updated 10/17/2007 10:30:29 AM ET 2007-10-17T14:30:29

Guests: John Dean, Howard Fineman, Paul Krugman, Rachel Maddow, Michael Musto

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Good evening.  Overlooked in George Carlin‘s famed bit about the seven words you can‘t say on television and the Supreme Court decision based on them is the fact that this model began with an anecdote from the wiretapping days from FBI founder, Jay Edgar Hoover.  A guy who used to be in Washington, Carlin said knew that his phone was tapped used to answer “Blank Hoover.  Yes, go ahead.”

Well, this story on the COUNTDOWN.  It may be time to try that again, please select your own updated, proper name.  A telecom giant, Verizon revealing today that since the start of 2005, it has on 270 separate occasions, turned over customer phone records to Federal agents who had neither a court order or a warrant.  And Verizon may be the good guys in this latest nightmare.  The president‘s entire justification for warrantless spying, that it is a vital asset in the post-9/11 fight against terrorism, it turns out, we must have an inordinate number of potential terrorists in our midst.

Verizon, the nation‘s second biggest telecom company revealing—it turned over to information to federal authorities a total of 94,000 times since January of 2005 on an emergency basis, meaning without court orders the total is 720.  The government wanting not just the telephone numbers and names of the callers but also all relevant information pertaining to everybody they called and everybody each one of those everybody‘s called as well.  And she told two friends and she told two friends and so on and so on.

Verizon not providing that information not because it refused to do so on principle because, quote, “It does not maintain such so-called calling circle records.  Verizon spilling the beans in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, part of the Democrats effort to learn all they can about the full nature of telecom compliance with the government before considering granting blank immunity.  Of course that means that the Democrats are actually considering doing.  Lawmakers are that learning far less from At&t and Quest in their replies to the Energy and Commerce Committee.  All three carriers sighting White House‘s objections concerning national security in their respective letters.

The Bush administration currently suing the telecom giants in order to keep them quiet.  And who should we see about granting them immunity from that?   Over to Judiciary Committee chairman, John Conyers trying to learn more in the wake of this week‘s other warrantless surveillance bombshell—allegations that the administration‘s program appears to have started six months before the 9/11 attacks.  Congressman Conyers writing a letter to director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell requesting an immediate briefing on the facts of the program as well as documents relating to the pre-9/11 activities and legal basis for conducting them.

John Dean and Howard Fineman on this.  Howard first, senior Washington correspondent, of course, for “Newsweek” magazine.  Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Verizon and At&t in their letters said it was not their role to second-guess the legitimacy of emergency government requests.  The White House says it‘s going to veto this next FISA Bill, if it does not provide retroactive immunity for those telephone companies.  So, what point in the scenario was the legitimacy of these requests and these governmental actions supposed to be assessed?

FINEMAN:  Well, the short answer to that is from the Bush administration‘s viewpoint—never.  They thought it was legitimate.  They thought it was in the service of national security and they were going to do it.  Keep in mind when I talked earlier tonight with Congressman Ed Markey who is chairman of the Telecommunications‘ Subcommittee and he said that they - in Congress, just simply don‘t know the extent either of this program, the one that‘s been revealed and discussed right here where the much larger and more secret one that really has never been talked about at all very much which is the one who is approved after 9/11.

OLBERMANN:  And presumably, we have just discovered why the White House has been so petulant, so keen, so insistent on the blanket immunity because once it has that—the legitimacy and the legality of domestic spying without warrants which has never been assessed will never be assessed?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think my sense of it is - is that the administration is perfectly willing to dish the Congress and say to Congress—we are not giving you anything.  And according to Congressman Markey—that‘s pretty much the way it is.  They can‘t find out much of anything from the White House.  But I don‘t think the White House was so eager to take on the courts.  And if they can grant immunity to the phone companies from prosecution, from civil suits in this matter, they can keep it out of the courts.  The administration can keep it out of the courts which I think is their intention here.  They don‘t want to take on the courts if they can avoid it.

OLBERMANN:  Howard, the Speaker of the House, Ms. Pelosi and the majority leader, Mr. Hoyer had said last week, they‘d be open to providing conditional immunity to these telecoms if they could, first, understand the full nature of what that cooperation, the carriers provided.  These letters are really the company‘s first attempt at compliance and Verizon seems to have done it a little better than the other ones.  But might the revelations just in the Verizon letter alone be enough to say no to this?  Has not the smell test about retroactive immunity already been failed?

FINEMAN:  Well, one might think so because if this much has been revealed, the obvious question is what else don‘t we know about what‘s going on?  This could just be the tip of the iceberg.  We don‘t really know.  And, as I said, Congressman Markey and other key congressional leaders don‘t know.  He told me that he‘s going to have more hearings.  The committee is going to have hearings.  There‘s going to be a lot of hearing going on and listening going on.  But, I‘m not sure that it amounts to legislation yet.  Congressman Markey says, “Look, privacy is a fundamental American right.  We always have to balance privacy and national security.”  And he thinks that that something he can take to the country.  But I don‘t sense yet that the full Democratic leadership on the Hill is ready to make a fight on this.

OLBERMANN:  Ninety-four compliances by Verizon, 720 without any kind of warrant.  Wouldn‘t that, by itself, just underscore, scream the value of Congressional oversight because no matter what else there is, we know about 94,000 because of the House Energy, and Commerce Committee?

FINEMAN:  Right.  Well, they are going to pull that thread—that‘s what these next hearings are going to be about.  They are going to do what they can to pull it and unravel the secrecy of the White House.  But they will run up against a White House that‘s going to say flat no when they get to the heart of the matter which, are things that were approved after 9/11 that we still don‘t know about.  We have no idea and I dare say there may be no members of Congress who really do.

OLBERMANN:  Just go back to George Carlin and answer the phone that way.  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” as always our great thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the legal ramifications of the disclosure by Verizon and nondisclosures of the others, let‘s turn to Nixon White House counsel, John Dean is part of our series of television adaptations of the themes of his new book “Broken Government.” Another one.  Good evening, John.

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

OLBERMANN:  Well, based on what we have learned from Verizon in its letter, might immunity be the only recourse for the Bush administration?  Is it becoming more suspicious?  More likely that some sort of vast illegal data collection of the likes which we‘ve never seen before has been taking place?

DEAN:  Well, I think this is clearly a power play.  It‘s an example of the way they will so easily just push aside the rules and try to overpower the Congress when they can, even when it‘s the opposition party.  There‘s no question there‘s been certainly lots of evidence that there is a violation of the laws and there‘s many illegal collection of data.  So the immunity here appears to be not only to protect the companies but to protect themselves.  Ultimately, they might worry that some other president might actually enforce these laws.  But I think it is really focusing not so much on the civil—it‘s focusing more on the civil suit than it is the criminal prosecution because the civil liability is great for these companies.

OLBERMANN:  Verizon and At&t suggested in their letters they already enjoy legal immunity under extent laws.  If plenty of protections actually already exist for telecom providers why is the Bush administration seeking more?  Is there concern here that retroactive immunity might not be Constitutional in this case?  Doesn‘t the First Article of the Constitution prohibit Congress from passing ex post facto laws or does that only mean you can‘t make something retroactively illegal?

DEAN:  The latter is the correct, I think, interpretation of that.  I think what they‘re trying to do here is, again, look at the civil liability.  That‘s the way I read the letters that the immunity they believe they have protects them already.  They feel because the government‘s involved, they are protected from criminal prosecution.  So they, therefore, they‘re more concerned about the prospect of a civil case trying them up in court and costing them a lot of money.

OLBERMANN:  When it comes to this—I mean, the real nightmare scenario here is that you could have - I mean, George Bush could wind up being picked up in one of these raids because of these - the calling circle information request here.  It asks Verizon not just for the names and numbers of specific people who might somehow be under investigation but also for everybody they called and then the next extension, everybody those people called.  There is an attorney from the Electronic Freedom Foundation, a privacy group from San Francisco that says—privacy concerns are exponential each generation you go away from the suspect‘s number.  Does that apply to the potential of illegality also - the further you get away from the initial suspect, the one that there might have been some cause for?

DEAN:  Well, as Howard said, we don‘t - we know so little, Keith, about what they are actually doing.  If they‘re just revealing that there is this outer circle of calls and numbers, and they are not actually disclosing the contents of conversations, that‘s not likely to be a violation of the law.  If they are actually probing into those conversations and listening to the content, and that being disclosed to the government, then that‘s a different situation.  With the data mining situation, again, it‘s so vague as to what they are mining and where they are going, we don‘t know whether they might be a violation or not.  But there is a high probability that there could well be violations of law here, too.

OLBERMANN:  Using that same idea—the calling circle here, are we really in a situation where these telecom companies have just invoked White House executive privilege?  Is that what those executive privilege was designed to protect the phone company?

DEAN:  It was not.  In fact, it only protects executive officials and the president himself and those he deals with.  It certainly wouldn‘t extend to somebody like this.  And I think the effort here clearly is to protect - you know, to stop this from going any further and to try to tough it out in Congress to make it go away so they won‘t be asked questions, as Howard said, by the courts.  Now, I think that the fact that we have one judge who has already said state secrets will not apply is giving this administration some trouble.  Because that‘s the privilege they have relied on and been protected on in the past.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s hope so.  John Dean translating his book - “Broken Government” to television here on COUNTDOWN and this recurring series by the same name.  As always, John, great thanks.

DEAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The sliming of a 12-year-old was not enough.  Now, a two-year-old appearing in an “S chip ad” leads the National Review to suggest she should never have been born.  And the efforts of Senator McConnell and its involvement of swift voting of Graeme Frost—the smoking email is now available.  Talking about smoking, how not to respond to a critic of your Republican congressman - a critic carrying and using a video camera.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you thought the right wing could not get lower than attacking 12-year-old Graeme Frost and his family, think again in a moment.  The two-year-old girl now under fire for getting federal s chip coverage to pay for life-saving heart surgery.  But first on our fore story tonight:

The “S Chip” battle has let a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to attack without actually naming both myself and our next guest -- Paul Krugman.  Our sins - last week, we each reported that a McConnell aide emailed false and personal information about the Frost to the media.  His source, an unnamed blogger.  Our source, Abcnews.com.  Today, the aide‘s spokesman Don Stewart wrote without irony, quote, “a liberal talk-show host and a liberal opinion columnist at The New York Times parroting the same anonymous sources, credited our office with playing a role in starting the investigation.  That is not the case.”

As I point to reporters more than a week, the Frost family is legit.  Mr.Stewart fails to mention why he pointed that out.  He was retracting his email sent just hours before the very same email we reported on which said, quote, “Apparently there‘s more to the story to the kid, Graeme Frost.  Bloggers have done a little digging and turned up that the dad owns his own business.  Which also included the lie about Graeme Frost private school tuition,” quoting again, “Despite the news profiles reporting a family income of only 45 k for the Frosts. Could the Dems really have done that bad of a job vetting this family?”

Mr. Stewart now claims he was voicing skepticism on the attacks on Graeme, which might make sense if Stewart or McConnell had publicly denounced those attacks or the new ones on two-year-old, Bethany Wilkerson -- subject of a new “S Chip” ad whose family makes less than 34,000 and owned even less.  They rent their home and who‘s lack a health insurance like 47 million other Americans lead the National Review today to declare that they shouldn‘t have had any children.  Let‘s turn now to the other target of Mr. McConnell‘s office today, “The New York Times” columnist, Paul Krugman, author of most recently of “The Conscious of the Liberal.”  Great thanks as always for your time tonight, sir.

PAUL KRUGMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Great to be on.

OLBERMANN:  Before we get to Graeme Frost, this latest attack that Bethany Wilkerson‘s parents should not have conceived her because they lacked the requisite health insurance.  Do you have a more eloquent response than speechlessness?

KRUGMAN:  Well, you know, I‘m not so speechless because this is actually standard operating procedure.  You know, the fake scandals, we had lots of that in the 90s and the making mock of people in trouble.  Look, Ronald Reagan with his welfare queen driving a Cadillac who never existed that goes back to the 70s.  Ronald Reagan in 1964, making fun of John F.  Kennedy‘s claim that millions of Americans going to bed hungry every night saying - “Ah, they were probably all on a diet.”  This is not one of the things I say in my book, the (inaudible), there hasn‘t been any change.  They have been the same for the past 40-plus years.

OLBERMANN:  Why though not attack the policy?  It certainly would seem to have some roots in actual conservatism, a disagreement with how much money is being spent.  Why is it a Pavlovian need to attack personally anyone who advocates the policy enforce?

KRUGMAN:  Because in the past, it has worked.  I mean, what‘s unusual about this case is that you and I and the progressive blogger sphere were able to mount effective quick counter attack and because email is better than, you know, we were able to get a hold of that email from McConnell‘s aide.  So, it‘s the - the difference is not in the heartlessness and viciousness of the tactics.  The difference is this time they got caught red-handed.

OLBERMANN:  Help explain the difference here if you would.  Why does a group of people proclaiming themselves pro-life see no barrier to preserving the life of fetuses or of Terry Schiavo but when it‘s actual people who are already up and running, kids like Bethany and Graeme Frost, they literally want them.  In Graeme Frost case, somebody called for public hanging.  In this little girl‘s case, the argument was—they didn‘t have sufficient medical insurance so she shouldn‘t have been conceived.  Why - how - where is - is there any straight line in there?

KRUGMAN:  I never know what to make of that.  What I do know is the essence of what these people are about is they hate the idea that we our brother‘s keepers.  They hate the idea that society has some responsibility to take care of those less fortunate.  And the thing that really drives them crazy about those stories, I mean, it‘s exactly the fact that the stories are so good about children in need.  That‘s why they feel this, you say Pavlovian but it‘s actually a strategy.  They have to debunk you know the progressives have been doing a very good job of putting a human face on the policies they want.

OLBERMANN:  Is there - am I also missing something else here regarding the strategy?  And I asked this of the Frosts, Graeme Frost‘s parents last night.  Here is a kid who was in terrible shape, still has partial paralysis of a vocal cord, he‘s got brain damage and in a couple of years, however he got there, he is able to make a speech on national radio and just to function under those circumstances.  It seems to me if you are opposed to what a particular medical plan and aspect of health care, wouldn‘t you go farther strategically by complimenting this kid, congratulating him, rejoicing in his recovery and then slamming what he is saying as opposed to slamming him?

KRUGMAN:  Well, you know, they - it just drives them crazy.  I mean, the Democrats have managed to put a human face on socialized medicine if you like you know.  That‘s a slander.  But on the kinds of things they want to do.  The Republicans are talking abstraction.  We don‘t want socialized medicine, private initiative and the Democrats are showing you a 12-year-old kid who was saved by this program and it drives them crazy.

OLBERMANN:  Despite the efforts of these two families and the little girl and Graeme, the House on Thursday is not expected to get these additional 20 votes that would make this veto-proof.  What is the impact on the 4 million kids that won‘t be protected here?

KRUGMAN:  Well, it‘s, you know, I - we don‘t know quite how this works out.  I mean, the original Bush proposal would actually lead to a contraction of the programs.  So there would be hundreds of thousands of kids who would otherwise have coverage who won‘t even under the original funding.  Now, you know, this additional thing, they‘re going to have to wait.  I can‘t believe this is going to stand for very long because I think the American public is going to demand.  We are talking about children here.  But, it‘s amazing.  They really are.  The Republicans are going to uphold Bush on this incredible veto.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, Mr. Stewart of Mr. McConnell‘s office now taking credit for retracting a slanderous email to reporters containing story tips he never vented in the slightest just a couple hours after he sent that proverbial lie of Mark Twain out around the world.  Does he seem to you to have any idea that he works for a United States Senator, that there is some sort of privilege and responsibility that comes with that job?

KRUGMAN:   You know, what was amazing was the last sentence of that email.  Is it possible that they did such a poor job of venting?  And he of course committed that very same sin.  But, you know, they‘ve done this very same thing many times.  I say it‘s a—if you just look - and this is not actually exceptional in its viciousness on their part.  It‘s normal in its viciousness.  What‘s exceptional is that they got caught.

OLBERMANN:  Paul Krugman of “The New York Times,” one of the people who caught them and author of the new book - “The Conscious of a Liberal.”  Always a pleasure to have a chance to have a conversation with you, sir.

KRUGMAN:  Great to be on.

OLBERMANN:  Programming note: Tomorrow night we will be speaking with Bethany Wilkerson‘s parents.  Dale and Dara Wilkerson, Bethany will be here to we are not expecting a full interview with her.  The first television of the family on the eve of the faithful s-chip showdown of the House that‘s tomorrow tonight on COUNTDOWN.

Different kind of political reaction: The chief of staff of a Republican Congressman telling an annoying protester with a camera that he is un-American and not a citizen.  You see, the camera was recording at the time.  And, honey, I shrunk the pigs.  The breeder who took that phrase - “This little piggy” way too literally.  Next on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Exactly 20 years ago today, after 58 hours of ceaseless and breath taking efforts rescuers pulled 18-month-old, Jessica McClure out of 8-inch wide, 22 feet deep well.  She is now married.  Twenty-one years old, the mother of an infant, three and a half years from now, all the donations sent to her during those riveting (ph) days in October 1987, will mature out of a trust fund which will turn into a million dollars which she says she will turn into another trust fund for her son.  A relative says they all still joke about that nightmare which Jessica McClure Morales says she has no direct memory.  Periodically someone will say to her by way of warning—watch out there a well.

On that note, let‘s play oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Devlin, England where some helpful farmer has engineered bite size bacon.  Bite-size bacon.  Wrap him in a pastry and you have got a meal-sized pig in a blanket.  Or for heaven‘s sake you can‘t serve a mini-pig, that‘s a pet now.  Leave it alone.  That‘s some pig.

And to the Internet where there is nothing like a good old-fashioned drag race to get the blood boiling, crank up the slayer, roll up your Marlboros in the sleeve of your t-shirt and show them how it‘s done red.  Red in the left lane.  Let‘s go red.  OK.  Never mind, it‘s a blues brother remake.

Memo to politicians—no matter what the guy with the camera does, you always wind up looking worse.  More Republican rage from Michigan tonight.  Speaking of looking worse, Ms. Spears has turned herself in and not for having worn that wig in public.  These stories ahead, but first time for our goof balls and good guys.  Here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best catch, officials at the Tawas (ph) Alcona high school football game in Saganaw, Michigan; they noticed that the field was covered with thousands of toothpicks sticking up out of the ground.  They shifted the game to Alcona‘s field.  Tawas students think the culprits were from a third high school, Oskota (ph), which had been beaten by Tawas 72 to nothing earlier in the season. 

Number two, best over kill gift, Jessica Seinfeld, Jerry‘s wife appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey” show to hawk her book.  It became a best seller.  Mrs. Seinfeld is mighty grateful.  She didn‘t write a note or send Oprah some chocolate, she sent her shoes, thank you shoes, 21 pair, mostly Christian Lubatons (ph), conservatively estimated to be worth 16,000 dollars.  I get some shoes, and I get some more shoes, and I get still more shoes. 

Number one, best dumb criminal, Randy-Jay Adolphos Jones, arrested in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  You don‘t have to call me Randy J.  After allegedly trying to shake down an unidentified woman whose cell phone he had obtained when he snatched her purse.  She called her cell.  Mr. Jones answered and asked for a phone ransom of 185,000 dollars to get the phone back.  She bargained him down to 200 dollars.  He happily agreed to meet her at a remote location, never dreaming that she would bring with her the police. 

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OLBERMANN:  As the long, long, long road to 2008 continues, this helpful reminder for candidates and their campaign teams; if you see a video camera wielded by someone who disagrees with your politics, odds are, whatever you say to them will end up on the Youtube.  Just keep repeating you‘re making a fool of yourself, you‘re making a fool of yourself or something equally monotonous.  

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, these helpful reminders coming a little too late for the chief of staff to Republican Congressman Joe Knollenberg of Michigan.  Anti-war activist Bruce Filk (ph) of MoveOn.org says he‘s been trying to get the representative to start an open forum about Iraq for the past two years.  He says he has called his office numerous times, even showed up at his house, a move that gained him a warning from the police. 

But then this weekend he was tipped off that the Congressman was at a local drugstore. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When are you going to end the war? 

REP. JOE KNOLLENBERG ®, MICHIGAN:  I‘m not in charge of watt. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But you are voting on it.  When are you going to vote for S-CHIP?  Are you going to vote for children‘s health care?

KNOLLENBERG:  I voted for S-CHIP.  Did you know that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You didn‘t vote to expand that. 

KNOLLENBERG:  Not the Democratic plan. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s going to expire.  When are you going to vote to end the war, Joe?  And cover the children? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Filk trying to keep asking the Congressman about S-CHIP and the war.  But Knollenberg‘s chief of staff, Trent Wisecuff (ph), got in the middle, lambasting him for showing up at the congressman‘s house and allegedly intimidating his wife and neighbors and accusing him of being that favorite right-wing slur for any dissenter, un-American. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know what. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You are anti-American. 

Get your thing off my face. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get your face out of my face. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whatever.  You know?  You are against the country. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m for the country.  I‘m for everything that America stands for, Trent. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No you are not. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes I am and you know it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re pro-Toyota, buddy, and you live in Detroit.   

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That has nothing to do what I‘m talking about.  We‘re talking about the war.  We‘re talking about covering S-CHIP.  We‘re talking about covering children. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you want Iran to win. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I want America to win and our troops to come home. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want a hegemonic presence in the Middle East from Iran?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want our dictator to go away. 

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You are blinded by your hatred of this country, sir. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am not.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You are a political activists with a political agenda. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get out of my face, Trent. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You get out of our face.  You have been bullying us for too long.  You are not bullying me. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You are not bullying me. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Go away, we don‘t want you here.  You are not a citizen.  You are a political hack.  You are a political hack with a political agenda.  You are for everything that is wrong in this country, sir.  You want our soldiers to lose in Iraq.  You want Toyota to beat G.M.  If we followed your approach, Michigan would be in the tank. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And just what is so un-American about Mr. Filk?  After the confrontation hit the Internet, Mr. Wisecuff provided Politico.com with a handy list.  Here are a few of them.  It‘s un-American to wage a political protest of a Congressman‘s wife at her home.  It‘s un-American to disturb a Congressman‘s neighbors with weird anti-war tactics while our soldiers are deployed overseas fighting radical Islam.  You stumped me on that one.  It‘s un-American to use stalking and harassment as a means to score cheap political points. 

So that‘s what‘s un-American.  What is American, quoting him again, “true Americans make their political arguments with vigor, honor and pride.  I have looked the MoveOn.org movement in the eye and I speak with certainty that this element does not want America to win in Iraq. 

We‘re joined now by the host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America, Rachel Maddow.  Thanks for coming in. 

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  We are obviously not condoning intimidating or harassing people if that‘s what happened in this case.  But this comparatively trivial episode from Michigan really is a litmus test for the state of our politics right now.  You and I would look at this and say, if there is harassment there, we have courts.  Get a restraining order.  Don‘t do what you did.  You look like a psychotic. 

But people on the far right might look at this and say, great job. 

You showed him.  Where do we go from here? 

MADDOW:  I think what this is is this is kind of the edge of politics.  I think this is where politics starts and something even more brutish than politics begins.  I mean, Joe Knollenberg is an eight term incumbent Republican congressman from Michigan.  Unlike most incumbents, every time he runs for reelection now, his margin of victory gets smaller.  In the last election he had to spend millions of dollars and he only got about 51 percent of the vote. 

It‘s because he is losing on the politics.  His district is trending more Democratic and he is on the wrong side of all the big issues.  He‘s on the wrong side of the war.  He‘s on the wrong side of the S-CHIP bill.  He‘s on the wrong side of global warming in a really big way.  He didn‘t bother showing up for the minimum wage vote.  He is losing his district on the politics.  And so, yes, of course, there are activists and big paper mache Joe Knollenberg heads who are dogging him at his campaign stops.  That‘s what happens when your district turns against you. 

But he has decided to not compete on a political level.  He has decided instead to abandon politics and go for screaming, chest-pounding apoplexy instead.  It‘s not politics.  It‘s something beyond it. 

OLBERMANN:  The back story here, Mr. Wisecuff, the guy we saw on camera for most of that, says he and the Congressman have been pursued by this man for two years.  They tried ignoring him, that they tried meeting with him, that this was a deliberate change of tactics on their part.  Is there a point in here?  I‘m not necessarily siding with them, but do they have a point about some of this stuff. 

MADDOW:  They have a point that political activists who are opposed to you and who are trying to annoy you and provoke you so you do something stupid and lose your job are annoying to the people who they are targeting.  They are definitely meant to be annoying.  It shouldn‘t be a news flash to them that your political opponents when they are trying to oust you will be trying to annoy and provoke you. 

The question is whether or not you, instead of calling the police, if you fell like people are being legitimately threatening, you instead decide to confront them and denounce political activism as something that is un-American. 

OLBERMANN:  And basically say you are pro-Toyota. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  After everybody saw what happened to Senator Allen and his presidential hopes, let alone his senatorial hopes after Macaca, is it not congressional staffer 101 to not respond in that way to people who are recording you?  Is there some—I mean, this guy seems like he wanted this to happen in this way.  But I can‘t imagine, even under those circumstances, he is happy entirely with the outcome. 

MADDOW:  No, they did say this was a deliberate strategy change on their part and this is something they had a meeting about and decided that Trent would do.  It‘s hard to imagine.  I mean, I didn‘t know Joe Knollenberg‘s voting record before this ended up on Youtube, before this scandal happened.  And most people, I think, didn‘t know his name.  If the point was to try to get the spotlight off Joe Knollenberg and to get people to leave Joe Knollenberg alone, this was the world‘s stupidest way to do it. 

OLBERMANN:  One thing in here that maybe transcends everything else, calling Mr. Filk not American, not a citizen—does this detract from any legitimate complaint that there might be about the tactics?  Isn‘t it actually the definition of un-American or non-citizenry, if you will, to protest somebody‘s right to protest. 

MADDOW:  Yes, just that very sentence at the end of the tape that you played, you are not a citizen, you are not an American, you have a political agenda.  You think about what he is really saying, it‘s, you know, you can‘t be an American if you are a political activists, because real Americans have no political opinions and are sheep.  So just get back in the barn and be a good, quiet American without an opinion who doesn‘t descent.  It‘s a weird view of what it means to be an American. 

OLBERMANN:  Lines up completely with Graeme Frost and it lines up completely with the spreading of the S-CHIP stories and it lines up completely with almost everything right now in politics.  It is character assassination and it‘s predicated on real Americans don‘t disagree. 

MADDOW:  And it‘s justified by the idea that once you express a political opinion you are available to be personally attacked.  That‘s what we have seen.  I mean, 12-year-olds and now two-year-olds in the S-CHIP debate being attacked because somebody had the temerity to put their life story in a political context.  Americans are political by nature. 

OLBERMANN:  Rachel Maddow of Air America, political by nature.  As always, great thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Why is this woman crying?  The answer is comprised by a dog, and animal rescue group, a hair dresser and what might have been a clerical error. 

And the mind reels; after a woman reporter says the “New York Post” gossip hack had been, quote, emasculated by his bosses, he writes that male staffers there, quote, might take her some place private and disprove her theory.  What certainly could be read as a rape threat published in the “New York Post” in tonight‘s Worst Persons ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The sad tale of a dog takes the lead in tonight‘s installment of Keeping Tabs, our nightly look at celebrity and entertainment news.  Beginning with Ellen Degeneres having one proverbial doggie downer of a show.  Instead of grabbing the audience with her usual stand up routine, she began by grabbing a Kleenex and dissolving into tears. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN DEGENERES, “ELLEN”:  I come out here and I can do anything because of the energy I get.  But today is a hard day for me.  Today is bad.  And I am not capable of coming out and pretending to be funny and on when things are going so terribly wrong right now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What went wrong was her adoption of a dog named Iggy.  Ms.  Degeneres says Iggy had issues with her cat, so she gave Iggy away to the 12-year old daughter of her hair dresser.  Miss Degeneres says she was only trying to find a loving home for the dog.  The dog adoption agency says that is against its rules.  They repossessed the dog.  An Internet clip also shows her claiming the agency threatened to go to the media on her and call the police unless the dog was returned.  Police were in fact called. 

On her show today, Ms. Degeneres pleaded with the agency to blame her, but to put the dog back in the home of its new family.  So far Muts and Moms says the rules and a contract were broken and it will not return the dog.  Stay tuned on that. 

From the love of animals as pets, we move on to the British royal family and the love of animals as targets.  Prince William and Kate Middleton are fueling speculation about a royal engagement after she was invited to come up and spend the weekend trying to kill something.  According to the “Daily Telegraph” newspaper, Kate and William spent an intimate hunting weekend dressed in camouflage at the Balmoral, royal family‘s 50,000-acre Scottish Highland estate, with Prince Charles, her probable future father-in-law, along.  The tabloid doesn‘t mention what they were hunting, perhaps one of the native giant wild engagement rings that abound in the Scottish Highlands. 

Britney Spears surrenders to authorities.  But somehow that wig was not charged with any crime.  That‘s ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Bill-O.  After Anne Coulter‘s anti-Semitic remarks, a Fox Noise executive told the “L.A. Times” his network would not rule out having her on as a guest again.  Is she did appear, she would be pressed about her statements.  Fixed News first appearance, Bill-O, about the perfecting the Jews remarks.  I don‘t even care, to tell you the truth.  Coulter-Geist, neither do I.  You brought it up and I‘m not explaining myself.   

Bill-O, no, I had to bring it up because of other things.  

Somebody made Bill-O eat broccoli.  Nice job of pressing her too, Bill. 

Our runner up, comedian Rush Limbaugh, who has now merrily explained to the sheep the disturbing story of how he once threatened a reporter who was writing what was going to be a negative profile of him for a magazine;

“we found out who was writing it and made a couple of phone calls to the person writing it.  We said, you know what, we are going to find out where your kids go to school.  We‘re going to find out who you knocked up in high school.  We are going to find out what drugs you used.  We‘re going to find out where you go to drink and do.  We are going to find out how you paid for your house.  We are going to do—we are going to say—you know what?  You are no different than Al Goldstein.  You both masturbate.” 

Another Bill-O reference.  We are going to find out what drugs he used?  Looking for mutual areas of interest, Rush? 

But our winner, Richard Johnson, editor of the notorious “Page Six Segment” in the “New York Post.”  A New York Magazine writer named Vanessa Rigoriatis (ph) claimed Johnson had been, quote, emasculated by the Murdoch hierarchy after the “Page Six” bribery scandal.  Today, “Page Six” actually wrote this about her; “As for us being emasculated, Rigoriatis ignores the fact that half the “Page Six” staff is female.  The male half might take her some place private and disprove her theory.  But we don‘t like a woman with a mustache.”

If you are looking for journalism, responsibility, good writing, or facts, you already know not to consult “Page Six.”  But for a columnist to write what can be red with threatening a woman with gang rape would seem to be too much even for Rupert Murdoch.  However, his editor there has already responded to an inquiry about this by telling a reporter, quote, get a life.  You, sir, just published that.  Maybe you ought to get an actual newspaper. 

Richard Johnson of the “New York Post,” today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Britney Spears could not turn an appearance at the Video Music Awards into a comeback sensation.  She has not turned a family court judge to her side, even with Kevin Federline as the other party.  And she apparently cannot turn having driven her car into another parked car back in August.  But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Ms. Spears can turn herself in. 

Britney Jean Spears checking in the Van Nuys County Jail last night at 9:25 prevailing local time for a court ordered booking, according to the LAPD.  She was not put in a holding cell but was booked on misdemeanor charges of hit and run, property damage and driving without a valid driver‘s license, arising out of that August fender bender.  She was finger printed and her mug shot taken and dare we wonder if the race is on for that picture. 

Miss Spears reportedly told police she had been wearing sunglasses because she has pink eye.  When she left after 45 minutes, Spears reportedly asked the paparazzi, quote, where is the party?  Earlier that evening, she had been spotted tooling around L.A. sporting that pink wig, you know, to match her eyes. 

Let‘s turn now to “Village Voice” columnist Michael Musto.  Michael, good evening.   

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  It sounds like the process went well.  A police spokesman said that Ms. Spears, quote, did her business and came out.  Why does that not sound as good as I thought it was going to sound. 

MUSTO:  She did her business.  She went to the bathroom in there.  Then she came out and started singing, “Give Me More.”  They were like charges are dropped.  Shut up and get out of here.  She did very well. 

OLBERMANN:  These are two misdemeanor counts that each carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail.  Nobody is expecting she is actually going to do time are they? 

MUSTO:  No.  Hasn‘t she suffered enough?  She just got more visitation rights.  She‘s still has to be sort of a mother.  She had to wash herself after the VMA awards.  Hasn‘t she paid the price.  I think the home imprisonment that Paris Hilton got for one day would be a good idea.  Britney‘s home is on wheels.  She could just tour or something.

OLBERMANN:  She reportedly had, as we mentioned, this pink eye, an attack of pink eye last Thursday when she appeared before, once again, Commissioner Gordon in family court, Batman.  And she still has this, and evidently it‘s also spread to one of her wigs?  Should we be concerned about her health? 

MUSTO:  No, I think it‘s gorgeous.  The pink matches all the other body parts of hers that we have seen.  I heard she actually just got an anal bleaching.  She now has the pink supple butt of a six years.  Apparently Michael Jackson is interested, or would be if she weren‘t a girl. 

OLBERMANN:  Yikes. 

MUSTO:  Sorry. 

OLBERMANN:  The outfit that she was wearing earlier in the evening, do we have an explanation for that, other than it was the only one that was clean.  Pink wig, dog in lap. 

MUSTO:  Not to bring up Jack-O again, but this is like when he wore a gas mask to not be noticed.  It‘s absurd.  She looked like Pinky Tuscadero (ph) meets Willy Wonka in a bordello lounge.  Britney is a very smart girl, Keith.  Do not worry.  She is going to shave the pink wig off soon. 

OLBERMANN:  “In Touch Weekly” is reporting that the reason she sometimes goes out in public without her underwear is because she is insecure after her divorce, according to a so-called friend.  Again, I asked this question in a serious context earlier this evening, do you see a straight line anywhere between those two statements?  What the hell does that mean. 

MUSTO:  I resent you first of all saying this is not a serious context?  But, yes, when K-Fed left Char Jackson, she was seen without underwear.  There is something about divorcing K-Fed that makes you want to throw your panties to the wind and show your hoo ha to the world.  It‘s part insecurity, yes, and it‘s part defiance and it‘s part come and get me world, I‘m available. 

OLBERMANN:  Or he took everything, including the underwear. 

MUSTO:  Or he took it, yes.  He is wearing it on his head. 

OLBERMANN:  As she drove off from the police station, she reportedly was not wearing the seat belt, rather than the underwear.  But now she has a valid driver‘s license, at least.  So, progress in these compartmentalized part of her life.  It‘s a two steps forward one step back kind of thing for her.

MUSTO:  It‘s all baby s.  Look, the seat belt didn‘t match the dog and wig.  The buckle hurts if you‘re not wearing underwear.  The license didn‘t match either, but she got.  Now I think everybody else on that freeway needs to buckle up and change lanes faster than Al Gore‘s son when he sees a cop. 

OLBERMANN:  Apparently she was too busy getting booked last night to attend the audition for dancers for her upcoming music video.  Oh god, another music video.  Some director showed up there hoping to find her.  He wants her to be in this TV series called “Sordid Lives.”  Is her career about to, as they say, blow up into something big again.  Is it just going to blow up?

MUSTO:  It‘s just going to blow up.  Look, I think she should have been there, first of all, to test the male dancer‘s crotches and see if they flinch.  I also think she should have been there to nab that “Sordid Lives” opportunity.  I hear it went to Judy Dench instead.  She is screwing up because she is missing these opportunities just to comply with court orders.  Britney, what are you thinking? 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s not that difficult.  They are not asking her to say to go out and lip synch or something like that. 

MUSTO:  They are not axing her either. 

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Freud, I just did the same thing.  The one and only Michael Musto.

MUSTO:  She needs to wear a Freudian slip. 

OLBERMANN:  Anything, even a pink one. 

MUSTO:  Anything. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 1,630th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  One quick note, if you noticed the atypical get up tonight, the double breasted jacket and the somewhat vintage tie; this was our last scheduled night in the original MSNBC headquarters.  And I think this was the coat I wore on the first night of the old “Big Show” here on October 1st, 1997.  The tie is from the first week and—yes, I have pretty much exhausted that, haven‘t I?  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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