updated 8/7/2008 11:56:24 AM ET 2008-08-07T15:56:24

Guest: Gerald Posner, Neal Katyal, Maria Milito, Eugene Robinson, Chuck Todd

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

Five days of abuse at an end.  McCain discovers inflating your tires can, too, save gas, and lots of it.  McCain tires of tire pressure pressure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We should all inflate our tires.  And I think that the American Automobile Association is right, as well as others are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now all he has to do is figure out where to put all Barack Obama pressure gauges.  Stop thinking what you‘re thinking.  Focus on the flip-flop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  So, in the coming days, it‘s going to be interesting to watch this debate between John McCain and John McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the only debate that matters—political director Chuck Todd with the latest forecast for the Electoral College.  Obama by 217 to 189, Ohio was tossup; now, “Lean Obama.”  Jersey, was “Lean Obama,” now, likely Obama.  Oregon, was “Lean Obama,” now, likely Obama.  The anthrax attacks.  The rush to judgment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF TAYLOR, U.S. ATTORNEY:  We are confident that Dr. Ivins was the only one responsible for these attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The FBI might be, now that it confirms it‘s bizarre sorority motive; Gerald Posner is not.  He joins us, again.

The trial of Osama bin Laden‘s driver.  Professional Neil Katyal on the guilty verdict against Salem Hamdan.

Speaking of bin Laden, Bushed—anybody remember what happened seven years ago today?  Hint: 36 days before 9/11.  It mentioned the World Trade Center, hijackings, attacks in Washington, groups of bin Laden supporters -and the president ignored it.

Worst: “Bill-O, The Clown” in self-congratulatory mood, his audience is more knowledgeable than those watching Comedy Central.

And: The presidential in Paris, day two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARIS HILTON, CELEBRITY:  So, thanks for the endorsement, white-haired dude.  And I want America to know that I‘m, like, totally ready to lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  John McCain says he likes this thing, evidently missing the fact that she skewers the bejesus out of him during it.  Maybe he‘s thinking of asking her to be in that biker beauty pageant.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Wednesday, August 6th, 90 days until the 2008 presidential election.

As metaphors go, Senator McCain just got a flat.  After nearly a week which he, his surrogates, and the RNC spent mocking Obama for suggesting in response to a question: tire inflation is a way to improve mileage and save lots of gas, Senator McCain has come out and endorsed tire inflation as a way to improve mileage and save lots of gas.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Senator McCain spinning his wheels.  Another apt metaphor.  The great inflation debate of 2008, now officially is the McCain tire rotation.  Having already handed out tire gauges with the words, “Obama‘s energy plan,” to the McCain traveling media corps last night, the Republican National Committee arranged to send the same gift to the reporters who cover Senator Obama.

Small problem.  Last night also, when at a so-called tele-town hall meeting in West Virginia, Senator McCain said that inflating your tires was the right thing to do.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I agree with the American Automobile Association.  We should all inflate our tires.  And I think that the American Automobile Association is right, as well as others are.  But the fact is, that doesn‘t serve as a plan for us to become independent on foreign oil.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Phrase it another way and Senator McCain does not disagree with Senator Obama.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Could I mention that Senator Obama a couple of days ago said that we all ought to all inflate out tires and I don‘t disagree with that.  The American Automobile Association strongly recommends it.  But, I also don‘t think that that‘s a way to become energy independent.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Even though data from the Bush administration‘s highway department suggested proper tire inflation and engine tuning could save 800,000 barrels of gas a day.  But new drilling could also start producing 1.2 million barrels of gas a day in about a decade from now.

Perhaps the McCain tire rotation explaining why knock off—knock off “Obama energy plan” tire gauges are down to only $10 on eBay.  The McCain campaign is asking $25 donation for them from anybody else.  A reminder that similar pencil style models inscription-free are still available on Amazon.com for 89 cents.  That‘s a 2,700 percent markup.

Today, in Indiana, Senator Obama is explaining how great an energy debate would be without Senator Obama in it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  They‘ve been going around sending tire gauges to reporters saying, “Barack Obama‘s energy plan.”  Well—you know, that sounded clever, except last night after all that, Senator McCain actually said that he agreed that keeping our tires inflated was a good idea.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  Which makes sense because it turns out NASCAR, which knows something about tires, apparently said the same thing.  So did AAA.  And so, in the coming days, it‘s going to be interesting to watch this debate between John McCain and John McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain is saying he preferred to actually participate in the debate about why Washington is broken because Senator McCain‘s energy plan reads like an early Christmas list for oil and gas lobbyists.  The Democratic National Committee helping that Democrat with that new attack ad today, launching an “Exxon-McCain ‘08” campaign, complete with buttons, yard signs, and bumper stickers.

Speaking of bumper stickers, a blogger in South Florida is spotting a strange decoration on the rear bumper of Senator McCain‘s campaign bus in the parking lot of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Boca Raton, Florida.  The photos he took a little fussy but the logo is not fuzzy enough for the McCain campaign—Obama ‘08.

I wonder if anybody checks to see if all the tires of the bus were properly inflated.

Time now to call in our own Eugene Robinson, also, associate editor and columnist of the “Washington Post.”

Gene, good evening.

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So even Senator McCain‘s campaign bus has taken something from the Obama campaign?

ROBINSON:  You know, I guess, you just have to say that the air went out of this whole controversy.

OLBERMANN:  All right.

ROBINSON:  That‘s what happened.  I‘m sorry.

No.  It was silly, you know, to begin with and maybe we‘re done with it.  It clearly wasn‘t working for McCain anymore, and so, they‘ve decided to declare a victory and get out, I guess, of this mini-battle.

OLBERMANN:  On the other hand, the famous phrasing from Aaron Sorkin during the “West Wing” was a presidential candidate should, if only because it‘s the easiest to remember, tell the truth, the RNC clearly had not abandoned its plan to hand out more of these tire gauges to reporters, to keep milking this thing.

So, we think that Senator McCain decided to give up this ghost last night, or that he had forgotten what he was supposed to believe or it‘s another case where the candidate doesn‘t speak for the campaign?

ROBINSON:  Well, could be that third thing.  Could be, you know, we were here—I was here that night, when we discovered that the candidate, indeed, doesn‘t speak for the campaign.

Look, you know, one likes to think that John McCain, you know, woke up and said, “You know, what are we doing?  We‘re talking about tire inflation.  This is silly.  I should end this and we should have a noble campaign.”

I think more likely, either he realized or somebody told him that a really dumb thing to do in the campaign is try to convince Americans about something, about their car, that‘s utterly false.  You know, like saying, you know, never change your oil.  Do whatever you do, never change the oil.  I mean, it would be, you know, no one would buy that.

This idea that you‘re going to campaign on a platform of don‘t inflate your tires, is absurd.  There‘s no way you‘re going to gain ground with that.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re fighting the logical fallacy here again -- (A) happens, then (B) happens.  That does not mean (A) caused (B).  But, yes, Obama did say that—it‘s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.  Do we think that McCain heard about this?  Or say, or (INAUDIBLE), “I could (ph) have a correct answer here,” could that possibly of influence how this changed suddenly?

ROBINSON:  Well, I do think that Obama‘s counterpunching on this issue, if you want to call it an issue, there‘s really no two sides to it, but his counterpunching was effective, I think.  And, you know, it seems clear to me that after the initial teeter of amusement over the tire gauges, it seemed to me to start working against McCain.  It just seemed trivial and wrong, just a bad, you know, kind of detour for the bus to be on at this junction.

OLBERMANN:  Do not back up this tire damage.  That‘s my version of what you started as of with (ph).  Talking about the counterpunches, though, the new lines that they came out with here, McCain should be debating himself and those bumper sticker, “Exxon-McCain,” the attempt to tie McCain to big oil, any way you turn, do those counterpunches look like never mind counterpunches, but perhaps themes for the rest of the campaign?  Are they keepers?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, I think you can‘t say that either of those was some sort of knockout punch, but from the Obama campaign‘s point of view, you know, it seems that maybe he‘s got some traction now in trying to turn it around and make the campaign about John McCain to the extent that it ought to be.  And you know, it ought to be about both of them, but so far, it‘s been about Obama.  I think this helps to make it more about John McCain.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and if we‘re wondering about the talking points on this being a referendum on Obama, we just saw Bill-O just went to that.  He said that this is a yes or no vote on Obama.  So there you go, there‘s the opposition mean (ph) coming to it already.

Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post”—great, thanks for your time tonight, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The latest “Associated Press” Poll puts Senator Obama 6 percentage points ahead of McCain in the popular vote, 47-41.  As we all well know, polls, and even the popular vote, cumulatively any way, matter or not—the Electoral College does.

According to the latest NBC News electoral map analysis: 10 states are still up for grabs.  Though that number is expected to dwindle as we near November and as far as the states that are showing preferences, 16 likely to go for McCain, seven more “Lean McCain,” 14 states and the District of Columbia, will likely go for Obama, that includes New Jersey and Oregon, that formerly were just leaning his way.  The former tossup state Iowa is now joining Minnesota and Wisconsin in leaning towards the Democrat which means that in Electoral College projections, Senator Obama now has seven additional votes since the last time we tried this, putting him in the lead, 217 to McCain‘s 189.

We‘re joined now NBC News and MSNBC political director, our resident dean of Electoral College, Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  The 10 states that you still consider tossups, that‘s 132 Electoral College votes.  Do you have indications yet how they‘re likely break?  I mean, if this were still a primary night, we were talking here, would they be in “too close to call” category or the “too early to call” category?

TODD:  Well, look, if this were instead of August 6, October 26, we would be probably be able to push six of those 10, three in the one column and three in the other.  In McCain‘s column, you would probably push Missouri, Florida, and Nevada.  In Obama‘s column, you would probably push New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.  Ever so slightly and when I say push, these are states that are—where basically both of those guys have a lead of less than five points.

The pure tossups at this point appear to be, right now, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire.  Now, if you look at those four states and you assume we did the pushing of those other six, Obama just needs 10 electoral votes out of those four.  Well, Colorado by itself doesn‘t do it.  That‘s nine.  You have, Ohio would, by itself do it.  Virginia would by itself do it.  New Hampshire wouldn‘t.  He would neither need New Hampshire and Colorado together or one of the other two.

McCain needs three of those four, one of them not being New Hampshire.  He needs to sweep Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado in order to do it, assuming everything else goes as planned.

So, that‘s where—you know, it is close, but you talk about the national poll at the beginning, if Obama did win by five or six points, you know, sometimes we look at six-point national poll lead and we say, “Gee, that‘s very close.”  If he wins by six points nationally, something that hasn‘t happened, Bill Clinton did it in ‘96, he won by nine points, that would be a landslide in the Electoral College.  That would put it at 350 electoral votes.

So, one thing to keep in mind there.

OLBERMANN:  How—define one term.  How flexible are lean states?  Could the “Lean McCain‘s” become “Lean Obama‘s” or vice versa, or do you not expect that?

TODD:  Well, look, three that—it wouldn‘t surprise me if three popped in the tossup column.  One was there a while ago; one on the Obama side, a “Lean Obama” might be Wisconsin.  Republicans are convinced that Wisconsin will snap back.  That was a state that was very closely contested in both 2000 and 2004.  They‘re not giving up there.

But I‘ll tell you, the region of Illinois has been something that‘s been very strong for Obama both in the primaries and here in the general, we‘re seeing the same thing as these states in the agricultural Midwest drip in his direction.

Two lean McCain states that we‘re keeping an eye on that could move into our yellow column, North Carolina and Indiana.  What‘s interesting here, Keith, those were arguably, the decisive primary states for Obama on May 6th.  That was—that night that Obama, he didn‘t put it away but he might as well had put it away.  Well, because the primaries went so late, his organizations are still alive there.  He is over-performing there.

North Carolina is a state, I talk to a lot of Republicans, that‘s the one they expect to sort of start moving into tossup column.  Look, there are analysts, Charlie Cook, who‘s one of our NBC contributors here, he‘s already moved North Carolina to tossup.  There‘s an argument to be made there.  We‘ll see.

A lot of Republicans hope that it snaps back after the Republican convention.  And frankly, that‘s when we‘re going to get the next good picture of where the map stands.

OLBERMANN:  Vice president question -- 30 percent, “New York Times Poll” say, the vice president decisions will greatly influence who they vote for.  Obama campaign today with Evan Bayh; Mrs. Obama went on a fundraiser with Tim Kaine, Tim Pawlenty was campaigning on behalf of McCain today.  Are we any more clear on the “who” or the “when”?  I mean, they are not going before the Olympics, right?  We‘re going to wait until convention time?

TODD:  We may wait until convention time, but let‘s not—you know, don‘t forget, the Olympics are a time when we are gathered around our television.  So, it wouldn‘t surprise me if one of them decided, maybe in the second week of the Olympics, to try to breakthrough with a pick.

But, look, I‘m told on the Obama side, we‘re not going to be surprised.  I am not told that on the McCain side.  McCain could still come with a wild card.  The short list on the Obama side is probably one of our likely picks as far as he is concerned.

OLBERMANN:  Chuck Todd, political director of MSNBC and NBC News, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire.  We‘ll start there.  Thanks, Chuck.

TODD:  You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The third party campaign meantime, of Paris Hilton, or is that just the constant party campaign of Paris Hilton?  John McCain said he thought her ad was hilarious.  Evidently, he missed the parts in which she was insulting him.

And after nearly seven years, the FBI finally convicts somebody for the anthrax attacks.  Of course, they never tried him in court or charged him, they‘ve just announced he did it and he‘s not commenting since he‘s dead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The G-men have their guy in the anthrax case, unfortunately today, he was busy attending his own memorial service.  The flaws in the all too tidy conviction by proclamation of the late Dr. Bruce Ivins.  The new developments analyzed for us next by investigative author, Gerald Posner.

Bushed: An anniversary bigger perhaps than 9/11.  The day the president not only didn‘t connect the dots, but threw the dots away.

And in Worst: “FOX and Friends” ridicules Ron Suskind‘s book, insisting Bush never tried to link al Qaeda and Iraq, meaning that 2004 quote from the president linking al Qaeda and Iraq, it‘s news over at fixed news.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A flask of anthrax was the genetic parent of the 2001 anthrax attacks, according to the Justice Department and the FBI, which today released evidence against a dead man, who‘s never even charged, let alone, tried or convicted, declaring that evidence conclusive.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The government declares Dr.  Bruce Ivins as a only person responsible for those anthrax attacks despite an admitted lack of any direct evidence.  Hundreds of pages of documents, including 14 search warrants released today.  U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor concluding that the anthrax responsible for the attacks late in 2001, matched a single of flask of spores codenamed RMR1029.

That flask allegedly created and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins.  Investigators are conceding that over 100 others may have had access to the substance but they were methodically eliminated as suspects.

The officials other prime assertions include a machine used to drive pathogens, used by Dr. Ivins at the Fort Detrick, Maryland facility; inordinate and unexplained hours Dr. Ivins worked during the relevant time period; envelopes used in the attacks, having certain defects, matching envelopes available at the post office that Dr. Ivins frequented.

The anthrax letters, posted in Princeton, New Jersey near the office of a sorority with which Dr. Ivins was allegedly obsessed.  Also, Ivins‘ poor mental health.  As apparent motive, Dr. Ivins is distressed that his anthrax vaccination program might be coming to an end.  And Dr. Ivins‘ proclivity for writing Congress and the media, dozens of letters—of course, those did not contain any anthrax.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  What direct evidence do you have?  For instance, do you have any tape that was used on the envelope that was recovered from home?  Do you have any other evidence that clearly would link him?  For instance, in the affidavit, it mentions that people of this sort often keep souvenirs.  Do you find anything like that at his home?

JEFF TAYLOR, U.S. ATTORNEY:  We have a flask, but effectively the murder weapon from which those spores were taken was controlled by Dr.  Ivins.  Anthrax in that flask was created by Dr. Ivins.  We have the suspicious behavior that he had undertaken over the years.  We have, in addition, the mail envelopes with the tool stamp defects I have mentioned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A memorial service was held today for Dr. Ivins at Fort Detrick and Dr. Ivins‘ attorney in a statement reasserted his client‘s innocence.

Let‘s call in once again, investigative author, Gerald Posner, who wrote, “Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11.”

Thanks again for your time, sir.

GERALD POSNER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST:  Thanks, Keith.  Good to be with you again.

OLBERMANN:  The flask of anthrax with identical spores, ostensibly, their strongest piece of evidence.  What do you make of this?

POSNER:  That‘s what they make it sound like, but it‘s not.  Let me tell you, the late public hears this, they think that‘s the evidence.  Those are the spores that got people sick, sent out from the envelopes, not true.  That was liquid anthrax in that flask.

Even if the FBI can tie to that flask, they can‘t explain how it was then made into this extremely sophisticated type of weapon with small milligram with electric charges to it, with polyglots on top of the coating, all to go deep inside the lungs, to spread to the air.  This was weaponized, military anthrax.  They cannot explain how from that glass flask in a liquid form into the form that was sent in the envelopes, that they don‘t have the evidence on it.

OLBERMANN:  What, if anything that they presented today, is the strongest evidence?  What do they got going for them?

POSNER:  Well, they threw out this machine what they called the lyopholizer, they say that can make wet anthrax into dry anthrax, but I talked to six different microbiologist today and people involved formerly in weapons programs in the United States and in Russia, who say that the machine that the FBI talks about can‘t do that.

The strongest evidence they have going for them is also their Achilles‘ heel and that he‘s psychological profile.  That fact that he‘s very unstable, that he was someone who was an alcoholic, that he might wanted to have the vaccine continue to go along, but that‘s also the fact that he could have been set up as a cutout or puppet (ph) or used by a group of people who wanted the anthrax out there.

They also knew about his weak psychological profile.  How was he employed with the most secret biological warfare lab in the United States with this type of background that we now hear about?  That they should have known about from day one.  The Defense Department should hang its head in shame.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Thirty-five years of murderous intent and nobody knew about it, and they let him in to the germ warfare lab.  As to motive, they mentioned it but almost as if it were in passing?  Is that a weak part of the case?  Do they offer anything that made any sense?

POSNER:  Well, I‘ll tell you.  I thought it was a weak part of the case.  I listened to a press conference today and then sort of at the end as though they felt they had to throw something out, they said, “Oh, by the way, let‘s give you the reasons to why we think he sent and went on this homicidal rage.”

And the motive they said was, “Well, he‘d helped developed a vaccine for anthrax, he probably wanted to continue to see that developed by killing people by having come up with an unknown way of this high military grade anthrax.  We would keep the vaccine program going.”

That was pretty weak, and, you know, I thought they‘re just literally were fishing.  They don‘t have a good motive, unfortunately, for them and their prosecution.  But as you said in the lead into this, they don‘t need to because the primary suspect, the only suspect is dead.  They‘re going to close this case.

OLBERMANN:  But the declaration that he is the only, it‘s not just a question of proving a dead man did this, or was part of this, but the insistence is, he did by himself alone, mad scientist thing.  Did they get anywhere near confirming that?

POSNER:  No.  As a matter of fact, that‘s my major problem with this.  You know, if you look at it and you say, “He‘s involved, he‘s got a role in it, he‘s done something.”  That‘s the evidence I‘m waiting to see that and they may nail that down.  But I spoke to enough experts in the last few days, who have convinced, who know how this process works, that these spores that were sent out, were not the work of one lone scientist and that, I believe, is the case.

OLBERMANN:  Investigative journalist and author, Gerald Posner, your help on this has been invaluable.  Thank you, sir.

POSNER:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You might think this cat here will have a tough life.  The upside is, think of his chances in politics with two built-in faces.

And it‘s come to this, “Bill-O, The Clown” is now boasting that his viewers are 4 percent smarter than those of a comedy show.  Worst Persons is ahead.

But first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed.

Number three: The war will pay for itself-gate.  Remember that line—once the oil revenues were restored to the Iraqi people, they could take over all rebuilding expenses and reimburse us some of ours? The GAO reports that the energy crisis has been so good for Iraq that the government there will have a budget surplus by the end of this year of about $97 billion.

So, they‘re rebuilding their country with it?  No, Iraq has spent a little under $4 billion since 2005 on rebuilding Iraq.  We spent at least $23 billion.  Iraq‘s oil money is sitting on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York rebuilding interests.

Number two: Listening to the generals on the ground-gate.  Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell dismissed the contention by a politician and a military figure that the situation in Afghanistan is, quote, “precarious and urgent.”  Morrell said, “I would take issue with that characterization that if there‘s anything desperate about the situation in Afghanistan, anything urgent or precarious about the situation in Afghanistan.”

This brings him into conflict with Senator Obama, who said there is.  Also, with that military leader who was asked if he agrees with Obama if the situation in Afghanistan is precarious and urgent.  The military leader said, “I think it is.  It is urgent.  It is one where the violence is growing.”  The military leader, of course, is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, and Lord knows, he would not want the press flack at the Pentagon agreeing with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs agreeing with Obama.

And number one: Legacy-gate.  As the struggle goes on to build the Bush presidential library, his reminder of the true legacy of the 43rd president of the United States, take a look at the calendar, August 6th.  Does that date ring a bell?  Seven August 6ths ago, Mr. Bush was on his month-long at Crawford, Texas when he was given a report that which he either did not read, did not understand or did not believe.

It‘s first paragraph mentioned, “His followers would the example of the World Trade Center bomber, about bring the fighting to America.”  Its second paragraph referred to the individual profiled in the report as one, quote, “to retaliate in Washington.”  Its 10th paragraph detailed sensational but uncorroborated threat reporting, including that the individual wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft.

Its 11th notes “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.”  And its 12th and final paragraph mentions, “A call to our embassy in the UAE in May, saying that a group of bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.”

The president‘s daily briefing seven years ago today, August 6th, 2001, entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” mentions bringing the fight into America, retaliating in Washington, wanting to hijack a U.S.  aircraft, preparations for hijackings, surveillance done in New York, groups of supporters in the U.S. planning attacks”—all the information you could have wanted.  All of it in George Bush‘s hands, seven years ago, today, with 36 days left to interrupt or alter 9/11.

So, when you rhetorically ask, as Mr. Posner did in his exceptional book, “Why America Slept,” the answer is actually a correction.  America did not sleep, George Bush slept.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

*

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OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  And his sandwich lacked some toppings, so naturally Reggie called 911. 

First on this date in 1916, one of the last of the Renaissance men was born.  Mike Burke (ph) was briefly a pro football player, then a World War II spy, then a consultant on a movie about his spying, then general manager of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey circus, then a vice president of CBS, then the president of the New York Yankees, then the president of Madison Square Garden, then a farmer in Ireland.  The Yankees did not do well on the field when Mike Burke ran them, but he did succeed in one vital area.  It was he who struck the deal which kept the team from moving out of New York in the ‘70s. 

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Northwood, Ohio, with Oddball‘s ongoing effort to recognize the plight of animals born with too many body parts.  This here is a two-faced kitty.  We‘re not saying the cat is not trustworthy.  We‘re saying the kitty actually has two different faces.  The vet says the cat is healthy.  Although he has one brain, kitty has four eyes, two noses, two mouths and two different opinions on extending the Bush tax cuts. 

Over to Kentucky, where two thieves waited until the coast was clear at a farm equipment store before attempting to steal a ride on mower.  When the gas ran out before they could get the mower into there trailer—hello, tire pressure—the pair set their sights on a small tractor.  The men pulled the tracker into their trailer.  But as they drove off the lot, the tractor rolled back out of the trailer because they forgot to put on the emergency brake.  The crooks got away with nothing and thus there will be no harvest this year. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The first conviction from the military commission system, the man who admitted to being Osama bin Laden‘s driver is found guilty of being Osama bin Laden‘s driver. 

And nothing protects you more from insults than not realizing you are being insulted.  John McCain says the new Paris Hilton ad attacking him is, quote, hilarious.  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best propaganda, Fixed News‘ Fox and Fiends, running a brief segment on how much Iraq has improved that there‘s now even a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Fallujah.  The TPM Muckraker website reports that the parent company of the chicken chain says of the place about the store in Fallujah that looks like a KFC.  This store is not approved by KFC international.  We‘ve been working with the U.S. military to warn the troops of the situation.  Nice research, Fox. 

Number two, best waste of time, Reginald Peterson of Jacksonville, Florida.  Mr. Peterson was disappointed with the sandwich he got at a Subway, so he called 911, twice.  Then Mr. Peterson allegedly started screaming threats at the employees there, so the police did show up to arrest him.  The sandwich was not charged. 

Number one, best imitation of an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” Amanda Trot of Atlantic Beach, Florida.  She‘s under arrest for assault with a lasagna.  Police say she admitted to hitting her husband in the head with a frozen lasagna.  She did not kill him, nor did she emulate the late Barbara Bel Geddes in Hitchcock‘s “Land of the Slaughter.”  After her character has killed her husband with a frozen leg of lamb, she calmly cooked it and served it to the detectives.  Lasagna, officers? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Nearly seven years after 9/11, the verdict today in the first test of a legal system made up by President Bush and Senator McCain.  Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden‘s chauffeur and body guard, charged with plotting 9/11 and bombing of the USS Cole and US embassies in Africa.  Our third story tonight, a military commission found Hamdan guilty of being Osama bin Laden‘s chauffeur and bodyguard.  Found him not guilty of planning the Cole bombing, found him not guilty in the embassy attacks, found him not guilty of for September 11th, 2001.  Guilty of providing, quote, “material support and resources to wit personnel, himself.” 

Even with a jury of military personnel, a unanimous verdict not required.  Hearsay, coerced testimony admissible; secret evidence, closed proceedings.  The Bush/McCain justice system capable only of convicting a man for something he never denied, driving bin Laden‘s car.  McCain saying, quote, “unlike Senator Obama who voted against the Military Commissions Act and favors giving al Qaeda terrorists direct access to U.S. civilian courts to contest their detention, I recognize that we cannot treat dangerous terrorists captured on the battlefield as we would common criminals.” 

A, it‘s the courts which decide who is al Qaeda.  B, Obama and the Supreme Court opposed the Military Commissions Act.  C, Hamdan was just acquitted of terrorism.  D, he was captured not on the battlefield but at a checkpoint by Afghanis.  E, U.S. courts already had a history of hearing the charge on which Hamdan was convicted and could have given the world an open, honorable example of real American justice. 

Let‘s bring in Neal Katyal, Hamdan‘s lead civilian attorney.  Professor, good to talk to you after so long. 

NEAL KATYAL, HAMDAN CIVILIAN ATTORNEY:  Thank you very much, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  In a statement of his own today, Senator Obama referred to, quote, dangerous flaws in the system that was used to convict Mr.  Hamdan today.  Is he right?  And if he is, what flaws and why are they dangerous? 

KATYAL:  Senator Obama is absolutely right on this.  The idea that—we‘re not going to win the war on terror by prosecuting a simple driver.  Any legal system that takes seven years to convict someone of simply being a driver is by definition ineffective.  What Senator McCain has done is tie himself to this failed Bush administration Guantanamo justice system, which has produced really one trial in seven years. 

I think Senator Obama is right to recognize this was a failed experiment.  It crashed and burned.  Instead of tying himself to the Bush administration‘s reckless constitutional agenda, he said, look, there‘s a way to do this swiftly and fairly.  It is called our civilian courts.  It‘s called our court martial system, our proud existing system of military justice.  But what these trials are at Guantanamo is nothing like that. 

The Bush administration has said the Constitution gives them no rights in these trials, zero.  The Supreme Court already rejected that last month, yet still they forge ahead.  Senator McCain is now forging ahead with this system as well. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it good news or is it bad news that this system, even with all the odds stacked and all the evidence stacked, too, in its favor, that the prosecutors using the system could only get convictions on charges to which Mr. Hamdan had already admitted? 

KATYAL:  What I think it demonstrates is that even with all the stacked rules and everything that they‘ve been able to do—I mean, the Bush administration wrote all these rules.  They hand picked the defendants.  This was supposed to be the showcase trial of the Bush administration‘s case against bin Laden‘s driver. 

It turned out that‘s all it was, a case against a driver, a case that crashed and burned on all the serious charges about missiles and 9/11 helping and things like that.  It really does call into question the Bush administration‘s claim that they are going to prosecute the worst of the worst people at Guantanamo. 

OLBERMANN:  What happens now?  Obviously, there‘s an appeals process. 

What happens next? 

KATYAL:  First, there will be sentencing, in which even Mr. Hamdan could be convicted for life, even though he‘s acquitted of all the serious charge.  Then, afterwards, there will be a military appeals process, with the rules written by President Bush, which say that you can‘t appeal any issue of fact.  You can only appeal to issues of law. 

OLBERMANN:  There are, obviously, compelling reasons to put even low level supporters of bin Laden behind bars.  But for the Rand Corporation, this conservative think tank just said the other way that the best way to actually kill off the terrorist organization is, ironically, considering what we‘ve heard the last seven years, what it more or less described as the law enforcement approach.  Without addressing whether that group of people who need to be behind bars does or should include Mr. Hamdan specifically, can you talk about how even convictions under the Military Commission system shortchange the victims and all Americans and still wind up hurting us overseas? 

KATYAL:  Absolutely.  I thing Senator Obama‘s right on this.  We‘ve had one conviction in seven year.  This isn‘t like some great track record of killing off the law enforcement approach.  If we want to do this, we should do what Senator Obama is saying, which is use our military system, our existing one, our court-martial system.  We use the military commission system, what happens is what we see, which is the entire ire of the world is raised against us.  The United Kingdom, all the political parties have signed briefs, including the conservative Tories, saying this system violates international law, violates basic human rights. 

There‘s a new book out by Jonathan Mahler that came out yesterday called “The Challenge,” which is all about how Hamdan‘s case has shown the world that America is not respecting its international obligations.  And so really the ultimate question is this: if we had our troops captured and they were sent to a system like the one at Guantanamo, would we be happy?  Because that, after all, is going to be what‘s coming.  We‘re the world‘s policemen.  We have troops all over.  Heaven forbid, one day they‘re going to be captured by the enemy and some dictator or despot is going to try to use this system against them. 

OLBERMANN:  Professor Neal Katyal, one of the attorneys representing Salim Hamdan, many thanks.  Neal, good to talk to you. 

KATYAL:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  McCain‘s response to Paris Hilton‘s response to McCain‘s Paris Hilton ad; he thought she made a funny.  He liked it.  Must have missed the part where he called him that wrinkly white-haired dude. 

Brian Kilmeade insists President Bush never claimed there was any connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.  Working mornings can destroy your short term memory pronto.  Worst persons next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Did John McCain listen to that Paris Hilton mock campaign ad or just look at it?  He is described as liking it, apparently not noticing that he‘s ripped seven ways to Sunday during it.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, today‘s worst person in the world. 

The bronze to Bill-O the clown, who is now reduced to congratulating himself about this; “a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle that Stephen Colbert‘s audience is smarter than ‘The Factor‘ audience.  Of course, this is false.  According to a Pew research study, a whopping 83 percent of Factor viewers have a high or moderate knowledge of current events, as opposed to 79 percent for little Stevie.  Reality check is bored with left wing newspaper writers propping up left wing TV radio outlets.” 

First, the Pew Research Survey was conducted in February of 2007.  But gosh, Billy, you‘re crowing about this?  Your audience is exactly four percent smarter than those watching a comedy show.  Excuse me, another comedy show?   

The runner up, Brian Kilmeade of Fixed News, who dived into the deep end of the news pool and sadly can‘t swim.  Enacting the Republican talking points this morning by trashing Ron Suskind‘s book “The Way of The World,” and his chronicling of the CIA fabrication of a document linking Saddam Hussein to Mohamed Atta: “I understand, because Bush never even said there was a link between al Qaeda and Iraq.  That wasn‘t the premise for going in there.” 

June 17th, 2004, Mr. Bush told a news conference, quote, “the reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.”  Brian, never defend the president, even on the stuff that sounds crazy to you.  He and history will always make you look like a dork. 

But our winner, would be Democratic Congresswoman Nikki Tinker, who was challenging the incumbent Democrat in the ninth district from Tennessee.  There‘s already one Tinker ad questioning why the incumbent Congressman had voted against renaming a municipal park that honors one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan, thus tying the incumbent‘s name to the KKK.  Now on the eve of the primary, another Tinker ad includes this voice-over, quote, “while he‘s in our churches, clapping his hands and tapping his feet, he‘s the only senator who thought our kids shouldn‘t be allowed to pray in school.” 

Still wondering what the problem is this with this rough politics?  Well, the incumbent against whom Miss Tinker is running is Congressman Steve Cohen.  He is Jewish.  Thus the phrase “while he‘s in our churches” can be interpreted, intended or otherwise, as having a very disturbing meaning.  It has no place from a Democratic candidate, nor a Republican candidate, nor a white candidate, nor a black candidate.  It is shameful.  Nikki Tinker in the Tennessee Ninth Democratic primary for Congress, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Given the complexity and logic of the energy policy she convincingly recited, if not espoused, it‘s time to borrow the line from the movie “The Philadelphia Story”: Paris Hilton, you have unsuspected depth.  But in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, at the other end of that, given the amount of John McCain bashing inside the Hilton mock presidential ad, it may come as a surprise to you that McCain and his camp claim to have liked it.  John McCain, you have unsuspected shallowness.  A reminder—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s the oldest celebrity in the world, like super old.  Old enough to remember when dancing was a sin and beer was served in a bucket.  But is he ready to lead? 

PARIS HILTON, CELEBRITY:  Hey, America, I‘m Paris Hilton and I‘m a celebrity, too.  Only I‘m not from the olden days and I‘m not promising change like that other guy.  I‘m just hot.  But then that wrinkly white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I‘m running for president.  Thanks for the endorsement white-haired dude.  I want America to know that I‘m, like, totally ready to lead. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The senator was described as thinking that was hilarious.  This on top of the campaign‘s official earlier response, “sounds like Paris Hilton supports John McCain‘s all of the above approach to America‘s energy crisis, including both alternatives and drilling.  Paris Hilton might not be as big a celebrity as Barack Obama, but she obviously has a better energy plan.” 

The Obama camp tried to stay out of McCain complementing an ad spoof that called him wrinkly and white haired and old enough to remember when dancing was a sin, finally caving caved in and issuing this statement, quote, “whatever.” 

I‘m joined now by the mid-day classic rock station Q-104.3 here in New York City, our celebrity princess, Maria Milito. 

MARIA MILITO, Q-104.3:  I love that, my new title. 

OLBERMANN:  Expansion. 

MILITO:  I like that. 

OLBERMANN:  The Obama response first.  Was that, in fact, whatever or was it whatever? 

MILITO:  I think it is whatever.  It‘s whatever.  She came up with her energy crisis plan, a hybrid of the two, so it‘s whatever. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m going to ask about this first rather than last. 

MILITO:  OK. 

OLBERMANN:  That frightened me.  Her answer about the energy plan frightened me, because she either understands energy policy, which scares me—

MILITO:  Yes, me too. 

OLBERMANN:  Or she was acting as well as she ever did in her life. 

MILITO:  Absolutely. 

OLBERMANN:  Which also scares me. 

MILITO:  This is like a Golden Globe Award winning, don‘t you thing? 

OLBERMANN:  I was totally sold.  Going to Congress is where she‘s going after that. 

MILITO:  Seriously, I‘m not a big Paris Hilton fan, but this actually made me laugh.  I liked it.  She was entertaining and amusing. 

OLBERMANN:  Was there a teleprompter there?  Because she reads a teleprompter better than McCain does. 

MILITO:  So does my dog.  She probably had somebody write it for her, obviously.  So she‘s an actress now. 

OLBERMANN:  If she wrote that herself -- 

MILITO:  No, she did not write that herself. 

OLBERMANN:  If she wrote that herself—

MILITO:  No, she did not. 

OLBERMANN:  An honorary PHD is on its way to her from Yale or something at this point. 

MILITO:  No but, seriously, how many movies has she done?  And they went straight to video? 

OLBERMANN:  The ones that she knew she was doing or the other ones? 

MILITO:  No, not the other one, the ones that she actually did, that were released publicly.  They went right to video, right to DVD. 

OLBERMANN:  She was reading the side of a cereal box.  Contains 22 --

MILITO:  But she was an actress.  I‘m telling you, I smell a Golden Globe for her on this one. 

OLBERMANN:  Did the McCain camp miss the insults in there, or were they just putting a good face on it?  They weren‘t just looking at her face? 

MILITO:  Well, maybe not.  Her face looked quite good to me.  She looked nice. 

OLBERMANN:  Once again, reviewing the review. 

MILITO:  Come on, comparing him to the Crypt Keeper from “Tales From the Crypt” and Yoda?  You know when you tell a dirty joke in front of a five-year-old?  That‘s what I think.  I don‘t think they got it. 

OLBERMANN:  It was who is this Yoda kid.  I got it.  Tell me about the effect in your day job.  Did this resonate at all with your astute radio audience?

MILITO:  No, no, no.  My radio audience today very concerned with the Police‘s last concert tomorrow for public television and that sea creature that came up on shore in Montauk, that looked like a bloated dog, a raccoon or something from Plum Island.  That‘s what my listeners were concerned with today.  Paris Hilton video and this whole thing?  No, not yet anyway.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe after this, they‘ll be interested in it.  Yes, they will, because my listeners watch you.  You know that.  We share audience. 

OLBERMANN:  One last thing here about the original idea of this, going after celebrities in a celebrity-obsessed nation. 

MILITO:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Also going after a celebrity who is the daughter of people who contributed—

MILITO:  Who have money? 

OLBERMANN:  No, they contributed to your campaign.  Why are you making funny of people on your own side, who now say they want a refund.  Refund? 

MILITO:  Yes, come on, first of all, they‘re not going to get their refund.  But that‘s what they get.  That‘s payback for giving him a contribution, don‘t you think?  Seriously, they gave him 4,600 bucks, and he made fun of their daughter.  That‘s payback. 

OLBERMANN:  And their daughter turned it into something that might make her a million doors somewhere. 

MILITO:  Ain‘t that America?  Ain‘t that a kick in the head? 

OLBERMANN:  Maria Milito of New York‘s Q-104.3, reciting a few song titles on the way out. 

MILITO:  Exactly, of course. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much, Ms. Cougar Mellencamp.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,925th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  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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