updated 9/24/2007 11:35:45 AM ET 2007-09-24T15:35:45

Guests: Jon Soltz, Jeremy Scahill, Eugene Robinson, Marc Ecko

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

The Levin-Reid Amendment to bring most of the troops home within nine months fails in a 47-47 tie. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D), MICHIGAN:  The question is where do we go from here? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Where the Republicans go is not toward saving as many Americans as possible in Iraq, not wrapping up the loathsome war, but per Congressman John -- 1,000 more dead in Iraq is a small price to pay—

Boehner, drooling for some more votes on the moveon ad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We‘re pleased with the vote this week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, nobody has been denounced Kremlin-style in more than 24 hours. 

Complaining about the moveon ad, you do a bigger service by complaining about the Head On ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TV ANNOUNCER:  Head On, applied directly to the forehead.  Head On, applied directly to the forehead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In Iraq, the crisis, not of confidence, but of contractors.  Blackwater USA back into the field after the killings.  And our guest?  A man willing to call that company‘s people mercenaries. 

The Republicans‘ direct little race secret.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My advice to whoever will be our nominee is to reach out to the African-American community. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So why are all of them refusing to attend a black-focused debate?  Even Newt Gingrich says we are in this cycle where Republicans don‘t talk to minority groups. 

What to do with the Barry Bonds 756th homerun baseball.  To the Hall of Fame?  To the Hall of Fame with a giant asterisk burned into it?  Launched into outer space perhaps?  The new owner is taking a vote and joining us here. 

And joining the mayor on a flight from New York to D.C., and not a moment too soon.  To the White House, Abe, stat.

All that and more now on “Countdown.” 

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening from New York.  The city of Los Angeles could manage to prosecute Britney Spears for hit-and-run driving.  Details ahead.

And the city of San Francisco could manage to get rid of Barry Bonds, details ahead.

But not only can the Democrats get the Levin-Reid Amendment past a Republican filibuster threat, they are moving backwards. 

Our fifth story on the “Countdown,” after insufficient 52-47 margin in July, Majority Leader Reid retaliated by temporarily set aside the appropriations bill, vowing to delay it until the Republicans agreed to refrain from stalemating Iraq War legislation. 

Yet today in the Senate, another vote on Levin-Reid, which would require the removal of most American forces from Iraq within nine months, it was blocked by the Republicans.  The only difference, fewer Democrats voted for it this time. 

Maybe we could find the guy that found an exit strategy from Barry Bonds.

It‘s good to be the king or, if you prefer, the war-time president.  The only thing being debated on Capitol Hill, not the president‘s Iraq war policy, but what the Democratic leadership is doing.  As mentioned, Levin-Reid blocked in a 47-47 all tie.  A loss of five votes since July.  Well shy of the 60 vote threshold required to break a filibuster.  The erosion of votes cannot have come on the strength of the GOP arguments.  Before today‘s vote, South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham saying it was a dangerous precedent for Congress to undermine a strategy, quote, “that has proven to be success.” 

Heretofore, even the most delusional of war apologist has resisted the word proven.

After today‘s vote, Senator Levin vowed to keep trying. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEVIN:  The president has called for patience year after year after year.  Four and a half years later, it‘s still a message of patience.  It‘s still open ended.  Because all we‘re doing in March is coming back and taking another look.  You have to have a timetable.  And if it‘s not in law, then at least it ought to be a goal.  And that‘s our goal.  And we‘re not going to be discouraged. 

There‘s no better use of the Senate‘s time than to try to change direction in Iraq. 

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN:  The motivations behind this amendment.  A lot of reasons people voted for it.  There‘s a lot of reasons people...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  By the obstructionist Republicans, the Webb Amendment, that would guaranteed troops as much time home between deployments as they are spending on the front lines in Iraq.  And if you think the White House is pleased, by the way, events have unfolded on Capitol Hill this week.  That would be a gimme. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERINO:  We are pleased with the vote this week, especially in regards to the question with regard to the Webb Amendment.  Secretary Gates made it very clear that amendment would have put our troops in harms way and would have been a bureaucratic nightmare for the Defense Department. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re not in harms way now.

Time to call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”:  Good to

be with you again. 

OLBERMANN:  For a lame duck administration, does it seem like the White House couldn‘t have done a better job if it scripted the Senate debate of the Iraq war strategy this week?  Has the president or Pentagon had to concede anything, to say nothing of the high moral ground? 

WOLFFE:  Well, they are pleased.  And I was speaking to a couple of recently departed White House officials and they said, look, going back a few months, not even the most optimistic of people, not each Karl Rove, thought they would be in as good a position today as they are.  Democrats have played their hands and it hasn‘t worked.  And the president, terms of concessions, has given up 5,000 troops to be home by Christmas, which actually isn‘t a concession at all it is a reduce ruse so he can say I‘m bringing the troops home. 

So this has not played out well for Democrats.  And that‘s a huge understatement.

For the White House can kick it forward to the next six months, which means there will a Republican and a Democratic nominee?  That means they got home scott-free on this one. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there a Democratic conference of some sort in the offing to discuss a new strategy?  I mean, at least forcing the Republicans to filibuster in the old-fashioned way?  Where you are in a situation where Democrats look ineffectual in this.  You would conceivably make the Republicans look obstructionist. 

WOLFFE:  They tried that in July.  They rolled out the cots.  There was this big hoopla about it.  It didn‘t work.  The problem here is what is the strategy for Democrats?  They can try and try again.  It won‘t work, their numbers going in the wrong direction. 

The most hopeful strategy they had was Jim Webb‘s amendment.  And they came a handful of votes short of overcoming the filibuster there. 

You know what‘s interesting about that amendment is that the reason Republicans voted for it was because they were afraid of, again, this Karl Rove strategy.  They don‘t wanted ads taped against them saying they voted against troops having the rest they deserve. 

Democrats have to start thinking like Republicans here.  If they can‘t win, start positioning themselves for the next election. 

OLBERMANN:  And, of course, positioning and advertising, the other subtext of this week, asked you if the House will pursue its own measure condemning moveon.org.  The speaker‘s spokesman said the House will put its full attention on providing health care to children, promoting energy independence, improve America‘s security, reducing global warming and responsibly redeploying U.S. forces in Iraq. 

Does it sound like at least out of this week Speaker Pelosi learned something of Senator Reid‘s mistakes of this week?  That agenda seems that‘s exactly what Democratic voters have been expecting when they sent Democrats back to power last November? 

WOLFFE:  I think Nancy Pelosi learned something from watching Tom DeLay all those years.  Something about the discipline you need to run the House.  And she‘s proven pretty effective in that way. 

Think about it.  When was the last time Republicans, when they controlled Congress, voted on an amendment condemning, say, the NRA or against any Christian conservative group?  They wouldn‘t have allowed the votes to go ahead. 

It‘s puzzling while Harry Reid allowed that to happen.  And, of course, 70 votes for that amendment.  This didn‘t play out to the Democrats‘ advantage. 

OLBERMANN:  No vote against the Swift Boat veterans for whatever they were for. 

Last point.  We learned today $6 billion in military contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait now being arrest investigated for criminal conduct, which was double the amount previously displaced by the Pentagon.  Do we file this under the list of the things Senate could be debating instead of the Petraeus or Betray Us ad? 

WOLFFE:  It‘s more than just a possible alternative.  These numbers are huge.  They make the Clinton years look pail and insignificant. 

What you have is a golden opportunity for Democrats to say we‘re the party of fiscal responsibility.  Let‘s investigate the hell out of it.  They really ought to take that up. 

OLBERMANN:  Fiscal responsibility is only half of it.  It‘s the criminal responsibility that‘s the other part. 

Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek.”  Great thanks and have a great weekend, sir.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Even though Senator Levin said today that there is no better use of the Senate‘s time than to try to change direction in Iraq, he devoted some of his time yesterday voting to condemning that moveon.org ad for the General Petraeus or General Betray Us line, one of 22 Democrats to have done so. 

In the Senate TV radio gallery this morning, Senator Levin defended that vote. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEVIN:  Whether they are moveon ads or Swift Boat ads or attacking ads of Max Cleland, including putting a picture on bin Laden next to Max Cleland, all those ads are disgraceful.  They have no place.  They are attacking men who have given everything and put everything on the line for their country.  All three of those ads did.  And there‘s no reason to single out one or the other them.  They are all disgraceful.  And that was the amendment I voted for.  And I think it was the right vote. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Not what it said, Senator.  In any event, let‘s bring in John Soltz, the Army captain who served in Iraq in 2003 and now chairman of votevets.org. 

Jon, as always, thank you for your time, sir. 

JON SOLTZ, CHAIRMAN, VOTEVETS.ORG:  Thanks for having me, sir.

OLBERMANN:  Do you think Senator Levin confused libel and criticism here, whether General Petraeus might be putting his service to the White House ahead of his service to the troops?  What that ad seemed to be trying to point out, what has sort of become overwhelmed, crush in the manufactured outrage in the echo chamber on the lunatic right-wing fringe, is that every independent report of the on the ground situation shows the surge has failed.  It directly refuted what the general testified under oath to Congress.  How is pointing that out worthy of a Senate vote condemning it? 

SOLTZ:  Well, it‘s obviously not worthy of a Senate vote.  I know Max Cleland very well.  He‘s still devastated from the attacks against them.  I know the people of moveon.  They‘re good people.  I would have never have used that language. 

But the intent of the ad was to bring up the issues about the surge.  The secretary of defense wasn‘t there to testify.  The CENTCOM commander, who controls the war in Afghanistan, Admiral Fallon has tremendous problems, as we know, with General Petraeus.  And so General Petraeus has been used politically in a sense, and will look like Colin Powell did in history. 

I think it‘s a shame he was used that way.  But it‘s important to look at the facts of the tactics on the ground in Iraq.  Although we control the streets, because our troops are great, it hasn‘t led to the political success.  I think that was what the ad was really trying to get at.  And some of the facts have been ignored because of the hoopla around the ad. 

As for the censure, listen, the Republicans have a bad record of attacking John McCain.  George Bush, in 2000, said John McCain was a bad POW.  I‘m not quite sure how you can be that way.  They may have overstepped their bounds on this.  We have freedom of speech, to attack John McCain, to attack John Kerry, to attack Max Cleland.  It‘s ridiculous every time. 

OLBERMANN:  Is anybody still supporting the troops still instead of just posturing?  Have they become literal in addition to having been figurative pieces on some sort of chess board?  Are they basically meat puppets to move around in Iraq? 

SOLTZ:  It‘s tough.  This week, we sent 50 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans to lobby Congress.  We‘ll talk about the Webb-Hagel Bill, a bill that would have guaranteed our soldiers 15 to 20 months at home if they spent that time at war.  What we have to deal with is a censure vote.  It‘s irrelevant to what‘s going on in Iraq.  It was a very hard week for me.  With all of my weeks in politics this is the hardest one.  We‘ve got to get back to talking about bills, like the Webb-Hagel Bill, which will protect our troops in refocus this war against al Qaeda. 

OLBERMANN:  Turning back to what I asked Richard Wolffe earlier in the segment, why are Democrats going to the edge and then holding back on there when they could at least create the spectacle of some form of—as Richard pointed out --  the ops coming in on the Senate floor.  Why not really just say we‘re going to stand here and give you a scene out of “Mr. Smith Comes to Washington?” 

SOLTZ:  I‘m not quite sure—I actually think Harry Reid has done a really great job.  The problem, if we look back, there should have been more emphasis from Democratic groups and Democratic leadership on the Webb-Hagel bill.  This is the one bill that had a chance to pass.  They had 56 votes.

I think the person who is not putting pressure here is Mr. McConnell.  I think he‘s afraid of the White House.  The reason things aren‘t happening is because he upholding the 60 vote threshold. 

So Harry Reid is in a tough spot and has done tremendous work.  He loses Joe Lieberman.  He sides with the Republican Party.  He has a 49-49 split.  He just got Tim Johnson back.  He‘s in a difficult position.  He lost a member of his own caucus, Chris Dodd from Connecticut, because he didn‘t think the language went far enough. 

If he comes to the middle and creates a bill that incorporates moderate Republicans for a presidential veto, he risks losing the more progressive base.  Reid is in a very difficult position and we‘ll see a showdown move towards ‘08 and get away from legislation and get more into elections. 

OLBERMANN:  John Soltz, chairman of votesvet.org.  Great thanks.  And my apologies to Capra fans.  It‘s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”  Thanks, John.  Have a good weekend. 

SOLTZ:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  The Blackwater shootout in Iraq.  A third investigation starting tonight.  The contractors, described by our next guest as mercenaries, hit the Iraqi streets again today. 

And it was scandalous whether Democrats would not debate on FOX.  What is it when Republicans won‘t debate at black or Hispanic forums?  You know what the one-word answer is. 

You‘re watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  They are immune from Iraqi prosecution and do not answer to the U.S. military.  They are private American security forces in Iraq who have lately been likened to a lawless class of citizens. 

In our fourth story on the “Countdown,” Blackwater resumes its protection of diplomats, four days after its guards allegedly killed 11 civilians, including a woman and child.  As for that immunity from Iraqi prosecution that may not resumed.  The interior ministry has drafted legislation to give its government the power to prosecute.  American contractors, in the wake of Sunday‘s slaughter at Baghdad‘s Nishuer (ph) Square, those American convoy run under the protection of Blackwater resumed today after consultations with the Iraqi government. 

The top aide to Prime Minister al Maliki admitted it would be difficult to expel Blackwater and private contractors, as had been threatened earlier this week. 

Meantime, Secretary of State Rice has today ordered a full review of private security contractors guarding U.S. diplomats in Iraq, bringing to three the number of U.S. or joint U.S.-Iraqi investigations of Sunday‘s shootings.

Blackwater USA maintains that its State Department convoy had responded to an armed attack. 

But an Iraqi government report based on eyewitness accounts said American security guards fired first and indiscriminately after somebody heard a car bomb detonating a mile away. 

Today a Senate Policy Committee hearing began its own long task of trying to sort through this mess. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD VANCE, PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTOR:  You‘ll find it varies, company to company.  Some, I would say, obey these rules of engagement to the T.  Some, such as the last company that I worked for, had no rules of engagement whatsoever.  There was no oversight.  You do not have to report anything adverse that happened on the road. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to an investigation reporter for “The Nation” magazine Michael Hirsh, author of “Blackwater on the Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Jeremy Scahill.”

Mr. Scahill, Thank you for your time tonight.  

JEREMY SCAHILL, INVESTIGATIVE REPORT, “THE NATION” & AUTHOR:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You were also one of the panelists at that Senate policy hearing today.  Start with a minute of Blackwater 101.  How vast are these private security forces in Iraq?  How did we become so reliant upon them?  And is it just me that thinks it‘s beginning sound like “Lord of the Flies” out there? 

SCAHILL:  Or the Wild West.  The Bush administration failed to build the coalition of willing nations, so instead it builds a coalition of billing corporations.  In Iraq, there are 180,000 so-called private contractors operating alongside 170,000 U.S. troops.  The military is the junior partner in the coalition that‘s occupying Iraq.  And of these 180,000 contractors, perhaps the most prominent and dangerous are the heavily armed mercenaries of Blackwater USA. 

OLBERMANN:  So it also looks like these people, in particular, Blackwater, are tied to the policy, the Iraq policy of President Bush, but also the president‘s penchant for cronyism? 

SCAHILL:  This is a demand-based industry and without the occupation of Iraq and continued funding of the war, Blackwater wouldn‘t exist.  This country is interesting.  It‘s sort of the Mazaradi of mercenary firms.

And the head of the company is a man named Eric Prince, who is a radical right wing Christian evangelical, who has been a major bankroller of political campaigns of President Bush and his allies and the core groups that make up the radical religious right.  Blackwater literally is making a killing off the escalation of violence and bloodshed in Iraq. 

OLBERMANN:  There are extraordinarily differing accounts of what happened on Sunday.  But in “Newsweek,” Michael Hirsch described a Blackwater guard that got drunk at a Christmas party and killed somebody for sport.  The guard was never named.  He was supposedly sent home by the company.  End of that story. 

What kind of incidents have you found in your investigation that would make our hair stand up on end? 

SCAHILL:  Blackwater has been in Iraq since the beginning.  It was awarded a $27 million no-bid contract to protect Paul Bremer, the original ambassador.  They regularly engaged in fire fights. 

During one fire fight where they were shooting Iraqis in Najaf, where they were shooting at Iraqis, they were caught on film talking about it being a turkey shoot.  There have been numerous allegations that Blackwater operatives have shot civilians.  Some of its operatives have used ammunition of a blended metal type that‘s banned by the U.S. military, and then gone on to brag about how they watched the Iraqi victim‘s stomach explode.

And this also a company that is effectively trying to declare itself above the law in the United States.  It‘s being sued for wrongful death by families of former employees of Blackwater.  And the company has actually said it should be entitled to same immunity from civilian litigation as the military.  And at the same time, its highly-paid lobbyists have been waxing poetic about how it would be inappropriate to place them under the uniform code of military justice because they‘re civilians.  So they have effectively declared themselves above the law. 

OLBERMANN:  What are the remedies? 

SCAHILL:  The Bush administration shouldn‘t be allowed to use unaccountable mercenary forces to mask the scope of the occupation.  None of them have been prosecuted, Keith.  Not a single armed contractor.  So either we have tens of thousands of Boy Scouts working as mercenaries in Iraq or something is fundamentally wrong with the system. 

I also placed the blame on the Congress.  It has taken them four years to make them wake up to the fact that there are more contractors than soldiers in Iraq.  And there is absolutely no effective system of oversight and there‘s no punishment for the crimes they are committing. 

OLBERMANN:  It is madness to the extreme. 

Jeremy Scahill, the author of “Blackwater, the Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.”  Thank you for your time tonight, sir. 

SCAHILL:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  What to do with the ball Barry Bonds hit to break the home run record.  The contest.  What to do with his future with the San Francisco Giants.  He and his team say there is no contest.  Breaking Bonds news about his future, if any tonight. 

And breaking news out of Los Angeles.  Britney Spears facing potential time behind bars.  It‘s unlikely.  The L.A. city attorney has filed driving charges against her.  Here we go again.  Details ahead, on “Countdown.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1964, with future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson at bat in the sixth inning of a scoreless game at Philadelphia, Cincinnati Reds rookie, Geraldo Chico Luis, shockingly broke from third base and successfully stole home.  With the run-producing Robinson at the plate, it was a stupid play and, yet, because of it, the Reds won the game, one to zero.  Needing to win nor more than 3 or 4 of the last 12 to clench the pennant, the first-place Phillies lost that game and nine more, ten in a row, and finished third.  That‘s why we love baseball pennant races, all of us except 50-year-old Phillies fans. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

We begin at LaGuardia Airport where Abraham Lincoln is waiting to board the Delta D.C. shuttle.  Wait a minute?  Lincoln?  At LaGuardia?  Not at JFK?  It‘s a conspiracy.  A Madam Tussaud‘s Wax Museum is opening a new D.C. location so it flew old Honest Abe down for the opening.  Lincoln was put in an aisle in coach while puzzled passengers heard this message announcing the special treatment.  The good old plastic rail splitter would receive special treatment. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Do you happen to have somebody very special on board?  We have one of the United States‘ most distinguished former presidents, Mr.  Abraham Lincoln.  Mr. Lincoln, we plan to make your experience a wonderful and enjoyable one.  Anything we can make it more wonderful for you, please let us know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You can‘t get a freaking pillow on a flight to Djibouti, and look at this service for a dummy.  Check on those oncoming passengers not even noticing he was there. 

A short four score and seven minutes later, Lincoln was back in the capitol.  And the in a tasteless mistake, the in-flight movies was the big screen adaptation of “Our American Cousin.” 

To Oklahoma and the story of Christi and Larry Knuckles.  These newlyweds were attacked by Christi‘s ex-husband, who in a rage, bit pieces of Larry Knuckle‘s ears off.  The ex is in jail.  And it‘s not the details of the story that grabbed the attention, but Larry Knuckle‘ wardrobe, as you see in the “Oddball” super slowmo, Larry wore an “I like it on top” T-shirt to his big sit-down TV interview.  If you believe you‘ve made it to the top, Larry, good luck healing up those ears. 

When the Democrats won‘t debate on FOX Noise, they are slimed as scared.  So if the Republicans won‘t debate on an African-American or Spanish-American venues, what does that make them.  Since they won‘t, we‘ll ask.

And this is breaking Angelina Jolie news.  She said she slept with how many mean?  The answer is salacious, news-worthy and unbelievable. 

These stories ahead but, first, time for “Goofballs and Good Guys” here are “COUNTDOWN‘S” top three best persons in the world.  Number three, “Best Revelation,” former Mexican Presidente Vicente Fox and his new book, “Revolution of Hope” says President Bush is afraid of horses.  Says, shortly after each was elected, they met in Mexico, he offered Bush a ride on a big Palomino but the man he calls a ‘Windshield Cowboy‘ was promptly seen backing away from the horse.  A horse lover writes Presidente Fox, “Can always tell when others don‘t share our passion.”  Number two, “Best Zoo Keys,” at the Oo Shoa Zoo(ph) in China, visitor, Zheng Dong(ph), was taking photos of three Acsamace(ph) Macaques, when one of them lurched forward and snatched his cell phone camera out of his hand.  Zheng(ph) then did a dumb thing, he vaulted the railings into the Monkey House in hopes of getting the cell phone back.  The Macaques promptly beat him up.  And Number one, “Best Change of Phone Number,” Joshua Wayne Catle‘s(ph) unidentified friend.  He‘s 19-years-old from Cross Lanes, West Virginia.  Mr. Catle(ph) thought he was text messaging his buddy and asking him if “he wanted to buy some reefer.”  But, his buddy‘s phone number had been changed and his old number is now the number for the West Virginia State Police.  Can you hear me now?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When the Democratic Presidential Candidates refused to debate on “FOX”, they were asked with some sliver of logic if you can‘t stand up to Britt Hume, how can you stand up to Osama Bin Laden?  Leaving aside the budding analogies ripe there, on our third story on the “COUNTDOWN,” when the Republican Presidential Candidates refused to debate at Black or Hispanic venues, why are they not being asked if they are as racist at that seems?  Candidates Rudy Guiliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain have committed to joining their rivals at five debates and forums from California to New Hampshire in the last six months.  That is fewer debates than the Democrats, yet they say they are too busy to appear at a PBS forum for Black voters next week.  Last week, a forum for Hispanic voters was cancelled due to a lack of Republican interest.  Only John McCain even answered the invitation.  It‘s a pattern of minority avoidance that is alarming some Republicans, such as former Vice Presidential Candidate and Congressman Jack Kemp.  “We sound,” he says, “like we don‘t want immigration; we sound like we don‘t want Black people to vote for us.  What are we going to do—meet in a country club in the suburbs one day?  If we‘re going to be competitive with people of color, we‘ve got to ask them for their vote.  Even former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, has noticed.  “I think it‘s a terrible mistake,” he says, “I did everything I could to do to convince them it was the right thing to do, but we are in this cycle where Republicans don‘t talk to Minority Groups.”  And a president with a six year record of dismantling minority issues and neglecting the plight of a minority city engulfed by a hurricane, seemed even he to recognize the folly. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH ®, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES:  My advice to whomever will be our nominee, is to reach out to the African American community, as well as, other communities.  I believe that we‘ve got a very strong record when it comes to empowerment, when it comes to education or home ownership or small business formation.  We have a good record to run on and my advice to our candidate would be to run on it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Eugene Robinson, of course, is a Columnist and Associate Editor at the Washington Post.  He‘s covered race, justice and politics there for 25 years.  Good evening, sir.  We‘ll get to that part of—which part of that last statement is wishful thinking and which part is delusion here.  Let‘s begin with Tavis Smiley who is hosting the Black forum next week who says, “If you‘re not going to talk to all America; you don‘t deserve to be a president.”  How big is what the Republicans have done here in not doing this how big of a slap is this to black voters?

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST:  I think it‘s a huge slap and it really surprises me that Jack Kemp quote about the country club.  I think that—at this point that‘s like an insult to suburban country clubs nationwide.  They are more diverse than the Republican Party seems to want to be at this point.  I thought the Karl Rove ‘playbook‘ was that you, at least, paid lip-service to minority issues; that you, at least, pretended to care about the issues that African Americans or Latinos might want to discuss.  As a way of not alienating white independent suburban voters whom you need to have a Republican President elected.  Those people don‘t think of themselves as racists, they don‘t particularly like to associate with a party that‘s racist.  So you make the gesture, you go, you talk.  It just boggles the mind that they won‘t even show up this year. 

OLBERMANN:  But Gene is it possible, are we giving them too much credit?  Is it possible they are hoping move backwards in this?  There is some part of the Republican Party that says, you know, we got to roll back.  There are activist judges in Brown vs. Board of Education, we got to get rid of them.

ROBINSON:  No, I think it is indeed possible that there‘s this reflex this year is to play to the kind of, you know, anti-deluvian(ph) base of the party which, you know, has problems with diversity and multiculturalism and—and some problems with the way America is today.  So, you know, maybe these candidates don‘t want to be seen “kowtowing” to special interests, i.e.  People who have brown skin—

OLBERMANN:  People, people, people. 

ROBINSON:  People with brown skin.  Imagine that.  We can‘t have that. 

OLBERMANN:  Listen, it‘s tough to criticize the Democrats on minority interests.  There is a Black running, there‘s a Hispanic running, there‘s a woman running, but do they deserve criticism for not pounding the Republicans for their disengagement of minority the way the Republicans pounded the Democrats for something that seems a little bit more benign?  I‘m not going on one offshoot of the Republican Party and “FOX”?

ROBINSON:  Yeah, exactly.  Why doesn‘t somebody please take a shot?  Somebody please point this out.  You can understand the Democrats not wanting to rip one another apart at this point, but I thought going after the Republicans was the whole point of it, and they are turning their backs on the two largest minority groups in the country.  You would think Democrats would want to point that out.  We‘ve heard hardly anything from them.  It‘s amazing.  Wake them up, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I do what I can.  I was out sick.  I‘m sorry, I‘ll put my appendix back in. 

ROBINSON:  You play hurt and that‘s why you‘re an MVP. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.  Last point here, the advice, and it was really delivered with a straight face, it seemed, from the president yesterday.  The Republicans have a strong record on African American issues.  They should run on it—reach out to the African American community.  Do you think he meant don‘t talk to them, just reach out towards them?  What is he saying there?

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  He‘s saying make the gesture.  Make the gesture. 

I mean, you know, his strong record on African American issues.  Hello? --

Hurricane Katrina.  I think that pretty much wipes that slate clean.  But he‘s saying ‘make the gesture‘ this is what Karl Rove - you know, it worked for me, so this is what Karl says to do.  But they are not listening. 

OLBERMANN:  See now, that‘s a very good point.  Because when he was the owner of the Texas Rangers, when he traded Sammy Sosa he traded him for Harold Baines, an African American athlete.  So there you go.  There‘s that reach-out we‘re talking about.

ROBINSON:  Latino - you got Latino there, African American, he knew what he was doing there. 

OLBERMANN:  Then.  Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, have a great weekend, Gene.  Thanks for your time.

ROBINSON:  You too, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  What to do about the baseball, speaking of Sammy Sosa, that Barry Bonds hit for his record 756th home run?  The guy who owns it joins us.  What to do about Barry Bonds‘ future with his team, the San Francisco Giants?  That has been decided—Breaking “Bonds‘” news ahead. 

Speaking of records, the unbelievable claim from Angelina Jolie .  How many men have, you know, stayed over?  Ahead on “COUNTDOWN.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Breaking news and our number two story on the “COUNTDOWN,” Britney spears has been charged with two driving violations resulting from a parking lot crash.  A count of hit and run—hit and run causing property damage and one count of driving without a license.  Charges filed this afternoon by the Los Angeles City Attorney, according to TMZ.com.  But they arise out of an incident on August 6th.  The Associated Press reporting she hit a parked car and the paparazzi filmed it, the owner of the car filed a complaint.  Record checks showing that no California license had ever been issued to a Ms. Britney Spears.  The two misdemeanor charges each carry a maximum of six months in jail.  Arraignment has been set for October 10th, she doesn‘t have to be there and she was notified of the charges by letter which kind of reduces some of the substance to this.  No word on why there was such a delay in the filing of the charges.  The good news here is she knocked O.J. Simpson out of this newscast. 

Our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” is one that may make you shout “oh, the humanity!”  Four, so says Angelina Jolie how many men she has bedded.  No, I‘m not kidding.  In a chat with Britain‘s Cosmopolitan magazine, Ms. Jolie says she has “slept with four men in my life and I married two of them.”  So, that means apart from her ex-husbands, the actors Johnny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton.  There is Brad Pitt.  Married to—wait, that only leaves one open spot as the wild card in the male category, that is, since Ms. Jolie has reportedly been linked with women in the past, including the actress, Jeannie Shimazu(ph), her co-star in “Fox Fire”.  Her future plans, as stated, involved family, not lovers.  Jolie says that she and Mr. Pitt will have more kids quoting, “They say—any plans for a fifth?  And I say, a sixth, and a seventh, and an eighth, and a ninth.  That‘s my answer.”

For Lindsay Lohan, forget settling down, it‘s better to stir things up.  At least that‘s what London‘s “Daily Mirror” would have you believe.  It claims that Lohan did get together with someone in rehab and that he was married.  Tony Allen(ph), lead singer of the band, ‘Dead Says Alive,‘ was Lohan‘s crush reportedly.  He was the one she alleged ‘Jolied‘ with at a bathroom at Utah‘s Cirque Lodge.  And Allen‘s(ph) wife was reportedly devastated by his infidelity with a girl half his age.  Mr. Allen now back in England publicly saying Lohan and him were just friends while reportedly admitting to press that, “It‘s Lindsay Lohan, hell yes.  Wouldn‘t you?”

A record breaking Barry Bonds‘ home run baseball, lost in space perhaps?  Where will he play next season?  Breaking news tonight, he says he knows where he won‘t. 

That‘s ahead but first, time for “COUNTDOWN‘S” “Worst Persons in the World”.  The bronze goes to the managers of the Hush Enigma Club in Devon in England.  They refused admission to a 20-year-old girl Jennifer Bartel.  She has a bone disease and wears braced crutches and management told her she could not come in because the crutches could be used as offensive weapons.  What?  In a Jackie Chan movie?  Idiots.  The runner up, comedian Rush Limbaugh, out there again deliberately tryingto link Osama Bin Laden and Barack Obama saying there is another Bin Laden tape in which he says, “He is going to invade Pakistan and declare war on Pakistan in Mushara(ph).  Which, ladies and gentlemen, puts you on the same page with a Democratic Presidential Candidate; that would be Barack Oosobama.”  Actually, Senator Obama said that he‘d military aid to Pakistan conditional.  Which is the same thing as invading Pakistan if you had more anesthetics and painkillers than they gave me for my appendectomy, which in comedian‘s case, is true.  But our winner is, CNN‘s Glenn Beck, now in a desperate battle of words blasted Jesse Jackson for saying, “Barack Obama is acting white, which is an unbelievable racist statement, I mean, if I said I don‘t know, I don‘t think I could vote for that Rudy Giuliani because he was acting a little black, he would be picketing in front of my building tonight.”  So what does Mr. Beck have to say about this remark?  “I thought to myself, he, Obama, is very white in many ways.  He is.  He‘s very, very white.”  Unquote.  Who said that?  Glenn Beck, on the radio February 12th this year. 

To paraphrase that old mean joke, you‘re never alone with a Glenn Beck. 

Today‘s “Worst Person in the World!”  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Not six weeks after Barry Bonds hit his controversial and record breaking 756th career home run, he says his career with the San Francisco Giants is at an end and the team now confirms that.  Our number one story on the “COUNTDOWN,” breaking news from Bonds‘ own website.  Yesterday Bonds writes, “I was told by the Giants they won‘t be bringing me back for the 2008 season.  During the conversation with Peter McGowan, that‘s the owner of the team, I was told that my play this year far exceeded any expectations that the Giants had, but that the organization decided this would be my last season in San Francisco.  Although I am disappointed, I‘ve always said baseball is a business, and I respect their decision, however, I am saddened and upset that I was not given an earlier opportunity to properly say goodbye to you, my fans, and celebrate with the city throughout the season as I truly believe this was not a last-minute decision by the Giants, but one that was made some time ago.  I don‘t have nor do I want any ill feelings towards the organization, I just wish I had known sooner so we had more time to say our goodbyes and celebrate the best 15 years of my life.  Bonds also says that he is not retiring and again quoting from his ‘Barry‘s Journal Entry‘ from today, “. there is more baseball in me, and I plan on continuing my career.  My quest for a World Series ring continues.”

Bonds‘ chances of returning to the Giants in 2008 were believed to be at best slim as are his prospects in the National League where his knee problems, his age - 43, and the controversy around him continue to diminish his value.  There is some thought he might find a home in the American League as a designated hitter, perhaps across the bay in Oakland.  Except that team already has two of baseball‘s better DHs.  Still unresolved, more comically, the fate of the ball Bonds hit for his 756th homerun and, in a sense, that‘s Grant Deporter‘s doing.  He‘s the General Manager of Harry Carry‘s restaurant in Chicago which won in auction the, so-called, ‘Bartman‘ ball, the baseball that kept the Cubs out of the 2003 World Series.  They then conducted a fan vote to determine what to do with the ball and the fans voted to blow it up live here on “COUNTDOWN.”  That is not one of the options offered for another infamous baseball moment in history, but its new owner is conducting a vote of his own and one of the options is eternal orbit. 

The subject?  The Bonds‘ 756th home run ball at the website, vote756.com, you, Joe Fan, can send the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame as it is, brand the ball with an asterisk and then send it to the Hall, or elect to launch the thing into space.  The results of the online vote will be revealed on the “TODAY SHOW” on Wednesday.  We will talk to the man who democratized this decision and who is making Barry Bonds angry, first the saga of 756 which began on August 7th when Bonds launched a fastball into the right centerfield stands in San Francisco.  New York native Matt Murphy came out of the pile with the ball and after mulling it over, he cashed in and that is when fashion designer and entrepreneur, Marc Ecko, came into the picture and winning the auction last Saturday for a meager $752,467.  We now turn to Marc Ecko who has been kind enough to bring the infamous home run ball with him.  Marc, thanks for some of your time tonight.

MARC ECKO, FASHION DESIGNER:  It‘s here, look at it. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh boy, there it is.  It moves by itself. 

ECKO:  It does. 

OLBERMANN:  Before we get to the subject of the ball what do you think of this announcement by Bonds and by the Giants that he‘s out?

ECKO:  It should be interesting if he has the chops to come back, you know, and see what he‘s got to offer.  He, for his age, he did well this year, so we‘ll see. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  About his reaction to this, he said to the San Francisco Chronicle about you, “He‘s stupid, he‘s an idiot, spent $750,000 on the ball and that‘s what he‘s doing?  What he‘s doing is stupid.”

ECKO:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Now you have the compliment that‘s a Barry Bonds‘ insult? 

Do you have any response?

ECKO:  Well, I mean, he now joins in the annals of history alongside my wife of calling me a stupid idiot, and often for not bringing the garbage out.  Too bad he doesn‘t have more juice, because I‘ll be on the news all the time. 

OLBERMANN:  You might want to drop that word ‘juice.‘  In an interview, you said you wanted to give “the loudest voice not to someone like a Bill O‘Reilly, but to the people.”  Now you are you tugging at my heartstrings when you phrase it that way.  You wanted to democratize this process.  What‘s the reaction from baseball fans so far?

ECKO:  It‘s been amazing.  If you go on, I would gather, we have about 10 million votes and created the ultimate virtual media pundit, this kind of disruption in media culture and the kind of transparency of what the internet offers and people are voting and they‘re voting in droves.  We have struck a cord and voting ends Tuesday evening at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.  It‘s important everyone goes and votes.  Vote756.com. 

OLBERMANN:  So if there were 10 million votes, yours was the first and you chose the option, the second one, the asterisk.  Why that one? 

ECKO:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  And, I know you have talked to the Hall of Fame.  Will they still take it if you‘ve marked it in some way?

ECKO:  The Hall of Fame is taking the position that they would take the ball, they would prefer it without the mark, but they would take it with an asterisk or whatever condition we give it to them.  For me, my problem is more the system that fosters and often rewards unnatural play.  And this notion of messing around with our imagination, that when we look at our heroes, that maybe there‘s something, even if it‘s just slightly incremental, just a notion that we‘re tampering with that is my problem, and the system that rewards and wants to vilify once they find out and then they act like, you know, news flash, like this is going on all this time?  Yeah, it was going on.  That‘s—that for me is my problem this is bigger than—this is bigger than 756.  I mean, with cycling and referees and videotapes and, I mean, it‘s in the air. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s no question you‘re right about that, but one thing, having had such fun watching and covering the ‘Bartman Ball‘ blowup, why didn‘t you include that among the options?

ECKO:  Well, because I didn‘t consult with you.  I should have called you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s too late now. 

ECKO:  You know what?  The idea of space and the idea of the final frontier is not so crazy and far away and I think I wanted to kind of do something that really got your imagination going. 

OLBERMANN:  And you just have a steroid-laced pitcher simply throw the ball into space.  I‘m sure that would work too.  Marc Ecko who as a fan put his money where his mouth was on this and it may seem silly to others but I think there is quite a lot of ‘fan ethic‘ in here.  I appreciate it. 

ECKO:  Thank you.  Thanks, man.  Thanks for having me on.

OLBERMANN:  The website is vote756.com.  And if an asterisk is needed, I volunteer to draw it on.  Okay, that is “COUNTDOWN” for this 1,605th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  From New York, 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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