updated 8/18/2009 12:14:21 PM ET 2009-08-18T16:14:21

COUNTDOWN

August 17, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

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

Guests: Arianna Huffington, Howard Dean, Paul F. Tompkins

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Uh-oh!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: No. Actually, Mr. President, you're wrong. It is.

Remember-you just said the insurance companies were holding us hostage?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: That is not the essential element.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: No. Actually, Madame Secretary, you're wrong. It is. It is the break on the out-of-control engine that is insurance greed.

Well, at least you get something of a first step-one that "Grandma plug-puller" Grassley can sell to the death eaters as a good deal.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: It isn't a good deal if I can't sell my product to more Republicans.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Well, at least they're opposing it on principle not political calculus. The public option on the ropes-Howard Fineman on politics; Lawrence O'Donnell on the pushback; Howard Dean on the Nate Silver math that the number of solid Senate votes for the public option is 43, or as low as 41;and Arianna Huffington on the accidental emission of truth on the subject during "Meet the Press."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" HOST: This is a really important point.

DICK ARMEY ®, FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: This defies logic.

MADDOW: The anti-health care reform lobby thinks that Medicare is tyranny, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: "Worsts": Welcome to the public schools of Texas, where teaching the Bible is now mandatory.

And Tom DeLay on "Dancing with the Stars"-he's not dancing. He's crushing cockroaches.

And Michele Bachmann says she will run for president if she hears God telling her to. I hate to tell you this. That's not God. You never took the earpiece out from your last appearance on "Hardball." That's Chris Matthews you're hearing.

All that and more-now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, "HARDBALL" HOST: Ha!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. The fact of the matter-according to Senate Democrat Kent Conrad, who ranks 35th out of 537 in the combined Senate-House rankings for most contributions from health care industries-is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for public option.

But in our fifth story on THE COUNTDOWN: The more salient voice might be that of the progressive Democratic lawmaker Anthony Weiner of New York, now saying that without a public option in the administration's health care proposal, President Obama could stand to lose the votes of 100 Democrats in the House. That would leave him perhaps 60 votes short of passage of any reform bill there.

Pissing off Peter and Tom and Dick and Harry and Louise to assuage Paul-only Paul-the White House having hinted over the weekend that it might be willing to abandon the public option, including a hint from the president himself on Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The public option, whether we have the public option or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it. And by the way, it's both the right and the left that have become so fixated on this that they forget everything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Because everything else is window dressing, Mr. President.

On Sunday, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, asked to comment on the president's remarks expanded on the hint.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STATE OF THE UNION" - CNN)

SEBELIUS: He continues to be very supportive of some options for consumers. What we don't know is exactly what the Senate Finance Committee is likely to come up with. They have been more focused on a co-op, not-for-profit co-op as a competitor, as opposed to a straight government-run program. And I think what's important is choice and competition, and I'm convinced at the end of the day, the plan will have both of those. But that is not the essential element.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: A co-op, a cooperative, government influenced but not government-run health care component in the system-precisely the kind of system authored by the aforementioned Senator Conrad in North Dakota.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY" - FOX)

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: The fact of the matter is, there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option. There never have been. So, to continue to chase that rabbit I think is just a wasted effort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Besides which, think of the wasted campaign contributions, Senator.

Speaking of wasted effort, one reform-minded Democrat warning that by abandoning the public option, the White House could end up losing far more support than it stands to gain from anywhere else. Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York telling CNBC, quote, "The president does seem like he's moving away from the public plan. And if he does, he's not going to pass a bill." Later, the congressman is saying that the president could lose the support of a hundred Democrats in the House if he does not hold firm on the public option.

The White House seeming to want to put the toothpaste back into the tube-at least some of it-first by suggesting that Secretary Sebelius misspoke and by saying in a statement that, quote, "Nothing has changed. The president has always said that what is essential that health insurance reform lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans, and increase choice and competition in the health insurance market. He believes the public option is the best way to achieve these goals."

Today, the president addressing veterans-a segment of the population that already receives government-run health care, and superlative health care at that. The V.A. consistently outranking private systems in the quality of health care it provides patients, according to a recent study by the conservative Rand Corporation.

In Phoenix, the president promising the vets that their excellent government-provided benefits will not change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Since there's been so much misinformation out there about health insurance reform, let me say this: One thing the reform won't change is veterans health care. No one is going to take away your benefits. That is the plain and simple truth.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We're expanding access to your health care, not reducing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Now, as to everybody else, let's call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The White House is claiming almost simultaneously that the public option is not essential and that nothing has changed. These would seem to be mutually exclusive. What's actually going on right now?

FINEMAN: Well, not unless you think it was never essential. And my sense of it is-and it has been for a long time even going back to the rhetoric in the campaign-that Barack Obama has been much more interested in the idea of universality and in making history that way than in the public option, per se. But if it is a bargaining chip, I think he's playing it way too early. It's like sort of those poker tournaments on, you know, the Texas Holdem poker tournaments that he's turning over all his cards in advance. It's not helping his cause or he's looking weak as he negotiates with people who don't really want to negotiate with him.

OLBERMANN: And perhaps, I don't want to lapse into poker terminology but perhaps knocking over the hand of the people who supposedly are on his side of the table and saying oh, look what they've got.

Anthony Weiner's point: if you abandon the public option, you might lose 100 Democrats who would abandon the president in the House and even if Weiner is exaggerating slightly, Jane Hamsher pointed out today, the end of last month, 57 Democrats in the House signed a letter that said simply they cannot vote for a bill without the minimum of a public option, and 57 Democratic votes going against this would be enough to kill the whole thing, too.

What is the White House strategy here? I mean, you eliminate the public option and enough Democrats vote no to kill reform. If that happens that way, it's not the Republicans who killed reform. It's the president who killed reform.

FINEMAN: Right. I think what's happening based on talking to some Democratic leaders on the Hill today, Keith, is that the White House and the Democrats are going to tack back the other direction. What they're going to look for is a way to make a broad enough bill to the liking of liberal Democrats, to have it pass in the Senate under that reconciliation special rule by 50, 51 votes. And make it liberal enough to get enough House Democrats to go along even without the so-called public option. They'll try to dress it up in all kinds of other ways, co-ops, extension of Medicaid, toward universality, and the chief tried to declare a victory and get enough House Democrats to go along.

That's my sense of what's going to happen.

OLBERMANN: But there is now also a report the House will delay its vote on the final health care reform bill until the end of next month in order to provide-the terminology was-a "cooling off" period from these raucous town meetings. I mean, who's-who thinks that everybody wants this to cool off? I mean, Chuck Grassley boasted that he was able to con the White House into delaying it past the recess, which permitted this farce about death panels and watering the "Tree of Liberty" and this, you know, quasi-insurrectionist garbage to foment.

Why on Earth would the Republicans want it to cool down? Who is the -

who are the amateurs in this game thinking it's going to cool down if this goes until the end of September?

FINEMAN: I think that's been a fundamental mistake of the White House all along, sad to say. That they thought that the Republicans would sit down and really, really negotiate. I don't think that's happening at all. I think the Republicans decided long ago that they were going to slow walk it and try to kill it and try to obstruct it with a smile.

And, of course, now, once they've left the Hill, there's no smile.

Instead there are guns at the town hall meetings.

So, I don't think that tenor is going to change at all. I don't think there will be any cooling off period. I think the more that the president tries to give away in the name of trying to achieve bipartisanship, the more recalcitrant the Republicans will become because they smell blood at this point.

OLBERMANN: It was-three years ago, Donald Rumsfeld said it in an entirely different context and I find myself agreeing with him, "Appease the wrong people and have you to be intellectually or morally confused to do so."

Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek"-as always, great thanks for the information.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee all but admitting that he's going to vote against his own bipartisan health care bill no matter what's in it because other Republicans are going to vote against, too. Senator Chuck "pull the plug on grandma" Grassley, previously of "I'm on nail" infamy, telling MSNBC this morning that whatever bipartisan legislation eventually emerges out of committee in the Senate will be a bad deal by definition if he cannot get a lot of his fellow Republicans to support it.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GRASSLEY: I'm negotiating for Republicans and if I can't negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I'm not a very good representative of my party. It isn't a good deal if I can't sell my product to more Republicans.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: As for how Senator Grassley and his fellow Republicans really feel about the product that is the public option, the lawmaker today calling the government a predator.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GRASSLEY: When you've got the government running something, the government's not a fair competitor. The government is a predator, not a competitor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Let's turn to our own Lawrence O'Donnell, contributor to "The Huffington Post," former chief of staff to the Senate Finance Committee.

Good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right. If the Republican negotiating the health care reform bill in the Senate is now admitting he's got no intention of voting for that bill that comes out of the finance committee no matter how good it is, no matter is or isn't in it, why in the world has the president negotiated with these people? Why not just put the best bill forward, let alone give away something-or hint at giving away something as big as the public option?

O'DONNELL: Well, the strategic question is always: when do we abandon negotiations? And with someone like Grassley, it's tricky. You know, he has to make certain noises that appeal to his Republican base and appeal to his right side. I, for example, believe he voted against Sonia Sotomayor to shore up his credibility with the right side of the Republican Party for doing this kind of negotiation.

But, the things he has started to say recently are very, very disturbing. They should be disturbing to the White House. They should be worrying Chairman Baucus that this starts not to sound like someone who's coming back to negotiate in September. If that's the-if that's the reading they make at this point, then they really do have to abandon the negotiations and start thinking about what can they achieve by just pushing a bill forward with Democrats.

But that's the scary prospect because what you can achieve with Democrats alone does not look good right now.

OLBERMANN: Well, evidently it doesn't because much of the problem seems to be coming from the Democrats, including the chief one at the moment. In his op-ed over the weekend in "The New York Times," instead of taking on these Republicans, the president seemed to make another appeal for bipartisanship. What he wrote was: "Let's make sure we talk with one another and not over one another."

Has he misjudged who he is dealing with in this equation? Even if you don't want to consider it a fight, just an equation-because this is the first time I have ever looked at him and politically wondered if he has any idea what's going on here.

O'DONNELL: He has completely misjudged it but so has the White House. This is not his fault. He is following the conventional wisdom of the leaders of his party in the House and in the Senate and his staff from the White House.

And the lesson that they don't get here is that-they compromised at the outset, Keith. They didn't go for the best bill at the outset. The president said that if he was doing this his own way, it would be single-payer. It would be effectively Medicare for all. He would be with those 100 House members who want Medicare for all.

But he started-he compromised right off the bat to go to something that would preserve the private health insurance industry and then tortured that thing into a shape that they thought would be acceptable to the middle of American politics in the-all in the fear of if they went for Medicare for all they were terribly afraid of being called socialists.

Well, we see where that got them-trying to go over in this direction, this tortured way of supporting an industry that doesn't work. They are now still called socialists for having preserved the medical health insurance industry.

OLBERMANN: The bully on the playground is going to beat you up whether you fight back or not-is the lesson I think we all tried to learn in the fourth grade. And if-and if you don't learn it in the fourth grade, I guess you learn it when you're in the White House.

O'DONNELL: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Now, it is.

O'DONNELL: You know, Keith, the idea with the wise men is that, you know, we'll never be able to get single-payer. We'll never be able to get Medicare for all.

My experience, having failed at this kind of legislation in 1994, when I look back at it, there's a lot of people try to blame Hillary Clinton for making different mistakes at different times, and she made all of those mistakes. But I don't think it mattered. I think we were going to get nothing in the end because the basic concept of what we're trying to do was flawed.

And what the Democrats should have been doing for the last 15 years after that defeat is selling Medicare for all. And maybe 15 years later-

15 years after that, maybe with the election of this president, the Congress would be ready for a clean "yes or no" vote on that question.

OLBERMANN: All right. So.

O'DONNELL: And that would be worth fighting for.

OLBERMANN: All right. What does he fight for now? The best he's got right now is a reconciliation bill in the Senate and hopefully not losing 100 Democratic votes in the House. What can he-what can he achieve now?

O'DONNELL: Well, you see exactly where the problem is. Anthony Weiner is warning him, if you go too far in their direction, you're going to lose us.

In reconciliation in the Senate, I don't see anything good that can come out of that. There are so many ways to prevent elements of health care reform passing in reconciliation, requiring 60 votes to include those provisions that what you would get out of it would be a very ugly looking sausage.

OLBERMANN: Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC and "The Huffington Post"-great thanks, as always.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Of course, tell the truth about this debate in a more mainstream media venue and you get looked at like you're from out of space. Our pal Rachel found out yesterday on "Meet the Press" just before she used her illusory ray gun to vaporize Dick Armey. Arianna Huffington follows up on Rachel's point that Mr. Armey and the critics of reform are also still trying to undo Medicare.

And then there is the even bigger picture to consider tonight: if Nate Silver is right, and there are really only 41 firm Senate votes for the public option, and if Anthony Weiner is right, there are 100 House Democratic votes to lose if there isn't a public option, there is a train wreck ahead for this president and his party. Is there a silver lining somewhere or at least a siding to move that train onto? I'll ask Howard Dean.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The awful truth is told to unprepared broadcast TV audience: Many of those opposing health care reform actually also do want to destroy Medicare. Arianna Huffington picks up where Rachel Maddow left off yesterday.

And tonight's two mathematical forecast: It may only be 41, maybe 43 firm votes for the public option in the Senate. But between 57 and 100 Democrats might abandon the bill in the House if there's no public option. We'll run those numbers past Howard Dean.

The number for Glenn Beck meantime, 20 -- 20 advertisers now including Walmart have now ditched him after he called the president a racist.

"Worst Persons" is ahead on COUNTDOWN here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow violated the taboo yesterday-again. But this one that no one confront the opponents of health care reform about their political philosophy or even articulate what it really is.

In our fourth story on THE COUNTDOWN: She did it on broadcast TV during her first appearance on "Meet the Press." She did to Dick Armey, former House majority leader, currently louse minority leader running the group FreedomWorks which has helped stir up the ugly displays at town halls around the country, designed to kill health care reform.

But wait, there's more. Armey having just stepped down from its law firm after its pharmaceutical clients complained about the heat he was drawing, heat from critics like Rachel. Yesterday, she exposed just how far from the mainstream the opponents of reform really are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Do you really think that there's a major uprising of seniors wanting to get out of Medicare? I know you're suing the government for your right personally to get out of Medicare, but do you really think that's the problem, that Medicare-that seniors hate Medicare and they want out?

ARMEY: No. I didn't say that. Most seniors-I was talking to my minister the other day. My minister says, "Dick, I'm so fortunate I'm in Medicare." I said, "Bless you, my friend, that you get to be in it if you choose to be so."

But if you give a government program and you let me choose to be in or choose to be out, that's generosity. If you force me in, irrespective of my desires, that's tyranny.

Now, if Medicare's $46 trillion in the red, with no idea how we're going to pay for it, why do they not let people who don't want to be in out?

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: This is a really important point.

ARMEY: This defies logic.

MADDOW: The anti-health care reform lobby thinks that Medicare is tyranny, OK?

ARMEY: I did-I said.

MADDOW: This is an-I mean, you said in 1995 that "Medicare is a program I would have no part of in a free world."

ARMEY: Right. Absolutely right.

MADDOW: You said in 2002, "We're going to have to bite the bullet on Social Security and phase it out over a period of time."

ARMEY: And I'm going to enumerate exactly what I'm talking about.

Medicare.

MADDOW: Americans need to know this is your position and this the position of the anti-health care reform lobby.

DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS" HOST: I'm going to-I'm going to stop this.

ARMEY: The Medicare law that was written and.

MADDOW: It's very important to understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The anti-reform lobby, anti-Medicare, anti-Social Security.

Of course, direct confrontation is not the only means for exposing the right's radical agenda. There is also time travel. In 1961, the part of Dick Armey was played by actor Ronald Reagan whose jeremiad against social medicine-I think they called it a "special comment"-was unearthed by the right last week to attack Obama's reform.

And yet as "Media Matters" and others report, the socialized medicine that Reagan was attacking then was also Medicare which passed over Reagan's objections and became one of the government's most popular functions. More popular than private insurance despite the dire warnings which have failed to materialize in the 48 years since Reagan, like Armey, warned what the tyranny of Medicare would entail.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, 1961)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: First, you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They're equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then the doctors aren't equally divided geographically.

So, a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him, you can't live in that town. They already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. And from here it's only a short step to dictating where he will go.

One of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America, when men were free.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Holy Sacagawea. To that man (ph), freedom died in 1961?

With us tonight: Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of HuffingtonPost.com.

Thanks for your time, Arianna.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right. Let me ask you Mr. Reagan's question from the black and white videotape and records days. Do you remember what it was once like in America when men were free before Medicare?

HUFFINGTON: Well, actually, I don't have to have such a good memory because all you have to do is look at what's happening in America now to people under 65 who don't have health insurance or who even have health insurance but can't pay the deductibles.

And we saw what happened last week, Keith, right here, outside Los Angeles, in Inglewood, when people had to line up overnight to receive the kind of care that is normally provided by doctors and nurses in third world countries-and they lined up and waited for eight days. And by the end of these eight days, there still weren't enough doctors and nurses to see them. hat is what it looked like when men were free.

OLBERMANN: Connect the dots between that Mr. Reagan of 1961 and the Medicare tyranny of Mr. Armey of 2009, if you'd be so kind.

HUFFINGTON: There are two parts of the connective tissue. The first part is the fearmongering-the fearmongering that didn't work then to try and paint the arrival of Medicare as immediately lead into some totalitarian state. And right now, we're seeing any kind of effort to bring about any form of universal health care as supposedly leading to socialized medicine.

And the second part of the connective tissue is really the underlying philosophy behind what Reagan and Armey are saying. And that's not so much a philosophy. Actually, it's a theology because it's impervious to any facts or evidence, and it was given perfect expression in Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address in 1981 when he said, "Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem."

They're convinced that anything government does-from Medicare and Social Security onwards-is a problem.

OLBERMANN: Bring this back to health care reform and today. What is the lesson that we can apply from that Reagan '61-Armey '09 view of Medicare to the overall picture of reforming health care now?

HUFFINGTON: Well, the lesson actually is what you and Lawrence were talking about a little while ago. And this is that Democrats need to stop appeasing Republicans, believing that somehow they're going to be able to give up enough to bring them along.

You know, Senator Coburn yesterday on "Meet the Press" again, made it very clear. When Gregory asked him, "So, if the public option were not there would you and your friends sign up?" And he said, "Well, you know, there are also the 87 government programs that are there that include 150 federal employees."

So here we are, you know, Keith. There isn't enough anybody can give up. You can give up the public option. You can give up 50 of those government programs and they're still not going to be happy.

Then here's what's going to happen. Something is going to pass. It's not going to be real reform. It's going to be reform in name only. It's not going to work, and then they're going to turn around and blame it on government because they will-there will have been some government in it.

OLBERMANN: All right. Close this off for me. Before the conversation got turned elsewhere yesterday, Rachel was saying it was very important for Americans to understand that the anti-reform lobby also opposes Medicare and Social Security. Finish her thought if you would and explain why.

HUFFINGTON: Well, it is very important to understand, because then you understand that they are truly the lunatic fringe. They are the people who oppose anything because their philosophy is that we need to make government so small that, as Grover Norquist said, you can drown it in a bath tub.

That's really what we're dealing with. And it doesn't matter how much we give up. Ultimately, if the government is involved in any way at all-which it would have to be-they will be opposing it or they will drown it so much that they can then oppose it as another failure of government.

OLBERMANN: Everything since 1929 has been an encroachment.

Arianna Huffington of "The Huffington Post"-as always, great thanks.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Also, ample parking day or night, people spouting howdy neighbor. But mostly in this case, it's the ample parking part. They meant to do that.

And the first couple were just symbolic; number six through 10 were more serious. Now, a number of advertisers who have canceled has reached at least 20. It includes CVS and Walmart.

"Worst Persons"-ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Best in a moment. And Fox News fully explained by a new opinion poll.

First on this date in this city in 1888 was born Edgar Montillion Woolley, a Yale-educated socialite who became a brilliant stage and movie actor to be forever remembered as the ultimate irascible curmudgeon actor in "The Man who came to Dinner" filmed in 1942 and still as fresh as a daisy and as cutting as a knife thrower.

No line has ever been delivered with more comedic venom than the one the wheelchair-bound Woolley spits at a nurse who tries to take some chocolate away. He says "My great aunt Jennifer ate a whole box of candy every day of her life. She lived to be 102. And when she had been dead three days, she looked better than you do now."

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, where they have their own ideas on how best to get rid of old beaters. Why turn in your used car for a government rebate when you can instead drive it off a cliff into a gravel pit?

It's the "crash for clunkers" program. And this is the brain child of a guy named Bob Maragas (ph). It's his gravel pit. The cars are donated, and public admission is free. The cars are controlled by remote and the video was shot from all angles for you, the home viewer.

All makes and models were launched, including a camper tailing a boat and a pickup pulling a round baler. But the show stopper was the grand finale. Not just one full-sized yellow school bus but, wait for it, two yellow full-sized school buses! Hey, Automan (ph) would be proud.

Now a follow up from a story from last week. You may remember this picture of the couple in front of Canada's Lake Minnewanka that was crashed by a squirrel. The couple in question, Melissa and Jackson Brandts appeared on the "Today Show" this morning sans rodent to vouch for the image and brought several of the before pictures, snapping several non-squirrel shots with the remote shutter release, when you know who suddenly arrived.

We of course never doubted the couple's claim in the first place, but the verification of that image today came as a complete shock to the photographed prairie dog's evil cousin.

Governor Pawlenty credits the Democrats with climate change, making the climate favorable to the GOP. Former DNC chair Howard Dean responds to what sure looks like bad augers for the Dems. And Tom DeLay on "Dancing with the Stars." He does realize the show is for has-beens right?

These stories ahead, but first a countdown of the best persons in the world.

Dateline Washington-number three, best delivered misunderstanding on how inner tubes work. Dana Perino, Mr. Bush's press secretary, trying to revive the swing at a miss at paranoia that Major Garrett of Fox News tried with the current press secretary last week.

She said "Imagine if it was three years ago and all of a sudden people across the country unsolicited started getting e-mails from Karl Rove. The media would have gone ballistic and demanded answers, and I would have felt obligated to give some.

I think the standard should be that the Obama administration should be held to the same standard. I know that if I all of a sudden started getting e-mails I would wonder how did they get my e-mail address?"

Are you aware Ms. Perino of the share or e-mail this button at WhiteHouse.gov, the one that was there when you were press secretary and lets you e-mail something to somebody on the White House site? That's how David Axelrod might get your address, or Karl Rove might get your address?

And the emergency exits are here, here, and here.

Dateline Olney, Maryland. Number two-best TV insight about TV news. The Research 2000 poll for the Daily Kos on the three cable networks breaking down who watches fixed news and believes it.

The answer is southern white guys -- 46 percent of southerners say in terms of accuracy and trustworthiness as a source of news FOX is reliable or extremely reliable. Contrast that to the Midwest, where 46 percent say it's unreliable or extremely unreliable.

Only 11 percent of Hispanics think FOX is reliable, only 8 percent of assorted minorities, only 5 percent of African-Americans.

Well, that explains all of those hosts, don't it?

Finally, Dateline Brooklyn. Number one-best cell phone app. Mr. Andre Milnikov (ph) says he was home the other day when somebody called his cell, a Sony Ericson PDA, which was sitting about two feet from his stove.

Not only did his incoming call button light up, but so did the stove. The boiler switched from off to high. The makers of the electronic-based stove say they'll send somebody over immediately to fix it.

Unfortunately the stove is a magic chef made by Maytag, so of course the Maytag repairman does have that cliche of slothful time wasting to live up to.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The public option is under attack, and while one Democrat in the Senate says it's dead there, another in the House says the bill will be if there's no public option in it.

Our third story on the "Countdown," the Republicans suddenly begin tongue the odds are in their favor. Even Nate Silver from 538.com confirms there is ample reason for Democrats to be worried, perhaps deeply so, about 2010.

Governor Howard Dean weighing in on that and the public option math and joins me presently.

But first, plenty of red meat on the menu for an audience of Republican state legislators and go-PACs next generation dinner. Minnesota's governor Tim Pawlenty raising his own profile in addition to the possibility of a Republican rival, saying-the revival, rather-saying the debate on health care reform may be just what the GOP needs.

Quote, "It appears President Obama is making great progress on climate change. He's changing the political climate in the country back to Republican." That is considered wit.

"We need to be calling out the flaws and misguided decisions of the Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration." The Dems facing what Nate Silver calls significant enthusiasm gap will likely will lose in the House and Senate seats at least. That's nothing new, considering, as Silver reminds us, the party that wins the White House almost always loses a good number of seats at the midterms.

Silver also notes with wild card issues like health care the Dems are in the realm of possibility of losing control of the House next year. Opting out of the public option could be what sends the Democrats over the edge.

Silver puts the solid Senate votes for the public option at just 43, or 41 if do you not include Ted Kennedy and Dianne Feinstein.

"Is the public option really dead?" He writes. "Probably. Perhaps the better question is whether the public option was ever really alive."

And as promised, joining me now, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, himself a doctor, former chair of the Democratic Party, now a consultant at McKenna, Long, and Aldridge, LLP, as well as Democracy for America and contributor to CNBC.

Governor, thanks for coming on again.

HOWARD DEAN, (D) FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: Thanks for having me. It's getting to be a regular show here.

OLBERMANN: We have a lot to talk about. Where is the public option right now?

DEAN: Yes, we do. I think it's in much better shape than people think.

The Republicans have made it really clear-I loved Senator Grassley today, when they said, well the public option is dead. Can you vote for the bill? He hemmed and hawed and said even "If it's a good bill, I'm not sure I can sell it."

There won't be a single Republican vote for this bill, I don't care what in it. They're just not going to do it. And the vast majority of Democrats know, including the president, I think, that you can't have real health care reform without giving the American people the choice between a public and a private option.

And I think that it's going to pass and I think it'll have a public option in it, and I think it'll be on the president's desk in December.

OLBERMANN: But right now, I mean, our friend Nate is not exactly bad in his number crunching over the years. He counts 43 possibly, possibly as low as 41 firm votes supporting public option in the Senate, and we have Anthony Weiner's remarks that a hundred House Democrats are willing to walk away if it is not in the bill. We know the letter was signed by 57 of them.

Is this not the rock and the hard place mathematically?

DEAN: Yes. They'll get through this.

Look, the Senate is a complicated, difficult place, but the majority of Democrats want a public option. The blue dogs have signed off on a public option. They need to do that because that's what the American people want. And at the end of the day, that's what we'll have to have.

What you're seeing now is a bit of the old Democratic Party. When I got to Washington as the chair of the DNC, the new chair of the DNC, I found the Democrats thinking if they were only a little more like the Republicans they'd win things.

That is a fatal way to go. You lose your base. You get people to have a lack of enthusiasm, as Nate Silver was talking about, who I think is one of the very smartest political analysts in the country today.

And the other smart political analyst is Bill Clinton that says, you wait. The president is going to sign a bill, and his numbers are going to go right back up again. And I think that's exactly what's going to happen.

OLBERMANN: I'm not doubting, even though I said earlier I was doubting the president-I'm certainly not doubting President Clinton's acumen, and I'm not doubting yours. I'd just like to know a little bit more of what the silver lining is. Is there some strategy that the rest of us just aren't seeing at the moment?

DEAN: No. I don't think there is a strategy. I think there's a little fear. You get out there, you get beat up by all these right winger, tea bag people, and all that kind of stuff. And you just think, well, maybe.

This is a hangover from the old days. Remember how gun shy the Democrats were? They couldn't wait to send us to Iraq. They all voted for Bush's tax cuts, or a lot of them did. You have to stand up and mean something.

I think the president is better off just saying, look, here's what we're going to do and here's how we're going to do it. He believes that you ought to be bipartisan. I think it would be great to be bipartisan.

But first of all, being bipartisan is not worth being bipartisan to have a lousy bill. And second of all, the Republicans never had any intention of being bipartisan.

So let's get our bill on, and let's do what Franklin Roosevelt did. Let's pass the program. People are going to be very happy with it. And this will all be forgotten and we'll pick up seats in the fall of 2010 just like Franklin Roosevelt did.

OLBERMANN: All right. Then some advice to those of us who would agree with you that the public option is the hinge of any reform bill. Without it, it really isn't reform. It is a thing that puts the pressure on the insurance industry. It is the thing that will benefit the most number of people other than inclusiveness for overall health care.

What do those of us who are dismayed by recent events like this past weekend, how best do we apply positive pressure to get the right outcome? And I don't mean against the Republicans. I mean towards Democrats.

DEAN: Well, at the risk of gross self-promotion, get my book "Howard Dean."

(LAUGHTER)

Well, I tell you why. It's now on iPhone. You get the iPhone app, you can not only read the book, you can also use it to send your congressman all kinds of e-mails, sign up for petitions, mobilize yourself.

People have got to get mobilized. We elected President Obama by going door to door. This campaign is not over. That was the beginning of change in America, not the end.

And we've got to mobilize ourselves and make sure that people understand that the best thing you can possibly do is allow people under 65 the same choice that people over 65 have. Let people sign up for a public program.

It's more efficient. You don't get kicked off. You don't get charged more if you're sick. It's a good program.

But if you like your insurance, and about 65 percent of the American people who have insurance like it a lot, they can keep it, and they should keep it.

This is a hybrid system. It makes sense. The choice of reform is left up to the individual American people. There is nothing more American than letting the American people decide, and no Democrat should be afraid of pushing that because we're right and they're wrong.

OLBERMANN: Governor Howard Dean, former head of the DNC, whose book is available in book, Kindle, audio, now iPhone app, and I believe soon in liquid form. Great thanks.

(LAUGHTER)

DEAN: Thanks.

OLBERMANN: Other would-be candidates ask friends, look at polls, empanel focus groups. She says she'll decide on whether to run for president based on a while-you-were-out message from god.

And, yes, you're in a public school in the United States of America, and as of the beginning of the impending school year, you have to take a class about the bible.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she will dissect the next army-no, that's a Freudian slip-the next actions of Dick Armey in the Astroturf movement against health care reform. Armey-yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Call it "Dancing with the Exterminators." Can Tom DeLay also rig the voting on a network reality dance show?

First, the worst. Senator Tom Coburn says American politicians deserve the threats even physical ones they've been getting, the Senator apparently forgetting he is an American politician.

And the good news-Glenn Beck loses Wal-Mart, CVS, Travelocity. The number of advertisers bailing out hit's 20.

Worst persons next. You're watching "Countdown" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Tom Delay on "Dancing with the Stars." Michelle "Joan of Arc" Bachmann on hearing messages from god about whether she should run for president. That's next.

But first, "Countdown's" number two story, tonight worst person in the world. Glenn beck, no longer brought to you by GMAC Financial Services, or by Wal-Mart, or CVS, or by Best Buy.

Today they and four other firms have increased to at least 20 the number of advertisers who have dropped out of sponsoring his program after Beck called the president "racist with a deep-seeded hatred of white people."

Our runner-up, Senator Tom Coburn lost in the Dick Armey fun yesterday on "Meet the Press," this bit of insanity from the gentleman from Oklahoma.

David Gregory asked him about the tone of the health care debate, specifically referencing death threats, Nazi references, the water the tree of liberty quote from Jefferson.

And Coburn actually replies, "I'm troubled anytime we stop having confidence in our government.

But we've earned it. This debate isn't the health care. Health care is the symptom. The debate is an uncontrolled federal government that's going to run 50 percent of everything we're spending this year. We're borrowing from the next generation."

That was a passive-aggressive inducement to violence against elected officials by an elected official, and one from a state in which a man named Timothy McVeigh was arrested wearing one of those god-damned water the tree liberty shirts.

Mr. Coburn should be impeached.

But our winner is the Texas state school board. As the new school year begins from Marshall to Midland, it will be mandatory that all Texas public schools offer information in their curriculum about the Bible.

The law passed two years ago for implementation this school year. And there it is, mandatory religious education in the public schools for believers, for nonbelievers, for those of other faiths, for believers who believe in the separation of church and state, doesn't matter.

So this request to Texas-secede. please?

The state school board there in the great theocratic nation of Texas, today's worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Ever heard a voice telling you to run for president? Ever heard another voice telling you to go down to the CVS while not wearing pants?

In our number one story on the "Countdown," Congressman Michelle Bachmann hears voices that enable her to dance around the idea of running for president.

Meantime, on a different career trajectory, the disgraced former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay will soon appear on "Dancing with the Stars." That is a pun.

Ms. Bachmann first. World Net daily asked her in an exclusive interview whether she might one day want to run for the presidency, and her answer, "If I felt that's what the lord was calling me to do, I would do it. When I have sensed that the lord is calling me to do something I've said yes to it.

But I will not seek a higher office if god is not calling me to do it. That's really my standard. If I am called to serve in that realm, I would serve. But if I'm not called, I wouldn't do it." Call collect.

We do know that Mr. DeLay got a call to dance. He'll be on "Dancing with the Stars" this fall. "The New York Times" gently described that as a show where "The contestants are usually athletes and entertainers, most of them heading toward professional obscurity who are looking for a boost in their careers."

Not having yet reached that point but only this one, the "Countdown" stage of one's career, here's Paul F. Tompkins, comedian. Good evening, Paul.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Resolve this one for me from the get-go. George Bush hears god telling him to run for president or invade Iraq, and he becomes president and invades Iraq. And Michelle Bachmann anticipates hearing god tell her to run for president, or not. And she'll base her decision on that.

If you hear a voice telling you that you're the next center fielder of the Yankees, they send you to a hotel room with rubber walls. Why the difference?

TOMPKINS: Yes. I guess people only take people's word for it when it's god right? Like I guess they're afraid to make a wrong call in that department?

They want to give god the benefit of the doubt, because it's sort of like you're saying god's a liar, I suppose, if you call somebody crazy for saying god talked to them.

It is very Old Testament. I'm hoping it's in Michelle Bachmann's case it might be one of those Abraham-like tricks, where god tells her to run for president, and then at the last minute says no, don't. That was just a test.

OLBERMANN: And still in this world of the birthers and the death eaters, there have been stranger things than Michelle Bachmann running for president when and if she hears a voice in her head, have there not?

TOMPKINS: Well, if you suppose that there are stranger things than Michelle Bachmann running for president, then you need to go back to supposing school, because there aren't. I think that no matter what god tells her, the capabilities of crack pots to mobilize on that grand a scale I think will be sorely tested.

OLBERMANN: I don't know. Again, I'm getting something in here telling me I am the next center fielder for the Yankees, not you, so I'm heading up to the stadium right now to get my uniform.

This unintentionally humorous lead on Ms. Bachmann from World Net Daily described her as, quote, "One of the leading defenders of liberty and conservative principles on Capitol Hill."

This was the same person who thought the AmeriCorp that her son joined was full of reeducation camps and doesn't want anybody to fill out the census because that could be some sort of implant in your brain, or something. What would her signature issue be?

TOMPKINS: Well, she might try to improve America's relations with North America.

OLBERMANN: Good.

TOMPKINS: I don't know. I think that she might tell people, you know, look, you don't like being told what to do, but you do like being told what to think. So I'm your candidate.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN: And my running mate, the invisible man standing next to me.

Let's look at Mr. Delay. This guy was pushed out of the House, charged with conspiracy, campaign finance violations. So the dance thing would be like a step up from where he is right now, correct?

TOMPKINS: Yes. Well, does the word "disgraced," not mean anything anymore? Why do we bother having words if they just don't have a meaning anymore?

Like how are they going to get around like the idea of how he's famous on "Dancing with the Stars?" Are they going to mention the disenfranchisement of black voters in Texas, or are they going to just kind of gloss over that and call him "The Hammer"?

OLBERMANN: That raises the point of how he'll win, right? Because he'll just redistrict any of the other voters who, or judges who might vote for the other pseudo -celebrities?

TOMPKINS: Well, he's out of luck there, because I think, especially in Texas, they always just vote for the football player.

OLBERMANN: Oh, and he's up against another one, Michael Irvin this time. That's the end of the road right there.

Comedian Paul F. Tompkins, still a been rather than a has. Thanks for being that, and thanks for being with us tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

TOMPKINS: God bless you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for this, the 2,300th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.

I'm Keith Olbermann. That's the news. Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

And now, having destroyed Dick Armey on the intellectual battlefield, she will, like the ancient warriors of the Andes, now consume the intellectual carcass to gain its strength while mixing a Mohito.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow-Rachel?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Keith. Could we please bottle that and use it when I need a little lift?

OLBERMANN: Yes. It'll age well as has the original version of it.

MADDOW: Thank you very much, Keith. Appreciate that.

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

END

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