updated 6/5/2009 10:33:47 AM ET 2009-06-05T14:33:47

Guests: Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, Lawrence Wilkerson, Chris Cillizza

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Pitch perfect or falling on deaf ears?  The president reaches out in Egypt.

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PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.  I‘ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.

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OLBERMANN:  Over the line: Rush Limbaugh equates the president and the terrorists.

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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  If al Qaeda wants to demolish the America we know and love, they‘d better hurry, because Obama‘s beating them to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  When Obama told the Egyptians America is not a crude stereotype of a self-interested empire, he forgot about that entity.  It also adds, “I still want Obama to fail.”

And even if Hamas spokesperson says Obama‘s approach is a compensation for how George Bush messed up relations between east and west, the new approach, “Shoot last, ask questions first”—can it have any practical impact in a region so fouled up?  The ex-chief of staff to former Secretary of State Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, joins us.

The GOP calls off hit jobs on Judge Sotomayor while simultaneously resuming the hit jobs on Judge Sotomayor.  Can you just pick one?

And, you can fool some of the people some of the time.  And about Obama‘s speech, you can fool Elisabeth Hasselbeck all of the time.

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ELISABETH HASSELBECK, TV HOST:  He didn‘t mention the word democracy which had some people kind of upset.

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OLBERMANN:  OK.  You must have missed some of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.  Democracy. 

For democracy.  Elections alone do not make true democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just as two ears do not make true listening.  Worst Persons.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

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HASSELBECK:  You might want to just double check.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

He greeted his Egyptian audience today by saying, “Assalam alaikum” or “Peace be upon you.”  He quoted from the Koran four times and called it, in fact, as do the Muslims, the “Holy Koran.”  He defined Iraq as an unnecessary war without apologizing for that war and he was interrupted by applause 30 times.  One man shouting, “We love you!”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: None of this might seem remarkable if this man were not president of the United States.

This morning, in Cairo, Egypt, President Obama is fulfilling another campaign promise by giving a major speech to the Islamic world.

The president—also diplomat and tourist today—with Secretary of State Clinton, visiting a mosque that has been the center of Islamic worship in Egypt for 600 years; with his staff, visiting the pyramids, declaring that his trip to a burger joint last Friday was great but that this was better; taking particular delight in one proportionately disparate hieroglyphic inside a tomb exclaiming, quote, “That looks like me.  Look at those ears.”  His tour guide explaining the history of the tomb of Kar, who was a priest, scholar and judge.

Rahm Emanuel among those staff members deciding to go ahead and ride the camel; Press Secretary Gibbs playing photographer, the president telling reporters he would not be joining his chief of staff for the camel ride so long as the photographers were still around.  The lighthearted nature of all that came before and after and in no way distracted from the president‘s major item on the day‘s agenda: addressing 1 ½ million followers of Islam—not as antagonists but as equals.

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OBAMA:  I‘ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.  One based on mutual interests and mutual respect.  I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America.  Just as—

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  President Obama with a reminder of who America‘s enemies are not.

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OBAMA:  America is not and never will be at war with Islam.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security.

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OLBERMANN:  Reminding all who America‘s enemies are not white losing sight of whose America‘s enemies still are.

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OBAMA:  Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day.  The victims were innocent men, women, and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody.  And, yet, al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now, states their determination to kill on a massive scale.

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OLBERMANN:  Some conflicts having been entered into unnecessarily, he said, and under false pretenses.

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OBAMA:  Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world.

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OLBERMANN:  President Obama decrying the Holocaust, defending the rights of Jews to a nation in their homeland, but also, defending the rights of the Palestinians in equal measure.

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OBAMA:  The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.  And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Then more applause from that audience when the president announced that the days of using 9/11 as an excuse to justify torture—those days were over.

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OBAMA:  We are taking concrete actions to change course.  I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  President Obama also drawing contrast with the previous administration when he said that his administration would not be imposing its brand of government on the rest of the world.

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OBAMA:  No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.  That does not lessen my commitment, however, to the governments that reflect the will of the people.

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OLBERMANN:  The self-described Christian son of a Muslim father, making reference to the common thread, the “Golden Rule” that lives through all faiths.

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OBAMA:  There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion—that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  This truth transcends nations and peoples—a belief that isn‘t new, that isn‘t black or white or brown, that isn‘t Christian or Muslim or Jew.  It‘s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to turn to our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, the campaign promise was kept here.  But how did this speech go in terms of the intended audiences—the two levels of them: the followers of Islam around the world, and then secondarily, the people in this country who wanted to see what this man was going to say to those people?

FINEMAN:  Well, from talking to experts here and to sources of mine among Muslims and Arabs here in the United States, I would say the speech came across very, very well.  As you pointed out, the president used the idiom of Islam repeatedly, talking about the Holy Koran, the cadence of his speech, the phrases that he used, “Peace be upon you” and so forth.  These were all instantly recognizable as signs of respect.  That‘s number one.

Number two, as Richard Haass of the Council of Foreign Relations—I think, one of the brightest guys and most knowledgeable about the Arab world—told me a little while ago, Obama audaciously and successfully inserted himself into the ongoing public conversations of the Islamic world, arguments about the limits of the use of force and violence to achieve political ends, the role of women, openness of societies, what the Palestinians should do regarding Israel.  Obama was kind of like the friendly visitor, the man who sits down at the cafe and has the audacity and the tact and the cultural background to instantly take part in those conversations and to show respect.

As Haass says, the narrative in the world has often been one of humiliation by the west.  Here was our American president showing respect.  In this case, words did matter.

OLBERMANN:  And, making this as part of a continuum, the race speech in Philadelphia, the abortion speech at Notre Dame—does this Cairo speech qualify as another example of how this president, instead of shying away from a difficult topic, not only breasts the storm but also tries to step outside the limitations of the problem and to use the topic as a jumping off point?

FINEMAN:  I think it‘s very much like the Philadelphia speech in certain respects.  He dives right into the heart of the most meddlesome controversies—the most emotional ones, the most historical ones—and tries in part using his own life experience to confront the realities of the debates we should be having but aren‘t always having.  That‘s what he did in Philadelphia.  He did it very eloquently and very shrewdly because he had narrow political purposes to accomplish in Philadelphia as well.  And he did those.

Here, once again, he‘s being eloquent and personal, but also delivering some sharp political messages to the Israelis, to the Palestinians, to the Iranians - indeed, to all actors there, speaking both soothingly and directly.  It was really brilliantly done.

OLBERMANN:  And where does it—do we have any idea where this fits?  I mean, sometimes, these speeches take a while to sink in.  But others are recognizable fairly instantly as important events more than important speeches: “Ich bin ein Berliner” from Kennedy and “Tear down this wall” from Reagan, and even Carter and the Camp David peace accords more than an event than a speech.  Is this possible that this comes in on that list of foreign policy events or is it just a speech, albeit a very good one?

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s more than just a speech but less than a hinge moment in history, I think, Keith.  From talking to the people who really know the history of the region and know their history of diplomacy, this doesn‘t have the feeling of that hinge moment that, say, the “Ich bin ein Berliner” did at the height of the Cold War, or Ronald Reagan effect beginning the end of the Cold War.  And the reason for that is what Obama was doing here was beginning a conversation.  The hinge moment will come later and it won‘t be so much a matter of eloquence as action on the ground.

OLBERMANN:  What happens next in terms of carrying that out?  I mean, the giving of the speech, one assumes was the easy part.

FINEMAN:  Well, there are going to be various measures of actual progress.  Some of them are ones that the United States, itself, is going to have to carry out.  The president said we would be closing Guantanamo.  We actually have to close it.

The president said we‘d be leaving Iraq.  We actually have to leave it.

The president said there should be no more new Israeli settlements on the West Bank in the Palestinian territories—I‘m sure Obama may face a confrontation with the Israeli government.  We‘ll see what happens.  We‘ll see how the Israeli government responds.

The president called on the Palestinians, he called on Hamas to, in essence, grow up and recognize Israel‘s right to exist.  Will they make any measures and take any step, however minimal in those directions?

Those would all be things we can see in the coming months and years.  It‘s interesting, and I think important that Obama—unlike most American presidents—has sought to do this at the beginning of his presidency, to begin this conversation now because he knows it will take years to achieve real progress.

OLBERMANN:  And now a D-Day speech and to his great uncle who helped liberate the German concentration camp joining him in Normandy to mark the 65th anniversary of the relief of Europe.  Is there an ironic risk in this that that might overshadow what was done today?

FINEMAN:  No.  I think it‘s part of the same narrative, Keith.

I think what Obama is saying, in part, by going to Normandy, by going to concentration camp in Germany, is to say, “Look, the west stands for something.  We, in America, stand for something real.  We stand for democracy.  We stand for openness.  We stand for self-determination, not just self-interest.”

And so, really, it‘s part of the same story.  It was smart of him to encompass these things together, because he will be showing the people in the Muslim world that we acknowledge what was worst about western history.  And the Holocaust was among the worst.  But also what was best, which was the good war of World War II.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—as always, Howard, great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And while the president was away doing all that, pushing back against hatred and prejudice, while he was across the water‘s edge, the ages-old Republican Party established milestone at which political sniping at home is supposed to be suspended, Rush Limbaugh was comparing President Obama to al Qaeda.

And his apologist today insisted you and I did not have the right to talk about him saying it.  Mr. Limbaugh, again, is earning a well-known Anglo-Saxon two-word phrase thrown his way.  The second of the words, is, of course, “you.”

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OLBERMANN:  “If al Qaeda wants to demolish the America we know and love, they‘d better hurry, because Obama is beating them to it.”  Not only does Rush Limbaugh think that is appropriate to say about a president as he conducts international diplomacy, Limbaugh continues to think it is inappropriate for the rest of us to discuss the appalling fact that he said it.

“And shameful, wasn‘t it, that Obama abandoned democracy during the speech, he didn‘t mention the word democracy,” as Elisabeth Hasselbeck put it, other than the four times he said the word.  Gene Robinson, next.

And Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  President Obama in the Middle East is trying to bring the United States and Muslim world together; Rush Limbaugh compares the president to al Qaeda.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The increasingly dangerous voice of Boss Limbaugh—this is the same man who has said a number of times he wants this president to fail.  He repeated that yesterday on television along with this.

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LIMBAUGH:  You know, this is something that I‘ve thought long and hard about repeating in this interview with you.  If al Qaeda wants to demolish the America we know and love, they‘d better hurry, because Obama‘s beating them to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Hey, we missed the lead.  Limbaugh claims he thought.  Almost incidental that the incendiary claim would be made after two tapes from al Qaeda in the last three days, including one believed to be from bin Laden, himself, that also tried to undermine the president‘s visit.  It seems like the people on the same side of this equation are al Qaeda and the excellence in broadcasting radio network.

Meantime, according to Tom Sanderson, deputy director at the Center for Strategic and Traditional Studies, quote, “Obama‘s election is just about the worst thing that could happen to al Qaeda.  They knew right away that his election undermined a key part of their argument that the U.S. was anti-Islamic, that the U.S. was racist.”

Time now to bring in MSNBC political analyst Gene Robinson, also, of course, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post.”

Gene, good evening.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I fear when I ask a question like this.  I‘ve asked this so many ti9mes before.  I‘m wondering if I‘m going to risk matching the Limbaugh status as the broken record or a jammed C.D. for the younger folks.  But, didn‘t he cross a line here?

ROBINSON:  You know, sure.  Sure.  He crossed a line.  He danced across the line.  He bolted the line.

I mean, it‘s the first time he crossed the line—you know, I don‘t think so.  We‘d have to go back through the kind of greatest or—greatest hits is not the—that‘s kind of an oxymoron the way this is concerned.  So, the kind of—you know, the lowest moments of the Limbaugh orb.

But to find something, you know, comparable to this.  But, really when the president is in Egypt speaking to 1.5 billion Muslims trying to set the relationship on a different course, to compare it to al Qaeda is just stupid and absurd and outrageous.

OLBERMANN:  Is there a policy point here or does this just go back to that dangerous component from the campaign of last year to try to build up this phony association in people‘s minds than the smaller mind of the country between Obama and terrorism, only there‘s no John McCain even to politely tell the crazy lady in the front rows, in this case, Limbaugh, to sit down and shut up?

ROBINSON:  Did you hear a policy point?

OLBERMANN:  No.

ROBINSON:  Because I didn‘t hear a policy point.  All I heard—

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  Honestly, I met him in 1980.  I haven‘t heard a policy point since from this man.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  Well, certainly, in this context, I‘m pretty sure there was not one.  It wasn‘t a matter of policy.  You know, the phony association of Obama-Osama, that whole thing, you know, that must be part of it, I would imagine.  But it also is part and parcel of this reflexive bash, bash, bash campaign that Limbaugh has been carrying on and, you know, maybe it‘s good for his bank account.  It‘s not good for the country, but it‘s seems to do him pretty well.

OLBERMANN:  Well, let me ask you a question about him and about his bank account—a question about the philosophy of opinion.  I‘m in, some degree, in that business.  Whether we like it or not, Limbaugh is in that business.  One of the tenets I thought was, you speak your piece and you stand behind it.  And yet, here was some crank on this network today, again talking about Limbaugh‘s plea not to be mentioned on MSNBC for 30 days.

If equating to the president of the United States and an international terrorist group is a good idea, if it‘s worthy of being hurled out into that public space, doesn‘t the guy who does the hurling, doesn‘t he have to stand behind it and accept analysis of it and criticism of it?  I mean, doesn‘t Rush Limbaugh either have to shut up or grow a pair?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  It was quite a way to put it.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  Yes, yes.  As a matter of fact, he does.  In fact, if you‘re in the opinion business, you know, you can tell people what‘s on your mind.  And yes, you have to defend it.  And you‘re going to take shots and people are going to call you on it when you say something that‘s absurd, that‘s out of line when you say things without even trying to back them up, when you say things that are inappropriate.

So, it‘s not—that‘s not going to wash.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and it‘s a marketplace of ideas.  You don‘t get a monopoly over here on one side of it.

Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and contributor of the vast marketplace of ideas from “The Washington Post,” also of MSNBC—as always, great, thanks, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Good to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Some nights, there are bears on the news.  Some nights there are two bears on the news.  This is a special night.

And some nights Elisabeth Hasselbeck just says out loud what she reads on the Internet.  And some nights, there is—no, no, some nights, there is videotape proving that what she thinks is true, isn‘t.  Special night, indeed.

COUNTDOWN continues.  Elizabeth “Hassel-bear.”

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Best in a moment.  And if it‘s Thursday, it must be bank robber day.

First, on this date in 1965, was born Andrea Jaeger, an athlete of whom it can be literally said she was never as good as she might have been.  The seeded player at the Wimbledon tennis tournament just days after her 15th birthday; by the time he was 18, she realized she could not bear being responsible for her opponent losing.

So—she now claims—in the 1983 Wimbledon women‘s final, she deliberately lost to Martina Navratilova, who probably would have beaten her anyway.  Andrea Jaeger now does work more fitting her personality in Colorado where she is Sister Andrea, a nun.

Let‘s play Oddball.

To Breckenridge, Colorado, a cozy town near Denver, where a black bear came to town (ph), reportedly strolling down the street before climbing up this tree.  Delighted residents took pictures.  The bear eventually climbed down and went back in the woods on his own.

Oddly, similar situation in a suburb of Toronto.  Big black bear up a tree.  I‘m telling you, it‘s recon.  They‘re doing recon on us.  This one, either stubborn or confused, stayed put, so it was tranquilized and firefighters caught its fall.  Hey, idiot, get out of the shot.

The bear made a run for it until the drugs took over.  And then it was taken back to the wild while it was humming Steppenwolf.

All of it a good enough excuse to celebrate COUNTDOWN‘s favorite bear

Missoula Montana, hello, it‘s Rush Limbaugh.  I‘m sorry.  I mean, I‘m sorry to the bear for that.  I know the bear is not harmed.

           

To Amherst, New York—oh, a kitty.  Yesterday, it was cats in an engine block.  This feline discovered by Kelly Ann Davis (ph) after she heard meowing from the bowels of her car, specifically one of the wheel wells.  The 6-week-old cat was a stowaway there all the way from Buffalo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY ANN DAVIS (ph), AMHERST, NEW YORK:  I say at least 40 miles by the time I was done.  I mean, because I didn‘t just go home.  I made some stops, I did some things.

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OLBERMANN:  Ms. Davis named the cat “Miracle” and is keeping it, despite having two dogs.

To Ardmore, Oklahoma, and it‘s forklift rodeo.  The warehouse manager calls this team-building.  Once a year, an obstacle course is constructed, the contest is on, no extra points for hitting a fellow employee.  In fact, the annual extravaganza is designed to promote safety.

But the horse race is a bit of a puzzle there.  It looks it just couldn‘t resist getting the men to run around with stuffed pink and white horsy heads.  The finalists go on to Illinois later this month for the Forklift Rodeo National Championships.

Two presidents, two philosophies of diplomacy: one with secret deals, the one with open covenants, openly arrived that.  In the Middle East, why that might just make all the difference?

And one party, two philosophies.  “Stop the attacks on Sotomayor,” say senators; “Keep the attacks on Sotomayor,” say the senators‘ aides.  Those stories ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Number three is more of a promise.  George Jackson, CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, I observed, earlier this week, he was one of our Worsts, because he was the villain of the failure to turn old Tiger Stadium in Detroit into a public ball field with the stadium as a unique office building.  Mr. Jackson now says, “I have my facts wrong,” and he‘s been championing saving the stadium for eight years.

Well, let‘s see you put your stadium where your mouth is.  I‘ll do the same if you reverse your decision and you grant the people there time to save the place.  If you‘ll stop the wrecking ball, I‘ll have you on the air to talk about revitalizing Detroit.  Now, maybe the Best Person in the World.

Number two: Best terrorist arrest.  Hal Turner, the Internet radio host and blogger, unhappy with a proposed change in Connecticut state law that would have altered some rules in the Catholic Church.

Mr. Turner threatened to reveal the home addresses of two Connecticut politicians and then posted it as follows, “It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally, these beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government, obey the Constitution or die.  If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they‘re going to get uppity about this, I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down, too.”

That was when Connecticut police arrested him, pointing that this was no longer free speech, it was inciting others through his Web site to commit acts of violence and it had created fear and alarm and he should be held accountable for his conduct.

And number one: Best dumb criminal.  Peter Bielecke, who has pleaded guilty in Trenton, New Jersey, of having robbed six banks in January, February and March.  Not just a bank a week for six weeks in a row but a bank a week every Thursday.  As “The Associated Press” notes, “No reason was given for choosing that particular day of the week, but authorities said the pattern made it that much easier to track him. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In 2002, President Bush first outlined his road map for peace, a series of agreements that would have established a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.  In our third story tonight, it turns out that when he created that map, President Bush told the world that he preferred Mapquest, but secretly he told Israel Google Maps was the best. 

By the time the actual Road Map for Peace, the road map to a two state solution, was signed in 2003, the official language stipulated that Israel‘s government, quote freezes all settlement activity, including natural growth of settlements.  The settlements, those being built by Israelis in the West Bank, hoping to retain the territory for Israel. 

So what does freezing all settlement activity mean to Mr. Bush?  According to today‘s “New York Times,” that depended on who Mr. Bush was speaking to.  Unnamed top Israeli officials telling the Times they had an understanding with the Bush administration that allowed them to keep settlement building housing without Mr. Bush saying they had violated the freeze.  An unnamed former Bush official today calling Israel‘s understanding of the secret deal, quote, an overstatement. 

That‘s why you get these things in writing.  Why is this in the news today?  Officials in the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Times the U.S. has not lived up to its secret deal.  Specifically, Mr. Obama is not honoring the secret deal agreed to by Mr.  Bush.  Never mind, as the Times points out, that Mr. Netanyahu is diametrically opposed to a central principle of the road map for peace that Israeli agreed to, namely a Palestinian state.

All of this the apparent context for these remarks by Mr. Obama today in Cairo. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  America will align our policies with those who pursue peace.  And we will say in public what we say in private, to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to bring in a man who was deep inside the State Department for the road map making, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, then chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, and now a visiting professor at the College of William and Mary.  Great thanks for your time, sir. 

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON (RET), US ARMY:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  First, how much of that story can you fact check for us tonight? 

WILKERSON:  Well, there certainly were at least two very different voices coming out of the Bush administration.  One was the voice of Colin Powell, who was marching along the road map as the road map was constructed.  The other was Dick Cheney and George Bush, who were marching along a different road map entirely, which eventually was any time they wanted to talk to Sharon, or someone from Likud who was his spokesperson, they would give assurances and so forth that would undercut what Powell was trying to do. 

We used to say in the State Department that Powell crawled out on a limb every time he went to the Middle East.  Cheney was there eagerly sawing the root of that limb off. 

OLBERMANN:  Why was it important for Mr. Obama to signal to both sides today in that speech that there would be one American voice, and that one American voice be heard by all? 

WILKERSON:  Essential that he do that and essential that he follow up on it with action, with deeds.  The Palestinians don‘t know where we‘re coming from.  Sometimes the Israelis don‘t know where we‘re coming from.  You may recall when Jim Baker and George H.W. Bush tried to bring some pressure on the settlements by threatening to withhold moneys, the entire array of APAIC instituted organizations and people in this country came down on them. 

If you‘re going to say that you‘re going to move down a road map in an unbiased way toward both the Israelis and Palestinians, be an honest broker, in other words, which is what we were for many years, before we turned so much to being Israel‘s lawyer, then you‘ve got to give each side the same words, the same rhetoric.  And you‘ve got to follow that up with deed.  You‘ve got to be perceived by each side as following up with deed. 

OLBERMANN:  What are the next concrete steps in following up with deed, the honest brokerage? 

WILKERSON:  This is going to be incredibly difficult because we have a political apparatus in Israel that is incapable of doing anything with the majority of Israelis behind it.  We‘ve had that for some time.  Netanyahu is sitting on top of a very dicey political situation.  He has made some promises.  He has a coalition government that is bound together by some of those promises, one of which is probably to keep increasing the settlements, at least internally, if not externally, probably both. 

Another is not to recognize Palestine as a state.  We have diametrically opposed objectives here.  The only way that Obama is going to be able to do something about this is probably to threaten the some three billion dollars that we give to Israel and Egypt each year together, to keep a balance there, and begin to use that money as some leverage to mean -- make sure that Netanyahu and others in Israel understand what he means. 

OLBERMANN:  How does he do that and maintain this position that both Israelis and Palestinians will now be held to the same standard, and that the past wrongs on all parties will be allowed, but not permitted to hold the future hostage?  And how does he make these changes that he needs to make in the Israeli/U.S. relationship, while at the same time preserving this historic bond between these two countries? 

WILKERSON:  I think he has to be fair and he has to say that the security of Israel is sacrosanct.  At the same time, he has to recognize and the Israelis have to come to recognize—and I believe the majority of Israelis realize this.  The J. Street Group, for example, in this country is beginning to oppose APAIC.  For one, I‘m very happy to see this.  Sixty five percent of American Jews, whenever you poll them, are generally in favor of peace and not in favor of increasing the settlements and so forth. 

So you‘ve got to marshal all these forces on the Israeli side.  The bottom line being Israeli security is sacrosanct.  You‘ve got to marshal the forces on the Palestinian side, too.  You‘ve got to convince them.

They‘re absent leadership, too.  Mahmoud Abbas is a joke.  They‘ve got to marshal some leadership.  We‘ve probably, in the end, got to recognize Hamas.  We‘ve got to bring Hamas into this organization that is the Palestinian government.  And we‘ve got to begin to deal with them as if they were responsible, and to help them become responsible, as our team, with Mitchell‘s blessing, is doing in the Middle East today.  It‘s not an easy task.

OLBERMANN:  As Obama did, somewhat conditionally, to Hamas today. 

WILKERSON:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department chief of staff under Colin Powell, great thanks for that explanation and for your time tonight. 

WILKERSON:  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  So, the zany facts optional attacks on Judge Sotomayor are over; or they aren‘t over.  They‘ve just started. 

In worst, why exactly is the right wing saying Obama refused to say the word democracy in his speech in Egypt today when he said the word democracy four times? 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, is anybody out there crazier than Dick Cheney?  How about his daughter?  She calls the implication of an Iraq/al Qaeda connection a liberal smear against the Bush administration.  Oh my god, how high is she?

But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds outlive them, the headlines from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals, Still Bushed. 

Number three, Blackwater gate.  The mercenary outfit now accused of three more murders in lawsuits filed in US federal courts by the survivors of two of the men, Azar Abdullah Ali (ph), father of three, a security guard for the Iraqi Media Network, and Rahim Kalif Sadoon (ph), a guard for the vice president of Iraq, killed on February 7th, 2007, the suit claims, as part of a shooting frenzy that began when an allegedly drunken Blackwater employee named Andrew Munen (ph) was alleged to have shot and killed Sadoon, quote, for no reason. 

The suit claimed there were at least 20 Blackwater employees who witnessed the crimes, that the shooters avoided arrest because nobody in that crowd would say which of them had fired. 

Number two, war crimes-gate.  Once again, a kind of dog whistle in the dark that only Donald Rumsfeld can hear.  Another UN special rapporteur, this one assigned to the independence of judges and lawyers, says, quote, “in a year or two, Rumsfeld‘s responsibilities will be established,” unquote, for human rights abuses at Gitmo.  Early this year, the UN special rapporteur for torture said the United Nations had a clear responsibility to prosecute Rumsfeld and others.  Now this other special rapporteur, Leandro Despoy (ph), says soon, wherever Rumsfeld goes, he will face difficulties. 

Number one, it was all part of the plan-gate.  More evidence supporting the long-standing report that a year before his election and two before 9/11, then Governor Bush told a reporter that if he ever became president, I‘m going to invade Iraq.  Author Russ Baker quotes the long time Houston sports writer, columnist, author and Bush family friend Mickey Herskowitz as saying on tape, “he said he wanted to do it.  And the reason he wanted to do it he had been led to understand that you could not really have a successful presidency unless you were seen as a commander in chief, unless you were seen as waging a war.  The ideal thing was a small war.  This was why Bush said nobody was going to be killed in Iraq because he thought it would be small war.  His father knew that from Panama.  Reagan knew that from Grenada.  Maggie Thatcher knew this from the Falklands.” 

Mr. Baker said he had the story and Herskowitz on tape before the election of 2004, that he approached the “Washington Post” and the “L.A Times” and neither would publish on Herskowitz‘s word alone.  A low key point here, as we think of the wreckage that ensued by those decisions by the evil, irresponsible liberal media; we first reported Herskowitz‘s claims on November 2, 2006. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A Republican senator says enough with the attacks on Sotomayor.  The Republican senator‘s aide says full speed ahead on the attacks on Sotomayor. 

That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst person in the world. 

The bronze to Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas, unveiling his new media fairness circus.  I‘m sorry, media fairness caucus.  A dozen Republican Congressmen, he said, will now point out unfair stories, meet with members of the media, and write op-eds and letters to the editor, because, quote, “the greatest threat to America is not necessarily a recession or even another terrorist attack.  The greatest threat to America is a liberal media bias.” 

First off, if we really were running a liberal media, who in the world would be dumb enough to book Liz Cheney on every show except “Wheel of Fortune?”  Secondly, liberal media bias better threat than terrorism.  Would you submit voluntarily to a Breathalyzer test, Congressman? 

Thirdly, a dozen Republican congressman are going to be the watch dogs for a grateful nation?  Mr. Smith, don‘t you think you guys should focus first on trying to become actual Congressmen, instead of lower octane jokes? 

A tie at the silver, Elizabeth Hasselbeck and Michael Ruben of the “National Review” Online.  They didn‘t like what they said they didn‘t hear from the president‘s today in Cairo.  Ms. Hasselbeck said, “he stressed changing course and, also, he didn‘t mention the word democracy, which had some people kind of upset.” 

Mr. Ruben wrote, under the headline, “Obama Abandons Democracy,” quote, “Obama studiously avoids the word democracy.” 

One hopes there is no intermittent deafness afflicting either individual, because here is President Obama not mentioning the word democracy today four times in Cairo. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.  I know—

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years. 

There are some who advocate for democracy only when they‘re out of power. 

Elections, alone, do not make true democracy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, once again, a blatant falsehood about Obama is presented as fact, and an entire portion of the community, already inclined to believe that falsehood, with or without the slightest sliver of evidence, because of its own prejudices, swallows it whole.  Look at Elizabeth.

But the winner, Jill Stanack (ph) of the infamous World Net Daily, who did not get the point in the assassination of Dr. George Tiller that you can be complicit in such a crime even if you have never met the man or his assassin.  Stanack has now posted pictures and addresses of the only two remaining physicians who will provide late-term abortions when the woman‘s life is in danger. 

It‘s a very little switch, Ms. Stanack.  You‘ll never understand in a just world, to tell a bunch of crazy people like your readers where they can find somebody and abuse, threaten, or kill them, that that should be enough of a crime to put you in jail for the rest of your life.  So let‘s try this one out instead; you do realize that by posting online the addresses of these two doctors‘ clinics, you probably enabled some woman seeking their help to now find them and get an abortion.  You, Jill Stanack, have just enabled an abortion. 

Jill Stanack of World Net Daily, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There‘s good news tonight; GOP senators are formally standing down in their increasingly nonsensical attacks against Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.  Except, in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, when their aides are busy urging conservative agitators and fellow travelers to increase their increasingly nonsensical attacks against Sotomayor. 

The newspaper “The Hill” reporting that Lanier Swann, aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, spoke at yesterday‘s weekly meeting of conservative activists, held by the Yoda of conservative activism, Grover Norquist.  “The Hill” speaking to two anonymous sources in attendance, and quoting, “Swann told us she wanted to encourage all of us in our talking points and that we‘re having traction among Republicans and unnerving Democrats.  The point was we should keep it up.  She told us at this meeting to put our foot on the pedal.” 

Swann‘s boss, who refused to denounce Sotomayor‘s most vocal critic, boss Limbaugh, and his remark about her being racist, warmly greeted the nominee in his office yesterday.  No hard feelings.  No tough tuck—tough tuck.  In English, tough talk afterwards, and also tough tuck.

One Republican who has veered from the playbook, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.  He also greeted the judge yesterday.  And after voiced reservations about those over-hyped wise Latina remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  My criticism about her comment and the speech that she gave wasn‘t that I think that this lady is a racist.  There‘s no evidence of that.  But this statement is troubling.  And I did tell her this; if I said that, it would be over for me.  Being an average everyday white guy, does it make her better than Roberts or Alito?

It doesn‘t exactly makes (sic) me feel good to hear a sitting judge say that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good, she didn‘t. 

Meanwhile, one of the leading conservative activists that had been railing against the Sotomayor nomination, and who had helped author a letter to McConnell pleading for a filibuster, now waiving something of a white flag.  Manuel Miranda, the ex-Bill Frist council, who left that job amid allegations that he hacked the emails of Democratic staffers, who founded an anti-filibuster group four years, and is now chairman of the conservative Third Branch Conference, today gave an interview to Greg Sargent‘s blog “The Plum Line.” 

Miranda conceded that there was no merit for a filibuster, and that, quote, “I‘m pretty confident that, as things stand now, this nominee will be confirmed.” 

We‘re joined now by Chris Cillizza, the “Washington Post” White House reporter, author of the political blog, “The Fix,” who is in D.C. tonight.  Chris, good evening.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So this is discord or this is people adhering to the lessons from the “Art of War?” 

CILLIZZA:  I think it might be a little of both.  Some of this, Keith, is the way politics is done in Washington, which is the politicians, the faces of the party go out and say, well, we‘re going to think about this.  We‘re going to give this a reasoned assessment.  Then the outside groups are saying, this is terrible.  This nominee can never go.  She has all these problems. 

But the problem for the Republican party, and we‘ve talked about it before, Keith, is that they‘re leaderless.  There‘s no one to say we‘re going to either fight this tooth and nail, both within the establishment of the party and the grass roots of the party, or we‘re going to back off and pick another day to fight.  What you‘re getting is a lot of mixed messages out there. 

OLBERMANN:  What about the seemingly straight forward messages?  Some of the Republican senators, Senator Kyl, Senator Cornyn, have been critical of these harsh attacks coming from at least their side of the fence against the judge.  Is that sincere on their part, can we tell?  Or again, is it just serving as cover for others to do the dirty work of the attack? 

CILLIZZA:  I will take them at their word and say it‘s sincere, Keith, because I have no reason to believe otherwise.  I will say, certainly especially in the case of Senator Cornyn, he has an eye—he‘s the head recruiter, the head fund-raiser for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.  He has an eye on races in Illinois, Delaware, New Hampshire.  These are not places, necessarily, where the Republican base is enough to win an election. 

He needs those moderates.  I think he knows, even though he‘s from Texas—he knows that opposing a judge who doesn‘t appear to have anything obvious—any obvious reason to oppose her, could be trouble for the candidate he‘s trying to recruit in these Senate races. 

OLBERMANN:  To the subject of Mr. Miranda, who has gone from founding the anti-filibuster organization to demanding that the Republican senators get serious about filibustering this judge, to now conceding her confirmation is a done deal.  The last two events are literally separated by about 48 hours.  Is there an explanation for that?  

CILLIZZA:  Not that I know of, Keith.  I hearken back to this idea that Republicans generally, and Mr. Miranda may be an example in the specific, they don‘t know—they don‘t have their footing.  They don‘t know how best to politically go after President Obama.  They have tried a few times.  He has pushed them back and won. 

They don‘t have anyone saying here‘s the approach we need to take.  Here‘s the fight we‘re going to pick.  Here‘s the fight we‘re not.  As a result, you‘re seeing a lot of indecision. 

OLBERMANN:  And a lot of repetition.  Maybe this is coincidental, because it seems like it comes out of the McConnell aide playbook of just keep hitting those talking points.  But we played that Senator Graham remark about she‘s not a racist, but this stuff sounds racist.  His other conclusion is of just as much interest here, that she‘ll have to explain that remark.  Is that the only sell point here, the only talking point, that although she has explained it repeatedly, they need to try to drag this out as long as possible, so she is forced to explain it again and again for as long as they can fill the time with it? 

CILLIZZA:  Here‘s what I think, Keith: I think what Senator Graham and other Republicans are going to say is she needs to explain it in the formal setting of the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings.  Now, she‘s going to say exactly what she said before about it.  We‘re not going to hear anything new.  I think what this is about for Republicans is to be able to go to the base and say, look, we held her accountable.  We got explanations.  The Democrats just had too many votes. 

They don‘t want to be seen by the base of the party as simply acceding, simply saying, OK, President Obama, you can have whoever you like.  Again, very hard.  The base of the party is shrinking.  Being simply beholden to the base of the party is not a recipe for them to get back to the White House. 

OLBERMANN:  And a dangerous thing when you passed over without comment half of those remarks in their previous incarnation in 1998.  Chris Cillizza of the “Washington Post,” as always, Chris, great thanks for your time tonight. 

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,226th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  By the way, the stuff earlier in the show about the bear and Elizabeth Hasselbeck, that was just a tape—technical problem.  That was not deliberate.  She gives us enough material to work with.  We don‘t have to make stuff up like that.  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.

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