updated 7/8/2009 10:19:29 AM ET 2009-07-08T14:19:29

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Eugene Robinson, Howard Dean, Margaret Carlson

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Did Sarah Palin just resign again?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  Can you imagine yourself running for president?

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  I don‘t know what the future holds.  I can‘t predict what the next fish run is going to be like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But evidently, the chairman of the RNC knows his fish.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  I take 2012 off the table right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Simply because, Michael Steele adds, “given everything she‘s been going through personally, dealing with the financial mess and all of these ludicrous investigations have put her and Todd in at the moment, I think she‘s trying to focus on getting her house in order.”

And presumably her fish.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I am a fighter.  I‘m—I thrive on challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe on the fish—on the politics.  Gene Robinson on the continuing comedy.  Her full-court press analogy is explained in diagram form.  Nice!

And the last laugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  And the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, is leaving the office.  She‘s stepping down.  Governor .

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN:  . something I said?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The other governor still hasn‘t resigned but the man who once said censure was not enough for Bill Clinton gets censured by the Republican Party.

And the big 6-0.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA:  I do.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Congratulations, Senator.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERAMNN:  OK, the dog caught the car.  What do the Democrats do with the super majority?  Answers from Howard Dean.

And, Worsts: The far right offers conflicting answers on how best to secure America.  Joe the Plumber at a tea party, “We need to spend a little more on illegal immigrants, get them the hell out of our damn country and close the borders down.”  What does that have to do with taxes again?

And a former CIA bin Laden analyst says .

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SCHEUER, CIA ANALYST:  The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, that makes sense—if you‘re a terrorist.

All that and more—now on COUTNDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not worth a bucket of warm spit.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Governor Sarah Palin is still resigned.  And she still hates the mainstream media so much, and her message is so impeded by its bias, that on our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: She invited reporters from the major networks—the definition of the mainstream media—to join her at her family‘s private fishing grounds so she can talk about it.  Again.

Television correspondents lined up on the shores of Alaska‘s Bristol Bay Lake, like afternoon air traffic at LAX, to interview the soon-to-be former governor of Alaska, in waders, trying to explain again her decision to bail out of the governorship more than a year before her term was to expire.  Her first attempt Friday is not having gone so well.

The governor making it seem, in an interview with our own Andrea Mitchell, that her decision to leave office by the end of the month had been predetermined on the day John McCain selected her as his running mate.  That would be more than 10 months ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I knew that I wasn‘t going to run for re-election.  I knew that everything changed on August 29th in politics in Alaska.  That‘s the day that I was tapped to run for vice president of the United States.  Things changed, and it was quite obvious that nothing would ever be the same for our administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If Governor Palin had known even by the conclusion of the election in November that, as she put it, everything had changed, why did it take her until July 3rd to announce those changes?  Especially, if her stated reason for quitting is to save Alaska taxpayers the money that it is costing them to investigate her alleged ethics violations?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I think that some people may not be fully aware of all—of all of the conditions.  And it‘s perplexed me that we have sat down with many reporters and we have shown them how it‘s cost thousands and thousands of hours in state time and millions of dollars in state resources to continually send off these frivolous, ridiculous, wasteful of ethic violations.

MITCHELL:  How much did it cost you yourself?  How much debt do you have, legal fees?

PALIN:  Oh, we have a legal bill of about half a million dollars.  But that‘s—that‘s not the consideration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Palin‘s lawyer having described her resignation as a form of, quote, “self-sacrifice.”  Former point guard “Sarah Barracuda” purportedly still taking one for the team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  So I said, you know, that‘s kind of distracting but that still isn‘t all of it.  What is all of it is knowing I wasn‘t going to run for re-election.  So Alaskans, being perfectly honest with them, not wanting to play that little game that most politicians do, and that‘s kind of pretend like they don‘t know if they want to run again—well, I knew.  I didn‘t want to run again.  So, I‘m going to be honest with Alaskans and say one term was enough.

MITCHELL:  You haven‘t finished the job, some would say.

PALIN:  You‘re not listening to me as to why I wouldn‘t be able to finish that final year in office without it costing the state millions of dollars and countless hours of wasted time, wasted—we have true, worthy, public causes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  When faced with another question of Andrea Mitchell‘s that she did not like, the governor simply interrupting it, misunderstanding—possibly deliberately—claims that she has had trouble getting back to work after her run for vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  Some people have said that you saw the bright lights from the national campaign and came back, and it was very hard to readjust to the nitty-gritty work of being.

PALIN:  The nitty-gritty, like, you mean the fish slime and the dirt under the fingernails and stuff (INAUDIBLE)?

MITCHELL:  Juneau, the state capital.  The hard, legislative slog.

PALIN:  No.  That‘s not—I am a fighter.  I‘m—I thrive on challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Except for when she does not fight and quits the job to which she has been elected.

As for her future in elected office, Governor Palin telling ABC News, quote, “Politically speaking, if I die, I die, so be it.”  And what is guaranteed to win the “Do you support the Bush doctrine” award for this interview cycle, the governor talking about what she calls those, quote, “frivolous ethics violations,” also telling ABC News that she believes there is a department of law at the White House.  Quote, “I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we‘ve been charged with and automatically throw them out.”

Time now to call in our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe, author of “Renegade: The Making of a President” and also a veteran of the White House “department of law.”

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  What—do we have to point out that there is no such thing?  What does it say about the candidacy from last October and November of this—of this candidate?

WOLFFE:  Well, as we like to say down on the fish farm .

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  . there‘s nothing quite so dead as a dead fish.  And this is a dead fish of an idea.  Look, we—there were clues in this campaign.  I don‘t know if you remember that whole fruit fly incident that I loved so much.

This was not someone who took the job seriously, the candidacy seriously didn‘t benefit from all of the resources that a national presidential campaign could and would throw at her.  And it‘s quite clear from what we saw from Todd Purdum‘s fabulous piece in “Vanity Fair” that she didn‘t want to prep, she was lazy, she was ignorant and—look, she wasn‘t ready for prime-time.  I‘m not sure she was even ready for daytime.

OLBERMANN:  What I don‘t understand most of all of this, and perhaps, I will leave the possibility here open that the rest of it, it‘s me, not her, who‘s not making sense here.  But this one point about her hatred and her conviction that the mainstream media is here to distort what she has to say—yet, on the other hand, she could not resist in inviting reporters to join her family to talk about she had to say.  How exactly do those two I mean, that‘s an elephant and a mouse.

WOLFFE:  Yes.  Well, yes.  I love—the mainstream media, of course, which doesn‘t include the Murdoch empire, which is the biggest piece of the mainstream media.  Let‘s just set that aside for one second.  But her skill set was supposed to be public presentation, and she flubbed it enormously.

All of these interviews we‘ve just been seeing—including Andrea Mitchell‘s wonderful scene down at the fish lake there—you know, it was all designed as a catch-up, as a recovery job for that botched attempt just before the July 4th weekend.

So, if she can‘t do the public presentation, if she can‘t explain herself right, if she loses her authentic voice and comes up with all of these platitudes about the troops or about doing it all for Alaska, then what does she represent?  And a message to Bill Kristol, it‘s not that people are scared of her, it‘s that they‘re shocked at how frankly incompetent she is at the things she‘s supposed to be strong at.

OLBERMANN:  The quote, “I can‘t predict what the next fish run‘s going to look like much less what‘s going to happen the next couple years,” saying basically she can‘t say anything about the presidency in 2012.  Repeating the phrase, can‘t prevent what the next fish run is going to look like in many of the interviews.  But the chairman of the GOP of the RNC, rather, Michael Steele, actually said, 2012 is off the table right now because of these investigations.  And then a spokesman clarified that saying, “Palin has said that everything is on the table.  Steele takes no issue with that.”

Are the Republicans in such a spot right now that the RNC is actually trying to keep Governor Palin on the table here?

WOLFFE:  No, I think the RNC is blessed with a person at its helm who‘s even less disciplined than Sarah Palin.  I mean, that‘s not a clarification.  That‘s a total correction.

So, he was speaking out of turn.  He still thinks he‘s a pundit rather than the guy running the RNC and he‘s just messed up yet again.

OLBERMANN:  Last point.  As we begin to circumscribe the range of possibilities as to why she quit, we narrow it down, it seems to be going towards she quit because she didn‘t want to burden the state with the price of defending against these ethics investigations.

A, don‘t they—isn‘t there a chance some of them continue in her absence and she burdens the state anyway?  B, doesn‘t that attitude mean that a governor or somebody who has an even higher calling should—when confronted with presumably false and lie-filled ethics charges—resign rather than disprove them?

WOLFFE:  Yes and yes.  I mean, you can‘t get hounded out of office by frivolous complaints.  Otherwise, there would be nobody left in public office.  That‘s not leadership.

So, look, I still believe it comes down to money.  No matter what she said about—oh, half a million dollars is nothing.  Really?  A half a million dollars is a lot to anyone.

I think she got hounded and that‘s a sad thing for everyone, especially for people like Bill Kristol.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC‘s Richard Wolffe reporting from outside the White House “department of the law”—many thanks as always.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Three weeks after a maximum of 40 people gathered outside the Ed Sullivan Theater, calling for David Letterman to be fired in protest of a joke he told about Palin‘s elder daughter, a crowd so small it caused organizer John Ziegler to flee in a New York City cab for fear of being photographed amid the pathetic results of his organizing.  We now know that Letterman‘s tenure on “LATE NIGHT” will long outlive Palin‘s tenure as governor.

Mr. Letterman returning from a week-long vacation last night just as Palin was heading into permanent vacation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN:  There‘s a surprising announcement over the weekend that the governor Alaska, Sarah Palin, is leaving the office.  She‘s stepping down.  Governor .

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMANN:  . something I said?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Palin‘s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, answering in the affirmative, telling CNN that Letterman‘s jokes contributed to the governor‘s decision to step down.  Quote, “When people don‘t accept normal bounds of decency making jokes like that about children, maybe this is not good for the state right now, and maybe somebody else who is not the subject and whose family is n the subject of this scrutiny can move the state forward.”

Let‘s turn now to our own Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post.”

Gene, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  Before we get started, any chance you used to live in Alaska, too?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  No, I didn‘t.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  You got me there.  I did, however, used to work in the department of law.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, we all did.  That‘s where I got my start.

The—this is the mainstream media‘s fault.  It‘s the fault of the late-night comedians.  It‘s the fault of the blogosphere.  It‘s the fault of anybody who dares to question her ethics.  It‘s the fault of anyone who mentions her children, even when she dragged them out onto the stage.

Has the soon-to-be ex-Governor Palin raised the idea of victimhood to high art?

ROBINSON:  I think that pretty much says it.  Yes, she has.  In fact, she‘s kind of leading a vanguard.  You know, it‘s a mysterious switch where the Republicans used to always accuse Democrats of, you know, victimhood and being professional victims.  And now, it seems to be the Republicans who are always pointing the finger and seeing themselves as being picked on by mean liberals with fangs.

OLBERMANN:  The Todd Purdum “Vanity Fair” piece that Richard Wolffe referenced there, about how the senior staff in the McCain campaign had to struggle with the fact that if Senator McCain won, the vice presidency would be in the hands of a woman who did not have the temperament for the job.  Does—are we sort of backfilling on the voracity of that conclusion?  And the fact that she could not handle Letterman‘s jokes to the point where her lawyer actually said that contributed to her resigning because she couldn‘t take jokes, also speak to the suitability of her temperament?

ROBINSON:  Look, I think it all speaks to it.  I think this whole episode really tells us about what we need to know about Sarah Palin‘s suitability for high office.  And, look, if you can‘t serve out a full term as governor of Alaska because you‘re being picked on by frivolous investigations or whatever, you know, I just don‘t think you‘re going to stare down Putin potentially if you became, you know, vice president last time or if you ran for president 2012.

I mean, it‘s just not—I think this is not her skill set.  I think her skill set is she‘s able to inspire people.  She‘s able to articulate a vision of America.  But in terms of actually, you know, legislating and executive action and stuff like that, you know, I don‘t think that‘s her strong point.  I don‘t think rigor is her strong point, and I don‘t think - I think those who want to support her for 2012 are going to ultimately be disappointed.  I think she‘s going to flake out.

OLBERMANN:  If you can‘t beat al Qaeda—you know, if you can‘t beat Paul Shaffer, how can you beat al Qaeda?

ROBINSON:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  If she‘s leaving the governorship—but clearly based on today‘s interview festival, she‘s not leaving the public eye, at least not yet.  Is there—do you think that there‘s some expectation by her or people around here that the late-night TV jokes are going to go away suddenly?

ROBINSON:  I would assume not.  She almost has to maintain some sort of high public profile.  There‘s probably an inner need there and there‘s certainly a financial need there.

She‘s writing a book.  Everyone expects her to pop up, you know, potentially, who knows?  She can—she can be on TV.  She can be competing against this show for all we know.  But .

OLBERMANN:  Good luck.  Good luck!

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  You wish.  But she‘s—she is—she‘s going to be out there and she‘s going to be Sarah Palin.  And she‘s—so, of course, she‘s going to be the target of the same kind of humor as any politician gets targeted with these days.  I mean, this is the heat that is in the kitchen and one has to put up with it or get out of it.

OLBERMANN:  And you‘re right.  She‘s out there.

By the way, just as an afterthought, if Letterman did contribute to this, he‘s underpaid and underfeared, more importantly.

Gene Robinson, Pulitzer-Prize winner, of “The Washington Post,” and when we are lucky, MSNBC—thanks again, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Great to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Of course, anyone who Letterman‘s tenacity, his relentlessness after he got stood up by John McCain last October, knows that one joke about something he said is not the end of it.

To quote another legend, “This is not the end.  This is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning or maybe not.”  It is just the beginning for Senator Al Franken.

But if you are a so-called counterterrorist analyst and you go on television and insist the only chance for this country is for it to be the victim of another terrorist attack by Osama bin Laden, well, that damn well better be the end of your career as an analyst.

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OLBERMANN:  As famously pointed out by Ken Burns, the Civil War so disrupted American politics that it took a barely employed store clerk in Galena, Illinois, and made him general in chief in three years and president in eight.  Al Franken didn‘t quite match that rapidity but even with the court delays, he went from radio host and commentator to U.S.  senator in three years and nine months, as of today, the finish line.

Later, why do I get the feeling that the David Letterman volley against Sarah Palin won‘t be the end of it?

And in Worsts: Joe the Plumber does not realize that the undocumented immigrants in this country outnumber the military, and a man named Michael Scheuer does not realize that you can‘t go taking Osama bin Laden‘s side when it comes to blowing up things and people in this country.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Today, July 7th, 2009, the man who played baggage handler number one in “Trading Places,” star of “SNL,” and the movies “Stuart Saves His Family,” author of “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot,” took the oath of office as the junior U.S. senator from the state of Minnesota—meaning, his resume is already more impressive than all, of about 7 percent of all those who have ever preceded him into the Senate of our nation.

Our fourth story tonight: Accompanied by Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Vice President Mondale to his swearing in by current Vice President Biden, ladies and gentlemen, Senator Al Franken.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN:  Please raise your right hand.  Do you solemnly swear that you support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that you take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duty of the office upon which you are about to enter, so help you God?

FRANKEN:  I do.

BIDEN:  Congratulations, Senator.

FRANKEN:  Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Congratulations, Senator.

Republicans responded with this Web ad showing Franken seemingly worked up, making this the face of the new super majority in the Senate where Democrats now have 60 votes, enough to block Republicans filibusters, except that the video shows an impression Franken was doing on the stump of his idol, former Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone when he was coaching his son in track.  All of which Republicans know already because Norm Coleman used the same video last year when Franken won.

An e-mail to “The Plum Line” blog, the GOP suggested replacing the bogus video with a picture of Franken in a diaper.  A bogus picture photoshopped by Ohio Republicans to slam Democrats Sherrod Brown for associating with Franken back in 2006 when Brown won.

Let‘s turn now to the architect of the new Democratic super majority, former DNC chair, former Vermont governor, Howard Dean.

Much thanks for your time tonight, sir.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Hey.  Thank you for having me on, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Republicans suggest using a bogus still picture that failed to defeat now-Senator Brown to replace a bogus video that failed to defeat now-Senator Franken in an ad they hope will defeat the super majority.  In your doctoring days, you must have done a psych rotation.  Can you address this repeated reliance on tactic that are both misleading and failures?

DEAN:  This is an old—old political is people who do the same thing and expect results.  And, you know, I think the Republicans are just—unfortunately, they‘re kind of in the past.  They are the party basically of hate and negativism.  And they‘ve got to—in order to recover—they got to simply start contributing in a positive way to the—to the debate.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it reminds me suddenly of the old Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding sketch where Ray Goulding says something about—speaking to somebody who doesn‘t speak English, he says, “You don‘t speak English, so I‘ll yell a little louder.”

Everything seems just to be .

DEAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  . louder, when in fact—does the Al Franken success here actually indicate that we—that we‘re moving the other way?  I mean, he won his political career as a rhetorical bomb-thrower—and I say that reverentially.  But he won his campaign by playing it much more safe than that, much more, I guess, responsibly than that, certainly circumspectly.  And I say that reverentially, too.

What kind of balance does he have to find now in the Senate?

DEAN:  He just has to be himself.  He‘s a very funny guy.  He‘s incredibly bright and very, very quick witted.  But I think he‘s going to have to focus on the very bright stuff.

He knows a lot about public policy.  I think he‘s going to be a tremendous addition to the Senate, I really do.  He‘s—he‘s got a lot of deep knowledge about a lot of issues.

So, I think, all he has to do is be his real self, and he‘s already the kind of park the more acerbic stuff from “Saturday Night Live” at the door, and I think the people of Minnesota recognize that.

OLBERMANN:  He kicked the crap out of me on “Jeopardy” when we were on.

Two members of the—of the big 6-0 now here are independents, and Senator Byrd and Senator Kennedy have their health issues that we know of, of course.  With Franken now on the health committee, can Harry Reid—if he can‘t muster 60 votes for health care reform—are we sure that he can muster 60 votes to stop Republicans from filibustering health care reform?

DEAN:  We don‘t need 60 votes from health care reform.  All we need is 51.  We have reconciliation.  The Republicans made it really clear there‘s not going to be any kind of a bipartisan solution that‘s going to be any good.  All of the demands that they made have essentially already gutted health care reform.

So, the real only solution here is to get to 51 votes.  I don‘t think Al Franken went to the Senate to be a rubber stamp.  I know the Senate‘s used to being a rubber stamp from when President Bush was around.  But this Senate is not going to be a rubber stamp.  They‘re going to do what they think is it right, and hopefully, that will be what the American people want.

OLBERMANN:  You know, we talked about rubber-stampness last time, and obviously, Democrats got to where they are today by running a nationwide progressive agenda.  What happens to the party now if Senator Reid and President Obama let a handful of so-called blue dogs hold that agenda hostage or even slow it down?

DEAN:  Well, then there‘s trouble.  We‘re going to lose seats in 2010 if we don‘t pass what the president said was change you can believe in.

You know, change—a little change is not change you can believe in. 

You need a lot of change, and the president‘s delivered on that so far. 

But the health care reform is his biggest—his biggest problem.

You know, the issue is not so much blue dogs running the show or whatever.  The issue is people not having enough nerve, you know, not having enough spine to do the right thing.  Look, this is a battle between the insurance companies and the American people.  Seventy-two percent of the American people want a really good health care reform bill that includes their ability to choose between a public and private plan -- 72 percent.

So this change—this is not about being conservative or liberal.  This is about whether you side with the insurance companies or whether you side with the American people, and it‘s as simple as that.  And now, we‘re going to find out whether this is really change you can believe in or something else.

OLBERMANN:  As you correctly point out, the public‘s always ahead of the media and the politicians on these things, and if the politicians and the media don‘t listen, they pay the price.

Governor Howard Dean, on the occasion of Al Franken‘s swearing in today—great thanks for your time, sir.

DEAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, inside the corridors of political power, it‘s nice and comfy and secure and—shh, it‘s nap time in the Council of Opal (ph) in India.

And, you know, you just don‘t hear that many Americans coming out and rooting for Osama bin Laden to blow something else up here and kill more of us—but this guy did exactly that.

Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and mom tells her son he can‘t sell those photos of her naked.

First, it‘s the birthday of the third member of the comedic triangle who animated “The Tonight Show” to such brilliant heights in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.  Carl Hilding “Doc” Severinsen actually joined “The Tonight Show” a decade before Johnny Carson or Ed McMahon.  He played the trumpet in the band and then took over its leadership in 1967, and quickly became one of Carson‘s more subtle but hardly subtly dressed comedic foils. 

Here we recently learned he‘s a COUNTDOWN viewer.  So permit me to reenact and adapt my favorite Carsonian triplet: Doc is here?  Doc isn‘t here.  Doc is here.  Happy birthday, Doc.

Let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in China, where the stakes are high for the country‘s prince of tight rope walking.  In this stunt, a wire is tied between two mountains above two lakes, 5,200 feet in the air.  But that‘s not all.  Halfway through the act, one of the Prince‘s students shows up.  And the rope simply isn‘t big enough for the both of them. 

Onlookers were certain they would be witness to the great fall of China.  The student lays down and the Prince makes his move by stepping on the guy‘s chest.  Ow, ow, ow.  Both Prince and pupil make it to safety.  When asked what they did to prepare for such daring feet, they stressed the importance of a balanced diet. 

In Bopow (ph), in India, the new speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Meira Kumar, is giving fellow lawmakers a two-day orientation program on the nuances of lawmaking.  And it‘s cutting into nap time.  That guy‘s sewing logs.  And so is this one.  And she‘s not even trying. 

Clearly, the lawmakers mistook Kumar‘s address for a sleep study.  The speaker was later asked about the incident and insisted all of her listeners were awake, even though the man would later clutch his ruby and start sucking his thumb, screaming, Roberts‘ Rules of Order. 

And then, to Ito, in Japan, with a tribute to a bygone era.  It‘s the town‘s annual tub run, honoring those who washed their clothes by the banks of the Matskowia (ph) River.  What better way to respect one‘s ancestors than by dressing up like a beer mug with a fake mustache? 

Competitors squeeze into wooden laundry tubs, using spoons to row, while racing down a quarter-mile stretch of river.  The goal is to out-paddle the competition while keeping your tub afloat. 

The winner—it‘s a tide—ha, ha.  The event was a success, with many more looking forward to next year, when competitors will float down the river in actual washing machines. 

Speaking of rivers and paddles, or the lack thereof; Governor Sanford still does not resign, which enables his own part to censure him.  Why do I get the feeling David Letterman‘s Sarah Palin monologues have only just begun? 

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.  Dateline Washington, number three, best soul selling, holier than thou US Representatives Jean Schmidt of Ohio and John Shimkus of Illinois.  Both are gay bashers.  Both support a Constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage.  Both are using tickets to a concert Saturday as fund-raising devices.  They buy if you resell them to supporters.  The concert is by Elton John.  Don‘t tell anybody.  Let them find out after they get there. 

Dateline, Riga, Latvia, number two, best honesty by the bank.  Viktor Mirosichenko is the head of a Contoura (ph) Loan Company.  He charges high right.  But it‘s the collateral that he wants that makes this newsworthy.  Quote, your immortal soul.  But you get a free toaster. 

And dateline Wellington, New Zealand, number one, best dysfunctional family, 18-year-old guy identified only as Michael, angry with his mother for telling him to clean the garage and then sell anything of value he found in it.  He starts an online auction of, quote, five naked photos of my mum.  Mum, Jennifer, 44, quite properly objected, and then she suggested that instead he should sell the other eight glamour photos of her in her underwear.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile, back at the offices of the luckiest governor in the country, the one who no doubt hoped everybody would forget about him, today it‘s official; well, Governor Mark Sanford and his fellow Republicans are no longer soul mates, if ever they were.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Governor Sanford has now been censured by South Carolina‘s GOP leadership after a fractured meeting, in which a sizable minority insisted on his resignation. 

Late last night, after a protracted conference call and three rounds of balloting, the GOP executive committee of South Carolina voted to censure Governor Sanford.  The final tally, 22 in favor, 10 members calling for Sanford‘s resignation.  Nine members out of those 41 state Republican leaders voting their support. 

The committee characterized the governor‘s recent behavior, notably leaving the state to see his Argentine lover, “as a breach of the public‘s trust and confidence in his ability to effectively perform the duties of his office.” 

Sanford also failed to adhere to the “core principles and beliefs of the Republican party,” it said, but “barring further revelation, the censure will be the party‘s last word on the matter.”  The statement also claimed that the state‘s Republicans spoke in a unified voice, not really very unified, and wholly inconsistent with what most national Republicans, including Sanford himself, had said about the censure idea back in 1998. 

Then Congressman Sanford voted to impeach President Bill Clinton, claiming only that or Clinton‘s resignation would be enough.  Sanford has responded to last night‘s censure through his spokesman, quoting, “the governor fully appreciates the party‘s position and he intends to work diligently to earn back its trust.” 

Sort of the same statement he made, only with wife erased and party inserted. 

Let‘s bring in the Washington editor of “The Week” magazine, political correspondent for “Bloomberg News,” Margaret Carlson.  Margaret, good evening. 

MARGARET CARLSON, “BLOOMBERG NEWS”:  Good evening, Keith.  How are you? 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m well.  How is Governor Sanford?  Did he actually manage to squeak by on this one? 

CARLSON:  Well, he did, because there‘s nobody in the party establishment that wants to give the lieutenant governor a leg up on getting elected in the next gubernatorial election.  So there‘s not a lot in it for them to force him out at this point.  And these censure things, if you ever give it to the body of your peers, you‘re pretty safe because they‘re not—the Ethics Committee in Congress is—you know, it‘s not going to hurt you. 

It‘s like these consent decrees, where you say, I didn‘t do anything wrong, but I‘ll never do it again.  It‘s—it‘s a two-plus way of doing it, when you leave it up to the voluntary apparatus. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, an Ethics Committee in Congress is still made up of Congress-people. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  A majority of the state Republican senators called for his resignation.  Does this vote by that GOP executive committee, after three rounds of balloting, as a reminder here—does it seem like a tortured deal?  Is it a matter of expediency over principle?  Because clearly there were some people who said, to heck with this not giving the lieutenant governor a heads up or a leg up on the next election, we have to do this. 

CARLSON:  There are some, but not enough.  The establishment and the people in power don‘t want to give the lieutenant governor a head up.  And now they had their chance and the chance is gone.  They didn‘t get their way, the hard liners.  And he—I think he‘s—thanks to Michael Jackson and Sarah Palin, I think Mark Sanford makes it. 

OLBERMANN:  Hard to believe.  Has he learned at least one of the many lessons that is required to see daylight at the end of this, the one about shutting up?  Or does he still risk refueling those who would prefer that he resign and refueling the rest of us at almost any given moment? 

CARLSON:  The first press conference I would give him the benefit of the doubt in some ways.  I mean, he‘s been on an 18-hour flight and he‘s just been crying in Argentina for a week.  He has to face the cameras.  It‘s—it‘s a meandering, rambling.  But, you know, falling in love is a little like temporary insanity, and the guy was off his game. 

The AP interview was—was insane.  To talk about his forbidden love and his soul mate and he hopes he falls in love with his wife.  All these politicians should think, are my children able to read or operate the remote control?  Because for his sons to read about this, they‘re old enough to read about it, and they‘re young enough to be scarred for life. 

OLBERMANN:  Final damage assessment for Governor Sanford and for a party that used to self-righteously say, oh, no, censure‘s not enough; we need another 11 months of investigation and an impeachment that we‘re going to lose? 

CARLSON:  You know, it‘s almost not worth saying hypocrisy anymore because there is such hypocrisy.  You know, if we were to do to other profession capital punishment for this—I don‘t want to name any profession, but let‘s say journalism would be decimated.  You know half of the New Yorkers—more than half want Eliot Spitzer back. 

You do have to be a little bit careful about getting rid of people who fall in this way.  However, the second press conference is almost worth capital punishment for Mark Sanford.  But he does make it and he does stay and he will do no more harm. 

OLBERMANN:  Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg News” and “The Week” magazine, capital punishment advocate.  Great thanks.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Keith, good night. 

OLBERMANN:  Last night, John McCain learned what it meant to take on David Letterman from a position of weakness.  This year, apparently, Sarah Palin is going to learn on what it means to take on David Letterman from a position of weakness. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, former Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon advising the Palin resignation drama, as it drags on.  And then the ex-CIA analyst who said, quote, the only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.  Rarely has the term worst persons been more seriously applied than it will be tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Who gets the final laugh on Sarah Palin?  David Letterman.  That‘s assuming that all of that was the final laugh last night.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to baseball‘s Manny Ramirez, just back from a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, with time off to play rehab games in the minor leagues.  Nearly all players on such rehabs thank the minor leaguers with whom they have spent a few days by buying them a big post game dinner.  When Randy Johnson rehabbed in 2007, he bought his temporary teammates a meal that cost him three grand.  Roger Clemens even bought one of his minor leagues teams a new clubhouse. 

A Major League pitcher named Joe Martinez, who makes the Major League minimum salary, bought his teammates in Modesto a full post game meal.  Not Ramirez.  The newspaper “The Modesto Bee” reports that despite two games with Albuquerque and three with San Barnadino, despite the fact that his rehab got him back into shape after he shamed the sport and the Dodger‘s organization, Ramirez bought his new minor league friends nothing.  Ramirez‘s contract for this season was to pay him 23,854,494 dollars. 

Our runner up, Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, speaking at a rally in Houston.  He stunned the crowd when he announced, quote, I believe in making sure our country is safe first.  I believe we need to spend a little more on illegal immigrants.” 

Did you get hit by lightning or something?  Sadly, no.  “Get them the hell out of our damn country and close the borders down.  We can do it.  We‘ve got the greatest military in the world, and you‘re telling me we can‘t close our borders?  That‘s just ridiculous.” 

Two points that racists like Wurzelbacher always forget: the official government estimate that there are between 12 million and 20 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.  The official government estimate is that there are 3,385,000 members of the military, including the reserves, and including everybody stationed outside the country.  So if 12 million immigrants don‘t want to leave, exactly how are you going to get them to? 

Second point, and this a guy named Olbermann talking to a guy named Wurzelbacher.  I know my ancestors were not Native Americans.  I‘m pretty sure yours weren‘t either.  Do you have any records proving yours were not illegal immigrants? 

But our winners, former CIA analyst, ironically in the Bin Laden section in the ‘90s, Michael Scheuer and Glenn Beck of Fox News.  A lot has been written online suggesting Scheuer merits a special comment.  The man has some sort of perverse fetish about seeing part of this country destroyed by nuclear weapons.  He came on this program in February, 2007 and practically drooled at the prospect. 

He deserves something, but not a special comment.  His comment, “the only chance we have as a country right now,” he said on Fox News last week, “is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States, because it‘s going to take a grassroots, bottom-up pressure, because these politicians prize their office, prize the praise of the media and the Europeans.  It‘s an absurd situation, again.  Only Osama can execute an attack that will force Americans to demand that government protect them effectively, consistently and with as much violence as necessary.” 

Scheuer‘s interviewer, Glenn Beck of Fox News, did not attempt to correct him, did not scream at him, what the hell do you mean the only chance we have as a country right now.  Beck did not accuse Scheuer of insanity, nor disloyalty, nor palling around with terrorists?  Beck did not even burst into tears.  The host merely nodded gravely, as if this made sense.  “Which is why I was thinking,” he said, “if I were him,” Bin Laden, “that would be the last thing I would do right now,” Beck answered, agreeing with Scheuer, and barely containing his disappointment as he did so. 

We need Bin Laden to destroy part of America in order to save America.  You know, since that worked out so well for everybody on 9/11.  Scheuer has already given comfort to the enemy.  Now, Scheuer adds the piquant touch of disingenuousness.  Criticized online, Scheuer insisted he never said what he clearly had said. 

“Far from wishing for another attack,” he wrote, “I trust that Churchill‘s judgment that God looks out for drunks and the United States of America still holds good, and we remain safe.  God better do the job because no one in our elite is doing it.” 

Of course, here Mr. Scheuer is correct.  No one in their elite is doing their job.  Mr. Scheuer has issued a call for the head of al Qaeda to “detonate a major weapon in the United States,” and yet for some reason, to my knowledge at least, the Department of Homeland Security has not yet been to see him, nor been to see Mr. Beck, nor Fox News for having provided him a platform and passive assent, for approving of not just a terrorist attack which could kill Americans, but approving of one that might even kill Fox viewers. 

If we‘re going to continue to prevent terrorism in this country, international or domestic, we have to legally stop the people who view terrorism as acceptable means of affecting political change in this country, people like Michael Scheuer.  And we have to legally stop the people like Glenn Beck, the enablers who simply nod gravely, as if the idea and the speaker were not treasonous.  Author Michael Scheuer and Glenn Beck of Fox News, today‘s worst persons in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Forgive the repeated analogy, but to sit next to David Letterman on the night John McCain first canceled on him, then proved to have lied to him, and then showed up on another show on the same network, being shown on an in-house feed, and to watch Letterman respond and respond and respond and respond, was kind of like sitting next to the Duke of Wellington as he eviscerated Napoleon at Waterloo. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, but Wellington did not get to follow up that fight by then fighting Don Quixote. 

In a moment, more of the first—in English, first post-Palin resignation Letterman volley, which I think, based on the continuing pounding of McCain last year, is not going to be the last.  One brief detour; remember the governor‘s revelation speech analogy, the basketball stuff, referring to the media as the national full-court press?  She said the point guard, she, drove her sound priorities the length of the court for the win. 

If the win is the presidency in 2012, this diagram was offered today by DeadSpin.com‘s Tommy Scraggs (ph) and Ben Cohen.  And look, there we are over on the right there.  Palin avoiding us and the rest of the media, except for a slowdown next to conservative high-fiver Bill Kristol.  Then the governorship away for the win,  The win in what?  Nobody‘s sure. 

Governor Palin may have gotten past Letterman in that diagram, but in reality, the ball game may just have begun for the most famous Ball State Cardinal. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  President Obama is in Russia and we know this because Sarah Palin says she can see him from her house.  

There‘s a surprising announcement over the weekend.  The governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, is leaving the office.  She‘s stepping down.  Something I said? 

But she—well, a lot of people do this.  A lot of public figures do this.  And I‘ve tried to do it.  It doesn‘t work.  You blame the media.  When you have trouble, you blame the media.  And today, as a matter of fact, she was up in a helicopter shooting Wolf Blitzer. 

But I was talking to a lady here in the audience who‘s from Alaska.  And we were wondering about this, how does a thing like this work, because if she steps down and no longer the governor of Alaska—and we figured it out, the title now Miss Congeniality I think is now the governor of Alaska. 

And now a message from the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. 

Sarah, take it away. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  The world needs more insane governors. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN:  This thing with Sarah Palin is puzzling.  Why did she step down essentially midterm of her first service as governor of Alaska?  And everybody‘s saying, well, we have an answer.  What is she going to do next?  We have an answer. 

Yes.  We talked to some people.  We ran it by the focus group.  We have an answer.  Here‘s what she‘s going to do next.  Take a look at this, ladies and gentlemen. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She may be resigning as governor, but you haven‘t seen the last of Sarah Palin.  Catch Sarah this fall on her new talk show, Sarah and Dave, 10:00 p.m. week nights on CBS.  Sarah Palin, decisive leadership. 

LETTERMAN:  Yep.  Say what you will, and I—she—I think she would have been our most attractive vice president since Spiro Agnew. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You‘re going to hear about that from Agnew‘s family.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,259th 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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