updated 8/14/2009 10:12:26 AM ET 2009-08-14T14:12:26

COUNTDOWN

August 13, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Eugene Robinson, John Dean, Margaret Carlson, Howard Dean, Barton Gellman

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Congratulations, Chuck Grassley, you just denied counseling to grievously ill people and their heartbroken families. If they want end-of-life care advice now, they'll have to pay for it themselves. It's out of the bill.

Grassley now boasts he exploited the bipartisan negotiations just long enough to push the health care vote beyond the August recess to enable the chaotic, perverted, paranoid death "panel talk" to unfold.

Congratulations, Senator. You just saved the insurance company millions-millions taken out pockets of the people of your state and the people of your age.

And "Palin the Pathetic" repudiates her brief visit to reality. She says there were two "death panels" and that they were Orwellian-like she knows what Orwellian means.

This is Orwellian-in April 2008, Governor Sarah Palin proclaimed health care decisions day in Alaska "to raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for health care decisions, related to end-of-life care." She was for "death panels" before she was against them.

And another genius chimes in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, I think it's proper because it's within the context of what people are seeing in some of the legislation that's floating around out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The lessons of the Republican hit job, using stupid people to scare other stupid people, with Eugene Robinson. The lessons of pointless bipartisanship-Senator Grassley using inclusion to force exclusion-with Howard Dean.

Bush v. Cheney? The statute of limitations has expired on what the ex-V.P. wants to dish, like "when the president made decisions that I didn't agree with, I still supported him and didn't go out and undercut him." He thinks Bush went soft, he's going to tell all in his book-so reports Barton Gellman of "The Washington Post," our special guest tonight. Plus, John Dean on why Cheney may be admitting he ran the Bush administration.

And Bush v. Gore-publicly addressed by the secretary of state in Nigeria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state. So, we have our problems, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And "Worsts": Limbaugh whines he was compared to Nazis, then a moment later compares his critics to Nazis.

All that and more-now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What must your mindset be to believe that?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

At some point in the future, you or a loved one will be dying.

You'll want to know all the options and their implications.

But thanks to the Republican Party today-Sarah Palin, Senator Chuck Grassley and others-thanks to them, if you cannot afford to have your doctor at your side for those questions, you will face death on your own.

Our fifth story tonight: How Sarah Palin's functional illiteracy and a senator's dysfunctional pandering just killed reimbursement for end-of-life counseling.

Senator Grassley, top Republican of the finance committee at a center of the health care talks, put out a statement today saying, quote, "We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted." Misinterpreted, of course, by him, deliberately to his constituents, on tape, as, quote, "death panels."

Quoting the AARP, "a sensationalized misinterpretation of a common sense, compassionate and bipartisan measure." A misinterpretation the GOP has happily and enthusiastically endorsed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: I just wanted to get your reaction to some of the-your co-party members, former Alaska Governor Palin, who called these panels essentially going to be dispensing care and deciding, death panels, that sort of thing. Is that proper, is that right?

STEELE: Well, I think it's-I think it's proper because it's within the context of what people are seeing in some of the legislation that's floating around out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Death panels, the key issue stoking fear and fury at town halls around the country. A goal Senator Grassley now admits he was pursuing even while he was pretending talking bipartisanship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE: If I had not been at the table, there would have been a bill through-committee the week of June 22nd and it wouldn't have been through the Senate by now because of 60 Democrats. So I think that I have, by sticking my finger in the dike, I have had an opportunity to give the grassroots of America an opportunity to speak up and as you are seeing every day on television and I think that-I think that that's a-I think that that's a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Stick your fingers somewhere else, Senator, and see if your honesty is stuck there.

And the woman who trumped up death panel-phobia, unemployed Alaska blogger Sarah Palin posted last night a lengthy for her defense of it, with footnotes. She had not just screwed over poor, dying people with her fearmongering, it would be almost funny. Except that on health care decisions day in Alaska last year, Governor Palin proclaimed one of her principal goals was "to encourage hospitals, assisting living facilities and others in a statewide to provide clear and consistent information to the public about advance directives."

But now she blogs that Section 1233 of the House bill, subsection HHH-according to her-requires consultations. Quote, "Practitioners must explain the continuum of end-of-life services." And she cites a "Washington Post" editorial page opinion that says essentially the same thing.Here's the problem. Unless you can actually read, Section 1233 does say, quote, "such consultation shall include the following," listing all of the end-of-life stuff. But what consultation shall include the following -it turns out Section 1233 is just amending a Section1861 of the Social Security Act, which is just a list of definition.

So, Ms. Palin, when it says such consultation shall include the following, it does not mean doctors have to include the following in their consultations. It means the definition of reimbursed advanced care consultation includes any of the following. Got it?

On the Subsection HHH in your footnote, it does not exist. See any quote marks? The bill is quoting a hypothetical Subsection HHH that it would add to the existing Social Security law. Good thing do you not have a job where you need to know stuff like this, right?

Ms. Palin also quotes Gene Robinson of "The Washington Post," who will presently tell us the sentence Ms. Palin chose not to quote from his piece.

And to fuel paranoia, she quotes another "Post" writer, quote, "If it's all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what's it doing in a measure to-what is it doing in a measure to bend the health care costs?" Palin repeats the writer's suggestion that reimbursing doctors for this counseling gives them financial incentive to counsel patients to kill themselves.

Point of fact: End of life directives, quote, "save money," unquote.

Newt Gingrich said that.

And point of logic: if your patients kill themselves, you stop making money off them.

As promised, MSNBC political analyst and "Washington Post" associate editor, as well s Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Eugene Robinson, joins us now.

Good evening, Gene.

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

OLBERMANN: So Sarah Palin quotes your column and the quote she used was, "Citizens are not delusional to conclude that the goal is to reduce end-of-life spending." I want your response. But if you've first read the sentence for us that immediately follow that, which she left out.

ROBINSON: Yes. The sentence in the same column, immediately following, is, quote, "It's irresponsible for politicians such as Sarah Palin to claim outlandishly and falsely that there's going to be some kind of death panel to decide when to pull the plug on Aunt Sylvia."

So, yes, Sarah Palin somehow is-bolstering her argument on death panels by quoting a column of mine that calls her out by name specifically as outlandish, false, and irresponsible for making up this whole death panel canard.

OLBERMANN: So, she proved the point of the column and I'd call what she did with the quote, intellectual dishonesty. But it would imply some intellectual capacity on her part.

But moving on-the point of what she wrote seemed to be that the president made a strategic mistake by linking reform of health care to cost-cutting, and that that linkage-however tenuous it was and theoretical-opened the door for Grassley and Palin and others to obfuscate and obfuscate successfully as it turns today.

ROBINSON: Yes. I questioned that strategy or at least how it was carried out tactically-because it seemed to me to have created an opening for the likes of Palin and Grassley and the crazies at the town hall meetings. If you say we are-we have to reduce health care costs and you say we want to encourage end-of-life counseling-which absolutely, by the way, we should encourage and Medicare should pay for it.

You know how difficult these-that time of life is. You just lost your mother, Keith. I lost my father in January. These are wrenching decisions that families have to make. It is so much better if they are thought about beforehand.

And so, absolutely, Medicare should pay. But if those two concepts are allowed to be linked, cut costs, talk about what to do at the end-of-life, it does create this opening for demagoguery, frankly. And that's what has been going on.

OLBERMANN: What will it say about Democrats at this point if they accept exclusions like what Grassley and Baucus pulled off which they are no-know are based to use the slight version of bull crap?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: Well, it will-well, what will it say about Democrats? It will say that there is not yet-and it's awfully late in the day-a unified coherent Democratic vision of exactly what this health care reform package is supposed to look at. And I think, frankly, that President Obama, while he has gotten-he would say 70 percent of the way by essentially allowing Congress to do it, and see what they come up with, I really think he needs to help define it.

And-you know, we are at the point where Congress is going in all its different directions and now with the recess and the town halls, it seems the debate is a bit out of hand.

OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, also, of course, of "The Washington Post"-and always, Gene, thanks for your time tonight.

ROBINSON: Great to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: At the White House briefing today, the press secretary, Mr. Gibbs, refused to take the bait when Senator Grassley's disingenuousness about the death panel was dangled before him repeatedly.

With us tonight on the political battle here, doctor, former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, also serving as independent consultant at McKenna Long and Aldridge LLP, providing guidance to clients particularly in the areas of health care and alternative energy resources.

Governor, good evening.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Keith. As a result of filling in for you two weeks ago, whatever you get paid, it's not enough.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, kindly sir.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN: As to this issue, Mr. Obama has spoken before of not making the mistakes the Clintons made. But here today, we saw Chuck Grassley bury a provision. He based it on a lie pushed by Sarah Palin but written originally by Betsy McCaughey, the same big pharma shill who's now discredited lies, got the first reform killed while the Clintons were in power.

How is Mr. Obama doing any better at this point?

DEAN: Well, first of all, I don't think Chuck Grassley has the power to bury anything. The way the Republicans are behaving, they are digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole. They are playing to their base and their base is all excited. The trouble is, their base is shrinking and nobody really cares if you're under 35 and you voted 63 percent for Barack Obama about what the Republicans have to say because they are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

So, I don't-you know, Chuck Grassley is probably not going to have a vote that matters at the end of this because the Republicans aren't going to play.

OLBERMANN: But are the end-of-life provisions going to be in this bill? Or is this just the first thing they cut out?

DEAN: No, they'll be in the bill because it has nothing do with death panels or any of that stuff. They're just making that up. And I think, at the end of the day, you got to have a decent bill and that's part of it.

OLBERMANN: Is this-I don't know if there's a word that characterize the last week and a half of death panelitis and the paranoia that has managed to damage something had a would benefit so many people who are there yelling about it as if it were a gunshot threat. I don't know what word describes that.

But is it-is it necessary to this process or was the correct move in retrospect taking some input from the GOP at the beginning and then writing a good bill and telling them vote for it or not, we're bringing it to a vote before this August dog and pony show can be conducted around the country?

DEAN: I don't think a dog and pony show is all bad. First of all, people really are angry. They're not just angry about health care. In fact, they-frankly, most of them don't know what's in the health care bill because what they have been told is totally untrue. But they are angry because there's a recession going on. I would venture to guess 90 percent of the people shaking their fists and shouting down congressmen didn't vote for Obama in first place. There's a generational change going on in this country and these are the folks who are very uncomfortable with it.

So, look, it's not Obama's fault. He tried to get the GOP to cooperate. They are not interested in cooperating. Chuck Grassley bragged that he's sending the bill to the bottom, and he's one of the guys supposedly.

So, this is-it's not going to work. We're going to have to pass this thing with a very big majority that the American people gave us, and this very vocal minority is going to have to custom itself to the change. And they will because an awful lot of them are already on a governor-run program. It's called Medicare and they like it.

OLBERMANN: We kept hearing what a brawler the chief of staff would be, Rahm Emanuel, in that position as he has been in so many others. Betsy McCaughey dragged his brother into this, the doctor, Dr. Emanuel into this.

So, why is there not more dukes up quality to this from the White House? The press secretary was very cautious about what he said today about Senator Grassley.

DEAN: I think-you know, I think these guys are digging themselves as deep hole and will encourage their base and their base will get all excitement. As I said before, their base is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. I think-you know, they are doing themselves enormous damage for their future. And, frankly, the smart thing do is step out of the way and let them keep doing this to themselves.

Nobody really, truthfully, except for the most faithful of the far-right, believes that there is a death panel in this bill. Nobody believes that. And the more they talk like this, the harder it's going to be to convince anybody that there's much substance to their proposals at all.

OLBERMANN: Shouldn't there be somebody out there handing out pieces of paper that have Sarah Palin's name it them, in which she declared a day devoted to the-exactly the things she's calling a death panel now just a year and a half ago? Shouldn't that be the approach though at these town halls? Shouldn't there be something more organized by the Democrats?

DEAN: Well, I think people are, you know, speaking up when they get a chance to get a word in edgewise at the town hall. I think that's great. But the truth is-let me just ask you, frankly, do you think Sarah Palin has any chance of getting elected president of the United States? I don't.

OLBERMANN: No.

DEAN: She can get the nomination, but she'll get 40 percent -- 39 percent of the vote.

OLBERMANN: I would agree with you in terms of forecasting. I'm just-I'm more worried about what somebody who has a certain cache to them, whether it's positive or negative, can do to people who don't understand and who are scared.

DEAN: Here's the danger-the danger is that they further divide the country, that they convince this 39 percent or whatever it is, that they really are being screwed and that the government is coming after them in every possible way. And that does lead to problems. I mean, there's no question that leads to problems.But at the end of the day, this is a short-term political tactic to try to embarrass Obama by beating his health care bill. I don't think it's going to work. And I think it's going to cost the Republicans a great deal by 2012.

OLBERMANN: All right, Governor, thank you. And if you could send me an e-mail on that salary point that I could forward to my boss, I would appreciate it and I'll give you a cut.

DEAN: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Howard Dean, great thanks.

If you ever got the impression that the previous vice president of the United States was convinced all around him were soft, wishy-washy, insensate to imminent, looming, cataclysmic, apocalyptic terror that would definitely come in the morning, it turns out you are underestimating it. And insight into Dick Cheney's memoirs includes this astounding conclusion -- the implication was that Bush had gone soft on him. What "The Washington Post" Barton Gellman has learned about what might actually be Dick Cheney's tell-all autobiography, and John Dean's assessment of how this changes our investigation of that administration.

Investigators of another kind, of course, have begging for an utterly different kind of revelation. Tonight-video discovery of the actual impact of a small plane and sightseeing helicopter over New York's Hudson River last Saturday. We will show that videotape to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Did you know that in his second term President Bush went soft and was too worried about public criticism? No, in this universe. Dick Cheney apparently thinks it's true and evidently writes so in his autobiography. The reporter who broke that story, Barton Gellman of "The Washington Post," joins us. John Dean with some perspective.

And it is terrifying but forensically invaluable. Five days later, videotape has surfaced of the crash of a sightseeing helicopter and a small plane over New York's Hudson River. We'll show it to you exclusively-ahead here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: He held only scorn for tell-all books, yet he is in the midst of writing one. He was once a power center in his own right, but has recently complained about how and when that all changed.

In our fourth story on THE COUNTDOWN: Dick Cheney's disappointment with George W. Bush and Bush's break with him has fueled Cheney's willingness to write about it-all about it.

New details from one of the informal gatherings the former vice president has been holding to discuss his upcoming memoir, according to "The Washington Post's" Barton Gellman-who will join us in a moment.

According to Mr. Gellman's report, "'In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him,' said a participant of the recent gathering. He said Bush was shackled by the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's Advice. It was clear that Cheney's doctrine was cast-iron strength at all time-never apologize, never explain-and Bush moved toward the conciliatory."

Cheney had not and now his disdain for what he perceives to be weakness in the Obama administration's approach to national security may soon be directed at Bush. Quoting again from the article, "Cheney himself said, without explanation, that the statute of limitations has expired on many of his secrets. 'When the president made decisions that I didn't agree with, I still supported him and didn't go out and undercut him,' Cheney said, according to Stephen Hayes, his authorized biographer. 'Now we're talking about after we've left office. I have strong feelings about what happened.'"

Let's bring in "Washington Post" national reporter and author of "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency," out in paperback later this month, Barton Gellman.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BARTON GELLMAN, WASHINGTON POST: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Cheney's influence dimmed, he grew bitter, that would be a simple reading this? Is there far more to it than that?

GELLMAN: Yes, sure, there's more to it because Cheney is not so much about keeping score or taking credit. He's a guy who cares about outcomes.

Let's assume in alternate universe in which Dick Cheney appeared on your show. He would say to you, "Don't you acknowledge that there is a possibility that terrorists will acquire nuclear weapons and no hesitation in using them?" And once you can see that-what wouldn't you take the gloves off for if it wasn't for that? Where would-where would you not say you-use harsh interrogation measures on terrorists, or use domestic surveillance, or look for a way to topple the regimes in Iran and North Korea?

And he thought he had George Bush convinced of this. And Bush walked away from it in the second term. It gets more personal than that, however, because Cheney is saying Bush did so for the wrong reasons. When he describes Bush as caring too much about public opinions, that's a cardinal sin in Cheney's world. People who seek after popularity, who change their mind in response to polls, they only show resolve. Those are people who are-are morally lacking at some point.

Because Dick Cheney is an anti-politician, he's a guy that thinks that-unpopularity in the service of the right policy is a badge of honor.

OLBERMANN: Are there any indications-did you get any indications at this point what specifically he thinks Bush did or did not do or is it still in those generalized sort of being responsive to the American public?

GELLMAN: Look, Dick Cheney is not a guy who spills his guts in even in small group, private meetings. It's surprising and unusual that he said as much as he did. The question was about what regrets he, Cheney, had, and his regret was that Bush had walked away.

The subjects we know that he was unhappy with were there was no more waterboarding, no more secret prisons, there were-there was a decision to go to Congress for permission to do domestic surveillance which Cheney didn't think a president needed. There was a decision to engage diplomatically with Iran and North Korea and, in fact, to give them small carrots that Cheney didn't think they deserved when the whole game for Cheney was keeping unrelenting pressure on those governments in hopes that they would fall.

OLBERMANN: The statute of limitations has expired on many of Cheney's secrets. From that, do you infer that this book would be filled with detail, the kind which we would not expect from Cheney?

GELLMAN: Well, I sure hope so. I'd buy that book.

OLBERMANN: All right. I agree on that.

GELLMAN: I mean, I'm all for openness. The-look, he means it metaphorically, I think, in context that-you know, the game is played, the decisions are done and it's OK to talk about it now.

Now, this is a departure from his old view that memoirs were inherently self-serving and damaging to the process of government because a president had to believe-and his advisers had to believe-in order to foster a candid debate that what happened in the Oval Office stayed in the Oval Office. And Dick Cheney is now going to talk about that.

How far he goes? I don't know. What I do know is that he is being fairly open in his private talks now about his disagreements and his willingness to describe them.

OLBERMANN: Any sense of any contradiction within the former vice president about being over enough to have memoirs written but not be over enough for him to have shifted from any of his positions? Because presumably you would not want to write about any of these things that you still thought were so vitally important and were not being done unless they had somehow lessened-unless that threat had somehow become less immediate, don't you think?

GELLMAN: Well, I don't-I don't-look, I'm not on the inside of his head. I don't know definitely how he would see that. He has-he cares about affecting the debate. He cares about shifting policy. He's not moving into this sort of statesman-like, above the fray, self-reflective kind of way that many politicians do in memoirs. He wants to convince us here and now that he was right and his legacy needs to carry on.

OLBERMANN: Barton Gellman of "The Washington Post"-an extraordinary story and something to look forward to for historians in the making, great thanks for your time tonight.

GELLMAN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: The implications of all this and our understanding of the crimes of the Bush/Cheney administration or Cheney/Bush, John Dean joins me.

For the interim, Chicago, a very hospitable place. You're from out of town? Have a beer. What has now happened after this incident, including the late-breaking developments-there's been an arrest-next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: "Bests" in a moment, and why did those people have to ruin that nice portrait of that squirrel?

On this date in 1860 was born Phoebe Anne Mosey, known to history as the sharpshooter Annie Oakley, whose aim was so precise that, while entertaining European royalty in the 1880s, she shot the ash off the cigarette of the German Prince Wilhelm. As was noted, if she had missed hitting him in the ash, and hit him somewhere else, she might have prevented the First World War. Let's play Oddball.

We begin at Wrigley Field, Chicago, where the Chicago Cubs chairman has now apologized to Phillies' center field Shane Victorino for this incident. In the bottom of the fifth inning last night, on a ball hit to deep center, Victorino retreated to the warning track, and as the ball reached his glove, a fan chucked a beer on his head. Right there.

Victorino made the play, but security fingered the wrong guy and ejected the wrong guy. If you look again, it was not the Cubs fan in the Cubs jersey, but the guy in the white shirt a few seats down, who tossed his cold one. He now faces an assault charge. This man, seen in the "Chicago Tribune" graphic has, after a few hours as a fugitive, today turned himself in to the police.

His name, Dr. Richard Kimball, an innocent victim of blind justice, falsely convicted for the murder of his wife, reprieved by fate when a train-

Sorry, they haven't released the guy's name. This is not first time this has happened, not even in Chicago. At the 1959 World Series, Al Smith of the White Sox retreated on a home run by Charlie Neil of the Dodgers, and a fan accidentally bumped his suds, as the ball sailed into the crowd. Smith was soaked. No charges were filed. Oddly enough, the moment was captured by an Associated Press photographer named Charles E. Chuck Knoblauch.

Over to Coat's Bar in Janesville, Wisconsin, and security video of a guy with a blue bandanna over his face, and his hand in his pants pretending, to have a gun, allegedly trying to knock over this bar. This bar filled with 20 off-duty policemen. In fact the whole town was filled with policemen who were there for a charity golf outing.

The robber was quickly subdued by the men in blue, one of whom did not even bother to put down his beer as he did so. Eighteen-year-old Alonzo Ruker (ph) was charged with one count of disorderly conduct and one count of not reading the Janesville, Wisconsin community calendar, shown there.

Why the second Bush administration might have been scarier than the first. John Dean's read on the Cheney revelation promise.

In Nigeria, the secretary of state warns of the growing pains of young democracies, like the 2000 election, our 2000 election.

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world, one serious, two jokes.

Dateline, Columbus Circle, New York City, Number three, best news decision, John Klein, president of CNN, says he will ban radio talk show hosts as guests henceforth, because what they say is, quote, all too predictable. Much of what they add is noise. Should be an industry wide standard.

Dateline Anchorage, number two, best dumb criminal Jarell Paul Arnold. The FBI says Mr. Arnold walked into a bank Friday, asked about the balance in his account. The teller asked for his name, the account number, and his ID, all of which he provided. Only then did Mr. Arnold hand the teller a note saying he had a gun and demanding money. Mr. Arnold is under arrest and presumably still wondering how on Earth they knew it was him.

Dateline, Lake Minowanka (ph) in Bamf National Park, British Columbia, Canada. Number one, best photo from a vacation, Melissa Brandts. That's her in the middle. On the far right is her husband. On the left is a squirrel, or possibly a prairie dog, who jumped into the shot just before the timer went offer on the Brandts' camera. The Brandts submitted the photo to "National Geographic." And then, of course, they grabbed the cute little critter and they ate him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Dick Cheney's ultimate break with George W. Bush, and before that, this nation's gross excesses in national security; the warrantless wiretapping, secret prisons, Gitmo, torture, the resuscitated view that if the president does it, that means it's legal; what if those markers were merely symptoms of a problem?

In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Mr. Cheney's attitude about national security, his inflexible, paranoid, myopic view. John Dean joins me in a moment.

Revisiting the "Washington Post" piece, "John P. Hannah, Cheney's second term national security adviser, said the former vice president is driven now, as before, by the nightmare of a hostile state acquiring nuclear weapons and passing them to terrorists. Aaron Friedberg, another of Cheney's foreign policy advisers, said Cheney believes that many people find it very difficult to hold that idea in their head, really, and conjure with it and see what it implies. These are not small issues, Hannah said. They cut to the very core of who Cheney is. He really feels he has an obligation to save the country from danger."

As promised let's turn to FindLaw.com columnist, author of "Conservatives Without Conscience" and "Worse than Watergate," John Dean. Good evening, John.

JOHN DEAN, FINDLAW.COM: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Cheney has a unique grasp of this. There is exceptionalism at work. Is that how he sees this scenario, from what we can deduce from the Post piece?

DEAN: Well, I think he's always seen himself as rather exceptional, Keith. But his exception is that he has been able to get into big jobs and fail in those jobs. You look at his job as-work as White House chief of staff, you look at his position as the GOP leader in the Congress, you look at his work as secretary of defense, you look at his work at Halliburton, and now you look at his work as vice president; and you will see a steady path of failure.

And the only person that seems to understand this are-those who are not Dick Cheney and his immediate aides, but the rest of the world looks closely at that record.

OLBERMANN: Is he going to paint himself into something of a corner here? To save the world from the vice presidency of the United States is an impossibility. Does he not have to admit in this book, if he is actually going to go there, to use that cliche, that he ran the Bush administration? Isn't he going to have to fess up that he was in charge, at least for the four years, and then Mr. Bush gave up on him, for some reason?

DEAN: Well, I don't think that even if he does say that he was running the White House, for all practical purposes, in the first term, which I think is pretty true, that he saved the world. In fact, he left the world under much rougher shape as a result of his policies. He has become something of the poster boy in his policies for recruiting terrorism, leaving us in much worse condition than before 9/11.

OLBERMANN: Normally, central players won't admit their influence in excessive policy. And the list is extraordinary when you go through it in succession; warrantless wiretaps, Gitmo, torture. But that, too, is apparently going to be turned on its head in this, because Cheney has, what, no apology? He believes nothing is necessary? No explanation is necessary beyond this absolute certitude that he, and he alone, knows the consequences of not breaking 18 laws?

DEAN: It is going to be very interesting to see how he handles this. He is but a self-confessed war criminal, Keith. And I don't think that, at this point, given the fact he has broken the FISA law-he has broken many of our statutes and treaties. He has created this unitary executive theory that he has pushed out. And I don't think that John Yoo and David Addington's legal opinions are going to cut it anymore. So he's going to have some fancy explanations to offer us.

OLBERMANN: Cheney doesn't want to write about personal feelings, as if those were beneath him. But psyche might animate the book, whether he realizes it or not. My unified Dick Cheney theory has always been, somewhere deep inside, he knows he missed 9/11. He knows he missed it while he was too busy looking at Iraq. Therefore, he must believe he alone saved us from worse. And therefore, he must also believe 9/11 had something to do with Iraq. Do you have a unified Dick Cheney theory?

DEAN: Well, I sort of do. I've always seen him as sort of doing for George Bush what Machiavelli did for the Prince. And that is to show him how to corrupt power. I don't think Dick Cheney is an evil person. I think he did evil, however. And I'm not sure how he's going to work his way out of this in a memoir. So I'm one of those who's very anxious to see what he has to say.

OLBERMANN: But, Richard Nixon, as you know, tried to work his way out. And I guess to some degree was at least marginally successful in working his way out through a memoir and a rehabilitation campaign. Is that possible with Dick Cheney?

DEAN: I suppose it is. But there are a large segment of the American public who what I would call are authoritarian conservatives. These people, about 25 percent of the American people, like Dick Cheney. And so he will have a big audience for this book.

But that's it. The rest of the people aren't going to buy into this.

OLBERMANN: Except those-unless he reveals that he threw himself on a ticking atomic bomb as it was about to be dropped on-and it blew up underneath him and he was all right.

John Dean, author of "Worse Than Watergate" and "Conservatives Without Conscious"-as ever, those books continue to be relevant. Great thanks, John.

DEAN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And if you think Cheney feels liberated to talk the way he wants about George Bush, wait until you hear the secretary of state's remarks about the former president in Nigeria.

And the evidence the National Transportation Safety Board has been hoping somebody had, somebody did have. We will show you the video, obtained exclusively by NBC News, of the helicopter plane crash over New York last Saturday.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she and her special guest, Senator Bernie Sanders, will discuss new details revealed about who these Astroturfers at the town halls actually are.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Since Saturday's disastrous direct crash between a small plane and a sight-seeing helicopter over New York's Hudson River, which killed nine, including four members of one family from Italy, the prospective silver lining; the National Transportation Safety Board's guess that there might have been another sightseer in New York harbor on that sunny day with a camera pointed towards the accident.

Tonight, it proves there was. This is not our regular subject matter here, but we're going to show you this in moment, with this warning, that it is as disturbing as you could imagine.

But in that lies its value as a forensic tool, and our reason for showing it. The video has been obtained by exclusively by NBC News. It was recorded by, in a deep and painful irony, another tourist from Italy on a boat near the Statue of Liberty. Here is the videotape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Oh, my god!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: As you saw, the helicopter, camera right, the small plane coming in from the left, an instantaneous disaster. There is some inference being made here that the chopper might have been in the plane's blind spot. The pilot unable to see the helicopter because of the wings of his own plane.

Contact was at the helicopter's rotor blades, the worst possible spot. It would have crippled the copter immediately. The video shows it sheered off the plane's right wing. Former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board said that something must have distracted the airplane pilot just long enough that he never realized he had intercepted the helicopter's flight path.

That image will underscore the debate of the wisdom of having pilots over that river as long as they are flying at under 1,100 feet, flying without instructions or guidance from any air traffic controllers.

Hillary Clinton's surprise invoking of the 2000 presidential election coming up. Worst persons next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Secretary Clinton invokes our 2000 presidential election as a warning to young democracies all around the world. That's next.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Coulter-geist, tried to route the imaginary death panels to Dr. Ezekial Emanuel, brother of the White House chief of staff. "Totally ironically, Zeke Emanuel is on my death list. Hold the applause.

I'm going to be on the death panel."

She did there make kind of a death threat against Dr. Emanuel. Fortunately, given Ann's overall ineffectiveness, Dr. Emanuel should want to be on the Coulter death list. Hell, I volunteered. This is what Ann learned at the new Cornell.

The runner-up, Congressman Republican John Micah of Florida. He told a Florida radio station, amping up the death panel crap to a new level, quote, "they create a whole new category. They're death counselors. There is authorization for reimbursement for those counselors for Medicare. You have a whole new cottage industry, death counselors."

That's one of these whack job Republicans who claim the bill would fund death eaters, Democratic death eaters.

But our winner, Boss Limbaugh. Comment number one in which he takes umbrage at supposedly being compared to the Nazis, which, incidentally, there's no evidence actually happened. Maybe Rush hallucinated it. "I'm not going to sit here and take it anymore. I'm not going to sit here and sit idly by while a bunch of fascist socialists in this country try to smear and impugn mainstream conservatism, rooted in the founding of this country, with the genocide of six million Jews in World War II. That's what they're trying to do."

That was quote number one. Minutes later, quote number two: "if you want to do a comparison, just take this health care bill. If you want to do a comparison between the people pushing it and the people opposing it to national socialism in Germany, it ain't a contest. The people pushing this health care bill have far more in common with the national socialists of Germany-excepting genocide-than any of us who are opposing health car have."

Let me see if I got this straight; if somebody were to compare Rush Limbaugh to the Nazis, the nationalist socialists, or prominent German politicians for 100 Alex, that would be a crime. He's not going to sit there and take it anymore. But Rush Limbaugh is entitled to compare health care reformers to national socialism, the Nazis, national socialists of Germany, whenever he likes.

Just so we understand each other here. These are Rush Limbaugh's rules; rules you need when you do not have the intellectual or political chops, and are not enough of a grown-up to defend a position without first tilting the playing field entirely in your own direction. This has a name. The name is cowardice. Limbaugh, you are a coward. And you are today's worst person-stop picking on Rush-in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: It happened at a town hall. All right, let's just discontinue town halls, forever, for everybody. A cautionary tale to fledgling democracies; remember the lessons learned from past elections. You know, like that one time when one guy got more votes, but the other guy got to be president, and the other guy's brother was running the state where the ballots were being questioned? That election?

In our number one story, a slight twist on this. Of course, the town hall was in Nigeria and the person issuing the warning was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton in the midst of an 11 day, seven nation sojourn through Africa, stopping by Abujah (ph), Nigeria for a Q&A session, discussing the developing nation's upcoming elections with a group of civil activists.

The secretary used the 2008 election in this country as an example of how democracy should work. She said, "I know a little bit about running elections, and I have won some elections and I have lost some elections. In my country, the man that I was running against, spent a lot of time and effort to defeat, asked me to join his government. So there is a way to begin to make this transition that will lead to free and fair elections in 2011" in Nigeria.

As it turns out, 2008 was not the only U.S. election that could provide a teachable moment to Nigeria, she thought.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our democracy is still evolving. We had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state, where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state. So we have our problems, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: A spokesperson for that man in the middle, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, offering this reaction: "Governor bush is declining to weigh in on these ill-advised comments, but wishing Secretary Clinton a safe and successful trip."

Joining me now, political columnist for "Bloomberg News," Washington editor for "The Week Magazine," Margaret Carlson. Good evening, Margaret.

MARGARET CARLSON, "THE WEEK MAGAZINE": Good evening.

OLBERMANN: Even though former Governor Bush gave a measured response, the right is predictably piling on these comments from Hillary Clinton. Might this be a case of you only get attacked when you speak the truth?

CARLSON: Well, you get attacked in August when you speak at all, it seems. And isn't it curious that in Nigeria, at a town hall, in the land of the prince and princesses who want us to send them 100,000 US so that they might claim their inheritance, that they have town halls where you can actually speak.

That was one of the heartening things about Nigeria. Did you notice, Keith, the body language of Mrs. Clinton in that clip that you showed, in which she kept patting her heart or something. She seemed very nervous as she was making the reference to 2000.

Now, I think it was a bridge too far. If Mrs. Clinton had stopped-

Secretary Clinton had stopped with yes, we have problems of our own, which I think is a good thing, that this president and others have said, listen, America is not perfect; we have our problems; we are trying to take responsibility for them, improve them, make life better here.

I think that's a healing process for this country. However, to name the Bushes, I think, might have been just a bit too much. Leave it at yes, we have problems in our elections. And indeed, we do. Look at Minnesota. How long did it take to name Senator Franken Senator Franken? Months and months and months.

Because the closer the elections are, the more we find out that our electoral system or our system of counting is not perfect. We are not perfect when there is a negligible difference between the two candidates. So, you know-but, however-listen, let's cut her some slack. She was eight time zones away. She had surgery for her elbow. It's probably aching a little. She's tired. She went a little too far.

But, you know, what the right wing does is it goes too far itself. You can say something about it. But you can count on them to overdo it.

 

OLBERMANN: Yes. And the other thing is, long-term, why would you want to fight it at this point? Look, the Rutherford B. Hayes election of 1876 is still going to be talked about. It's still talked about now. It's going to be talked about in the future. So is Bush/Gore and Bush v. Gore. It's not going to go away just because the secretary of state does or does not mention it to Nigerians who might, in fact-there's one thing we left out of this equation. Those people at that town hall might really not have known the details of that story. And that, you know-the fact that things might look bad is just as important to tell people, I think, as, you know, whether or not there is something to that connection that she implied.

Is there not sort of pointlessness in the right coming back at her about this?

CARLSON: You know, they might make a small point, but they're making a big point. And so they lose out. It's like people at town halls that compare Obama to Hitler. You may make some point about health care reform, but you go way too far; you're tuned out. Moderate Republicans want to have nothing to do with you, because they just simply don't want to have to answer for the people on the fringe.

And the people making the most fuss here are conservatives who-it's August-and are looking for something. And by the way, the Clintons are just such easy targets. You know, it is irresistible to make something big out of something little that the Clintons might do wrong.

OLBERMANN: Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg News" and the "Week Magazine," as always, great thanks.

CARLSON: Good night, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Good night. That's COUNTDOWN for this the 2,296th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, and so long until tomorrow.

And now, to discuss more details on the origins of the Astroturf protests with Senator Bernie Sanders, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.

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

END

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