updated 9/8/2010 1:39:10 PM ET 2010-09-08T17:39:10

Guests: David Corn, Chris Kofinis, Talat Hamdani, David Weigel

           

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

Miss my mismanagement yet?  New polling: 71 percent of Americans believe our economic problems stem from policies enacted by President Bush.  So, why would they ever, ever put the man who enacted those tax cuts for the wealthy policies back in charge?

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REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  C‘mon, we know what works—that is across-the-board marginal tax relief.

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OLBERMANN:  David Corn on the Bush nobody misses, Chris Kofinis on the Democrats‘ inability to connect the GOP economic disaster dots for the American voter.

The newest two minutes tape (ph), Newt‘s latest plan to demonize the Muslim at Park 51.

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NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  I think Congress has the ability to declare the area a national battlefield memorial.  Because I think we should think of the World Trade Center as a battlefield site.  This is a war.

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OLBERMANN:  So, how much is battlefield?  Two square blocks, four, 40? 

And what does this mean for the Ground Zero strip joint?

Joe Miller‘s joke book: phase out Social Security starting with everybody born the day after he sworn in as senator.

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JOE MILLER ®, ALASKA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  If it‘s a privatize system, for example, I can ensure that I put my money in an account that the government is, then, not going to steal from.

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OLBERMANN:  Oh, and God is funding his campaign—God and a big K-Street fundraiser.

Bringing America to Iraq, Baghdad‘s newest TV show:

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OLBERMANN:  That celebrity was being told they found an explosive in his car and he must be a suicide bomber.

This just in from Father Flana-Glenn.

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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  Two plus two equals four.

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OLBERMANN:  And “Fridays with Thurber”: The all-time all-American hero turns out to be an all American louse.  Part two of “The Greatest Man in the World.”

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

While lawmakers enjoy their final day of rest before returning to D.C., sharks have literally been seen swimming the waters of the Potomac River.  Metaphor perhaps, but not any stranger than this—from the very latest Public Opinion Polling, are Americans ready for a return to Bush era economic policies?  Absolutely not.  Are they ready to vote for Republicans?  Yes, we still can.

In our fifth story: Discontent and the great American disconnect, with the midterm elections now just 59 days away and yet, hard evidence that the former president has not been erased from the minds of severely traumatized Americans, otherwise known as “Do you miss me yet?” subsection to the economy.

Seventy-one percent of Americans still blame the former president for the nation‘s current economic mess according to the latest Gallup/”USA Today” Poll that is a modest decrease from the 80 percent who blamed him one year ago.  Although 48 percent also lay some of the blame on President Obama, a majority, 51 percent, says Obama is dealing with problems he inherited rather than created.

Today, this president found himself in the position of characterizing a troubled subset of data, the mixed numbers on the economy, positive but still sluggish.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The hard truth is that it took years to create our current economic problems and it will take more time than any of us would like to repair the damage.  In the month I took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month.  This morning, new figures show that the economy produced 67,000 private jobs in August, the eighth consecutive month of private job growth.

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OLBERMANN:  Cue the scowling Republicans, from Senator Jim “Still looking for Obama‘s Waterloo” DeMint: “When Democrats took control of Congress nearly four years ago, unemployment was less than 5 percent, now that the Democrats have added trillions to our national debt, unemployment has nearly doubled and millions of Americans have lost their jobs.”  Nice slide of hand there considering that four years ago, George Bush was still president and the George Bush great recession had not yet hit.”

For former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, along with the co-author of his book, this posting, “Unemployment day weekend will mark the official end of the Obama administration‘s ‘Recovery Summer.‘”  Score one for the GOP on the part of that.  The White House should have never declared the summer of 2010 “Recovery Summer” until there was recovery.  That was again today slammed by other Republicans as well, including the RNC chairman, Mr.  Steele.  But we digress.

The very same poll that showed how much Americans do not missed Mr.  Bush also showed this.  Respondents prefer a Republican candidate to a Democratic one in the midterm elections, and by a lot.  This even though the Republican clarion call from both chambers has something to do with—oh, yes, tax cuts for the rich, or in its current incarnation, don‘t allow the expiration of tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.  Even though in yet another poll, 56 percent of Americans favor ending the very tax cuts in question.

But back to the disconnect already in progress.  More specific poll numbers, race by race, should truly have Democrats scared out of their wits.  In the House, 32 Democrat incumbents currently trailed their Republican challengers.  According to Charlie Cook‘s “Political Report,” compare that to just 11 Republican incumbents who are losing at the same time in 2006, the year the Democrats regained control of the House.

And while most analysts don‘t yet predict Republican takeover of the Senate, such a prospect is hardly inconceivable.  All the GOP would have to do is retain all of its seats and defeat the likes of, say, Barbara Boxer, in short, take 10 of the 18 Democratic Senate seats up for grabs in November.

Let‘s start tonight with the Bush part of this first and we‘ll turn to the Washington bureau chief of “Mother Jones” magazine, columnist for “Politics Daily,” David Corn.

David, good evening.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, it‘s been nearly two years since the election of this president, but Americans, at least judging by that “USA Today”/Gallup Poll, don‘t actually seem to be missing the former president quite yet, do they?

CORN:  Not by that poll, there was a poll in Ohio of, you know, locally saying that the majority, 52 percent, wanted Bush back rather than Obama.  So, you have to wonder what‘s happening in Ohio.

But the national poll that you cited shows that people, by and large, have it right, the economic problems that we have were not caused by the present administration.  They were caused by the previous administration.  But that does not mean they‘re happy about the way things are going now or that they‘re going to give Obama or the Democrats any slack.

OLBERMANN:  The anti-Bush sentiment contained in there obviously is not going to get the current president off the hook and even as President Obama acknowledged, the public expects results.  So, who was it who thought to call this summer or “Recovery Summer” or recovery of summer, recover this summer?  And his job is now open, is it not?

CORN:  It‘s certainly not the summer of love.  You know—you know, they thought the economy would turn, they though, by giving it a label, not to turn it around, but a little bit hotter, that they could get some credit going into election.

But, you know, there was another interesting Gallup Poll that came out this week, too, saying that about half of those who say they‘re likely to vote Republican in the upcoming congressional elections, half of them see that as a vote against the Democrats, not as a vote for the Republicans.  And that is higher than usual to vote oppositionally so to speak.  You know, it‘s always—it‘s always there, it‘s always a factor, but it seems to be a higher factor at this point in time.

So, you know, whatever Obama‘s doing—I mean, he has the heavy lift.  This is a big climb for him to try to convince voters to stay with him and the Democrats.  But he has been making a few key missteps along the way.

And just ask yourself, where did August go?  I mean, if you have three months before the election, the Democrats and Barack Obama, what did they achieve?  What did they even try to achieve in the month of August setting up the final stretch of this campaign?  I can‘t think of anything.

OLBERMANN:  A lot of us pushed as this administration began—pushed them to pursue the Bush administration in areas like torture and the lies about Iraq.  I mean, big ticket items, those of us who believed in the Constitution.  But there was a political consideration in that obviously, too—if you don‘t investigate, you‘re telling future politicians, hey, the Bush people got away with this, you can, too.

But even larger that, you‘re also telling the public, the Bush administration got away with it, case closed.

Is the administration giving any indication now that it‘s wishing now that it had kept Bush‘s culpability front of mine a little longer, and is there any thought about trying to do anything about that even now?

CORN:  Keith, I saw you cover the president‘s speech on Iraq on Tuesday night?  What did he say?  It is time to turn the page.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

CORN:  The Republicans say, hey, we‘re getting ready to fire up the subpoenas if we win and the president‘s saying it‘s time to turn the page.  Politically, I‘m not sure that going after Bush on all of those issues that you and I care about, I wrote two books on the subject, would have helped him a lot.  But he really—you know, I think there‘s been a lot of key mistakes, in which he hasn‘t set up enough of a narrative where the public fully understands what might happen, what they might get, what those 71 percent already know that that‘s actually the consequence if you vote against the Democrats.

OLBERMANN:  David Corn of “Mother Jones,” “Politics Daily”—great thanks.  Have a great holiday weekend.

CORN:  Same to you, Keith.  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

CORN:  Let‘s turn to Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis and look at this a little more closer.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One thing no one doubts, or has ever doubted, or has ever been probed wrong about, when the economy is bad, the party in power is always in trouble to some degree, great or small.  But there are only the two choices here and it‘s not as if Republicans made any effort to rework the policy prescription.  I mean, the Tea Party is just an attempt to dress up, old, failed policies as new innovations offered by new people—it‘s a great strategy in an anti-incumbent era.

Are they getting away with it?  Or have Democrats let them get away with it?

KOFINIS:  A little bit of both.  I think we‘ve kind of let them get away with it.  I mean, here‘s the reality, when you have an economy that‘s as difficult and challenging as the one we face, you‘re going to have political consequences.  It‘s a midterm election for the incumbent president.  You know, that party that holds the White House is also going to suffer, you know, historically some losses.

But, you know, to be frank about it, I think we made the situation worse and we‘ve made it worse by not communicating well and doing a good job of selling the policies and the programs that we have passed.  I mean, there‘s no doubting or questioning that this president has pursued a pretty bold, aggressive agenda in terms of tackling the major problems that the country faced and inherited from Bush, but we have not sold them well and we lost that narrative.  And the Republicans, in particular, the Tea Party, has been able to frame this.

And if you think about these Tea Party candidates, they‘re about as stable as Lindsay Lohan when it comes to reality.  I mean, so the notion that somehow these Republicans and these Tea Party candidates are reflective of America, they‘re not.  And the polls show that.

Not—that‘s the part that I think is frustrating to a lot of Democrats.  The American people aren‘t moving to Republicans, we just lost them.  And I think we—you know, we have to be really honest about why.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So, David Corn‘s question was where did August go, and my question is: the docket for next week after Labor Day, the big thing is supposed to be the Chairman Tim Kaine‘s speech, DNC Chairman Kaine, who‘s going to paint this supposed stark contrast between the two parties, is that enough?  Is there just—are people being held back from firing on all cylinders or firing all weapons at hand here?

KOFINIS:  Well, I mean, it‘s a step forward.  I mean, you have about two months before the election, give or take, and you‘re talking about realistically, maybe at best 20 percent, 25 percent of the electorate that could change their minds.  So, I mean, painting this contrast and having, you know, Chairman Kaine go out there and do that I think is a good step forward.

But the reality is, it‘s much bigger than that.  And the reality is, I think this goes from the White House all the way down.  We have to paint a very stark contrast, not necessarily a contrast about Bush, you know, and going backwards to that.  I would make the point about painting the contrast about who we are going to pass the Congress to potentially is a very dangerous and extreme right wing that does not reflective of America, that is not reflective of modern American, that is not what independents, in terms of their values or priors, share.

And I think we got to make that contrast very clear.  You know, if Chairman Kaine can do that and other Democrats from the White House on down and the president can do that, I think we will hopefully minimize some of these losses in these tight races.

OLBERMANN:  And “The Washington Post” had a catalog of the handful of races in which Democrats are already unleashed ads to that affect, describing Republicans in those terms.  Can that kind of campaign work district by district?  Is this a year to sort of go national at least in terms of characterizes the opposition?  Or is it still a question of: what have you done for me locally?

KOFINIS:  You know, when you‘re talking about, you know, the national dynamics, it makes it difficult, obviously, to run on a national agenda, but at the same time, what you try to do as a candidate and as a campaign, you want to localize it and make it very clear to those voters in that district or in that state that stark contrast between these two candidates.  Attacking that candidate on their fringe positions and the radical positions is a smart strategy.  I think balancing that with a very strong message about where you‘re going to lead this country forward.

I‘m not a big believer in just going straight negative.  I think you have to balance it.  I‘m not saying you give the Republicans a pass.  I think you‘d hit them hard, you hit them right between, you know, the eyes.  But at the same time, voters want to hear that the policies that you passed actually address their problems and where you‘re going to lead this country forward—I think that contrast is as important as the negative contrast.

OLBERMANN:  Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis—as always, Chris, great thanks.  Have a good weekend.

KOFINIS:  Thanks, Keith.  You, too.

OLBERMANN:  The latest way around America‘s traditions of tolerance and religious freedom declare the area around Ground Zero a national historic battleground site, that the federal government completely control what gets built and not built there.  You know, the—maybe the 10 blocks around the World Trade Center, or the 50 blocks around it.  Give the government full control of the most valuable real estate in the world—

Newt Gingrich‘s socialist idea.  Next.

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OLBERMANN:  There‘s a new scheme to get around constitutional freedoms of religion and our American heritage, to make it illegal to build anything near Ground Zero without the federal government‘s approval.

Alaska‘s Tea Party senatorial candidate says his campaign has been funded by God.  And he admits that if he has his way, the beginning of the end of Social Security will come the day he‘s sworn in.

The newest TV reality show, you‘re accused of being a suicide bomber.

And when the assumption that only a hero could do a heroic thing meets the reality that success does not always mean character.  Part two of James Thurber‘s “The Greatest Man in the World.”

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OLBERMAN:  From all the professional politicians who have exploited the undercurrent of Islamophobia running through this country, Newt Gingrich has set himself apart.

First, the former Republic House speaker called Muslims attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights radical Islamist.  Then he compared them to Nazis.

And in our fourth story, the conservative icon has now taken his demagoguery to a different legal by calling on the federal government to seize control over Lower Manhattan in New York.

The Web site “Talking Points Memo” linking to an interview Gingrich recorded Thursday on “WallBuilders Live,” an Internet radio show hosted by Glenn Beck‘s favorite fake history professor, David Barton.

During the interview, Mr. Gingrich called the U.S. the central front in the war with radical Islamists and declared his belief in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

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GINGRICH:  In terms of religious liberty, I‘m prepared to defend any group‘s right to worship without the government stopping them.

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OLBERMANN:  However, Gingrich went on to define the proposed Islamic center on Park Place as a political effort and not religious.  He then outlined how multiple levels of government could go about removing a group‘s right to worship.

First, he says, New York‘s mayor, Bloomberg, should reconsider his support for Park 51.  Gingrich suggested intervention by the New York attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, who could, quote, “slow the project down for decades.”

Finally, Mr. Gingrich, the totalitarian former member of Congress, suggested that Congress itself and the president federalized part of New York City to stop the Islamic center from being built.

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GINGRICH:  I think the Congress has the ability to declare the area a national battlefield memorial because I think we should think of the World Trade Center as a battlefield site.  This is a war.

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OLBERMANN:  The parameters of Gingrich‘s area are unclear.  Does it include the 35-year-old double-decked Burger King a block away on Broadway?  The strip club two blocks away on Murray Street?  Or would it be the larger mosque exclusion zone that Gingrich outlined on FOX News in July?

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GINGRICH:  I‘m quite happy if they‘d come in and said, we wanted to build a community center near Central Park.  We‘d like to build a community center near Columbia University.  But they didn‘t.

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OLBERMANN:  Central Park begins at 59th Street.  At this moment, I‘m speaking to you from a studio 10 blocks below 59th street -- 59th street‘s that way.  Am I on a battlefield?

We requested clarification from Gingrich‘s office, they have yet to respond.

As for what an actual New Yorkers feel about the location of the Park 51, “The New York Times” today released a poll that suggested a majority think the Islamic center has a right to go forward but would prefer that backers voluntarily choose a different location.

One New Yorker who supports both the building and the proposed location of Park 51 is Talat Hamdani, a retired middle schoolteacher who‘s Muslim and whose son, Mohammad Salman Hamdani, an EMT and police cadet, was lost in the World Trade Center attacks of September 11th, 2001.

TALAT HAMDANI, 9/11 FAMILIES FOR PEACEFUL TOMORROWS:  Thank you for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Your son is now recognized by this city, by this country, as a hero.  He went into those buildings on 9/11, tried to save lives.  But that was not always the way it was, correct?

HAMDANI:  Sadly, it was not.  And there were implications after he disappeared that day that maybe he was linked with the terrorist attacks that day and there was a flyer circulating in the NYPD, with the wanted sign, you know, wanted, chemistry major.  And “The New York Post,” you know, printed the article, headline, “Missing or Hiding?”  And it had insinuations that he was seen at the Midtown Tunnel that day at 11:00 a.m., and, you know, people are very skeptical about who this young man is.

OLBERMANN:  And it was so bad that you had to or you chose to when you put up a missing poster, you chose to not give his full name?

HAMDANI:  Yes, we—when my brother went to print the flyer, you know, when it said Mohammad, his office was giving him a difficult time.  So, he eliminated that and went (INAUDIBLE) with Sal, because what his American friends called him.  But after couple of hours, when we went back out on the street, you know, all those flyers were pulled down, (INAUDIBLE) pulled down, and it was a very difficult time.

And we did not have time to grieve.  We just have to—we had to go forward to find him and then, you know, clear his name.

OLBERMANN:  Did you think in terms of the overall viewpoint and people‘s reaction to Muslims in this country after 9/11, did you think we were moving perhaps not as quickly as we could be, but in some positive direction since then in terms of, you know, interfaith understanding and the understanding that faith was the tiniest part to do with this, and did we suddenly go the wrong way or has it been worse than the rest of us have known?

HAMDANI:  Initially for the first few years, there was sympathy, there was, you know, empathy for us.  I mean, I did get supportive letters from many people who said they were sorry about what some of our countrymen are saying about your son.

And now, it‘s very different.  Nine years later, it is—you know, there is no sympathy or empathy at all for the Muslim Americans.  On the contrary, I‘m—you know, I‘m getting hate mails now, really bad hate mails, you know, with my regular mail address and it seems they got it from my DMV records.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes.

HAMDANI:  And then there were children who changed their names and they adopted American names, Adam, Mickey, Michael.  Now, what‘s happening is they‘re adding a Christian name at the end to be recognized and accepted as Americans.  That‘s so sad.

OLBERMANN:  Did that just happen or did people make that happen?  And I‘m thinking of what Mr. Gingrich has now said about turning, I don‘t know, maybe he means up to Central Park, maybe he means up to Columbia University should all be under federal control, but he‘s talking some—especially talking about an exclusion zone.

HAMDANI:  Yes, which I don‘t know agree with what he‘s saying, you know, because he has—he has no right to get involved in this issue because he did not lose anyone over there.  He‘s not a New Yorker.  You know, all these politicians who are just jumping on the bandwagon, ostracizing American-Muslims, you know, like me and other families, ostracizing, painting everybody with a broad brush.

Everything that happened (ph) in this country, we suffered, we gave up our lives, our people are dying on the line, why are we being held accountable for this action of a foreign terrorist group?

OLBERMANN:  Do you have any concerns about speaking out in favor and with your group, 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows about the Park 51 project?  Do you worry about that?

HAMDANI:  I have no worries about it because I am standing for what is duefully mine.  They are clothing (ph) this issue as a sensitive issue and too close and too soon.  It‘s not that cliche (ph).

To me, it is about my freedom of religion.  All those people that were murdered that day, they were murdered not for their faith, race or ethnicity, but for being American and living in the American values of democracy, freedom, liberty of speech and to pursue (INAUDIBLE) choice.

So, the best thing we can do as a tribute and legacy to them is to uphold those American values unlike, you know, Newt Gingrich and whoever else is jumping on this, like vultures feeding on the bloodshed of 2,700 Americans.  It‘s—that‘s a loss of mankind.

OLBERMANN:  Beautifully put.  Talat Hamdani of the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, thanks for coming in.

HAMDANI:  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  The logic of the Republican candidate for the Senate from Alaska, his parents are dependent on Social Security, so we should eliminate Social Security—ahead.

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OLBERMANN:  Joe Miller, the Alaska senatorial candidate who claims his campaign has been funded by God and he apparently expects your unborn child‘s retirement to be funded by God as well.

First, the sanity break and the tweet of the day.  We‘ll ignore the 9th grade troll pseudonym and stick to the I.D. of Dawn Williams (ph).  “Where are you going to go when state sponsored television fires you?” it asks.  Well, it did, FOX in 2001 did.  And then I went to CNN and ABC Radio for a while and then I came back here in ‘03.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

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OLBERMANN:  Hope that clears that up.

We begin in Iowa City, and yes, a spectacular dash-cam video of the scooter accident which meets the minimum standard, nobody hurt.  Josh Koeppel, the center for the Iowa Hawkeyes football team, riding high scooter when a truck from in front of him attempted to make a left.  Amazingly, he got up immediately and was able to walk around.  He was eventually taken to the hospital, minor injuries only.  The drive of the truck was cited for failure to yield.

To Lescovac in Serbia, hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, giant burgers don‘t upset us.  Two chefs used 112 pounds of minced meat to create a patty five feet in diameter.  It took two men to flip the behemoth burger.  And there was much rejoicing.

Still, this goes down as an unofficial record as no representative from Guinness was present.  However, fortunately, for all, David Hasselhoff was.

Los Angeles, California, hello; Ryan Seacrest recording his daily radio show, live in studio.  Hello.  Ryan was testing Larry‘s knowledge of modern pop songs.  Hello.  So presenting without comment Larry King‘s—hello—rendition of the Lady Gaga number one hit—hello—“Poker Face.”  Hello.

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OLBERMANN:  There was a camera on. 

Extending unemployment benefits doesn‘t benefit anybody; the latest pearl of wisdom from a Republican Tea Party senatorial candidate, next. 

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OLBERMANN:  Turns out Joe Miller didn‘t need the help of Sarah Palin or the corporate backed Tea Party to defeat Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski in the primary in Alaska, because as luck would have it, the lord is funding his campaign.  The lord in the primary anyway.  And in our third story, for the general, some guy from K-Street named Mike. 

“Roll Call” reporting that Miller recently hired Washington fund raiser Mike Gula.  Gula, they report, is in the process of assembling a K-Street steering committee on behalf of the Miller campaign.  And probably trying to raise money to get him a shave.  Which contradicts a recent campaign fundraising letter, obtained by “Huffington Post,” praising a higher power for Miller‘s success.  To quote it, “we need to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, and keep the campaign uplifted in constant prayer.  In order for Joe to keep campaigning, he needs funds.  So far, the lord has always provided the money in his grass roots campaign.  And this time, God is going to use you to provide.” 

The letter signed by a person or entity named Harmony, stamped with the paid for by Joe Miller for U.S. Senate seal of approval, did not get the praise of one Miller associate named Mike Gula.  Mr. Gula e-mailed the “Huffington Post,” “Joe Miller has never made a comment like that.  The person who did say that has never been authorized to speak for the campaign in any capacity.”

Meanwhile, the Tea Party approved, lobbying for an idea originated by the Republican establishment to privatize Social Security, so that the government can‘t steal from you.  After admitting his parents are dependent on Social Security, the pro-life Miller explaining he would not take away benefits from the people who currently rely on them; he would just take them away from unborn fetuses. 

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is an issue, as you well know, that can be easily demagogued.  So I want to deliver a statement.  You tell me if it‘s fair enough.  Joe Miller says anybody in the system or close to the system is fine.  We won‘t do anything significant to change your benefits.  But how about an American born tomorrow or born the day after Senator Joe Miller was sworn in in Washington?  Would that person perhaps grow up in an America where there is not a federal Social Security program if you got your way? 

JOE MILLER ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE FROM ALASKA:  Absolutely. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s a fair statement? 

MILLER:  No demagoguery there as all. 

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OLBERMANN:  Mr. Miller‘s distrust of federal benefits finds him in the company of the other Tea Party favorite, Sharron Angle.  The Nevada Senate hopeful previously arguing that unemployment insurance should be cut in order to motivate people, and that collecting it makes those looking for work, quote, spoiled.  Angle apparently going for a kind of hat trick. 

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SHARRON ANGLE ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE FROM NEVADA:  People don‘t want to be unemployed.  They want to have real, full-time permanent jobs with a future.  That‘s what they want.  And we need to create that climate in Washington, D.C. that encourages businesses to create those full-time, permanent jobs for the future.  And al Shelley Berkeley and Harry Reid want to do is put a band-aid on this by extending unemployment, which really doesn‘t benefit anyone. 

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OLBERMANN:  Except maybe the unemployed. 

Time now to call in MSNBC contributor, political reporter with Slate.com, David Weigel.  Dave, good evening. 

DAVID WEIGEL, SLATE.COM:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Today, Ms. Angle released a statement that hit Harry Reid over August‘s unemployment numbers.  This does seem, even in the Tea Party world, to be something of a contrast to this previous statement about extending unemployment benefits, does it not? 

WEIGEL:  I think she really believes this.  This is part of the struggle you see between Sharron Angle being Sharron Angle and Sharron Angle being what Republicans would like her to be, which is the generic R candidate who could beat Harry Reid. 

She really believes that unemployment hinders the economic recovery because people are so lazy that they prefer taking these checks, I‘m not sure that‘s true.  I have actually interviewed lots of people who are on unemployment insurance and hate it and are trying to get back to work, but they‘re using that money right now to buy things, to pay for rent, things like that.  So this more anecdote than science. 

But it‘s honestly what she believes.  Every time she says what she believes, she gets in trouble or gets on your show. 

OLBERMANN:  Or both.  Turning to God and K Street and the campaign; in Joe Miller‘s defense, is that not the essence of what the Tea Party really is all about, to be able to just invoke a higher power, even if it‘s a higher fund raising power? 

WEIGEL:  Right.  We, first of all, know this is not true, because you know God could take one fundraising check and stretch it to feed every Republican candidate.  He wouldn‘t be just concentrating on Joe Miller.  This is what I think some Tea Partiers are worried about, not the fund raising liner, but the K Street help.  You‘re going to see next week in D.C. Ralph Reed hold a big conference where has invited, among other people, the leaders of Tea Party Patriots to come and talk about strategy. 

I started to hear some Tea Partiers say, wait a second; I thought we were going to remake the Republican Party, not rush back into the arms of the people who ruined it for us.  So this—the religious thing I‘m not surprised by.  That K Street would like to help him I‘m not surprised by.  I am surprised—I want to see how many more Republicans end up winning and then getting co-opted. 

OLBERMANN:  Didn‘t Rand Paul already go down this route of going into the fundraising that he said he would not do and get away with it, largely?

OLBERMANN:  He did.  He said he wouldn‘t work with people or fund raise with people who took Tarp—who voted for Tarp.  And Mitch McConnell voted for Tarp, and he‘s fund raised with Mitch McConnell. The fall from idealism is pretty rapid with some of these candidates.  So it‘s not surprising.  I don‘t think it‘s going to hurt him with Tea Party supporters yet.  But it‘s something to watch. 

OLBERMANN:  Back to Mr. Miller and his comments on Social Security; how is that particular needle threaded?  All of us get Social Security, but the unborn kids, the unborn grand kids, the ones that they keep saying are saddled with all this Democratic debt, let‘s make sure we take Social Security away from them? 

WEIGEL:  Yeah, it‘s something that is—it is tough to thread, because I don‘t think Democrats win many arguments when they tell people that trust us, you need to pay some taxes, get the money back; it‘s better for all of us.  They haven‘t been winning that argument with health care.  On Social Security, they win that argument because people like the fact that something is there that waits for them that they can use when they get older.

And the math does not make sense.  This is something a lot of Republicans say.  But the math isn‘t there.  This isn‘t a system where you can pay into an account and it will be there later.  This is a transfer system.  If you start letting young people stop paying Social Security taxes because they want to pursue their own dreams, the money is not there for old people. 

So this is something—Alaska is a conservative enough state he might not get tripped up and lose on this.  But there are some candidate who might because it doesn‘t make sense.  This is the one big government issue you can call it that Democrats are very happy to debate Republicans on, because they just don‘t think the votes are out there once you explain how this doesn‘t work. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, but you just used the word explain to this electorate currently.  The MSNBC contributor David Weigel, thank you kindly.  Have a good weekend, Dave. 

WEIGEL:  Thank you.  You too. 

OLBERMANN:  Look up in the sky.  It‘s a bird, it‘s a plane, it‘s the greatest man in the world.  Part two of James Thurber‘s epic short story on Fridays with Thurber. 

And what you‘re looking at now is the worst reality show in the world.  And thus, it‘s producers must necessarily be on the worst persons list next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  No, you‘re not really being arrested as a would-be suicide bomber; you‘re just on Iraq‘s newest reality TV show, next in worsts.  First, since the man who made a joke about my dead mother has now revealed himself to be not a commentator but a prophet, not a shock jock but a televangelist, we welcome you to another edition of St. Beck as in Wreck.

Beazel-Beck, Cardinal Beck-menef, the Prince of Beckness, call him what you will; from time to time, we‘ll point out his more egregious mistakes of fact and of faith here.  But thereby it is also incumbent upon us to praise Sister Mary Beck Elephant when divine guidance leads him to get it right.  This is from a long rant about how the administration is actually made up of terrorists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I know the truth.  Two plus two equals four. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What the heck was that, Sidartha Beck-thoma?  Your Jan Brewer impression?  Nice work, Aqua Beck-a.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Part two of Thurber‘s telling story of heroism without the hero.  “The Greatest Man in the World,”  That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze shared by Wyoming state police and the two men they arrested, Thomas Garry and Zachary Beason (ph) of Worlond, Wyoming.  Traffic stop on Highway 28, troopers find trace amounts of marijuana and syringes with residue, prescription medications and assorted drug paraphernalia.  Also a suspicious gray/white powder inside a zip-top sandwich bag, hidden inside a purple and gold whisky drawstring bag.  Police believed the substance was either cocaine or meth. 

In fact, it was grandma.  The unidentified woman who owned the car told police she was very close to her deceased grandmother and she always keeps her nearby in the console.  Nice work, boys. 

The runner up tonight, the finance minister of Russia, Alexei Kudrin.  With economic and tax revenue problems there, he has told his countrymen of a novel solution that might be of interest to the Tea Party here.  Russians should drink more alcohol and smoke more cigarettes.  It fuels the economy, helps the government, especially with new excise taxes on smokes and booze.  “Those who drink, those who smoke,” Kudrin says, “are doing more to help the state.” 

But our winners, host Ali Al Kalheidi (ph) and the producers at Iraq television station al Baghdadia, who are behind the new show, “Put him in Bucca”.  All you need to know is that Bucca is Camp Bucca, the American high security prison which closed last September, that the guys without guns are Iraqi celebrities, and that the show is modeled after such U.S.  standards as “Punked” and “Candid Camera.” 

The rest of this you can figure out even without subtitles. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right, Iraqi celebrities told that bombs had been found planted in their cars and that they were being arrested and are going to Camp Bucca as failed suicide bombers.  What you missed there was one of the men with the guns saying how much did they pay you to do it?  You will be executed.  And the victim playing I am a family man; I have two kids. 

On top of all this, they are specials—specials for family viewing at Ramadan season.  And here I thought American democratic values like TV‘s “Scare Tactics” would never catch on in Iraq.  The staff of “Put Him In Bucca” from al-Baghdadia Television, today‘s worst persons in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In a rickety one engine contraption, trusting to the long-distance refueling device of a crazy school master, Iowa garage mechanic Jack “Pal” Smurch has set off from New York on July 7th, 1937 to attempt the impossible, to fly around the world without stopping for rest for gasoline.  While America writes of Smurch as a doomed dreamer, humanity gasps when he emerges nine days later above San Francisco, safe and sound and bound for New York and greater glory than any aviator has ever known before. 

But there is a problem, Pal Smurch is a little vulgarian, whose leering mother tells reporters, the hell with him; I hope he drowns.  That is where James Thurber left you last Friday in the first part of one of his greater, longer short stories.  He wrote it for the “New Yorker” in 1931.  It was published in “The Middle Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze” in 1935.  I am again reading from the Library of America “Thurber, Writings and Drawings.”  Pal Smurch is hours from history.  His own sordid history is moments from revelation to a world expecting another lucky Lindie. 

As we bring you part two of “The Greatest Man in the World” by James Thurber. 

“Pal Smurch had, the reporters discovered, once knifed the principal of his high school—not mortally, to be sure, but he had knifed him; and on another occasion, surprised in the act of stealing an altar-cloth from a church, he had bashed the sextant over the head with a pot of Easter lilies.  For each of these offences, he had served a sentence in the reformatory.

Inwardly, the authorities, both in New York and in Washington, prayed that an understanding Providence might, however awful such a thing seemed, bring disaster to the rusty, battered plane and its illustrious pilot, whose unheard-of flight had aroused the civilized world to hosannas of hysterical praise.

The authorities were convinced that the character of the renowned aviator was such that the limelight of adulation was bound to reveal him, to all the world, as a congenital hooligan, mentally and morally unequipped to cope with his own prodigious fame. “I trust,” said the Secretary of State, at one of many secret Cabinet meetings called to consider the national dilemma—“I trust that his mother‘s prayer will be answered,” by which he referred to Mrs. Emma Smurch‘s wish that her son might be drowned. 

It was, however, too late for that—Smurch had leaped the Atlantic and then the Pacific as if they were millponds.  At three minutes after two o‘clock on the afternoon of July 17, 1937, the garage boy brought his idiotic plane into ‘Roosevelt Field for a perfect three-point landing.

It had, of course, been out of the question to arrange a modest little reception for the greatest flier in the history of the world.  He was received at Roosevelt Field with such elaborate and pretentious ceremonies as rocked the world.  Fortunately, however, the worn and spent hero promptly swooned, had to be removed bodily from his plane, and was spirited from the field without having opened his mouth once.  Thus he did not jeopardize the dignity of his first reception, a reception illuminated by the presence of the Secretaries of War and the Navy, Mayor Michael J.  Moriarty of New York, the Premier of Canada, Governors Fanniman, Groves, McFeely, and Critchfield, and a brilliant array of European diplomats.

Smurch did not, in fact, come to in time to take part in the gigantic hullabaloo arranged at City Hall for the next day.  He was rushed to a secluded nursing home and confined in bed.  It was nine days before he was able to get up, or to be more exact, before he was permitted to get up.

Meanwhile, the greatest minds in the country, in solemn assembly, had arranged a secret conference of city, state, and government officials, which Smurch was to attend for the purpose of being instructed in the ethics and behavior of heroism.  On the day that the little mechanic was finally allowed to get up and dress and, for the first time in two weeks, took a great chew of tobacco, he was permitted to receive the newspapermen -- this by way of testing him out.

Smurch did not wait for questions. “Youse guys,” he said—and the Times man winced - “youse guys can tell the cock-eyed world dat I put it over on Lindbergh, see?  Yeh—an‘ made an ass o‘ them two frogs.”

The “two frogs” was a reference to a pair of gallant French fliers who, in attempting a flight only halfway round the world, had, two weeks before, unhappily been lost at sea.  The Times man was bold enough, at this point, to sketch out for Smurch the accepted formula for interviews in cases of this kind.  He explained that there should be no arrogant statements belittling the achievements of other heroes, particularly heroes of foreign nations.

“Ah, the hell with that,” said Smurch.  “I did it, see?  I did it, an‘ I‘m talkin‘ about it.”

And he did talk about it.  None of this extraordinary interview was, of course, printed.  On the contrary, the newspapers, already under the disciplined direction of a secret directorate created for the occasion and composed of statesmen and editors, gave out to a panting and restless world that “Jacky,” as he had been arbitrarily nicknamed, would consent to say only that he was very happy and that anyone could have done what he did.

“My achievement has been, I fear, slightly exaggerated,” the Times man‘s article had him protest, with a modest smile.  These newspaper stories were kept from the hero, a restriction which did not serve to abate the rising malevolence of his temper.  The situation was, indeed, extremely grave, for Pal Smurch was, as he kept insisting, “rarin‘ to go.”

He could not much longer be kept from a nation clamorous to lionize him. It was the most desperate crisis the United States of America had faced since the sinking of the Lusitania.  On the afternoon of the twenty-seventh of July, Smurch was spirited away to a conference-room in which were gathered mayors, governors, government officials, behaviorist psychologists, and editors.

He gave them each a limp, moist paw and a brief unlovely grin.  “Hah ya?” he said.  When Smurch was seated, the Mayor of New York arose and, with obvious pessimism, attempted to explain what he must say and how he must act when presented to the world, ending his talk with a high tribute to the hero‘s courage and integrity. The Mayor was followed by Governor Fanniman of New York, who, after a touching declaration of faith, introduced Cameron Spottiswood, Second Secretary of the American Embassy in Paris, the gentleman selected to coach Smurch in the amenities of public ceremonies.

Sitting in a chair, with a soiled yellow tie in his hand and his shirt open at the throat, unshaved, smoking a rolled cigarette, Jack Smurch listened with a leer on his lips.  “I get ya, I get ya,” he cut in, nastily.  “Ya want me to ack like a softy, huh?  Ya want me to ack like that—baby-face Lindbergh, huh?  Well, nuts to that, see?”

Everyone took in his breath sharply.  It was a sigh and a hiss.  “Mr.  Lindbergh,” began a United States Senator, purple with rage, “and Mr. Byrd -- “ Smurch who was paring his nails with a jackknife, cut in again.  “Byrd!” he exclaimed.  “Aw fa God‘s sake, dat big—“ somebody shut off his blasphemies with a sharp word.  A newcomer had entered the room.

Everyone stood up, except Smurch, who was still busy with his nails. 

He did not even glance up.

“Mr. Smurch,” said someone, sternly, “the President of the United States!” It had been thought that the presence of the Chief Executive might have a chastening effect upon the young hero, and the former had been, thanks to the remarkable co-operation of the press, secretly brought to the obscure conference room.  A great, painful silence fell. Smurch looked up, waved a hand at the President.

“How ya comin‘?” he asked”

“The Greatest Man in the World,” part two of three, to be continued next week. 

That‘s September 3rd.  It‘s the 2,682nd day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, to the 2,271st day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 137th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

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