updated 7/14/2008 10:18:54 AM ET 2008-07-14T14:18:54

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Jonathan Turley, Richard Wolffe, Josh Green, Chris Kofinis

RACHEL MADDOW, GUEST HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

John McCain uses his time as a POW to pander.  While campaigning in “Steel Town,” the senator tells a reporter that he called on the Pittsburgh Steelers for help during an interrogation in Vietnam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the pressures—the physical pressures that were on me, I named the starting lineup, the defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron mates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Except he gave his interrogators the names of the Green Bay Packers.  John McCain said so in his book.  McCain‘s authenticity factor on the line—full coverage ahead including a big booking exclusive.  Who do you want to talk to when the world of politics and sports collide?

The Phil Gramm fallout.  After John McCain‘s campaign co-chair says America is just in a “mental recession,” should Democrats be mental that Barack Obama left those outrageous remarks alone today?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We‘re going to remake our economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Does Obama need to retool his campaign strategy to develop some offense?

“The Dark Side.”  A new book blows the cover off possible White House war crime.  An international Red Cross report finds the U.S. uses torture.  Are charges of war crimes off the table for the president and his administration?

“Material Girl on the brink,” day two.  Before A-Rod there was Jose Canseco?  The former all-star confirms that Madonna wanted to have his baby even though he was married and had a mullet.  Who‘s next?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE FREDERICK VON ANHALT, ZSA ZSA GABOR‘S HUSBAND:  Sometimes I‘m a bad boy, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Papa don‘t preach.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VON ANHALT:  Sometimes I‘m a bad boy, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW (on camera):  Good evening.  I‘m Rachel Maddow in for Keith Olbermann.  This is Friday, July 11th, 116 days until the 2008 presidential election.

And if the election were a football game, it appears that Senator John McCain just ran the ball into his own end zone.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: McCain tells a Pittsburgh television station that he recited the names of the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line while under interrogation in North Vietnam.  One problem with that remarkable anecdote, every other time McCain has told that story, he‘s named the Green Bay Packers, instead.  Unnecessary pander, ten yards.

Ahead, we‘ll have political analysis from Richard Wolffe and we‘ll go to the go-to guy you always want to go to when politics and sports combine.  Someone who also knows a thing or two about COUNTDOWN, someone who is perhaps hoping to have the entire day off.

But first, tonight, the details.  The candidate who supposedly isn‘t comfortable talking about his military record, brings it up unprompted, yet again.  In an interview with station KDKA in Pittsburgh, McCain raised the issue himself, in response to the incredibly innocuous question, quote, “When you think of Pittsburgh, what‘s the first thing that comes to your mind?”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KDKA-TV)

JON DELANO, KDKA-TV:  Senator, when you think of Pittsburgh, what‘s the first thing that comes to your mind?

MCCAIN:  The Steelers.  When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the pressures—the physical pressures that were on me, I named the starting lineup, defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron mates.

DELANO:  Did you really?

MCCAIN:  Yes, years ago.

DELANO:  In your POW camp?

MCCAIN:  Yes, yes, indeed.

DELANO:  Could you do it today?

MCCAIN:  No, unfortunately, I couldn‘t.  But I certainly could then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Problem number one, the famous Steelers‘ defensive line to which McCain was trying to refer, you know, mean, Joe Green, L.C.  Greenwood, they didn‘t become famous until McCain was out of Vietnam.  Problem two, as we mentioned, he‘s told this tale before.  Notably in his book, “Faith of My Fathers,” on page 194 and I quote, “Pressed for more useful information, I gave the names of the Green Bay Packers‘ offensive line and said they were members of my squadron.”  The anecdote was also dramatized for the TV movie version of the book.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FAITH OF MY FATHER”/A&E)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (as John McCain):  Gregg; McGee; Davis; Adderly;

Brown; Ringo; Wood.

INTERROGATOR:  Ten points, McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (as John McCain):  Ray Nitschke, our C.O.

INTERROGATOR:  You, Mr. McCain, get some rest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  No rest tonight for MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Hi, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Rachel.

MADDOW:  The McCain campaign is claiming that the Steelers story is an honest mistake, one of many, it would seem.  So, our choices here would appear to be, (A), Senator McCain‘s memory is so bad he can no longer be counted on to remember much of anything or (B), he will say pretty much anything to be president, even pander on the very issue that‘s supposed to define him—the years that he spent in a prisoner of war camp.

Which one of those options is more politically palatable here?

WOLFFE:  You know, I‘m not sure what is palatable any more in a week where we‘ve had wall-to-wall coverage of Jesse Jackson threatening to cut off the extremities of Barack Obama.  What we‘re seeing here, I think, may be a memory problem.  I somehow doubt it.  I think this is another sign of the overexploitation of this compelling story, this compelling piece of John McCain‘s life story.

And the problem is, that the more you repeat this stuff, and where you repeat it in era (ph) and in excess, the less powerful that becomes.  I mean, the reason in 2000, his aides said he wasn‘t trying to talk about his life story, even when he was, it‘s because they knew it was somehow precious and to be brought up when they really needed it.  The problem of bringing it out every time is that it‘s no longer powerful.

MADDOW:  And on the issue of the power of this, this particular anecdote, about giving the names of the Green Bay Packers, this was the anecdote McCain would cite as evidence for why torture doesn‘t worked.  He would say, “Look, I know from first-hand experience, it produces false confessions.”  McCain reversed himself on the issue of torture back in February.  He voted against the bill that would have ban the CIA from using waterboarding as an interrogation tactic.

Does this anecdote, whether it was botched unintentionally or intentionally, does that have the potential of even reviving the torture flip-flop for him?

WOLFFE:  I‘m not sure this anecdote does in and of itself.

But I think that torture and McCain‘s position on torture ought to be a very relevant area of debate in this campaign, partly because he‘s raising it so often in what seems like every TV ad, but also because it‘s not just a historical issue, of course, because what we‘re learning every day is how the Bush administration adopted torture techniques as part of their standard operating procedure.  That makes it very relevant.  Not just as a campaign issue looking backwards, but also moving forward for the next president.

So, it is relevant.  What his position is, why he thought there should be some sort of exemption for the CIA.

MADDOW:  Richard, one of the great intangibles on which elections turn, is the authenticity of the candidate.  That‘s with the whole maverick thing is about, that‘s what you get the lifestyle photo ops of the candidates.  Authenticity seems to me to be really, really hard to generate in the minds of voters and really hard to re-create, if you lose it.  Do you think that John McCain is losing that sense of authenticity for voters?

WOLFFE:  Well, certainly this kind of incident speaks to that kind of issue.  I mean, to mistake a certain part of your life story is one thing, but this is a key, critical moment.  But he has repeated many times before and to get it wrong in this way does raise questions about the very essence of his brand.  I mean, if you‘re going to put straight talk on your plane and on your bus, then you cannot afford to be caught in anything less than straight talk.

MADDOW:  Richard, it may be months too early to say if this will cost McCain with Pennsylvania voters, but isn‘t this exactly the kind of thing that could cost him with Pennsylvania voters, especially with so-called low-information voters.  Even if they‘re low on information about other issues, low-information voters might not be low on information about football, right?

WOLFFE:  Right, absolutely.  This is where the campaign is really battling it out here.  What does it say about how he thinks about Green Bay and Wisconsin?  You know, there are cues here in which people are tuning in to.  And, you know, the only limiting factor here is how it‘s been covered.  I‘m really surprised that, so far, this has got very little debate and has been reduced to something of a blog item.

MADDOW:  I agree.

Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” thank you and have a great weekend.

WOLFFE:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  If John McCain or anybody but John McCain, then the week he just had might will be remembered as one of the worst weeks ever for a presumptive presidential nominee.  A quick look back, shall we?

Steeler/Packer POW-gate.  He‘s only running for president, people, how he could be expected to remember crucial details of his own life.  Also, his top economic advisors calls Americans “a bunch of whiners” for complaining about an economy that‘s only in a “mental recession” which he likened to mental depression and with the guy gets to keep his national co-chair position with the campaign.  We‘ll have more on that in just a moment.

Also, one of McCain‘s other economic advisor tells women voters that McCain is just as upset as she is that insurance companies pay for Viagra but refuse to cover birth control, leading McCain to squirm and stammer in attempt to leave his own body during a Q&A session on his own campaign bus.  OK.  At least, that tape was kind of enjoyable.

On Monday, McCain describes Social Security as a total disgrace, not saying it nearly need to be fixed but that, quote, “we are paying present day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today.”  In other words, he called the entire premise of Social Security—disgraceful.

McCain made a joke about killing Iranian civilians by giving them lung cancer.  McCain conveniently ignored it when Iraqi officials, including the prime minister, called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq even though he‘d said before that if the Iraqis wanted us to leave, he would leave.

And if all that were not enough, he claimed to have a record with veteran organizations that he really doesn‘t have.  He attacks Barack Obama for not voting on something he didn‘t vote on either, the Kyl-Liebermann amendment.  And he promised to balance the budget by the end of his first term, with all the money he would have saved from winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let‘s bring in Josh Green, senior editor at “The Atlantic” magazine.

Hi, Josh.

JOSH GREEN, THE ATLANTIC:  Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  If John McCain were anybody else, that is, if he were anybody other than a politician who is perceived to be a straight-talking maverick by many reporters who cover him, might this week have gone differently for him?  I mean, looking at this laundry list of one-week missteps, it seems extraordinary to me that there have been no real consequences for McCain.

GREEN:  It is, really, colossal.  I mean, I do think that the fact that McCain has a reputation as a straight talker, as a friend of the press, helped him out a great deal.  I think that reputation is beginning to wane as we see the accumulation of these kinds of episodes.

But I also think, frankly, that McCain lucked out, that this happens to be the middle of July, nobody‘s really paying attention and that Jesse Jackson‘s castration fantasy came down the pike in the middle of the week and most of the media got obsessed with that.

And, let‘s face it, I mean, if the media has a choice between covering Jesse Jackson and covering, you know, serious policy debates like Social Security, that sort of thing, you know, you‘re going to wind up with the kind of stories we wound up this week.  And I think, in a way, John McCain was lucky that that happened.

MADDOW:  I am with you on the fallacy versus salacious character story distinction, but what is surprising me is, even the salacious gaffe stuff happening in the McCain campaign, it‘s just rolling right off him.  One D.C. pundit, Mark Halperin of “Time,” even declared today that John McCain had won the week in a head-to-head matchup with Barack Obama.  And Halperin did not mean win in a not being hammered on all of these issues he could have been hammered on kind of way, he meant McCain is winning.

What‘s with the teflon here?

GREEN:  I do think that Halperin is probably in the minority on that one.  But, look, you know, the stories the media tends to cover are shark attacks, are wildfires, are Jesse Jackson.  And these kinds of stories just aren‘t going to stick right now.  I think if McCain had this week in September or in October, it would be a much, much different story and I think it‘s also worth pointing out that McCain is not out on the woods on this necessarily.

If you talk to Republican strategists, one of the things they‘re dreading most this fall is Democrats using McCain‘s “100 years” comment in advertisements.  I think the same thing is going to happen with Phil Gramm.  When the head of your campaign says there isn‘t a recession, you know, that may not have the impact Barack Obama would like it to in July, but it certainly could in September, in October, in November.  And I don‘t think this is the last we‘re going to see of that comment.

MADDOW:  Josh, is it as simple as the McCain campaign being better at working the refs?  Is this the media‘s own decision about how they cover this stuff or is it that Obama has declared he won‘t play offense—he‘s aspiring to a politics of a different kind and therefore, he‘s not overtly trying to shape the media the way that maybe the McCain campaign is?

GREEN:  Well, I think, one of them is that the McCain campaign is not necessarily very good at working the ref and that‘s in large part because they never really had to.  The ref has kind of, you know, been rooting for him all along.  That‘s beginning to change a little bit now that McCain is the Republican nominee and there‘s a different set of expectations that he‘s having a bit of trouble adjusting to.  But part of this, is the media going off and doing their own thing.

And as far as Barack Obama, I suppose, you know, had he wanted to drive a few issues, a few of these criticisms more aggressively, he could have.  But there‘s another line of thinking that when your campaign chairman says something as stupid as Phil Gramm said, the last thing you want to do is rush in and allow him to say, “Oh, this is a political issue.”  You stand back; you let him hang himself with his own rope.  Certainly, that story has gotten through, I think, it‘s going to continue to permeate.

So, you don‘t necessarily want to be jumping up and down on every one of these stories if you‘re Barack Obama.

MADDOW:  That is, that is, I think, the most charitable interpretation of how distant Obama has stayed from this stuff this week.  But if it is going to come to a time when Obama actually has to push an anti-McCain line in the press in order to get the press to do it, I wonder if Obama supporters should be concerned about whether the Obama campaign is capable of that.

I mean, how bad would a McCain mistake have to be to get real coverage and a real push from the Obama campaign?

GREEN:  You know, at this point, he might have to hit an old lady in his Buick.  But, you know, one of the things that is an open question mark about Obama is that, you know, he really hasn‘t had to be the aggressor to drive these kinds of attacks.  You know, he‘s had the benefit of a McCain campaign that even Republicans would agree has been just short of a calamity.

So, if McCain begins to get his act together, and this race begins to tighten, Obama is going to need to demonstrate some of these skills.  I just think that up until now, he really hasn‘t had to.

MADDOW:  Josh Green of “The Atlantic,” thanks for joining us.

GREEN:  Good to be with you.

MADDOW:  Did Barack Obama give McCain a pass when it came to McCain‘s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week, particularly on that “recession is all in your head” stuff?  Obama let that scandal completely slide today.  Should Obama supporters be concerned?

Also, a secret report finds the Bush administration guilty of sanctioning torture, could that mean war crimes charges?

And our very special, super secret guest joins us.  Here‘s a hint, I‘m using his chair.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  McCain‘s “mental recession/nation of whiners” problem should have eclipsed Obama‘s “bitter” remarks just a couple of months ago.  But one day after the story surfaces, Obama gives John McCain and Phil Gramm a pass.  Is this a good move or a bad move by Obama‘s campaign?

President Bush shows he knows as much about gas prices as John McCain does.

And, he has to make an early comeback from his vacation tonight which is totally unrelated to Michael Jackson‘s plan to comeback with the boy band.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Barack Obama this week was handed a political gift, one that had the potential to keep on giving.

On our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The grand slam that Obama is not hitting out of the park.  Since yesterday many Obama supporters are baffled as to why we have heard nearly a peep from Obama‘s campaign about Phil Gramm‘s suggestion that economic woes are basically a segment of our collective national imagination.

At a town hall meeting in Dayton, Ohio this morning, Senator Obama used the word economy, by our count, eight times during improvised and prepared remarks.  The most engaging sound byte was this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We are going to marshal the ingenuity of the American people.  We are going to remake our economy.  We are going to put people back to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Given the outrageousness of the whiner‘s statement made by John McCain‘s national co-chair and top economic adviser, many expected more oomph (ph) here.  For better or worse, it does seem that McCain realized how radioactive Gramm‘s remarks were.  We learned from Republican sources late this afternoon that Phil Gramm while remaining a, quote, “trusted friend,” will no longer have a public role in McCain‘s campaign.

McCain‘s other campaign surrogates, including Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman are now the publicly acknowledged designated drivers of McCain‘s economic policy.

It‘s a good thing Democratic political strategist Chris Kofinis is on our speed dial.  Thanks for coming in, Chris.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Even though McCain took Gramm off the grid officially today, Gramm‘s comments are indelible, particularly because McCain himself has echoed them.  Why hasn‘t Obama mentioned those comments since that singular comeback, the lame Dr. Phil joke?  He certainly had an opportunity today in Dayton.

KOFINIS:  Well, you know, in campaigns, there‘s always this tension between the message of the day that your campaign wants to focus on—in this case, it was energy independence—and kind of getting bogged down in these, you know, political hit-backs.

I think what you saw from the Obama campaign is them using, you know, top surrogates like Senator Edwards and Governor Richardson who hit Gramm pretty hard today.  I think that‘s part of the strategy and, I think, you know, you‘re probably going to see some other attacks probably coming on in a little bit.

I don‘t think this is, by any means, dead as a way that the Obama campaign is going to use to attack the McCain campaign.

MADDOW:  Well, that timing question is an issue here.  Back in April, before the primary when Obama made the unfortunate comment about Pennsylvanians being, quote, “bitter, clinging to guns and religion,” both McCain and Hillary Clinton seized on that comment by Obama immediately.  And even as recently as this week, John McCain is still using the bitter thing.  He‘s still going back and referencing that again.

Chris, if you were advising Obama‘s campaign right now, would you tell them it is not too late to go back again to this Gramm issue?  Couldn‘t this be the sort of economic touchstone for Obama‘s attack on McCain for the whole campaign?

KOFINIS:  Yes, I mean, I would be, you know, my advice to them would be to hit it hard and to hit it every single day.  I mean, what I think is so telling about the Gramm remarks, it‘s not simply that it was a surrogate that probably says one of the dumbest things that I‘ve ever heard in my years in politics—it goes to the heart of the fundamental difference between these two candidates.

I mean, Phil Gramm comes from the “Marie Antoinette School of Economics.”  I mean, let them eat cake, is basically how you can summarize his economic philosophy.  John McCain shares.  Here‘s a candidate that basically wants to replay the Bush economic policies.

Barack Obama wants to take the country in a new direction.  You know, middle class tax cuts, help strengthen working families—this is the economic frame.  So, this is, I think, going to be the gift that keeps on giving and I would hit it mercilessly every single day.

MADDOW:  Chris, specifically on Phil Gramm, just to tie up this loose canon, loose end, sorry, McCain has now designated Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman and former congressional budget office head, Doug Holtz-Eakin, as his economic policy drivers.  But Gramm is keeping his title as national campaign co-chair.

Do you think that McCain is keeping Phil Gramm around as a gesture to minimize how damaging Gramm‘s comments really were?

KOFINIS:  Yes, John McCain‘s, you know, continuing the long tradition of keeping surrogates or advisors around that hurt your campaign.  I mean, this is a guy who should be thrown under the bus and run over a couple times.  I mean, he‘s really hurt McCain campaign in multiple ways.

But, I‘ll be honest with you; it‘s exactly where I want him to be.  I don‘t want him to leave that campaign.  I want him to be there because he is not only a poster child, I think, for the wrong economic vision that John McCain holds, he really is indicative of the type of people you would see in his administration.

This is a guy, so everyone is clear, who‘s considered a front-runner for the treasury secretary.  That should chill every American in this country.  So, this is exactly where we want him to be and it‘s definitely going to be an issue that you‘re going to see heating up come the fall.  They‘re going to focus on this really hard, I think, the Obama campaign.

MADDOW:  I hope so.  A lot of Obama supporters are wondering why that hasn‘t happened yet, but I think they‘re saying, when they hear you say that, hope so.

Chris Kofinis, former communications director for the Edwards campaign, thank you again for your time.

KOFINIS:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  More on McCain‘s major mix up about a crucial part of his POW experience.

When issues of import include sports and politics, we‘ve got the guy you want to talk to.  And he was hoping to have a vacation day today.

And in Oddball, this guy needs a vacation of his own; when managers attack.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  April 23rd, 1985, saw the dawning of one of the worst crises ever to hit American consumers.  It wasn‘t until 79 days later, on July 11th that it would all be over.  On this date 23 years ago, Coca-Cola announced that new Coke introduced just months earlier, was a failure.  They reintroduced the old recipe as “Coca-Cola Classic.”  It was such a big deal to so many people that then Senator David Pryor of Arkansas, an admitted “cokaholic,” interrupted proceedings on the U.S. Senate floor to declare that this was, quote, “a very meaningful moment in the history of America, it shows that some national institutions cannot be changed.”

Me, I always like Maxie (ph) or Shasta, they never tried to change Shasta.

Let‘ let‘s play oddball.

We begin on the baseball diamond in Wichita, Kansas, during a game Wednesday, a manager Kash Beauchamp didn‘t like the calls he was getting from the home plate umpire.  He decided to let him know about it.  After getting in the ump‘s face and kicking some dirt, Beauchamp decided to jump (ph) a shoe in the ump‘s grill and then give him a close-up whiff of his armpit.  Raise your hands if you‘re sure.

Today, Beauchamp was handed a four-game suspension for his antics.  The best part:  the manager in question coaches a team called the Wichita Wingnuts.  Of course he does!

To Argentina for another Oddball science report; a group of scientists are studying the impact on bovine flatulence on global warming.  If they can figure out how often a cow steps on a duck and how much duck cows step on and how to reduce the volume of ducks getting stepped on, they hope to do their part to save the planet.  Nobody is really honest about how much wind they break, the scientists have circumvented cow shyness, and have just placed a wind bag atop the cows so there can be no denying who is doing the supplying. 

Finally to the many Internets, on the day when Apple released the latest, greatest technological gadget in the iPhone II, we at Oddball are going backwards for our technology.  Forget those nagging paper cuts you get opening letters the traditional way, behold the bunny envelope opener.  It‘s easy, takes about ten seconds.  And if it‘s a bill or an eviction notice, bunny always needs something to line the cage.  So convenient. 

An inconvenient truth for the Bush administration, according to the International Red Cross and a report submitted to the CIA, Bush administration officials could face war crimes charges.  We‘ll have details from the bombshell book that‘s not even out yet. 

And the Madonna wanna be baby daddy parade continues.  Jose Canseco says the Material Girl wanted to carry his baby, too.  When will it end? 

First the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed.  Number three, pain at the gas pump-gate.  President Bush taking a page from the McCain campaign, showing other cluelessness in how to bring gas prices down.  Today, Bush urged Congress to expand oil drilling in Alaska and off shore.  And if Congress doesn‘t, he says it‘s their responsibility to explain why to their constituents. 

Actually, Mr. President, it‘s your responsibility to explain how on Earth increased drilling could lower gas prices any time soon.  More oil does not magically turn into more gas.  More oil turns into more gas only when we do more refining.  The oil refineries we have are running at capacity.  We‘re at capacity because your oil buddies have been using any excuse they can to close refineries so they can pad their profit. 

Number two, Environmental Protection Agency-gate.  Fifteen months ago, the Supreme Court ordered the EPA to determine whether Greenhouse Gases harm humans.  Six months ago, the EPA had a written report ready to go that said global warming, indeed, harms humans.  The White House blocked that report.  Three weeks ago, the EPA was prepared to say the Clean Air Act is workable and effective.  But today, the EPA released its report, no finding on whether Greenhouse Gases harm humans, ignoring the Supreme Court.  That Clean Air Act that was OK last month, it‘s apparently no good now. 

Who could possibly be behind the notion that it‘s OK to ignore the highest court in the land and also to discredit the Clean Air Act?  Anonymous officials inside the EPA say it‘s all the work of Dick Cheney‘s office.  No way.  Way. 

And number one, EPA-gate, the sequel.  The agency values your life at 6.9 million dollars.  Sounds good, right?  Well, actually, that figure is down a million dollars.  You were worth nearly eight million bucks just five years ago.  It all may seem a little random, but the government actually uses this figure to calculate the cost benefit analysis of whether it‘s worth trying to save your life, whether a regulation with a safety benefit is worth its cost. 

So, for instance, it‘s cheaper to let you die from global warming than to pay the cost of cutting back on Greenhouse Gas emissions.  So, in this election season, when anyone asks you if you‘re better off now than you were eight years ago, literally, according to your government, you can tell them you‘re worth a million fewer dollars than you used to be. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Among the many things we could not have imagined before the Bush administration is the fact that the word torture comes up regularly in our political discussions now.  We‘ve actually gotten used to saying that word.  How about the phrase war crimes though?  Prosecutions for war crimes?  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the specter of Bush administration officials being prosecuted for war crimes for approving torture has been raised by the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

Representatives of the Red Cross were permitted to interview so called high-value prisoners at Guantanamo, that‘s part of international standards for prison.  The international agency submitted a report on its findings to the Central Intelligence Agency last year.  The report concluded that American interrogation methods were categorically torture, violating both American law and international law.  And the report, quote, warned that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S.  government in jeopardy of being prosecuted.”

That‘s according to a new book due out next week, obtained early by the “New York Times;” it‘s call “The Dark Side, the Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals.”  It‘s by Jane Mayer. 

Red Cross representatives were not allowed to access the actual interrogations of high level prisoners in secret prisons, but Mayer‘s book says several CIA officers confirmed parts of the Red Cross account.  The CIA had already admitted that Abu Zubaida and two other prisoners were water-boarded.  The book details other techniques also categorized as torture. 

Though President Bush, the torture approver in chief, has yet to be held to account for anything, someone is still trying on another front.  Congressman Dennis Kucinich yesterday reintroduced his articles of impeachment against Mr. Bush, collapsing all 35 impeachment articles into one, entitled “Deceiving Congress with Fabricating Threats of Iraq WMDs to Fraudulently Obtain Support for Support for Authorization to use Military Force Against Iraq.” 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the Judiciary Committee is entitled to hold hearings on the matter, even if the issue never comes to a vote on the House floor.  Let‘s call in George Washington law professor and constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley.  Good evening, Jonathan. 

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Hi, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  There are some elements to this we have already heard, but what is new about it seems significant.  How significant is this new revelation that the International Committee of the Red Cross submitted a report to the CIA that was so definitive and blunt in its assessment of torture and of liability for getting prosecuted for war crimes? 

TURLEY:  This is the world‘s preeminent institution on the conditions and treatment of prisoners and specifically what constitutes torture.  And the important thing here is they‘re saying it‘s not a close question, that as many of us, and there are many, many of us who have argued for years that this is clearly, unmistakably a torture program; the Red Cross is saying the same. 

The problem for the Bush administration is they perfected plausible deniability techniques.  They bring out one or two people that are willing to debate on cable shows whether water-boarding is torture.  And it leaves the impression that it‘s a close question.  It‘s not.  It‘s just like the domestic surveillance program that the a federal court just a week ago also said was not a close question.  These are legal acts.  These are crimes.  And there wasn‘t questions before and there‘s not questions now as to the illegality. 

MADDOW:  The only question is whether the illegality will be punished.  A CIA spokesman confirmed to the “New York Times” for their article about this today that Red Cross workers had been, quote, granted access to the detained terrorists at Guantanamo and heard their claims.  Then he added that the agency‘s interrogations were based on detailed legal guidance from the Justice Department. 

As I was reading this in the Times today, I wrote in the margin, that‘s the point here.  Isn‘t that the point here?  The people who gave instructions to torture, who construed in themselves the authority to order torture; you don‘t get to call something legal just because you say it is.  If you do so in a case like this, aren‘t you libel for prosecution? 

TURLEY:  That‘s the terrible transparency of this whole use of lawyers.  And it‘s an embarrassment for the whole Bar.  The Bush administration reduced lawyers, including the Justice Department, to a group of shills and sycophants.  And they were selected solely so they could come in and ratify whatever the president wanted.  And people like Jon Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Kyle Sampson, Goodling, all these people were ideologues and they took a very extreme view. 

They were also wrong.  The amazing thing is that they were wrong on the easy questions.  And they‘ve been proven wrong, not just by the Red Cross and by federal courts and by all these experts, but they haven‘t actually prevailed even in the Supreme Court that it has a majority of conservative justices.  It takes a lot to lose five or so major cases before the Supreme Court when you claim to be a war-time president. 

They still insist that because they hired a lawyer and the lawyer told them that it was OK that that somehow ratifies it. 

MADDOW:  Jonathan, are the chances now greater that some kind of international prosecution of Bush administration officials could occur after this administration leaves office, even if it won‘t happen here?  Could it happen internationally?  

TURLEY:  Rachel, I never thought I would say this, but I think it might, in fact, be time for the United States to be held internationally to a tribunal.  I never thought, in my lifetime, that I would say that, that we have become like Serbia, where an international tribunal has to come to force us to apply the rule of law.  I never imagined that a Congress, a Democratic-led Congress would refuse to take actions, even with the preeminent institution of the Red Cross saying, this is clearly torture and torture is a war crime.  They are still refusing to take meaningful action. 

So, we‘ve come to this ignoble moment where we could be force into a tribunal and forced to face the rule of law that we‘ve refused to apply to ourselves. 

MADDOW:  Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley, thank you very much for your time tonight. 

TURLEY:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  John McCain‘s pandering to the Steel City faithful; when sports and politics and hypocrisy collide, there‘s only one guest who can make sense of it all.  He‘s coming up and he thought he‘d have a vacation day from COUNTDOWN.  Fat chance. 

Making sense of the latest Michael Jackson comeback rumor that is so ridiculous it sounds made up, but it‘s not.  At least I didn‘t make it up.  Stay tuned. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The tangled web of sexuality that makes Peter Cook‘s 8,000 dollar a month porn habit feel normal leading off Keeping Tabs.  “US Magazine” is reporting that Madonna wanted Cuban born baseball player Jose Canseco to be her baby‘s daddy.  Canseco, the retired baseball player and admitted steroid user, told “US” Madonna wanted to get married and have a child with me; she wanted a Cuban child. 

According to Canseco, he and Madonnas were paramores briefly in the early ‘90s.  Madonna, who is reportedly having a little trouble in her own marriage, has been romantically linked with slugger Alex Rodriguez, who is in the middle of his own divorce.  Pulling it all together, Jose Canseco does not like Alex Rodriguez, because A-Rod apparently hit on Canseco‘s wife. 

Footnote here, Madonna did actually get her Cuban child, fathered in 1996 by personal trainer Carlos Leon.  Awe. 

From the you can‘t make this stuff up file, Michael Jackson is planning on making a comeback on tour with “New Kids on The Block.”  Hide the Jesus Juice.  According to the “London Mirror‘s” website, Jackson and the New Kids had secret talks about a comeback at Jackson‘s Nevada ranch last week.  Jackson was due to release an album this year coinciding with his 50th birthday, even though most of his body is less than 10 years old. 

The New Kids, who reunited this spring after more than a decade apart, are currently on a comeback tour themselves.  Jackson would presumably join them at an undetermined future tour date. 

Finally, to the Sun Valley Media Conference in Idaho, where Newscorp Chairman Rupert Murdoch is in the market to make a deal, because he lost his wedding ring, arrr.  According to the media blog Fish Bowl LA, Murdoch was spotted searching the couches in the lobby of the Sun Valley Lodge where he had been sitting.  The 77 year old Murdoch was at the conference with his third wife and will now presumably need a fourth ring.  An earlier report that two hobbits found the ring and chucked it into a volcano hoping to destroy Murdoch‘s empire appears to be false.  True in the poetic sense, but factually, we totally made that up. 

False statements from John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee confusing the team from title town to the Pittsburgh Steel Curtain.  When pandering to sports fans and the truth collide, we call in the best person we know to break it all down.  Here‘s a hint, he‘s done more number one stories on the COUNTDOWN than anyone. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It‘s only a matter of time before Senator John McCain‘s gaffs and flip-flops and I didn‘t say that fill entire college courses, in politics, government affairs, public speaking, not to mention the saved by Joe Lieberman during the press conference seminar.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Senator McCain told a story that cuts to the very core of who he is and why he says he ought to be president. 

As we told you at the top of this news hour, McCain conveniently dragged the wrong football team into this tale.  For a violation encompassing both politics and sports, we could think of only one definitive guest who will be joining us presently.  First, though, a reminder what Senator McCain told KDKA television in Pittsburgh was that the Steelers made a huge impression on him as a young man, and that as a POW in north Vietnam, when under pressure from his interrogators, quote, I named the starting lineup, defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron mates, even though in his book and in previous arguments and in making an argument against torture in the pages of “Newsweek,” on all those occasions, he said it was the Green Bay Packers‘ offensive line that he recited. 

Let‘s call in now, from a secure undisclosed ballpark, the host of COUNTDOWN, our very own Keith Olbermann.  Thanks for taking time off from your vacation. 

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  The show is on when I‘m not there?  I had no idea, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  We‘re just doing it privately in the office, nobody can see.  Keith, Senator McCain has been getting hammered on Steeler fan forums on the web, no surprise there.  As bad as that could be for him in the swing state of Pennsylvania, do you think this is a national impact story? 

OLBERMANN:  It could be because it‘s so easy to understand.  When you talk about Sunni versus Shia or a reversal of positions on, you know, abortion or anything rMD+IN_rMDNM_else, these are complicated things for people who are not fulling paying attention.  If you say in a book, in an autobiography, well, I listed to the Viet Cong the names of the starting defensive line of the first Super Bowl Champion Packers, that was the season—if you switch the names of the teams -- (INAUDIBLE)

This is a really easy concept and a sports has been kind of a third rail for a lot of political, particularly for -- (INAUDIBLE) Bob Dole in ‘96, when he referred to having seen the Brooklyn Dodgers play the other day, moved out of Brooklyn 39 years earlier.  John Kerry got, ironically, the Packer‘s home stadium wrong at a fund-raiser wrong in 2004.  These are really easy to understand concepts.  And the idea that you‘re altering your story in some way, for whatever reason, is understand by a sports fan, who then goes, what the hell, man?

MADDOW:  Keith, when Giuliani was still a candidate, he made Yankees fans crazy when he said he would be rooting for the American League team in the World Series, no matter who it was, even though that team would be the Boston Red Sox.  Compared with that, McCain has managed an almost more improvable sports insult here, hasn‘t he? 

OLBERMANN:  He has in the sense of Red Sox, Yankees, very lively and continuing over the generations kind of rivalry.  Steelers/Packers, to compare them, they‘re not in the same conference, used to be kind of blue collar town rivals in the NFL before the merger with the American Football League in 1966.  But what‘s really important and most football fans would believe jump on this thing—I guess most people who don‘t follow the NFL would not occur to them.  Again, he was captured by the Viet Cong in 1967 and knew the lineup of the World Champion Green Bay Packers in 1967, that‘s completely understandable and it‘s a great story. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers of 1966, 1965, 1964 were terrible, terrible teams.  The likelihood that good Pittsburgh Steeler fans of that time did not know names of those players, that some of those players did not know the names of the other players on that team, the likelihood is very great.  It really is unlikely and, of course, the option is to why he has changed the story. 

MADDOW:  And, of course, this isn‘t just about sports or even about politics.  McCain has centered his entire political biography almost exclusively on his life in the military.  I mean, never mind 26 years in Washington, we‘re supposed to think of him pre-1973.  What does this do to his authenticity when something like this brushes up against the core story of who he is? 

OLBERMANN:  There it is.  There‘s not a lot of options here.  (INAUDIBLE) -- previously told his story or how he wrote his story in the bock.  He doesn‘t know the difference between the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and the then doormat Pittsburgh Steelers, or he is changing it from city to city -- (INAUDIBLE) in the last ten years.  There‘s not a lot of good options here. 

MADDOW:  Keith, just one last question for you, is there specifically here a hit that McCain takes with the so-called regular guy?  I mean, Joe Voter may forgive a lot of things, may forgive a lot of policy flip-flops and gaffs, but leave sports alone, right, to the regular Joe Voter? 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s nothing to make a fool of yourself faster in politics than sports.  It‘s so easy to screw it up that you‘re really well advised to go yourself, because a sport fan and a football fan, in particular, is so well-educated, especially when you suddenly turn out to have a generic story that you‘re changing one way or another.  I think this is—this is the kind of thing—as I said before, it is so visceral to so many people, especially to people he would seemingly, naturally appeal to that they will go, if you can‘t get this right, how can you get anything else right? 

MADDOW:  Keith Olbermann, host of this program, and guest here even when he‘s on vacation.  Keith, thank you so much.  Have a good weekend.

OLBERMANN:  You‘re welcome.  I‘m a sucker. 

MADDOW:  Thanks.  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,890th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  You know, Keith told us he was going to be on a beach.  That didn‘t sound like a beach.  I‘m Rachel Maddow in for Keith Olbermann.  You can catch me week nights at 6:00 pm on  Air America radio.  Thanks for watching.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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