updated 6/25/2009 10:59:47 AM ET 2009-06-25T14:59:47

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Christian Finnegan, Bobby Ghosh

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Don‘t cry for me in Argentina.  Move over McGreevey, move over Blagojevich, Governor Sanford has a story to tell you—slowly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  What I have found in this job is that one desperately needs a break from the bubble.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, you weren‘t hiking along the Appalachian Trail?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  God‘s law is indeed there to protect you from yourself and there are consequences if you breach that.  This press conference is a consequence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Consequence for you or consequence for us?  I mean, is there a point to this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  The bottom line is this: I have been unfaithful to my wife.  I developed a relationship with a—what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What do you mean Argentina?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina so I could repeat this when I came back here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Seriously, the governor of South Carolina vanished for five days over Father‘s Day weekend, made up a story about hiking, and then flew off to Argentina because he has a woman down there?

The epic news conference, the analysis of Gene Robinson, the comedy stylings of Christian Finnegan—who just had his act written for him—and how the Sanford story duplicates a scene from Michael Palin‘s comedy show called “Ripping Yarns.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GWEN WATFORD, ACTRESS (as Tomkinson‘s mother):  He has a woman down there.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the real news: Protests down, violence up in Iran. 

“Time‘s” Bobby Ghosh with the latest.

Worsts: The Missouri legislator who wants to curtail summer meals for underprivileged school kids because, quote, “hunger is a great motivator,” insists again she is right.

And—back to the governor.  Queda do (ph), there are e-mails, which a South Carolina newspaper has had but not printed since December.  Governor to Maria, July, 2008: “I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent, gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself—or two magnificent parts of yourself—in the faded glow of the night‘s light.  But, hey, that would be going into sexual details.”

Check please!

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  I‘m a bottom-line kind of guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

So, Governor—how was your trip?

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: As we wondered aloud on this newshour last night, “What could be so bad that the cover story which had the governor of South Carolina hiking the Appalachian Trail on ‘National Hike Naked Day‘ would be preferable to reality?”  Rather a lot, really, about a married Republican father of four coming clean at a news conference about his affair with a woman in Argentina, but only after he had been caught this morning arriving back in Atlanta on the flight from Buenos Aires nowhere near the Appalachian Trail.

Did I mention there are late breaking e-mails from the governor to his mistress?  This morning, a reporter from South Carolina‘s “The State” newspaper, on hand to greet Governor Sanford as he arrived at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta on a flight from Buenos Aires.  Not from Appalachia?

The governor telling the reporter that he had decided at the last minute to go to South America to, quote, “recharge” after a difficult legislative session in which he had fought to turn down federal stimulus money and lost.  Sanford telling the reporter that he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail but said, quote, “I said, ‘No, I wanted to do something exotic.  It‘s a great city.‘”  The governor also telling the reporter that he had been alone on the trip.

By 2:23 p.m. Eastern Time, though, when he began recounting some of his conversation at his news conference, it quickly became clear that part of his story was about to change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  I told her about my love of the Appalachian Trail.  I used to organize hiking trips.  Actually, when I was in high school, I would get a soccer coach or football coach to act as chaperone and then I get folks to pay me 60 bucks each or whatever it was to take the trip and then off we‘d go and have these great adventures on the Appalachian Trail.

And I told her of adventure trips both in college—I was a campus representative for Eastern Airlines and could fly free, which meant I‘d fly to different places around the world, get myself a job and carry $100 in emergency money, and either find a job there with the locals and come back or come on home.

I told her about my years in Congress and early years in the governorship, of different adventure trips of leaving and traveling different places.

Because what I have found in this job is that one desperately needs a break from the bubble, wherein every word, every moment is recorded—just to completely break.  And I‘ve found that to be true in trips to the farm or trips other places further afield.  And all of those things were true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That chaperone idea, you dropped that why again?

By saying that those things were true, the governor seemed to be implying there that other things he had said were not true.  Rather a lot, really.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  All of those things we talked about this morning were true, but they‘re not the whole story.  And that‘s obviously why everybody is gathered here right.

And so, let me lay out that larger story that has attracted so many of you all here.  I‘m a bottom line kind of guy.  I lay it out.  It‘s going to hurt, and we‘ll let the chips fall where they may.

In so doing, let me first of all apologize to my wife Jenny and our four great boys Marshall, Landon, Bolten, and Blake, for letting them down.

One of the primary roles, well before being a governor, is being a father to those four boys who are absolute jewels and blessings that I‘ve let down in a profound way.  And I apologize to them.

And I don‘t like apologizing in this realm but given the immediacy of you all‘s wanting to visit and my proximity to them, this is the first step in what will be a very long process on that front.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There is a front?  What is the front?  We rejoin Governor Sanford already in progress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  I would secondly say to Jenny, anybody who has observed her over the last 20 years of my life knows how closely she has stood by my side, in campaign after campaign after campaign and literally being my campaign manager, and in raising those four boys and in a whole host of other things throughout the lives we‘ve built together.

I would also apologize to my staff, because as much as I did talk about going to the Appalachian Trail—that was one of the original scenarios I had thrown out to Mary Neil (ph), that isn‘t where I ended up.

And so, I let them down by creating a fiction with regard to where I was going, which means that I had then in turn, given as much as they relied on that information, let down people that I represent across this state.  And so I want to apologize to my staff and I want to apologize to anybody who lives in South Carolina for the way that I let them down on that front.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Governor Sanford also apologizing to good friends, to fellow lawmakers, his in-laws, and people of faith across the nation, in that order; and he has not yet told us what he is apologizing for.  But he just referenced God‘s law.

Nearly eight minutes after he started—rather a lot of minutes really—he finally got to the bottom line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  So the bottom line is this: I—I‘ve been unfaithful to my wife.  I developed a relationship with a—what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina.  It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth, in advice on one‘s life there and advice here.

But here recently, over this last year, it developed into something much more than that.  And as a consequence, I hurt her.  I hurt you all.  I hurt my wife.  I hurt my boys.  I hurt friends like Tom Davis.  I hurt a lot of different folks.  And all I can say is that I apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  E-mails you say.  Rare for political news conferences of this kind, Governor Sanford—now known as the wild bull of the pampas—took the podium alone, his wife not standing at his side.  Rarer still, the governor then took questions, the first one being whether he was separated from his wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you separated from the first lady?

SANFORD:  I don‘t know how you want to define that.  I mean, I‘m here and she‘s there.  I guess in a formal sense we‘re not, but, you know, what we‘re—what we‘re trying to do is work through something that, you know, we‘ve been working through for a number of months now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did your wife and your family know about the affair before the trip to Argentina?

SANFORD:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For how long?

SANFORD:  We—we‘ve been—we‘ve been working through this thing for about the last five months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Jenny Sanford, the missus, issuing a statement tonight saying that she had asked her husband to leave two weeks ago, adding that this trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage and that it had been her request that her husband keep the separation quiet.

At the news conference, Governor Sanford had also been asked exactly how long he had been conducting his affair in Argentina.  The answer that he had known the woman for eight years but that it was only last year that something else developed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  And we developed a remarkable friendship over those eight years.  And then, as I said, about a year ago, it sparked into something more than that.

I had seen her three times since then during that whole sparking thing.  And it was discovered .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

SANFORD:  . let me finish—five months ago.  And at that point, we went into serious overdrive and trying to say, “Where do you go from here.”

And so, have been back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.  And the one thing that you really find is that you absolutely want resolution.

And so, oddly enough, I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina so I could repeat it when I came back here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Five days that the governor and his staff and they had everybody else believing that he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Governor Sanford was questioned about whether he had intentionally misled his staff about where he had been.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD:  Let me be clear: I said that was the original possibility.  Again, that is my fault in—you know, shrouding this larger trip.  That‘s my fault.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, Appalachia, Argentina.  They are close alphabetically.

By contrast, e-mails from the governor to his mistress leaving little to the imagination.  And one of them dated July, 2008, and published for the first time tonight online by the newspaper “The State,” which had refrained from doing so since last December.

Governor Sanford brags about being on Mr. McCain‘s short list for vice president last year, goes into explicit detail about the recipient‘s physical attributes and concludes by saying, quote, “Despite the best efforts of my head, my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul.”  And as he mentioned later, her tan lines.

The governor has resigned as chairman of the National Republican Governors Association.  He has not resigned as governor, even though one nonscientific newspaper poll has 65 percent of South Carolina readers saying he should, and even though any political future he might have has seemingly been redirected from possible Republican nominee for president to possible city office in Buenos Aires.

Last night, we turned for comment to native South Carolinian Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post.”  We will again because, incredibly, it turns out Gene also used to live in Buenos Aires.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  So, one thing you may have noticed about Governor Blagojevich, Governor Spitzer, Governor McGreevey, and Governor Sanford, each lied in novel and original and entertaining ways, except Governor Sanford has not resigned—yet.  Gene Robinson of South Carolina and Buenos Aires—next.

Also, Worsts and the anti-kids lunch legislator in Missouri is sticking to her calloused guns.  Plus, Bobby Ghosh of “Time” magazine on what little we know as the information curtain descends in Iran.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Governor Rod Blagojevich quoting Rudyard Kipling; Governor Jim McGreevey‘s announcement that he was a gay American and he was resigning and good-bye.  The pantheon, and even just the recent gubernatorial news conferences in this country, it‘s a lot to live up to.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: This afternoon, South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford meeting that bar, perhaps setting a new standard to which scandal-plagued politicians must aspire.

To recap the evolving details of where in the world is Mark Sanford:

On Thursday, he left the governor‘s mansion, apparently alone, driving a state law enforcement vehicle himself that belonged to his security detail.  A mobile telephone tower in Atlanta picking up the signal from his cell on Thursday night; he would not be heard from again for the next four days.  Even the lieutenant governor of that state, Andre Bauer, did not know where he was.

On Monday, his staff issued a statement saying that Sanford was taking some time away from the office—and the hemisphere, as it turned out.  On Monday night, they issued another statement claiming he was hiking the Appalachian Trail over Father‘s Day weekend.  Yes.

Tuesday night, a vague report that he had been seen boarding a jet in Atlanta and a state vehicle was parked at the airport there.  And this morning, he was caught—as you see—by a reporter arriving back in Atlanta on a flight from Buenos Aires.  He tells her he was there alone.  Yes.

Two-thirty this afternoon, he fesses up—slowly.

Time to turn again to our political analyst Eugene Robinson, associate editor, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post,” who—as our luck would have it tonight—is both from South Carolina and has lived in Buenos Aires.

Buenas Noches.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Buenas Noches.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  Listen .

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  I mean, first of all, I am not making this up, OK?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  I did actually.  I was “The Post” correspondent in South America from 1988 to 1992, and I did live in Buenos Aires.  It‘s as if—you know, I went to a news tailor and said, “Please, you know, measure me for a scandal.”

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Well, I was going to say, the governor designed this for you.  What do you think of it?

ROBINSON:  It is—it is truly - I‘m very grateful to the governor for doing this.  I mean, it‘s kind of odd.  You know, this morning, when he was cornered by the reporter at the airport in Atlanta and said that he had been there alone and that he had been driving along the coast in Buenos Aires .

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes.

ROBINSON:  . and I knew immediately that—oh, no, no, that this is -

he is—he is actually lying, because there is no coast to drive along in Buenos Aires.  It‘s on a river.  There‘s really no access to the waterfront and you can drive along.  You know, it was ridiculous.  So, clearly, there was more to come out.  However, I did not know what the more was.  

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  No, he should have gone with “I was farming the pampas,” is what would have worked, at least to those of you who know the community.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Is this it?  Is there more, do you think?

ROBINSON:  Well, good question.  Yes, a couple of things.

Number one—everyone, you know, reporters are certainly going to be interested in who financed his trips to Buenos Aires.  Did he—you know, how many times did he go there?  Did he use any public funds?  Did he see the woman on trips using public funds?  Stuff like that.  That could—that could be a major problem obviously if it turns out that he did, but we don‘t know.

There are other statements that he made during the course of the press conference that, I think, reporters are also going to be tempted to look into.  As I recall, he was asked if this is the only time he had been unfaithful.  He said it was the only time.  If “The State” newspaper apparently had these e-mails since December, you know, I don‘t know what else the newspaper might have.  But I assume they‘d be kind of truth-spotting everything that he said at that extraordinary news conference.

And then, there‘s the whole political situation.  You know, a lot of -a lot of people, including the Republican lieutenant governor, don‘t like him very much.  And one wonders if—one wonders what happens next.    

OLBERMANN:  Well, two parts.  First off, “Politico” has reported tonight that he has taken at least three taxpayer-funded trips to Argentina, not clear whether he saw her on any of them, or all of them or some combination thereof.  But to this other point, I mean, I know the rule on this thing has been, “Democrats resign, Republicans don‘t.”

But how can he not—this is not just sex or deception, this is disappearing from your job for five days to permit sex and deception.

ROBINSON:  Absolutely, and just disappearing.  I mean, going off the grid.

It really is not acceptable for a chief executive of a major corporation to say nothing of, you know, a chief executive of a state or of a country to simply disappear and go off the grid, and not be reachable.  And, you know, it is not done.  It is—it is—it comes after some kind of eccentricities and prickliness that Governor Sanford has displayed in South Carolina.

And, you know, the initial reactions there seem to be, you know, human tragedy—you know, hearts go out to the family.  In the cold light of day, I think there are going to be a lot more calls for him to step down.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, especially if there is anything more to this and it‘s so bizarre now, it would be almost impossible to believe that there isn‘t some other equally bizarre detail yet unturned.

ROBINSON:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Gene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, analyst, and native of South Carolina and former resident of Buenos Aires, also dumb-founded guy—thank you, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Hasta pronto.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Life does not just imitate art.  It is a slave to art.

Consider what the devotees of the Michael Palin comedy series from the ‘70s “Ripping Yarns” thought when the Sanford-Argentina saga broke today.  The episode is “Tomkinson‘s Schooldays.”  It‘s Palin as Tomkinson.  The actress, Gwen Watford, as his mother.

And here‘s the pivotal 25 seconds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “RIPPING YARDS,” BBC/ACORN MEDIA)

GWEN WATFORD, ACTRESS (as Tomkinson‘s mother):  He‘s at the south pole again dear.

MICHAEL PALIN, ACTOR (as Tomkinson):  Oh, lucky daddy.  I wish I could be there.

WATFORD:  Tomkinson .

PALIN:  Yes, mommy?

WATFORD:  He may have—he may not be back from the pole.

PALIN:  You mean .

WATFORD:  Yes.  He has a woman down there.

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN:  Another woman, mommy, besides you?

WATFORD:  I‘m afraid so.  He keeps going back there, you know?  This is his 146th expedition.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He has a woman down there.

A newspaper had and held their e-mails until today—those ahead.  Again, we don‘t believe there‘s anything more to the Sanford scandal and—well, perhaps I‘m wrong.  No, no.  These are safety protestors in Israel.

And here we go again.  The legislator who said the kids too poor to get their meals at home, that “hunger was a positive motivator,” not only says she‘s right but that we have no right to criticize her.

Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and putting Mr. Happy in the Happy Meal.

First, on this date in 1813, was born the future and the most prominent clergyman in the United States, Henry Ward Beecher.  Fittingly, given what has happened on this June 24th, his popularity so great that his sermons were regularly attended by dozens of reporters and printed as news.  It crashed in the 1870s when after Mr. Beecher denounced one writer who advocated free love, she revealed he had been enjoying free love with the wife of one of his parishioners.

Let‘s play Oddball.

To Tel Aviv, where reporters tell us that cyclists and rollerbladers stripped down to their underwear.  That‘s underwear?  And they took to the streets to protest a new helmet law.  They claim that the restrictive head gear is a downer.  They are also annoyed that another new law may require reflective vests.

In other words they would prefer to be naked and bruised.  Governor Sanford?  Oh, sorry.  The good news, if the protestors take it a step further, they can wind up on the cover of “GQ.”

To San Juan in the Philippines, and the feast day of the town‘s patron saint celebrated by one huge water fight.  That‘s correct—St. John the Baptist established the religion‘s best known water purification system and he is honored there by plenty of dousing and spraying from buckets and hoses.  Indeed, on this day, getting wet is considered to be good luck.  But you have to tell that to whoever is the patron saint of bad hair days.

To Malacca, Malaysia, where the kung-fu expert Master Ho will attempt to break his own record piercing four coconuts with his right index finger in under a minute.  First, the officials inspect the fruit, then Master Ho prepares for his challenge.  The stage is set.  (INAUDIBLE) it wouldn‘t do oh, three, oh, he‘s struggling with this one.

Can he power through?  Oh, yes he can.  Four coconuts smashed in just 30 seconds.  Make that four coconuts and one finger.  Oh, boy.

When asked, the Master Ho said the coconut smashing doesn‘t really bother him because he really enjoys hand made pina coladas.

There is a chance the world of political humor will leave Governor Mark Sanford alone and—wait.  They found his e-mails to her?  OK, so much for that chance I just mentioned.

And for a time, Iran had the barest similitude of democracy.  The appearance—that is over.  The latest ahead with Bobby Ghosh of “Time” magazine.

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

Dateline: Eagan, Minnesota.  Number three: Best realist.  Lieutenant Colonel Joe Repya, the 2007 candidate for state Republican Party chair, retired Vietnam and Iraq vet, writing of what he calls his own state party‘s death spiral in “The St. Paul Pioneer Press.”  “The new party leaders are rabid, power-hungry ideologues.  When a political party,” he writes, “becomes so dysfunctional that it no longer can operate without tyrannical domination over the grassroots it is time to stop enabling bad behavior from that party.”  So, he has quit.

Dateline: Hollywood.  Number two: Best hidden hype.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which today recognized the golden era of film in which we live by doubling the number of best picture nominees from five to 10 -- just a coincidence that this will now double the number of films that can advertise themselves as best picture nominees.

And, dateline: Langley, British Columbia.  Number one: Best disguise.  The suspect who ran past the drive-thru window at Wendy‘s there, and as the employee handed the customer her meal, he stole her French fries.  He was naked at the time.  Other than age range, police report, neither woman could provide further description.  And today thank goodness for that.

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OLBERMANN:  In Iran today, the main thing we need to know that‘s happening is no one knows what‘s happening in Iran.  Our third story tonight, the pretense of democracy appears to be over there.  No foreign journalists shot video of today‘s protest near parliament.  No foreign journalists were there. 

We have only second-hand accounts from witnesses, after the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that there would be no compromise, no revote and no more protests.  Protesters gathered near parliament nonetheless, hundreds of them, met by riot police, thousands of them. 

No video of hundreds more police pouring out of surrounding mosques with tear gas and truncheons, firing over and reportedly into the crowd.  By some accounts, wielding axes against them.  By some accounts, throwing them off bridges.  This one of at least nine clashes today in Tehran. 

The former prime minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has not been seen in days.  Conflicting reports have him under 24-hour guard, not permitted to speak to the media, or merely under close surveillance.  The newspaper he owns has been raided by police; 25 journalists detained.  His wife now calling for their release, calling the current status of Iran akin to martial law.  Martial law, that is even relative to what counts for normal in Iran. 

His former campaign rival, Mohsen Rezai, today withdrawing his claims of voter fraud, according to state-run TV, which is also reporting that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be sworn in sometime between July 26th and August 19th.  Official Iran media also blaming the death of 27-year-old Neda Soltan not on government forces, but on protesters.  One pro-government newspaper claiming a BBC correspondent paid a hitman to shoot her so he could make a documentary about it, after the video of her death spread online, galvanizing Iranian protesters and world sentiment, including that of President Obama. 

Britain‘s “Guardian Newspaper” today reports her family is gone.  Neighbors telling the “Guardian” that Iranian officials ordered them out of their home.  Their whereabouts are unknown. 

Time to turn again to Bobby Ghosh, senior editor of “Time Magazine,” who oversees their terrorism and intelligence reporting.  Thanks again for your time tonight, sir. 

BOBBY GHOSH, “TIME MAGAZINE”:  Any time, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I said we don‘t know for sure what‘s happening today there.  What do you think is happening there? 

GHOSH:  Well, it seems fairly clear now that the—some of the momentum has run out for the protests, and the demonstrators we saw over the last few days.  The government has come out in a very heavy-handed approach, as you pointed out, thousands of riot police against a few hundred protesters. 

So there is no subtlety left in any of this.  The iron fist, as President Obama described it, is out in full force. 

What we need to find out is whether this momentum can be regained.  We know that at night time, a lot of the protesters are continuing this unique nightly protest, which—in which they go up to the roofs of their houses and shout out, god is great.  But during the day, it seems fairly clear that the government has been able to impose a certain amount of quiet on the streets. 

OLBERMANN:  Does the fact that information has become sketchier and harder to find, by itself, tell us something, and if so, what? 

GHOSH:  Yes, it does.  It tells us that the government is still—still fears a return of the protesters.  The government still worries that the demonstrations we saw a few days ago might start up again.  And that‘s why they not only have clamped down, but they sort of keeping this enormous military security presence on the streets, which means they are still afraid, basically. 

OLBERMANN:  This question of momentum of the protests that you raise; have today‘s events narrowed the range of where developments might go?  Have we seen that circumscribed one way or the other? 

GHOSH:  Yes.  I think it‘s much more likely now that you‘ll see small protests.  The opposition is still trying to organize a national strike.  I think you‘ll see scattered protests across the country, rather than these giant, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people coming out into the main squares of Tehran. 

I think you‘ll also see an uptick in the protests online.  I think you‘ll see more videos, more postings on social networking sites.  This is a new kind of protest we‘ve already seen.  And I think you‘ll see more innovations as we go along. 

OLBERMANN:  And using those innovations, supposedly Mousavi or whoever was speaking on his behalf, was setting Thursday, which is obviously tomorrow, as the date for that last larger scale protest, the idea of flooding the bazaars, just to create not chaos in the streets, but traffic in the streets in a form of protest.  Do we have any idea what became of that?  Was that actually Mousavi suggesting it?  Is it an impossibility for tomorrow?  Is whether or not it happens perhaps the last gasp in terms of the prospect of this being sustainable? 

GHOSH:  I think after the fairly brutal tactics we saw today, I‘d be very surprised if there was a very large outpouring of protesters into the markets tomorrow.  Thursday is the beginning of the weekend in Iran.  And so people tend to take things a little easier.  But if the government continues to put thousands of people—and is willing to sort of dish out very brutal punishment, then my suspicion is that people will stay indoors. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, what role, if any, has President Obama or any American politician or, frankly, anybody outside Iran played in getting us where we are today? 

GHOSH:  So far, I think none at all.  It is very clear that the regime is paying almost no attention, no heed to world opinion.  The way that they are dishing out this sort of punishment on the protesters suggests they don‘t care what the world thinks of them at the moment.  I think it‘ll—some sort of result from President Obama‘s speech will develop—or his statement yesterday will develop over several days. 

But at the moment, there is no indication that it‘s had any effect. 

OLBERMANN:  Bobby Ghosh, senior editor of “Time Magazine.”  The news is not good, but your analysis of it is greatly appreciated, nonetheless.  Thank you, sir. 

GHOSH:  Any time, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Would that we had more details from Iran and fewer from Argentina, but only the reverse is true tonight.  The governor‘s e-mails to his friend there held back by a newspaper for seven months, not held back any longer. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she‘ll talk with the reporter in South Carolina, the last person Mark Sanford expected to see at Hartsfield, in Atlanta this morning, as he got off the plane from Buenos Aires. 

And the world keeps spinning.  The Republican club in Maryland compares the president to Adolph Hitler.  Worst persons next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  E-mails, governor‘s girlfriend in Argentina, quote, “I love your tan lines.”  Uh-oh. 

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

The bronze to Congressman Randy Neugebauer, Republican extremist of Texas.  He has signed on as one of the five, count them five, co-sponsors of Florida loon Bill Posey‘s bill that would require birth certificates from presidential candidates.  After he insisted on radio yesterday that the bill wouldn‘t apply to the Obama election, because it wouldn‘t be retroactive, Neugebauer was also asked, so you believe the president is a U.S. citizen?  His answer, quote, “you know, I don‘t know.  I‘ve never seen him produce documents that would say one way or the other.” 

Once again, World Net daily, August 23rd, 2008, Drew Zaun, quote, “a separate WND investigation into Obama‘s birth certificate, utilizing forgery experts, also found the document to be authentic.”  Read it, Congressman, if you know how to read.  Also, the people who elected you are obviously idiots.  That does not mean everybody else is.  The bill wouldn‘t apply to Obama?  You do realize that he is likely to run again in 2012, right? 

The runners up, Joyce E. Thoman, the president of the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County in Maryland.  This pretty much speaks for itself.  Quote, “Obama and Hitler have a great deal in common, in my view.  Obama and Hitler use the Blitzkrieg method to overwhelm their enemies.  Fast carpet bombing, intent on destruction.  Hitler‘s Blitzkrieg bombing destroyed many European cities quickly and effectively.  Obama is quickly and systematically destroying the American economy, and with it America.” 

Seriously, isn‘t comparing Obama to Hitler a little much even for the Republican party?  Do you guys stand for anything?  Why haven‘t you thrown this representative of your party out on her Anne Arundel? 

But the winner, State Representative Cynthia Davis of Missouri.  When she first won this award, hands down, on Monday, we told you that Ms. Davis had attacked a series of what she called commentaries to report on the state‘s meal program for under-privileged kids while school was out for summer, insisting these meals should be curtailed.  Among her original observations, “anyone under 18 can be eligible?  Can‘t they get a job during the summer by the time they‘re 16?  Hunger can be a positive motivator.  What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals.  Tip—if you work for McDonald‘s, they will feed you for free during your break.” 

Representative Davis has not apologized for, retracted, nor clarified her remarks.  She has blamed an editorial that misrepresented my views, even though her views were in her editorials, which she wrote.  She continues to believe that one-fifth of school aged children in Missouri who face hunger every day have somehow chosen to do that, that this is a family rights issue.  Quote, “we all agree on the importance of feeding children, but we differ on who should do this.  I believe this duty belongs to the parents.  Instead of respecting this time honored jurisdiction of the family, the summer feeding program treats families like they do not exist.” 

You‘re wrong.  It treats families like they don‘t have enough money to get meals for their kids, and they need our help.  “When government takes over a family function like feeding children on a daily basis, we take a group of people who are capable and treat them like they are incapacitated.  Look into your own heart and ask, what made a difference in my life as a child?  Was it standing in a line for a cafeteria style meal at school or was it sitting around the kitchen table with others in your family?” 

You‘re wrong.  Gosh, Ms. Davis, I think more than either of these things, what would have made a difference in my life as a child was if one day there was no breakfast, and some idiot politician was trying to make sure I couldn‘t get one.  And cafeteria style meal at school?  You‘re wrong.  Missouri‘s summer meals are given out in churches.  Your own state and you don‘t even know the simple facts? 

“My goal is not to replace parents, but to reinforce them.  The solution is found in helping those near us, not in yet another gigantic, federally funded, mass market approach.  Bigger government invites fraud and robs people of the dignity of personal human relationships.” 

You‘re wrong.  Your goal here is to try to take an efficient program, providing needy kids millions of healthy meals at about two and a half bucks each, and turn it into another wedge weapon of paranoia to use on the buffoons who would vote for a political hack like yourself. 

“My weekly Capitol Report is a way to have two way communications with my constituents, and not a national manifesto for you to mock, distort, and be quoted out of context.” 

You‘re wrong.  There was no distortion, no loss of context and any mocking done here you have richly earned for today, for tomorrow, and for the rest of your tenure in public life, brief though the rest of us hope that might be. 

“Yet to dare suggest there are alternatives for rational people to discuss and consequences of government taking over so much in people‘s lives is to be branded an inhuman monster.” 

Hey, on this we agree.  Well phrased.  You‘re right.  You‘re an inhuman monster.  And you chair the state‘s Permanent Committee for Children?  You‘re a positive menace to the health and well being of the children of Missouri.  Resign, State Representative Cynthia Davis of Missouri, once again, today‘s worst person in the world, and not for the last time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Today, Governor Mark Sanford said that, quote, “the biggest self of self is indeed self.”  Wise words stand the test of time. 

He veered from the obtusity, oddly specific, explaining that he had seen the woman in question, quote, “three times during that whole sparking thing.”  In our number one story of the COUNTDOWN, if you think Sanford‘s news conference was remarkable, how about them e-mails? 

The governor‘s Appalachian Trail, which evidently led all the way to Argentina, merely a flash for good old electronic mail obtained by the “State Newspaper” in Columbia last December.  In one, the governor describes his upcoming itinerary to his paramour, Maria, whose full name has been redacted, even though her e-mail had her full name and address on it. 

The governor is far more engaged in a different kind of description.  Governor Sanford, Thursday, July 10th, 2008, quoting, “as I think I had told you, taking the family to China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Thailand and then back through Hong Kong, a whirlwind tour, the following weekend have been asked to speak out in Aspen, Colorado, with McCain, which has kicked up the whole VP talk all over again in the press back home.  You have a particular grace and calm that I adore.  You have a level of sophistication that‘s so fitting with your beauty.  I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent, gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself, or two magnificent parts of yourself. in the faded glow of the night‘s light—but hey, that would be going into sexual details.” 

“Three and finally all the things above are all too true.  At the same time we are in a hopelessly, or as you put it impossible, or how about combine and simply say, hopelessly impossible situation of love.  How in the world this lightning strike snuck up on us I am still not quite sure.  As I have said to you before, I certainly had a special feeling about you from the time, first time we met.  But these feelings were contained and I genuinely enjoyed our special friendship, and the comparing of all too many personal notes. 

“Lastly, I also suspect I feel a little vulnerable because this is ground I have certainly never covered before.  So if have you pearls of wisdom”—my god—“pearls of wisdom on how we figure all this out, please let me know.”  That‘s not what I thought when I first saw that on the paper. 

“In the meantime please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head, my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips, and oh, lord, an even deeper connection to your soul.” 

He didn‘t write like this to all of the delegates of that South American Economic conference?  Maria corresponded as well, in an e-mail which may have provoked that lengthy response from the governor.  She wrote on July 9th, 2008, quote, “you are my love.  Something hard to believe even for myself, as it‘s also a kind of impossible love, not only because of distance, but situation.”  She sounds remarkably like he does in this version. 

“Sometimes you don‘t choose things, they just happen.  I can‘t redirect my feelings.  And I am very happy with mine towards you.” 

Let‘s bring in Christian Finnegan, comedian and commentator at large.  

Christian, good evening. 

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN:  Hola, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Steady.  Last night, I had said, look, the Appalachian Trail story, happening that it coincided with Naked Hiking Day, it had better be true, because what on Earth could be so bad that that would be a cover story?  So now we know what could have been worse than that as a cover story. 

FINNEGAN:  Yes, if one thing is clear, it‘s that this is definitely Mark Sanford‘s first affair, because no experienced Lothario would have played it this badly.  There are junior high kids trying to get to third base that have more of a plan than this guy, you know.  You think he can just disappear off the face of the Earth for six days and no one is going to care or notice?  You‘re governor of South Carolina, not the chairman of the RNC. 

OLBERMANN:  Now listen, I have to say, having read these things, on a human level, those of us who are lucky in life, we have had these feelings or we get them or we seek them.  I don‘t want to deprecate the feelings here.  But, you know, if you want to disappear with the love of your life, this really is the way you feel, don‘t you—isn‘t the correct sequence is you resign as governor first, and then you disappear with her into the vast wild fields of Argentina, not some other way around or to try to keep both the wild world of Argentina and oh, by the way, governor of South Carolina?  This is not the way to do it, correct? 

FINNEGAN:  Well, yes, Keith, I do believe that‘s the way a true Goucho would handle things.  It‘s too late for that.  I think now that these e-mails are out, I don‘t think he has any other choice but to run away with this woman, because at least then he becomes like a martyr, a tragic figure.  He gave up the presidency for love.  As we all know, Latin chicks love that stuff. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, that was the king of England in the 1930s.  I mean, it was I can‘t, without Mrs. Simpson, without the support of the woman I love.  You‘re absolutely right.  There actually is a political out for it, for him. 

FINNEGAN:  Absolutely. 

OLBERMANN:  Provided he leaves the country, though. 

FINNEGAN:  Like a Woodie Suni (ph) situation. 

OLBERMANN:  He didn‘t leave the country.  I saw them a couple weeks ago.  By the way, the fact that Sanford was writing these e-love letters while he thought he might be considered as the vice presidential nominee, that didn‘t cross his mind as a potential problem?  The vice president is missing.  We think he‘s in Argentina for the ninth time this month. 

FINNEGAN:  I love how he slipped that in there.  He‘s like, and there‘s this stuff about me maybe being vice president.  Like, dude, she‘s already into you.  Stop working so hard.  But, yes, I don‘t know if I know these dates exactly.  But didn‘t this e-mail correspondence happen around the time of the John Edwards debacle?  I would have loved to have heard some of the conversations between him and his fellow Republicans like, hey, can you believe this John Edwards?  Yes, what a fraud. 

OLBERMANN:  Nothing at all in there about tan lines.  What kind of—the prose in the e-mails, again, deep infatuation, gentle kisses, all that, very nice, makes for good reading on TV.  But also these school kid errors, world wind tour and lightening (sic)?  That sort of takes the fizz off romance, doesn‘t it? 

FINNEGAN:  Yes, well, Keith, before I became a third-tier TV humorist, I worked at a lit agency.  This e-mail reminds me of every turgid “Bridges of Madison County” wanna-be that I found in the unsolicited submissions pile.  You could almost see him sitting in front of his lap top with a glass of Merlot like oh, yes. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s one more, July 8th.  Year not specified.  I‘ll read this, then we have to go.  “To me, and I suspect no one else on Earth, there is something wonderful about listening to country music playing in the cab, air conditioner running, the hum of a huge diesel engine in the background, the tranquility that comes from being in a virtual wilderness of trees and marsh, the day breaking and vibrant pink coming alive in the morning clouds, and getting to build something with each scoop of dirt.” 

If he doesn‘t go to Argentina, he can go write romances, right? 

FINNEGAN:  If only.  I‘m going to start wearing a t-shirt that says, I am a 45-year-old depressed house wife and I vote.

OLBERMANN:  Christian Finnegan, as always, great thanks. 

FINNEGAN:  Thank you, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  Have fun with your tan lines.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,246th 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.

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