayers. 

(on camera):  Tonight four other girls remain hospitalized, another student reportedly has been taken off life support.  There is another funeral tomorrow.  But members of this Amish community fear it may not be the last—Keith.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Rehema Ellis, great thanks.

Those funds have been created to help the families of the Amish victims, of course.  But there are reports that those families insist on sharing some of the money with the widow and children of the shooter, Charles Carl Roberts. 

One fund has been set up exclusively for the Roberts family. 

Forgiveness, as response to heartbreak, surprising perhaps especially these

days, but also perhaps grief‘s most powerful antidote.  Our correspondent

is Janet Shamlian

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  An unimaginable crime, followed by an inconceivable response. 

JACK MYER, LANCASTER COUNTY RESIDENT:  Even though there‘s been this terrible thing happen, we need to think about judgment; we need to think about forgiveness and going on.

SHAMLIAN:  The Amish community losing its most innocent, but somehow holding on to a steadfast belief in forgiveness, even for a man who targeted their children. 

CAROLINE MYSS, PH.D. MEDICAL INTUITIVE:  Forgiveness is irrational.  It‘s the most irrational thing that most people will ever, ever attempt in their life. 

SHAMLIAN:  Gale knows that most devastating of losses.  Her own daughter, Katherine, also died violently, stabbed by a stranger.  Even after the killer was sent to death row, Gale was consumed by hate. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was full of anger and rage and an absolute lusting for revenge for years.

SHAMLIAN:  No relief until more than a decade later, when she wrote Katherine‘s killer. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was surprised to find that I could forgive you.  This does not mean that I think you are innocent or that you are blameless for what happened. 

The instant I put the letter in the mailbox, all the anger and rage and ugliness I carried in my body for 12 long years was instantly gone. 

SHAMLIAN:  Gale says it was a moment that changed her life. 

MYSS:  Forgiveness has the most profound healing power.  It releases a person from that need to relive a trauma again and again and again. 

SHAMLIAN:  A belief the Amish live by, through the words of a grieving grandfather. 

(on camera):  Is there anger towards the gunman‘s family? 

ENOS MILLER, GRANDFATHER OF TWO VICTIMS:  No.

SHAMLIAN:  Have you already forgiven? 

MILLER: In my heart, yes. 

SHAMLIAN:  A peaceful community, rocked by violence, sustained by forgiveness and amazing grace. 

Janet Shamlian, NBC NEWS, Chicago. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  On September 11 here, in a special comment I asked if the country would be able to forgive President Bush for taking the attacks on America and playing politics with them, while at the same time asking we all put aside our differences.  Well, he asked that we all stopped asking that we all put aside our differences and started lying about his opponents. 

(INAUDIBLE) have spent a decade studying lightning from the ground and from space.  What have they achieved?  You mean besides the cool pictures?  That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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Another special comment ahead.  And spent a decade studying lightning from the ground and space.  What have they achieved?  You mean beside the cool pictures?  That ahead and more on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  My special comment to the president.  Sir, it is time to stop lying to us, again. 

That, and lighting strikes.  The claim that somebody has been striking Paris Hilton.  And tonight‘s “Worst Person in the World,” all next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Eleven years worth of lighting from the lens of two satellites in space, really cool video courtesy of NASA in our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN. Though it may look like a high school science project compared to what physicists in Denmark are dreaming up—Teleportation—as in “Beam me up, Scotty.” 

Physicists at Copenhagen University have managed to teleport a macroscopic atomic object containing thousands of billions of atoms as well as information.  A breakthrough because they teleported matter with light as its carrier.  The object traveled half a meter.  Scientists believe it‘s just the beginning, thought their focus is on beaming information at the moment, not people.  And that outside range of the device, which is about 20 inches, that‘s slightly useless. 

As for the NASA lightning study.  Dan Billow has the latest news flash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN BILLOW, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Never before have researchers been able to see lightning as they‘re seeing it now.  NASA has compiled a record of 11 years worth of lightning flashes all around the world, every lightning bolt, the only way to gather such a record is from space.  Here‘s how lightning looks from space.  Two satellites have been recording 45 lightning flashes per second everywhere in the world for more than a decade. 

Lightning is a convenient way to spot and track dangerous weather and the 11-year lightning record should lead to a better understanding of the patterns and predictability of severe and dangerous weather. 

Scientists don‘t even fully understand how lightning forms.  But in this recent lightning strike, captured by West (ph) two news photographer, Vence McGelski (ph), you can see part of the process.  Look closely.  In the center of the screen is a precursor of the lightning bolt in which a step leader from the sky and a streamer from the ground connect.  It‘s down that channel that the main lightning bolt then crashes. 

Lightning kills about 100 people a year in the U.S., but that‘s down from more than a thousand a year early in the 20th century.  The number is down because we understand more about lightning and that‘s why the newly compiled global lightning record may be so important. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Dan Billow for us, from Orlando.

Oddly enough, a word segue from that, our nightly roundup of tabloid and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  From lightning striking to celebrities striking.  Paris Hilton claims she was punched in the face yesterday morning at nightclub in Hollywood.  Of course she‘s had worse things happen to her face—but she filed a police complaint anyway.  And the alleged perpetrator in all this?  Former Miss USA Shanna Moakler, of course.  She‘s also the former wife the rumored, but denied boyfriend of Miss Hilton.  Moakler filed her own police report alleging battery.  Miss Hilton is expected to base her legal defense on the fact she doesn‘t even know how to use batteries. 

The on-again, off-again of who cares-again romance of Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn appears to be off again for good.  “Us Weekly” reports that the breakup was precipitated by the same things that breaks up most romances, Mr. Vaughn had to go to England to shoot a comedy called “Joe Clause.”  Joe Clause? 

The couple first came together as they were filming and then promoting “The Breakup” last year—irony.  But the public never really warmed up to the couple after attempts at hybrid gnome enclayture (ph) failed and such feeble tries as Vinciffer, Anivaughn, and Jennivince.

Finally ahead tonight‘s special comment.  While the focus has been on the Foley scandal, the lies, cheap, easily disproved lies, are coming just as fast and just furious from the lips of the president of the United States.  That‘s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

Book for sale.  Listen, Drudge and people like that are comparing how many more of Bill-O‘s they sold last week compared to how many—this, here—last week was the first week you could buy Bill-O‘s, the sixth you could buy this, here.  Here‘s a good comparison:  On Amazon, Bill-O is seven spots behind Volume 13 of “Lemony Snicket‘s Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Anyway, the Bronze tonight to Detective Timothy Heinz of Spokane County, Washington.  The phone number—the phone company gave him the number associated with obscene calls to at least 20 college women in the area, and based on that he proceeded to get and execute a search warrant to search the home of a 67-year-old man and his wife, preceding which the man says, detective Heinz said to the other police, “Now let‘s go inside and get some porn.”  The raunchiest thing they found, a copy of the “Lion King” that belonged to the man‘s granddaughter.  In writing down the phone number, the detective had transposed some of the digits.  It was the wrong house. 

Our runners up, the good old Department of Homeland Security, “60 Minutes” got access to part of the infamous “No-Fly” list.  On it, Saddam Hussein, also 14 of the 19 hijackers from 9/11, and everybody named Gary Smith, John Williams, and Robert Johnson.  Not on it, the 11 British suspects arrested in that purported plot to blow up jets using liquid explosives. 

But our winner, commentator Paul Weyrich on NPR about the Foley scandal, “Here‘s the real problem,” he said, it has been known for many years that Congressman Foley was a homosexual.  Homosexuals tend to be preoccupied with sex.”  When the host suggested that that was just an opinion and many would take exception to it, Mr. Weyrich explained “I don‘t care whether they take exception to it, it happens to be true.” 

No, actually.  But let me repeat this, brainiac.  This isn‘t about Foley being gay.  It‘s not about what the kids did, it‘s an adult, male or female, straight or gay, taking sexual advantage of children and other adults protecting that adult.  Commentator Paul Wyrick, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  And lastly tonight, a special comment about lying. 

While the leadership in Congress has self-destructed over the revelations of an unmatched, and unrelieved, march through a cesspool... 

While the leadership inside the White House has self-destructed over the revelations of a book with a glowing red cover...

The president of the United States—unbowed, undeterred and unconnected to reality—has continued his extraordinary trek through our country rooting out the enemies of freedom:  The Democrats.

Yesterday at a fundraiser for an Arizona congressman, Mr. Bush

claimed, “177 of the opposition party said, ‘You know, we don‘t think we

ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists.‘”

The hell they did.

A hundred seventy-seven Democrats opposed the president‘s seizure of yet another part of the Constitution.

Not even the White House press office could actually name a single Democrat who had ever said the government shouldn‘t be listening to the conversations of terrorists.

President Bush hears what he wants.

Tuesday, at another fundraiser in California, he had said that, “Democrats take a law enforcement approach to terrorism.  That means America will wait until we‘re attacked again before we respond.”

Mr. Bush fabricated that, too.

And evidently he has begun to fancy himself as a mind reader.

“If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party,” the president said at yet another fundraiser, Monday in Nevada, “it sounds like they think the best way to protect the American people is, wait until we‘re attacked again.”

The president does not just hear what he wants, he hears things that only he can hear.

It defies belief that this president and his administration could continue to find new unexplored political gutters into which they could wallow.  Yet they do.

It is startling enough that such things could be said out loud by any president in this nation‘s history. 

Rhetorically, it is about an inch short of Mr. Bush accusing Democratic leaders, Democrats, the majority of Americans who disagree with his policies of treason.  But it is the context that truly makes the head spin.

Just 25 days ago, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this same man spoke to this nation and insisted, “We must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us.”

Mr. Bush, this is a test you have already failed.

If your commitment to “put aside differences and work together” is replaced in the span of merely three weeks by claiming your political opponents prefer to wait to see this country attacked again, and by spewing fabrications about what they‘ve said, then the questions your critics need to be asking are no longer about your policies.

They are, instead, solemn and even terrible questions, about your fitness to fulfill the responsibilities of your office.

No Democrat, sir, has ever said anything approaching the suggestion that the best means of self-defense is to “wait until we‘re attacked again.”

No critic, no commentator, no reluctant Republican in the Senate has ever said anything that any responsible person could even have exaggerated into the slander you spoke in Nevada on Monday night, nor the slander you spoke in California on Tuesday, nor the slander you spoke in Arizona on Wednesday—nor whatever is next.

You have dishonored your party, sir; you have dishonored your supporters; you have dishonored yourself.

But tonight the stark question we must face is—why?

Why has the ferocity of your venom against the Democrats now exceeded the ferocity of your venom against the terrorists?

Why have you chosen to go down in history as the president who made things up?

In less than one month you have gone from a flawed call to unity to this clarion call to hatred of Americans, by Americans.

If this is not simply the most shameless example of the rhetorical of political hackery, then it would have to be the cry of a leader crumbling under the weight of his own lies.

We have, of course, survived all manner of political hackery, of every shape, size and party.  We will have to suffer it for as long as the Republic stands.  But the premise of a president who comes across as a compulsive liar is nothing less than terrifying.

A president who since 9/11 will not listen, is not listening—and thanks to Bob Woodward‘s most recent account—evidently has never listened.

A president who since 9/11 so hates or fears other Americans that he accuses them of advocating deliberate inaction in the face of the enemy.

A president who since 9/11 has savaged the very freedoms he claims to be protecting from attack - attack by terrorists, or by Democrats, or by both?  It‘s now impossible to find a consistent thread of logic as to who Mr. Bush believes the enemy truly is.

But if we know one thing for certain about President Bush, it is this: 

This president—in his bullying of the Senate last month and in his slandering of the Democrats this month—has shown us that he believes whoever the enemies actually are, they are hiding themselves inside a dangerous cloak called the Constitution of the United States of America.

How often do we find priceless truth in the unlikeliest of places?

I tonight quote not Jefferson nor Voltaire, but “Cigar Aficionado” magazine.

“On Sept.  11th, 2003, the editor of that publication interviewed General Tommy Franks, at that point, just retired from his post as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command—of CENTCOM.

And amid his quaint defenses of the then nagging absences of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the continuing freedom of Osama bin Laden, General Franks said some of the most profound words of this generation. 

He spoke of “the worst thing that can happen” to this country:  First, quoting, a “massive casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western World -- it may be in the United States of America.”

Then, the general continued, “The Western World, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we‘ve seen for a couple of hundred years, in this grand experiment that we call democracy.”

It was this super-patriotic warrior‘s fear that we would lose that most cherished liberty, because of another attack, one—again quoting General Franks—“that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass-casualty-producing event.  Which, in fact, then begins to potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution.”

And here we are, the fabric of our Constitution being unraveled, anyway.

Habeas corpus neutered; the rights of self-defense now as malleable and impermanent as clay; a president stifling all critics by every means available and, when he runs out of those, by simply lying about what they said or felt.

And all this, even without the dreaded attack.

General Franks, like all of us, loves this country, and believes not just in its values, but in its continuity.

He has been trained to look for threats to that continuity from without.

He has, perhaps been as naive as the rest of us, in failing to keep close enough vigil on the threats to that continuity from within.

Secretary of State Rice first cannot remember urgent cautionary meetings with counter-terrorism officials before 9/11.  Then within hours of that lie, her spokesman confirms the meetings in question.  Then she dismisses those meetings as nothing new, yet insists she wanted the same cautions expressed to Secretaries Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld, meantime, has been unable to accept the most logical and simple influence of the most noble and neutral of advisers.  He and his employer insist they rely on the “generals in the field.”  But dozens of those generals have now come forward to say how their words, their experiences, have been ignored.

And, of course, inherent in the Pentagon‘s war-making functions is the regulation of presidential war lust.

Enacting that regulation should include everything up to symbolically wrestling the Chief Executive to the floor in necessary.

Yet—and it is Pentagon transcripts that now tell us this—evidently Mr. Rumsfeld‘s strongest check on Mr. Bush‘s ambitions, was to get  someone to excise the phrase “Mission Accomplished” out of the infamous Air Force Carrier speech of May 1, 2003, even while the same empty words hung on a banner over the President‘s shoulder.

And the vice president is a chilling figure, still unable, it seems, to accept the conclusions of his own party‘s leaders in the Senate, that the foundations of his public position, are made out of sand.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but he still says so.

There was no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, but he still says so.

And thus, gripping firmly these figments of his own imagination, Mr.  Cheney lives on, in defiance, and spreads around him and before him, darkness, like some contagion of fear.

They are never wrong, and they never regret—admirable in a French torch singer, cataclysmic in an American leader.

Thus, the sickening attempt to blame the Foley scandal on the negligence of others or “the Clinton era,” even though the Foley scandal began before the Lewinsky scandal.      

Thus, last month‘s enraged attacks on this administration‘s predecessors, about Osama bin Laden, a projection of their own negligence in the immediate months before 9/11.

Thus, the terrifying attempt to hamstring the fundament of our freedom, the Constitution, a triumph for al Qaeda, one the terrorists could not hope to achieve on their own with a hundred 9/11‘s.

And thus, worst of all perhaps, these newest lies by President Bush about Democrats choosing to await another attack and not listen to the conversations of terrorists.

It is the terror and the guilt within your own heart, Mr. Bush, that you redirect at others who simply wish for you to temper your certainty with counsel.

It is the failure and the incompetence within your own memory, Mr.  Bush, that leads you to demonize those who might merely quote to you the pleadings of Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

It is not the Democrats whose inaction in the face of the enemy you

fear, Sir.  It is your own—before 9/11, and—and you alone know this -

perhaps afterwards.

Mr. President, these new lies go to the heart of what it is that you truly wish to preserve.

It is not our freedom, nor our country—your actions against the Constitution give irrefutable proof of that.

You want to preserve a political party‘s power.  And obviously you will sell this country out, to do it.

These are lies about the Democrats—piled atop lies about Iraq—piled atop lies about your preparations for al Qaeda.

To you, perhaps, they feel like the weight of a million centuries—as crushing, as immovable.  But they are not.

If you add more lies to them, you cannot free yourself, and us, from them.

But if you stop—if you stop fabricating quotes, and stop building straw-men, and stop inspiring those around you to do the same—you may yet liberate yourself and this nation.

Please, sir, do not throw this country‘s principles away because your lies have made it such that you can no longer differentiate between the terrorists and the critics.

Goodnight and good luck.

Joe Scarborough is next.

Joe, it‘s all yours.

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

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