updated 10/24/2007 2:36:48 PM ET 2007-10-24T18:36:48

Guest: John McKay, Richard Wolffe, Craig Crawford, Chris Cillizza

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Good evening.  Already long ago, wrote the Roman satirist juvenile for when we sold our vote to no man, the people have abdicated their duties.  For the people who have once upon a time have about military command, high civil office, legions, everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things—bread and circuses.  Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, we’re not even getting the bread and circuses, from the Bush administration, just the bills.  Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, President Bush today, all but demanding a 31 percent hike to the annual war budget.  Another $46 billion.  Vice president Cheney all be declaring a Third World War over the weekend against Iran.  We begin with the commander in chief, the president this afternoon asking Congress for that additional $46 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That’s on top of previous requests for this fiscal year, bringing the revised total for the year to $196.4 billion.  It is a big number.  But President Bush said it should not be hard to understand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Parts of this war are complicated, but one part is not.  And that is America should do what it takes to support our troops and protect our people.  And today, I sent Congress an updated supplemental war funding request that will do just that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Supplemental, as in meaning to supplement.  The White House having originally asked for $142 billion, but another $5 billion in July and Mr. Bush making it seem without this increase the Pentagon’s war chest would be bare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The bill provides for basic needs like bullets and body armor -

protection against IEDs and mine resistant ambush protective vehicles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That’s right.  Four and a half years of the Bush administration having failed to provide U.S. troops in Iraq with body armor or vehicles capable of withstanding the blast force of roadside bombs and suddenly that is the fault of Democrats in Congress.  That remind the lawmakers have already approved more than $5 million for new reinforced vehicles and soon to likely to grant $11 million more to that cause.  To Mr. Bush, opposition is something to be voiced but not to be acted upon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I often hear that war critics oppose my decisions but still support the troops.  And I take them at their word and this is a chance for them to show it—that they support the troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Of course, Congress instead supported the troops by, say, bring them home, there is an increasingly likely chance that Mr. Bush would only send them into battle again against Iran.  The sabers rattling anew over the weekend, when the dark lord himself, Mr. Cheney, escalated rhetoric against the Iranian leadership.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences.  The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message; we will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let’s turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If we add what Vice president Cheney said yesterday to President Bush’s World War III remark at the news conference last week, should this be seen in the way “The New York Times” put it this morning, as a one-two punch from this administration?

WOLFFE:  Well, I know they think they’re heavyweight champs, but looking at it, it sounds like a lot of shadow boxing really.  Because what you have here is a vice president, who apart from seeming to like the name Darth Vader quotes favorably a line about how the Soviet Union approached terrorism.  And this is from an administration that is promoting liberty and democracy.  This is a strained argument and people are passing what he said for signs of war, but just that clip you played, the international community will impose serious consequences.  I mean, the international community is the U.N., there’s no chance on earth that the U.N. is going to lead to a war.  So you know he’s not fooling anyone.

OLBERMANN:  And never mind what he said or how he might or might not be fooling anybody and never mind the extraordinary money involved what about the resources?  The new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen said last week, that there is more than enough reserve to respond militarily to Iran if need be.  Was that a big dose of Kool-aid that came in his orientation package?  Or where is he coming from?  Is this just one gigantic bluster and what kind of negotiating tactic is that with a government that is supported on the bluster of its opponents?

WOLFFE:  Well, of course, it’s dangerous talk, and it is easy to understand why people are suspicious about this administration.  You only have to ask Tony Blair or Colin Powell who thought they were signing up to coercive diplomacy and ended up being coerced themselves.  So this kind of talk can be dangerous and certainly is meant to be threatening, but the sentiment as we’re reporting it in “Newsweek”, the sentiment and judgments of people inside the military up to and including the Defense secretary is that war is not desirable, it’s not likely and it’s not their current strategy.  So, how this fits into any wider strategy, is it supposed to intimidate the Iranians?  It’s not clear and not very well thought through.

OLBERMANN:  Alright, to Iraq, the Republicans staying on message here, they support this war increase because it’s for the troops.  The Republicans is also conditionally getting their way in terms of Iraq.  The Democrats so far is sticking to their talking points—President Bush should not expect Congress to rubber stamp his latest supplemental increase says Harry Reid, the Senate Majority leader today.  But very similar to all the previous ones that they did rubber stamp, is Mr. Reid, is his party going to do anything about it this time?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think they’re throwing in the towel here and they don’t have the votes.  They won’t get the Republicans to back them.  But what they can do is put this funding request alongside what’s happened with children’s health insurance.  Where they’re asking for less money for 10 million kids and that’s a political game they can win and actually it’s an important game because it involves the health care of children across the country.  So, there is other political mileage here.  But I think Democrats to all intents and purposes have really given up the game here in terms of stopping the war.

OLBERMANN:  General Petraeus was invoked again.  General Petraeus and other military leaders say we need this, is what the president said today.  However, it looks like General Petraeus has once again changed his assessment of where we are actually in Iraq, stressing the rising threat of the Shia extremist now that the influence of the group called al Qaeda in Iraq is supposed to be diminished and maybe even ready to be declared victory against.  Is this part of the plan to turn up the heat on Iran to rattle the sabers again after all this talk, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq, suddenly is now they’re done.  These guys, the Iranians are the real problem in Iraq?

WOLFFE:  Yes, as the president said, this war is a complex thing.  You know, what you have here is them for start minimizing the problem with the Shia militia in the south before because they wanted everything to seem rosy.  And now as you say, this is part of the intimidation tactics that they’re using with regard to Iran.  Look, either the war is going great or it’s not and truth is that it is complex, it’s messy, and the single track idea that this is all a giant progress to victory isn’t really matched by what’s happening on the ground.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but we continue to spend money at that hand over fist rate.  That’s gone well.  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,”  As always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  There is also a question of what kind of resistance the White House might find from its own party in Congress.  Now that even the most fear mongering terror Republicans are questioning the administration’s tactics.  In the “Wall Street Journal” up head, Congressman Peter Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida accusing the administration of using selective leaks about that Israeli raid in Syria last month thereby preventing due diligence and oversight.  Quoting again: “We  are concerned that, although the Bush administration refuses to discuss the Israeli airstrike with the American people or with the majority of Congress, it has not hesitated to give information on background to the press to shape this story to its liking.”  Just this story?  You mean as opposed to when the White House has leaked classified information on any other story it has seen fit for purely political purposes over the past six years?

If the Hoekstra name in this context sounds familiar yet ugly out of place perhaps it’s because as recently as June of 2006, the congressman pounding off deteriorating mustard gas canisters at least 15 years old as definitive proof that WMD have been found in Iraq.  The chilling assessment today at the administration’s intentions in Iran from a former CIA officer deeply involved in tracking Iraq’s pursuit of WMD, she is speaking publicly now because she was forced out of the CIA when aides to both Bush and Cheney revealed her identity to the media.  The name of course is quite familiar to you—Valerie Plame Wilson.  Despite the right’s denial, in her new book cements her prior status as covert quoting the CIA pension letter that confirms her six years plus stationed overseas and giving details of covert life including alias, subterfuge and even the CIA recalling her to this country in 1997 out of fear that her identity had been leaked by the traitor Aldrich Ames, we now know that it took White House aides to do that.  Their leak of her covert status was we now know, an attempt to tarnish her husband for revealing the falsehood (ph) of those 16 words about yellow cake uranium in Mr. Bush’s state of the union speech.  And now of course, the focus of her interviews since she went public but today, Ms. Plame was asked whether the administration might go to similar lengths to justify war with Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VALERIE PLAME WILSON:  There’s no doubt that Iran has intent and it’s malevolent.  However, I hope the American people have learned the lesson to pay close attention to what their leaders are saying and try to educate themselves and get as much information before we rush head long again into a disastrous war based on twisted intelligence.

ANN CURRY, TODAY HOST:  But do you believe the administration is capable of doing that in Iran?

WILSON:  I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Valerie Plame Wilson will join us tomorrow night to elaborate on that answer and address other issues relating to the leak of her identity and how it damaged national security and more on COUNTDOWN tomorrow night.

The investigation of the Plame leak stopped short, we know, at the lies of former Cheney aide, Lewis Libby who was sentenced for obstructing justice that Mr. Bush commuted.  And now we have word that another Bush loyalists, those considerably higher up in the food chain may also be in the prosecutorial crosshairs.  Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales.  He only left Justice last month, but justice may not be done with him.  Former U.S. attorney for Western Washington State John McKay saying in a speech Friday, according to the “Spokesman Review” that the Justice Department’s inspector general may recommend prosecuting Gonzales.  Mr.  McKay was one of the fired U.S. attorneys whose purge triggered congressional investigations of Gonzales and his highly politicized management of the Justice Department.  This past June, McKay was questioned by the Inspector’s General Office for eight hours about possible reasons for his firing including his decision not to investigate the Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire for alleged voter fraud, a decision supported by career prosecutors in his office as well as by the FBI.  Let’s turn to Mr.  McKay right now.  John McKay, former U.S. attorney for the western district of Washington state.  Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

JOHN MCKAY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Glad to be here.

OLBERMANN:  What exactly can you tell us about the Inspector General Glenn Fine’s upcoming report, when we get it, what do you think it will say and why?

MCKAY:  I don’t have any real inside knowledge of that other than, Keith, that it’s about time for that report to be coming out.  We know the inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility have been looking at all the facts surrounding the firing of the United States attorneys including myself.  We understand that the inspector general did interview former attorney general Gonzales and that is usually a sign that the report is close to completion.

OLBERMANN:  When the Inspector General’s Office spoke with you, and obviously understanding that there are only certain degrees to which you can be specific about something like this, but what lines of inquiry in a broad sense might they have been pursuing regarding Mr. Gonzales or his aides or obviously anybody more directly connected to the White House?

MCKAY:  Well, again, I don’t have any inside information regarding the investigation itself.  I was asked a number of questions.  There have been indications, I think, publicly, by some who are familiar with lines of inquiry including some in Congress, but it’s a very wide ranging investigation, we do know that.  The inspector general in particular has very broad per view to look at waste, fraud and abuse, claims of mismanagement in the Justice Department.  But also the inspector general has the authority and the ability to refer a matter for prosecution if he feels it’s warranted.

OLBERMANN:  In your speech on Friday, you said—let me quote it exactly - “There was a conspiracy to politicize the Justice Department.”  Was that a reference just to this purge of U.S. attorneys or was there more to it in your opinion?

MCKAY:  I think the evidence that has come out in Congressional hearings and in some other reports that we have indicate that there were persons at the Justice Department who sought to politicize it in its hiring, not just by firing presidential-appointed United States attorneys such as myself but in hiring line assistance of United States attorney who prosecute case on a daily basis or try cases in Department of Justice.  And those who love the Department of Justice, as I do, are very offended by that and quite certain that the inspector general is looking very hard at the question of politicizing the Department of Justice through hiring.

OLBERMANN:  Give us your assessment of him, of Inspector General Fine in terms of the integrity of the report that you expect, sketch out what we might expect to happen afterwards if he does recommend prosecution, your own feelings of the probity of what’s happening at this point for his investigation?

MCKAY:  I think highly of Glenn Fine, I do not know him personally.  He enjoys a very, very good reputation as a straight shooter, as a person of integrity.  The inspector’s general throughout the government are, you know, a different breed in the sense that they’re inside the Department he is inspector general for the Department of Justice, but his report is directly to the Congress and really to the American people.  And I know he takes that job very, very seriously.  And I believe he will do so in this case.  And he has a lot to work with.  Remember we had a lot of testimony from the former attorney general, much of which on important matters he indicated he didn’t recall, I think saying that so many times anyone who watched it would have been concerned about whether or not he was concerned about the search for the truth.  So, it’s now on this point the next step is for the inspector general to issue his report.  I do think that it will come down shortly, possibly before thanksgiving.  And you know, we hope that there will be some measure of accountability.  Some indication of a positive change at the Justice Department, many of us have believed—and I certainly do—that there’s been a dark cloud over the Justice Department caused by the former attorney general and others at the Department of Justice who sought to politicize it in firing ninety-nine states attorneys may have been only part of it.

OLBERMANN:  The conspiracy to politicize the Justice Department would be about as dark a cloud as we can imagine it to the DOJ.  John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for Western Washington State.  Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

MCKAY:  You’re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  Who won the Republican debate?  Who knows?  But Rudy Giuliani finished eighth in straw polling among the self-proclaimed values voters.

And tonight, 100,000 acres burn, 250,000people evacuated.  That’s just in the San Diego area.  There’s a new fire at this hour at Stevenson ranch north of L.A., the latest from George Lewis on the annual and horrible Southern California fire storm.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  If the self-proclaimed values voters are serious and serious about splitting from a Republican nominee who does not conform to their values, Rudy Giuliani is in trouble and so are Republicans.  A straw poll in their summit showed him in eighth place.  We think Hillary Clinton was in tenth place.  Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, philosophical debate and the other kind, too, for the GOP.  The semi-organized argument from the week, from Orlando, Florida, all (ph) Republicans trying to distinguish themselves from President Bush.  Many sounding more hawkish about say, Iran and Russia.  Senator John McCain said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is quote, a “dangerous person.”  And Rudy Giuliani declared that a nuclear armed Iran is more dangerous than going to war to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon even though military action would be a last resort.  Sound familiar?  But even the war talks seem to take a back seat to Clinton backbashing and to sharpen the knives on each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED THOMPSON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Mayor Giuliani believes in Federal funding for abortion.  He believes in sanctuary cities.  He is for gun control.  He supported Mario Cuomo, a Liberal Democrat against a Republican who was running for governor who opposed the governor’s tax cuts when he was there.  So, I’d just simply disagree with him on those issues.  And he sides with Hillary Clinton on each of those issues I’ve just mentioned.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Fred has his problems, too.  The senator has never had executive responsibility.  He’s never had the weight of people’s safety and security on his shoulders.

JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Governor Romney, you’ve been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record.  I don’t want you to start fooling them about mine.  I stand on my record.  I stand on my record of a Conservative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the choice of the our values or no values - Values Voters Summit in the straw poll that included online voting, the results far from definitive.  Governors Romney and Huckabee tying.  Each is about 27 percent although all of those attended the summit Huckabee was the clear favorite.  Let’s call in “Congressional Quarterly” columnist and MSNBC analyst, Craig Crawford.  Craig, good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY:  Hi there.

OLBERMANN:  Let’s dispense with the straw poll that was the culmination of the VVS, the Values Voters Summit of which Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council based and served as dad in chief.  Romney and Huckabee, the former senator, Fred Thompson in fourth, Mr. Giuliani, Senator McCain, strong showing from Ron Paul, where stands this influence grab or third party option or whatever it’s supposed to be on the part of these far right of the far rights?

CRAWFORD:  What I heard at that summit, Keith, was not much enthusiasm for the third party effort.  I think that’s a trial balloon that has run aground.  That doesn’t mean that there are any candidates these voters have really rallied around yet.  Giuliani certainly had a poor showing there.  The only reason he went to that event, by the way, was after that threat of the third party candidacy, he said he would go.  But he got so few votes there, Keith, that I think maybe it was just his staff that was casting votes for him.

OLBERMANN:  So where does that group of that 25 percent, 26 percent of the Republican Party, at least as they constituted now, where do they go?  Are they looking for somebody else?  Or are they just now you know, holding an empty gun trying to get whatever they can get Secretary of Interior out of the presidential candidate out of the Republican choice?

CRAWFORD:  Well, the most recent scientific poll as opposed to a straw poll that we have on that is CBS had one a few days ago showing Fred Thompson ten points ahead of Giuliani and McCain who were basically tied that far behind him.  I think that there is a difference between what sort of the rank and file grassroots voters among Evangelicals might think.  Maybe they’re fans of “Law &Order,” I don’t know.  And when a lot of or leaders of the group who are less than impressed with his campaigning skills so far.  But given all the baggage that the other candidates have with these voters, Fred Thompson would be my pick as the one that might have a shot at pulling them together.

OLBERMANN:  To a debate—the Orlando debate where the Republican contenders fought against the very notion of Senator Clinton or Senator Clinton as President Clinton, do - by taking them so very seriously, are they paradoxically playing into her hands as in paraphrasing the whole Churchill thing, judge the person by the seriousness of his or her enemies?

CRAWFORD:  As I watched the debate (ph), I counted 29 times her name came up and might have actually missed a few.  I was saying, you know, that the big winner in the Republican debate last night was Hillary Clinton in terms of how many times her name was mentioned, the more often than Ronald Reagan whose name is often invoked.  Now, on the flip side of what you’re saying, you know a lot of Democrats would argue, “Hey, this is proof of how polarizing she is and how dangerous she would be as a nominee.”  Sort of the support that, I would say what I heard from all these Republicans on this debate before and after talking, I didn’t find a single one who didn’t think she’d be the nominee.  I don’t know what they will do if she isn’t the nominee?  I think it would confuse the Republican Party they’re so adamantly convinced that that’s who they’ll be running against.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, there’d be a whole re-education program and the two-minute hate will have to be rededicated to somebody.  But we’ll work there in anyway.

CRAWFORD:  It probably won’t take too long.

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain brought up Senator Clinton’s support of a Woodstock Museum which was odd enough as it was.  Then he segued into what the biggest applause like line of the night in referring to Woodstock.  Let’s play that first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Now, my friends, I wasn’t there.  I’m sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event.  I was tied up at the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now, obviously, that worked wonderfully with that audience, and it gave everybody the kind of chills of the reality of what the world was like in 1969 if you were in Woodstock, New York, or in the Hanoi Hilton.  But did Senator McCain get anywhere in terms of reclaiming support from primary voters?  Because he finished behind Giuliani among these values voters.

CRAWFORD:  Well, that reference to P.O.W. days, Jack Bane (ph) and others recently in this campaign even in one of his ads is very different from when he ran in 2000, Keith, when he was a rather pious about that and wouldn’t talk about it.  Left it to others, even joked about the reason he was a prisoner of war is because he was such a lousy pilot and crashed in those days.  And now, he seems a little more willing to bring it up.  But I will tell you I don’t think McCain is going to be able to get closure with these Republican primary voters after talking to so many last night who really haven’t forgotten.  You know, real elephants aren’t the only ones with long memories.  And he has been on the wrong side of the issues, most recently immigration with a lot of these voters in it.  And this is a problem for him.

OLBERMANN:  Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly,” reviewing the big weekend among the Republicans.  Great thanks, Greg.

CRAWFORD:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  The Dumbledore revelations.  Did J.K. Rowling give enough hints and we all just missed it?  What about her other revelation that the Harry Potter series contains a lesson, do not necessarily trust authorities.  Speaking of trusting authorities, friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your lax, the guy in the back on the left, he’s the would-be prime minister of one of our key allies.  That’s next.  This is “COUNTDOWN”.

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OLBERMANN:  American political history records this as the 21st anniversary of the second of the Reagan tax cuts.  The Tax Reform Act of 1986, which dropped the top rate from 50 percent to 28 percent, and increased the lowest rate from 11 to 15 percent.  This quintessential conservative move to reward the productive was sponsored by Congressman Dick Gephardt and Senator Bill Bradley, who have not yet been retroactively baptized as Republicans by Pat Robertson. 

On that note, let’s play Oddball.      

We begin on the Internets and the resurfacing of a years old video that could change the course of Australian politics.  Watch the blond guy on the left, Kevin Rudd (ph), first the finger goes in the ear, then come on.  Do it.  Come on.  No one is 100 percent sure this is real.  Mr. Rudd, five or six years removed from the recording of whatever this video was, is now leader of the opposition labor party seeking to take the prime minister’s job from the conservative John Howard.  Obviously, back then he was already picking his cabinet. 

To Washington, where Dutch magician Wooter Byndick (ph), also known as Ramana is levitating outside the White House.  Why would he be levitating outside the White House? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just want to show that reality is not always the thing that it is. 

OLBERMANN:  Ramana was trying to show the White House something about reality.  Hey, look, it’s some guy from the Ramada. 

The annual nightmare in southern California.  To the north, Malibu and Stevenson Ranch are threatened.  But live pictures from the scene—to the south, a quarter million evacuated from greater San Diego. 

And two revelations from J.K. Rowling.  The one about Dumbledore being gay; you probably heard that one.  The one about the political subjects of Harry Potter, you probably haven’t heard that one at all.  These stories ahead.  First time for COUNTDOWN’s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best impression, Peanut, the parrot.  Mr Shannon Conwell of Monsey, Indian—Peanut likes to imitate sounds.  So when the house caught fire late Friday night, the smoke detector went off very feebly.  Thus did Peanut start to imitate it very loudly.  It was the bird’s imitation and not the alarm which woke up Mr. Conwell and his son, who then said, I grabbed my son and my bird and got out of the house.  Everybody’s safe.

Number two, best making of lemonade out of lemons.  City leaders in Sioux City, Iowa have finally given up and decided to embrace the three-letter acronym given to its airport by the FAA.  It’s not one of those illogical ones like EWR for Newark.  I mean, SUX does kind of abbreviate the Sioux in Sioux City.  It’s just that it also spells SUX.  Having decided the other options, GYO, SGB and GAY were even worse, city fathers have now printed t-shirts and caps and opened a website all called FlySUX.

Number one, speaking of flying, best stoicism, William J. Notaro of Clearwater, Florida.  He was supposed to fly from Tampa to Albany, New York via Charlotte when he sustained a little injury.  He flew anyway.  That’s when he noticed he was bleeding a little bit and in mid air asked the flight attendant for a band-aid.  She apparently blanched visibly.  When they landed in Charlotte, they got him not a band aid but a stretcher. 

Mr. Notaro’s injury, which he tried to tough out, he’d been shot three times in a domestic dispute.  No doubt the airline charged him an extra bullet fee for brining those three slugs on board with him.

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OLBERMANN:  One weary fire captain did the stark arithmetic.  We have, he said, more houses burning than we have people and engine companies to fight them.  Our third story, wild fires in southern California where they’re not unusual.  But those burning tonight are the worst in years and hitting both metropolitan areas and forcing massive evacuation.  The scope of the disaster seen from a satellite view of the smoke clouds drifting from the southern California coastline. 

In San Diego alone, a quarter million people are evacuated tonight.  These are live pictures north of L.A.. Lake Arrowhead, where 128 homes have burned already.  The visuals you are seeing are from the San Bernardino National Forest.  It is an epic disaster. 

Our correspondent George Lewis has been covering the tremendous human effort to save people, to save property at Rancho Bernardo, California.  George, good evening. 

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I’m here in one of the hardest hit parts in San Diego, Rancho Bernardo, on the northern San Diego city limits.  The fire tore through expensive neighborhoods, while the people who live here fled for their lives. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEWIS (voice-over):  This scene is being repeated throughout southern California; fire pushed by strong winds, roaring through the hills and canyons, destroying homes in its path. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We don’t know where we’re taking off to. 

LEWIS:  Before dawn this morning, people were ordered to get out, but also to avoid Interstate 15, the major north-south artery that runs through this part of San Diego.  The fire had jumped across the freeway.  All off duty policemen in San Diego were ordered back to work to assist in the massive evacuations.  At Qualcomm Stadium, officials were preparing to handle up to 65,000 evacuees, while other evacuation centers opened up around the county. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All I can say is it is pretty wonderful for the people who go out of their way to take care of us in time of need. 

LEWIS:  In the nearby community of Pawai (ph), a hospital was hastily emptied.  Some patients actually showing a sense of humor in the face of adversity. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Maybe it’s time to move by a big river. 

LEWIS:  In a place called Canyon Country, north of Los Angeles, water dropping helicopters worked frantically to save property.  But with the hot, dry wind showing no sign of letting up, fire fighters are worried. 

CAPT. ANDREW OLVERA, LA COUNTY FIRE DEPT:  Some have described it as a freight train coming at them.  It’s very loud.  It’s very hot, very intense, very dangerous. 

LEWIS:  At Lake Arrowhead, near San Bernardino, the wind and the flames began picking up this afternoon.  Traffic was snarled everywhere as those fleeing the fires jammed highways.  Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency and told the general in charge of the National Guard to assist in maintaining order. 

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA:  And he’s committed to take 800 troops off the border to provide for evacuation and for crowd control. 

LEWIS:  Tonight, the people on the fire lines will need all the help they can get.  Their battle far from over. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEWIS:  The fire department here in San Diego is stretched so thin that the fire chief said all of his trucks except one were devoted to fighting this fire.  Keith? 

OLBERMANN:  George Lewis in southern California.  Great thanks, stay safe. 

Life, even its stupid parts, continues even in crisis.  Now there’s a report that Ellen DeGeneres had given away another dog, to the shock of the people who gave that dog to her. 

And guess who thinks that schools are giving birth control to teenagers as a knee jerk response to the publication of the paperback edition of his book.  Seriously, a big night in worst ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

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OLBERMANN:  Our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, and Iggy may have just been the tip of the Ellen DeGeneres dog give-away iceberg.  How could you forget last week’s saga when the TV host wept after an animal adoption agency reclaimed a dog it had given to her after she had given it to her hair dresser’s kids.  They agency said that was a violation of a contract.  It got the cops to reclaim Iggy.  They gave it to somebody else. 

Now news that there might have been a previous Iggy.  An L.A. producer named Cary Randals (ph) says she gave DeGeneres a male mutt named Stormy two years ago and was grilled by her and her stuff for four hours before DeGeneres decided to keep the dog for a few days to find out if Stormy could get along with her other pets.  Ms. Randals said she heard nothing further until she checked back two months later, and learned that DeGeneres had given Stormy away. 

Not so says the DeGeneres publicist.  As far as they knew, Stormy had been abandoned and was living in a car, and Ellen’s role was to rescue her, keep her at home for a few days,  and then find the dog a better home.  If this keeps escalating, next week DeGeneres will get custody of Britney Spears’ kids. 

From the dog house to the big house, by way of the waffle house.  The chain of 24 restaurants in the south that proudly serves grits with anything on the menu, apparently including knuckle sandwiches.  Kid Rock, the self described Hick-Hop artist, and Pamela Anderson’s ex husband, playing sold out performances in Atlanta this weekend when he got in an early morning altercation at the waffle house.  the brawl broke a plate glass window, spread into the parking lot.

The “Atlanta Journal Constitution” reporting that several members of Kid Rock’s band Twisted Brown Trucker were also involved.  The Kid spent several hours in the Dekalb County Jail, was charged with a misdemeanor and added to the long list of celebrity and political mug shots that actually make a brief trip to the hoosegow (ph) seem like as much fun as grits. 

Dumbledore is gay.  And if you thought J.K. Rowling was also encouraging her readers to distrust political authority, you’re right about that.  The two big revelations about the Harry Potter books from the author.  That’s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN’s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to CNN’s Glenn Beck.  He says, quote, we’re all one America.  Just because I disagree with you, doesn’t mean you hate America and I love America.  We all love America.  We just disagree on how we should function, what we should do.  Big government, small government, it doesn’t mean you hate America.  Next sentence, I think there’s a handful of people who hate America.  Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today. 

Nice, make fun of the California wildfires.  How would you like to have to defend this guy at a sanity hearing? 

The runner-up, Bill-O, complaining that a middle school in Portland, Maine is giving birth control pills to girls as young as 11 without notifying their parents.  Might be right.  Might be wrong.  For once it’s not a completely crazy complaint.  But listen to how he spins it; it’s ironic that the week my book “Culture Warrior” comes out in paperback, intense culture battles erupt across the country.

Yes, Bill, the world revolves around you and the sun shines out of your heinie.  That’s why your repeat finished in second place to us again Friday night and in second place to “Lock Up New Mexico” at 11:00 Friday night.  Runner up, Bill, get used to it. 

But the winner, Tom Gross of “The National Review Online.”  They’re super mean about them now.  But maybe, just maybe, he writes, one day peaceniks in America and Europe will recognize George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as the men who prevented World War III.  Then they would be deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Bush uses the phrase World War III to justify his paranoia, and a week later this guy is claiming Bush already prevented World War III.  Man, he’s good.  What was that that John F. Kennedy stopped with the Russians and Cuba and the missiles?  World War 2.1, clambake, something?  Tom Gross of the “National Review Online,” today’s Worst Person in the World!

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OLBERMANN:  I know this because, like the time I walked out of a no-hit game at Yankee Stadium because I had to go do a sports cast, after having introduced her to those screaming faithful on Friday night, I had to get back on the subway and come here to do the news cast.  And, in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, after I left, she revealed that one of the principal figures in the book was gay and she had even had his romantic reminiscing about a woman excised from one of the films. 

There was something even more startling, which she had told me, and then hinted at with the audience, the political subtext of the entire Harry Potter series.  The tabloid headline first.  Asked by one of the winners of Scholastic’s Open Book Tour if the beloved headmaster of the Wizarding school Hogwarts had ever found love, Ms. Rowling said, my truthful answer to you, I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. 

She then went on to tell the back ground of the character’s deep friendship with Gellert Grindewald, a kind of precursor to the evil Voldemort; “Dumbledore fell in love with Grindewald.  Don’t forget, falling in love can blind us.  He was very drawn to this brilliant person.  This was Dumbledore’s tragedy.”

This was no bid to drum up controversy, nor appease the politically correct.  She said her understanding of the character’s background actually impacted the production of the up coming Potter film; “Recently,” she continued, “I was in a script read-through for the sixth film and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script, saying, I knew a girl once whose hair—I had to write a little note in the margin and slide in along to the script writer, Dumbledore’s gay. 

Lost in all that, what Miss Rowling said backstage, then touched upon again to here young readers.  First, she told me the parallels between the Mystery of Magic and its false sense of omniscience and the conduct of the American and British governments were no inferences.  She had put them there.  She then said on stage the books are, quote, a plea for an end to hatred, to bigotry and a lesson for kids and everybody else to question authority.  You should not assume the establishment tells you the truth. 

Normally when Chris Cillizza visits us, it is in connection to his authorship of The Fix at WashingtonPost.com.  But it can be revealed tonight, like me, Chris reads Potter.  Thanks for your time tonight.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THEWASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Trying to broaden my horizons. 

OLBERMANN:  Nothing wrong with that.  Let’s start with this obvious headline, Dumbledore’s sexual preference or orientation.  Should we have known that?  Was it within the realm of speculation among the Potter intense? 

CILLIZZA:  As someone who bought the last book hours after it was released, I for one will plead innocent in that I didn’t know about it.  But I’m also a guy who thought “The Chronicles of Narnia” was an exciting series of books about this far off world.  I got to college and realized it was an allegory of Christianity written by prominent Catholic theologian C.S. Lewis.  So I don’t know if my radar is exactly on point with that. 

OLBERMANN:  Realistically, is she risking anything with that revelation?  I mean, there are still two movies to come, to say nothing of the shelf life of the novels, and this eighth book that she’s working on, this encyclopedia? 

CILLIZZA:  Sure.  I think one of the appeals of the book, for a certain segment of the population, was that it was sort of beyond sexuality, beyond a lot of the things that complicate life.  It was about young people growing up, learning what they can do, what they’re capable of, what their powers are.  So, of course, yes, there’s an element of people who are going to say I would really prefer if that was not part of this discussion.  I don’t want to have to explain to my 10-year-old what gay means or, you know, why Dumbledore may or may not be gay. 

But let’s be honest, you and I both know this, J.K. Rowling is doing just fine financially.  I don’t think a few thousand or even a hundred thousand less sold copies is going to hurt her bottom line too much. 

OLBERMANN:  Plus, if you have to go and explain thing—the things you have to explain, life and death and people who are out to kill each other, these are things that really do sort—are front of mind if parents are trying to explain to their kids what they’re reading. 

CILLIZZA:  Absolutely.  Remember, part of the success of the thing—and the success of it is beyond the realm of what anybody thought was possible with a children’s book—is because kids do identify with it.  Adults do identify with it.  You know?  I mean, that wouldn’t happen unless there were identifiable circumstances, identifiable characters, people who you saw yourself in. 

So look, I do think there’s a segment of people who are going to say, I really wish she hadn’t said that.  It’s the same group of people who, when Bruce Springsteen gets up and sings a song and talks about the Bush administration, says, hey, just sing your song.  I don’t want to hear about your politics.  But these are people, these writers, these authors, these musicians.  They’re people too.  And, of course, the book is more than just simply about a young wizard who fights evil. 

Of course, there’s more to it than that. 

OLBERMANN:  But am I wrong in thinking that the other quote, and what she had said to me backstage, might actually be something that really does change the meaning of some of the work.  This message, question authority, you should not assume establishment tells you the truth.  So if somebody read a parallel between this smiling torturer in the book, the Orwellian character Dolores Umbridge and either Dick Cheney or Tony Blair, they perhaps weren’t imagining things? 

CILLIZZA:  Right, look, again, you talked to her, I didn’t.  I’m not sure I want to go that far.  But what I will say, Keith, is that of course this is based on her life experiences, her experiences when she was younger, her experiences when she was older, the way in which she interacts with the world.  I think it would be beyond belief, frankly, that it wasn’t influenced by things like the war in Iraq, the Bush administration, however she feels about Tony Blair. 

She’s writing these things in a context.  She’s not in a hermetically sealed chamber of secrets—I couldn’t resist—writing.  She’s writing this thing in the real world in real time.  It makes sense that the context of the world around her influences what the books say. 

OLBERMANN:  And I’m, just for the record—I’m leaving a lot out of my conversation with her.  I’m sticking to basically what she said in public, because I feel it is kind of incumbent upon me to get her OK without going further.  It’s interesting, yes or no on this, will the politics of the Harry Potter series be explored now? 

CILLIZZA:  I think so.  Any time you have something this popular, Keith—and we’re talking about, like I said before, I mean, popularity beyond anyone’s wildest - any publisher’s wildest imagination, I think we’re definitely going to see it explored.  It is a cultural phenomenon and will be explored as such.

OLBERMANN:  Fellow Potter nerd Chris Cillizza of the Fix at WashingtonPost.com.  Great thanks for being our expert on the subject.

CILLIZZA:  I wear that name proudly.  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.

That’s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,636th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Please join us for the live edition of COUNTDOWN every weeknight at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.  Be there.  Aloha.

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