updated 7/10/2007 11:31:32 AM ET 2007-07-10T15:31:32

Guests: John Dean, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Steve Battaglio

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

As Harry Reid admits about the Democrats and Iraq, “We haven‘t done enough.”  As Republicans on the Hill clap lips about war opposition, internal debate reported at the White House.  Should the president announce some sort of gradual withdrawal?  The press secretary says there is no debate right now on withdrawing forces right now from Iraq.

Gee, Tony, could we have a couple more “right nows” in there?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  There will be no red squares on the calendar at the end of this week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Red squares, like the Kremlin Red Square?

If there‘s more getting through his skull about Iraq, there is less about Gonzogate.  The president will try to invoke executive privilege to keep Sara Taylor and Harriet Myers from testifying to the Senate about the U.S. attorneys firings.  But they can talk off the record, not under oath, so they don‘t really have to tell the truth.

Did Katie Couric just tell the truth, or was she sandbagged by a reporter with a poor track record about observing the rules of journalism?  Quote, “I have days when I‘m, like, Oh, my God, what did I do?”  She reportedly slapped a news editor on the arm for putting the word “sputum” in her script, her former interview producer quoted as saying CBS began to renege on its promises to Ms. Couric and nickel-and-dimed her on stories.  Is she on the way out at the CBS “Evening News”?  Sputum.

My buddy is on his way out at ESPN.

And the iPhone‘s already here, the Potter film and book are imminent, so it‘s time for “Simpsons” movie mania, live from Springfield, one of the 14 Springfields.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

Breaking news tonight from an unnamed U.S. official quoted by the Associated Press, who says that the draft report upcoming on the Iraq government shows that all of the benchmarks it was to meet, of all of them, the number it has actually met is zero, none.  In Bush administration doublespeak, what would happen after that ofer (ph) would not be referred to as a retreat or a withdrawal, rather it would be called a post-surge redeployment.

Of course, the White House being the White House, President Bush and company are not only denying that they are debating even a symbolic announcement of an intended pullback of U.S. troops, in hopes of pulling back some Republicans who have strayed from the herd, they‘re also denying that those GOP lawmakers have strayed in the first place, even as another prominent Republican parts ways with the White House just this evening.

The key word, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, is denial.  Suffice to say, something‘s being debated, and Republican support is slipping away, the president‘s defense secretary, Mr. Gates, canceling a planned trip to Latin America this week to attend meetings instead in Washington, his spokesman saying only that the Pentagon is focused on implementing the current strategy for the conflict.

That alone might be a refreshing change of pace, “The New York Times” having reported this morning that because once-loyal Republicans are now speaking out against the conflict, some in the administration are wondering if it might be wise for Mr. Bush to steal their thunder by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities, White House press secretary Snow falsely claiming this afternoon that a key Republican who spoke out against the administration, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, still endorses the president‘s policies in Iraq, Mr. Snow trying to create the impression, in fact, that Mr. Lugar is actually Majority Leader Harry Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW:  He wants al Qaeda to lose.  He wants the Iraqi people to win. 

I think there are substantial areas of agreement here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That the course you‘re taking is not succeeding in those endeavors.

SNOW:  No, he single—again, the—we have just started the course. 

The course has just (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

SNOW:  I‘m just...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But he‘s not a Democrat, he‘s a Republican.

SNOW:  I understand, I understand (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) time‘s running out (INAUDIBLE)...

SNOW:  So understand (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is the White House in denial about that thing, (INAUDIBLE)...

SNOW:  No, the White House is not in denial about the (INAUDIBLE), but I think you‘re in denial about the fact that in the overall contours, there‘s just not that much disagreement.  If you want a disagreement, you compare what he‘s saying with what Harry Reid has said.  If you want a disagreement, you take a look at what Dick Lugar has been saying and what Democratic leaders have been saying, by and large.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As of tonight, the White House with a new Republican defector to be in denial about, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine telling NBC News that the time has come for binding legislation to bring home most U.S.  forces.  As for the Democrats, Mr. Reid and his colleagues to begin voting this week on a series of measures that would order a complete withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq by April 1, 2008, the majority leader admitting of his party that up until now, quote, “we haven‘t done enough,” but not without plenty of excuses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  We understand the feelings of the American people that we haven‘t done enough, because we haven‘t done enough.  But as you know, for those of you who can count, and all of you can, this debate, Democrats start 49 to 50, and we‘re the 49, not the 50.  Senator Johnson‘s sick, and it‘s been a difficult time for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

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

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let me ask you first about the stuff that‘s breaking at this hour, the AP report quoting an unnamed U.S. official, no other detail from that, that this draft report that is due to be delivered to Capitol Hill Thursday or Friday on the benchmarks for the new Iraqi government, it was a complete shutout.  They‘ve gotten none of the benchmarks achieved, none of the targets, none of the political reforms, none of the economic reforms.  Is this common knowledge?  Is it expected?  What kind of result, what kind of reaction are we expecting from it?

WOLFFE:  Well, I guess the absolute zero, the no score, is the shocking part of it.  But White House officials have been telling me for several weeks that there was basically no progress at all on political reconciliation.  And that‘s what these benchmarks are supposed to measure.  It‘s not just whether they‘re filling the potholes or not, it‘s whether there‘s going to be a political solution, which is what everyone knows has to happen.

So then you get into this question of what can they do, if anything, about it?  And part of that is massaging things for folks back home, and part of it is actually changing the dynamic for the politicians in Baghdad.  They may be able to do more with the former than the latter.

OLBERMANN:  And this question about the debate over whether or not there is a debate internally, somebody leaks a possible troop withdrawal strategy to “The New York Times,” the next day the press secretary denies it.  Is that a classic trial balloon that popped, or what happened there?

WOLFFE:  Not clear how much this is “The Times” digging in itself, and how much is this is being floated.  But remember what the terms of this story are, that‘s about the announcement of a plan to withdraw partially, a partial drawdown is not the same as a full withdrawal.  And this is all about announcing it, anyway.  Again, this is about the politics back home.

And for that decision to be made, I‘m told by White House officials, really depends on what the political status is right now, and nobody has a clear handle on it.  Are all of these defectors going to side with the Democrats, or are they just voicing their concerns and their worries?  What elements of the Democrats‘ package do they side with?

So again, this is about PR, this isn‘t about a fundamental review that the president is engaging in.

OLBERMANN:  In denying that there is a withdrawal debate, though, did the White House set itself up for another kind of pummeling?  I mean, even if the conclusion of the debate is, No, we don‘t withdraw, not now, shouldn‘t that question be debated endlessly inside the White House?  Don‘t (INAUDIBLE) most Americans, in fact, assume, wouldn‘t they assume it is debated endlessly inside the White House?

WOLFFE:  Absolutely.  But, you know, White House officials have told me for a long time now, since at least they announced the so-called surge, that there was no plan B, and we all thought initially, Well, that‘s just, you know, a bit of spin.  But people who are closely working with this White House on these issues tell me there really is no plan B.

And that‘s the major policy address you really want to hear from this president.  At the moment, their argument is, Well, we can‘t engage in this debate because somehow it will weaken the resolve of the public.  As if the public opinion polls do not already show that people have turned against this war.

Really, that debate about withdrawal, about what it means, about how you would execute it, whether you could execute it fully, what kind of humanitarian assistance you would need, that needs to happen now, because you need to lay the groundwork.  If there‘s one lesson out of Iraq, it‘s lay the groundwork.

OLBERMANN:  As if the Bush administration did not have enough to deal with from “The New York Times,” there was a separate story over the weekend, and Karl Rove was speaking at a conference in Colorado, and what he said there happened to dovetail with this story, that namely that the administration had a chance to capture at least a large part of the leadership of al Qaeda in Pakistan in 2005, Al-Zawahiri and others, that the Navy SEALs were already in the air, in route, and Secretary Rumsfeld and others called it off.

Let me play you what Mr. Rove said in answer to a question, and then get your reaction.  The question‘s from our own Andrea Mitchell about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE:  The United States has concerns about taking unilateral action in a sovereign nation without their approval.  And so this has always been the difficulty we have with --  Unless, of course, they‘re Saddam Hussein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, letting go of the laughter for a moment that was greeted—that he was greeted by, does that, Richard, undercut the administration‘s ongoing attempt to criticize the Clinton White House for not pursuing bin Laden and his ilk vigorously enough, to say nothing of undercutting its own ability to defend its own pursuit of them?

WOLFFE:  Yes, and I think the second point is much more important than the first.  This isn‘t a backward-looking thing.  This is a president who said he would do anything to defend the national security interests.  And when I asked him a question on this very subject at a press conference not so long ago, he also came up with this line, that Pakistan is a sovereign nation and they had to respect it.

I mean, it‘s beyond a joke.  If you know that the core leadership is there, you have to do everything to try and get them, because they are still plotting, and there‘s still actions going on there that show that this network is active.  Karl doesn‘t understand that he is not the one always cracking the jokes.  Sometimes people are laughing at him.

OLBERMANN:  As it sounded that way exactly right there.

Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” of course.  As always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  If this comes to be remembered as a tipping point on the war in Iraq, an editorial in “The New York Times” Sunday edition might one day be viewed as having documented, if not having influenced, that change, titled “The Road Home,” the “Times” editorial board arguing that absent any sign that President Bush is seriously trying to dig the U.S. out of the mess he has created in Iraq, or at all succeeded in nation building there, quote, “It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush‘s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president, and dump the mess on his successor.  Whatever his cause was, it is lost.  Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong.  It is time for the United States to leave Iraq without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.”

Of course, organizing an orderly exit perhaps the most difficult challenge of the conflict yet.

Let‘s turn now to Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the former Baghdad bureau chief of “The Washington Post” now and assistant managing editor at the paper, as well as the author of “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.”

Rajiv, good evening.

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let me ask you first again about this news breaking from the Associated Press at this hour, that when this draft report comes out Thursday or Friday about the progress of the Iraqi government, frankly, it will show none.  Is that zero score as it was to Richard Wolffe a surprise to you if the tone of the whole thing is not?

CHANDRASEKARAN:  No surprise to me, Keith.  I mean, we have known for quite some time now, both in statements that have been telegraphed from U.S. officials here, but also from reporting on the ground in Baghdad, that the Iraqi leadership has failed to make any significant accomplishments on any of the measures that have been set out that the U.S. has been seeking in terms of political reconciliation, as well as security improvements in that country.  All of the benchmarks that were laid out by the president six months ago tonight in his nationally televised speech, none of them have been significantly met by the Iraqi leadership.

OLBERMANN:  So in that context, is it safe to say that the administration would now have to put a lot more planning into a withdrawal of its own people there, our people there, than it did into what happened in the aftermath of the, of the, of the invasion in 2003?

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Almost certainly.  The getting out is going to far messier, far more challenging, far bloodier than the going in.  I mean, it‘s not going to be a three-week race to the border, like it was in—or the reverse of what it was in March of 2003, as U.S. troops rushed in from Kuwait to Baghdad.

I mean, you‘re going to have 160,000 troops.  They‘re not going to pull all of them out, but let‘s say you try to take half of them out.  They‘re going to be going down a couple of main transportation routes to the Kuwaiti border.  Those are going to be subject to insurgent attacks in the Sunni areas near Baghdad.  It‘s also going to be subject to attacks in the Shi‘ite heartland in the south.

I mean, one point to remember here, Keith, is, the U.S. has largely neglected a lot of these Shi‘ite communities.  You‘ve got militia groups loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr and other local thugs operating in some of these key cities like Nasariyah in the south.  They‘re going to stage ambushes.  It could be very violent and dangerous for U.S. forces on the way out of Iraq as well.

OLBERMANN:  Not to make any undue comparisons necessarily, but, of course, the drawback from Vietnam after what was essentially the cessation of hostilities in 1973 to the actual evacuation of the, of the U.S. embassy in 1975, with all that lead time, that was still a disaster in terms of the diplomatic personnel, those iconic images of the helicopters atop the embassy and people being left there, Vietnamese supporters of the U.S.

Are we likely to see something like that in terms of the diplomatic corps, even, let alone the soldiers?  I mean, obviously, the 160,000 troops are the concern, but what about, what about everybody else, and what about this, you know, monstrously large embassy we‘re trying to build in Baghdad?

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Yes, you know, Keith, I‘ve written a thing or two about the green zone, and in the green zone is not going to be evacuated.  That‘s still going to be an American beachhead, Fortress America.  I mean, we‘re building an enormous new embassy there with incredibly thick concrete walls and lots of defensive measures.

I think that any withdrawal scenario would still include thousands upon thousands of U.S. forces to protect the green zone and the American diplomatic personnel there, the other contractors, the intelligence operatives that are working there.  I don‘t foresee any scenes of helicopters lifting off of the green zone taking the last Americans out of Baghdad.  I think that there will always be a significant American presence in the heart of Baghdad, in that fortified enclave known as the green zone.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, take us back to this, to the breaking news in the context of what we‘re talking about.  If the, if the report‘s going to come in that the Iraqi government, the new Iraqi government, has not met any of these economic reforms, political reforms, other reforms, as reported tonight by the Associated Press, what are you hearing from your people, your contacts in Iraq about the U.S. presence there and in regard to a seeming failure on the part of the local government, the one we‘re backing?  Do the people still want us to go?  Are we going to cause more trouble leaving to this government that basically is batting zero-zero-zero?

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Well, that‘s an interesting question.  And the irony here is that the Iraqi political leadership seems pretty united on the fact that they want us to stay.  This may be the one thing in agreement between the Sunnis and Shi‘ites and the Kurds.  You know, the Sunnis want us to stay because they‘re worried that the Shi‘ites will exterminate them.  The Shi‘ite leadership under Prime Minister al-Maliki fears that it‘s going to crumble if it doesn‘t have American support.  And, of course, the Kurds need us.

Now, there‘s, of course, a difference of opinion, Keith, between what the leadership that‘s ensconced in the green zone wants and what ordinary Iraqis do, but thus far, you know, we heard today from the Iraqi foreign minister, among others, saying that they were concerned about all this talk of a more accelerated U.S. withdrawal, potentially.  They‘re concerned about that.  They really want the U.S. troops to stay, because they know that their hold on power is dependent on American force in Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the former Baghdad bureau chief of “The Washington Post,” author of “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.”  Great insight, as always, sir.  Great thanks for your time.

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Good night, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It gets no better for the president domestically.  Almost on the eve of the testimony of two of his former aides, Mr. Bush invokes executive privilege.  The White House in crisis.

And speaking of crises, does Katie Couric really want a magazine quoting her as saying her old boss oversold the likelihood she would succeed?  He probably could have been told, Easy Les, don‘t overpromise?  Well, like it or not, that‘s what she‘s got.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As of 10:00 a.m. Eastern time today, it became official. 

The first rule of White House is, you do not talk about White House.

Our fourth story tonight, in a letter to Congress this morning, Mr.  Bush‘s counsel, Fred Fielding, invoked executive privilege to prevent his predecessor, Harriet Miers, along with former White House political director Sara Taylor, from testifying to Congress this week about the U.S.  attorneys scandal, Fielding‘s rationale protecting the ability of Bush advisers to render that advice without fear of outside scrutiny.

The hitch?  Ms. Taylor, at least, wants to testify, meaning Mr. Bush today ordered that an American citizen who no longer works for him cannot speak freely about matters that have nothing to do with national security.  That sets the stage, not surprisingly, for a constitutional showdown with Congress.

Previous episodes, such as illegal wiretaps and an unpopular war, already have historians comparing Mr. Bush to President Nixon.  Starting today, we will use the Bush/Nixon Countdown Clock to track the ongoing Nixonification of Mr. Bush, his invocation of executive privilege pushing it to a seven today with midnight, of course, representing retirement, impeachment, or meeting Elvis, whichever comes first..

Let‘s turn now to Nixon‘s former counsel, John Dean, more recently, the author of “Worse Than Watergate” and “Conservatives Without Conscience.”

John, good evening.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What are the legalities here now?  Harriet Miers‘ lawyer says she‘s going to honor the president‘s demand, and she‘s going to show up to invoke executive privilege.  Does Ms. Taylor have to show up too?  Do they have to bring a note?  Do we get this stonewall spectacle of people being sworn in and refusing to say anything?

DEAN:  Well, they do have to show up, unless excused by the committee.  And to my knowledge, the committee has excused neither witness.  What will probably happen is, they‘ll ask them some preliminary questions, and they will probably try to decide on their own when they‘re getting into areas that Fielding‘s letter says they should not get into.

But we will see something of a spectacle, because I suspect the committee will say, Well, you know, if you really want to testify, Miss Taylor, for example, why don‘t you testify?  And she‘ll say, Well, I don‘t want to hurt the feelings of the president, and so and so forth.

And this really isn‘t a very legitimate reason.  If she wanted to testify, Bush would have to go to court, Keith, and get a restraining order against her.  And to my knowledge, that‘s never been done.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Fielding made the same argument that the Supreme Court has previously upheld, that a president has a valid need for unfettered candor for his aides.  But in this case, the president maintains he was not involved in any of this.  Sara Taylor obviously feels comfortable talking about it.  So what—I mean, it has the structure of an executive privilege case.  But how much, how much meat is there actually on the bones here?

DEAN:  Well, the further you get away from a direct conversation with the president, the weaker the privilege.  In fact, the Supreme Court has said the strongest privilege is with national security.  Clearly, the politics and the Department of Justice does not come under national security.  So they‘re on pretty weak ground already, even when they get away as far as they have from the president.  so this is an (INAUDIBLE) -- this is not a terribly strong case, Keith, actually.

OLBERMANN:  What do you make of the fact that your old friend and colleague Mr. Fielding opened his letter by complaining about the tone of congressional demands and closes it by conveying, quote, “the president‘s request for respect and a presumption of goodwill”?

DEAN:  Well, when I read the letter, I could envision that this was the letter of committee, and not of a single author.  Probably some of the eagle-beagles that Fred‘s got in his office now drafted it up, the staffed it around, and they came up and realized it‘s clearly a political document.  They‘re dealing with tough, seasoned committee chairmen who are not going to stand down easily.  So they‘re trying to set their political stance with this letter.

OLBERMANN:  The law, obviously, John, only applies to the extent that it is enforced.  Assuming a court sides with Congress because this is a tangential kind of example of executive privilege, almost like a game of telephone, the president said this, and somebody else said this, and then down the end of the line is the person that you don‘t want to have testify.  What is the enforcement scenario here?  What happens if the court actually sides against the president on this?

DEAN:  Well, I think we‘re a long way from that happening.  This would theoretically go as far as the Supreme Court before it got resolved, and that would take years.  But let‘s say the Supreme Court did, then it‘s very simple.  They would have to appear, and they would be literally compelled to testify at that point.

Now, if they—without a restraining order from the president, there‘s nothing they could do, unless they really want to see the sergeant at arms arrest them on the spot.

But I don‘t think it‘s going to come to that.  It never—these things never get that far.

OLBERMANN:  Is executive privilege, did it become in the last 35 years a phrase that perhaps the average American doesn‘t understand the legal nuances of, but has now translated into stonewalling, attempting to hide something?  Is it a bad self-defense mechanism simply because of the approbation that it may trigger in people‘s memories?

DEAN:  Well, there‘s no question that Nixon gave it a very bad name.  And there‘s, you know, there‘s truth on both sides of this.  One, that Congress need information, their—one of their responsibilities is oversight, and they can only get it by getting responses from people in high places.

On the other hand, a president and does make his claim to need the free deliberations of his staff, unfettered by whether they‘re going to have to account for those deliberations.  I‘ve never totally understood that rationale, because I‘ve always thought, You show me the person who‘s afraid of their testimony or their statement to the president being shown in public, that‘s probably somebody who shouldn‘t be giving the president advice.

So I‘m one who happens to lean on the side of the Congress, having started my career there.           

OLBERMANN:  John Dean, author of “Worse Than Watergate” and “Conservatives Without Conscience,” and a personal veteran on the battles over executive privilege.  As always, pleasure having you on the show, sir.

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And we‘ll see where the Bush-Nixon Countdown Clock stands after Congress tries to get that Miers and Taylor testimony this week.

The issue for Katie Couric, perhaps too much testimony.  What was she thinking, describing an environment at CBS News where the first question about a story often was, she said, “How much does it cost?”

And the cost of this annual fiasco, well, surprisingly high percentage of the cost this time was paid by the bipeds.  They‘re running.

Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One hundred and twenty nine years ago today, one of the giants of American broadcast journalism was born.  Hanz von Kaltenborn (ph), better known as H.V. Kaltenborn; his analysis for CBS Radio of the Munich crisis of 1938 not only forecast how Hitler would double cross Great Britain, but that analysis went on pretty much non stop for 18 days. 

He closed his career for NBC, contributing at the age of 78 to the TV coverage of the political conventions.  You can get an idea of what his work sounded like because he played himself in movies as diverse as “Mr.  Smith Goes to Washington” and also “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”  On that note, let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  We begin at Spain‘s festival of San Fermin (ph) with the annual celebration of animal cruelty and drunken idiocy that is the running of the bulls of Pamplona.  There were no serious injuries on this the third day of running.  So we decided to show you the tape of yesterday‘s day two.  The bulls really got their offense clicking.  Maybe somebody finally told the animals what would happen to them at the stadium at the end of the run, because the day two squad played like it had nothing to lose. 

Its success can be chocked up to a new and effective strategy, stop, turn around, and take on the runners coming at them.  Brilliant. 

The bulls gored at least nine before being herded into a ring where they all met their brutal end in front of a huge crowd.  But they set a good tone, and we‘re hoping we see a break into double digits tomorrow.

Ton Denver, and the home of Major League Baseball‘s Colorado Rockies.  We had a bit of a mishap during a rain delay in the game last night against the Philadelphia Phillies.  Never let the wind gets under the tarp.  The grounds crew tried to hold on to the tarp and then it was—help me, help me.  The crowd, of course, loved it, but it was actually a really dangerous situation out there. 

Even more amazing, when the entire Phillies team, the visitors, came out on the field to help.  Third baseman Abraham Nunez (ph) even pitching in with a sand bag.  If you‘re scoring at home, or even if you‘re just alone, we spotted just one Rockies player out there helping.  The Phils, meanwhile, hung on to that thing like the crew of the Pequod, trying to wrangle Moby Dick. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of ships that sink, the Katie Couric magazine interview.  Is she trying to set up her own exit from the CBS anchor desk, or was she set up by a writer?  And which Springfield is the Springfield?  Thank you, come again.  These stories ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day. 

Number three, Paddy Power, Irish book maker who is taking wagers on which high-profile American will be the next to be arrested.  Odds on Paris Hilton, two to one.  Odds on Bill Gates, 50 to one.  Odds on Al Gore, 14 to one.  Unfortunately for Mr. Power, he never said which Al Gore.  So when the former vice president‘s son Al was detained, Power had to pay up to 50 gamblers to the tune of about 13 grand. 

Number two, James Coldwell of Manchester, New Hampshire, arrested for allegedly robbing the Citizens bank there while he had boughs of leaves duct taped to his head and torso.  That‘s right, see him there, he was disguised as a tree.  He really went out on a limb, said Ernie Goodnow (ph), police sergeant and local wit. 

Number one, Hailu Kidane Marian of Puerto Rico.  Not to make fun of a very serious injury, but this will make you think.  He was selling merchandise door-to-door in a neighborhood in northwest Miami Dade County yesterday when he was the victim of that rare weather phenomenon, clear sky lightning.  No rain, no clouds, just literally a bolt out of the blue that struck him down where he stood. 

And the merchandise he was selling door-to-door?  Religious items, crosses, bibles, stuff like that there. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The extraordinary article is entitled “Alas, Poor Couric.”  And the quotes from and on behalf of the anchor of the “CBS Evening News” have already been analogized to career suicide.  The piece is so long and so filled with quotations and stories that it could not have been wholly fabricated, even if somebody were to do so or want to do so.  But a caveat up front about our third story in the COUNTDOWN, last year, Charles Gibson of ABC‘s “World News” claimed that the writer here, Joe Hagen (ph) of “New York Magazine,” took a joking quote out of context from him to try to start up trouble between him and Brian Williams of NBC. 

He called Mr. Hagen something of a snake.  My own experiences with Hagen suggest Gibson deserves the benefit of the doubt.  Presumably in this case, so does Katie Couric.  Nevertheless, with a headline and a quote from her on her move from “THE TODAY SHOW” to CBS reading, “I have days when I‘m like, oh my god, what did I do,” the repercussions of the article are going to be vast. 

Couric reportedly responding to the beatings she is taking in the ratings, blaming a confluence of factors, including jealous co-workers, excessive promotion and an audience that prefers the stodgy news that has been hip for so long with advertisers of laxatives and arthritis pills. 

Speaking of hit, a story of frustration related towards staff members of Ms. Couric repeatedly slapping an editor on the arm for having used the word supdem (ph) in a script about tuberculosis: “I sort of slapped him around.  I got mad at him and said, you can‘t do this to me.  You have to tell me when you‘re going to use a word like that.  I was aggravated.  There was no question about that.”

Many of us often read the copy ahead of time.  The magazine also quotes a close friend and former CBS producer, who with Couric‘s supposed blessing, gives the CBS eye a solid poke by accusing the network of reneging on promises, of nickel and diming her news budget and of doing more to protect the old guard than promote the new face of the network. 

There‘s one shot in the other direction too.  The magazine quote the president of CBS News, Sean McManus, as saying, “a lot of things that made Katie successful in the morning probably don‘t work in the evening news broadcast.”

Let‘s turn now to Steve Battaglio, senior correspondent with “TV Guide Magazine.”  Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

STEVE BATTAGLIO, “TV GUIDE MAGAZINE”:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Give me the big picture first about the article.  Does she wind up looking bad?  Does CBS look bad?  Is anyone saying Joe Hagen misquoted her or printed off the record quotes?  What‘s the reaction to it? 

BATTAGLIO:  I did not hear anything about the reporting of the story.  Katie is very savvy in dealing with the press.  I think that she really is frustrated.  She was number one for 11 years on “The Today Show.”  She went to a broadcast that was number three and she has not been able to turn it around. 

She tried to do something new and different on the broadcast that was immediately rejected because she is dealing with a program which has the most traditional audience in television.  They are older.  They like their news in a certain way.  They are not on the Internet all day.  And, quite frankly, CBS news has been—is the most cost conscious of the news divisions.  And it does have a tradition of eating its young.

OLBERMANN:  But the timing of the piece—of her comments, is a feeling around that she is trying to get herself off “The Evening News?” 

BATTAGLIO:  I spoke to one of her friends this morning who suggested that maybe she was trying to set up a situation here where she could maybe be transition to “60 Minutes.”  I just do not see it happening for a couple of reasons.  She has a firm four year contract there.  Plus, who are you going to put on? 

The evening news is on every night.  It is making money.  Dan Rather was in last place for 12 years.  The program still has to go on.  You have to have an anchor.  I just do not see who they would turn to, in the short term, who would really make a difference.  If they want to make a change, I do not think they would do anything until after the presidential election. 

OLBERMANN:  Have you heard the story that Bob Schieffer is ready to come back, is tan, rested and ready, and that a change might come before the elections, in fact? 

BATTAGLIO:  I have not heard that.  I think it is doubtful, mainly because it still would be a short-term solution.  Bob is 70 years old.  Again, you would still have to continue to search for someone else, and have yet another change and then take another risk. 

OLBERMANN:  Of course, many of the viewers are 70 years old as well, in fact a large number of them. 

BATTAGLIO:  I think that‘s a large factor here.  How much of this is Katie and also how much of it is a real systemic problem in evening news.  I mean, Brian Williams‘ audience is shrinking as well.  This is a broadcast that we all look at as the signature broadcast of TV news.  But I don‘t think—the viewer sees it in a different way. 

I think a lot of the people who liked Katie in the morning are just not available to watch her at 6:30 every night. 

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, that last quote from this article; is it a surprise to you that this would be brought up now, about her morning skills not necessarily working at night?  Is that not something that everybody who thought, maybe this isn‘t going to work, said to him?

BATTAGLIO:  Her morning skills are different.  You like Katie on “The Today Show.”  yes, Katie is a really good journalist.  But she was also popular on “The Today Show” because she was fun.  “The Evening News” is not fun, is not a place for fun.  And I think that Katie is probably—might be a little disappointed that the format is as rigid as it is. 

OLBERMANN:  But is it surprising to you that now it is being analyzed as maybe the morning stuff did not work?  Or maybe somebody that—

BATTAGLIO:  I cannot imagine what type of research that CBS News looked at that said hey, people really want something different at 6:30.  Again, it is not a program that can be reinvented.  The way it is distributed—it‘s on too early for a lot of people to watch it and you are competing with so many other things now. 

It is not because we are not covering enough—they‘re not covering enough news that‘s interesting to young adults or there is not enough celebrity coverage on it.  There are plenty of other places to get that.  There is one place to get a summary of the day‘s events in 22 minutes.  That is the evening news, and that is the way the folks who watch it like it. 

OLBERMANN:  How does it end?  Does it end the way the Barbara Walters misfortune from 30 years ago ended, with Couric interview specials and—

BATTAGLIO:  I think everybody should calm down.  I think Katie should calm down and CBS News calm down and just let her do the program for a while.  You know, there has not been a huge, Earth shattering story, which requires her to be on the air for several hours.  Those are the types of stories where TV news anchors really make their bones.  We haven‘t seen that yet.  That will be—I think will help to define her better. 

OLBERMANN:  Steve Battaglio from TV Guide, great thanks for your time tonight, Steve. 

BATTAGLIO:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  Here‘s interesting coincidence, Katie Couric, perhaps on thin ice at CBS, my honorary brother, Dan Patrick, leaves ESPN. 

But we know he had nothing to do with this, blackmailing a beauty queen.  Round two.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It has been the number one Google search.  It will only be our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, our celebrity roundup, Keeping Tabs, leading with word of a second package delivered, full of attempted blackmail against Miss New Jersey.  Last Thursday, Amy Pollumbo (ph) announced the receipt of a package with questionable photos of herself, along with a note that said she better step down as Miss New Jersey, or else. 

Now, a second package has been sent to Miss America officials, with another threat and more sinful pics.  On “The Today Show,” she told Matt Lauer the pictures are not of the nude variety.  And wearing her best vasoline toothed smile, she reminded America to pay attention to what really matters. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY POLLUMBO, MISS AMERICA:  With Facebook, you are not allowed it to show any nudity.  So obviously, there is no nudity.  They‘re not that bad.  I am a normal college girl. 

We are a country at war and we have a presidential election coming up and I am the number one Google search.  I think it is kind of ridiculous. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And he is, to quote his elegantly simple home run call, gone.  My tag team partner, Dan Patrick, announced today he is leaving ESPN after 18 years there.  Dan making the announcement on our ESPN radio show, which will continue through Friday, August 17th.  I would like to go out on my own, he said.  I have not been a free agent.  I have spent 18 years here.  It‘s been home, but I thought I was taking it for granted. 

He says he has not got any plans for the immediate future, although he hopes to continue in a daily radio format.  As host of ESPN‘s 11:00 p.m.  “Sportscenter” in the 1990s, Dan Patrick helped redefine sports casting, along with the guy who used to do the show with him, Mr. Whatever his name was. 

A quick plug, tomorrow on “NBC Nightly News” with Brian Williams, on the occasion of baseball‘s All Star Game, I will be examining the mixed emotions and controversy surrounding the pursuit of the all-time baseball home-run record by Barry Bonds.  That‘s tomorrow night on “NBC Nightly News.”  Check your listings.

From ballplayers with arms like in the Popeye cartoons to the animated genius that is “The Simpsons,” and the 14 cities vying to become the Springfield.  We‘ll have a live report from the Springfield.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

The bronze to city manager Chris Epley (ph) of Kaiser, Oregon.  The new cement posts designed to protect pedestrian traffic there have turned out to look, as Mr. Epley says, different than they did in the catalog.  Oops!  There are 52 of these around Keizer, Oregon.  Mr. Epley says he plans to retrofit them with metal collars and chains.  This is just going from bad to worse. 

The silver tonight, Congressman Chris Cannon of Utah, appearing on Fixed Noise, to give yet another reason for one of the firings in the U.S.  attorney scandal, the firing of New Mexico‘s David Iglesias, denying that he was fired for independent judgment.  Cannon shouted, no, no, he was fired because he was an idiot. 

Which brings us to tonight‘s winner, Karl Rove.  As we mentioned before, speaking over the weekend at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, explaining that the real problem at Gitmo is not say suicide or torture, but gain of weight by the detainees.  Adding that 80 to 90 percent of violence in Iraq is due to al Qaeda, and finally that we all thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; the whole world did. 

Mr. Rove, have you checked yourself lately?  Are there any scars say where the brain stem meets the top of the spine?  Or maybe someone hit you with a poison dart?  Is there any evidence that some evildoer performed a surreptitious lobotomy on you?  Because these delusions you‘re having; we‘re all getting very concerned out here, sir.  Karl Rove, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is reality imitating the art that imitated the reality.  First, Matt Groening satirized convenience stores by creating the Quickie Mart, a place where everything costs far too much, where the hotdogs have been roasting since Eisenhower was president, where the slushies are enough to give you a coronary. 

Now 7-11s around the country, like this one in Dallas, have relabeled themselves Kwik E Mart, stocking Buzz Cola and Krusty-O cereal and sprinklicious (ph) donuts and the Kwik E 7-11 is just one blurring of the lines between fiction and reality celebrating, or promoting, the first full length Simpsons movie. 

In addition to the real Kwik E Marts, the hunt is on for the real Springfield, as well.  COUNTDOWN‘s own Monica Novotny is in Springfield with our number one story tonight.  Monica, good evening. 

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening.  The 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush, once asked Americans to be more like the Waltons than the Simpsons.  Tonight, more proof that those words on fell on deaf ears.  To our knowledge, no town has ever fought for the privilege of being called the real Walton‘s Mountain.  But the real Springfield, well for that, there‘s a site. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  After 10 years of speculation, it‘s finally here, “the Simpsons Movie,” coming to a theater near you on July 27th, after premiering in, where else?  Springfield.  But which Springfield? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can see the four states that border Springfield, Nevada, Ohio, Maine, and Kentucky. 

NOVOTNY:  Fourteen different Springfields out of the dozens around the country are vying for the honor of hosting the premier, making five minute videos to support their claims of authenticity and asking voters on USAToday.com to pick which is the one true home of the Simpsons. 

In the northeast, both Springfield, Vermont and Springfield, New Jersey offering up live action versions of the Simpsons opening credits, Vermont with a giant donut chase, Jersey with a local bend. 

Springfield, Massachusetts resorting to politicians to lay their claim to authenticity. 

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  We cordially invite all of the Simpsons, Marge, Homer, Bart.  You will even be able to enjoy some real chowder.   

NOVOTNY:  Springfield, Florida using the competition to start a competition of their own, asking viewers to write the audio to their video.  Springfield, Louisiana, literally painting the town yellow to try and claim the crown. 

Springfield, Oregon says that since series creator Matt Groening is from Portland, Oregon, he ripped off their town for his cartoon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The pioneer father statue on the University of Oregon campus bears a striking resemblance to Jebediah Springfield‘s statue.  Maxes Tavern, in the same area, appears to be the inspiration for Mo‘s. 

NOVOTNY:  Springfield, Colorado, turning the local kids into little Bart Simpsons. 

Springfield, Nebraska, feigning ignorance about the whole concept of the movie. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is that a camera. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, we‘re making a video about the Simpsons. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jessica Simpson?

NOVOTNY:  Springfield, Missouri using reverse psychology to try and get the premier, claiming to hate the Simpsons and Fox. 

Springfield, Tennessee, likewise pretending to hate the Simpsons, even while town is full of Simpson-esque characters. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The greatest thing they did for our city, huh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would put our boys against any other patrol in a non-physical activity, of course.  Oh, crap. 

NOVOTNY:  Springfield, Kentucky, counting Gomer Simpson and Pogoman among their residents. 

Springfield, Michigan claiming the Samsons were the inspiration for Groening. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Our sweet daughter Maggie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sweet.

NOVOTNY:  Springfield, Ohio pretending to hire an incompetent avant guard filmmaker to shoot their pitch. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would like to apologize to the fine city of Springfield, as well as to the News Corp corporation.  Please don‘t take my thumbs.

NOVOTNY:  Springfield, Illinois using their own comic book guy to prove they‘re the real deal. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In episode FAB-F08, the Ziff who came to dinner, there is a couch cam where our point of view shifts from the Simpsons home to outer space, clearly showing the Simpson house is located in the heart of Illinois. 

NOVOTNY:  Matt Groening once said he named the Simpsons home town Springfield just because, quote, it is one of the most common city names.  But that never stopped speculation on which Springfield is the real one.  Whether this competition will finally put that debate to rest remains to be seen. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY:  Voting on which of the 14 Springfields should host the premier ends at 3:00 am Eastern time, midnight Pacific time tonight.  And you can help pick which one is the best by going to our website.  That‘s COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com, where we have a link to “USA Today‘s” voting site.  Again, you have until midnight Pacific time to weigh in.  Keith?

OLBERMANN:  Fifty five Springfields, only 14 of them applied? 

NOVOTNY:  No, actually they say that the film distributors sent out an announcement and apparently not all of them qualified.  Not all were interested, but not all qualified, because they didn‘t have movie theaters, so they couldn‘t host the premier. 

OLBERMANN:  I got another one, who‘s going to do a cameo on the Simpsons next season? 

NOVOTNY:  I don‘t know. 

OLBERMANN:  You don‘t know? 

NOVOTNY:  No. 

OLBERMANN:  Me!

NOVOTNY:  Oh, that‘s right.  You told me that, I think. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  Monica Novotny, formerly of the COUNTDOWN staff.  Great thanks Monica, have a good time there at the Kwik E Mart.  Come again.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,531st 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   

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