updated 9/21/2007 1:00:56 PM ET 2007-09-21T17:00:56

Guest: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Alter, Ken Burns

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

The president forgets his lines. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I was—the return on success.  That’s what I said. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No comment and a mean no comment on Syria and Israel, plenty on politics at his news conference. 

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REPORTER:  Mr. President, the Republicans seeking election next year, are you an asset or a liability? 

BUSH:  Strong asset. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And a final punch to the gut conveniently asked about the moveon.org ad. 

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BUSH:  I thought the ad was disgusting, and I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad. 

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OLBERMANN:  Seriously, after the swift voting of Kerry, the sandbagging of Cleland and this—after all that, you thought a bad pun from moveon.org was disgusting? 

A special comment on the president of hypocrisy and his dangerous blurring of the military and the civilian government. 

“The War,” the extraordinary visual document about World War II, a war that truly was inevitable and was not just sold that way. 

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UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN:  It was on one of my early missions that I first knew I had killed men.  And I remember the impact it had on me when I could see my bullets just tearing into them.  As I was doing this, I was doing it knowing I had to do it, that it was my job. 

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OLBERMANN:  My special guest tonight, Ken Burns. 

And O.J. Simpson’s girlfriend speaks. 

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O.J. SIMPSON’S GIRLFRIEND:  It’s a big mess.  I’ve known the man for 12 years and there’d be no reason for him to kidnap or try to rob...

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OLBERMANN:  And I came back for this? 

All that and more and a special comment now on “Countdown,”              

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This afternoon 16 more United States Senators, 72 in all, voted to toothlessly condemn a newspaper ad by the liberal anti-war group moveon.org.  Then voted yesterday to guarantee that American troops get to spend as much time at home between deployments as they now do on the front lines of Iraq. 

Our fifth story on the “Countdown” with their yes votes, 22 Democrats

apparently reacting like Pavlov’s dogs to a bell to the criticism voiced by

President Bush in his news conference this morning when he said he was,

quote, “disappointed more leaders in the Democratic party had not spoken

out strongly against that kind of ad,” 

And so the fallacy of who is really supporting the troop continues. 

Having already conflated the war in Iraq with the war on terrorism, Mr. Bush now throwing Democrats in Congress, and pretty much all liberals in general, onto the enemy’s list, having sent General Petraeus to Capitol Hill as his surrogate to read a report written by the White House with sourcing that was either nonexistent or demonstrably false.

The president today faulting not himself, but anyone, such as moveon.org, with the guts to call him on it. 

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GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ:  In November of ‘04, we had to bring in Iraqi army and substantial coalition forces to...

BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  ... the situation.  And so I appreciate the work that both of you are doing.  I would say that...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Obviously that’s bad tape. 

The executive director of moveon.org responded to the president today.  What’s disgusting—and he termed that ad disgusting—what’s disgusting is the president has more interest in political attacks than developing an exit strategy to get our troops out of Iraq and end this awful war. 

If the war that Mr. Bush initiated is going so poorly, in his view not his fault, no surprise, but that of Saddam Hussein for—and see if you can stay with us here—having killed the Iraqi equivalents, plural, of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela before the invasion. 

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BUSH:  Part of the reason why there’s instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein’s brutal rule.  I thought an interesting comment was made, someone said to me—I heard someone say, now where is Mandela?  Well, Mandela’s dead.  Because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just in case you were only half listening, Nelson Mandela is alive and well. 

In the meantime, there are at least five things wrong with that analogy right off the bat.  It must be hard to make parallels between oppressive regimes when you can’t even remember the latest catch phrase that you coined just a week ago. 

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BUSH:  In my speech I made it clear that there has to be a change in security for there to be reconciliation.  And I also said that progress will yield fewer troops.  In other words—return on success, is what I said. 

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OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush less tongue-tied but no less vague when addressing the shooting in Baghdad on Sunday involving guards from the private security contractor Blackwater USA during which at least 20 Iraqi civilians were killed. 

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BUSH:  Evidently some innocent lives were lost, and we have—you know, my thoughts and prayers go out to the families. 

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OLBERMANN:  Here in the United States, the Bush administration making it much more difficult for middle income families to secure health insurance coverage for their children.  Democrats now pushing for a funding increase to the program known as SCHIP.  An increase of $35 million.  The White House, $5 million.  But guess who Mr. Bush claims would be denying medical benefits should he veto that legislation? 

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BUSH:  Unfortunately, instead of working with the administration to enact this funding increase for children’s health, Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know that will be vetoed.  One of the leaders has even said such a veto would be, quote, “a political victory.”   As if this weren’t irresponsible enough, Congress is waiting until the SCHIP program is just about to expire before getting a final bill passed. 

In other words, members of Congress are putting health coverage for poor children at risk so they can score political points in Washington. 

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OLBERMANN:  What do you expect?  By his own admission this man, while still a self-proclaimed budget balancing genius, never was a Rhodes Scholar. 

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BUSH:  You know, you need to talk to economists.  I think I got a “B” in Econ 101.  I got an “A,” however, in keeping taxes low and being fiscally responsible with the people’s money.  We’ve submitted a plan that will enable this budget to become balanced by 2012 so long as Congress learns to set priorities. 

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OLBERMANN:  C-minus in Econ at Yale actually, according to the transcript. 

Time to turn to our own Dana Milbank, national political correspondent for the “Washington Post,” who was at the president’s news conference this morning. 

Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “WASHINGTON POST”: 

Welcome back, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.  Good to be here.  Let’s talk first about the moveon.org condemnation at its start—or not start in the White House press briefing room today, but what the president said and then let’s discuss what happened there after. Here’s what he said.

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BUSH:  I thought the ad was disgusting.  And I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military.  And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad.  And that leads me to come to this conclusion, that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group, like moveon.org, or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military.  That was a sorry deal.  And it’s one thing to attack me, another thing to attack somebody like General Petraeus.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  Well, it’s six ways to Sunday, but that vote in the Senate this afternoon 22 Democrats including Patrick Leahy.  Dianne Feinstein, voted with Republicans to condemn the Petraeus betray us ad.  It sounds like the president got what he wanted from that sound bite.  Was there audible buying heard at the Senate? 

MILBANK:  Well, usually T-ball is on the weekend but it came a little early.  This was the last question of the press conference.  The president looked towards the back of the room and found Bill Sammon of the “Washington Examiner”...

OLBERMANN:  Is that who that was?  Oh, God.

MILBANK:  ... and FOX News.  And so he served it up for the president and the president hit it out of the park, a very easy one for him to answer. 

Let’s celebrate this achievement.  After all these weeks, if not years of debate, everybody has now agreed to condemn a newspaper ad.  That seems to be the only policy everybody can agree on. 

OLBERMANN:  It did not bring back habeas corpus yesterday.  They did not bring back the times for the troops away from the field yesterday.  But this they did. 

The president and the less staged remarks, the Mandela-is-dead sound bite, sounds like we’re talking about McCartney is dead from the Beatles in the ‘60s.  How was that received in the room and, as I mentioned before, as analogies go, that one would be—to give the president every compliment in the world—strained. 

MILBANK:  You could actually hear the gasps in the room when he seemed to be announcing the death of the revered Mandela and then the relief, sort of the exhaling, when people realized what he was saying.  He was really echoing a line that Ambassador Crocker had said just sort of botching the way he was delivering it, saying there are no Mandelas there.  But even if there were, we have to remember Dick Cheney once called Nelson Mandela a terrorist.  I’m not sure you’d want him there anyway. 

OLBERMANN:  When you are the president of the United States and you are engaged in the Middle East in a war there with the restated purpose of making it in your own image, do you have the right to refuse to answer a question flatly, as the president did, when asked about this mysterious Israeli air raid against Syria earlier this month.  And when he was talking about that, where did his accent go? 

MILBANK:  Well, under pressure, even people who have been in a strange country for a long time revert to their native tongue.  And I think the president went from midland right there to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he was born.  Peppering David Gregory of NBC there.  And, in fact, he is the president, so he doesn’t have to answer any question. 

He was hit with this several times today, multiple attempts at this.  Clearly, there’s something sensitive going on with the next us of North Korea, Syria and Israel that he’s going to risk just stonewalling as opposing to getting into it at all. 

OLBERMANN:  And the answer to the question about Blackwater USA, he borrowed his phrasing from the Marine attack in had a Haditha, the same phrasing from the Abu Ghraib scandals before that.  First, it’s always let’s wait until the facts come out.  Then they come out and, it’s just a few bad apples or even better, most everyone on these shores has already forgotten about what happened. 

Is there a qualitative difference this time around in that without private contractors the Bush administration is going to find it very difficult to continue in Iraq even if the Democrats let him do so?  I mean, they are relied upon so heavily there. 

MILBANK:  Well, it’s all enough to make Nelson Mandela roll over in his grave.  Well, look, the troops as they withdraw will cause more reliance to be made on these private security forces, but the real tension there is going to be with the al Maliki government.  And he’s been very strong, for once, in condemning the actions of this Blackwater group. 

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post.”  Great thanks.  Good to talk with you again, sir. 

MILBANK:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  The president’s answer to the question about the Petraeus ad was not only hypocritical on the obvious level.  His party funded the hatchet jobs on John Kerry and Max Cleland, vet, and used bin Laden and Zawahiri as advertising center pieces.

But there’s another level of danger to the president’s remark, the blurring of this supposedly indelible American line between civilian politics and the military. 

Tonight my special comment on the president of hypocrisy. 

Also, why did the president start endorsing Nebraska senatorial would-be candidates in the Rose Garden?  What happened to the political lame duck here?

And an extraordinary television moment ahead for you from the man who has produced so many of them.  Ken Burns joins me on the eve of his upcoming series “The War” on PBS, and its context in the light of the war in Iraq. 

You are watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  O.J. Simpson goes home.  Ken Burns comes here to discuss his new documentary “The War.”  And a special comment on the first president who forgot you were not supposed to turn military men into political figures.

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OLBERMANN:  Call it American political etiquette or respect for democracy and the voters.  Either way, outgoing presidents at least make an effort to appear to keep their hands off the next elections. 

Our fourth story in the “Countdown” to 2008, President Bush trashing that tradition soundly today, first, in a Rose Garden, good-bye that turned into a de facto campaign event on White House soil for outgoing Agriculture Secretary Mike Johan.  Johan is expected to compete for the Senate nomination to succeed Chuck Hagel in Nebraska.  The president virtually endorsing him by saying, “I support you and I encourage to you follow your heart.  If it’s Mike’s decision and Nebraska’s choice, he would make an outstanding member of the United States Senate.” 

At his news conference, President Bush slightly appearing slightly cockier than a president with some of the lowest poll ratings in recent history ought to be, and whose unwavering policy for an unpopular war cost his party control of Congress in the last election, he was asked about the next election. 

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REPORTER:  Mr. President, for Republicans seeking election next year, are you an asset or a liability? 

BUSH:  Strong asset.  I am.

REPORTER:  Want to follow? 

BUSH:  No.  I knew I made a mistake calling on you in the first place. 

Look, candidates who go out and say the United States is vulnerable to attack and we’re going to make sure our professionals have the tools necessary to protect us, are going to do well.  Candidates who go out and say that helping these Iraqis realize the benefits of democracy are going to do well. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And you’ve just heard a sitting president absolutely certain that the key to Republican victory in 2008 is the continued use of fear of terror and more of the war in Iraq. 

Let’s turn now to political analyst, “Newsweek” senior editor Jonathan Alter.

Jonathan, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, POLITICAL ANALYST, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi, Keith.  

OLBERMANN:  Almost a year ago, this White House was insisting President Bush would not be a liability in the 2006 elections.  Is this more of his now famous alternative reality or is he putting on a brave face here? 

ALTER:  Their basic message is going to be the only thing we have to use is fear itself.  He signaled what the 2008 campaign is all about from the Republican side. 

Although I think the more involved he is in this campaign, the better news it is for Democrats.  The guy is almost toxic in American politics right now if you look at his poll numbers.  So it’s understandable why Republicans wouldn’t be running away from him yet, because in these Republican primaries there’s still a lot of Bush supporters who are going to go to the polls.

But once the general election campaign starts next year, I think you’re going to see a lot of Republicans putting a lot of distance between themselves and President Bush. 

I don’t think they’re going to be too happy about him showing up at their convention.  And you’re going to see them fleeing.  They already are on some key votes.  For instance, on Jim Webb’s vote—on the Webb bill to allow the troops to come home sooner, you saw a number of Republicans who were up for re-election last year voting with the Democrats. 

OLBERMANN:  But as they flee, are they not taking exactly what he said with them?  In other words, are they not hating the man but loving his fear platform? 

ALTER:  Yes.  They’re going to go to the well on that.  But he’s also not doing them any favors on some other issues.  For instance, the one that he raised today, the SCHIP program, children’s health, this is a veto that could be very damaging to those Republicans who vote to sustain his veto. 

Remember, this is not just touchy-feely liberals who want children’s health.  This is business in districts all across the country, state government, a lot of Republicans at the state and local level, who want this to go through.  It’s the equivalent of about less than six months in Iraq in terms of cost to take a real serious load off of business in insuring more children. 

OLBERMANN:  Last night, Jon, at a fundraiser in New York, Senator Clinton took out a light saber to Vice President Cheney.  She was referring to the vice doing some arm twisting to make sure Senate Republicans did not support that bill to limit the troop deployments.   And this was pretty unfettered language here.  Let’s listen to this. 

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SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:                Vice President Cheney came up to see the Republicans yesterday.  You can always tell when the Republicans are restless because the vice president’s motorcade pulls into the capitol and Darth Vader emerges. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now what explains that, other than it’s probably true? 

ALTER:  It was red meat for Democrats.  And she’s getting a lot more at ease with seeming like she can kind of negotiate the parts of personality politics that she used to be more uncomfortable with.  And I think this is one explanation for why she’s done very well this summer. 

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. 

Great.  Thanks for coming in, John. 

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That ad, the president for whose party this would not have made the cut in its search to blind side John Kerry or Max Cleland, veterans both, actually complains about that ad.  Special comment ahead. 

And Bud Light.  Now the new easy opening flip-top container.  Next on

“Countdown,” 

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OLBERMANN:  On this date a century ago, at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, rookie pitcher Nick Maddux, in his third Major League start, threw a no-hit game to Brooklyn.  Significant at the time because it was the first no-hitter thrown by any Pittsburgh pitcher ever.  Significant since because it is still the most recent complete game no-hitter thrown by a Pirates pitcher in Pittsburgh.  Just a century ago. 

On that note let’s play “Oddball.” 

Also, possibly, the last win. 

We begin in Nashville, Tennessee, where we meet tonight’s “Oddball’s” real man of genius.  Today, we salute you, Mr. I flipped a tractor-trailer full of Bud Light.  With the driving skill of a drunken ship you overturned your 18-wheeler carrying cold Bud Light and you walked away with minor scratches.  Yes, several tallboys made the ultimate sacrifice on the black top, but you lived to hold another beer.  Next time you’re in the New York area, stop by old Keith’s place and we’ll split a 12 pack, because tonight “Oddball” salutes you, Mr. I flipped a tractor-trailer full of Bud Lights, the real man of genius. 

Okay, that happened about a week ago, but I was sick, all right? 

In Carbondale, Pennsylvania, this naked guy is trying to stick up a mini mart, which to those who have seen the surveillance, the term mini mart seems entirely appropriate.  24-year-old Karl Wagner—Wagner—told police he decided to strip down and knock over the store because he was bored.  The clerk thwarted the robbery when she refused to fork over any cash.  Not like he had a place to put it.  But that’s not a problem any more.  Wagner was arrested soon after the failed heist and he now has a wardrobe full of cod pieces to wear in the big house. 

Finally, to Mexico City and the debut of young Rafael Mirabel, the 11-year-old child prodigy of Mexican bullfighting.  As you can see in the tape of the first fight, he’s terrible.  Actually, Mirabel was only knocked down by the smaller bull once.  He sprang back to his feet and resumed matadoring.  Watch your appendix there, Rafael.  The future is bright for the youngster.  He’s signed to do 20 more shows and will make a guest appearance to slaughter cow on CBS’s hit reality show “Kid Nation.”  I made that part up.        

When you see it, you will say it is one of the best programs you have ever seen on television.  And if you did not before, you will understand “The War,” the Second World War.  Ken Burns joins me. 

And there’s some crap involving O.J. Simpson, but that broke out while I was away, so I guess we’ll mention it briefly. 

These stories ahead.

But first, we’re souping up the list of goofballs and good guys here. 

“Countdown’s” top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best surgeon, Dr. Fred Kimmelstiel of New York, who could not have done a better job before, during, or after my appendectomy last week.  Thanks, Doc.  Nice hands. 

Number two, best gag, Columnist Argus Hamilton, of the Comedy Store, who writes in his syndicated piece today, quote, NBC news host Keith Olbermann was hospitalized in New York on Friday after his appendix ruptured.  He’s a savage critic of the war.  President Bush told reporters he thinks the appendix should have stayed in there and fought for another six months. 

And number one, best suspect, the unnamed driver stopped by police in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, said that to produce his license he would have to dig his wallet out from under the spandex.  Charged with driving without headlights while under the influence, while on probation, with marijuana in the car, and while dressed as Batgirl.  Now this story just begs for a follow-up.

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OLBERMANN:  General David Petraeus, in his September 11th Senate testimony on the progress of President Bush’s surge in Iraq, called the soldiers fighting that war, quote, the new greatest generation. Well, there’s no question that the soldiers on the ground in Iraq are equal to the best the U.S. has ever turned out.  They are but a fraction of an entire generation, which is to say that while they and their families are sacrificing for the good of our country, the entire generation, the large majority of this generation, is not. 

In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Iraq plays no part in what is undoubtedly the finest television documentary series of the last decade or more.  But for “The War” by Ken Burns, it is inevitably backdrop.  With or without that context, the quality of the work cannot be overstated.  By narrowing the focus, Ken Burns has permitted us to see the big picture the way Americans saw it 65 years ago as it happened, the story of the most cataclysmic event in the history of the free world, over seven episodes, using the experiences of the people of just four American communities, documenting both the battle stories of the boys fighting overseas and the folks at home who suffered right along with them. 

Six years in the making, it premiers on PBS this Sunday.  It’s author, Mr. Burns, joins me in a moment.  First the preview. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM HYNES, VETERAN:  I don’t think there is such a thing as good war.  There are sometimes necessary wars.  I never questioned the necessity of that war and I still do not question it.  It was something that had to be done. 

PAUL FUSSELL, INFANTRY VETERAN:  The real war involves getting down there and killing people and being killed yourself or just barely escaping.  It gives you attitudes about life and death that are unobtainable anywhere else. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A great pleasure now to be joined by the producer of “The War” and of “The Civil War,” “Jazz,” “The Brooklyn Bridge,” and so many others, Ken Burns.  Delighted we can finally visit, my friend. 

KEN BURNS, PBS PRODUCER:  Thank you.  Glad you’re back. 

OLBERMANN:  I only read this the other day and I was amazed by it.  I’m amazed at the story of what prompted you to do this series.  It was provoked by a high school history survey you saw? 

BURNS:  Yes.  First I heard that we’re losing 1,000 veterans a day in the United States, and then I learned too many of our graduating high school seniors think we fought with the Germans against the Russians in the Second World War and this sort of double hemorrhaging compelled us to sort of throw off an early conceit, born of the suffering we experienced in the “Civil War” series to not go to war again.  But we had to when we heard that. 

We just couldn’t let these folks pass away knowing that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren had no idea what went on when they were 17, 18, 19 years old, a time when most of us had the luxury of inattention and narcissistic self-involvement.  They were helping to save the world. 

OLBERMANN:  As ever, the stories are amazing.  The footage is amazing.  The juxtaposition of all that is amazing, but the genius of your work, I’ve always thought, lies in the people telling the stories, who were the most amazing still.  You have begun this series with a veteran named Glen Frasier (ph), who talks of talking his captors out of decapitating him while he was in a POW camp under the Japanese.  There was Sam Hynes, who we heard in that clip there, who speaks like a poet, and Quentin Annonsin (ph) from Lavern, Minnesota, who speaks like the relative you want, and Katherine Phillips (ph) of Mobile, who seems like every smart, wise cracking southern relative you ever had or wish you did.  Where do you consistently find these people? 

BURN:  It’s just, Keith, the luxury of time.  We chose four geographically distributed towns, Waterbury, Connecticut, Mobile, Alabama, Sacramento, California, and Lavern, Minnesota.  We went there and spent years.  We got to know the people.  We talked to more than 600 people, finding, weeding out those who were too reticent to talk, couldn’t yet talk, maybe were too practiced in their talk, to find those incredibly humble, amazing people who had real stories to tell. 

We decided we weren’t going to have any Shelby (ph) foots.  If you weren’t in this war or waiting anxiously for someone to come back from the war, you’re not in our film.  It permitted us to clear out all the debris that calcifies around the Second World War studies, you know, that it’s the good war, that it’s all context and no intimacy, or if it’s intimate, there’s no context. 

We are not interested in celebrity generals and politicians, or strategy and tactics, or armaments and weaponry, or all things Nazi.  We’re interested in what so-called ordinary human beings did.  And so we just listened for them.  And we went in there not with, can you get us from point A to point B on page 23 of episode two, but tell us what you did.  How did you feel?  What was it like to be in battle? 

Because, as we know from Iraq, as we know from the Peloponesian Wars, the experience of wars is essentially the same; I was scared, I was bored, I was hot, I was cold.  My officers didn’t know what they were doing.  I didn’t get the right equipment.  I saw bad things.  I did bad things.  I lost good friends.  That’s been the same since the beginning of human history and it will be, I’m sorry to say, the same until human beings are no more. 

OLBERMANN:  But there are, of course, context to every war and differences between them that are striking and the little preview segment that we showed begins with that issue.  And I guess Sam Hynes answers your question about certainty, that the war was just and it was necessary.  There is a war now.  The nation seems divided into those who would use those same words and those who absolutely believe those words are inappropriate.  What is the value, do you think, to current society of seeing the certainty of World War II during the time in Iraq? 

BURNS:  That’s the main question, is it not?  We’re not going to get the past back.  And we don’t study the past just for its own sake.  History is the set of questions we in the present ask of the past.  And so it is informed by our own anxieties, our own dreads, our wishes, our hopes and dreams.  And though this film was begun before 9/11, though Sam Hynes uttered those words before we invaded Iraq, this film resonates, of course, with all of the differences between those same wars, as well as the similarities. 

We now have a separate military class that suffers its losses apart and alone from the rest of us.  There wasn’t a family on any street in any town in America during the Second World War that wasn’t actively involved in this effort.  We knew what was going on and we understood a fundamental truth, that in shared sacrifice, we were going to make ourselves richer, not just spiritually and communally richer, but financially, materially richer. 

Today we’re all independent free agents.  We were asked nothing at 9/11, except to go shopping.  And so we have squandered the opportunity to participate this.  We say this is a huge struggle for the very survival of our civilization, and yet nobody’s asked to do anything here.  We are six years out from the 9/11.  We could be free of a dependency on foreign oil.  We could have solved an infrastructure problem.  Our bridges would be standing.  Our levees would still hold. 

I think there’s a lot to learn from the Second World War, even though in this film we weren’t interested in scoring any points.  We didn’t have a political bone in our body.  We just wished merely to bear witness to the extraordinary service that these men and women gave so long ago. 

OLBERMANN:  We are asked to shut up and agree now, and one of the things—when we’re asked to do that, the Second World War is invariably invoked, in terms of censorship, and there was no negative reporting.  Straighten us out about this, as I know you do in the series. 

BURNS:  Well, you know, it does come back to us that there was censorship and there was a lot of censorship.  Guys weren’t allowed to reflect their position in their letters.  They couldn’t keep diaries or journals.  In the beginning, the news was carefully censored.  We didn’t know until after the war the exact toll at Pearl Harbor, the thing that started it. 

But along the way, we began to understand that a Democratic people had to know what was going on.  They had to know the sacrifices their young men were making, and why we at home were making those sacrifices.  And so we began in ‘43 to show pictures of American dead.  We began to show later on that same year motion picture footage, graphic motion picture footage, in a film created by the United States government, to tell its people what its young men were going through, and the idea that it would increase enlistment didn’t happen.  But it sure brought people to buy a lot more war bonds. 

We saw caskets coming back.  Today, in order to find out a sense of what the real cost of war is, you sort of feel like a pornographer on the Internet.  You have to search out these desperate sites, because we do not have a media in this country that is willing to say this is what it looks like. 

OLBERMANN:  Ken Burns, the creative genius behind “The War,” which debuts on PBS this Sunday night.  I’ve seen it.  It is—it is extraordinary, and it requires you to pay attention, which good television, good entertainment or good information does.  And it is worth the effort.  Congratulations, Ken.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

BURNS:  Thank you so much, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Would that congratulations were in order for the president’s news conference today.  In fact, how after he blasted Democrats on the MoveOn.org ad, he became the president of hypocrisy.  Special comment ahead. 

And this guy—oh, for goodness sakes.  I thought I had him removed last Friday.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, Keeping Tabs. 

And the only good thing about the last week, I was not here for O.J.  Simpson’s latest fiasco.  Let’s see here, memorabilia in a Las Vegas hotel room; somebody had a gun; lots of cursing; arrested in jail; ten felony charges; lost the smirk; released on bail.  OK, got it. 

And now Mr. Simpson is back home.  U.S. Airways flight from Las Vegas landed in Ft. Lauderdale just after midnight.  O.J. Simpson uncharacteristically had nothing to say, though his girlfriend Christine Prody said he was fine.  More on her presently.  By the way, the in-flight movie on the Simpson’s journey, “Oceans 13” about a heist in Las Vegas.  The caper not nearly as pedestrian as the one he was allegedly involved. 

Meantime, our correspondent, Kerry Sanders, was outside Simpson’s home in Miami today doing a live report when he scored an unplanned exclusive. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  You know what, we have a moment.  Let’s just see if we can find out if it is O.J. Simpson.  I will walk over here and see. 

Hi, there.  I’m from NBC News.  I’m curious—Christine?  Christie. 

Is O.J. home or just back in Florida? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He’s back in Florida. 

SANDERS:  He’s back in Florida.  OK. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Everything is fine.  It’s a big mess.  I’ve known the man for 12 years and there would be no reason for him to kidnap or try to rob—stealing from him for the last 10 years.  It’s a big misunderstanding.  But I’ve got to go to work. 

SANDERS:  OK, thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Bye-bye now.  Nothing exclusive on “The View,” since the newly configured panel on that show is still figuring out the roundness or flatness of the earth.  Apparently they all now agree that under no circumstances could Christopher Columbus have sailed right off the edge.  You may recall that “The View’s” new co-host, Sherry Shepherd, was uncertain, to put it kindly. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, “THE VIEW”:  Is the world flat? 

SHERRY SHEPHERD, “THE VIEW”:  Is the world flat? 

GOLDBERG:  Yes. 

SHEPHERD:  I don’t know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But Miss Shepherd, who apparently used to be on “Suddenly Susan,” must have consulted the great scientific minds of our nation, or a fifth grader or maybe even a two-year-old.  Yesterday she said she knew the earth was round and, in fact, had known that all along. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEPHERD:  I was so nervous.  All I heard was how many triglicerides (ph) does it take to make Pluto when the—so when they asked, I don’t know.  And, you know, you have one of those, you know, senior brain poopy moments. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president whines about the MoveOn.org ad, the same president who injected General Petraeus into a political realm in which he does not belong, the same president whose party cheap shotted Max Cleland and John Kerry, veterans and dozens more.  My special comment next. 

First time for COUNTDOWN’s worst persons in the world.  The bronze to Michelle Malkin, the columnist in her mind only, attacking Sally Field for saying mothers should be peacemakers, claiming motherhood, quote, should make us more violent.  She claims Miss Fields is, quote, the mom who buys her teenager beer, condoms, and a hotel room on prom night, because she’d rather give in than assert parental authority and do battle.

Any proof of that?  Evidence?  Gossip?  Is that just your usual routine?  Tap your unfocused inner rage and direct it to a normal person, and develop a delusion and then write it down as if it were fact? 

Our runner-up, Bill-O.  He’s been busy in my absence, saying the Florida tasered student was the biggest wimp in the United States of America.  Bill-O adding, I’ve been tasered for a story and I don’t say that with any kind of bravado.  But the over reaction of being tasered is it’s not—it’s an electrical shock is what it is. 

You’ve been tasered?  OK, that explains it.  Plus, if it’s no big deal, do it again on the air. 

But our winner—oh, it’s a two-fer.  Saying on the radio Loofah Factor, quote, Friday night is a low television viewing time.  But we want you to you watch it.  So if you’re not around, DVR it.  We have to get our Friday viewership up.  All of our Factor people go out on Friday and we have to, you know, come on, DVR the show.  We do extra effort on Friday to give you a show you’ll remember. 

Trouble in Bill-O ratings heaven, perhaps?  First problem, whether you’re on national TV or a the local radio station in Chitawago (ph), New York, the ratings company really dislikes it when you ask the listeners or viewers to give you a ratings boost.  You can’t say things like, we have to get our Friday viewership up.  So the folks at AC Nielsen were furious about this when they found out about it, somehow. 

Stop looking at me like that.  But secondly, the pitch to get people to digital record his show on Friday night, it didn’t work.  Only 2,000 did.  Poor Bill.  Poor Bill O’Reilly, today’s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally tonight, as promised, a special comment on Mr.  Bush’s smear today of MoveOn.org, and in a larger context, his smear of criticism of his own political front men.  With the president behaving a little more than usual like we’d all interrupted him while he was watching his favorite cartoons on the DVR, stepped before the press conference microphone.  And after side stepping most of the substantive issues, like the Israeli raid on Syria, in condescending and infuriating fashion, produced a big wow political finish that indicates certainly that if it was not already the annual Republican witch-hunting season, it is under way. 

“I thought the ad was disgusting.  I felt the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military.  And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad.  That leads me to come to this conclusion that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org, or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military.  That was a sorry deal.” 

First off, it’s Democratic party, sir.  You keep pretending you’re not a politician, so stop using words your party made up.  Show a little respect.  Secondly, you could say this seriously after the advertising mugging of Senator Max Cleland, after the Swift Boating of John Kerry?  But most importantly, making that the last question, a plant so that there was no chance at a follow up, and so nobody could point out, as Chris Matthews did so incisively a week ago tonight, that you were the one who inappropriately interjected General Petraeus into the political dialogue of this nation in the first place, deliberately, premeditatedly and virtually without precedent. 

You Shanghaied a military man as your personal spokesman and now you’re complaining about the outcome, and then running away from the microphone?  Eleven months ago, the president’s own party, the Republican National Committee, introduced this very different kind of advertisement just 19 days before the midterm elections.  Bin Laden and Zawahiri rumored quote of six years ago about having brought suitcase bombs, all set against a ticking clock, and finally a blinding explosion and the dire announcement, these are the stakes.  Vote November 7th

That one was OK, Mr. Bush?  Terrorizing your own people in hopes of getting them to vote for your own party has never brought as much as a public comment from you.  The Republican ham-stringing of Captain Max Cleland and the lying about Lieutenant John Kerry, those met with your approval?  But a shot at General Petraeus, about whom you conveniently ignore it is you who reduced him from four-star hero to political hack, that merits this pithy, juvenile blast at the Democrats on national television? 

Your hypocrisy is so vast, sir, that if we could somehow use it to fill the ranks in Iraq, you could realize your dreams and keep us fighting there until the year 3000.  The line between the military and the civilian government is not to be crossed.  When Douglas MacArthur attempted to make policy for the United States in Korea half a century ago, President Truman moved quickly to fire him, even though Truman knew it meant his own political suicide, and deification of a general who history suggests had begun to lose his mind. 

When George McClellan tried to make policy for the Union in the Civil War, President Lincoln finally fired his chief general, even though he knew McClellan could galvanize political opposition, as he did, when McClellan ran as Lincoln’s presidential opponent in 1864, and nearly defeated our greatest president.  Even when the conduit flowed the other way, and Senator Joseph McCarthy tried to smear the Army because it would not defer the service of one of McCarthy’s staff aides, the entire civilian and Defense Department structures, after four years of fearful servitude, rose up against McCarthy and said enough, and buried him. 

The list is not endless.  But it is instructive.  Air Force General LeMay, who broke with Kennedy of the Cuban Missile Crisis and was retired, Army General Edwin Anderson Walker, who started passing out John Birch Society leaflets to his soldiers and was fired.  Marine General Smedley Butler, who revealed to Congress the makings of a plot to remove FDR as president, and for merely having been approached by the plotters was phased out of the military hierarchy. 

These careers were ended because the line between the military and the civilian is not to be crossed.  Mr. Bush, you had no right to order General Petraeus to become your front man.  And he obviously should have refused that order, and resigned rather than ruin his military career.  The upshot is, and contrary it is to the MoveOn advertisement, he betrayed himself more than he did us.  But there has been in his action a sort of reflective courage, some twisted vision of duty at a time much crisis. 

The man does not understand that serving officers cannot double as serving political ops is not so much his fault as it is your good exploitable fortune.  Mr. Bush, you have hidden behind the general’s skirts, and today you have hidden behind the skirts of the planted last question at a news conference to indicate, once again, that your presidency has been about the tilted playing field, about no rules for your party, in terms of character assassination, and changing the fabric of our nation, and no right for your opponents or critics to as much as respond. 

That, sir, is not only un-American, it is dictatorial.  And in pimping General David Petraeus, sir, in violation of everything this country has been assiduously and vigilantly against for 220 years, you have tried to blur the gleaming radioactive demarcation between the military and the political, and to portray your party as the one associated with the military and your opponents as the ones somehow antithetical to it. 

You did it again today, sir, and you need to know how history will judge that line you just crossed.  It is a line, thankfully only the first of a series of lines that makes the military political and the political military.  It is a line which history shows is always the first one crossed when a Democratic government in some other country has started down the long, slippery, suicidal slope towards a military Junta.  Get back behind that line, Mr. Bush, before some of your supporters mistake your dangerous and stupid transgression as a call to further politicize our military. 

Good night and good luck.

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

END   

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

Guest: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Alter, Ken Burns

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

The president forgets his lines. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I was—the return on success.  That’s what I said. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No comment and a mean no comment on Syria and Israel, plenty on politics at his news conference. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Mr. President, the Republicans seeking election next year, are you an asset or a liability? 

BUSH:  Strong asset. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And a final punch to the gut conveniently asked about the moveon.org ad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I thought the ad was disgusting, and I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Seriously, after the swift voting of Kerry, the sandbagging of Cleland and this—after all that, you thought a bad pun from moveon.org was disgusting? 

A special comment on the president of hypocrisy and his dangerous blurring of the military and the civilian government. 

“The War,” the extraordinary visual document about World War II, a war that truly was inevitable and was not just sold that way. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN:  It was on one of my early missions that I first knew I had killed men.  And I remember the impact it had on me when I could see my bullets just tearing into them.  As I was doing this, I was doing it knowing I had to do it, that it was my job. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  My special guest tonight, Ken Burns. 

And O.J. Simpson’s girlfriend speaks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O.J. SIMPSON’S GIRLFRIEND:  It’s a big mess.  I’ve known the man for 12 years and there’d be no reason for him to kidnap or try to rob...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And I came back for this? 

All that and more and a special comment now on “Countdown,”              

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This afternoon 16 more United States Senators, 72 in all, voted to toothlessly condemn a newspaper ad by the liberal anti-war group moveon.org.  Then voted yesterday to guarantee that American troops get to spend as much time at home between deployments as they now do on the front lines of Iraq. 

Our fifth story on the “Countdown” with their yes votes, 22 Democrats

apparently reacting like Pavlov’s dogs to a bell to the criticism voiced by

President Bush in his news conference this morning when he said he was,

quote, “disappointed more leaders in the Democratic party had not spoken

out strongly against that kind of ad,” 

And so the fallacy of who is really supporting the troop continues. 

Having already conflated the war in Iraq with the war on terrorism, Mr. Bush now throwing Democrats in Congress, and pretty much all liberals in general, onto the enemy’s list, having sent General Petraeus to Capitol Hill as his surrogate to read a report written by the White House with sourcing that was either nonexistent or demonstrably false.

The president today faulting not himself, but anyone, such as moveon.org, with the guts to call him on it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ:  In November of ‘04, we had to bring in Iraqi army and substantial coalition forces to...

BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  ... the situation.  And so I appreciate the work that both of you are doing.  I would say that...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Obviously that’s bad tape. 

The executive director of moveon.org responded to the president today.  What’s disgusting—and he termed that ad disgusting—what’s disgusting is the president has more interest in political attacks than developing an exit strategy to get our troops out of Iraq and end this awful war. 

If the war that Mr. Bush initiated is going so poorly, in his view not his fault, no surprise, but that of Saddam Hussein for—and see if you can stay with us here—having killed the Iraqi equivalents, plural, of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela before the invasion. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Part of the reason why there’s instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein’s brutal rule.  I thought an interesting comment was made, someone said to me—I heard someone say, now where is Mandela?  Well, Mandela’s dead.  Because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just in case you were only half listening, Nelson Mandela is alive and well. 

In the meantime, there are at least five things wrong with that analogy right off the bat.  It must be hard to make parallels between oppressive regimes when you can’t even remember the latest catch phrase that you coined just a week ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  In my speech I made it clear that there has to be a change in security for there to be reconciliation.  And I also said that progress will yield fewer troops.  In other words—return on success, is what I said. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush less tongue-tied but no less vague when addressing the shooting in Baghdad on Sunday involving guards from the private security contractor Blackwater USA during which at least 20 Iraqi civilians were killed. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Evidently some innocent lives were lost, and we have—you know, my thoughts and prayers go out to the families. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Here in the United States, the Bush administration making it much more difficult for middle income families to secure health insurance coverage for their children.  Democrats now pushing for a funding increase to the program known as SCHIP.  An increase of $35 million.  The White House, $5 million.  But guess who Mr. Bush claims would be denying medical benefits should he veto that legislation? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Unfortunately, instead of working with the administration to enact this funding increase for children’s health, Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know that will be vetoed.  One of the leaders has even said such a veto would be, quote, “a political victory.”   As if this weren’t irresponsible enough, Congress is waiting until the SCHIP program is just about to expire before getting a final bill passed. 

In other words, members of Congress are putting health coverage for poor children at risk so they can score political points in Washington. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What do you expect?  By his own admission this man, while still a self-proclaimed budget balancing genius, never was a Rhodes Scholar. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  You know, you need to talk to economists.  I think I got a “B” in Econ 101.  I got an “A,” however, in keeping taxes low and being fiscally responsible with the people’s money.  We’ve submitted a plan that will enable this budget to become balanced by 2012 so long as Congress learns to set priorities. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  C-minus in Econ at Yale actually, according to the transcript. 

Time to turn to our own Dana Milbank, national political correspondent for the “Washington Post,” who was at the president’s news conference this morning. 

Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “WASHINGTON POST”: 

Welcome back, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.  Good to be here.  Let’s talk first about the moveon.org condemnation at its start—or not start in the White House press briefing room today, but what the president said and then let’s discuss what happened there after. Here’s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I thought the ad was disgusting.  And I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military.  And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad.  And that leads me to come to this conclusion, that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group, like moveon.org, or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military.  That was a sorry deal.  And it’s one thing to attack me, another thing to attack somebody like General Petraeus.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  Well, it’s six ways to Sunday, but that vote in the Senate this afternoon 22 Democrats including Patrick Leahy.  Dianne Feinstein, voted with Republicans to condemn the Petraeus betray us ad.  It sounds like the president got what he wanted from that sound bite.  Was there audible buying heard at the Senate? 

MILBANK:  Well, usually T-ball is on the weekend but it came a little early.  This was the last question of the press conference.  The president looked towards the back of the room and found Bill Sammon of the “Washington Examiner”...

OLBERMANN:  Is that who that was?  Oh, God.

MILBANK:  ... and FOX News.  And so he served it up for the president and the president hit it out of the park, a very easy one for him to answer. 

Let’s celebrate this achievement.  After all these weeks, if not years of debate, everybody has now agreed to condemn a newspaper ad.  That seems to be the only policy everybody can agree on. 

OLBERMANN:  It did not bring back habeas corpus yesterday.  They did not bring back the times for the troops away from the field yesterday.  But this they did. 

The president and the less staged remarks, the Mandela-is-dead sound bite, sounds like we’re talking about McCartney is dead from the Beatles in the ‘60s.  How was that received in the room and, as I mentioned before, as analogies go, that one would be—to give the president every compliment in the world—strained. 

MILBANK:  You could actually hear the gasps in the room when he seemed to be announcing the death of the revered Mandela and then the relief, sort of the exhaling, when people realized what he was saying.  He was really echoing a line that Ambassador Crocker had said just sort of botching the way he was delivering it, saying there are no Mandelas there.  But even if there were, we have to remember Dick Cheney once called Nelson Mandela a terrorist.  I’m not sure you’d want him there anyway. 

OLBERMANN:  When you are the president of the United States and you are engaged in the Middle East in a war there with the restated purpose of making it in your own image, do you have the right to refuse to answer a question flatly, as the president did, when asked about this mysterious Israeli air raid against Syria earlier this month.  And when he was talking about that, where did his accent go? 

MILBANK:  Well, under pressure, even people who have been in a strange country for a long time revert to their native tongue.  And I think the president went from midland right there to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he was born.  Peppering David Gregory of NBC there.  And, in fact, he is the president, so he doesn’t have to answer any question. 

He was hit with this several times today, multiple attempts at this.  Clearly, there’s something sensitive going on with the next us of North Korea, Syria and Israel that he’s going to risk just stonewalling as opposing to getting into it at all. 

OLBERMANN:  And the answer to the question about Blackwater USA, he borrowed his phrasing from the Marine attack in had a Haditha, the same phrasing from the Abu Ghraib scandals before that.  First, it’s always let’s wait until the facts come out.  Then they come out and, it’s just a few bad apples or even better, most everyone on these shores has already forgotten about what happened. 

Is there a qualitative difference this time around in that without private contractors the Bush administration is going to find it very difficult to continue in Iraq even if the Democrats let him do so?  I mean, they are relied upon so heavily there. 

MILBANK:  Well, it’s all enough to make Nelson Mandela roll over in his grave.  Well, look, the troops as they withdraw will cause more reliance to be made on these private security forces, but the real tension there is going to be with the al Maliki government.  And he’s been very strong, for once, in condemning the actions of this Blackwater group. 

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post.”  Great thanks.  Good to talk with you again, sir. 

MILBANK:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  The president’s answer to the question about the Petraeus ad was not only hypocritical on the obvious level.  His party funded the hatchet jobs on John Kerry and Max Cleland, vet, and used bin Laden and Zawahiri as advertising center pieces.

But there’s another level of danger to the president’s remark, the blurring of this supposedly indelible American line between civilian politics and the military. 

Tonight my special comment on the president of hypocrisy. 

Also, why did the president start endorsing Nebraska senatorial would-be candidates in the Rose Garden?  What happened to the political lame duck here?

And an extraordinary television moment ahead for you from the man who has produced so many of them.  Ken Burns joins me on the eve of his upcoming series “The War” on PBS, and its context in the light of the war in Iraq. 

You are watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  O.J. Simpson goes home.  Ken Burns comes here to discuss his new documentary “The War.”  And a special comment on the first president who forgot you were not supposed to turn military men into political figures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Call it American political etiquette or respect for democracy and the voters.  Either way, outgoing presidents at least make an effort to appear to keep their hands off the next elections. 

Our fourth story in the “Countdown” to 2008, President Bush trashing that tradition soundly today, first, in a Rose Garden, good-bye that turned into a de facto campaign event on White House soil for outgoing Agriculture Secretary Mike Johan.  Johan is expected to compete for the Senate nomination to succeed Chuck Hagel in Nebraska.  The president virtually endorsing him by saying, “I support you and I encourage to you follow your heart.  If it’s Mike’s decision and Nebraska’s choice, he would make an outstanding member of the United States Senate.” 

At his news conference, President Bush slightly appearing slightly cockier than a president with some of the lowest poll ratings in recent history ought to be, and whose unwavering policy for an unpopular war cost his party control of Congress in the last election, he was asked about the next election. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Mr. President, for Republicans seeking election next year, are you an asset or a liability? 

BUSH:  Strong asset.  I am.

REPORTER:  Want to follow? 

BUSH:  No.  I knew I made a mistake calling on you in the first place. 

Look, candidates who go out and say the United States is vulnerable to attack and we’re going to make sure our professionals have the tools necessary to protect us, are going to do well.  Candidates who go out and say that helping these Iraqis realize the benefits of democracy are going to do well. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And you’ve just heard a sitting president absolutely certain that the key to Republican victory in 2008 is the continued use of fear of terror and more of the war in Iraq. 

Let’s turn now to political analyst, “Newsweek” senior editor Jonathan Alter.

Jonathan, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, POLITICAL ANALYST, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi, Keith.  

OLBERMANN:  Almost a year ago, this White House was insisting President Bush would not be a liability in the 2006 elections.  Is this more of his now famous alternative reality or is he putting on a brave face here? 

ALTER:  Their basic message is going to be the only thing we have to use is fear itself.  He signaled what the 2008 campaign is all about from the Republican side. 

Although I think the more involved he is in this campaign, the better news it is for Democrats.  The guy is almost toxic in American politics right now if you look at his poll numbers.  So it’s understandable why Republicans wouldn’t be running away from him yet, because in these Republican primaries there’s still a lot of Bush supporters who are going to go to the polls.

But once the general election campaign starts next year, I think you’re going to see a lot of Republicans putting a lot of distance between themselves and President Bush. 

I don’t think they’re going to be too happy about him showing up at their convention.  And you’re going to see them fleeing.  They already are on some key votes.  For instance, on Jim Webb’s vote—on the Webb bill to allow the troops to come home sooner, you saw a number of Republicans who were up for re-election last year voting with the Democrats. 

OLBERMANN:  But as they flee, are they not taking exactly what he said with them?  In other words, are they not hating the man but loving his fear platform? 

ALTER:  Yes.  They’re going to go to the well on that.  But he’s also not doing them any favors on some other issues.  For instance, the one that he raised today, the SCHIP program, children’s health, this is a veto that could be very damaging to those Republicans who vote to sustain his veto. 

Remember, this is not just touchy-feely liberals who want children’s health.  This is business in districts all across the country, state government, a lot of Republicans at the state and local level, who want this to go through.  It’s the equivalent of about less than six months in Iraq in terms of cost to take a real serious load off of business in insuring more children. 

OLBERMANN:  Last night, Jon, at a fundraiser in New York, Senator Clinton took out a light saber to Vice President Cheney.  She was referring to the vice doing some arm twisting to make sure Senate Republicans did not support that bill to limit the troop deployments.   And this was pretty unfettered language here.  Let’s listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:                Vice President Cheney came up to see the Republicans yesterday.  You can always tell when the Republicans are restless because the vice president’s motorcade pulls into the capitol and Darth Vader emerges. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now what explains that, other than it’s probably true? 

ALTER:  It was red meat for Democrats.  And she’s getting a lot more at ease with seeming like she can kind of negotiate the parts of personality politics that she used to be more uncomfortable with.  And I think this is one explanation for why she’s done very well this summer. 

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. 

Great.  Thanks for coming in, John. 

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That ad, the president for whose party this would not have made the cut in its search to blind side John Kerry or Max Cleland, veterans both, actually complains about that ad.  Special comment ahead. 

And Bud Light.  Now the new easy opening flip-top container.  Next on

“Countdown,” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date a century ago, at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, rookie pitcher Nick Maddux, in his third Major League start, threw a no-hit game to Brooklyn.  Significant at the time because it was the first no-hitter thrown by any Pittsburgh pitcher ever.  Significant since because it is still the most recent complete game no-hitter thrown by a Pirates pitcher in Pittsburgh.  Just a century ago. 

On that note let’s play “Oddball.” 

Also, possibly, the last win. 

We begin in Nashville, Tennessee, where we meet tonight’s “Oddball’s” real man of genius.  Today, we salute you, Mr. I flipped a tractor-trailer full of Bud Light.  With the driving skill of a drunken ship you overturned your 18-wheeler carrying cold Bud Light and you walked away with minor scratches.  Yes, several tallboys made the ultimate sacrifice on the black top, but you lived to hold another beer.  Next time you’re in the New York area, stop by old Keith’s place and we’ll split a 12 pack, because tonight “Oddball” salutes you, Mr. I flipped a tractor-trailer full of Bud Lights, the real man of genius. 

Okay, that happened about a week ago, but I was sick, all right? 

In Carbondale, Pennsylvania, this naked guy is trying to stick up a mini mart, which to those who have seen the surveillance, the term mini mart seems entirely appropriate.  24-year-old Karl Wagner—Wagner—told police he decided to strip down and knock over the store because he was bored.  The clerk thwarted the robbery when she refused to fork over any cash.  Not like he had a place to put it.  But that’s not a problem any more.  Wagner was arrested soon after the failed heist and he now has a wardrobe full of cod pieces to wear in the big house. 

Finally, to Mexico City and the debut of young Rafael Mirabel, the 11-year-old child prodigy of Mexican bullfighting.  As you can see in the tape of the first fight, he’s terrible.  Actually, Mirabel was only knocked down by the smaller bull once.  He sprang back to his feet and resumed matadoring.  Watch your appendix there, Rafael.  The future is bright for the youngster.  He’s signed to do 20 more shows and will make a guest appearance to slaughter cow on CBS’s hit reality show “Kid Nation.”  I made that part up.        

When you see it, you will say it is one of the best programs you have ever seen on television.  And if you did not before, you will understand “The War,” the Second World War.  Ken Burns joins me. 

And there’s some crap involving O.J. Simpson, but that broke out while I was away, so I guess we’ll mention it briefly. 

These stories ahead.

But first, we’re souping up the list of goofballs and good guys here. 

“Countdown’s” top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best surgeon, Dr. Fred Kimmelstiel of New York, who could not have done a better job before, during, or after my appendectomy last week.  Thanks, Doc.  Nice hands. 

Number two, best gag, Columnist Argus Hamilton, of the Comedy Store, who writes in his syndicated piece today, quote, NBC news host Keith Olbermann was hospitalized in New York on Friday after his appendix ruptured.  He’s a savage critic of the war.  President Bush told reporters he thinks the appendix should have stayed in there and fought for another six months. 

And number one, best suspect, the unnamed driver stopped by police in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, said that to produce his license he would have to dig his wallet out from under the spandex.  Charged with driving without headlights while under the influence, while on probation, with marijuana in the car, and while dressed as Batgirl.  Now this story just begs for a follow-up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  General David Petraeus, in his September 11th Senate testimony on the progress of President Bush’s surge in Iraq, called the soldiers fighting that war, quote, the new greatest generation. Well, there’s no question that the soldiers on the ground in Iraq are equal to the best the U.S. has ever turned out.  They are but a fraction of an entire generation, which is to say that while they and their families are sacrificing for the good of our country, the entire generation, the large majority of this generation, is not. 

In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Iraq plays no part in what is undoubtedly the finest television documentary series of the last decade or more.  But for “The War” by Ken Burns, it is inevitably backdrop.  With or without that context, the quality of the work cannot be overstated.  By narrowing the focus, Ken Burns has permitted us to see the big picture the way Americans saw it 65 years ago as it happened, the story of the most cataclysmic event in the history of the free world, over seven episodes, using the experiences of the people of just four American communities, documenting both the battle stories of the boys fighting overseas and the folks at home who suffered right along with them. 

Six years in the making, it premiers on PBS this Sunday.  It’s author, Mr. Burns, joins me in a moment.  First the preview. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM HYNES, VETERAN:  I don’t think there is such a thing as good war.  There are sometimes necessary wars.  I never questioned the necessity of that war and I still do not question it.  It was something that had to be done. 

PAUL FUSSELL, INFANTRY VETERAN:  The real war involves getting down there and killing people and being killed yourself or just barely escaping.  It gives you attitudes about life and death that are unobtainable anywhere else. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A great pleasure now to be joined by the producer of “The War” and of “The Civil War,” “Jazz,” “The Brooklyn Bridge,” and so many others, Ken Burns.  Delighted we can finally visit, my friend. 

KEN BURNS, PBS PRODUCER:  Thank you.  Glad you’re back. 

OLBERMANN:  I only read this the other day and I was amazed by it.  I’m amazed at the story of what prompted you to do this series.  It was provoked by a high school history survey you saw? 

BURNS:  Yes.  First I heard that we’re losing 1,000 veterans a day in the United States, and then I learned too many of our graduating high school seniors think we fought with the Germans against the Russians in the Second World War and this sort of double hemorrhaging compelled us to sort of throw off an early conceit, born of the suffering we experienced in the “Civil War” series to not go to war again.  But we had to when we heard that. 

We just couldn’t let these folks pass away knowing that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren had no idea what went on when they were 17, 18, 19 years old, a time when most of us had the luxury of inattention and narcissistic self-involvement.  They were helping to save the world. 

OLBERMANN:  As ever, the stories are amazing.  The footage is amazing.  The juxtaposition of all that is amazing, but the genius of your work, I’ve always thought, lies in the people telling the stories, who were the most amazing still.  You have begun this series with a veteran named Glen Frasier (ph), who talks of talking his captors out of decapitating him while he was in a POW camp under the Japanese.  There was Sam Hynes, who we heard in that clip there, who speaks like a poet, and Quentin Annonsin (ph) from Lavern, Minnesota, who speaks like the relative you want, and Katherine Phillips (ph) of Mobile, who seems like every smart, wise cracking southern relative you ever had or wish you did.  Where do you consistently find these people? 

BURN:  It’s just, Keith, the luxury of time.  We chose four geographically distributed towns, Waterbury, Connecticut, Mobile, Alabama, Sacramento, California, and Lavern, Minnesota.  We went there and spent years.  We got to know the people.  We talked to more than 600 people, finding, weeding out those who were too reticent to talk, couldn’t yet talk, maybe were too practiced in their talk, to find those incredibly humble, amazing people who had real stories to tell. 

We decided we weren’t going to have any Shelby (ph) foots.  If you weren’t in this war or waiting anxiously for someone to come back from the war, you’re not in our film.  It permitted us to clear out all the debris that calcifies around the Second World War studies, you know, that it’s the good war, that it’s all context and no intimacy, or if it’s intimate, there’s no context. 

We are not interested in celebrity generals and politicians, or strategy and tactics, or armaments and weaponry, or all things Nazi.  We’re interested in what so-called ordinary human beings did.  And so we just listened for them.  And we went in there not with, can you get us from point A to point B on page 23 of episode two, but tell us what you did.  How did you feel?  What was it like to be in battle? 

Because, as we know from Iraq, as we know from the Peloponesian Wars, the experience of wars is essentially the same; I was scared, I was bored, I was hot, I was cold.  My officers didn’t know what they were doing.  I didn’t get the right equipment.  I saw bad things.  I did bad things.  I lost good friends.  That’s been the same since the beginning of human history and it will be, I’m sorry to say, the same until human beings are no more. 

OLBERMANN:  But there are, of course, context to every war and differences between them that are striking and the little preview segment that we showed begins with that issue.  And I guess Sam Hynes answers your question about certainty, that the war was just and it was necessary.  There is a war now.  The nation seems divided into those who would use those same words and those who absolutely believe those words are inappropriate.  What is the value, do you think, to current society of seeing the certainty of World War II during the time in Iraq? 

BURNS:  That’s the main question, is it not?  We’re not going to get the past back.  And we don’t study the past just for its own sake.  History is the set of questions we in the present ask of the past.  And so it is informed by our own anxieties, our own dreads, our wishes, our hopes and dreams.  And though this film was begun before 9/11, though Sam Hynes uttered those words before we invaded Iraq, this film resonates, of course, with all of the differences between those same wars, as well as the similarities. 

We now have a separate military class that suffers its losses apart and alone from the rest of us.  There wasn’t a family on any street in any town in America during the Second World War that wasn’t actively involved in this effort.  We knew what was going on and we understood a fundamental truth, that in shared sacrifice, we were going to make ourselves richer, not just spiritually and communally richer, but financially, materially richer. 

Today we’re all independent free agents.  We were asked nothing at 9/11, except to go shopping.  And so we have squandered the opportunity to participate this.  We say this is a huge struggle for the very survival of our civilization, and yet nobody’s asked to do anything here.  We are six years out from the 9/11.  We could be free of a dependency on foreign oil.  We could have solved an infrastructure problem.  Our bridges would be standing.  Our levees would still hold. 

I think there’s a lot to learn from the Second World War, even though in this film we weren’t interested in scoring any points.  We didn’t have a political bone in our body.  We just wished merely to bear witness to the extraordinary service that these men and women gave so long ago. 

OLBERMANN:  We are asked to shut up and agree now, and one of the things—when we’re asked to do that, the Second World War is invariably invoked, in terms of censorship, and there was no negative reporting.  Straighten us out about this, as I know you do in the series. 

BURNS:  Well, you know, it does come back to us that there was censorship and there was a lot of censorship.  Guys weren’t allowed to reflect their position in their letters.  They couldn’t keep diaries or journals.  In the beginning, the news was carefully censored.  We didn’t know until after the war the exact toll at Pearl Harbor, the thing that started it. 

But along the way, we began to understand that a Democratic people had to know what was going on.  They had to know the sacrifices their young men were making, and why we at home were making those sacrifices.  And so we began in ‘43 to show pictures of American dead.  We began to show later on that same year motion picture footage, graphic motion picture footage, in a film created by the United States government, to tell its people what its young men were going through, and the idea that it would increase enlistment didn’t happen.  But it sure brought people to buy a lot more war bonds. 

We saw caskets coming back.  Today, in order to find out a sense of what the real cost of war is, you sort of feel like a pornographer on the Internet.  You have to search out these desperate sites, because we do not have a media in this country that is willing to say this is what it looks like. 

OLBERMANN:  Ken Burns, the creative genius behind “The War,” which debuts on PBS this Sunday night.  I’ve seen it.  It is—it is extraordinary, and it requires you to pay attention, which good television, good entertainment or good information does.  And it is worth the effort.  Congratulations, Ken.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

BURNS:  Thank you so much, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Would that congratulations were in order for the president’s news conference today.  In fact, how after he blasted Democrats on the MoveOn.org ad, he became the president of hypocrisy.  Special comment ahead. 

And this guy—oh, for goodness sakes.  I thought I had him removed last Friday.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, Keeping Tabs. 

And the only good thing about the last week, I was not here for O.J.  Simpson’s latest fiasco.  Let’s see here, memorabilia in a Las Vegas hotel room; somebody had a gun; lots of cursing; arrested in jail; ten felony charges; lost the smirk; released on bail.  OK, got it. 

And now Mr. Simpson is back home.  U.S. Airways flight from Las Vegas landed in Ft. Lauderdale just after midnight.  O.J. Simpson uncharacteristically had nothing to say, though his girlfriend Christine Prody said he was fine.  More on her presently.  By the way, the in-flight movie on the Simpson’s journey, “Oceans 13” about a heist in Las Vegas.  The caper not nearly as pedestrian as the one he was allegedly involved. 

Meantime, our correspondent, Kerry Sanders, was outside Simpson’s home in Miami today doing a live report when he scored an unplanned exclusive. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  You know what, we have a moment.  Let’s just see if we can find out if it is O.J. Simpson.  I will walk over here and see. 

Hi, there.  I’m from NBC News.  I’m curious—Christine?  Christie. 

Is O.J. home or just back in Florida? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He’s back in Florida. 

SANDERS:  He’s back in Florida.  OK. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Everything is fine.  It’s a big mess.  I’ve known the man for 12 years and there would be no reason for him to kidnap or try to rob—stealing from him for the last 10 years.  It’s a big misunderstanding.  But I’ve got to go to work. 

SANDERS:  OK, thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Bye-bye now.  Nothing exclusive on “The View,” since the newly configured panel on that show is still figuring out the roundness or flatness of the earth.  Apparently they all now agree that under no circumstances could Christopher Columbus have sailed right off the edge.  You may recall that “The View’s” new co-host, Sherry Shepherd, was uncertain, to put it kindly. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, “THE VIEW”:  Is the world flat? 

SHERRY SHEPHERD, “THE VIEW”:  Is the world flat? 

GOLDBERG:  Yes. 

SHEPHERD:  I don’t know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But Miss Shepherd, who apparently used to be on “Suddenly Susan,” must have consulted the great scientific minds of our nation, or a fifth grader or maybe even a two-year-old.  Yesterday she said she knew the earth was round and, in fact, had known that all along. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEPHERD:  I was so nervous.  All I heard was how many triglicerides (ph) does it take to make Pluto when the—so when they asked, I don’t know.  And, you know, you have one of those, you know, senior brain poopy moments. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president whines about the MoveOn.org ad, the same president who injected General Petraeus into a political realm in which he does not belong, the same president whose party cheap shotted Max Cleland and John Kerry, veterans and dozens more.  My special comment next. 

First time for COUNTDOWN’s worst persons in the world.  The bronze to Michelle Malkin, the columnist in her mind only, attacking Sally Field for saying mothers should be peacemakers, claiming motherhood, quote, should make us more violent.  She claims Miss Fields is, quote, the mom who buys her teenager beer, condoms, and a hotel room on prom night, because she’d rather give in than assert parental authority and do battle.

Any proof of that?  Evidence?  Gossip?  Is that just your usual routine?  Tap your unfocused inner rage and direct it to a normal person, and develop a delusion and then write it down as if it were fact? 

Our runner-up, Bill-O.  He’s been busy in my absence, saying the Florida tasered student was the biggest wimp in the United States of America.  Bill-O adding, I’ve been tasered for a story and I don’t say that with any kind of bravado.  But the over reaction of being tasered is it’s not—it’s an electrical shock is what it is. 

You’ve been tasered?  OK, that explains it.  Plus, if it’s no big deal, do it again on the air. 

But our winner—oh, it’s a two-fer.  Saying on the radio Loofah Factor, quote, Friday night is a low television viewing time.  But we want you to you watch it.  So if you’re not around, DVR it.  We have to get our Friday viewership up.  All of our Factor people go out on Friday and we have to, you know, come on, DVR the show.  We do extra effort on Friday to give you a show you’ll remember. 

Trouble in Bill-O ratings heaven, perhaps?  First problem, whether you’re on national TV or a the local radio station in Chitawago (ph), New York, the ratings company really dislikes it when you ask the listeners or viewers to give you a ratings boost.  You can’t say things like, we have to get our Friday viewership up.  So the folks at AC Nielsen were furious about this when they found out about it, somehow. 

Stop looking at me like that.  But secondly, the pitch to get people to digital record his show on Friday night, it didn’t work.  Only 2,000 did.  Poor Bill.  Poor Bill O’Reilly, today’s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally tonight, as promised, a special comment on Mr.  Bush’s smear today of MoveOn.org, and in a larger context, his smear of criticism of his own political front men.  With the president behaving a little more than usual like we’d all interrupted him while he was watching his favorite cartoons on the DVR, stepped before the press conference microphone.  And after side stepping most of the substantive issues, like the Israeli raid on Syria, in condescending and infuriating fashion, produced a big wow political finish that indicates certainly that if it was not already the annual Republican witch-hunting season, it is under way. 

“I thought the ad was disgusting.  I felt the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military.  And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad.  That leads me to come to this conclusion that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org, or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military.  That was a sorry deal.” 

First off, it’s Democratic party, sir.  You keep pretending you’re not a politician, so stop using words your party made up.  Show a little respect.  Secondly, you could say this seriously after the advertising mugging of Senator Max Cleland, after the Swift Boating of John Kerry?  But most importantly, making that the last question, a plant so that there was no chance at a follow up, and so nobody could point out, as Chris Matthews did so incisively a week ago tonight, that you were the one who inappropriately interjected General Petraeus into the political dialogue of this nation in the first place, deliberately, premeditatedly and virtually without precedent. 

You Shanghaied a military man as your personal spokesman and now you’re complaining about the outcome, and then running away from the microphone?  Eleven months ago, the president’s own party, the Republican National Committee, introduced this very different kind of advertisement just 19 days before the midterm elections.  Bin Laden and Zawahiri rumored quote of six years ago about having brought suitcase bombs, all set against a ticking clock, and finally a blinding explosion and the dire announcement, these are the stakes.  Vote November 7th

That one was OK, Mr. Bush?  Terrorizing your own people in hopes of getting them to vote for your own party has never brought as much as a public comment from you.  The Republican ham-stringing of Captain Max Cleland and the lying about Lieutenant John Kerry, those met with your approval?  But a shot at General Petraeus, about whom you conveniently ignore it is you who reduced him from four-star hero to political hack, that merits this pithy, juvenile blast at the Democrats on national television? 

Your hypocrisy is so vast, sir, that if we could somehow use it to fill the ranks in Iraq, you could realize your dreams and keep us fighting there until the year 3000.  The line between the military and the civilian government is not to be crossed.  When Douglas MacArthur attempted to make policy for the United States in Korea half a century ago, President Truman moved quickly to fire him, even though Truman knew it meant his own political suicide, and deification of a general who history suggests had begun to lose his mind. 

When George McClellan tried to make policy for the Union in the Civil War, President Lincoln finally fired his chief general, even though he knew McClellan could galvanize political opposition, as he did, when McClellan ran as Lincoln’s presidential opponent in 1864, and nearly defeated our greatest president.  Even when the conduit flowed the other way, and Senator Joseph McCarthy tried to smear the Army because it would not defer the service of one of McCarthy’s staff aides, the entire civilian and Defense Department structures, after four years of fearful servitude, rose up against McCarthy and said enough, and buried him. 

The list is not endless.  But it is instructive.  Air Force General LeMay, who broke with Kennedy of the Cuban Missile Crisis and was retired, Army General Edwin Anderson Walker, who started passing out John Birch Society leaflets to his soldiers and was fired.  Marine General Smedley Butler, who revealed to Congress the makings of a plot to remove FDR as president, and for merely having been approached by the plotters was phased out of the military hierarchy. 

These careers were ended because the line between the military and the civilian is not to be crossed.  Mr. Bush, you had no right to order General Petraeus to become your front man.  And he obviously should have refused that order, and resigned rather than ruin his military career.  The upshot is, and contrary it is to the MoveOn advertisement, he betrayed himself more than he did us.  But there has been in his action a sort of reflective courage, some twisted vision of duty at a time much crisis. 

The man does not understand that serving officers cannot double as serving political ops is not so much his fault as it is your good exploitable fortune.  Mr. Bush, you have hidden behind the general’s skirts, and today you have hidden behind the skirts of the planted last question at a news conference to indicate, once again, that your presidency has been about the tilted playing field, about no rules for your party, in terms of character assassination, and changing the fabric of our nation, and no right for your opponents or critics to as much as respond. 

That, sir, is not only un-American, it is dictatorial.  And in pimping General David Petraeus, sir, in violation of everything this country has been assiduously and vigilantly against for 220 years, you have tried to blur the gleaming radioactive demarcation between the military and the political, and to portray your party as the one associated with the military and your opponents as the ones somehow antithetical to it. 

You did it again today, sir, and you need to know how history will judge that line you just crossed.  It is a line, thankfully only the first of a series of lines that makes the military political and the political military.  It is a line which history shows is always the first one crossed when a Democratic government in some other country has started down the long, slippery, suicidal slope towards a military Junta.  Get back behind that line, Mr. Bush, before some of your supporters mistake your dangerous and stupid transgression as a call to further politicize our military. 

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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