updated 6/12/2009 10:48:29 AM ET 2009-06-12T14:48:29

Guests: Mark Potok, Eugene Robinson, Ryan Lizza, Margaret Carlson, Michael Musto

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Full-fledged denial, full-fledged projection, full-fledged insanity—the Holocaust Museum terrorist day two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  This guy is a leftist, if anything.  This guy‘s beliefs, this guy‘s hate stems from influence that you find on the left, not on the right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And from a radio rival, he was a Nazi, you know, national socialist.  Yes, a right-wing, ultraconservative, racist, anti-Semite—who also blames Karl Marx—killed an African-American guard at the Holocaust Museum in the capital on behalf of Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  You are ramping up hatred for Israel.  You are ramping up hatred for Jewish people.  It is coming from the Obama administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let me spell this out: Rush Limbaugh is insane.

Is it good for Dick Cheney to be seen as a or the spokesman for the Republicans?  It, quote, “probably isn‘t,” says Republican Governor Sanford of South Carolina.

They refuse to take “I‘m sorry” for an answer: The Palins gave up the high ground in the Letterman dispute and go from victims to sleazy political opportunists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  Am I guilty of poor taste?  Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  Did I suggest that it was OK for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex?  No.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  To which Todd Palin says today, quote, “Regardless of which Palin daughter it was, Bristol, Willow or Piper, these sexually-perverted comments are outside the acceptance of mainstream America.”  Oh, you, guys, visited mainstream America recently?  How was it?

“Plus, it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman.” 

Oh, grow up!

Worsts: Time to turn in your Bible, Jeremiah Wright.  You are no reverend anymore.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have you spoken with him since he‘s been in the White House?

JEREMIAH WRIGHT, PASTOR:  Them Jews ain‘t going to let him talk to me.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Carrie Prejean, unemployed, says the Miss California people tried to force her to pose for “Playboy.”  We will revisit this whole topic with Michael Musto.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CARRIE PREJEAN, FORMER MISS CALIFORNIA:  This should not happen in America.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

A Homeland Security Department assessment of yesterday‘s murder at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum obtained by “The Associated Press” has confirmed the obvious—that the alleged killer, James Von Brunn, has been associated with right-wing extremism.

So, naturally, in our fifth story tonight: Right-wing Republicans are blaming the bloodshed on liberals.

The Holocaust Museum was closed today, its flags at half-staff, in tribute to the security guard who opened the door there yesterday in an act of kindness for an elderly gunman who had a concealed rifle, who took a deadly shot at close range in the chest before the suspect, 88-year-old Holocaust denier and white supremacist James Von Brunn was shot in the face.

Tonight, he is in critical condition at a hospital in Washington.  Today, we learned, Von Brunn was carrying a notebook listing other D.C.  locations: The White House, the National Cathedral, a still-unknown member of Congress‘ office.  A criminal complaint against Von Brunn quoting the note he left in his car, “You want my weapons, this is how you‘ll get them.  The Holocaust is a lie.  Obama was created by Jews.  Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do” and so on.

The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, labeled today by the FBI as domestic terrorism, appearing for now to have been carried out alone.

On Von Brunn‘s Web site chronicling a lifetime of wrongs supposedly done to him by Jews, beginning starting apparently in college when a Jewish man demanded compensation for his son‘s car, which Von Brunn had totaled, complaining that afterward Jews on campus gave him the cold shoulder.  Von Brunn even speculating that a phony caption slandering him in the college yearbook might have been the work of Jews, but he wrote, “I will never know for certain.”

Let‘s turn now to Mark Potok, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center which tracks hate groups and hate speech throughout the country.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

MARK POTOK, SPLCENTER.ORG:  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Is this not precisely—now that we have these investigations by Homeland Security—is this not exactly what Homeland Security foreshadowed in its report on right-wing extremism?

POTOK:  Yes.  The answer is—yes, it is precisely what they talked about.  They talked about a resurgence of the radical right.  They had a great deal of evidence to support that conclusion.  It very much mirrored the conclusions of the Southern Poverty Law Center earlier.

And, you know, as you well know, DHS was pilloried by political opportunists on the right who were supposedly attacking all conservatives and all war veterans.  I mean, it really was the most remarkable tempest in a teacup.

OLBERMANN:  In less than two weeks, we‘ve had two fatal incidents: an assassination and an attempt, obviously, to shoot up a museum and just kill as many people as possible, stopped by quick work of true heroes.  Are these two cases anomalies—certainly in terms of mortality they are—but are you seeing evidence of broader patterns of chatter—to use that term—or mobilization or recruiting or whatever, domestically?

POTOK:  Yes.  I mean, first of all, I think that the groups are definitely growing.  They have been trying very hard to recruit around the idea of a black man being in the White House, sort of “horror of horrors.”  And there has been quite a lot of criminal violence as well.  In addition to the cases you‘ve mentioned, in just the last couple of months, five law enforcement officers have been murdered by right-wing extremists in two different incidents.

You know, we‘ve had one guy who was so infuriated with Obama‘s election as president that he was allegedly building a dirty bomb—a bomb with radioactive parts.  You know, and it goes on from there.

The day after Obama was inaugurated, a man in Brockton, Massachusetts, stormed out of his house and started murdering black people. When he was finally apprehended after murdering two and nearly killing a third, you know, he told the police that he was going on that evening to murder as many Jews as possible in an Orthodox synagogue.  You know, his complaint was that the white race was suffering a genocide at the hands of others.

OLBERMANN:  Do we now start to take this idea of domestic right-wing extremism and even terrorism seriously?  And if so, what does taking it seriously look like?

POTOK:  Well, I would argue that—really, in most law enforcement quarters, certainly since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, domestic terrorism has been taken seriously.  Certainly, the authorities have done, I think, a very good job of protecting Obama up to now.

You know, the idea, though, that somehow, you know, this shooting at the Holocaust Museum was in any remote way an artifact of the left or Obama‘s fault somehow, you know—I mean, it‘s vile beyond words and just has no basis at all in fact of any kind.

OLBERMANN:  Does it, however—is it a self-protective measure by the right, or is it just something that feeds further into this paranoia that‘s developed on the right since the election?

POTOK:  You know, I guess it looks to me a lot like paranoia in the sense that it seems to me that a person with a functioning brain would have a very difficult time thinking of the Holocaust Museum shooter as somebody who was somehow sparked by, you know, the vile leftist policies of President Obama.  I mean, I just—you know, there‘s absolutely—I mean, it seems to me a comment made for ridicule.  So, it‘s hard to understand, you know, precisely why one would make that kind of comment unless one‘s real interest was in drawing ridicule on the right in this country.

OLBERMANN:  We will explore that in a moment.  For now, Mark Potok from the Southern Poverty Law Center—thank you for your time and for your work on this issue, sir.

POTOK:  Thank you.  I appreciate it.

OLBERMANN:  Better than anyone on the right, Rush Limbaugh knows not to bother denying that Von Brunn‘s rhetoric sounds a lot like Rush Limbaugh‘s—President Obama as a puppet of others, the government is enemy, somebody coming to take your guns.

Instead, today, Limbaugh and other right-wing radio hosts chose an entirely different tact, offense—in both senses—blaming liberals for Von Brunn, until slipping 15 minutes later and contradicting his own claim about the left‘s influence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  He hated both Bushes.  He hated neocons.  He hated John McCain.  He hated Republicans.  He hated Jews as well.

He believed in an inside job conspiracy of 9/11.  This guy is a leftist, if anything.  This guy‘s beliefs, this guy‘s hate stems from influence that you find on the left, not on the right.

They want turmoil.  And if it doesn‘t exist, they create it.  Now, this Jew hater who killed yesterday was a nut.  I doubt that he was influenced by anything other than his own mental illness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Except we know Von Brunn‘s influences.  He even lists his character shapers on his Web site, quote, “In 1964, General Pedro Del Valle gave me John O‘Beaty‘s ‘The Iron Curtain over America.‘  For the first time, I learned how Jews had destroyed Europe and were now destroying America.”

General Del Valle was a Republican, quote, “General Del Valle recommended that I‘d be given a position with Noontide Press.  Noontide publishes right-wing books.  Willis Carto was its founder,” he wrote.

Willis Carto, a right-wing Holocaust denier, who‘s Liberty Lobby hosted speakers such as Phil Slatley (ph), Republican.

“Talking Points Memo” reports that Von Brunn switched his Web site domain on June 1st to a man who shares a phone number with a woman who was listed as a Michigan coordinator for former presidential candidate Ron Paul, who is at least nominally a Republican.

Von Brunn himself posted on the Republican Web site, Free Republic, spouting the right-wing claim that Obama‘s birth certificate was forged, defending President Bush against Dan Rather, and claiming the media had tried to destroy Sarah Palin.

From his own Web site, “Right-wing websites illuminate the problems that Aryans face.  Each day new alarms are sounded, adding more fuel to the raging fire.  The right-wing does nothing but talk.  No plan of action against the well-known enemy.  Exactly the advice Marxists/liberals/Jews want to hear.  Even a kid in grade school knows when it‘s time to get his knuckles bloody.”

Time now to bring in MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, associated editor and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of “The Washington Post.”

Gene, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  First, let me just acknowledge the obvious.  You‘re a black man.  You work in the media.  You work specifically at “The Washington Post,” and “The Post” reportedly was mentioned in these documents connected with this man, Von Brunn.

What is your response as somebody who is apparently three times an enemy of this man?

ROBINSON:  The flip response is that, “Well, gee, all I need to do is convert to Judaism now and I can make it four for four.”

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  But seriously, you know that these people are out there.  And occasionally, you hear from somebody who is spouting just vile rhetoric and is clearly just filled with a—you know, with anger, usually, I think it‘s fortunately nonspecific.  But—so you kind of know that this is out there.  And yet when something like this happens, it certainly makes you think about it.

And just today, I was thinking about a voice mail I got earlier in the week from, you know, one of these people—again, nonspecific, anonymous, yet with this incredible anger in the tone and in the awful language that he used, racial and other slurs.  And, you know, you think about those and you wonder, well, maybe you should pass a few more of those off to security.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  You said nonspecific.  In this case, what makes this case leap out is the specificity.  This man listed what had he called character-shapers on his Web site.  And this is not, you know, idiocy or a guy just stringing together obscenities.  This is a well-written, kind of coherent road map of his education politically.  There‘s a chronicle in here of six decades of the American right-wing.

Have we seen before an explicit indictment of the extreme right provided by somebody who took that sort of final, fatal step on its behalf?

ROBINSON:  Not that I can recall, actually.  And not one that is—that is, as you said, as well-written.  These guys tend not to be that coherent in terms of putting their ideology, such as it is, down on paper.

But Von Brunn was and—look, you know, nobody would claim that he was a mainstream Republican who would show up at the, you know, at the convention or something like that and/or, you know, work precincts for a candidate.  But, the idea that somehow his ideology, his ideas, his warped sense of the world has, in any remote way, related to anything you‘ve ever heard from the left is just incredible.  It‘s just an incredibly—and not just lame—but almost insane thing to say.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  No, I went for the—you say almost, I say, that was an insane thing to say.

But back to the—to the first guilty party here.  What Von Brunn seemed to have picked up, not so much the political positions, pro-guns or whatever, but this—the overall tenor, that urgency to the right-wing suggestion that these are anvils upon which is something essential about America will either live or die depending on what you personally do, the generic you.

Does that element of the right-wing seem to be the pivot here that Von Brunn felt obliged to act because he had been convinced or been led to believe that his country—his version of this country is in danger?

ROBINSON:  It could be.  I think that‘s an interesting and I think correct way to look at it.  Because in these cases, as you get the sense of people feeling there‘s an urgent danger of losing America.  Now, it‘s the America they think we‘re about to lose is an America that never was.  It‘s an America where the Constitution prohibits an income tax and, you know, we‘re on the gold standard, I guess, and there‘s no Federal Reserve bank and on and on.

But it‘s—the anger does seem to spring from the sense of emergency.  And this odd sense that our elected officials, for example, a president who comfortably won the popular vote and won a landslide of electoral vote, Democrats in Congress who increase their majorities by popular vote, popular will—that our elected officials are somehow taking the people‘s will out of their hands or not representing that will when it was clearly expressed.  So this is an un-democratic ideology in, you know, in every sense of the world.

OLBERMANN:  I, by the way, completely concur with you that there would be no mistaking this man who did this for a rank-and-file Republican, and any impression that would have been left that way is wrong.

Having said that, about Republicans and the humoring and embracing of the right-wing sideshow freaks who claim America is in danger in this way, leading to this as the most extreme example of that—is there a way for them to continue to do this without essentially spitting on the memory of the museum guard or the Jewish groups or the—just the people who were not harmed and were psychologically damaged yesterday?  Or is this the moment at which somebody in the Republican Party has to stand up and go, “You do not have anything to do with us and we will have nothing to do with you”?

ROBINSON:  You know, I don‘t think it will happen quite that way.  What I hope is that they reflect on how this happened, on—as far as we know—what happened, and reflect on the power of words and how they are used and what influence they have.

You know, who knows what influence this guy—this guy was around the bend when you and I were, you know, in diapers, apparently.  But I worry about others out there who are listening to—on the radio over and over, “They‘re coming to take your guns, they‘re—you know, they‘re going to destroy,” I worry about what impact this may be having on the next lone wolf who‘s not yet begun to howl.

OLBERMANN:  And the final irony is that Stephen Johns was opening the door, open to a man who he thought need help and lost his life in doing so.

Gene Robinson of “The Washington Post” and also MSNBC—as always, Gene, especially in this case, great thanks.

ROBINSON:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, on consecutive days, a man voicing the most extreme views of the right-wing, goes in, tries to shoot up the Holocaust Museum in Washington.  And then the man who Republicans just identified in a poll as essentially the co-spokesman of their party goes on the air with the imbecilic and/or insane claim that the terrorist actually had to be a leftist.

With a mainstream party this close to being identified with domestic political assassinations, a Republican governor has said, “Enough.  Neither Limbaugh nor Dick Cheney should speak for the GOP.”  One hopes he believes Mr. Von Brunn shouldn‘t, either.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve all seen it more often than “Lockup: Return to Pelican Bay State Prison.”  Republican asked about Limbaugh, Republican declares independence from Limbaugh.  Will part three happen again?  Republican apologizes to Limbaugh?

An apology is not enough for Sarah Palin, not when she can score political points by exploiting her own daughters.

And no apology will ever cover this.  Jeremiah Wright says he can‘t see the president now because, quote, “Them Jews,” unquote, won‘t let him.  He‘s now clarified the remark.  He says he didn‘t mean all Jews.

Worst Persons—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Seventeen percent of Republicans having told Gallup that no one speaks for their party and the top three actual runners up to no one, including Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh, one Republican is now taking the intriguing but possibly fatal career step of criticizing both Cheney and Limbaugh.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Mark Sanford, the future former Republican governor of South Carolina.  The governor heretofore known largely because he refused government stimulus money until a high school senior took him to court and won, was asked by ABC News whether having Dick Cheney seen as the GOP standard bearer is good for the party.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  Probably isn‘t.  To really keep a invigorated political system, you‘ve got to have new voices stepping in and stepping to the plate and giving their opinions.  And anytime you have some of the senior leaders continuing to delay out their case for what they believe, it probably usurps the voice of new leaders who would be coming in.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Having thrown that rock at that dragon, the governor then said about Mr. Limbaugh, “If you‘ve got a disproportionate microphone, you might want to share it.”  This all comes after that aforementioned Gallup poll that said most Americans don‘t have a clue who speaks for the Republican Party, Republicans included.

Joining us now, the Washington correspondent from “New Yorker” magazine, Ryan Lizza.

Ryan, good evening.

RYAN LIZZA, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  OK.  How much trouble did Mark Sanford just get himself into?

LIZZA:  Well, you know, if history informs us on this, he‘ll be apologizing to the very least, Mr. Limbaugh, sometime this week.  But he‘s got—he‘s got—honestly, he does, and seriously, he has a chance here.  This is a big event now, when you criticize Limbaugh as a Republican, it becomes a big media story.  The crawl back is embarrassing.

And Sanford is different from someone like Colin Powell or a moderate Republican.  Sanford‘s got real credibility on the right.  He became a hero of fiscal conservatives for opposing the stimulus money.  He, as governor, he‘s got a very—he‘s got a low tax record, so the tax cutters in the Republican Party like him.

If he stands his ground here, I think he—this could be a big moment for him in the run up to 2012, because he‘s got the credibility on the right.  It could be a sort of “Nixon to China” moment for a conservative—and that‘s what a Republican needs to sort of break out of the pack.

OLBERMANN:  And if not, he—who would it be then who‘s going to actually break this pattern, this cycle?

LIZZA:  I don‘t know.  You know, a few months ago, we thought it was Bobby Jindal, until he gave his speech and everyone panned that and his star has sort of faded.

I mean, I still tend to think the way the Republican Party works is sort of the—it goes to the next person who‘s sort of in line, you know?  And maybe that means someone like Romney and Palin, because they‘re familiar; they‘ve been around the block once.  I still think that they‘re the two people to watch most closely.

OLBERMANN:  Or it was sort of like an open mike night or succession of them.

Chris Cillizza reminded me of this last night.  If you look back to June 2005 and if there would have been a poll like this, it would have shown no clear leader among the Democrats.  Certainly not—

LIZZA:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  The party chairman wouldn‘t have gotten 10 percent.  Maybe it would have been, you know, the ex-vice president, just as it is in this case.

LIZZA:  Absolutely.

OLBERMANN:  Unlikely that it would have shown, say, the junior senator from Illinois.  All valid points about this are not really meaning that much.  But then again, it also would have not shown at the top of the pile some radio guy.  I mean—no offense to Al Franken or Ed Schultz—but it wouldn‘t have had—it wouldn‘t have been a liberal guy in the mix anywhere.

Is this really just the average party in ordinary post-presidential depression, or is there more to it than that?

LIZZA:  There‘s a little more to it, the fact that there are these prominent broadcasting voices, like Limbaugh, who actually have really stepped forward and filled the vacuum.  But Chris is right about the polls the last time around.  And I remember in the run up to the 2004 election, it was the same thing.  The big story was, nobody could get out of the shadow of Bill Clinton.  Remember that?  And he—you know, he was still the voice of the party.

So, I mean, I think there is some truth to that.  These things come in cycles.  And someone will emerge.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  We‘ll get back to you when Governor Sanford apologizes.

Ryan Lizza of “The New Yorker”—many thanks, Ryan.

LIZZA:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Four days after the fact and suddenly now, Bret Michaels has felt the impact of that Tony Award sign hitting him right in the good old bandanna.  Ding!

And Liz Cheney—sorry—Liz Cheney insists President Bush never said we should try some Gitmo detainees here in the states, in court, except that‘s exactly what he said.

Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  And remember “The Simpsons” episode, “Mr. Sparkle”?  It has happened in real life.

First on this date in 1905, the Pennsylvania Railroad inaugurated the fastest cross-country train in history from Penn Station, Jersey City, to Chicago.  In one stretch, bridging Ohio and Indiana, the train could run at 127 miles an hour.  The trip took 18 hours.

One hundred and four years later to the day and the trip now takes 18 hours and 50 minutes.

Let‘s play Oddball.

To Kovernino, Russia, this man‘s intense craftsmanship all in the service of really oversized souvenir tableware, like big wooden spoons.  And the Khokhloma Craft Factory has selected this huge log of aspen to make a giant spoon for their leader, the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.  The stated reason, to help him with the global financial crisis.  Something may have been lost in the translation here.  It‘s got something also to do with a Russian fairy tale.  But never mind, behold, the presidential spoon.  More than seven feet long and 33 pounds.  Bizarre phallic symbol, perhaps. 

Or is it the world‘s spoon that goes with the World Cup? 

Part two of the Bret Michaels saga.  The front man for the ‘80s glam band Poison now changing his tune about the Monty Python-like incident at the Tony Awards.  Watch out for the descending curtain. 

Bong! 

His publicist had said Michaels was fine, but a Tony spokesperson claimed that Michaels had, quote, missed his mark.  OK, which may have gotten under the skin of the “Rock of Love” star.  Mr. Michaels has now canceled a show scheduled for Myrtle Beach citing his injuries and the need for further tests.  The singer also posted photos on MySpace.  OK, bruised lip, fractured nose.  Some of his hair fell out.  No, I‘m sorry.

Publicist released the lengthy statement, suggesting that someone at the Tonys was not doing their job, and that the Tony people would have to show more concern.  If this would have happened to Liza Minnelli or Dolly Parton, well, yes—

In one night, Sarah and Todd Palin go from victims deserving an apology to sleaze-bag politicians using their own daughters to stir up phony umbrage.  And speaking of phony and umbridge, Carrie Prejean unemployed and now for her round two with Michael .  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best “Simpsons” episode come to life, Mario Bertuccio, proprietor of the store Gratzi in Prague, in the Czech Republic.  A guy who went to college with Danielle Smith of O‘Fallon, Missouri was driving through Prague when he looked up and saw this, life size, on the window of Gratzi, this, Danielle Smith‘s 2008 family Christmas card.  That‘s her husband, Jeff, and their kids.  And they are now in the window of a Czech food shop advertising the store‘s delivery service.  The owner simply found the Christmas card from the Smiths online, and thought it was photo shopped or something and blew it up.  Bingo, the Smiths were an add in the Czech republic.  This is, more or less, the plot of the “Simpson‘s” episode where Homer‘s head is reproduced as the ad campaign for Mr. Sparkle detergent in Japan. 

Number two, best you knew that had to happen, unnamed suspects in a domestic dispute in New Haven, Connecticut.  A 16-year-old arrested whereupon a woman in the house said, you can‘t take him because this house has been quarantined because of Swine Flu.  Police checked with the health department.  There are no H1N1 quarantines in New Haven or anywhere else.  Unclear if the woman was also arrested for interfering with the first arrest. 

Number one, best conservative bashing by Newt Gingrich.  After a report that President Obama quietly ordered FBI agents to read Miranda rights to high-value detainees captured or held at US detention facilities in Afghanistan, Gingrich promptly called this unimaginable.  “It‘s worst than anything Jimmy Carter ever did.  It‘s worst than anything President Bill Clinton did.” 

Three hours earlier, Fox News had reported that this policy of reading some detainees Miranda rights had begun in July 2008, under President Bush.  So, first, Newt Gingrich called Ronald Reagan, and said he was guilty of intellectual nonsense.  Now, he says something he did was worse than anything—something Bush did was worse than something Jimmy Carter ever did, worse than anything Bill Clinton ever did.  Gee, Newt, Reagan and Bush in one week.  I wouldn‘t even go there. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  An eight minute atonement, an admission of poor taste, but if you thought last night‘s apology from David Letterman to the Palin family would be the end of it, you don‘t know the Palin family.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Sarah and Todd Palin refuse to take yes for an answer, and refuse to accept the empathy of people of all political stripes, so they can, instead, martyr themselves and their daughters on a fake cross of pedophilia. 

Mr. Letterman devoting an entire segment of “The Late Show” to the Palin saga.  First, acknowledging the Palin‘s outrage over two jokes he told about one of their daughters.  Then inviting the governor and husband to come on the show.  And after reading the Palin‘s statement concerning the offending jokes, he went on to read the very jokes they found offensive in the first place. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  I‘m telling you, I recognize that these are ugly.  Yes.  These are actually ugly.  These are borderline—but, again, in an act of desperation, to get cheap laughs, which is what I‘ve been doing for the last 30 years—these are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. 

I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl.  I mean, look at my record.  It has never happened.  I don‘t think it‘s funny.  I would never think it was funny.  I wouldn‘t put it in a joke. 

Here‘s where you draw the line.  Yes, maybe these are questionable because the girl, who actually—excuse me, but was knocked up—is now 18 years old.  Am I guilty of poor taste?  Yes.  Did I suggest that it was OK for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex?  No. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, apology accepted?  No, not so much.  Last night, Todd Palin issued this reaction.  “Nice attempt by Letterman to draw the heat away from himself.  However, Willow was the only one at the Yankees game, and the only Palin child included in the photo opportunities with the Giulianis, as was obvious.  Regardless of which Palin daughter it was, Bristol, Willow, or Piper, these sexually perverted comments are outside the acceptance of mainstream America.” 

That‘s Todd speaking for mainstream America.  In case that message was not clear enough, today Palin‘s spokeswoman Meg Stapleton released a follow-up regarding Letterman‘s statement about the Palin‘s statement about the offending jokes.  “The Palins have no intention of providing a ratings boost for David Letterman by appearing on his show.  Plus, it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman.” 

We‘re advised that Mrs. Palin is going to be on “The Today Show,” so please stay away from the train tracks, so when the wreck occurs in the morning, nobody gets hurt besides the principals.  Joining us now, Washington editor of “The Week” magazine, political columnist for “Bloomberg News,” Margaret Carlson.  Margaret, good evening. 

MARGARET CARLSON, “BLOOMBERG NEWS”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  What I don‘t get here, this was, to me, a no-brainer for the Palins.  They had everybody going, yes, you know, that was a little over the line.  We feel sorry for you, and that shouldn‘t have been said.  And in 24 hours, they go from victims to opportunists.  Why? 

CARLSON:  Yes, there‘s a worst person in the world somewhere in this story, but it‘s not David Letterman anymore. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  He did more than any late-night comic has ever done in terms of apologies.  I went and Googled to see who has apologized.  Now, Republicans are used to apologizing to Rush Limbaugh, but late-night comics are not used to apologizing to politicians, because if they did, they would be doing it every night. 

David Letterman did not drag the 14-year-old daughter into it.  The Palins dragged the 14-year-old daughter into it.  And it was absolutely egregious.  And they obviously hunger for this kind of melodrama, these family feud type things, because they could have let it rest and they didn‘t.  In fact, they escalated to calling David Letterman perverted and saying they had to keep their daughter away from him. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  That amazed.  The other thing that amazes me on this here is the—we never learn lessons from history, and clearly Sarah Palin didn‘t.  Assuming we have not heard the last of this, it just doesn‘t go away, and “The Today Show” appearance tomorrow suggests it won‘t, unless she cancels it, does she have no idea what happened to that guy she used to know, McCain, I think his name was, when he over-played his hand with Letterman last year, September 24th, not that anybody keeps records or anything, of the exact date, or who replaced him when he canceled out on Letterman? 

CARLSON:  Right.  It‘s a classic thing to go on the show and have your moment where you all come back together again.  Can‘t we all get along?  Hugh Grant did it.  President Bill Clinton did it after that disastrous appearance.  He came black and played his saxophone and I think it was for Jay Leno, not sure who it was.  And John McCain, kind of a classic thing. 

The Palins really—you know, the zone of privacy around the children stops at a certain point.  And the point it stops is when you take your child out of the zone of privacy.  And that ended for the Palins when Bristol was paraded on stage at the convention with her now-estranged fiancee, as if they were Charles and Diana from the Klondike, to be celebrated. 

And then they sent her out to—this is the worst of all—sent her out, like a member of a Vaudeville troupe, to preach abstinence, a subject about which you‘re likely to get some jokes.  Especially, that abstinence tour is sponsored by Candies, which you probably don‘t know, Keith, is a clothing line that is aimed at Tweens, to make them—to have them dress very suggestively. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, yes.  It is a train wreck, and just as another plug, it will be on “The Today Show” in the morning, unless she cancels.  The Charles and Diana of the Klondike, I love it.  Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg News” and “The Week” magazine, thank you. 

CARLSON:  Good night, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  More super-geniuses in California.  Carrie Prejean says she was fired because of what she said about gay marriage, also because the pageant people demanded that she pose in “Playboy.”  Michael Musto‘s second shot at her, and he‘s promised to behave, sort of. 

And Ann?  Annie?  Ann?  Coulter-geist chimes in on the Palins and Letterman.  When I say chimes in, of course, I mean lies.  “People didn‘t got after Chelsea Clinton.”

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, when people who belong to crazy fringe groups, like the Obama birth certificate conspiracy movement, start killing guards at Holocaust museums, why are main-stream Republicans legitimizing crazy fringe groups like the Obama birth certificate conspiracy movement?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Carrie Prejean; Carrie Prejean fired for breach of contract; Carrie Prejean has a different story.  Michael Musto‘s here.  Need I say more?  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Liz Cheney; in an argument over the closing of Gitmo with Salon‘s Joan Walsh, who is different than Liz in that she tells the truth—Joan reminds Liz that in June 2006, President Bush, quoting Joan, “gave a speech where he said he would close it (Gitmo), and he would bring people home and try him here.”  Miss Cheney dismissed Miss Walsh, “no, I‘m sorry.  He did not say he would bring people on to the homeland, Joan.  No, he didn‘t say that.” 

President Bush‘s news conference at the U.S. European Union Summit, June, 2006, called for the closing of Gitmo and said he‘d send some of the detainees back to their own countries, but added, and we‘re quoting Liz Cheney‘s dad‘s boss, or assistant, “there are some who need to be tried in U.S. courts.  They‘re cold-blooded killers.  They will murder somebody if they‘re let out on the street.  And yet, we believe there ought to be a way forward in a court of law.” 

US courts in the US.  Liz Cheney wrong.  The apple, as they say, did not far fall from the tree.  And when it fell, it discharged, striking Harry Widdington (ph). 

The runner, Coulter-geist, had an echo chamber moment with a lunatic

fringe radio show host over David Letterman‘s jokes about Palin‘s

daughters.  The host said, “but when you go after kids the way he did here

this is a young girl we‘re talking about.  When you go after a woman this way—and Coulter-geist actually said, “well, and it‘s not just—right, right.  And people didn‘t go after Chelsea Clinton, and they have not gone after Sasha and Malia.” 

Ann?  Ann?  Annie?  Ann?  John McCain at a 1998 dinner reportedly told a joke about Chelsea Clinton which ended with, because his father is Janet Reno.  He never denied that he told that joke.  Rush Limbaugh, six years earlier, when Chelsea Clinton was younger then than the younger Palin daughter is now, so long ago Limbaugh still had a TV show—he put up a picture of Sox, the Clinton‘s cat, and he asked, did you know there‘s a White House dog?  And then put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton.  Ann, to use the vulgarities of the gutter, you are a worthless Coulter. 

But our winner, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, speaking to a reporter from the “Daily Press Newspaper” of Newport News, Tuesday night after a sermon at the 95th annual Hampton University Minister‘s Conference.  Asked if he had talked to the president, he said no.  Now, the newspaper claims he began his answer with the phrase, “them Jews ain‘t going to let him talk to me.”  Quotes him as such in the newspaper.  That is during some cross talk with the reporter. 

I think it‘s right, but later whatever he actually said there, the context becomes appallingly clear. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have you spoken with him since he‘s been in the White House. 

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, PASTOR:  Those Jews ain‘t going to let him talk to me.  He‘ll talk to me five years from now, when he‘s a lame duck, or eight years, when he‘s out of office.  He‘s a politician.  I‘m a pastor.  He‘s got to do what politicians do.  And the Jewish vote, the AIPAC vote is controlling him, and will not let him send representation to the Darfur Review Conference.  It‘s talking this craziness in Israel because they‘re Zionists.  They will not let him talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is.  Ethnic cleansing is going on in Gaza.  The ethnic cleansing of the Zionists is a sin and a crime against humanity. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Reverend Wright now says he misspoke.  Quote, I‘m not talking about all Jews, all people of the Jewish faith.  I‘m talking about Zionists,” unquote.  Mr. Wright, turn in your collar, give your Bible to somebody who‘s read it.  Clean out your desk.  If it were not true earlier, it is now, you are no longer by the stretch of anybody‘s imagination a man of god.  Jeremiah Wright, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You can call it the post-Jean era.  As we told you yesterday, Carrie Prejean, the runner-up for Miss USA, and proponent of opposite marriage, became opposite employed when her Miss California title was revoked.  Our number one story, the bickering from both sides continues.  A new California queen is kind of making sense.  Michael Musto is here.  He‘s agreed to be monitored with this bell for bad taste, comparatively. 

For her part, Prejean claims she was canned because of her anti-gay marriage beliefs.  She is also now claiming that living up to her contract was hard, telling TMZ.com that the pageant asked her to pose in “Playboy” and appear on the NBC reality show “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,” and that, quote, from day one, the pageant wanted me out, and they got what they wanted.

Donald Trump allegedly told TMZ that Prejean treated the Miss California people, quote, like the S word.  He didn‘t say the S word.  And on the morning show circuit, the director of the pageant, with new queen in tow, made his case for letting Prejean go. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH LEWIS, MISS CALIFORNIA PAGEANT DIRECTOR:  There were tens and tens and tens of appearances that she was not available for.  She wasn‘t cooperative.  The correspondence that went back and forth is documented.  She was saying that she couldn‘t do appearances in Hollywood.  She was having other responsibilities that would keep her from appearances. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  When was the last time you heard someone say tens and tens and tens.  The pageant also says Prejean insisted that every offer that came down the pike should be presented to her before she turned it down or accepted it, which might explain the reality show and the “Playboy” thing. 

Joining us now, Michael Musto, “Village Voice” columnist, also the author of “La Dolce Musto.”  Michael, good evening. 

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

OLBERMANN:  I just want to remind you, I have this bell here.  I used to use it to break things up during our primary coverage.  So if you hear that sound, it means you‘ve sort of gone towards the edge there, and I would like you to sort of back off. 

MUSTO:  It‘s a deal.  Just don‘t pan down, because the wind just blew my pants off. 

OLBERMANN:  First off—is this politics or is this breach of contract?  Who are we going to believe in this? 

MUSTO:  It‘s a little bit of both.  But, you know what, Donald didn‘t mind her breaches when it turned out she had done a commercial.  Didn‘t mind her breaches.  I don‘t hear a bell.  She had done a nude shot.  Those weren‘t in her contract.  He stood by her because she was a financial entity at that point. 

But now I hear, Keith, and this is for real, sponsors are pulling out of thing pageant because of her politics.  So suddenly Donald is appalled by her breaches, OK?  It‘s poetic justice either way.  I don‘t care.  This is kind of like when O.J. got convicted for robbery instead of beheading two people.  I‘m fine with it.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s the postman always rings twice, which should be appearing in a road version in about ten years. 

MUSTO:  I don‘t want to hear that bell ringing.

OLBERMANN:  She released an official statement today.  She said, “I‘m proud to be an American and blessed to have had the opportunity to exercise my freedom of speech.”  Once again, this has nothing to do with freedom of speech.  “I am excited and looking forward to where god leads me in the future.  I know he has big plans for me.” 

Looking into the crystal ball that you carry around with you at all times, what is the plan, the big supernatural plan for Carrie Prejean? 

MUSTO:  If this is the same god that booked her on that nudie shoot, I think she needs to switch agencies.  I think this god could get her a cameo on the “Viva Laughlin” reunion special, maybe an audition for Rachel from Cardholder Services.  But I think she actually does have a point with the free speech thing, not that god has anything to do with that.  But dumb opinions are protected by the Constitution, but not bad behavior. 

OLBERMANN:  But also, that‘s the government.  The government did not fire her from this job.  This is a private company.  They can fire you tomorrow for what you write in the “Village Voice.”  They can fire me tomorrow for what I say here. 

MUSTO:  And they will, after this appearance. 

OLBERMANN:  Eventually.  Not necessarily tomorrow. 

MUSTO:  Let‘s be clear, I don‘t think she should be fired, and I always said this, for her opinions.  Dumb opinions are protected.  She should be fired for breaking her contract and being a bitch. 

OLBERMANN:  Agreed.  I‘m touching the bell, but it‘s not ringing. 

MUSTO:  The bell‘s on my side now.

OLBERMANN:  The “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” complaint; won‘t there come a day in the immediate future where she will dream of being on “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here?”

MUSTO:  No, she still has 40 other plus states to deal with.  She has other issues, like trying to stop Chastity Bono from transitioning, running through the Tony Awards with mace.  I don‘t know, passing laws that hair dressers shouldn‘t have Monday off.  She could do all of that while also battling Blago in the Costa Rican jungle. 

OLBERMANN:  Tami Farrell is the new Miss California.  And she said each state should decide on gay marriage.  And it‘s silly, with all this controversy right now, that the world is looking to beauty pageants for the answers.  Is that the smartest thing we‘ve seen so far? 

MUSTO:  I agree, it is very silly.  We shouldn‘t ask them anything except what‘s in a cheese sandwich or who‘s on first.  But as long as we have this system, you‘re pretty dumb to answer the second gayest man in the world, outside Richard Simmons, that you don‘t like gay marriage.  You‘re going to lose, honey.  I say let‘s abolish the whole question thing.  Let‘s abolish the whole pageant thing, Keith.  We are so beyond these kind of bigotry-spouting woman trying to cure cancer in bikinis. 

OLBERMANN:  Last point.  Miss Prejean said yesterday, Donald Trump was the only one who liked her and maybe he was looking out for her best interests by firing her.  Could you translate that into some language that is spoken on Earth? 

MUSTO:  Again, let me defend her, uncharacteristically enough.  I think if he does like her, he‘ll free her from all the ribbon cutting and pet store openings, and say, go off and do a reality show.  That‘s better off than being Miss California. 

By the way, I‘m being very nice tonight, because Bill O‘Reilly said I engage in hate speech.  And I don‘t want to offend his delicate sensibilities.  I‘m sure he has a bell too. 

That‘s very Pavlovian.  I‘m looking for the food trough. It‘s like feeding time at the zoo here. 

OLBERMANN:  You have no idea of the meaning of that last bell.  The one and only Michael Musto, as always, great thanks.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,233rd day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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