updated 3/30/2007 2:13:13 PM ET 2007-03-30T18:13:13

Guests: Jonathan Turley, Richard Wolffe, Andrew Sullivan, Maria Milito

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

He did too, to the Senate, the former chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales, directly contradicts the attorney general about the firings of the U.S. attorneys.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KYLE SAMPSON, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL CHIEF OF STAFF:  The decision makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But Kyle Sampson says that was OK.  Gonzales and Harriet Miers made their decisions politics-free.  But he does implicate Mr.  Gonzales as mistaken, or a liar.

The implications of the president vetoing funding for the troops in Iraq are obvious, to everyone but him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   Now, we stand united, and saying loud and clear that when we‘ve got a troop in harm way, we expect that troop to be fully funded.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That troop, like Boy Scout Troop number 586 of Tipp City, Ohio?  Like composer-actor Bobby Troop (ph)?

The Senate passes the full funding-and-leaving bill.  The president again insists he‘s killing it, but he‘s not responsible for it.

Richard Wolffe on the political brinkmanship, Andrew Sullivan on Mr.

Bush‘s growing isolation.

Karl Rove raps while his administration burns.  The latest revelation, weekly meetings to strategize stamping the courts and prosecutors with the Bush brand.  Rove is often there when he‘s not dancing.

Could be worse, could be Sanjaya there.  He lives to see another day. 

Why, I do not know.  Perhaps Maria Milito does.

And the greatest animal in all the Internets.  This reminder from the nominating panel for the Keithy Awards.  Let sleeping dogs lie, and let growling cats go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As part of their sentence, the couple is going to have to come right—

Ooh!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Not afraid of that?  How about of a 50-foot-tall Michael Jackson robot roaming the desert around Las Vegas with frickin‘ laser beams attached to his head?  Whoo-hoo-hoo.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  Tear the tops off of small animals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

First Kyle Sampson this morning threw Attorney General Alberto Gonzales under the bus, then this afternoon the White House implied he was going to have to crawl his own way back to the sidewalk.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Democrats in the Senate had tried to downplay expectations ahead of today‘s testimony by the attorney general‘s former chief of staff.

Even they, it seems, could not have foreseen just how thoroughly the former aide would erase any doubt that Mr. Gonzales approved the firings of eight federal prosecutors, thereby disputing the attorney general‘s own past public statements, as a result, the White House now actively trying to distance itself, albeit slightly, from Mr. Gonzales, spokeswoman Dana Perino saying this afternoon that, quote, “It is time to let the attorney general speak for himself,” all of today‘s speaking done by Mr. Sampson, who quit earlier this month as the attorney general‘s top aide, his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee coinciding with new revelations about the involvement of White House political guru Karl Rove, “The New York Times” describing weekly meetings at which Mr. Rove, Mr. Gonzales, the White House counsel, and other top advisers to the president strategize about putting Mr. Bush‘s stamp on the federal courts and—wait for it—the U.S. attorneys‘ offices, the timing of last night‘s document dump starting to make sense today, day after day of embarrassing revelations leaving the Justice Department in turmoil, what even Republican Arlen Specter today described as dysfunctional and a state of disrepair, “The Times” also reporting that on Tuesday, the attorney general faced harsh criticism from half a dozen U.S. attorneys still employed at a meeting in Chicago, the prosecutors telling Mr. Gonzales that the scandal had decreased morale, distracted employees, and left the prosecutors themselves unsure of how much longer they would have jobs, back on Capitol Hill, former aide Sampson rejecting the notion that the dismissals were in any way ordered by young or inexperienced Justice Department officials like, oh, himself, instead pointing the finger at both Mr. Gonzales and the former White House counsel, Harriet Miers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMPSON:  The decision makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the president.  I and others made staff recommendations, but they were approved and signed off on by the principals.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  On what basis?

SAMPSON:  They were—they were—

WHITEHOUSE:  Because they were your recommendations, or did the principals look through those recommendations and make an independent judgment themselves as to whether the U.S. attorney should remain?

SAMPSON:  I think you‘d have to ask the principals.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  The attorney general also said, “The charge for chief of staff here was to drive this process, and the mistake that occurred here was that information that he had was not shared with individuals within the department, who were then going to be providing testimony and information to Congress.”

The attorney general was referring to you as his chief of staff, correct?

SAMPSON:  Yes.

SCHUMER:  Is that an accurate statement that he made?

SAMPSON:  Senator, I believe that at no time did I ever intend to mislead the Congress or mislead witnesses that were coming before the Congress.

I shared information with anyone who wanted it.  I was very open and collaborative in the process, in the preparation for Mr. McNulty and Mr.  Moschella‘s testimony—

SCHUMER:  (INAUDIBLE), is it—did you share information with Mr.

McNulty and Mr. Moschella?

SAMPSON:  I did.

SCHUMER:  So the attorney general‘s statement is wrong, it‘s false. 

Statement is false.  There‘s no way to believe it‘s not.

SAMPSON:  I don‘t think it‘s accurate—

SCHUMER:  DOJ spokesman on March 24, Miss Scalino (ph) said, “The attorney general did not participate in the selection of U.S. attorneys to be fired.”  Was that that an accurate statement?

SAMPSON:  I don‘t think that‘s an accurate statement.

SEN. HERBERT KOHL (D), WISCONSIN:  What is the public‘s perception to be, when somebody who is, like Karl Rove, who‘s the ultimate political operative, ultimate political insider, whose function is political almost by definition, is so involved in the process?  Can you disagree with people who might have the impression, however inaccurate, that the process is highly politicalized, when the ultimate political insider is so involved in it?

SAMPSON:  Senator, if that is the impression that people have, then I regret it, because that does—

KOHL:  But isn‘t it, (INAUDIBLE)--

SAMPSON:  ... harm...

KOHL:  But isn‘t it the job of, one of the jobs of people like yourself to do everything that they can to see that that impression is not given, however accidentally?

SAMPSON:  Senator, the answer is yes.  And I failed in that, and that‘s why I resigned.

At the time, in my mind, I did not associate at all the idea of asking a U.S. attorney to resign, and the idea that it would be done to improperly influence a case (INAUDIBLE)...

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND:  Do you see a perception problem here, of the timing relative to the investigations, and the U.S. attorneys that were selected?

SAMPSON:  Senator, in retrospect I do, and that—it was—I believed that it was a failure on my part, and I want to take accountability and responsibility...

CARDIN:  But you‘re saying the failure was the manner in which you handled it, not the decisions that were made on the dismissal of the U.S.  attorneys.

SAMPSON:  I‘m acknowledging, senator, that it was a failure on my part, and others, but I will hold myself responsible for not—for the lack of foresight that people would perceive it as being done to influence a case for improper political reasons.

CARDIN:  And the impact...

SAMPSON:  I didn‘t associate (INAUDIBLE)...

CARDIN:  ... it was having on U.S. attorneys‘ offices throughout this country.

SAMPSON:  And I regret that.

CARDIN:  I‘m not sure I understand what you‘re acknowledging to this committee, whether it‘s just a public relations problem in presenting it, or whether it‘s a real problem in the method that was used to ask for the U.S. attorneys to resign.

SAMPSON:  I was acknowledging that at the time, I personally did not take adequate account of the perception problem that would result.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley of George Washington University.

Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT, GEORGE WASHINGTON

UNIVERSITY:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Alberto Gonzales is going to appear, supposed to appear, before the Senate Judiciary Committee himself on the 17th of next month.  Based on what we heard today from his former chief of staff, Mr. Sampson there, is it possible Mr. Gonzales will no longer be the attorney general by the time he testifies?  Because it seems clear, based on Senator Schumer‘s questioning of Mr. Sampson, that the attorney general either lied, or he has a professionally fatal bad memory.

TURLEY:  Well, you know, that‘s true, that Gonzales doesn‘t have a good argument here.  He either has to argue that he lied, or that he‘s an empty suit, that he has no control over his department and misses most details in his mind.

Remember, he made that argument before, with the torture memo, when he said, I basically just sign memos, I don‘t read them.  So he‘s going to have a hard time explaining these contradictions.

But the other thing is that, you know, he has said, I take full accountability, or responsibility, for this action.  And yet, no one has seen any evidence of that.  Instead, he threw Sampson to the wolves, and it does not appear that he is the most blameworthy.  It appears the attorney general is.  But he‘s still gainfully employed.

OLBERMANN:  With that admission from Mr. Sampson today about what the attorney general knew and when he knew it, would that have been likely had he not been testifying, say, under oath?  I mean, he seemed to freeze up before he answered Senator Schumer there, and in almost every other respect during a very long day of testimony, he appeared to deflect criticism from administration officials, refused to disclose whether he spoke to Karl Rove about firing the—trying to fire the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, as the U.S. attorney for Chicago.  Did we just see, in that moment with Schumer, why we have guys testify under oath?

TURLEY:  That‘s exactly right.  This is a textbook example of why live testimony under oath is so important.  Remember, before we had this hearing set up, what we were witnessing was a series of conflicting and contradictory and untrue statements coming out.  One of the most interesting exchanges was with Hatch, when Hatch was (INAUDIBLE) -- Senator Hatch was trying to get him to say Gonzales is really blameless, and he would not do it.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Whitehouse, meantime, raised this question of qualifications.  He pointed out that not only Mr. Sampson had ever tried one criminal case, but also that this liaison between the Justice Department and the White House, Monica Goodling, graduated from law school nine years ago, and—or eight years ago, and it was a—really a purported law school at that.

I mean, might those revelations be as embarrassing for this administration as anything else, that these were people from, you know, self-addressed, stamped envelope university, who were charged with evaluating the performance of veteran, seasoned professional prosecutors like Patrick Fitzgerald, like Carol Lam?

TURLEY:  Well, I tell you, I think the most embarrassing thing, putting aside those credential issues, which were (INAUDIBLE) themselves embarrassing, but the most embarrassing thing is that Sampson really could not articulate, even now, a reason why these people were fired.  Democrats scored a lot of points in showing that they never called these people to say, you know, We‘d like your immigration numbers to be higher.

We‘ve got a problem with Carol Lam, for example, in California.  No one told her.  And she actually brought those numbers up.  But he also stumbled when they pointed out that people like Carol Lam were the—part of all-star team.  She had brought massive, and really groundbreaking cases against politicians and drug lords.  And all they have is to say, Well, she had a problem we never told her about, but we decided to fire her for it.

OLBERMANN:  What, finally, Jon, what did you not learn today that you would like to learn from future hearings and future witnesses?

TURLEY:  Well, today makes a great case for calling in the White House witnesses.  You know, the fact is that Sampson kept on saying, I just don‘t know what occurred in the White House, you‘re going to have to ask them.  It‘s clear that there were a lot of meetings involving this at the White House.

And also, the president is on really tough ground to say that executive privilege is designed, is meant to prevent officials from being subject to perjury if they lie under oath.  I doubt the Framers would find that a very convincing rationale of presidential power.

OLBERMANN:  Or from talking to each other and having those conversations heard by anybody else (INAUDIBLE) under legal proceedings.

Jonathan Turley, the law professor at George Washington University. 

As always, sir, great thanks for your time.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And just when you think this administration can‘t get any more embarrassing, Karl Rove starts shaking his groove thang.  Must be celebrating his escape so far from a subpoena.

And his protector, Mr. President, surrounded himself with Republicans today, as if that could ameliorate the fact that nearly all of them decided not to fight the war funding bills, and leave that to him to do by himself instead.  Where is the president‘s support?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  Since the president‘s bookmarked blog tells him things are really going great in Baghdad, I suppose we can just gloss over the last 24 hours around there, multiple suicide bombers exploding cars, roadside bombs, shootings and assassination attempts, which have left literally hundreds dead and wounded.

Instead, let‘s concentrate on our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Congress‘s first real challenge to the president‘s adventure  in Iraq, the Democratic Senate, with the help of two Republicans, passing a bill that gives the president more dollars for the war, but tells him to begin the process of getting out by next fall.  It also suggests, only suggests, that U.S. troops turn their combat roles over to the Iraqis by this time next year.

But even while the Senate is offering more money to spend on the troops than even the president himself wanted, the president appeared, after a meeting with House Republicans, demanding a new bill with a blank check, insisting he‘ll veto this bill because it shortchanges the troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I made that clear to the members, that we stand united, and saying loud and clear that when we‘ve got a troop in harm way, we expect that troop to be fully funded, and we got commanders making tough decisions on the ground, we expect there to be no strings on our commanders, and that we expect the Congress to be wise about how they spend the people‘s money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just not how he‘ll figure out—just not now, he‘ll figure out how to spend it now, thank you.

Let‘s analyze the political brinkmanship about the troop with Richard Wolffe, “Newsweek”‘s chief White House correspondent and MSNBC political analyst.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This kind of showdown hasn‘t happened since the Newt Gingrich days, when he shut down the government in his brawl with Bill Clinton.  Who is winning this brawl?  Did the vista change in any way today?

WOLFFE:  Well, remember when the president called his vice president a glass-half-full kind of guy.  You know, this is a kind of glass-half-full kind of moment for the White House.  They think that in spite of this determined opposition for the Democrats, who‘ve held their ranks together and actually voted now in the House and the Senate against the war, they think that this is a sort of moment for political jujitsu, that they‘ve got the Democrats exactly where they want them.

In the words of one senior White House official I spoke to today, the Democrats now have to choose between a veto from the president and vetoing their own antiwar base.  And in some cases, that‘s true, because the glass-half-empty view is that they‘re facing unprecedented opposition, and this is a huge political problem for both sides, actually, but especially the president.

OLBERMANN:  So obviously he will veto, if he‘s not making that up. 

The Democrats do what, then?

WOLFFE:  Well, if the Democrats stay true to their word, in terms of what the leadership has said, they‘ve got to, in fact, cave in here, they‘ve got to provide funding for the troops, unless they are willing to go through the whole Vietnam experience all over again.

They can do certain things, they can mitigate it, add certain provisions, put in a timeline that is nonbinding.  But essentially, they‘ve got to really fund the troops here, otherwise the political firestorm turns on them and moves away from the president.

OLBERMANN:  And how long would this drag on?  I mean, if the Pentagon said that it‘s going to shift money from other programs to the Army and to the Marines, some say the money‘s going to run out in mid-April, maybe it goes to June.  How long does the chicken game go?

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s funny money.  I mean, they‘re always diverting money from one account to another, and eventually the funding comes through.  But the opportunity for PR games here is significant.  They‘re already talking about Humvees that might not get equipped properly.

And that‘s the danger to Democrats here.  If they‘re going to provide the funding, they should do so quickly, rather than dragging it out and letting the administration offer up all these examples where troops or equipment are going unfunded.

OLBERMANN:  Do they give the Democrats the opportunity to be the white knights in this, though, if they—if they‘re the ones who compromise on it, does it look like they‘re the ones who are looking out for the troops, when the president was playing politics with them?

WOLFFE:  They could do, but again, if the Democrats are going to fund this war, then they‘ve got to do so quickly.  There‘s nothing to be gained by dragging it out.

OLBERMANN:  Before you go, there‘s one more White House issue we need to bring up.  Last night‘s performance from Karl Rove at the annual Correspondents Dinner started with Mr. Rove saying what he likes to do when he‘s not at the White House, and it kind of went downhill from there.  Let‘s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you have any hobbies?

ROVE:  Like to go home, get a drink, generally of a nonalcoholic nature, since I don‘t drink, and then tear the tops off of small animals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tear the tops off small animals.

And do you fish or anything other things, snowmobiling, downhill skiing?

ROVE:  No, just ripping the tops off small animals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (rapping):  (INAUDIBLE) and a-chillin‘ and a-showin‘ his job.  He will do it without fail, get out his gun, ‘cause he‘s shootin‘ quail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Was that funny?  Was it uncomfortable?  Was it terrifying? 

What was it, Richard?

WOLFFE:  I hope my children are not watching right now.  Boogie nights with Karl Rove?  Look, this is a man who has a reputation for being the court jester inside the White House.  I guess there are not a lot of laughs right now.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it‘s different.  I‘m not giving any particular props here to David Gregory, who‘s not moving that well in the background either.  But...

WOLFFE:  He could clearly give Tucker Carlson a run for his money.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s the best laugh of the week.

“Newsweek” magazine chief White House correspondent, our own Richard Wolffe.  Great thanks for joining us, and I‘ll see you on the dance floor later on.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of horror shows, and we refer not to Mr. Wolffe in this, it‘s ghoul school, Malaysia-style.

And scarier than ghosts, scarier than rappin‘ Karl Rove, scarier than anything else on the planet, Michael Jackson reportedly building a 50-foot robot version of himself with laser beams for eyes.  Run for your lives!

And COUNTDOWN continues, too.

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OLBERMANN:  About 37 years ago, a Russian emigre stopped by our church in the suburbs of New York City and told the congregation that we were fighting the cold war all wrong.  Don‘t build weapons, fly over Russia and Eastern Europe and drop portable TVs, drop little record players, drop Beatles albums.  His argument was that once ordinary people behind the Iron Curtain realized what they were missing in terms of material things, they would force the Soviet empire to crumble.  Twenty years, tops, he said.  On this date in 1986, Beatles albums became officially available for purchase for the first time in Russia.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Koala Lumpur, where you know Halloween is just around the corner, just seven short months away, but it‘s never too early to start training the haunted house workers, and that‘s where this guy comes in.  His name is Linton Harris (ph), but his friends call him, well, Lynn, mostly, but these people, they call him the Scaremaster.  And apparently they pay him huge sums to fly to Malaysia and conduct haunted house training seminars.  Are we outsourcing our spooky houses now?  What are you trying to do, give Lou Dobbs a heart attack?

To the Internets for another exciting episode of What Happened to This Guy‘s Car?  I think the answer should be obvious to anybody, the boys went bowling at high speeds with a ramp thingie.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That was a bad idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Dude, we‘ve captured our own stupidity on videotape.  Hey, we‘re not judging you.  In fact, if we found this a week earlier, you guys might have earned yourself a Keithy.

Speaking of, tonight, the final grouping of nominees for the 2007 annual awards honoring the best of Web, category, Greatest Animal in All the Internets.

And he once made the joke himself.  But are Laura and Barney now truly the president‘s only supporters?

Those stories ahead.

Now, though, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Roxana Arias Becerra, Miss Bolivia of 1993, arrested on charges of trying to take nearly two pounds of cocaine over the Brazilian border.  A sad story, no doubt, but mentioned here only because a week ago, Sonya Falcone (ph), Miss Bolivia 1988, was ordered out of this country after she pleaded guilty to employing four illegal immigrants as household servants.  You guys need to meet Tara Conner.

Number two, Sean Diddy Combs tells “The London Daily Mirror” that he had a nice, romantic trip to Paris with girlfriend Kim Porter.  We went up to my suite and had tantric sex for at least 30 hours.  You know, Mr.  Diddy, they do say, if it lasts more than four hours, consult your doctor.

Number one, Rachel Marsden of Fox Noise Channel not going to be happy with her profile on Salon.com, not after she explained to Fox viewers how the Duke lacrosse players won‘t suffer any long-term aftereffects from the false rape accusations made against them.  Salon reports Ms. Marsden had filed quote, “questionable rape charges” of her own in her native Canada a decade ago, and later pleaded guilty to stalking, criminally stalking, a male Canadian radio host.  Ms. Marsden, meet Mr. O‘Reilly.

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OLBERMANN:  It is not only the war funding bill and not only the tempest around Alberto Gonzales on which Mr. Bush‘s former allies have declined to help him out this time around.  In fact, in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, it now seems reasonable to ask whether the president has now lost virtually every significant ally who does not have an office actually inside the White House. 

According to Jim Hoagland of the “Washington Post,” even old Bush friends in the Middle East are cooling on this president.  Jordan‘s King Abdullah canceled his upcoming visit to the White House.  Saudi King Abdullah just yesterday called the U.S. presence in Iraq illegitimate, after already having canceled a formal state dinner set for April 17th at the White House. 

That is a day Mr. Bush might be preoccupied in any case, as Mr.  Gonzales is due to testify on Capitol Hill that day, in what is being seen as his last chance to win support from congressional Republicans, if he lasts that long.  Who knows how they will feel by then if they get a look at this week‘s stories on World Net Daily, a Christian conservative news sight, introducing Gonzales to the center of a teen sex scandal involving his department‘s decision not to prosecute Texas officials accused of having sexually abused juvenile inmates. 

Let‘s turn to Andrew Sullivan, who chronicles the president‘s growing isolation on his blog at AndrewSullivan.TheAtlantic.com.  Most recently author of “The Conservative Soul, How We Lost It; How to Get it Back.”  Andrew, thanks again for your time tonight, sir. 

ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.THEATLANTIC.COM:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  Who still has Mr. Bush‘s back, and will whoever that is be snuff? 

SULLIVAN:  Well, I think there is Laura, Joe Lieberman and Barney.  I think that‘s it. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  Could that possibly be enough? 

SULLIVAN:  I talked to British conservatives through a friend of mine and they have given up.  When you have lost the British and Tony Blair is clearly going out, and the new prime minister of Britain will be not friendly to Bush; the Australian prime minister is now struggling to survive in Australia, because of the Guantanamo nightmare with the Australian detainee, David Hicks.  So really—and even the right wing blogosphere, I have noticed, just isn‘t going to bat for this guy on the Gonzales affair, and are really just hoping against all hope that the surge will some how pull off a miracle in Iraq. 

But the president seems utterly immune to any sense that he might be wrong, that there might be something that he needs to do to change policy. 

OLBERMANN:  Boy, oh boy, those Oliver Cromwell words come back; “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”  But you would think, and I don‘t think the president wants my advise, or perhaps nobody else‘s, but you would think somebody in that White House, with its reputation for sharp political operators, would say, look, we may have an opportunity here to turn the war standoff into a way to build up an a consensus on the way forward. 

We might get Democrats to be in a kind of forced shared ownership of this war.  Why won‘t this president attempt to get something like that done?

SULLIVAN:  Well, of course, they could have done that after 9/11.  Someone like Churchill brought opposition members into his cabinet.  Other war leaders have brought everybody in, in order to have a secure base, but from the beginning Karl Rove made a decision to use the war as a partisan weapon.  And now they are left.  I mean, they are left alone, because the war has failed. 

If it had succeeded, we might have been on the verge of having a one-party state in this country.  They were clearly aiming to purge the entire government of opposition to them.  But it hasn‘t worked and the war is clearly in a terrible mess.  And they don‘t really have anywhere else to go.  And Bush, I think psychologically, he just believes he is right.  He thinks that, in his fundamentalist psyche, that his motives are pure, that the war is the right thing. 

I don‘t think he is a cynic.  I think he is a true believer.  The trouble with true believers is that how can you tell them when they have made an error, and when true believers created a culture within the White House in which everybody must agree with the leader, who goes in there to talk to him and say this?  I mean, Bob Novak said he didn‘t even think that Nixon, in the days before he resigned, was as isolated as George W. Bush is today. 

OLBERMANN:  What was it, and I‘m using another British analogy here, Jon Le Carre, the spy novelist, who said when all the major figures in British intelligence in the 50‘s, so many of them turned out to have actually been Russian spies in disguise that it was disbelieved because fellows from our background could not have made mistakes like this.  Those people could not have been that kind of person, because they were our kind of person.  Is that the mentality that you see that here, that there is, still at heart, some sort of infallibility complex? 

SULLIVAN:  Yes, well, I think it‘s more that my motives are so pure that I cannot do wrong.  I think that‘s the mindset there.  It‘s like when you are born-again, you give everything up to god, who controls everything, and I think the president had a born-again moment on 9/11, politically.  And he thinks, as long as he is fighting evil, anybody who criticizes him is on the side of evil. 

And that is a terribly dangerous mindset.  And he doesn‘t have—I think this is the critical thing, unlike other presidents—a vice president seeking reelection.  There is nobody in the White House itself that has an interest in winning in 2008.  So, they could carry on forever. 

Meanwhile, the Congress is beginning to panic.  People around the country in the Republican party are in close to near panic about what this is going to do in 2008. 

OLBERMANN:  Have they just discovered that Mr. Bush was happy for their help when they were on his side?  It‘s not that there is any kind of shared side here? 

SULLIVAN:  Well, I think for the president it is not about shared side.  There‘s never been a shared side.  It‘s loyalty upwards, and then it‘s success.  When it‘s failure, it‘s very hard to figure out how to share that blame. 

OLBERMANN:  What do we do about this?  I mean, is any of this still being seen by anyone as strength on his part?  Or is it seen merely as abstinence. 

SULLIVAN:  I think it‘s not strength, it‘s brittleness.  The thing with things that are brittle is that they suddenly snap.  And my concern is that this will suddenly snap at some point.  My own view is that the Democrats should not claim ownership of this.  They should fund the troops.  They have made their statement.  People know where they stand.  Then they should let the president and the Republican party own this war from now on, and just say to the electorate, look, you have a chance in 2008 to end this.

And I think many Republicans realize that if the Democrats take that tactic and that strategy, which of course is morally difficult, with the expense of these young men and women in Iraq, but politically, then the Republicans could be headed for a wipe out of historic proportions in 2008. 

OLBERMANN:  The senior editor with “The Atlantic” and author of “The Conservative Soul,” Andrew Sullivan.  Once again, great thanks for joining us.  It‘s been fascinating. 

SULLIVAN:  You bet.  Thank you so much, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, not only did the pony hawk one survive elimination on “American Idol,” but he is infecting others on show too.  We mean that about the hair.

If you think nothing is more terrifying that Michael Jackson in the flesh, how about a 50-foot tall robot version of him?  Must rock with you all night.  And don‘t say you already thought that was a robot.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There are great expectations, slowly diminishing expectations and then there is Sanjaya Malakar.  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, yes, he made it through again, as the ghost in the machine of “American Idol” just gets ominously bigger and bigger.  Last night‘s results show revisited the pony hawk.  Some call it a faux hawk.  Here it is a faux faux hawk.  But you know there‘s trouble when Idol pays homage to a 17-year-old kid who cannot sing. 

As for elimination. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN SEACREST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  American voted and you are not going to be out in the center of the stage.  You are safe.  Take a seat. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Malakar was not even part of the weekly purgatory of Idol, the bottom three.  By subtraction, that puts him in the top seven, which for people who actually take the show seriously causes shivers.  Curly was eliminated by the way, proving that naturally ugly hair loses to deliberately ugly hair every time. 

When asked about Mr. Malakar‘s execution as a singer, I replied, I‘m in flavor of it.  Let‘s call in COUNTDOWN‘s very own “American Idol” princess, also mid-day host at New York‘s classic rock station Q-104.3, Maria Milito.  Good evening my friend. 

MARIA MILITO, Q-104.3:  Hi Keith.  A public execution on Idol, what a concept. 

OLBERMANN:  Hey, it‘s a great way to go out. 

MILITO:  Yes, it is. 

OLBERMANN:  This kid, I have him in the office pool.  You, you are smiling; you are scared; what are you? 

MILITO:  You know what, I‘m going over to the dark side now.  I hope he wins.  I‘m over it.  I know so many people who also have him in their office pool.  They are voting for him.  I Have a friend who voted for him four times the other night, just because he wants to mess up the whole voting system.  The producers got exactly what they deserved with him. 

You know, they put in a bad singer to spice up the show and make the ratings go higher and have people watch.  Good luck now.  I hope he becomes the American Idol.

OLBERMANN:  Well, you know, we have probably elected senators and presidents like that.  They put people in the baseball hall of fame that way.  Why not? 

MILITO:  That‘s right, look how America votes anyway outside of Idol, so what a big surprise.

OLBERMANN:  An idea was floated here last night by Tom O‘Neill from the “L.A. Times” blog that he is fully in on the joke, Sanjaya.  He is not a naive youngster to be pitied.  He is a Machiavellian celebrity seeker, who knows how to get give people what they want, and make them forget about the fact that he can‘t sing.  How do you feel about that?

MILITO:  Absolutely, I totally agree 100 percent.  Because the kid, at the beginning, he was naive.  He was kind of shy.  He looked embarrassed.  Now he comes out, he is—not mean spirited, but he kind of quips back at Simon.  He‘s a little nasty, a little cocky.  All of that naivete is gone.  He‘s very cocky now. 

So I think it‘s a whole big plan, because you are right, he also forgot the words the other night, and nobody mentioned that at all, because of the wig. 

OLBERMANN:  What did he forget the words to?

MILITO:  The “No Doubt” song he was singing.  He did.  He forgot the words.  And that‘s like a big crime in “American Idol.”  But not for him. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, so, if he wins, what happens then.  I mean, we assume that will be the end of it.  The producers got what they deserved.  I got a feeling you couldn‘t stop this show with a blackout.  What would actually happen to “American Idol” if this guy wins? 

MILITO:  Well, I would think if he wins, the procedures really need to go back and reassess the show, in the sense of make the judging a little bit differently.  Like maybe make it into a conspiracy, because they need more control.  If he wins, you know, by fault, not good, not good.  I think they need to just do the rules differently, maybe have the judges be part of it more so.  I don‘t know.   

OLBERMANN:  Fifty percent judges, 50 percent viewers? 

MILITO:  Kind of like some of the other shows.  I think there‘s a dancing show, whatever, that does that. 

OLBERMANN:  Or just fix it. 

MILITO:  Or fix it, exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  Like they haven‘t done that already.  COUNTDOWN‘s own “American Idol” princess, Maria Milito, great thanks.  We will see what happens next week. 

MILITO:  Absolutely.  Thanks Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Be well.  Now breaching the thin, thin line that separates the amateur freaks from the professional freaks, we turn to Keeping Tabs, our nightly roundup of celebrity and tabloid news.  Michael Jackson, you‘ve got to love the classics.  That‘s right, he is back in the headlines, in talks to create a new show in Vegas.  The show‘s designers told the “New York Daily News” that they have already drawn up blue prints for this extravaganza, and as with any show inspired by the works of a musical genius, the show‘s expected centerpiece will be a 50-foot robot that shoots laser beams out of its frickin‘ eyes. 

The designers say the intention is for a Michael Jackson robot to be the first thing seen by anyone flying into Vegas, at least until the robot is then killed by Mothra.  When are they building the 20-foot tall robot kids? 

Changing topics quickly, upcoming, the Keithie awards.  Tonight‘s category, greatest animal in all the Internets.  They are animals.  They won‘t know the difference between a Keithie and Michael Jackson statues.   

That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s nightly nominees for Worst Person in the World.  The bronze to former NBA all star, now coach of the minor league Albany Patroons, Michael Ray Richardson.  Talking with reports before a playoff game last night, or night before last rather, about his negotiations for new contract.  Richardson said, quote, I‘ve got big-time lawyers.  I‘ve got big-time Jew lawyers. 

When the reporters offered him a way out, suggesting his comment might be misunderstood as the stereotype that Jewish people are crafty or shrewd, Richardson went on, are you kidding me?  They are.  Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they have got to be crafty.  It you look at most professional sports, they‘re run by Jewish people.  If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they are run by Jewish.  That was before the game. 

During the game, Coach Richardson shouted at a heckler to shut up and called the man a common derogatory term for gay people, the one preferred by Ann Coulter.  Coach Richardson has been suspended.  Sounds like he could use the time off.  He must be exhausted. 

Runner up, New York Giants football coach Tom Coughlin.  He‘s compared public and media criticism he received last season to what Adolf Hitler went through.  “I hear some of it, and I see it,” he told a pro football breakfast, quoting again, “Hitler and then me, in that order.  Unfortunate, but it is.”  Oh boy. 

Two crazy coaches who still do not compare to our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh, claiming criticism of Attorney General Gonzales is racism.  “So you have the first Hispanic American attorney general, a minority, under fire by white liberal racists in the Senate.”  Like Senator Salazar, Senator Salazar is a racist against Hispanics?  And this is from a guy who insisted liberals were exaggerating Donovan McNabb‘s skills because they wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.  This is from a guy who has happily called Barack Obama a, quote, half-rican American. 

Comedian Rush Limbaugh, today‘s Worst Person in the World!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you want cuddly, go to a pet store.  If you want beastly, check out Congress.  But if you seek animals who destiny is award winning, stay right where you are.  Our number one 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, the last round of nominations for the Keithies, the first annual best of the stuff we found on the Internets awards. 

We have already presented our nods for stuff that you missed on the TVs that the Internets made famous, as well as every day idiots.  Last night, Internet super stars, non-porn.  Tonight‘s category, greatest animal in all the Internets.  The nominees in a moment, first the whole zoo. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  On the Internets, wacky animal clips are a dime a dozen.  If you have seen one dog freaking out a Roomba (ph), you have seen them all.  Seen them all I say.  All of them, every last one of them.  Enough already.  Oh, a kitty.  Is that a ferret?  Bunny rabbit. 

As you can see, there is no shortage of material, so we had some tough decisions to make during the nominating process. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The couple is going to have to come—

OLBERMANN:  This was pretty good, and the reporter‘s keen instincts were correct. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Since I‘m in the media, I instantly knew what was going to happen.  I knew that it would be on YouTube. 

OLBERMANN:  It is, but it‘s still not good enough.  Dear attacks hunter is a classic, but still falls short.  If this was a real bear, we might consider nomination.  Can‘t say for sure, so we just left it out.  We refused to condone smoking by monkeys, never mind crabs.  And if we nominated the feinting goats, who knows how they might have take the news. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When the goat is startled or excited, it causes a very temporary stiffening of the muscles.  When the muscles relax, after a few seconds, the goat jumps up and runs on its way. 

OLBERMANN:  If there‘s no telling which genus your animal belongs to -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re remarking on how much Percy looks like a chicken when he sleeps like this . 

OLBERMANN:  We suggest you wait until next year.  And for those high flying animals who sold out in the name of viral video goodness, we salute you. 

For the animals who trained hard, to those who gave it their best, even though their best was not good enough, we pay tribute to your efforts.  And we remind them of the ancient Japanese proverb, sometimes you are the Komodo Dragon and sometimes you are the pork chop. 

Most times you‘re just not going to be good enough to get the Keithie. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And the nominees for greatest animal in all of the Internets are—oh, it‘s a kitty, brilliantly given a name that could never induce fear, Pinky the cat. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is Pinky.  He‘s a male cat, domestic short hair.  He‘s available for adoption.  He‘s pet of the week.  He‘s a very loving cat. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Pinky, Pinky, wow.  Pinky.  Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ve got a wild cat on our hands. 

(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He got you in the back?

(END VIDEO CLIP

OLBERMANN:  Thank you Pinky.  We‘re confident you found a loving home. 

Next it‘s a snake.  No, it‘s a show stealer, leaping lizard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let‘s see how long it is.  Let‘s hold it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This guy is probably close to five feet.  Texas rat snakes are going to be one of the largest snakes that you would find in the metroplex area. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get this thing off of me man.  Get this thing off me man.  God damn.  What is this thing jumping at me for man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He likes you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can tell. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Up next, hamster after his morning cup of Jo, fastest hamster ever. 

Our next nomination have a cape and an English translator, that we might discover his secret power.  It‘s super dog. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the final nominee tonight, sleepy dog, Rusty the narcoleptic dog. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This dachshund, Rusty, suffers from narcolepsy, a condition that causes him to suddenly fall asleep when he‘s trying to do other things.  Little is known about the cause of narcolepsy, except that it can be inherited. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Our nominees for greatest animal on all the Internets.  And our great thanks to all the nominees in each and every one of the categories.  Now, you are vested with the solemn responsibility.  No silly text messaging, speed dialing.  No, go to our website, COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com.  Vote early, vote often and in every category.  You may watch all the nominees again if you like.  Give that to a friend while your at it.  All your Keithies winners to be revealed on the show tomorrow night in a star studded award show extravaganza.

No, it‘s just a newscast but it has cartoons.  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,446th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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