updated 7/11/2007 10:35:24 AM ET 2007-07-11T14:35:24

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Dana Milbank

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  The Iraq government misses 100 percent of its benchmarks.  More than 70 percent of the American public says bring the boys home by April.  His advisers are reportedly urging him to withdraw troops before Republicans in Congress force him to.  And the president is still not listening to any of us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Troop levels will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington, DC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll truth squad Mr. Bush‘s remarks, starting with his delusion that he is not a political figure in Washington, DC.

How can he remain one?  In 2005, Alberto Gonzales told the Senate there were no civil- rights violations because of the PATRIOT Act.  Now it turns out he had already seen in half a dozen reports of such violations before his testimony.  Same old question, is the attorney general a liar or a moron?

Michael Moore versus CNN defending his movie “Sicko.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER:  You are the ones who are fudging the facts.  You‘ve fudged the facts to the American people now for I don‘t know how long about this issue, about the war .

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And hoist on his own petard, Senator Vitter of Louisiana says he committed a very serious sin in his past.  He says this right after his phone number turns up on the list of the DC Madam and not long after he had said this .

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DAVID VITTER, ® LA:  I think is very appropriate and well overdue that we focus here in the Senate on nurturing, upholding, preserving, protecting such a fundamental social institution has a traditional marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just not his marriage.

And oh yeah, he‘s the Southern regional chair for the campaign of Rudy Giuliani.

And speaking of the regions, which Springfield is the Springfield?  We have a winner.

All that and more on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening, 590 Americans dead and thousands more wounded and 20,000 more Americans imperiled and the financial cost $60 billion, $10 billion a month.  And the reaction?  More than 70 percent of us want all of our countrymen rescued by April.

And the reported admission Thursday or Friday that of the 18 benchmarks the Iraqi government was supposed to have reached by now, it has missed all 18.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, all that in the half a year since President Bush addressed the nation to announce his new strategy, his surge in Iraq six months ago tonight.

And still in the midst of disaster, military, strategic, symbolic and political, he is undeterred about Iraq and evidently, cannot be stopped.  Bush chose Cleveland to serve as his backdrop today as he once more tried to sell his strategy to the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Troop levels will be decided by a our commanders on the ground and not by political figures in Washington, DC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We start a quick truth squadding right there.  The president, though he was elected twice—the second time just about two years and eight months ago—has forgotten evidently that he is not just “a” political figure in Washington, DC, but “the” political figure.

Oh, and that he has ignored the advice of at least three previous commanders in Iraq and then replaced them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Some in America don‘t believe we‘re at war and that‘s their right. 

I know we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Three-thousand, six hundred nine American troops have died since the 2003 invasions, 26,695 to date have been wounded and 62 percent of the people in the latest “USA Today” Gallup poll think we made a mistake going into that country.  Just who does not think we are at war?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I never wanted to be a war president.  I uh—Now that I am one, I am going - I‘m going to do my—the best I can to protect America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He never wanted to be a war president, so he started another war in Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.  And as to that conflict in Iraq and his strategy for victory that he announced exactly six months ago tonight .

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  We just started.  We got all the troops there to a couple of weeks ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For those of you scoring at home, that is a new talking point, namely that the policy announced half a year ago tonight only just started last month.

Witness Tony Snow on the “Today” show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We are now two weeks into having the surge operational.  The first thing we want to see is whether it is working.  Just a couple of months ago Congress passed a law saying OK, we‘re going to approve the surge.  In July, they want a snapshot at the starting line.  We‘re at the starting line right now, Matt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The facts, the so-called surge consists of five brigades and while it is indeed true that the last brigade just became operational on the 15th of June, the first brigade became operational on the 21st January, the second at the start of March, the third at the start of April, the fourth at the start of May.  So the starting line of this relay was six months ago.  We are now in the final lap.  As Mr. Snow himself acknowledged.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW:  What we‘re trying to report on is the new wave that started about six months ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As to what the president thinks of the Democratic plans to introduce some kind of troop withdrawal plan to Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  And I believe Congress ought to wait for General Petraeus to come back and give us an assessment of the strategy that he is putting in place before they make decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That would be the same General Petraeus who just told the BBC that while the surge is achieving some progress, quote, “Really the question is how can we gradually reduce our forces so we reduce the strain on the Army, on the nation and so forth.”

Most of the country agreeing with the general.  More than 70 percent want most U.S. troops out by April according to that Gallup, “USA Today” poll.  Just 29 percent of them actually approve of the president which might explain a small bout of humility appearing today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The truth of the matter is, I felt like we could be in a different position at the end of 2005.  I believe we can be in a different position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So people should believe you now because?  Oh, wait, I know, fear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Failure in Iraq would have serious consequences for the security of your children and your grandchildren.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And in just another coincidence of timing, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff choosing this of all days to tell the editorial board of the “Chicago Tribune” newspaper, quote, “I believe we are entering a period this summer of increased risk of a terror attempt in this country.”

His evidence?  None.  “Summertime,” he added, “seems to be appealing to them.”

Plus Chertoff says he has a gut feeling, seriously.

Back to the president.  With half of the country according to that “USA Today” Gallup poll believing the surge has not made a difference, even the staunchest supporters of the president‘s Iraq policy are backing off a bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® AZ:  I believe that our military in cooperation with the Iraqi security forces is making progress in a number of areas.  There are areas where they are not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And some Republicans who actually have the ear of the president are now trying to bend that ear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PETE DOMENICI, ® NM:  I think he understands that I am a senator and he is a president.  I think he understands that I have come to a point where I must exercise my prerogatives as a United States senator.  Even as I do it I am trying to tell him that he must change his ways because there is nothing positive happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the Democrats are even blunter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) NV:  The surge is not working.  No matter how many different ways you explain it, it hasn‘t worked.  Six months, 600 dead Americans, $60 billion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re joined once again by our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK” CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What are we witnessing here?  Has the president seceded from reality?  The thicker the wall gets in front of him, the harder he hits it with his head?  What is happening?

WOLFFE:  Well, it is not even a question of whether he is in denial any more.  I mean, remember, he is personally responsible for the biggest national security blunder in living memory.  And the big question is not whether he understands reality.  It‘s whether he has the detachment, the cold-eyed faculty to make a clear decision about what is worth doing now.  Whether it is worth the costs.

Today, for instance, he was visiting as he often does with wounded soldiers.  Now these meetings are important on an emotional level, but they also, for him, serve as reinforcement of his position.  Because these are soldiers that desperately, courageously, want to believe that their sacrifices were not in vain.

I think when you have a president who takes his strategic reinforcement from troops who want to believe that their service is justified, you have a very bad recipe for what is a desperate situation and a real clear need for new ideas.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, those new ideas are being forced on some people, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is going to target Republican senators like Coleman, Collins, Sununu, the minority leader, McConnell, asking voters to call them to tell them to change their positions on Iraq.  Could that pressure show some impact in the near future?

WOLFFE:  I think it will have impact, but not in the near future.  I think it is too early to be doing this kind of thing.  It‘s not that is wrong to put pressure on these figures.  They are absolutely the right pressure point.

But they are only going to really start feeling it as they get closer to their own election.  They are more than a year out.  They are just not going to feel it and this is where you get into this difficult position.

When push comes to shove, will these people vote with the Democrats to try and coerce the president into a new direction?  Like I said, it might be too early to actually get them to shove right now.

OLBERMANN:  But seven out of 10 Americans out of that “USA Today” poll want at least most U.S. troops out of Iraq by next April.  The Democratic Senators Levin and Reed - Jack Reed just announced their intention to file legislation to try and make that happen.

Is some indication that anything has changed?  That a withdrawal bill might actually pass this time?

WOLFFE:  Not right now but it‘s still worth trying.  Listen, if Democrats believe this is the right thing to do, as they surely do and public opinion is where it is it is absolutely the right thing to do to push right now as hard as they can to get the president to change direction.

The problem is the votes just don‘t look like they‘re there.  We will see how these next two weeks ago, but right now, it looks like these Republicans want to hedge their bets.  They want to talk against the president, but vote with him.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, Richard, just as the president is trying to defend his strategy in Iraq and invoking people‘s grandchildren and children and their security, the homeland security secretary, Chertoff, reveals this gut feeling about an increased risk of terrorist activity here this summer.

His gut feeling.  How about my gut feeling that Mr. Chertoff said this so that the lead story on the newscast on ABC would not be Iraq or Alberto Gonzales or that “USA Today” poll but it would be this gut feeling of his plus a vague the sky is falling story about an al Qaeda cell which even the people in Homeland Security say is just nonsense.  And this stuff about Mr.  Chertoff‘s guess, is my gut reaction here better than his or as worthwhile as his?

WOLFFE:  There may be another explanation which is that he is trying to cover his rear end because he doesn‘t have real intelligence about what these people are up to but just a vague feeling.  We have gone from color coded warnings it to the intestinal rumblings of Michael Chertoff.  It is amazing what you get for all those billions we spend our homeland security.

OLBERMANN:  The gut feeling has been described as breaking news.  Actually a gut feeling would be closer to breaking wind.

Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek.”  As ever, Richard, great thanks for your time.

WOLFFE:  Any time, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We mentioned Alberto Gonzales.  The attorney general is back in his usual spot between the rock of getting caught lying to Congress or the hard place about what he is supposed to have known.  And fact checking the supposed fact checking.  Michael Moore takes on CNN, Wolf Blitzer and Dr.  Sanjay Gupta and it‘s a shutout.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  At the outset, let‘s make this clear.  You are not watching a rerun, you are not watching the news equivalent of “Groundhog Day.”  It only seems that way when the attorney general constantly puts himself in positions where one of the following two statements must be true and both might be true.  A, he is incompetent and or B he has been caught lying again.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN.  This time it is about the repeated assurance by Alberto Gonzales to a Senate committee two years ago that the PATRIOT Act is a post 9/11 necessity for fighting terrorism and ought to be renewed.  Gonzales assuring senators that he was not aware of any reports of it having caused civil liberties violations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I think today we can all be proud.  The track record established over the past three years has demonstrated the effectiveness of the safeguards of civil liberties put in place when the act was passed.  There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Except for the six reports outlining violations which the FBI sent to Mr. Gonzales in the three months before he made that statement.  The last of them having arrived just six days before that statement.

So reports “The Washington Post” Gonzales was therefore aware of reported violations including improper search of property, improper access to Internet records and unauthorized telephone surveillance, violations serious enough to also require notification of an oversight board monitoring the PATRIOT Act.

Only last March did Gonzales admit that he was wrong about his assurances which raises several possibilities.  He did read them and lied to Congress, he never read them and was therefore incompetent.

Or perhaps the third option to which Mr. Gonzales has turned so many times before, quote, “I don‘t know.”

Or he just lost his voice.  Let‘s turn now to Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington.

Jon, thanks for your time tonight.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You might have to pick up this segment from here.  We‘ll get to the A.G. in a moment.

The response from the Justice Department from “The Post.”  “Just because a violation was reported does not mean there was an intentional violation, or that an individual‘s civil liberties were abused.”  Does that sound correct you?

TURLEY:  Well it‘s not just simply sounding incorrect.  It is incorrect.

And as we know some of the violations involved the most serious forms of civil liberties violations including unlawful physical searches, the conducting of electronic surveillance without legal means that is after the expiration of authority.  Those are core and serious violations.  And so it is clearly false.

OLBERMANN:  The attorney general has assured us that the PATRIOT Act is being monitored.  It turns out that they ignored the monitors.  Is this a classic Gonzales “see no evil, be responsible for no evil” ploy?

TURLEY:  I‘m afraid it does sound like what we‘ve heard before.  You‘re left with this impression of Gonzales as some type of Chauncey Gardiner figure sitting behind his desk as everyone else makes decisions.

I do not know what is worse, that type of incompetence, or if you‘d actually just lied to Congress.  But in the law there is this concept of willful blindness and I believe that he is best engaged in that.  I think the statements made to Congress are either lies or something that does approach willful blindness.  Either of which he would normally be required to resign.

OLBERMANN:  There is a 26 year veteran of his department, of Justice, named John Cappell (ph) who wrote to the “Denver Post” saying that the PATRIOT Act and the U.S. attorneys firings and the commutation of the Libby sentence, all make this administration, let me quote it, “a national disgrace unseen since the days of Watergate.”

He says he expects “unlawful reprisal from ruthless people.”  And he also wrote that some things must be said whatever the risk.  Are there going to be more like him and would it even make a difference if there were 1,000 of them?

TURLEY:  I do not know whether they would make a difference.  This president appears to be unwilling to take any action against Gonzales.  This president, to be blunt, has ruined this institution.  I have litigated against the Justice Department my whole career, but there was always respect, a mutual respect, but always respect for the institution and its body of work.  It is gone.  There are many people I‘ve talked to in the Justice Department who are abhorred by just what is going on there.

The loss of integrity, the politicization of the institution.  It is a destruction of one of our oldest and most cherished institutions and this president did it in very fast order.  So yes, there will probably be more, but no, it won‘t have an effect.  If it is going to have an effect, it is going to have to come from Congress and they have to do something now.

OLBERMANN:  The fourth branch of government, while we have you here, Jon, the dispute has flared up again between the Democrats in the Senate and the vice president over the disclosure rules, if he is a part of the executive branch, if he is a moon orbiting the Earth whatever he is.

A Senate panel voted to cut funding for his office.  The chairman, Dick Durbin, said that the refusal by Mr. Cheney to comply is a, “dereliction of duty.”

Where is this going to go from here?

TURLEY:  Well, it indicates that they are trying to be more aggressive but I think this piece of legislation is more political and perhaps, cosmetic.  The more serious actions that could be taken, they are still apparently unwilling to take them.

One would be to withdraw funds, for example, from the Justice Department as long as a Gonzales is there or open impeachment proceedings against Gonzales.  Those are real acts that can be taken.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, as always great thanks for being the standby host here for this segment.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It is as the late comedian, Bill Hicks, phrased, “an irony of a base level but it is still a hoot.”  A family values, straight marriage only senator caught in the DC madam scandal.

And there simply has to be a better way to roast potato than this.  The explanation of what the hell you are looking at now next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In parts of Texas they still celebrate this July 10th as the birthday in 1882 of Ms. Ima, daughter of one of the state‘s 19th century governors who after a European musical education helped to found the Houston Symphony Orchestra and was part of the presidential planning commission for what became the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Hardly anybody ever took advantage of the unfortunate nature of Ms. Ima‘s family name.  Hogg.  Ima Hogg.  When someone would ask, she would explain sweetly that she did not also have a sister named Ura.

On that note, let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in France where a man uses a garden hose to spray creamed potatoes onto the side of two wooden structures.  Pomme de plywood.

Actually it‘s a new flame retardant developed by a French company made with potatoes and sprayed onto the framing of a home.

The shed on the right has been treated with potato spray.  The shed on the left, Stovetop stuffing.  No, sorry, nothing at all.  And look at it burned.

Meanwhile, if you lived in the house on the right there you‘d barely notice the pile of hay on fire outside.  You just get a little bit of smoke and that sweet smell of baking potatoes.  That is when you add the gravy.  Timber.

To Meadville, Pennsylvania, where we‘re back into rooting for the human mode and thankfully no one was injured in this little mishap.  A 1,500 pound wrecking ball sitting in the trunk of this guy‘s car.

The ball actually broke loose from a crane during demolition work.  It careened through the streets for blocks like a bowling ball before smashing into the back of the car which was sitting at a stoplight.

I really wish we had video of all that.  Luckily, we do have this of a second crane mishap from last week in Rome, Georgia, no one hurt either when a construction crane hundreds of feet tall collapsed and fell into the road landing on the back half of a car sitting at a stoplight.

Clearly, the moral to both of these stories—never stop at a red light. 

It is just common sense.

Wrecking balls at 20 paces.  Michael Moore takes on Wolf Blitzer and CNN. 

CNN does not win.  Wow, we‘ve heard that a lot recently.

But there is a winner in the Simpson‘s contest.  The official home of the animated heroes is the city of Springfield.

These stories ahead.  First here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.  Number three, Madonna, an unusual rule from her P.R. person, or any reporter seeing to interview her.

Eye contact must be maintained at all times, the “London Mirror” reports.  Never look down to check notes.  All questions must be memorized, or the interview will be terminated.  So she wanted to have a series of staring contests?

Number two Kent Couch of Bend, Oregon, he has lived out a dream proposed by the fiction writer Jack Finney and TV‘s “Mythbusters.”  He flew 193 miles in his lawn chair.  Attached to the lawn chair, 105 large helium balloons, four plastic bags filled with water to use as ballast.  He flew all the way to Utah.

Then number one, James Burdette of Statesboro, Georgia.  A young man named Mitchell Hendricks of that town was severely injured in a car accident.  He was still alive, but the vehicle was ablaze.

He was trapped inside.  Burdette and two of his colleagues at an electrical and plumbing firm passed by the accident, saw police helpless as the fire burned towards the 18 year old.  So they asked the officer if they could help, they could put out the fire with what they were carrying in their electrical and plumbing truck.

Police hesitated for a moment and realized this was the only way and Mr.  Burdette and his co-workers promptly saved Mr. Hendricks‘ life by dousing the fire with the liquid they were transporting, 1,500 gallons of raw sewage just collected from the septic tanks around the community.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is a common mistake of 21st century journalism to assume that fairness entails hitting everyone equally hard.  That is not fairness.  Fairness means applying the same standards to everyone and hitting whoever violates those standards.  In our third story tonight, CNN hit Michael Moore for, quote, fudged facts in his new movie “Sicko.”

Wolf Blitzer yesterday airing on the network a report by Sanjay Gupta in which Moore is seen taking 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba for health care is portrayed as dishonest because “Sicko” does not mention that Cuba‘s health care is ranked worse than America‘s. 

Except that the ranking actually does appear in “Sicko.”  And, P.S., it is irrelevant to Moore‘s point that America should have treated ailments arising from work Ground Zero better than it has.  Gupta‘s report ended with the accusation that Moore fudged his facts.  Michael responded forcefully. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MOORE, DIRECTOR, “SICKO”:  That report was so biased.  I can‘t imagine what pharmaceutical company ad is coming up right after our break here.  But, you know, why don‘t you tell the truth to the American people?  I mean, I wish that CNN and the other mainstream media would just, for once, tell the truth about what is going on in this country, whether it is with health care—I do not care what it is. 

You guys have such a poor track record.  And for me to come on here and have to listen to that kind of crap.  I mean, seriously, I have not been on your show now for three years.  The last time I was on, you ran a similar piece about “Fahrenheit 9/11,” saying, this can‘t be true, what he‘s saying about the war, how it‘s going to be a quagmire, the weapons of mass destruction. 

You know—and why don‘t you start off, actually, my first appearance back here on your show in three years, and maybe apologize to me for saying that three years ago?  It turned out everything I said in “Fahrenheit” was true. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Gupta today apologized for botching one part of his fact checking.  But his report focused less on specific fudge allegations, than on trashing problems with health care in other countries, implying, hey, it could all be better.  What are you going to do?

Let‘s turn now to Rachel Maddow, whose show airs every weeknight on Air America Radio.  Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Hi Keith, nice to see you.

OLBERMANN:  What is wrong with the way the mainstream media covers America‘s health care system? 

MADDOW:  What‘s wrong is that it is almost like we‘re back in Bill Clinton‘s first term and the insurance companies are still funding those Harry and Louise ads that are designed to make us more afraid of health care reform than we are of our own bad health care system. 

If you imagine our health care system as a man in cardiac arrest, The business interests in health care are essentially telling us, don‘t use a defibrillator on him, because you might leave burn marks on his chest.  They‘re trying to make us more afraid of fixing the problem than we are of the problem itself, which has the affect of protecting the status quo.  

OLBERMANN:  As we heard in the excerpt, Moore essentially was implying that Gupta, and/or Blitzer, and/or that network are corrupt, biased because of support from pharmaceutical companies.  Assuming they don‘t actually get checks from big pharma, are there more nuanced reasons that television news does a less than stellar job on reporting on the issue?   

MADDOW:  Well, Keith, you hinted at some of it in your introduction, this idea that you have to be—in order to be balanced, you have to be equally critical and equally respectful of both sides of the issue, even when one is plainly wrong.  So just as we got fake balance between Exxon science and science science on global warming, so too we get fake balance between Americans‘ experience with what‘s wrong with our health-care system and what is put as public relations by the people who profit from our bad health care system. 

It is not balanced.  In fact, it is not even true. 

OLBERMANN:  And our next guest, Dr. Crazy Nutbag, who has concluded that there is no gravity.  Is it tinfoil hat thinking to wonder whether people in this country actually die every day because there are the proverbial cliched rich, fat cat corporate execs out there, who literally conspire to stifle genuine health-care reform, let alone genuine health-care debate? 

MADDOW:  Is there a more plausible explanation?  That is the problem.  I mean, not only health care reform, but debate about real health care reform is a real challenge to the companies that have created the system that we have now in order to make themselves very profitable.  Big pharma is the second most profitable industry in America after defense.  They have a huge economic stake in protecting the status quo, so they‘re doing it.  It‘s not even very conspiratorial.  They‘re just fighting to keep what‘s theirs.

OLBERMANN:  What has to happen for real health care reform to take center stage in domestic politics in some sort of real meaningful way? 

MADDOW:  Well, I think that Michael Moore‘s movie is actually resonating with people.  It will generate a lot of outrage and that will help.  But honestly, the big picture is that it‘s a government solution.  Normal countries see health as an issue that has a government solution.  For us to really make progress on it in this country, we‘re going to have to kill these self fulfilling, cynical, conservative prophesy that all government is necessarily as incompetent as our current one. 

We‘re going to have to see some political leadership that believes in the common good and the ability of government to actually get something right.

OLBERMANN:  I think maybe you just figured out the Bush administration.  It is designed to get us to be small government again because they‘re so big and so bad. 

MADDOW:  I would rather have no government than these guys.  That‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  We are approaching that too.  Rachel Maddow of Air America, great thanks, as always, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Do the Simpsons have health care?  At least now we know where to check.  The Springfield, in which the high school sports teams are known as the cosmopolitans.  The Springfield vote is in, and so is Nicole Richie, or at least she will be tomorrow.  The start of her DUI trial will be delayed for what you may agree is one of the worst excuses ever.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For fans of the Simpsons, this summer has been a long time coming.  This past April 19th, we hit the 20 year mark of watching Homer and Bart on the little screen, and about the 10, maybe the 15 year mark of rumors and stories about a Simpsons movie.  Tonight, one of the great mysteries of the series, where exactly is the city of Springfield, in which the Simpsons and company live, decided.

Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, Hollywood comes to Springfield, Vermont.  You heard right, Vermont.  Granted, that might not really be the reality behind creator Matt Groening‘s vision, but it is the verdict more than 100,000 voters on the “USA Today” web site.  Fourteen Springfields out of the 55 in the country vied for the honor.  Vermont was a last-minute entry , catching all the other Springfields by surprise. 

It beat out Springfield, Illinois by about 700 votes.  The town of 9,300 now gets the honor of hosting the official movie premiere on the 21st of this month, a week before the rest of the country gets to see it.  Here now, for better or worse, the audition tape and the doughnut that will allow Springfield, Vermont to live in entertainment history. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Doughnut.  Doh.  Doh. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Doughnut, ice cream.  Moron.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The next item on the agenda is what are we going to do about the big event?  Sandy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How are we going to keep Homer from ruining our big event? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That does pose a problem. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Doughnut. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Let‘s go get him!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I got it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Homer, you have really done it now.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, everybody, the big movie is going to start. 

Come on. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Run, run, jump, jump.  I know we have had a rough day.  I am sure we can put all of that behind us.  

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, it‘s the land of Ben and Jerry, and Homer and Marge now.  And from there, it‘s on to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Speaking of roundup, being at the Calgary Stampede is evidently not reason enough to get a postponement on the start of your DUI trial. 

TMZ.com reporting that Nicole Richie‘s request to delay that trial until August was denied.  She was, in fact, in Calgary with the father of her baby at the annual rodeo celebration there.  Richie was arrested last December driving the wrong way on a freeway in her SUV.  Police say she admitted to smoking pot and taking by Vicodin, offenses that could get her a year in jail, or at least 45 days, 23, 23 and an hour with Larry King? 

Hollywood finds religion maybe for the first time since Mel Gibson crucified himself.  Tory Spelling, make that the Reverend Tory Spelling blogging that she is now officially ordained as a minister.  Even better, she did it online, getting her religious credentials from an Internet site.  Apparently heaven can‘t wait.

Spelling‘s blog says before she even got her diploma in the male, she bestowed her blessings by marrying a gay couple last weekend at her bed and breakfast in Chateaux Laroux (ph).  Johnny Laroux?  Gushing about the ceremony and the reception that included amazing martinis and dancing to the music of Madonna, quote, there wasn‘t a dry eye in the driveway.

One of the self-proclaimed moralists of the Senate, one of the opponents of gay marriage because it hurts the sanctity of the institution is snared in the D.C. Madam prostitution ring.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze to Vincent Bruno of Kenner (ph), a member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee, who has now called on that senator, Senator Vitter, to resign over the D.C. Madam revelation for his own good, he says, the good of the party and the good of his family.  Or if he does not resign, says Bruno, Vitter should, quote, join the Democratic party where they think that kind of behavior is OK.  Hey nitwit, you guys put him in after the guy before him resigned for philandering.  Then you put him up for the Senate.  Bad day to go throwing political stones.

The runner-up, comedian Rush Limbaugh, criticizing a pro-Hillary Clinton article that observed that the most appealing thing about Clinton has always been her enemies, who often seem not in their right mind, screaming that she is a murderer.  The comedian‘s response?  I don‘t know who is accusing her of murdering anybody. 

In fact, of course, it was Limbaugh himself who first put out the story nationally on his radio show in 1994 that a report was about to be issued that White House counsel Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton and the body was then taken to Fort Marcy Park. 

Not even two years ago, Limbaugh said that if Cindy Sheehan criticized Senator Clinton, she would, quote, end up in Fort Marcy Park.  He does not remember anybody accusing her of murdering anybody.  Memory loss.  A side effect of a prescription drug abuse? 

But our winner, Bill-O, attacking NBC and the “New York Times” with the completely stupid and very possibly libelous claim that these two organizations don‘t what Iraq to become successful as a nation or to somehow become a wall against terrorism.  I am still praying for a miracle, as a stable Iraq makes the world a safer place.  I believe that prayer is not being shared in some precincts here in America.

Precincts?  Like the one in which the guy who said this lives, the United States ought to, quote, hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly possible.  There are so many nuts in the country, so many crazies, that we can‘t control them.  Who said that?  Bill O‘Reilly, February 20, 2006.  Bill O‘Reilly, why do you hate Bill O‘Reilly?  Bill-O, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

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OLBERMANN:  In 1998, Republican Congressman Bob Livingston of Louisiana, a leader of the impeach Clinton movement, announced his candidacy to succeed Newt Gingrich as the speaker of the house.  He did so with his family around him and his kids carrying what he insisted were home made campaign signs.  Livingston was no sooner elected, than he suddenly and dramatically resigned, not just as speaker elect, but also from Congress itself. 

“Hustler Magazine” was about to publish news of Livingston‘s own marital infidelities.  The man appointed to succeed him, David Vitter, picked up Livingston‘s demand that President Clinton resign.  Today, in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Now Senator David Vitter of Louisiana has become the first elected victim of the D.C. Madam scandal. 

He revealed his meanderings after “Hustler Magazine” called him for comment about the fact that an old phone number of his appeared in the records of the alleged D.C. Madam, phone records that are now being posted online at the legitgov.org site.  Vitter released a brief statement last night, requesting that it be quoted only in its entirety, which we won‘t do. 

He says, quote, “This was a very serious sin in my past, for which I am, of course, completely responsible.  Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife.”

Hope you got a receipt.  This might have come as a surprise to anyone who recalled Mrs. Vitter‘s remarks to Newhouse News during the Clinton scandal, when she said of her husband, quote, “if he does something like that, I‘m walking away with thing, and it‘s not alimony.  Trust me, I‘m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary.”

Which might explain why Vitter did not have the integrity to apologize on camera, either to voters or to the people he has publicly called liars when he denied their allegations that he frequented prostitutes.  No apology forthcoming to the Americans upon who has attempted to force the same religious values that failed to prevent his fall, advocating abstinence education, government prayer, and, of course, opposing gay marriage. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DAVID VITTER ®, LOUISIANA:  I think it is very appropriate and well overdue that we focus here in the Senate on nurturing, upholding, preserving, protecting such a fundamental social institution as traditional marriage.  A lot of folks here in Washington don‘t get that, don‘t fully understand it.  But I can tell you, real people in the real world, certainly including in Louisiana, do. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He then added, now you‘ll have to excuse me.  I have an appointment I have to get to.  I made the last part up. 

Joining us for deja vu all over again, Dana Milbank, MSNBC political analyst and national political reporter for the “Washington Post.”  Dana, thanks for your time tonight. 

DANA MILBANK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Hello, Keith.   

OLBERMANN:  Give us a quick political sketch of Senator Vitter, if you would be so kind. 

MILBANK:  Sure, it‘s the classic tail of the young up and coming representative.  He was at Harvard.  He was a Rhodes Scholar.  He befriended the religious right, Family Research Council.  As you noted, assumed Bob Livingston‘s seat in the Congress, then in the Senate, and now joins in the great Louisiana political tradition of Earl Long and Jimmy Swaggart and, of course, his predecessor in that very same seat. 

OLBERMANN:  Senator Vitter says, as we heard in that part of the statement that we chose to read, that he has been forgiven by his wife and by the ruler of the universe, and that‘s swell.  We are glad for him.  But is there not something of a violation of the law here too? 

MILBANK:  Well, you know that this is the sort of thing that there is a statute of limitations on.  Of course, he is only likely to get caught if, in fact, he is caught with his pants down.  But as you noted in the introduction, the forgiveness of his wife is not inconsiderable, given the comparisons that she has made. 

I will tell you, we were staking out his house today.  We were staking out his committee room.  At his lunch with the vice president, his office; this guy is definitely hiding under a desk somewhere wearing some sort of athletic protector.

OLBERMANN:  If he‘s in that condition or wherever he is, he had told voters over and over again that he had the right values before, during and after secretly employing escorts of the 20-something age range.  Now, he is hiding behind respect for his family, as he says in his statement, to avoid discussing this further.  Is this a sufficient mea culpa? 

Where is the accountability?  Is there something in the water in this district in Louisiana that we need to worry about or bottling?   

MILBANK:  Bottle it, yes.  Well, let‘s remember the words of Edwin Edwards, the former governor of the great state of Louisiana, who said that he was likely to keep his job unless he was caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.  So by that standard, Senator Vitter is up for reelection in 2010, should do just fine. 

You do note that very interesting district where he was able to edge out David Duke originally.  But, look, Congressman Jefferson of the frozen bills in the freezer is still there in the Congress.  And Vitter is another gift from that great state. 

OLBERMANN:  Cold cash and a warm heart, in two examples.  There are actually some—as much tittilation as there might be in this, and irony and hypocrisy, and everything else that folds into it; there is also an actual, meaningful relevance to the 2008 presidential campaign, particularly for Rudy Giuliani.  Explain what that is. 

MILBANK:  Vitter was the first senator to endorse Giuliani and was the southern regional coordinator, I suppose still actually is in that position.  This is sort of a double blow to Giuliani, because the leader of his campaign in the state of South Carolina has been indicted on federal cocaine charges.  So this is, perhaps, bad luck for Giuliani. 

It might, on the one hand, indicate some bad choices on his part.  On the other hand, it could be seen that perfectly normal and upstanding citizens like Bernard Kerick and David Vitter and that poor fellow in South Carolina are somehow afflicted by a curse of Giuliani, that it was what he had done to them.

OLBERMANN:  And Giuliani‘s response was sometimes people disappoint you.  It sounds like between Vitter and Kerick and the guy with coke, we are almost out of deadly sins here.  Is it not true that in Mr. Giuliani‘s case, most times people seem to disappoint him, at least in this campaign? 

MILBANK:  Everybody‘s disappointing him except for the voters in the Republican primaries so far.  But I‘ll tell you, we in Washington are much lesser worried about Rudy right now, and worried about who else is going to turn up and get a call from Larry Flint at the moment. 

OLBERMANN:  Larry flint, one of America‘s leading political journalists.  I know how we got here.  I was here for the start of this.  How in the hell did we get here?

MILBANK:  I have no idea.  I thought we had heard the last of the D.C.

Madame and her rather eccentric lawyer here.  How did ABC News miss this?  I don‘t know.  We‘ll go to legitgov and I‘m just hoping that a certain number with the 966 prefix is not in there. 

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post.”  On that note, great thanks, and we‘ll let you go on and do whatever you have to do right now. 

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,532nd 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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