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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 17

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Jeff Goodell, Chris Cillizza

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  The Utah mine disaster.  With three rescuers dead, the mission is suspended.  The other six miners perhaps to be presumed dead.  Did anyone here ever really know what they were doing? 


JON HUNTSMAN, ®, GOVERNOR OF UTAH:  Yesterday, we went from a tragedy to a catastrophe. 


OLBERMANN:  Or did that catastrophe start long ago in the offices of Mine Safety Director Stickler and mine owner Bob Murray, who said on Monday: 


ROBERT MURRAY, CRANDALL CANYON MINE OWNER:  These are the worse mining conditions that I have ever seen in my 50 years of mining. 


OLBERMANN:  And then who could have actually said on Tuesday: 


MURRAY:  Nobody‘s ever said it wasn‘t safe. 


OLBERMANN:  Were these risks necessary or fatally foolish? 

Rudy Giuliani‘s risk.  He says he had nearly as much exposure to the poisoned air of Ground Zero as did the rescue workers there.  The data is now out.  The exposure he risked in three months, they risked in three days. 

Change of heart.  Tonight a new clip of Dick Cheney from 2000 on invading iraq, disagreeing with the Dick Cheney of 2003 and the Dick Cheney of 1994. 


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You take down the central government of Iraq, you‘re going to end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off?  It‘s a quagmire. 


OLBERMANN:  Could the quagmire of Dick Cheney have a physical explanation? 

Meet, Jimmy Justice.  Jimmy Justice likes to hoist meter maids on their own petards. 


JIMMY JUSTICE:  You are a traffic enforcement agent?  And you parked your official vehicle blocking a fire pump?  You ought to be ashamed of yourself? 


OLBERMANN:  And other people tonight who see and hear things the rest of us don‘t—the air guitar championships, including competitor Bjorn Turoque.  Get it, born to rock?

All that and more now on “Countdown”. 

(on camera):  Good evening from New York.  For 11 days, efforts to reach six stranded miners at Crandall County Mine in Utah were hampered by the movement of the very mountain itself.  Tonight, in our fifth story on the “Countdown,” the whole underground search cancelled, postponed indefinitely after three rescue would-be rescue workers lost their lives trying to reach their stranded colleagues last night. 

The devastating loss coming as both the head of the federal Mine Safety, whom a Republican controlled Congress would not approve, and the owner of the mine, who has contributed hundreds and thousands of dollars to Republican candidates, come under intense scrutiny for their active and passive actions against increased mine safety.  More on that vital issue in had a moment, first, the scope of the disaster. 

At about 6:30 local time last night, the mine suffered what mining officials called a bump.  A shudder of seismic activity strong enough to kill three workers and injure six more. 


RICHARD STICKLER, DIRECTOR, MINE SAFETY & HEALTH ADMINISTRATION:  The accident that occurred underground yesterday evening was a result of seismic activity.  A mountain bump that dislodged approximately 30 feet of the right rib of the wall underground and that wall was blast across the entry, striking the nine miners that were injured.  The force of that blast completely destroyed the ground support that we had put in place that we believed would provide protection for those rescue workers. 


OLBERMANN:  It was exactly the same kind of seismic activity that had trapped their colleagues on August 6.  The same kind of activity that hindered the rescue operation all last week and caused at least 12 miners to be concerned enough to ask that they be moved away from the area. 


MURRAY:  After driving 310 feet, we were sent back twice with seismic activity.  These are the worst mining conditions that I have ever seen in my 50 years of mining.  It is just a matter of getting through this area where we have had all this seismic activity. 

There are 12 miners that were concerned.  They never said it was not safe.  That‘s not correct.  What they said was that they were a little bit worried about the conditions and could they be reassigned.  So we reassigned them to other parts of the mine.  But nobody has ever said it wasn‘t safe. 

The roof is intact.  There has been no falls from the seismic activity.  We had seismic activity just now.  The mountain is still alive.  And the mountain is not allowing us to advance as rapidly as we would like to. 


OLBERMANN:  State officials in Utah now looking for explanations and solutions from mining officials. 


HUNTSMAN:  We want to make sure that the lives that were lost last night were not in vain.  That as a result of what we learn from this week and a half of pain, that we become better and smarter and safer. 


OLBERMANN:  Our correspondent George Lewis is at the mine in Utah tonight.

George, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  George, obviously the community is consumed with grief over the loss of these three rescue miners from last night.  But is there anger there, too, given that even the mine owner had stated how bad the conditions were inside that mine? 

LEWIS:  The anger has yet to set in, Keith.  The main concern here is will the miners still be found though hope is fading rather rapidly now.  This is a very faithful community.  A lot of religious people here.  They are still praying for a miracle.  I think if the next hole that they are boring in the earth—plan to punch that hole through tomorrow, and lower a camera and a microphone.  I think if they find no signs of life and if they decide it is not worth of the risk of further lives going in to try to find those miners and they call the search off completely, then the anger might set in.

OLBERMANN:  Has there been an explanation as to how this is supposed to work if, in the owner‘s phrase, the mountain is still alive?  If they find them, if this somehow works tomorrow, how they are going to get them out if the seismic activity were to continue? 

LEWIS:  The plan would be to drill a man-sized hole into the mine and insert a specially-made capsule to wench the miners out, but it would take about a month to drill that hole.  So we are talking about extremely long odds here.  And the experts are telling me that the hope for finding those guys alive is extremely slim. 

OLBERMANN:  The governor of Utah has said he wants to make sure, George, that this tragedy makes mines in Utah, across the country better, smarter, safer.  Has he given any indication on how he is going to do that considering that mine oversight is a federal issue, it‘s under federal jurisdiction? 

LEWIS:  He has not sketched out a plan for doing that, Keith.  I think the governor was trying to keep people going here.  He says he is trying to keep people staying strong and together.  And so he is putting out a lot of rhetoric at this point. 

What is going to happen this weekend is experts are going to start assembling to see if there is any way of restarting the rescue effort from the mine entrance, and through that, we have been told that the mine is still moving.  Still a lot of activity.  Caused, according to seismologists, by the mining itself and not Mother Nature and that it is extremely dangerous in there. 

OLBERMANN:  It is not timblers, it‘s not earthquakes, it the inevitable result of mining. 

George Lewis at Crandall Canyon Mine in Huntington, Utah, and the grim scene there.  Thanks for your time tonight, George.


OLBERMANN:  For more on mine safety.  We are joined by Jeff Goodell, author of “Big Coal, the Dirty Secret Behind America‘s Energy Future.” 

Thank you for your time tonight, sir? 

JEFF GOODELL:  Thanks for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  Hindsight in horrors like this is usually 20/20.  But in this instance, there were warnings all week about this man-made seismic activity if you will, but the mine owner kept claiming this was safe in the mine.  Others were concerned, even he himself admitted—he phrased it as the worse he had seen in 50 years.  I know the desire to try to rescue the original trapped miners is noble, unassailable, unarguable, but they have suspended that anyway now.  Why did it take three deaths to justify that suspension? 

GOODELL:  Well, that was a really difficult call.  I mean, going out and—they had to go after these guys.  This was—going into this tunnel was really the only way feasible way of being able to bring these guys out alive. 

I think you have to go back before the first collapse happened, 12 days ago that trapped the miners.  Go back all the way to March of this year when they had another major bump in the mine that, in fact, caused them to have to close the large section of the mine.  Even months ago there was indications of the instability there.  And I think you have to look hard and ask some really hard questions about, you know, what kind of oversight there was?  Who was watching this?  How much care was being taken in what were for months, clearly dangerous conditions? 

OLBERMANN:  Ultimately, there are a number of steps up that ladder, but the man at the top of it, as we pointed last night, is Richard Stickler who is in charge of federal mine safety, and had an appalling safety record before his appointment to that position that even Congressional Republicans were unwilling to support his nomination.  And the president pushed him through in a recess appointment.  He refused to endorse safety recommendations after the Sago Mine disaster.  Is he going to do anything after this disaster, can he do anything other than say, resign? 

GOODELL:  Well, that‘s a good question.  After a disaster like this there is always a lot of calls for safety reform and passing new legislation.  But those calls sort of fade out, you know, as the emotion fades away.  And by the time Congress gets around to doing anything about it, it is sort of forgotten about and the coal industry lobbies against a lot of these safety reforms because they are expensive, difficult.  They hinder mining.  And they—that‘s what they would say. 

But one of the key thins here is that you have the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which is in charge of oversight of this mine, also doing the investigation.  So it is sort of like Dick Cheney investigating the charges of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  You have the same agency trying to criticize itself.  And that is a big problem. 

OLBERMANN:  To the point of the lobbying against increased safety measures, the owner of this mine, Bob Murray, himself, reportedly politically well-connected, reportedly been able to get mine inspectors transferred out of his mines.  He gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Republican Party.  He opposed new safety regulations.  He bragged about how tight he and Senator Mitch McConnell were.  Have these connections made any difference to his business and could it be said that men have died because of these connections? 

GOODELL:  He has made a difference to his business.  Coal is a commodity business.  So anything that you can do to make it as cheap as possible to get it out of the ground is profit in your pocket.  That is one of the reasons they fight safety reforms. 

And another thing, you know—a great example of what Murray has done is after Sago, one of the big problems was how small the fines were for violations, $75, $100 in some cases.  Congress wanted to increase those fines.  Murray argued that this was outrageous, put the coal business out of business and destroy the American economy if they tried to put severe fines on these violations.  And that gives you an indication of how he thinks about this stuff. 

OLBERMANN:  Jeff Goodell, the author of “Big Coal,” thanks for your time to be here. 

GOODELL:  Thanks for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  From risks ignored to risks exaggerated.  Rudy Giuliani saying his exposure to Ground Zero‘s bad air was like the rescuers—if their 36 hours in three days is the same as his 29 hours and three months. 

And you have seen this video of Dick Cheney explaining, in 1994, why invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein would be crazy.  Tonight, a newly recovered clip from 2000 in which he was still warning of the quagmire that the Dick Cheney of today helped to create. 

You are watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Considering that Rudy Giuliani has been called America‘s mayor, an urban legend because of 9/11.  Now consider that term urban legend, which also means a widely repeated story which has no basis in fact.  Our fourth story, the “Countdown” to 2008 and the demythologizing of Rudy Giuliani.

The “New York Times” reporting the first six days of his schedule after 9/11 are incomplete because of chaos at the time.  But that an exhaustive analysis of his a mayoral logs shows a total of only 29 hours at the pile of the World Trade Center over three months.  Short memorial visits with dignitaries like Vladimir Putin were typical.  Some rescue and recovery workers put in that much time in just two days, most working 12 hours shifts or around the clock.  Yet, over the last year, the mayor has told a different story, a version that rankles some workers, even those who admire him. 

Last Saturday in Cincinnati quoting, “I was at Ground Zero at often, if not more, than most of the workers.  I was there working with them.  I was there guiding things.  I was there bringing people there, but I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to so, in that sense, I‘m one of them.”

Mr. Giuliani also facing renewed questions about his family life.  A New Hampshire woman asking about his estrangement from his children, one of them now a Barack Obama supporter. 


RUDY GIULIANI, ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I love my family very, very much.  And I would do anything for them.  And the reality is that there are complexities in every family in America.  If you are in public life, they are no different.  And the best thing I can say is—kind of leave my family alone.


OLBERMANN:  Chris Cillizza, blogs about politics with, and joins us now.

Chris, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Twenty-nine hours on pile in three months according to what exists of his schedule versus the 12 hour shifts, seven days of work.  Let‘s give him eight hours of day at the sight during the first six days.  That is 77 hours in the first three months, which is less than most workers did in the first week.  Yet he continues to say he was there more than some of the police, firefighters, the construction guys.  His campaign says he was there when we needed it the most.  Has this devolved into a photo opportunity for Rudy Giuliani‘s presidential campaign? 

CILLIZZA:  You know, the problem, Keith, I think is that what he said and those comments that you played is that he was there as much, if not more, than many of the workers.  Now, he has since gone back and said I wasn‘t there nearly as many as most of the workers.  I was there more than some of my staff and members of my staff had gotten sick as a result of that.  So it‘s not just time spent on pile. 

But yeah, of course.  I mean, both the question from the woman in New Hampshire and the story in the “New York Times” today, I think it shows that the frontrunner in this race, Rudy Giuliani is getting a lot more scrutiny.  It is to be expected.  It comes with the territory.  I don‘t think the scrutiny is surprising.  It‘s how does he handle it?  Especially as it relates to 9/11 which has been absolutely at the core of his campaign from the start. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there—is this—sort of swaying where he could be derailed in one state, he could be derailed in South Carolina over the family issues but in Iowa over the analysis of 9/11?  Is there any indication of where—are these two separate problems or are they one sort of credibility problem for him? 

CILLIZZA:  I think they are probably of a piece of one problem.  I would caution, at least right yet, it hasn‘t really penetrated.  I think when people see Rudy Giuliani in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, they still see America‘s mayor, hero of September 11.  Stories that like the one that ran in the “New York Times” today will chip away at that.  We‘ve talk about this, Keith, you and I, has real potential to damage his campaign.  It is fundamental about what he is running.  I can keep you safer.  I understand in his terminology, the war of the terrorists against us.  If that strength has turn into a weakness, he has problems with his campaign regardless of what state we are talking about. 

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, there is one political scientist that said Rudy Giuliani‘s own focus on 9/11 is exposing him not to whatever happened to him there, but to the same kind of minute-by-minute, diary analysis that was used against John Kerry, only this time, as if you don‘t need to do any swift boasting, the facts seem to speak for themselves.  Is this a vulnerability that his camp did not anticipate? 

CILLIZZA:  You know, I haven‘t got be the honest truth from them and may not.  I don‘t know if they anticipate it or not but I think the comparison is somewhat apt in that, John Kerry in 2004, that idea of one of the main reasons he was nominated, many Democrats felt, was because of his military record in the time of war.  They needed someone who had been a military hero. 

Giuliani, again, you cannot think of Rudy Giuliani without thinking of September 11.  That‘s why everyone knows him.  That why he is at the top of polls, continues to be.  So he is not able to be de-linked from that event.  If that event winds up being an anchor rather than a balloon pushing him up, he is in a lot of trouble.  I‘m not saying that is the case but there is always that potential when you put so much emphasis on one single event in your campaign. 

OLBERMANN:  Turning to the current occupants of the White House, the news we heard today from Tony Snow, he told a radio talk show that he‘s going to leave before the end of the Bush presidency for financial reasons.  Tonight there are reports he might go as early as next month.  Given the respect with which this man has held, even if people disagree with him and want to throw things at the screen sometimes, there is a great deal of respect for this man.  Is this as bad a blow to the administration as anything that could actually happen out in the real world?

CILLIZZA:  Well, unfortunately for the administration nothing happens in a vacuum.  As we know Karl Rove has left—planning to leave at the end of August.  We have three members of Congress, Republican members—including two members of leadership, Denny Hastert, the former Speaker and Debra Price, another member of leadership from Ohio, retire just this week. 

It looks, from afar, like rats jumping off a ship.  And it‘s that

perception that they have to worry about. 

OLBERMANN:  Chris Cillizza, who writes “The Fix,” the political blog at the “Washington Post.”  Chris, thank you and have a great weekend. 

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Meet Jimmy Justice.  Jimmy Justice tries to give parking tickets to the official who give parking tickets. 

And the upside of global warming and the potential end of civilization as we know it.  When glaciers crack apart, the surfing conditions they create are narly. 

Hang 10 with us next, here on “Countdown”, dude.


OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1962, the Beatles stepped onto a stage in Cheshire, in England, John, Paul, George and Johnny.  Is Johnny doesn‘t sound right, this was the day after the Beatles had fired drummer Pete Best but the day before they welcomed the new drummer Ringo Starr.  While it may stink historically to have been Pete Best, how it must have felt to have been 36-hour fill-in drummer Johnny Hutchinson, Beatles temp? 

On that note, let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Madison, Wisconsin, as the suburban Wheels Gas Station, where legend has it the king appeared just two months before his death, seen in this re-enactment of that not even slightly fateful evening.  Elvis Presley step out of his limo when he saw a fight going on.  He leapt, as well as anybody on a diet of banana and peanut butter can leap into the fray and broke it up.  Local historians placed a stone marker at the sight to commemorate the event.  Local reporters described the crowd as huge.  Not that huge. 

To New Cordova, Alaska, where global warming is not just a threat to the future of human civilization, it‘s also an extreme sport.  We are at the Child‘s Glacier in south central Alaska where a tow-in surfing team flew in from Hawaii.  That‘s right.  Somebody paid money to leave Hawaii because they had better waves in Alaska.  How?  Melting glaciers fall.  When the ice caps disappear all together at least our gill-breathing descendents will have the consolation of knowing the earth‘s final land mass has been consumed by a toasty wave. 

The history of Dick Cheney‘s statements about invading Iraq just got a little more interesting tonight.  You heard in 1994 explaining what a stupid idea it was.  Tonight a still different version from 2000. 

Speaking of playing a different tune, do people who play competitive air guitar get called air guitar heads? 

These stories upcoming, first, here‘s “Countdown‘s” top news makers.

Number three, the Virginia State Tourism Corporation which says it‘s going to change it‘s new Live Passionately marketing campaign.  That ad with the two hands held together to form the shape of the heart, which the board did not realize, was the gang sign thrown by the Southside Chicago group, Gangster Disciples. 

Number two, Anthony Ortiz, dumb criminal.  Sentenced to eight and a half years for robbing a Bank of America in Sarasota.  When the dye pack exploded, it startled him, who promptly dropped something he was carrying with him for another item on his to do list that day, his resume and photo. 

Number one, Patrick O‘Brien of Fort (inaudible) Township, Michigan, our “Countdown” star of game.  If there be dump criminals, so must there be dumb victims.  Donning a mask, walks into Sandler‘s Party Store, waves a hand gun around, announces this is a holdup.  Mr. O‘Brien, shopping at the time, decided it had to be a friend of his playing a practical joke on him.  So he went up to the burglar and grabbed him playfully where upon the burglar hit him over the head with his gun.  Fortunately, only Mr.  O‘Brien‘s pride was seriously injured.  As to the burglar, apparently not Mr. O‘Brien‘s friend.


OLBERMANN:  If you want to dismiss Vice President Dick Cheney as emotionally heartless, beware, you might literally be saying more than you know.  Last Sunday the “Washington Post” told the story of Peter Houghton, who seven years ago received a titanium implant to replace the failing left half of his heart.

He says he now finds himself more, quote, cold hearted, less sympathetic in some ways on a to the agree that he wants to bond with his eight-year-old grandson, quoting again, “I don‘t want to be bothered to have a reasonable relationship with him and I don‘t know why.”  This is especially alarming to Mr. Houghton who is a trained psychotherapist who used to work with dying patients at hospices.

Our third story tonight, just a cautionary preamble to the remarkable story of Dick Cheney‘s change of heart about invading Iraq from 1994 to 2000 to 2003 and to now.  Against the backdrop of another vicious and deadly week in Iraq came a classic example of Internet quickly spreading something of actual substance which had originally appeared on C-SPAN.  The stunning revelation that Dick Cheney might have been right about Iraq after all.  At least in 1994.

He was asked then why U.S. forces did not push on to Baghdad during the first Gulf War after having expelled Saddam Hussein‘s forces from Kuwait.  Back when Mr. Cheney was secretary of defense under President George H.W.



RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT:  Because if we had gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone, there wouldn‘t have been anyone else with it, it would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq.  Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein‘s government then what are you going to put in place?  If you take down the central government of Iraq, you can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off.  It‘s a quagmire if you go that far and a question for the president whether we went on to Baghdad and took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein was how many additional dead Americans was Saddam worth?  Our judgment was not very many and I think we got it right.


OLBERMANN:  When he said that Mr. Cheney was a former defense secretary, of course no longer in office but more on than six years later, vice presidential candidate Cheney gave essentially the same answer to the same question when this network marked the 10 year anniversary of the Gulf War.


CHENEY:  Instead of being the leader of international coalition that came and reversed aggression and risk toward civil order, if you will in that part of the world, we shift and become the imperial power coming in from willy-nilly occupying national capitals, taking down governments we disagree with that we don‘t like.


OLBERMANN:  Pretty much.  Spoken as if it were prophecy.  As to the glaring discrepancy between what Mr. Cheney said then and the Vice President Cheney who aggressively pitched many of the arguments and lies prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Office of the Vice President has now offered a comment.  “He was not vice president at the time, it was after he was secretary of defense,” spokesperson says before adding, “I done have any comment.”

As for the possible angle of Cheney‘s actual heart in his change of heart, well the vice president does not have a titanium implant like Mr. Houghton.  He has had a coronary stent in November 2000, and a special pacemaker in June 2001 both inserted into his chest, the latter just retooled last month.  After a history of heart problems, including at least four minor heart attacks occurring between 1978 and 2000.

Joining me now the Washington correspondent for “The Nation” magazine and author of two books on Mr. Cheney, John Nichols.  John, thanks for your time tonight.

JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”:  It is a pleasure to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It is honestly hard to know where to begin.  Because you could write another book detailing Mr. Cheney‘s justifications of the Iraq War from 2003 to the present and how much of it contradicts this Dick Cheney guy from 1994 and 2000.  And when the vice president‘s office is given the chance to comment it didn‘t even bother to t trot out the usual answer, 9/11 changed everything.  But even within the world of Dick Cheney how can these positions be reconciled?

NICHOLS:  Well, I think Keith, that the best first step is to recognize that Dick Cheney is the most cynical political figure to hold high office in this country since his former boss Dick Nixon.  And he is perfectly willing to say what he thinks will advance him particularly at an election season.

In 1994, he was at least in his own mind, competing for the Republican nomination for president in 1996.  In 2000, of course he was completing for the vice presidency.  In both cases he needed to seem to be a mainstream and responsible figure.  But the real Dick Cheney, the man who was secretary of defense in 1990 and produced a secret plan for invading Iraq and capturing Saddam Hussein that was ultimately rejected by Norman Schwarzkopf, I do not believe ever relinquished his desire to take control of Iraq and its oil.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously one reason this phenomenon has occurred on the Internet with 1994 C-SPAN interview, the dead on accuracy then about what is happening 13 years later in Iraq now.  When you topple Saddam, what do you put in its place, he asks?  Pieces of Iraq could fly off.  A quagmire he described it as and the attacks of 9/11 only changed the administration‘s eagerness to topple Saddam even though he had nothing to do with 9/11.  But it doesn‘t change anything about what happens when you could that.  Isn‘t that the fatal flaw of any explanation that tries to reconcile these two Dick Cheneys other than the sheer cynicism you describe?

NICHOLS:  Well, of course, it is the sheer cynicism and this is why Dick Cheney is such a dangerous man.  He can be exposed to the facts.  He can be briefed fully, he can know all of the mainstream and responsible thinking on a region and he will still revert to, in a very innate desire to do what he wants.  Basically a war of whim.  And this is something when I wrote about him, I interviewed his old professors at Yale and one of the things they said back was in 1960 he was a guy who was looking for simple ideas about the world, most of them rooting back to the idea of the United States being able to do whatever it wants without any consequences.  I don‘t think Dick Cheney has changed at all but I think we often see different faces of him when he believes it is politically convenient.

Remember, this is the man who said on the eve of a war that he had to have known would be disastrous in many ways, that American troops would be greeted as liberators.  Now more than 3,500 mothers have buried the children of those liberators and I think that we all realize that any time Dick Cheney says something we have to be very cautious about believing that he is sincere.

OLBERMANN:  I want to close with the changed heart speculation.  It‘s not even a theory.  But there is Brent Scowcroft, the national security advisor under the first President Bush who said he had been a good friend of Cheney, has known him for 30 years but the quote was, “Dick Cheney, I don‘t know any more.”

Scowcroft did not make any reference to the heart.  There are heart surgeons who would say the hypothesis is crazy but you begin to wonder about changes in a man, changes in how he perceived his mission.  To you buy any of that?

NICHOLS:  No.  I have watched Dick Cheney for a very long time.  I have read I think just about everything about him, I‘ve even interviewed the guy and I can tell you this.  Dick Cheney had his first heart attack in 1978.  Doctors have been trying to repair his heart and his humanity since and I don‘t think they have succeeded.

OLBERMANN:  John Nichols of “The Nation” and author of “Dick, the Man Who Was President.”  Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

NICHOLS:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  From Dick to Jimmy.  This is Jimmy.  When a meter maid blocks a hospital parking zone, Jimmy is there to try to get them severely punished.  And now we know where Paris Hilton went to jail.  We all saw sashay out of pokey modeling her new fashion line.  That fashion line is now available to us, the plebeian masses, next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Among the great teeming masses of humanity in America‘s cities, there is danger lurking in the form of unfair, unjustified traffic tickets.  Downtrodden drivers duped by jammed meter, missing no parking signs, the no-right turn sign hidden behind the pole and worse of all the meter maid‘s van blocking three lanes of traffic while she goes inside and gets a knish.

For anyone who has ever been the target of merciless meter maids and ticket spewing traffic agents anywhere, well, first, you have got to get mad, you have got to say, I‘m a human being, my life has value.  And then you have to let our component Kerry Sanders introduce you to the star of our number two story.  Jimmy Justice.


KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  His alas, Jimmy Justice.  His mission, to try to cash those who enforce laws, breaking them.  His weapon a loaded video camera.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What is your problem?

JUSTICE:  You are traffic enforcement agent and you parked your official vehicle, blocking a fire pump, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

SANDERS:  Thirty-six year old Jimmy Justice roams the streets of New York City in search of parking violations by the very people who write the parking tickets.

JUSTICE:  You are blocking traffic on a major avenue, you are not allowed to do that.  You are supposed to enforce the law, not violate the law.  Are you embarrassed that you broke the law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I didn‘t break the law.

JUSTICE:  You parked in a bus stop.  Oh, that‘s dangerous, I‘m calling for backup, whaa.

SANDERS:  Sometimes confrontational.  He posts the videos on YouTube.

JUSTICE:  You made an illegal U-turn in a business district.

UNIDENTFIIED FEMALE:  Don‘t do that.  Don‘t do that, OK?

JUSTICE:  And have it on video.  What kind of example are you for citizens of New York.

SANDERS (on camera):  You call yourself Jimmy Justice, what, like a super hero?

JUSTICE:  Not a superhero in the same vein as Superman or Batman but you want to call me a superhero, so be it.

I‘m Jimmy Justice and you days of running around the city like a cowboy are over.

SANDERS:  No surprise here.  Those in-law enforcement are not amused.

(voice-over):  Union President James Huntley says rules allow officers to sometimes park where others cannot.

JAMES HUNTLEY, TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT UNION:  I‘m really upset that he is doing this because now causing the New York City members to get embarrassed, have to go home and they live in the city neighborhoods and they haven‘t done anything wrong.

JUSTICE:  Ms. Anderson, I‘m talking to you.

SANDERS:  NBC News contacted the one officer identified on tape.  She had a no comment.  Fast becoming a folk hero, when he‘s not on patrol, Jimmy Justice likes to sing.

JUSTICE:  Bad boys bad boys what you gonna do, what you gonna do when Jimmy Justice comes for you?

SANDERS:  A theme song for his crusade.  Kerry sanders, NBC News, New York City.


OLBERMANN:  From justice, jimmied to those awaiting justice we begin tonight‘s roundup of celebrity entertainment news “Keeping Tabs,” more legal problems for Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick accused of running a dogfighting on his property in Virginia and today, his co-defendants Pernell Peace (ph) and Quantas Phillips (ph) pleaded guilty to conspiracy and dogfighting charges.  They have agreed to help federal prosecutors in their case against Vick.  It‘s the same deal that Tony Taylor, a fourth defendant struck with prosecutors last month.  At this point Vick is the only man accused who is still maintaining his innocence.  Courthouse sources telling NBC News that Vick‘s lawyers were attempting to limit his jail time to less than a year if he agreed to plead guilty and say there is no firm deadline if Vick finally agrees to a plea deal.

Sports columnists and writers are pointing out if he does go to jail, the Atlanta Falcons are likely to be able to void the remainder of his contract and no NFL team is likely to offer him a new one in the foreseeable future.

Paris Hilton making good on a promise to lead a life of charitable giving after serving time.  She has achieved modern day Mother Teresa status by bringing affordable fashion to the masses.  The heiress launching her own clothing line at the Kitson Boutique (ph) in Los Angeles.  Ms. Hilton‘s tour of goodwill and that‘s good, will, not Goodwill Industries, it required local law enforcement to handle the large mob clamoring to own a piece of Paris.  It‘s just from my closets to their closets, a humble Ms.  Hilton told reporters.

Assuming that is a good thing, you too westbound the proud owner of a $128 gold sequined mini dress modeled here by Ms. Hilton and the small child laborer to her left.

Hey buddy, you forgot your guitar.  Oh, that‘s the whole thing?  The air guitar championships ahead.

But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for worst person in the world.

The bronze to British police transport inspector Masoud Kahn (ph), acquitted of criminal charges today for having that sex on duty in a police station at Gatwick Airport.  The jury bought his explanation that he was not being derelict of his duty because throughout, he wore his police radio and earpiece and as he put it, “If there was a call for me, I would have answered it and I would have dealt with it.”

Look, buddy, either you are a bad policeman or a bad romantic.  Listening to the police scanner for crying out loud!

The silver to the staff at the Hotel Coral Beach in Cancun in Mexico, it ejected the woman in the Mayan dress.  Assuming she was a beggar or street vendor who had wondered into their lobby, she wasn‘t.  She was Rigoberto Menchu, good will ambassador for UNESCO, candidate for president of Guatemala and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner.  Sorry, perhaps we can make it up to you by offering you this lovely folder full of Hotel Coral Beach stationery.

But our winner, right wing water carrier Melanie Morgan.  Usually she inspires anger but this is just sad now.  Attacking for the second time this week John Soltz of for being political while a picture of him in military uniform appears on the Vote Vets website.  Melanie, if you can hear me in there, active service personnel can‘t be political especially while in uniform.  John Soltz, though is in the reserves, like Senator Lindsey Graham and hundreds of thousands of others.  The reserves, as it says in the military regulations, can be political and they can even have old pictures of themselves in their old uniforms.

Try to follow me, Melanie, active, not OK.  Reserve, permitted.  There is one real problem here, though, Morgan also writes that Soltz is a quote, “hypocritical cockroach.  He needs to be stomped on and neutralized.”

Let‘s hope the police recognize that incitement to violence against Mr.

Soltz and charge Melanie Morgan accordingly.

Nobody in the political arena should be stomped on and neutralized, not even Melanie Morgan.  Melanie, plead insanity.  Melanie Morgan, again, today‘s “Worst Person in the World!”


OLBERMANN:  The history of the air guitar is an elusive pray.  Most of the competitors in the World Air Guitar Championships—yeah, the World Air Guitar Championships think it became big after featured in the 1989 movie “Bill and Ted‘s Excellent Adventure.”

Twenty two years ago next month, “The New York Times” had a lengthy reminiscence of a staffer who waxed nostalgic for the good old days, his teenage years in the ‘70s.  Before air guitar became quote, “institutionalized” in quote, “the form of concerts” unquote.

Our number one story on THE COUNTDOWN, boy has that ship sailed.  Time for the fifth annual U.S. Air Guitar Championships and special coverage from our special coverage correspondent Willie Geist.  Willie, good evening.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you, Keith.  Given that history and given the fact that we invented rock ‘n‘ roll, you would think the United States would dominate competitive air guitaring.  Not so, an American has stood at the top of the medal stand only twice in the history of the Air Guitar World Championships.  A national shame indeed.

Last night this country‘s best and brightest air guitarists gathered at the Fillmore in New York City for the U.S. Air Guitar Finals where they competed for the right to restore the United States‘ place in the world.


GEIST (voice-over):  This is the future of America.


GEIST:  Fortunately, it‘s just the future of American air guitar.

BJORN TUROQUE, AIR GUITAR ICON:  Air guitar, rock ‘n‘ roll, as far as I‘m concern, were born in the United States and it has been said that if there is one thing the United States deserves to dominate, it‘s air guitar.

ALEX “RICKY STINKFINGERS” FORBES, AIR GUITARIST”:  This is the hall of fame right here basically, the last few years of air guitarring, much respect to everybody else but I think I have got airness, that‘s something you can‘t calculate or train, you are born with it or you are not.

GEIST:  The competition has a decidedly Olympic feel.  There is a strict substance testing policy, if no alcohol is detected in your system you are subject to investigation and a panel of judges scores on a variety of criteria.

JASON JONES, AIR GUITAR JONES:  I look for—male nudity, I enjoy.  Big points for that.

MALCOLM GLADWELL, AIR GUITAR JUDGE:  I‘m really focused on this elusive quality of airness.

GEIST:  The crowd favorite on this night is local New York air guitar legend William Ocean.

ANDREW “WILLIAM OCEAN” LITZ, AIR GUITARIST:  If I don‘t walk away with at least a U.S. title and at least three to four broken bones, I haven‘t done my job tonight.

GEIST:  In a judging scandal that rocked air guitaring to its core, Ocean finished second by fractions at last year‘s nationals and missed the chance to represent his country in Finland.  This year he would get another shot at his nemesis, defending champ “Hot Licks” Houlihan.

Hot Licks was strong but Ocean would not be denied.  A virtuoso performance backed by the partisan crowd of wave riders gave the hometown boy the national title.

LITZ:  They come to the show, want to have a good time.  They want to ride the wave and I try every single time to set them on that wave.

GEIST:  With the international championships still on the horizon, Ocean‘s celebration was still short-lived.

LITZ:  I‘m focusing for the next month, I go into hibernation, I go in, I practice, I sweat, I shred and when I come out and take that place in Finland and when I get there, it‘s a tsunami.  It‘s a tsunami.  And honestly, there is no doubt in my mine, U.S. will win the world title this year.


GEIST:  The William Ocean tsunami hits the shores of Finland beginning on September 5.  If you can‘t make it to Scandinavia, you can catch Ocean and the rest of them in the documentary film “Air Guitar Nation.”  It‘s excellent and it comes out on DVD later this month, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Willie Geist and yes, University of Helsinki has an exhibition in which if you play air guitar while wearing special gloves, you actually produce guitar sounds which seems to defeat the purpose of it.  Thanks, Willie.

GEIST:  All right, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,575 day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Ah, what the hell.

Good night and good luck.



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