updated 7/20/2007 11:02:47 AM ET 2007-07-20T15:02:47

Guests: John Kerry

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

Pin the tail on the donkey.  The administration starts the anticipated lost cause blame shift for Iraq.  An undersecretary of defense writes to Senator Clinton that just talking about withdrawal “reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam.”

The outrageous claim that worked in Germany after the First World War, that the administration‘s haphazard planning and its mountain of lies had nothing to do with the Iraq disaster, it‘s all the fault of the backstabbers at home. 

Tonight a special comment, and Senator John Kerry joins us on this attempt to pass the ultimate buck and the administration‘s classified Pentagon briefing today for 90 lawmakers. 

Case dismissed.  The latest on a D.C. judge tossing out the Valerie Plame lawsuit against Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and the administration for destroying her CIA career to cover up their lies about Iraq. 

So outrageous we have to show it again, Bill O. comes unhinged. 

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  Did you have clothes on?  Is it two women together?  It‘s not a negligee situation or anything like that?

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of, how in good conscience could you do that? 

Publishing reviews in the newspaper of the new Harry Potter book. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t want to know what happens in it just because it‘s so fun to read them yourself. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll ask The Baltimore Sun critic who did it anyway. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s sort of exciting isn‘t it, breaking the rules? 

OLBERMANN:  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

O‘REILLY:  Is this is a fantasy picture thing? 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from Los Angeles.  And we begin with a special comment on this day‘s ominous, almost indescribable events. 

It is one of the great, dark, evil lessons of history, a country, a government, a military machine can screw up a war seven ways to Sunday.  It can get thousands of its people killed.  It can risk the safety of its own citizens.  It can destroy the fabric of its nation.  But as long as it can identify a scapegoat, it can regain or even gain power. 

The Bush administration has tonight opened this Pandora‘s box about Iraq.  It has found its scapegoats: Hillary Clinton and us.  The lies and terror tactics with which it deluded this country into war, they had nothing to do with the abomination that Iraq has become.  It isn‘t Mr.  Bush‘s fault. 

The selection of the wrong war in the wrong time in the wrong place, the most disastrous geopolitical tactic since Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia in 1914 and destroyed itself in the process, that had nothing to do with the overwhelming crisis Iraq has become.  It isn‘t Mr. Bush‘s fault.

The criminal lack of planning for the war, the total jump off a bridge and hope you can fly tone to the failure to anticipate what would follow the deposing of Saddam Hussein, that had nothing to do with the chaos in which Iraq has been enveloped.  It isn‘t Mr. Bush‘s fault. 

The utter blinkered idiocy of staying the course, of sending Americans to Iraq and sending them a second time and a third and a fourth until they get killed or maimed, the utter de-prioritization of human life simply so a politician can avoid having to admit he made a mistake, that had nothing to do with the tens of thousands of individual tragedies darkening of lives of American families forever.  It isn‘t Mr. Bush‘s fault. 

The continuing, relentless, remorseless, corrupt and cynical insistence that this conflict is somehow defeating or containing or merely engaging the people who attacked us on 9/11, the total “Alice Through the Looking Glass” quality that ignores that in Iraq we have made the world safer for al Qaeda.  It isn‘t Mr. Bush‘s fault.

The fault brought down, as if a sermon from this mount of hypocrisy and slaughter by a nearly anonymous undersecretary of defense, the fault has tonight been laid on the doorstep of Senator Clinton and by extension on the doorstep of every American, the now vast majority of us who have ever dared to criticize this war or protest it or merely ask questions about it or simply plaintively, innocently, honestly plead, don‘t take my son, don‘t take my daughter.

Senator Clinton has been sent, and someone has leaked to the Associated Press a letter sent in reply to her own asking if there exists an actual plan for evacuating the U.S. troops from Iraq.  This extraordinary document was written by an undersecretary of defense named Eric Edelman.

“Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq,” Edelman writes, “reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.” 

Edelman adds: “Such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.”

A spokesman for the senator says Mr. Edelman‘s remarks are “at once both outrageous and dangerous,” and those terms are entirely appropriate and may, in fact, understate the risk the Edelman letter poses to our way of life and all that our fighting men and women are risking, have risked and have lost in Iraq. 

After the South was defeated in our Civil War, a scapegoat was Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the ideas of the lost cause and Jim Crow were born in that wake. 

After the French were beaten by the Prussians in 1870 and 1871, it was the imaginary Jewish influence in the French army general staff, and there was born 30 years of self destructive anti-Semitism culminating in the horrific Dreyfus case. 

After the Germans lost the First World War, it was the backstabbers and profiteers at home on whose broken bodies the National Socialists rose to prominence in the succeeding decades, and whose accused membership eventually wound up in torture chambers and death camps.

And after the generation just before ours, and leaders of both political parties escalated and re-escalated and carpet-bombed and re-carpet-bombed Vietnam, it was the protest movement and Jane Fonda, and as late as just three years ago, Senator John Kerry, who were assigned the blame, the kind of blame which no rational human being could concur and yet which still across vast sections of our political landscape resonates unchallenged and accepted.

And now, Mr.  Bush, you have picked out your own Jefferson Davis, your own Dreyfus, your own profiteer, your own scapegoat, not for the sake of this country, not for the sake of Iraq, not even for the sake of your own political party, but for the sake of your own personal place in history.

But in reaching for that place, you have guaranteed yourself tonight not honor but infamy.  In fact, you have condemned yourself to a place among that remarkably small group of Americans whom Americans cannot forgive, those who have sold this country out and who have willingly declared their enmity to the people at whose pleasure they supposedly serve. 

A scapegoat, sir, might be forgivable if you had not just happened to choose a prospective presidential nominee from the opposition party.  And the accusation of spreading enemy propaganda, that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia, might be someday atoned for, sir, if we all didn‘t know, you included, and your generals and the Iraqis that we are leaving Iraq, and sooner rather than later.  And we are doing it even if to do so requires first that you must be impeached and removed as president of the United States sooner rather than later. 

You have set this government at war against its own people and then blamed those very people when they have said enough.  And thus it crystallizes, Mr. Bush, when the Civil War General Ambrose Burnside ordered a disastrous attack on Fredericksburg in which 12,000 of his men were killed, he had to be physically restrained from personally leading the next charge himself.

After the first lord of the British admiralty, Winston Churchill, authored and enabled the disastrous Gallipoli campaign that saw a quarter million allied soldiers cut down in the First World War, Churchill resigned his office and took a commission as a front line officer in the trenches of France.

Those should be your new role models, Mr. Bush.  Let your minions try to spread the blame to the real patriots here who have sought only to undo the horrors you have wrought since 2002. 

Let them try that until the end of time, though the words might be erased from a million books and a billion memories, though the world be covered knee-deep in your lies, the truth shall prevail:  This, sir, is your war. 

Senator Clinton has reinforced enemy propaganda?  Made it impossible for therapy you to get your ego-driven, blood-steeped win in Iraq?  Then take it into your own hands, Mr. Bush.  Go to Baghdad now and fulfill, finally, your military service obligations.  Go there and fight your war, yourself. 

As mentioned previously, I spoke earlier this evening with the Massachusetts senator, John Kerry, from Washington. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Senator, many thanks for your time tonight. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Glad to be with you. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you harbor any doubts, sir, given who Senator Clinton is, given how many months it has been since she raised her questions, given how many others of both parties have been raising similar questions about Iraq, that Senator Clinton is being targeted quite specifically, quite deliberately by this administration with this Edelman letter? 

KERRY:  No, I have no doubt whatsoever.  It‘s a tactic which we‘ve seen repeated.  I saw it during my presidential campaign.  They like to attack.  They like to smear.  They like to change the subject. 

OLBERMANN:  The senator‘s spokesman called the charge “outrageous and dangerous.” You‘re aware of how I have characterized it.  Stepping away from the specific context, could these remarks be any more divorced from the kinds of freedoms this country represents? 

KERRY:  Well, not only that, obviously, they are divorced from the kind of freedoms that it represents, but more importantly, what she is asking is responsible, and if they were responsible, they would answer it by saying, here is our strategy for success, and we will withdraw with that success. 

But they can‘t offer that.  So in the absence of an ability to be able to point to the political solution that gives you success, or the diplomacy that gives you success, or even the military process that gives you success, they attack and they smear and they scare people. 

It‘s the great scare tactic, and I think Americans have had enough of it. 

OLBERMANN:  How does one fight claims as outrageous as the ones that have been made against Senator Clinton today and others at other times without agreeing to the terms of the fight, without stooping to the level of the opponent, without giving, in some way, credence to their claims? 

And I‘m asking this with fresh memories not merely of the ways in which you were attacked in the 2004 campaign for president, but obviously including them. 

KERRY:  Well, I think you‘ve got to go right at it.  We obviously should have spent more money and time doing that, and I wish we had, obviously.  I think people have learned the lesson from that and you just don‘t let them get away with it. 

I mean, look, it‘s time for these people who are extolling the virtues of this war to offer their sons and daughters to the war and those who under 40 years old, why don‘t they all volunteer to go over and get the job done if they believe in it so deeply? 

The fact is that there isn‘t anybody—I said this in 2004, wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, and now that has been proven in spades, a war of choice where they have no planning and no knowledge whatsoever of the history, the culture, where there is an arrogance of such a level that our troops are now dying for this miscalculation. 

Now, our troops are extraordinary, and they believe in their mission, and they deserve to be given a way to have that question answered that they can come home when we are able to have a sufficient level of stability and a transfer of authority. 

But even today in our briefings, even today in our hearing with Ambassador Crocker, we‘re not getting those answers.  And I think it‘s unsatisfactory. 

OLBERMANN:  And we wanted to talk to you about that tonight, Senator, too.  Because obviously you were in attendance at that meeting, and General Petraeus briefed, Ambassador Crocker briefed, Ambassador Crocker also was giving testimony via satellite to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on which you sit.

In the context of that rebuke of Senator Clinton for having dared to ask how the U.S. plans to eventually withdraw from Iraq, did you find that any of your questions were welcome today at the Pentagon or was it another one of these one-way exchanges? 

KERRY:  Well, at the Pentagon, unfortunately, I was the next questioner when the hearing—when our briefing ended, so I didn‘t get to ask that question there.  I did ask Ambassador Crocker some of the questions I had, and frankly I wasn‘t satisfied completely with the answers because what has happened in al-Anbar where there are only Sunni living who are protecting their interests is not directly transferable to the rest of the country where Sunni are killing Shia and Shia are killing Sunni, and sometimes each other.

That‘s a different struggle.  And there only a political pollution will resolve it, and we have not received the satisfactory answers which is the answer to how our troops are going to come home as to how they will resolve those political stakes. 

OLBERMANN:  From either General Petraeus or Ambassador Crocker today in either of these forums, did you hear anything to give you confidence that a couple of more months might buy Iraq enough time to secure that government political reconciliation? 

KERRY:  On the contrary, what I heard today was a quiet, subtle moving of the goalposts where they‘re now saying that the benchmarks themselves may not be the important measurement, the process may be the important measurement. 

And I would worry about that because that will be an effort to try to claim tactical success in some of the military efforts of the escalation and then use that as an excuse to continue down the same road. 

I think people want a change in the policy and the only change will be the acceptance by the Iraqis of their responsibility to have the process of reconciliation, to resolve the oil law, to resolve the constitutional changes, to resolve the election needs. 

All of those things are the key, and absent that it‘s going to be very hard to believe why young Americans should be caught in the crossfire of this sectarian violence. 

OLBERMANN:  Ultimately, Senator Kerry, between what we heard about Senator Clinton in that letter today and what you experienced firsthand in the briefing, is it fair to say that another facet of the administration‘s response to critics amounts to, still, obviously, you didn‘t hear us the first time, that the concept of honest disagreement is essentially inconceivable to them now? 

KERRY:  I think it‘s fair to say that they‘re having a hard time finding the middle ground here.  They talk about trying to find bipartisanship, but that kind of attack is clearly meant to go down a different road.  It‘s a road we have been down before and a lot of us are just not going to stand for it. 

I don‘t—I think the American people expect more.  They deserve better.  And we‘re certainly going to fight back and not be impugned by that kind of petty, indecent, partisan, ideological attack. 

OLBERMANN:  Amen, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, great thanks for being with us tonight, sir. 

KERRY:  Thank you.  Glad to be with you, thank you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And the political impact of the Edelman letter, the administration‘s surge against any who dares to criticize it, Richard Wolffe joins us.

And first Scooter Libby‘s sentence commuted.  Now Valerie Plame‘s civil case against him dismissed.  Full coverage ahead.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You might think, based on the vitriol of the letter that never before had a member of a Senate committee with oversight of the Pentagon and its budget dared to ask questions of the Defense Department.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the real motives at work in the dark missive from an undersecretary of defense to Senator Clinton, Democratic presidential candidate. 

Its author, we should note, Eric Edelman, served as a national security adviser to Vice President Cheney during the lead-up to the war in Iraq, that‘s right, he‘s one of the neocons who got us into this mess. 

President Bush, having given Mr. Edelman his current job via a recess appointment in 2005, Mrs. Clinton and the other Democrats on that committee having blocked his permanent nomination.  Time now to turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for Newsweek magazine. 

Richard, good evening. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is it safe to assume that every senator on the armed services committee who has ever raised questions to the Pentagon has not gotten that kind of response that not only would Senator Clinton appear to be unique but the significance should also be attached to the messenger, Mr. Edelman? 

WOLFFE:  Well, you‘re right to focus on who Eric Edelman actually is.  His history goes back beyond the time before he worked with Dick Cheney in the West Wing.  He actually rose to prominence working for Paul Wolfowitz when it was Secretary of Defense Cheney.

And there he developed with Wolfowitz a great national security strategy based around preemptive war, which turned out to be so fabulously successful in Iraq.  And then after he worked for Dick Cheney, he became ambassador in Turkey where he managed to look after the allies so well over there that they took part in neither the run-up to the war nor the postwar situation. 

In fact, he was deeply controversial for interfering in Turkey‘s domestic affairs.  So Eric Edelman is not the best person to lecture people about either how to encourage terrorists in Iraq or for that matter how to look after allies in the region. 

OLBERMANN:  The context of this, we learned this week from Thomas Ricks‘ remarkable report in The Washington Post that the Pentagon has been running war games on the Iraq pullout. 

Is there an irony, do you think, to the fact that they are asking these very questions of themselves, and by extension from the Edelman letter is the Pentagon endorsing enemy propaganda? 

WOLFFE:  Well, the Pentagon is doing what it should be doing, which is contingency planning, otherwise why on earth does it have all those contingency planners? 

And you know, in recent days, White House officials and defense officials have been quite willing to talk about these scenarios in the case of withdrawal because in their minds withdrawal would have to under fire, there would have to be significant force protection.

It seems to me that it is actually helpful—if you are in the minority of people who believe that the war is still worth fighting, then it is actually helpful to have a debate about what withdrawal looks like. 

And of course, if you are for withdrawal, you should also be having that debate.  So having a public discussion about this is to be encouraged.

OLBERMANN:  Then what is the Edelman letter about?  Is it as naked and as blunt a political hammer as it seems? 

WOLFFE:  It certainly sounds that way to me.  I mean, the conflation of Vietnam, Somalia and Lebanon is so strange, you know, it offers a window into the mindset that all that matters when it comes to the exercise of power is the strength of the will of the leaders in America and American public opinion. 

Those could not be three more different scenarios for a defense official, for someone engaged in policy to draw a comparison between something of the size of Vietnam and two peacekeeping humanitarian missions engaged under the strange rules of engagement, it‘s bewildering. 

I think you have to look at it as a political effort by Edelman. 

OLBERMANN:  And it certainly is the loudest noise made in this area, but for days, possibly for weeks, there have been these murmurs and rumblings in places that this was the next political tactic to be taken by the administration, that it was time to get out the blame the critics, it‘s the antiwar faction‘s fault, if only they had not said what they said, did what they did, protested violations that they protested, this all would have gone well in Iraq.  Is that what‘s actually happening here? 

WOLFFE:  I think there are a number of people who believe in the war still, in the administration, who believe it can be salvaged but would like to set this up so that—look, they know in their hearts that calling the Democrats defeatists didn‘t work last time around but maybe if they hold out for the war, that after they leave office, if everything carries on this way, they can just blame it all on their successors. 

That‘s what really they‘re teeing up here.  It‘s not just about the election, it‘s the post-election. 

OLBERMANN:  But in the interim it works very nicely for the election, does it not?  If you can tag—if Senator Clinton is the nominee and you can tag her with, she‘s one of the ones who cost us Iraq, that guess a long way next year in their eyes, at least, does it not?

WOLFFE:  That‘s the Karl Rove playbook.  But look how it played out in 2006.  They tried to use the defeatist line and there are a number of Republicans out there who lost their seats because it just didn‘t work. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  But as you know, anything untoward that the administration does, the conclusion is, we just didn‘t do enough untoward stuff.  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and Newsweek.  As always, Richard, great thanks. 

WOLFFE:  Anytime. 

OLBERMANN:  It gets creepier and creepier, the Bill O.‘s sexual meltdown with his guest, Miss New Jersey.  Oh boy. 

And their dog ate, not their homework, but their cash.  Now he‘s like a furry ATM, if you know what I mean.  Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this day in 1990, baseball‘s all-time hit king, Pete Rose, was sentenced to five months in federal prison, not because he had cheated nor because he had bet on baseball, in fact not because he had gambled at all.  They followed the money.  They got him for tax evasion.  Keep following the money in mind as we say let‘s keep playing “Oddball.”

We begin near Eau Claire, Wisconsin where they‘ve got a dog that craps money.  This is Pepper Anne (ph), the pooch, and when $800 in cash vanished at Pepper Anne‘s house, it didn‘t take long to figure out who had stolen it.  Pepper Anne got into a purse, yanked out the cash and went to town.  The family found some shreds of dough near the crime scene but the rest of the money was found out in the yard where Pepper Anne made change. 

The good news is Pepper Anne‘s owners were able to rinse off most of the “doggie dough,” tape it together and trade it in at the bank.  Of the $800 eaten, $700 redeemed as the family waits patiently for the last Benjamin to show up. 

Speaking of showing up, we head back to Cerne Abbas, in England, where earlier this week we brought you the story of the 180-foot chalk Homer Simpson that showed up next to the centuries-old pagan fertility god, the Cerne Abbas Giant.  Today, after less than a week of facing off with one another, our worst fears have been realized.  Homer has attacked.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DAN CASTELLANETA, “HOMER SIMPSON”:  Mmm, forbidden doughnut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Back from a brief respite, a judge tosses out Valerie Plame‘s lawsuit against Cheney and Rove and company.  But a Congressional panel may have just tossed a huge legal surprise at the administration.  And imagine your unhappy surprise if you read details about the last Harry Potter book in either of two prominent well respected American newspapers while you were trying to avoid those details.  One of the reviewers joins us ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In the quest to hold members of the Bush administration legally accountable for their abuses of power, our third story in the COUNTDOWN tonight consists of one step forward and one back.  First the bad news for those who want to know the truth about the Valerie Plame leak or see its initial victims compensated.  Miss Plame sued Vice President Dick Cheney, White House aide Karl Rove and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, along with Scooter Libby, who was convicted of lying to prevent investigators from finding out the truth about the leak of her covert status. 

President Bush promptly commuted Libby‘s prison sentence, removing any incentive for him to come clean.  Today a federal judge dismissed Plame‘s civil suit, widely seen as the last shot, barring a successful appeal or pangs of conscience, at finding out the truth.  On the other hand, a House judiciary subcommittee took the first step in a process that could lead to criminal contempt charges against Mr. Bush‘s chief of staff, Josh Bolton, who has refused to turn over documents subpoenaed by members of Congress investigating the U.S. attorney firings. 

Mr. Bush declared the documents off limits, covered by executive privilege.  In today‘s seven to three vote, the subcommittee ruled that executive privilege does not cover those documents, meaning that Bolton is violating the law by withholding them.  If the committee and then the full House agree, the U.S. attorney for D.C. would be asked to seek Bolton‘s indictment by a grand jury. 

Covering both stories as long as they have been stories is our own David Shuster, who joins us once again from Washington.  David, good evening. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Staying with the Bolton first, if the full House votes to pursue a charge of contempt or charges of contempt against him, what happens then? 

SHUSTER:  As you mentioned, Keith, if it does get approved by a majority, it then goes to the District of Columbia U.S. attorney.  He would then have the option of taking this to a Grand Jury and pursuing a criminal indictment.  The problem that Democrats have, however, is that the U.S.  attorney for the District of Columbia is Jeffrey Taylor.  He is a Republican who was given his job by none other than Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. 

Taylor worked as a Gonzales counselor.  In fact, he worked in the Bush administration‘s Justice Department for four year.  Under normal circumstances one might expect Taylor to recuse himself and let another prosecutor seek contempt charges against Bolton, but it‘s not clear whether Taylor would be obligated to step aside or not. 

The other more immediate issue though may be whether contempt of Congress can actually get through the full house.  There are some Democrats, Keith, who worry that the Congress is getting a reputation for pursuing scandals and nothing else, and that it is driving down their poll numbers.  So the argument from some is that Congress should not pursue something which could be as protracted a legal battle as seeking contempt charges against Josh Bolton. 

But there are a lot of Democrats who would certainly like to see a vote. 

OLBERMANN:  And obviously, David, Congress wants to remind the White House that the White House is not all powerful.  But the original point of this, the fired U.S. attorneys, what exactly is the committee trying to get out from these documents that it can‘t see right now? 

SHUSTER:  The committee is convinced, Keith, that the documents would show that the prosecution firings involved Karl Rove and his top deputies in the political shop at the White House.  There is already evidence that the Republican lawmakers, including Senator Pete Domenici, complained to Rove and others about some of the U.S. attorneys.

And several Justice Department officials have testified that Karl Rove‘s office was involved in the removal of the U.S. attorneys.  But Karl Rove and former White House council Harriet Miers have refused to testify and have said they will only answer questions behind closed doors and not under oath and not with a transcript.

So Democrats were hoping to get around some of this and get at some of the unanswered questions through the White House documents.  But now that Josh Bolton has said that the documents are protected by executive privilege, you have the Democrats on the committee taking the action that we saw today. 

OLBERMANN:  What about the Plame case?  The judge today seeming to agree with the lawyers for Mr. Cheney and his group who said leaking a CIA operative‘s identity, just part of the job at the White House for Mr. Bush.  But he also said Valerie Plame Wilson has other remedies she can pursue. 

Did he explain what those might be? 

SHUSTER:  Keith, the judge made his ruling today on pretty narrow constitutional issues, not on the merits of Valerie Wilson‘s case, as far as charging the administration and saying that she should be compensated because Karl Rove and others leaked her identity.  In fact, on that point the judge said the alleged actions of the defendants was highly unsavory.

But the judge said the crucial issue here was a law passed by Congress a few years ago.  It‘s known as the West Fall Act and it essentially gives federal employees absolute immunity from civil lawsuits that come from actions they take in the course of their official duties.  The judge said that the way Congress wrote the act failed to provide relief for plaintiffs in these types of civil cases.

In other words, the ruling today was far more critical of how Congress wrote a particular law than whether Valerie Wilson deserves money for having her cover blown.  But the other remedies the judge spoke about refer to criminal claims and those have already been settled by Patrick Fitzgerald‘s investigation. 

But again, the judge said that when it comes to a civil lawsuit, you often don‘t have standing to sue for civil damages if they are a government official and their actions were related to actions they took in their job capacity. 

OLBERMANN:  Any chance, therefore, of an appeal of this ruling or of a different and newly phrased lawsuit? 

SHUSTER:  Well, there is a chance.  And, in fact, Joe and Valerie Wilson‘s lawyer is saying tonight that they are going to press forward with an appeal and perhaps the appellate court will have a different view of the case law than the judge today.  But again, the case law tends to protect government officials from liability when they take actions related to their job.  And the judge today said that rebutting public criticism by speaking with the press was part of the function of these officials. 

Again, the Wilsons are betting that perhaps an appellate court will reach a different conclusion about the actions these administration officials took.  But again, the key issue is, Keith, this constitutional issue, not necessarily the merits of whether Valerie Wilson should be compensated because her identity was blown. 

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC senior scandal correspondent David Shuster in Washington.  As always, David, great thanks. 

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  And another sinister and murderous organization to the one Bill-O has already compared to a top liberal website.  We‘re going to again play that tape of his sexual meltdown thing.  And gone but not forgotten, the Emmy nomination hall for “The Sopranos.”  The show was not nominated for best ending.

But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The boys say the security guards were laughing while 16-year-old Shelby Moore was stuck inside the men‘s room for an hour. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I thought he was going to die or faint.  I know he‘s hydrophobic.  It‘s really bad for him. 

BUSH:  -- small business owner and you purchase equipment, like an English muffin rolling deal or whatever you wan to call—getting out of my lane here. 

MATT GROENING, “THE SIMPSON”:  We‘ve gotten in trouble for attacking Fox News, for instance. 

JOHN STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Is that true? 

GROENING:  Yes.  We had an episode in which we had Fox News and we had the little news crawl.

STEWART:  Yes.

GROENING:  And that was one of our favorite moments.  Albert Einstein plus Brad Pitt equals Dick Cheney.  That‘s was one of them.  Rupert Murdoch terrific dancer, that was another.  We have been forbidden to do that again, because the Fox viewer might confuse our cartoon with actual news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  America‘s conscience, Bill O‘Reilly, lapsed into unintentional self-parody a long time ago.  Yet in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, he keeps saying things that make you stop and wonder.  Did someone sneak into Fox noise and write that thing he just said in order to make him sound like a complete imbecile? 

The answer of course is no.  O‘Reilly doesn‘t need any help with that.  Last night, with retired comedian Dennis Miller as his sidekick of the moment, he issued a clarification regarding his assertion that Jet Blue Airlines sponsored the Daily Kos, the liberal website that O‘Reilly has compared to the Nazis. 

The CEO of Jet Blue had sent him a letter, “and he said he wants me to clarify that his airline Jet Blue doesn‘t sponsor the Daily Kos website, just the convention.  I‘m happy to clarify that.  I don‘t see what difference it makes.  But I‘m happy.  You know me.  I‘m the great clarifier.”

That‘s Jet Blue, which has in-flight TV and which recently added the Fixed News channel to its TV lineup.  Meanwhile, the great clarifier used the moment to regurgitate his Daily Kos nonsense, “but I say this.  There is no difference between the KK and the Nazis, who have web sites, than the Daily Kos.” 

And a bit later, “I‘m a big free speech guy.  I make my living with the free speech thing.  I‘m not a censorship guy, but there‘s a line.”

Yes, there is a line, Bill.  There are many lines regarding accuracy, decency, even sanity.  And then there is Bill-O, the great eraser.  Last night, we brought you our edited version of O‘Reilly‘s salacious interview with the Miss New Jersey, Amy Polumbo.  The response and the delight was so overwhelming, we thought this was worth a second look.  Again, our hats off to Joel McCale and “the Soup” on the E Network, who did this first. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  What are they? 

AMY POLUMBO, MISS NEW JERSEY:  They‘re normal college pictures, my friend and I having fun. 

O‘REILLY:  Do you have clothes on? 

POLUMBO:  Yes.  No nudity? 

O‘REILLY:  There‘s no nudity in the pictures.  Are you drunk or anything? 

POLUMBO:  No.

O‘REILLY:  It‘s just you and your friends cavorting?

POLUMBO:  Yes. 

O‘REILLY:  Is it two women together, could it be in a provocative way? 

POLUMBO:  Not at all. 

O‘REILLY:  Any sexual nature in the pictures? 

POLUMBO:  No. 

O‘REILLY:  OK, it‘s not a negligee situation or anything like that? 

POLUMBO:  No. 

O‘REILLY: There‘s nothing provocative in the pictures? 

POLUMBO:  Not really. 

O‘REILLY:  Is this a fantasy picture thing?  Were you dressed up in a certain way? 

She could be dressed in some kind of dominatrix thing or something like that.   

POLUMBO:  My mom has seen the pictures.  She really was not that upset.   

O‘REILLY:  But if they were innocent pictures, then I‘m wondering what she was upset about.  Can you just give me a hint? 

(END VIDEO CLIP

OLBERMANN:  Five down, two to go, Miss Kilgallen (ph).  If there is a bigger turn to make than going from Bill-O to the Emmy‘s I don‘t want to know about it.  But that‘s life in our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  The 59th annual Emmy Award nominations announced today by two actors who ended up as nominees themselves, Jon Cryer and Kyra Sedgwick. 

But the big news, yet again, HBO‘s dominance.  It landed 86 nominations, far ahead of its rivals, boosted by 15 alone for “The Sopranos,” including acting noms for pretty much everyone who survived into this season, if not to the end of it.

next up were ABC and NBC in a virtual tie with 70 and 69 respectively.  ABC‘s comedy “Ugly Betty” came away with the most comedy nominations, 11, including recognition for lead actress America Ferrera. 

In the divorce of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, it turns out the Beatles parody band the Ruttles were right.  All you need is cash.  The “Times of London” reporting that Sir Paul offered his future ex-wife 40 million dollars to go away.  She reportedly responded that he would have himself a deal if he tossed in another 60 million, bringing a whole new meaning to the name Heather Mills. 

A court date is set for next February.  Under British law, the judge will weigh how money McCartney made before his three-year marriage and how much money he made during it.  McCartney is worth an estimated 1.5 billion dollars.  And that does not include whatever you leave him in those tip jars at Starbucks. 

Barry Bonds ended his worst slump in six years this afternoon.  We‘re talking home run slump, not ethics slump.  That one‘s still going strong.  Bonds smashed the slump with two home runs today against the Cubs in San Francisco. 

It‘s deep and I don‘t think it‘s playable.  Career homers number 752 and 753, putting him now just two short of the all-time home run record set by Hank Aaron and later broken by Alex Rodriguez—no, that‘s later on in the script. 

Aaron, of course, was widely rumored to have not enhanced his hitting capabilities or the size of his head with any performance-enhancing drugs whatsoever, nor did investigators ever suspect Aaron of committing perjury to cover up steroids, which he did not use.  Other than that though, it‘s just like history repeating itself. 

In this Harry Potter situation, could you really review the book and publish the review in a newspaper where it might spoil the ending for readers waiting in delicious agony?  We‘ll ask someone who reviewed anyway. 

That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s nominees for Worst Person in the World Tonight.  The bronze to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  The Emmy award nominations today also included seven for ABC‘s remarkable fictionalization of the 9/11 Commission Report “The Path to 9/11.”  Although you will notice a theme in these categories in which it was nominated; special visual effects, single camera picture editing, sound editing, casting in Canada, cinematography, music composition and main title design.  The script itself, nobody would touch it with a barge pole. 

Runner-up tonight, Sean Hannity.  As if the Pentagon threat against Senator Clinton were not enough, he says of her, there are still many chapters remaining open from her time at the Rose Law Firm, take Whitewater and the death of Vince Foster.  No there aren‘t.  That‘s what the last of three special prosecutors concluded after six years and 60 million dollars spent investigating her. 

If there are still many chapters remaining open for Senator Clinton then you can just as easily say that for Mr. Hannity.  There are still many chapters open from the time you were accused of being a human replicant built and programmed by Halliburton. 

But your winner, Tom Delay.  The Hammer has told a group of college Republicans, in remarks taped by an independent writer, that abortion in and immigration to this country are linked.  If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, Delay said, we wouldn‘t need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today.  Think about it. 

Or, we could have a population 40 million or more people larger than it currently is and we would need more illegal immigrants to fill the jobs those 40 million wouldn‘t take either.  There is one thing to remember about anybody nicknamed the Hammer; a Hammer does have a head made out of metal.  Former Congressional Majority Leader Tom Delay, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Quick correction; as you probably saw, those two home runs hit by Barry Bonds this afternoon were not in San Francisco but in Chicago at Wrigley field.  But a fraudulent home run is a fraudulent home run no matter what the time zone. 

For millions of loyal fans anticipating the final installment of J.K.  Rowling‘s epic Harry Potter series, this is no joke, to enjoy or even savor the book without someone spoiling it.  And with a little more than 27 hours until the official release, we will not be that someone.  But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the “New York Times” has now joined the “Baltimore sun” in reviewing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow.” 

The Times review includes an assertion that the book was purchased at a New York City book story yesterday and the paper‘s book editor says that once the novel can be purchased, the paper is free to review it.  The “Baltimore Sun,” in an editors note, says it obtained the book from a relative of a Sun reporter for free.  The arts reporter for the Sun who wrote yesterday‘s online review and today‘s slightly revised print version will join us presently. 

Now, Miss Rowling responds in a statement: “I am staggered that some American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children.  I am incredibly grateful to all those newspapers, book sellers and other who have chosen not to attempt to spoil Harry‘s last adventure for fans.”

Joining me now, as promised, the arts reporter of the “Baltimore Sun,” and author of what appears to be the first review of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in the U.S., Mary Carole McCauley.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

MARY CAROLE MCCAULEY, “BALTIMORE SUN”:  Hi Keith.  How are you? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I‘m flying back to get a copy of this book tomorrow. 

It sounds like your paper obtained the book not only free, but free of

intrigue, through the relative of a reporter.  Do we have any idea how that

person get it so early

MCCAULEY:  Yes, he was mailed the book early by a discount chain and happened to be home from work on Tuesday when the book arrived. 

OLBERMANN:  And appreciated the news worthiness of the circumstances.  I am sure a lot of people at your newspaper discussed what to do about the embargo, what to do about publishing anything.  What can you tell us about that decision making and whether you were conflicted about it? 

MCCAULEY:  Well, to begin with, I should probably point out that, for a newspaper person, embargo has a very specific mooning.  Embargo means that a source has given us material in advance and that we have agreed to withhold publication.  That was not the case here.  We did not get the book from Scholastic and we certainly never agreed to not publish a review. 

That said, I know that there were very long and thoughtful conversations about whether to go ahead with publishing a review now and that my editors eventually decided that it was in the interests of the million people who read the paper to report the news as soon as we get it, particularly because it was all out there.  You could pull up the book on the Internet. 

OLBERMANN:  I know you put a disclaimer right at the start of your review, quote, fair warning, if you read on, you may learn more than you care to know.  I had a producer on my staff send me kind of a redacted version of your view because I didn‘t want to risk it.  Again, without discussing content, how did you weigh considerations of what to reveal and what not to reveal in your review. 

MCCAULEY:  I promise I won‘t spoil anything for you. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you. 

MCCAULEY:  I am sympathetic.  That is actually a terrific question, and it was something we thought long and hard about—or at least I thought long and hard about, particularly because, in connection with this book, the ending, which has been debated and analyzed and speculated about for years now, really determines how you end up feeling about the book.  And it is virtually impossible to write any kind of review at all that does not divulge something about the plot. 

So it was trying to say something meaningful about the book in a way that would not spoil it for anybody.  I can pretty much guarantee that if somebody thinks they know how the book ends based on reading my review, they are in for a surprise. 

OLBERMANN:  So, in a bout a half a minute, has the general response to your review been positive, negative?  Do you have to dress funny to go on the street? 

MCCAULEY:  We have received quite a bit of response.  Most people are angry.  I don‘t want to sugar coat it.  I have received response from some people who appreciate the view and are glad we did it.  Probably the most painful was an e-mail from a 15-year-old girl who said that she could not see the keyboard because she was typing through her tears. 

OLBERMANN:  This too shall pass.  Mary Carole McCauley with the “Baltimore Sun,” great thanks for your time.

MCCAULEY:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,541st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From Los Angeles, 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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