updated 6/15/2009 11:48:47 AM ET 2009-06-15T15:48:47

Richard Wolffe, Steve Clemons, Jonathan Alter

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Tracy Flick smells an opportunity.

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GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  You and anybody else are extremely naive to believe that very convenient excuse of David Letterman‘s the other day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The governor‘s own naivete, connecting a joke about her knocked up daughter to a statutory rape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I connect the dots to a degrading statement made about young women and that does contribute to some acceptance of abuse of young women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: So then you‘d also connect the dots to a degrading statement about a presidential candidate palling around with terrorists and does that contribute to some acceptance in an idea that the candidate was a terrorist?

Decision ‘09, the Iran presidential election: The moderate challenger claims victory despite fraud at the polls, state-run media says the incumbent Ahmadinejad leads 69 to 28, presumably with the church (ph) counties still to be heard from.

A new right-wing threat against Judge Sotomayor: Delay the hearings or we‘ll boycott them.  Wouldn‘t you want to look in on boycotting the entire Senate for the next three years, would you?

And an older threat, one dead abortion doctor is not enough for Randall Terry as the lunatic fringe ratchets up the violent hate speech.

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RANDALL TERRY, OPERATION RESCUE FOUNDER:  If you confirm Judge Sotomayor, the blood of the babies that will die because of her rulings is on your hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Worsts: Boss Limbaugh blames the cost of health care on people who stay in shape.

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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  All you exercise freaks—you‘re the ones putting stress on the health care system.

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OLBERMANN:  Clearly than your brain is putting no stress on the health care system.

And this is—this is considered funny by Michelle Malkin.  “Mohammed?  Shouldn‘t we read them their Miranda rights first?  Just kidding, man.”

And has it really been a year?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RUSSERT, LATE NBC JOURNALIST:  We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be, and no one is going to dispute it, Keith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Remembering tonight—the late Tim Russert.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Sanctimonious, holier than thou, exploitative, undignified, pedantic, childish, self-inflicting, insipid, backwards, embarrassing, over-reactive, overreaching, or as Peggy Noonan summed it up, with the succinctness I have obviously long since abandoned—yammering.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska returning to national television to exploit her daughters pursuing a bizarre and unwinnable vendetta against the TV figure who has already apologized and whom she evidently does not realized is several times more popular than she is.

Day four of the Palin vendetta against David Letterman, the Alaska governor is expanding her list of perceived victims from just her two teenage daughters, to all young women in this country.  This after Letterman not only apologized Wednesday on air for a joke he had delivered on Monday about the Palin family‘s trip to New York City, but also continued to take the high road in the face of repeated attacks by a politician so power crazed she is again using her own daughters to try to earn political capital.

The man who has quickly become the victim here introduced himself as “Dave Letterman, making friends wherever I go” on last night‘s program and making himself the butt of the joke.

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DAVID LETTERMAN, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  Earlier in the week, I made some jokes that upset Sarah Palin and I was telling jokes about her family and stuff.  She got really upset.  And I think everything is fine now.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  I think everything is going to be great because she called today and invited to take me hunting.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No outcome satisfactory for a politician seemingly intent on escalating the controversy, milking it for as much publicity as possible at her daughter‘s expense.  That meant 11 minutes on “The Today Show” this morning, extensively, to push her plan for a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the Lower 48, never mind that there is natural gas glut in North America, the boondoggle quickly giving way to baseless attacks.

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MATT LAUER, “THE TODAY SHOW” HOST:  Can we talk about some of the other ways you‘ve been in the news lately—and you know about this.  There‘s been this feud this week with “Late Show” host David .

PALIN:  If we must.

LAUER:  Yes, I know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  OK.  We‘ll skip it.  See you.  Have fun storming the obscurity castle.

The left wing media having forced Governor Palin to drag this story out for yet another news cycle.  But, hey, you know, somebody‘s got to think of the kids and the flight attendants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUER:  I‘m just curious, how did you hear about the comments and the jokes?  Were you watching or did someone tell you about them?

PALIN:  No, the next day, I had an interview with John Ziegler on his radio show and he asked me about a comment that Letterman had made regarding my appearance as slutty flight attendant.  And my first thought was, hey, don‘t disparage flight attendants.  They work hard, we love them, you know?  How condemning of them.  Don‘t say such a thing.

And then I found out later the comment that was made about statutory rape of my 14-year-old daughter Willow, knowing that crossed the line and then, others chiming in on other comments that Letterman has made, just, you know, quite, I think, a sad commentary on where we are as a culture, as a society to chuckle and laugh through comments such as he had made the other night.  I think it‘s quite unfortunate.

LAUER:  Since David Letterman is not here, let me just say that he did not mention Willow by name.  And he then went on to say he was not referring to your 14-year-old daughter.  I do want to read the statement.

PALIN:  And Matt—

LAUER:  Go ahead.

PALIN:  OK.  Matt, I would say that that you and anybody else are extremely naive to believe that very convenient excuse of David Letterman‘s the other day.  It took a couple days for him to think of that excuse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If by a couple days, Governor Palin means 3 ½ hours.  All the time that actually elapsed between the release of the Palin statements falsely accusing Letterman of having joke about the statutory rape of the 14-year-old girl and the released of excerpts from that evening‘s late show on which Mr. Letterman apologized and explained that he had been talking about their 14-year-old daughter nor about rape but apologizing nonetheless.

Governor Palin dismissing that as a weak excuse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  No, he wasn‘t talking about my daughter who was there with me at the game, the 14-year-old.  He was talking about some other daughter.  Well, I think it‘s a quick excuse.  And, you know, regardless, it was a degrading comment about a young woman.

And I would hope that people really start—really rising up and deciding it‘s not acceptable.  No wonder young girls especially have such low self-esteem in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  How about the self-esteem of young girls who were trotted out onto the political stage by a mother who treats them like props?  When does somebody tell mothers or fathers that that is not acceptable?  When does somebody tell self-obsessed, egomaniacal politicians that it‘s not acceptable to imply intent to break the law by issuing statements about, quote, “it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman”?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUER:  Now, you are suggesting that David Letterman can‘t be trusted around a 14-year-old girl?

PALIN:  Hey, take it however you want to take it.  It is it a comment that came from the heart that Willow, no doubt, would want to stay away from David Letterman after he made such a comment.  And you can you interpret that however you want to interpret it.

LAUER:  Well, but is that not perhaps in bad taste also, Governor, if you‘re, you know, suggesting that a 62-year-old couldn‘t be trusted?

PALIN:  It‘s not in bad taste.  It‘s not in bad taste.  Hey—maybe he couldn‘t be trusted because Willow‘s had enough of this type of comments and maybe Willow would want to react to him in a way that maybe we catch him off-guard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The governor of Alaska is a delusional lunatic.  Fourteen-year-old Willow Palin only having entered into the public discourse this week because of her parents having put her there.  They‘d like her declared off-limits, thanks now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  Here‘s the problem, Matt.  The double standard that has been applied here—one, let‘s talk politically, the double standard.  First, remember in the campaign, Barack Obama said family is off limits.  You don‘t talk about my family and the candidate who must be obeyed.  Everybody adhered to that and they did leave his family alone.

They haven‘t done that on the other side of the ticket.  And it has continued to this day.  So, that‘s a political double standard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We asked (ph) the Edwards family about that.  The difference being the Obama girls also did not travel with their father on the campaign trail, they stayed behind to attend school in Chicago.  And when NBC News spent an entire day at the White House, its request to interview or film the girls politely declined.  When you want your children declared off-limits, the way to start that is to start it yourself.

Matt Lauer is trying to explain the subtlety of another point to no avail.

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LAUER:  I‘m not sure that it can be so easy to say that he‘s gotten away with it.  I think he will pay some sort of a price for this, Governor, because I do think a lot of people feel the joke was in extremely bad taste, no matter which daughter of yours he was referring to.  Does he owe you an apology as opposed to just the explanation he‘s issued?

PALIN:  He doesn‘t have to apologize to me.  I would like to see him apologize to young women across the country, for contributing to that—kind of that thread that is throughout our culture that makes it sound like it‘s OK to talk about young girls in that way where it‘s kind of OK, accepted and funny to talk about statutory rape.

LAUER:  Right.

PALIN:  It‘s not cool.  It‘s not funny.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  On that, we can all agree.  This has long stopped being funny.  Including the part where RNC Chairman Michael Steele also failed to notice that Letterman had apologized, quoting him, “Letterman‘s joke about Sarah and Todd Palin‘s daughter was thoughtless and tacky.  I saw his explanation for the joke.  But sometimes the easiest thing to do is simply say, ‘I‘m sorry.”  When Letterman starts making tasteless jokes about kids, it‘s time to turn the channel.”

Right, because four days of this crap has absolutely nothing to do with politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUER:  Your name has been on a list with people like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney.  And it‘s very well-understood that you perhaps are the biggest superstar when it comes to fund-raising in the party right now.  People want to make money.  They get you to an event, that event makes a lot of money.  Does that translate to you being the future of the GOP?

PALIN:  Absolutely, not necessarily.  You know, I want to help.  I want to be able to help the cause.  So, no, not necessarily me.  I don‘t think I need any kind of title in order to affect change.  I think there‘s a lot of disagreement .

LAUER:  Do you think you deserve a shot based on .

PALIN:  . within the party right now though.

LAUER:  Based on what you brought to the last campaign, do you think you at least deserve the right of first refusal in terms of being the face of party?

PALIN:  Oh, heck no.  No.  Nobody‘s entitled to that right of approval or there is no entitlement that‘s accepted, I believe, in our party.

That‘s another nice thing about the principles of the GOP.  You know, you have to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.  Your actions have to speak louder than words.  Your accomplishments have to speak for what it is that you stand for.

And, no, nobody is entitled to any kind of front-running position in the GOP.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just ask Rudy Giuliani.  Show up that every platitude except employees must wash hands.

Time to call in our political analyst, Richard Wolffe, author of “Renegade: The Making a President.”

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  Comedians joking about your children is wrong.  What makes using your children as pawns in a drawn out media war that you have drawn out well pass it sell-by date, what makes that OK?

WOLFFE:  Well, let‘s talk with what we can all agree on.  If you‘re a self respecting parent and someone makes your child—whoever it is—the butt f a late night joke, then you‘d be offended and you would be well within your rights to go out and say you were upset about it.  But, of course, Governor Palin went well beyond that.  And knowing the limits of where she should be and what she should talk about, has never been her strong point.

And here‘s a person who has tried to make this argument—as we just heard—about the culture wars or about the media or about double standards.  And that raises also some questions about her.  She could have taken the high road and been the offended parent.  But instead, she tried to broaden out.

For a person who wants to show she has policy chops, this is not a wise move, because, in the end, this isn‘t about culture.  David Letterman isn‘t responsible for the decline of American culture if there is such a thing.  This is overblown and actually poorly executed for anyone who thinks think they have presidential ambitions.

OLBERMANN:  My understanding was, the Republicans were against and particularly, Mr. Steele was against political correctness.  Would this not be the definition of political correctness not only run amok but essentially franchise made permanent?

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s a little bit rich to hear Republican complained about political correctness, because, I think, the definition of that was lipstick on a pig—which, incidentally, was offensive both to cosmetic manufacturers and pigs.

You know—it‘s a spurious argument.  As I said, a parent taking offense of this kind of joke is one thing.  But trying to broaden it out into something that has become a well-hashed tactic in the last campaign and for many years for Republicans, is just so out of touch of what politics is right now.  Never mind what the, quote-unquote, “liberal media” is doing to this great country.

OLBERMANN:  I mentioned Mr. Steel, who seemed to defend Governor Palin today.  But also he said, “If you don‘t like what Letterman said, don‘t watch Letterman.”

And I can‘t believe I‘m saying this, but doesn‘t that actually kind of make sense instead of, you know, having to apologize to every woman in the country or every flight attendant in the country or whatever Governor Palin‘s demands are today?  Is it not as simple as—if you don‘t like what someone on television says, you know, go ahead, your remote probably works or if it doesn‘t, just get a new battery?

WOLFFE:  Well, quite right.  Yes, it is weird to be saying that Michael Steele may have well have got this right.  But everybody understands Letterman‘s humor.  He is not new to the scene.  He works up to the line, sometimes he crosses it.  There are far more offensive things in our culture, on TV and in movies than a tasteless joke.

And, look, we‘re going to hear more of it.  That‘s the nature of late night comedy.  We all know that.

OLBERMANN:  Is there anything more looking at it—I guess, from a cultural standpoint—anything that Letterman could do if he doesn‘t want to, you know, apologize to each woman alphabetically in this country?  I mean, even if—even if he did, would it be enough or there would some attempt to keep this going into next week?

WOLFFE:  No, it would not be enough.  But I can say, as someone who was dressed up as a Nazi on “Saturday Night Live,” it will never be enough to being apologized, too.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Sorry about that.  Richard Wolffe—

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  Yes, I blame you.  I‘m still waiting for the apology.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sorry.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  I got Ben Affleck to apologize, too, using my voice and my hair.  At least your bit was quick.

Richard Wolffe of MSBNC, the author of “Renegade”—thanks, Richard. 

Have a good weekend.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It is an election night in which claims of decisive victory have already been made by each side and the status quo is threatened.  President Ahmadinejad of Iran and those who need him to stay in power, like, say, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton.

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OLBERMANN:  The Iranian elections: The incumbent says he‘s won, the challenger says he has won.  The neocons here are bracing for their bogeyman to fall there and say it doesn‘t matter who wins.  The latest in a moment.

Later in Worsts: The health care system is in a shambles because Rush Limbaugh, says, “of people who exercise.”  And there‘s been no exercise between the ears for a right-wing hack who posed a horrific visual joke about 9/11.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The polls in Iran have closed and the good news appears to be that democracy seems to be taking hold.  The bad news is democracy seems to be taking hold.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Tonight‘s victory declaration by each of the two leading candidates.

In this corner, incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard line saber-rattler, the winner tonight according to Iran‘s official state media. 

And in this corner, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reformer -

the winner tonight according to Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi.  He claims election irregularity such as block access to polling stations, no word on how many accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan.

           

Mousavi‘s campaign, driven by the Internet and young voters, brought a new type of democracy to Iran and a warning this week from its military.  The campaign hinged mostly on domestic economic issues with the outcome—many suggest—not expected to change foreign policy, which is dictated by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will be up for election when he damn well feels like it.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has been hoping for a Mousavi victory, which observers expect it would precipitate new opportunities for talks, common ground on Iran‘s nuclear program, among other issues.  Mr.  Obama is saying today, whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact that there‘s been a robust debate hopefully will help advance our ability to engage them in new ways.

Joining us from London, Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, author of the foreign policy blog, TheWashingtonNote.com.

Steve, good evening.

STEVE CLEMONS, THE NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION:  Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  You‘re several hours ahead of us.  So, can you tell us who won in Iran today?

CLEMONS:  Well, we don‘t know quite yet who has won.  But we know—it‘s sort of like looking at the rural part of New Hampshire and the results coming in from those districts.  It could be distorting.  The latest numbers I got were about 48 percent of the precincts with Ahmadinejad about 69 percent.

Those numbers look astronomically large given everything we‘ve seen in the last couple of weeks.  And I suspect they‘ll come down as more of the urban centers get counted.  But nonetheless, it‘s looking like—if these numbers hold anywhere near them, it looks like what would be the equivalent of a landslide for Ahmadinejad, which just doesn‘t make sense, given what we‘ve seen in the news this past week.

OLBERMANN:  I suppose the answer to this is fairly obvious.  But what explanation would you—would you proffer at this point not knowing what that outcome is or what—or how it may change as the metropolitan areas come in.  But what could explain a total reversal of the expectation of the polls?

CLEMONS:  Well, I think there are a couple of things.  One, there are many—Ahmadinejad ran a populist campaign and he‘s reaching out to the sort of regular public, to somewhat the uneducated public.  And he does very, very well with those folks.

The New American Foundation and a group called Terror Free Tomorrow ran a poll in May.  And we found that Ahmadinejad is not being blamed by many in the public for the economic problems in Iran which is—which is very, very surprising.  But those are the results we got.

And, I think, on top of that, you‘ve got a very sophisticated game of rigging that goes on inside Iran.  It does go on.  I think they probably succeeded a little bit too well.  And that could play to the advantage of Mousavi and others who eventually say this is so wrong.  It‘s so clear that it begins to really undermine the legitimacy of what we‘ve seen play out in the elections and legitimacy of the supreme leader‘s direction.

OLBERMANN:  The John Bolton argument here, that internationally, this vote does not matter.  Only the ayatollahs decide policy and the good thing about Ahmadinejad is that he wasn‘t smart enough to not talk about nuclear aspirations on behalf of his nation.

CLEMONS:  You know, John Bolton is very, very thin on this.  And, you know, he‘s—you know, John Bolton is one of our, you know, premier war-mongers.  But, in my view, what, I think, is important is you see that the Iranian public—and you see the numbers in the street, you see the people holding hands across the entire city of Tehran—telegraphing a signal to the supreme leader Ali Khamenei that their aspirations matter, that Ahmadinejad and his populist movement don‘t meet where they want to go.

It doesn‘t mean it strategically that this administration in Iran—if it were to be even go to Mousavi would automatically, you know, begin to sort of get warm and cozy with Barack Obama.  I don‘t think that‘s the case.  But it does mean that there‘s significant dissatisfaction with the status quo.  And I do think that we made a mistake—and because of President Bush—in presidentializing other foreign leaders like Ahmadinejad to make them look like Bush, thinking they had the powers of Bush.

That‘s not the case in Iran.  You know, Ahmadinejad is a relatively limited executive, who has certain capabilities.  But he cannot move in every direction.  And I think that the public is telling Khamenei, you better get your act together and move in a different course and give different talking points to your president.

OLBERMANN:  Steve Clemons, author of the foreign policy blog, “The Washington Note,” staying up late with us tonight from London—great thanks for doing so, Steve.  Have a good weekend.

CLEMONS:  Thanks, Keith.  You, too.

OLBERMANN:  What‘s that in the sky?  It‘s a bird.  It‘s a plane.  It‘s one of the flying Bushes.

And that ex-president on his 85th birthday, his efforts to stay fit and active—that is what—is clogging up the health care system, so says his buddy, Rush Limbaugh, and he‘s not making a joke.

Worsts Persons ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  And the Republican candidate for governor adopts the slogan of the Coalition for Positive Sexuality.

First on this date in 1792, British explorer, Captain George Vancouver discovered Vancouver, British Columbia.  Man, that was a coincidence.

Let‘s play Odd ball.

We begin at Kennebunkport, Maine, you‘re the former leader of the free world, respected these days anyway on both sides of the aisle, celebrating your 85th birthday, in celebration of relativity and vitality—subtlety reminding everybody of your glory days as World War II hero pilot.  And once you know it, the snot-nosed screw-up has to come along and wreck it with his smart mouth, just like he wrecks everything mano-a-mano.

Now, the damn liberal media is going to talk about his stupid “sopranos” jumpsuit there.  And, you know, how he thrashed the country by ignoring all the warnings I sent him through James Baker.  Instead of how cool and manly I am.

Thanks a lot, kid.

Tokyo, hello!  This is the international food and machinery and technology expo, just as exciting as it sounds.  It kicked off on Tuesday in a land that is already home to almost half of the world‘s 800,000 industrial robots, including Shakey here.

These robots are expected to do kitchen work for the Japan‘s aging population, at least that portion of the aging population which can afford $180,000 for a Segway that makes sushi, because in Japan, the robots they can be used as a knife.  On the plus side, the robots can make just about anything including omelets, thanks to the help of the book that comes with the newest model.  I‘m translating from the Japanese here, it‘s called, “To serve man.”

Mr. Chambers—Mr. Chambers, it‘s a cookbook.

Finally, to the Kiev in the Ukraine, these female students are on a mission.  It may look like they‘re just washing clothes in a fountain, but actually, they‘re protesting.  Yes, that will—that will show ‘em.  The student group FEMEN wants the country to stop an age-old practice.

Each summer authorities cut off the hot water supply supposedly for plumbing maintenance.  By the way, Esther Williams, eat your heart out.  The water cut off is a relic from the Soviet era and now we get this instead.

The newest threats on Sotomayor: Republicans murmur about boycotting the Senate hearings.  And the threat in that is what exactly?

And a year—a year tomorrow, we will remember our absent friend. 

These stories ahead.

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

Number three: Best non-suicide—Lyle Silkwood of Columbia, South Carolina.  Drivers on the interstate there saw him leap from a bridge into a river.  After frantic calls to 911, police discovered his abandoned truck on the bridge.  They called his home phone, he answered it.  Mr. Silkwood had not tried to kill himself, he‘d run out of gas.  But fortunately, he happened to notice a friend piloting a boat down the river.  So he jumped off the bridge and got a lift home on his friend‘s boat. 

Number two, best logo problem, capital division, Freedom Works.  Sponsoring a conservative taxpayer march on Washington in September, using this as the insignia.  Complete with the left-handed raised fist colored in red, the worldwide symbol for communism or militant socialism.  You‘re protesting what you think is socialism by using its logo? 

And Number one, best logo problem, Virginia and Capital suburbs division, Bob McDonnell, Republican candidate for governor of Virginia.  It‘s more a slogan than a logo that he has chosen, just say yes, as in, when it comes to improving our schools, they‘ll just say no; we‘ll just say yes. 

Skip the idea for a moment that a Republican just ripped off Obama‘s yes, we can; it turns out that slogan just say yes, that‘s already in use by something called the Coalition for Positive Sexuality, an organization dedicated to, quote, irreverent and unabashed sex education for teenagers.  Its, quote, about having a positive attitude towards sexuality, gay, straight, bisexual or whatever.  It‘s about saying yes to sex you do want and no to sex you don‘t want.  It says there‘s nothing wrong with you if you decide to have sex, and nothing wrong if you decide not to. 

Geez, Mr. McDonnell, I don‘t know how you Republicans roll in Virginia, but that‘s a hell of a campaign platform!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Republican senators who have already said they‘re not going to delay the Sonia Sotomayor hearings are now saying they will do just that, after being threatened by the far right of their own party.  This as a new poll suggests if they don‘t vote for Sotomayor, they could fall even more out of favor with voters than they already have.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, Republican senators in the middle as the Christian right ratchets up the rhetoric, and the rational people demand it be tamped down. 

The Ipsos-McClatchy poll found 42 percent of Hispanics said they would look less favorably at Republicans if GOP senators do not vote to confirm her.  The poll also highlights an even bigger problem for Republicans; 37 percent of all voters said they would feel even less favorably towards the GOP than they do if senators oppose the confirmation. 

Now Republicans have to deal with the Christian right, in the form of Operation Rescue Founder Randall Terry, who said this yesterday—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDALL TERRY, FOUNDER OPERATION RESCUE:  Mr. McCain, Senator Brownback, a vote for Sotomayor is a vote for Roe.  If you confirm Judge Sotomayor, the blood of the babies that will die because of her rulings is on your hands.  It‘s way past the hour when these politicians can lie to us.  If they say that they want to overturn Roe, but they vote for Sotomayor, it is either hypocrisy, cowardice, or treachery. 

And the pro-life movement and the faithful Republican base has had it with being lied to. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s Randall Terry. 

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, “Newsweek” senior editor Jonathan Alter.  Hi, Jon. 

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  What happens if Republicans simply ignore rhetoric like that? 

ALTER:  Well, they‘d be well advised to do so, if they don‘t want to go the way of the Whigs.  They have to make a fundamental decision here, what kind of party do they want to be?  Do they want to be an extremist party or do they want to be a center right party, as it‘s called, that hasn‘t a chance of getting some independent votes, which is where elections in our country are decided? 

And if they vote against Sotomayor, it doesn‘t necessarily, you know, hurt them in getting those independent votes down the road, because most people don‘t keep score on who‘s voting for who.  So, they can vote with Randall Terry on this. 

But if they go the way of Newt Gingrich and start calling her a racist, and really antagonize Latino voters, they‘re done in America politics.  I mean, demographics is destiny.  And they cannot continue down this path of alienating millions and millions of voters, and expect to be viable. 

OLBERMANN:  Why does every stop on this highway look like it‘s absolutely new to them?  Why do they seem surprised by this as if it is a highway they don‘t know anything about?  I mean, Limbaugh, Cheney, Randall Terry all on these attacks that seem designed to reduce the number of Republicans, let alone people who will vote for them.  I mean, it‘s—it‘s Captain Rennault in “Casablanca,” I‘m shocked to discover there‘s gambling on here. 

Do they really not know this is the way the country is headed and they seem to be backing up on the wrong side of the road in the other direction? 

ALTER:  Randall Terry is just a fanatic.  He‘s not interested in party building.  Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer, as you convey so well on this program. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you. 

ALTER:  And the, you know, questions about people like Newt Gingrich, who the other day attacks Obama for saying he‘s a citizen of the world and forgets that there‘s tape of Ronald Reagan saying the same thing—So, you know, some of their leaders are just getting a little long in the tooth.  And it will be very interesting to see how people Tim Pawlenty, the out-going governor of Minnesota, how he‘ll do.  He‘s running for president.  It may be that there‘s going to be some room for some new faces and that it won‘t necessarily be, you know, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney.  There could be some other people involved. 

They‘ve got to, as Obama said in 2007, turn the page.  If they don‘t turn the page from these clowns, they‘re in trouble. 

OLBERMANN:  Although I understand Sarah Palin may get the job as band leader on “The Tonight Show” with Conan O‘Brien, because that might really work well for her at this point. 

Jon Kyl said something fascinating now.  He might not show up for the hearings if the Democrats don‘t agree to postpone the schedule, thus giving the Republicans more time to complain about it.  A, what is the threat in this non-threat?  And, B, is there anything the Democrats can do to make him and other Republicans sort of enforce this until the next set of Senate elections? 

ALTER:  You know, first of all, it‘s commonplace on Capitol Hill for there to be a lot of empty chairs in a hearing room.  So the fact that a senator is not present on a given day is hardly unusual. 

Who cares if Jon Kyl doesn‘t show up?  The complaint has no merit to it.  The number of days between when Sotomayor was announced and when the hearings start, and when they‘re expected to be completed, are precisely the same as they were for John Roberts.  So it‘s not like the Democrats are, you know, ramming this thing through. 

And this is one of those things that‘s sort of like an empty gesture.  I don‘t think he‘s going to get a lot of company.  I don‘t think the Democrats are losing a lot of sleep on it.  Their reaction to most of these things is just kind of like, can‘t anyone here play this game?  It‘s like you show up and you‘re playing Palookaville (ph). 

OLBERMANN:  This is my government class, the one that I—the lab at Cornell, where they made me be a politician, and the rule book said, whatever happens, issue a press release, either claiming credit for it or saying you were going to stop it.  That‘s what this is now, just at this point?  Just the press release is the issue, not the actual outcome. 

ALTER:  Yes.  They need to both signal their base, you know, that they‘re standing up for, quote, Republican principles, unquote, and not antagonize the Latinos that live in their state.  And Jon Kyl has a lot in Arizona.  So he‘s walking a fine line.  John Cornyn from Texas is walking a fine line.  It‘s fun to watch them do so. 

OLBERMANN:  Good luck putting the baseball through the car wash without getting it wet, as they say.  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, thanks for coming in.  Have a great weekend, Jon. 

Tomorrow marks a year since we lost Tim Russert.  Still he inhabits this place.  And if we are lucky, he always will. 

Speaking of he always will, Mr. Limbaugh reveals that the health care crisis is the result of all those healthy people trying to stay in shape.  He‘s not kidding.  I mean, other than kidding himself, he‘s not kidding. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, why would Republican Congressman Mark Kirk tell China, China, our biggest creditor, not to trust our budget numbers? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Remembering Tim, that‘s next.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Andrew Breitbart, the self-announced conscience of conservative Hollywood, population 12.  When the website Gawker noted that the Holocaust museum terrorist James Von Brunn was a right wing extremist, a description soon after confirmed by the Department of Homeland Security and by the guy‘s own writings, Breitbart left a voice mail for Gawker which the website transcribed as follows—this is cleaned up—“I‘m basically fuming and I‘m reading your blank at Gawker right now saying that this guy is a right wing extremist.  And it‘s such a blanking slander on people like me.  This guy went after—this guy was after neocons like me who are conservative.  He had the address of the ‘Weekly Standard‘ there.  Conservatives believe in individual liberty.  They don‘t believe in groups rights.  This guy is a multiculturalist, just like the black studies and the lesbian studies majors on college campuses.  This guy was a 9/11 truther.  This guy‘s hardly a right winger.” 

Which do you think there are more of, right-wing extremists who hate the “Weekly Standard” and are 9/11 truthers, or left-wingers who are anti-Semitic, racist and carry shotguns in the Holocaust museums? 

The runner up, Boss Limbaugh.  I will repeat my assertion from yesterday, I think—I think he has now gone insane, actually.  The president said that preventive efforts will significantly help the health care system and, as an example, if we can get somebody, first of all, who is overweight to lose weight, so they don‘t become diabetic, we save tons of money. 

Evidently Mr. Limbaugh decided President Obama was talking about him.  So Rush decided it was time to reveal that the people who are taxing the health care system are those who stay in shape. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You heard him say, the overweight.  Yes, folks, I got to tell you something, I think those of you that regularly exercise, playing softball, baseball, basketball, soccer, mountain biking, running, rock climbing, skiing, skating, running, you‘re the people getting injured.  You‘re the people showing up at the hospital with busted knees and tendons and skin cancer, ankle sprains, knee and hip replacements, broken bones, concussions, muscle, ligament, tendon, cartilage strains, tears, tendonitis, rotator cuff tears. 

All you exercise freaks, you‘re the ones putting stress on the health care system.  What happens when people don‘t regularly exercise, keep their weight relatively under control?  Nothing.  They probably don‘t even know their doctors‘ names. 

So, you‘re urged to do all this stuff and you end up in the hospital all the time with these injuries.  And some people think these injuries are badges of honor.  Knee surgery scars, a badge of honor, shows toughness.  Yes, toughness somebody else has to pay for. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, the health of the health care system can be assured if you sit on your ass and do nothing.  Look what it‘s done for Rush. 

But our winner, blogger Michelle Malkin, who was reacted to a story, now denied by General Petraeus, that Obama ordered the FBI to read Miranda rights to detainees in Afghanistan.  General Petraeus says it‘s not true.  But this is how Malkin illustrated her blog post on the subject.  This is what she thinks is funny: the second jet going into the World Trade Center, photo-shopped by some sub-humans at a place called the People‘s Cube, to include that dialogue balloon reading, “Mohammed, shouldn‘t we read them their Miranda rights first?  Just kidding, man.” 

Taking time out from her years of using 9/11 references and imagery to try to terrorize this country into submission, Miss Malkin now proves, if there had been any lingering doubt, what a very sad and a very pathetic person she really is.  Michelle Malkin, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was, and you‘ve probably already realized this, a year ago tomorrow that Tim Russert, NBC‘s Washington bureau chief, the moderator of “Meet the Press,” the light of the political coverage on this network and that one, died on the job at the age of 58.  Our number one story, remembering him not in sadness but with privilege. 

We will bring you an updated version of our farewell from that night.  But, first, one note that I think deserves mention, finally, about the coverage on that sad Friday afternoon, which like this one, portended summer and the politics that Tim Russert ate up like the finest dining. 

We deliberately held back reporting that awful news until we were absolutely certain that everyone in his father, particularly his father, had been told.  What that created, of course, was an unbelievable strain on two of our people in particular, the anchors who were on the air that afternoon, knowing, as we all did, that Tim was gone, but knowing, too, that they could say nothing. 

That when the time came for something to be said, it would be said by others, that they had to plow through, hearts breaking, without even the promise of the relief provided by the opportunity to say their good-byes on the air. 

It was the ultimate test of professionalism and Monica Novotny and David Shuster passed it with honors.  And I think Tim Russert would have agreed.  And I think that would have been the greatest honor of all. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Just months before his passing, “Time Magazine” called him 100 of the most influential people in the world.  Tim Russert got a mighty laugh out of most of life.  And for all his influence, for all the razor sharp insight of his questioning and the encyclopedic knowledge of politics he carried in his head, the Tim Russert we knew and you knew was defined by how much he enjoyed what he did. 

TIM RUSSERT, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Where‘s the guy with—

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  That guy. 

OLBERMANN:  It fueled him.  And it made his work on “Meet the Press,” on election coverage on NBC and MSNBC, and in his writing pulsate with vigor and enthusiasm. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me start you with the same simple question, did it end just tonight? 

RUSSERT:  We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be, and no one is going to dispute it, Keith. 

Tom, actually, all Al Gore needs is Florida.  All George Bush needs is Florida. 

They need Florida.  Florida, Florida, Florida.  Let me show you one more time, Tom.  This is it, right here, Florida, Florida, Florida, Florida. 

OLBERMANN:  The dry eraser board and the infamous 2000 Gore/Bush election.  Every list of the most memorable moments in television history includes that. 

Typical Tim Russert.  As the technology increased and overwhelmed the news, he alone had the presence of mind to throw on the brakes and reduce the chaos of that election night to terms and means that were unmistakably clear. 

RUSSERT:  If you just stayed with these simple boards, you wouldn‘t have those problems with those highfalutin computers, Tom.  This is the answer. 

OLBERMANN:  But the elections, however much his insight and his insight shined within them, they were the unusual.  One hour a week belonged to him and him alone. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  From NBC News, this is “Meet the Press,” with Tim Russert. 

RUSSERT:  Mr. Duke, please.  All right.  In terms of economic development, the condition of your state, how many people in your state live below the poverty line? 

DAVID DUKE, FMR. GRAND WIZARD OF THE KKK:  A great—a great percentage, sir.  We have the highest per capita percentage in the country just about, about the last five states of the country. 

RUSSERT:  How many? 

DUKE:  I don‘t have the exact numbers in front of me.  I don‘t carry around an Almanac with me. 

RUSSERT:  If I told you it was 25 percent of your state lived below the poverty line, would you believe me? 

DUKE:  I could believe you.  Yes, sir. 

RUSSERT:  Are these the kinds of things a governor should know?

OLBERMANN:  Since December 1991, Tim Russert had moderated “Meet the Press,” one of the once great franchises in one of the once great formats of television, a program and a format that had to some degree lost relevance.  He gave it back that relevance and more. 

RUSSERT:  So, if the CIA said to you at that time, Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction; his chemical and biological have been degraded; he has no nuclear program under way, you‘d still invade Iraq? 

DICK CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Because—

OLBERMANN:  Tim Russert was born in Buffalo, New York on May 7th, 1950.  No city has ever been prouder of a native son, and no son has ever been prouder of his native city.  It was not just “Meet the Press” that made Sundays special for Tim Russert.  That was always the day the Bills usually took to the field. 

RUSSERT:  You gotta believe.  You cheer for the Buffalo Bills and they win, I will not mention them on “Meet the Press” for one year.  I promise.  And most important, you‘ll make this guy, my dad, the happiest guy in the world. 

OLBERMANN:  Tim Russert‘s career in politics began when he served as an aide to Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.  Senator Arlen Specter saying that Tim Russert‘s years on Capitol Hill gave him special insights on political and governmental issues.  The Pennsylvania Republican adding that had he chosen law as a career, his cross-examination would have made him a star in that field as well. 

Fellow New Yorker Governor Mario Cuomo writing that appearing on “Meet the Press” is today as vital to a serious candidate as being properly registered to vote. 

RUSSERT:  I got it from John McCain. 

OLBERMANN:  More than four million Americans every week agreed.  Tim Russert, another member of the family on Sunday mornings, which is how Tim would have wanted it.  To him there was nothing more important than family.  To know Tim Russert was to know how extraordinarily proud he was of his wife, Maureen, an outstanding journalist and author in her own right, and his son Luke, now a year into his own promising career with us at MSNBC and NBC News. 

And, of course, how proud he was of his father, the subject of Russert‘s best selling 2004 memoir, “Big Russ and Me.”  To his famous son, Big Russ of Buffalo, New York, would always be the real Tim Russert. 

RUSSERT:  Every day after school I worked here, painted these lines by hand, answered the telephone, emptied out the poor box.  Seventy cents an hour, 15 dollars a week.  But if I wanted to go to Canisius High School, I had to earn my tuition. 

OLBERMANN:  NBC News has continued for a year without Tim Russert.  “Meet the Press” has continued for a year without Tim Russert.  Even election night 2008 continued on without Tim Russert.  Though not for a second was he not in our hearts that night, nor did we not hope that he might somehow see that evening through our eyes. 

Each of Tim‘s projects continued.  None, no matter how good nor how adherent to his principles, could ever truly be said to be the same.  For we were, broadcaster and viewer alike, without him to guide us.  Because it often seemed Tim Russert invented all this.  And it always seemed there could be no greater reassurance, no greater honor in television than to hear him say something like this to you—

RUSSERT:  Great question, Keith.  That was done.  Tomorrow morning, they were going to announce for Obama. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And so our thoughts, again, tonight to Maureen and Luke and the vast Russert family, and the even more vast Russert family of friends.  How lucky we were to have had him. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,234th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END   

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