updated 9/1/2010 1:21:34 PM ET 2010-09-01T17:21:34

Guests: Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Howard Fineman, Justin Elliott

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Good evening from New York.

           

President Barack Obama will address the nation a little more than a minute from now.  It is time, he will say, to turn the page.  Turn the page, he will say, in an unusual twist.  In a speech about the end of the combat mission in Iraq, to focus on jobs at home.

It was September 11th, 2001, that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to former Bush adviser, Richard Clarke, said Afghanistan did not have enough targets to bomb.  Iraq, he said, had lots of good targets.

On January 31st, 2003, according to an official British account of their meeting, President Bush told Prime Minister Blair he was considering flying a plane painted to look like it was the U.N.‘s into Iraqi airspace to draw fire, providing a rationale to invade, even if inspectors found no evidence of WMD.

On March 19th, the United States invaded Iraq.

The war would drag on for seven more years, more than 1 million Americans serving there, 4,427 never saw home again, 100,000 Iraqis at least died and the religious violence uncorked by Saddam Hussein‘s fall.

And through all that, the man behind September 11th, Osama bin Laden, untouched.

Today, Iraq‘s prime minister declared Iraq sovereign and independent.

Tomorrow, Vice President Biden will preside over a formal change of command ceremony in Iraq, transitioning from the combat mission to Operation New Dawn.

Tonight, from the Oval Office of the White House, here is the president of the United States.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Good evening. 

Tonight, I would like to talk to you about the end of our combat mission in Iraq, the ongoing security challenges we face, and the need to rebuild our nation here at home.

I know this historic moment comes at a time of great uncertainty for many Americans.  We‘ve now been through nearly a decade of war.  We‘ve endured a long and painful recession.  And sometimes in the midst of these storms the future that we‘re trying to build for our nation—a future of lasting peace and long-term prosperity—may seem beyond our reach.

But this milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment.  It should also serve as a message to the world that the United States of America intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in this young century.

From this desk, seven-and-a-half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq.  Much has changed since that night.  A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency.  Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart.  Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded.  Our relations abroad were strained.  Our unity at home was tested.

These are the rough waters encountered during the course of one of America‘s longest wars.  Yet there has been one constant amidst these shifting tides:  At every turn, America‘s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. 

As commander-in-chief, I am incredibly proud of their service.  And like all Americans, I am awed by their sacrifice and by the sacrifices of their families.

The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.  They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people.  Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future. 

They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people, trained Iraqi security forces, and took out terrorist leaders.  Because of our troops and civilians—and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people—Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.

So tonight I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.

This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office.  Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq‘s security forces and support its government and people.  That‘s what we‘ve done. 

We‘ve removed nearly 100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.  We‘ve closed or transferred to the Iraqis hundreds of bases.  And we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq.

This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security.  U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq‘s cities last summer, and Iraqi forces have moved into the lead with considerable skill and commitment to their fellow citizens. 

Even as Iraq continues to suffer terrorist attacks, security incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began.  And Iraqi forces have taken the fight to al Qaeda, removing much of its leadership in Iraqi-led operations.

This year also saw Iraq hold credible elections that drew a strong turnout.  A caretaker administration is in place as Iraqis form a government based on the results of that election. 

Tonight, I encourage Iraq‘s leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government that is just, representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people. 

And when that government is in place, there should be no doubt:  The Iraqi people will have a strong partner in the United States.  Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq‘s future is not.

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission:  advising and assisting Iraq‘s security forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counterterrorism missions; and protecting our civilians.  Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. 

As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians—diplomats, aid workers, and advisers—are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world.  That‘s a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.

This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq, one based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. 

Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission.  Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians, and try to spark sectarian strife.  But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. 

Iraqis are a proud people.  They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction.  They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets.  Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders.  What America can do—and will do—is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

Ending this war is not only in Iraq‘s interest; it‘s in our own.  The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people.  We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. 

We‘ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people, a belief that, out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.  Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibilities.  Now it‘s time to turn the page.

As we do, I‘m mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home.  Here, too, it‘s time to turn the page.  This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W.  Bush.  It‘s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset.  Yet no one can doubt President Bush‘s support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security. 

As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it.  And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women and our hopes for Iraqis‘ future.

The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead.  And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.

Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11.  Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions about our mission there.  But we must never lose sight of what‘s at stake. 

As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists.  And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.  In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders—and hundreds of Al Qaeda‘s extremist allies—have been killed or captured around the world.

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who—under the command of General David Petraeus—are fighting to break the Taliban‘s momentum.  As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.  But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves.  That‘s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan‘s problems.  And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility.  The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure.  But make no mistake:  this transition will begin—because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people‘s.

Indeed, one of the lessons of our effort in Iraq is that American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone.  We must use all elements of our power—including our diplomacy, our economic strength, and the power of America‘s example—to secure our interests and stand by our allies.  And we must project a vision of the future that is based not just on our fears, but also on our hopes, a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist around the world, but also the limitless possibility of our time.

Today, old adversaries are at peace, and emerging democracies are potential partners.  New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas.  A new push for peace in the Middle East will begin here tomorrow.  Billions of young people want to move beyond the shackles of poverty and conflict.  As the leader of the free world, America will do more than just defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction—we will also lead among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people.

That effort must begin within our own borders.  Throughout our history, America has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its link to our own liberty and security.  But we have also understood that our nation‘s strength and influence abroad must be firmly anchored in our prosperity at home.  And the bedrock of that prosperity must be a growing middle class.

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity.  We have spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas.  This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.  For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.  As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation‘s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.  They have met every test that they faced.  Now, it is our turn.  Now, it is our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for—the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.

Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work.  To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy.  We must jump-start industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil.  We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs.  This will be difficult.  But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.

Part of that responsibility is making sure that we honor our commitments to those who have served our country with such valor.  As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.  This is a sacred trust.  That is why we have already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades.  We are treating the signature wounds of today‘s wars, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned. 

And we are funding a post-9/11 G. I, Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education.  Just as the G. I.  Bill helped those who fought World War II—including my grandfather—become the backbone of our middle class, so today‘s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy.  Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.

Two weeks ago, America‘s final combat brigade in Iraq—the Army‘s Fourth Stryker Brigade—journeyed home in the pre-dawn darkness.  Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles made the trip from Baghdad, the last of them passing into Kuwait in the early morning hours.  Over seven years before, American troops and coalition partners had fought their way across similar highways, but this time no shots were fired.  It was just a convoy of brave Americans, making their way home.

Of course, the soldiers left much behind.  Some were teenagers when the war began.  Many have served multiple tours of duty, far from their families who bore a heroic burden of their own, enduring the absence of a husband‘s embrace or a mother‘s kiss. 

Most painfully, since the war began 55 members of the Fourth Stryker Brigade made the ultimate sacrifice, part of over 4,400 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq. 

As one staff sergeant said, “I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot.”

Those Americans gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts of our people for over two centuries.  Along with nearly 1. 5 million Americans who have served in Iraq, they fought in a faraway place for people they never knew.  They stared into the darkest of human creations—war—and helped the Iraqi people seek the light of peace.

In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation.  Every American who serves joins an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar -- Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own. 

Our troops are the steel in our ship of state.  And though our nation may be travelling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.

Thank you.  May God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America, and all who serve her.

OLBERMANN:  President Barack Obama, from the Oval Office in the White House, addressing the end of the formal U.S. combat mission in Iraq, what it means for the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, and perhaps, most importantly, in terms of the context of this speech, what it means for America‘s future, particularly her economic future here at home.

Joining me now, Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC‘s “HARDBALL” and Rachel Maddow, of course, of MSNBC‘s “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”

Rachel, I‘ll start with you.  My contention is that‘s an economic speech that happened to be entitled “Iraq.”  What do you think?

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”:  I think that the president is trying to make a very political point in a very un-political way.  I mean, this speech really was in terms of partisan stuff, in terms of how this war was started, in terms of what the Bush administration did to get us in this war, it was incredibly restrained—even more than restrained, it was remarkably generous.  It‘s a “bury the hatchet, turn the page” sort of speech.

But he‘s making this point by bringing it home to the economy, by saying, yes, we had to borrow all this money to fight these wars and it was incredibly financially irresponsible to do it.  It‘s a much less charged accusation essentially toward the last—toward the last administration and allows him to talk about the stuff he would rather be talking about, which is not George Bush, but what we need to do now on his economic agenda.

OLBERMANN:  But, Chris, is it, in fact, that subtle?  Because he said, the first line of this after the “good evening” was: “I‘d like to talk about the end of our combat mission in Iraq, the ongoing security challenges we face, and the need to rebuild our nation here at home.”

“Rebuild” is a strong word and he went on to address the economy as—and contextualize Iraq as a principal reason for the difficulty of the economy.  That‘s not subtle.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  No, it‘s such a hard speech to give.  First of all, it‘s very rare in American history that you see a president draw the line on war and say, this is enough.  Ike did it back in ‘53 with Korea.  He simply said, “The war with Korea is over, live with it.”

This president has had to draw the line and say, we‘re leaving.  It‘s going to be messy over there.  The neoconservatives, if you will, the hawks, will see all kinds of reason why we have to go back in there, like the French army occasionally has to go back into Africa, French West Africa.

But, you know, we‘re not going to do it.  And here‘s a president saying, no, it‘s over.

Rich Engel said this a couple of weeks ago when we covered the combat brigade coming out of there.  We‘re not going back in.  That‘s a hell of a decision by this president and he‘s got to stand on that line and take it for weeks and weeks as he fights for a better economy at home.

So, I think that‘s a big story, too—as well as what you guys are talking about, which is, I agree with you, he‘s had to argue a peace dividend here.  I mean, we haven‘t heard that phrase in a long time, a peace dividend.  In other words, bad economics, bad triage, bad use of resources all these 10 years, and now, we‘ve got to shift them back to home to a country that‘s in bad shape.  And I think it‘s tough.

But, I think, I‘ll go back to that point.

OLBERMANN:  Yes?

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a president, like Kennedy when he said, we‘re not going into the Bay of Pigs, we‘re not going to bring the airplanes in, we‘re not going to go and attack Cuba in ‘62.  It‘s very hard to draw the line on the military and say, it‘s over, we‘ve done enough, we‘re coming home.  And I think it‘s going to be a hard and messy job ahead.

OLBERMANN:  But he said, it‘s time to turn the page, Chris.  And he said, relative to the contentious issue at home, here too, it is time to turn the page.

Will that, do you think, satisfy either the side that either believed in, lied for, or stayed invested in this war, and those who opposed it?  Is it too much in the middle?

MATTHEWS:  Well, he is in the middle.  I mean, all of us, I think, took a pretty smart view on this war from the beginning, heavy skepticism, and I think that idea was proven right.  There were very few arguments made for this war that were ever held out to be true—ever.  By even the most hardened hawk, I think, has had a hard time defending any of the case made for this war.

And, certainly, killing over 100,000 Iraqis on international television has not been a way to win the hearts and mind of the Arab or Islamic world.  No one can seriously argue that.

But here‘s a president who‘s came in, named Gates to be his defense

chief, has kept him from the Bush administration, brought Hillary Clinton -

someone who‘s to his right on the war issues, as secretary of state, brought in Petraeus.  I mean, he‘s kept the line of command—the chain of command very strong, down the middle.  I think it‘s a hard thing to be in the middle politically.

           

You, my colleagues, know this is the hardest place in the world to take a centrist position.  Having taken a dovish position on the war, he now has to take a centrist position the way he‘s ending it and continue to prosecute the war in Afghanistan.  It‘s a hard thing to do to go to the center on a war.

OLBERMANN:  Rachel, has that been—but is that consistent, in your opinion, Rachel, with what the rest of this administration has looked like?  Because that one sentence in there, “It‘s well known,” referring to President Bush, “that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset.  Yet, no one could doubt President Bush‘s support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security.”

There are people who support President Obama who would howl at hearing that said aloud more than once.  Once again, contextualize this in terms of the entire administration.

MADDOW:  Yes.  I‘m—I mean, I think that we shouldn‘t get past how remarkable it is, how much the proponents of the Iraq war are getting off easy here.  I mean, we‘ve got Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton and these guys, like out now offering their suggestions on what ought to happen in Iraq next.  Paul Wolfowitz who said that the war would pay for itself—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MADDOW:  -- that we wouldn‘t have to spend any money there.

And to have in this speech, as combat operations are ending, to have, as you point out, Keith, the president not only not addressing the circumstances in which he we went to war, but these kind words for President Bush, describing his commitment to our security, describing the recklessness with which President Bush discarded that national security in favor of this war of choice, which only diminished our security, and was responsible probably for the Afghanistan war still going on today, for the depths of people who have died in Afghanistan after the time, after which that war would have ended had we not gone to Iraq—not to mention all of the people who died in Iraq.  To talk about him having a demonstrated commitment to our security, having started this war on the terms on which he started it—I mean, it‘s beyond restraint from President Obama and anybody in the pro-Iraq war, pro-Bush camp who doesn‘t feel like they‘ve been given the greatest political present they never deserved who‘s not listening to this speech.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, they won‘t.

Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, great thanks.

To me, it read kind of like the end there that if you substituted the end of Moby Dick with this sentence: my boat sank, the end, it‘s all over, nothing more to see here.  That could have been that round up.

We‘ll discuss the economic implications of this speech in the days to come.

Great thanks to you both.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll be live again at 10:00 with highlights of the president‘s speech and analysis from the former chief of staff of Secretary of State Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.

Now, there‘s the tea party.  Its first vote count war in Alaska, its mortgage-defaulting Senate candidate in Delaware, and Chris and Rachel and I get trashed in Nevada.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As the vote count continues in Alaska, the Tea Party Express circulates a petition expressing its concern on behalf of its Senate hopeful, Joe Miller.  The election could be stolen, the opposition is hatching a plot involving teams of lawyers and political hacks to influence the counting of ballots.

Our third story, the Tea Party is trying to arm the Republicans, what the Republicans usually try on the Democrats.  This hour, state election officials are counting outstanding ballots.  “The Anchorage Daily News” reporting that the Miller camp accusing the NRSC and incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski‘s campaign of making phone calls to absentee voters.  Both groups have denied this. 

Mr. Miller, however, tell ABC News that Chairman John Cornyn, quote, “gave me his word that he was pulling his team out,” team of lawyers that is, prompting NRSC to clarify that the sole attorney sent to Alaska was there to assist Murkowski with the ballot count.  And that attorney returned to D.C. after 72 hours. 

Meanwhile, the Miller campaign lawyer, who also happens to be Sarah Palin‘s personal lawyer, Thomas Van Flain (ph), requesting state troopers to be dispatched to regional election offices, accusing the Murkowski camp of possible vote tampering and alleging one of Murkowski‘s bail out—rather, ballot observers brought an illegal Smartphone into the room.  Murkowski calling Mr. Miller, quote, “paranoid,” unquote.

Earlier, Mr. Miller slightly modifying some of his original claims. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE MILLER ®, ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE:  The only way that we‘d ever challenge anything is if there was evidence there was some sort of vote tampering.  Right now, we don‘t have that.  We certainly have evidence of improper actions within certain areas.  But those aren‘t at all I think casting any pal upon the ultimate results that we‘re going to see in part today and also later on as the rest of the votes are tallied. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Tea Party Express, which has fueled Mr. Miller‘s campaign with half a million dollars to unseat Murkowski, now setting sites on yet another Senate primary race, this time in Delaware.  The group opposing Christine O‘Donnell, who will face nine term Republican Congressman Mike Castle.  Ms. O‘Donnell a self described “nationally recognized political commentator and marketing consultant,” even though financial disclosure filings are telling a different story.  “Huffington Post” reports last year Ms. O‘Donnell brought in just 5,800 dollars in income.  She also reportedly defaulted on her mortgage, owes 11,000 dollars in back taxes and has campaign debt. 

A spokesman for Tea Party Express telling political website “Hotline” the group was not aware of Ms. O‘Donnell‘s financial issues prior to its endorsement of her.  Ms. O‘Donnell liking her tea with a side of sympathy, telling Delaware‘s “News Journal,” quote, “I think the fact that I have struggled financially is what makes me so sympathetic.” 

Meanwhile, Tea Party Express darling, and Republican nominee for the Senate in Nevada, Sharron Angle, in her latest fund-raising pitch, accusing Majority Leader Harry Reid of left-wing governance supported by his friends in the liberal media.  “Will you let Harry Reid know that we can‘t be intimidated, that we won‘t be shouted down by Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.”

Hey, Ms. Angle got a fact right; that is the order in which we appear.  Time now to call in MSNBC political analyst, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek Magazine,” Howard Fineman.  Good evening, Howard. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Start in Delaware.  The GOP state chair calls Ms.  O‘Donnell a perennial candidate who lacks the standing in Delaware to get elected to anything.  Nonetheless, should Republican moderates be worried because she has that national reputation that nobody‘s heard of. 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I think they have reason to be worried because of what‘s happening nationally, because of the strength of the Tea Party movement, because of Sarah Palin and her baby grizzlies to the mama grizzly going around the country.  But I think Mike Castle, the moderate Republican, is still in fairly good shape because of all the weak candidates that the Tea Party people have put up, some have which have miraculously or understandably won, I think she‘s probably one of the weakest around. 

I think it‘s unlikely—it‘s expensive to advertise in Delaware, too, by the way.  Tea Party is talking about raising a lot of money for her.  You got to buy Philadelphia, for example.  You may even have to buy Washington.  It‘s not that easy to do. 

OLBERMANN:  And as we pointed out here, Ms. O‘Donnell does not seem to have a job and there are these financial problems.  Was there not an old political maxim that if you go to the public asking for a vote, looking like you need the work, you might be in trouble. 

FINEMAN:  Yes, probably so.  As I say, this is clearly a wave year.  I don‘t think there are any doubts about that now, at least here inside the Beltway and among people who study this for a living.  Republicans are going to win big.  There‘s going to be a tide. 

The question right now, Keith, is how big and what kind of strange creatures are going to be washed up on the beach?  I‘ve been through this movie before a long time ago.  I don‘t think Christine O‘Donnell is probably going to be one.  There‘s also not enough time.  That primary is coming up on the 14th

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let‘s check the beaches of Alaska.  Joe Miller accusing national types of working the election.  What‘s he trying to achieve and is he succeeding at it? 

FINEMAN:  Well, he‘s succeeded in getting that lawyer taken out of the state by the national Republicans.  I think what‘s happened and the reason why you‘ve seen Joe Miller tone things down a little bit is that the powers that be back here are saying, look, you know, we‘re willing to play ball with you; we want you to be part of the team, but we want you to calm down a little bit here.  I think that‘s sort of what‘s happening here.  And if Joe Miller calms down, then he leaves—if she‘s shrewd, he‘ll leave Lisa Murkowski as the desperate-looking one.  And, in fact, that seems to be what‘s happening right now. 

OLBERMANN:  In other words, he‘s getting the message that the universal solvent is a great idea, but you have to be able keep it in something; otherwise it will eat through the floor and right down to the center of Earth? 

FINEMAN:  Exactly.  And that‘s sort of what the Republican management, if that isn‘t an oxymoron back there in Washington, is trying to do.

OLBERMANN:  They‘re calling you now. 

FINEMAN:  Sorry.—is trying to do.  They‘re trying somehow to tell the Tea Party candidates, look, we want you to be part of the team; we want to meet you at least halfway; we want to have the funding we can find for you; we love your energy and all that.  But you‘ve got to be somehow on the page. 

This is the world they‘re inheriting.  It‘s a little bit like the opposite of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  This is a kind of speedboat of Republicans moving ahead.  And they‘re all sort of jockeying for who gets to take the con. 

OLBERMANN:  And we know from the first day Murkowski had no real shot as a third party bid.  Is it still possible she could go in as a write-in? 

FINEMAN:  That would be extremely hard for anybody.  Alaska doesn‘t make it easy, as you alluded to.  The Libertarian Party in Alaska has said, no thanks, we don‘t want Lisa Murkowski.  So if she doesn‘t somehow pull it out—she‘s I think about 1,500 votes behind.  And there are maybe 15,000, 20,000 ballots to be counted.  If she doesn‘t close that lead and overtake Joe Miller, then that‘s the end of the story. 

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, and I‘m sorry, I was phoning during the show.  I forgot all about the fact you were on. 

FINEMAN:  I apologize. 

OLBERMANN:  No problem. 

How your dollars did the job at the New Orleans free health clinic and L. Ron Beck, the Arch Beck-up of Canterbury, Oral Beck, Garner Ted Beck-strong, call him what you will.  The prophet from Everett, Washington, really screwed up the story of the Washington Monument. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Before we get to Oddball and the Tweet and stuff, the free health clinic in New Orleans you paid for and to whose rescue you came last week; so far, 650 patients in the door today.  Nearly one third of those patients had not seen a doctor in three or four years. 

And while you were more than generous with your money with the late edition of more than 300,000 dollars in funding, last week you were also generous with your time.  We had more volunteers than ever before.  A full report from Nicole Lamaroux at the New Orleans health clinic tomorrow night.  Thank you, again.  We are overwhelmed. 

Now the sanity break and the Tweet of the day.  From Eddie Izzard.  “Discovered Keith Olbermann exists, all Americans and world citizens of good mind and heart should follow him and watch his new show.  RT, re-Tweet this.”  How about that.  One of the world‘s most talented people and he just gave me my own flag.  Let‘s play Oddball.

Back we go to German soccer in the Bundezleaguer (ph), and last week we met Jessica Kastrop (ph), who had the unfortunate encounter with a soccer ball at a soccer game.  From way downtown, bang, bang, bang.  But you can‘t keep a good reporter down, even if you show her getting hit in the head over and over again.  Over the weekend, she returned to the pitch, this time fully protected from errant soccer balls, or just footballs, with the help of a helmet. 

Looks good, too.  Hah!  In honor of her bravery, let‘s watch her get hit a couple more times.  What a memory that was, even though she can‘t. 

To Talamnagu (ph), in India, for the unveiling of three new white tigers.  Born three months ago, the cubs have been kept in an closure until they could mature a little.  Once they got outside, there was a surprise.  The fur on one of the cubs had gone from white to completely black.  The U.N. Committee on cliches is meeting tonight here in New York in emergency session now to discuss the crisis created for the one about how a Tiger can‘t change it‘s stripes. 

Finally, to Daison (ph) City, Japan, where what better way to mark the end of summer than by blowing stuff up; 27 fireworks producers taking part in their national fireworks competition.  Over 18,000 fireworks lighting up the night sky as thousands cheered on.  The competition included two separate categories, one for traditional, one for creative, and, boom goes the dynamite. 

So a religion that assails other religions, promises hell for gays, wants to build a prayer center two blocks from Ground Zero.  And the far right is not screaming about it. 

Now that he has left news to become a televangelist, we‘ll show you how the gospel according to St. Beck failed the sniff test on the subject of the Washington Monument. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the Koch Brothers funding the fight against health care reform, now first in line to get funds from health care reform.  Naturally. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Worsts, and the arrest of Mr. F.V. Frankenstein in Cincinnati.  First, since he has now revealed himself to be not a commentator but a prophet, not a shock jock but a televangelist, we say howdy to the modern Elmer Gantry, and welcome you to the first edition of “St. Beck as in Wreck.”  Amy Simple Mc-Beck, Elmer Beck-tree, Jimmy Swag-Beck, whichever one he is, from time to time here, we‘ll point out his more egregious points of fact and of faith.  Sad to say, Friar Beck made an inauspicious debut at the Pentecostal service in Washington on Saturday.  Because the first thing Ted Haggard will tell you, St. Beckus, is don‘t lie to the flock. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  If you look at the Washington Monument, you might notice its scars.  But nobody talks about that.  But a quarter of the way up, it changes color.  Did you know that it did?  Look at it.  Look at its scars. 

How did the scar get there?  They stopped building it in the Civil War.  And when the war was over, they began again.  No one sees the scars of the Washington Memorial, the Washington Monument. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Sorry about that, Tammy Faye Beck-er.  In fact, per the National Parks Service, the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on the Fourth of July, 1848 and stones were contributed by many world leaders.  When a stone was donated by the Pope, an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant political movement called the Know-Nothing Party stole the stone and threw it in the Potomac river. 

Then the Know Nothings gained control of the commission in charge of building the monument and Congress withdrew all the funding.  The Know Nothing bought their own cheap stone, which was so bad it had to be removed.  And in 1858, three years before the Civil War began, construction of the Washington Monument was abandoned. 

Sorry about that, Crefflow (ph) Beck.  It wasn‘t until 1879, 14 years after the defeat of the side that Father Keug (ph) Beck would have supported in the Civil War, that construction was resumed, using marble from a different quarry.  The color change in the Washington Monument, Bishop Fulton J. Beck, has nothing to do with the Civil War.  It owes to the interference of and hatred of immigrants by the Know-Nothings. 

Teach your sheep about that, father Grigoriy Yefimovich Rasputin Beck.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A radical fundamentalist, hate-filled religion announces plans to build a church two blocks from Ground Zero.  Funny you don‘t hear the right wings screaming about that. 

That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches—coincidentally the title of my next book, in stores October 26th—time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to be—I‘ll be dammed, Forest V. Frankenstein Jr.  Pitchforks and torches, to the lumberyard.  Mr. Frankenstein got a little torched at the Toby Keith concert near Cincinnati Saturday, and went up to two sheriff‘s officers to say, quote, “if I had a knife, I would stab you.”  They put him in the black and white, he kicked out the window.  They put him in a second black and white, he banged his face into the partition.  The alleged perpetrator then added, it‘s Frankenstein.

Runner-up, Sister Bendy Straws.  I know we did Beck in the religion report and everything, but this is just too good.  The half-governor Tweets, “silly media reports ‘may be thousands at Beck‘s, irrelevant event,‘ insinuating MSN sheeple mustn‘t believe their own eyes and ears from re. event‘s truth.”  Take another look at the Tweet, “maybe thousands @ Beck‘s irrelevant event.”  By typing the at sign and Beck, the half governor has invoked the Twitter handle of the singer Beck, not the televangelist Beck, like @Palin gets you a Mr. Palin Ninsdownjam (ph) of New Delhi in India.  Honestly. 

But our winner, Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas, the man who dreamt up the threat of terror babies, has exposed us to more of his wisdom.  This time the topic is math.  “A poll says 28 percent of American adults say that they identify with the Tea Party; 53 percent are paying all the taxes.  Do you think maybe more than half of all people paying taxes are Tea Party folks?  Yeah!”

No!  This is going after a mosquito of a fact with a bazooka.  The same poll Louie just quoted also asked Americans if they are active participants in the Tea Party.  The number who said yes was two percent.  So either Louie thinks less than four percent of the country pays taxes or Louie‘s not very good at math.  Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A moderate group of Muslims wants to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero and they get hammered in the right wing echo chamber.  But an anti-gay, anti-Islamic preacher, peddling his own brand of fundamental religion near the footprint of the World Trade Center; number one story, the silence and lack of outrage from the right is deafening.  Bill Keller is the pastor of the online church LivePrayer.com, known for his intolerance of any other faith than his own and for being a Birther.  Also for that hair.

Keller calls Islam a religion of, quote, hate and death, might describe the hair, and a wonderful religion for pedophiles.  No comment.  Among the titles of Islam related daily devotionals posted on Keller‘s website, “the False Religion of Islam and the Courage to Tell One Billion People They‘re Going to Hell,” and “The Coming Showdown Between Islam and Christianity.”

Keller‘s hate had previously been cordoned to his website and a short lived national TV show.  Yesterday, Salon.com reported Keller‘s church is to begin services this Sunday at the West Street Marriott in lower Manhattan, two blocks from Ground Zero.  Those services, running weekly beginning September 5th, are a precursor—the hair—to what Keller hopes will turn into a 9/11 Christian center at Ground Zero.  And hair salon. 

His website claiming the church will be a Christian response to the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.  Here is Keller making the hard sell to donors in an online video, about hair. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KELLER, ONLINE PASTOR:  I know that as time goes on, the Muslims will try to silence me.  They will try even to kill me.  But the gospel won‘t be stopped. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Reached for comment by “Salon,” Keller claimed his fund-raising efforts were going well, though to date there‘s no evidence of any actual plans for a permanent church near Ground Zero.  “Salon” reporter Justin Elliott authored yesterday‘s article on Bill Keller‘s church, another one today, and he joins us now.  Thanks for your time tonight.

JUSTIN ELLIOTT, “SALON”:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously freedom of religion means just that, but there‘s been no blowback on this from people who think an Islamic center politicizes Ground Zero or brings in an unfortunately religious element or it‘s divisive, nothing at all? 

ELLIOTT:  Yes, well, I thought maybe it was just the fact that people hadn‘t heard about it.  It hadn‘t really been publicized.  So I spent a chunk of today actually, and yesterday, reaching out to some prominent critics of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, Rick Lazio, Carl Palladino, the New York gubernatorial candidates who are running basically on this issue.  I reached out to the Anti-Defamation League, to Newt Gingrich, a bunch of other people. 

Basically, none of them got back to me.  Newt Gingrich‘s people got back to me and said he wasn‘t going to be commenting, which I take to mean that he doesn‘t object to it.  But basically that‘s right, no outcry so far. 

OLBERMANN:  The lack of protest from the left underscores what I think is the left‘s sort of universal commitment to freedom of religion.  But does the lack of protest from the right underscore that it‘s protest of the Park51 Center is—it strip out away what might be passed off as sensitivity for the families or anything else.  But the right is really dealing here with religious hatred and even to some degree racism? 

ELLIOTT:  Well, I think as for Democrats, they just don‘t want to go anywhere near anything with the phrase “Ground Zero” in it.  I think they don‘t think it‘s a good issue for them.  As for the mosque opponents, I think there‘s really been two fundamental arguments against the mosque.  One is from people like Newt Gingrich, that this really is about the fact that the organizers are Muslim, that America is locked in some sort of war with Islam and that, therefore, this mosque project, community center project is going to be a monument to the Islamist victory on September 11th

But there‘s been a whole second group of people who have argued that this is not about the fact that these are Muslims.  This is about the fact that the neighborhood around Ground Zero in lower Manhattan is s hallowed ground; it‘s sacred.  Nothing insensitive should happen there.  Charles Krauthammer in the “Washington Post” wrote a whole column about this.  I reached out to him, too.  He hasn‘t gotten back to me.

But for that second group of people who say this is about the sanctity of the neighborhood, they really should be horrified by this Bill Keller‘s 9/11 Christian Center.  This is a guy who says Mormons and Muslims and gay people are all going to hell.  So there‘s really no reason why his 9/11 church is somehow less offensive than the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. 

OLBERMANN:  Has Marriott had anything to say about being the host locale for this?  I mean, one of the arguments for Park51, in my opinion, bluntly, as a native and somebody who‘s been down there and seen it for the last eight and a half years, lower Manhattan needs all the business it can get. 

ELLIOTT:  No one has asked Marriott yet.  I have not called Marriott, but if this picks up steam in the media and any politicians weigh in on it, I‘m sure somebody will ask them that.  That‘s a very interesting question. 

OLBERMANN:  Is the upshot here, as easy as it would look at a glance, that moderate Muslims or even liberal Muslims are not acceptable at this point in the right‘s scheme of the world, but fundamentalists, Islam-hating right-wing Christians, you know, feel free.  Have a nice time.  Take whatever space you need. 

ELLIOTT:  I think that is probably true.  I also think that this is sort of a byproduct of the fact that the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque is really a product of political opportunism, among other things.  I think Republicans know that they‘re not going to gain with the public by going after an Evangelical preacher.  Democrats might be able to, but they haven‘t bitten so far.  So I think that‘s part of what‘s going on here. 

OLBERMANN:  And is there actually going to be a church here from this reverend with the bad hair, or is he just trying to raise money and publicity? 

ELLIOTT:  Well, he claims—I‘ve talked to him.  He claims he‘s trying to raise eight million dollars.  He told me the fund-raising is going pretty well.  His plan is to find a permanent site by the first of the year, of next year.  So, I mean, I think it‘s basically in the same stage of planning as Park51 is. 

OLBERMANN:  Justin Elliott of Salon.com, good work on this story and great thanks for your time. 

ELLIOTT:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s August 31st, the 2,679th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,268th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 134th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

And now with the news that the Koch Brothers are going to get money from health care reform after spending lots of money trying to prevent health care reform—the way the world works—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.

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