Olbermann Features Three Anti-Bush Guests, Praises Himself for Attacking Rumsfeld

On Thursday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann continued his attacks on the Bush administration over its current series of speeches defending the Iraq War. Hosting interviews with three Bush critics from the left (Senator Barbara Boxer, the Mayor of Salt Lake City who led a protest against Bush's "lies" and John Dean, who labeled Donald Rumsfeld an "authoritarian"), the Countdown host provided a forum to attack the administration without any Bush supporters for balance. Olbermann also patted himself on the back for his Wednesday night diatribe against Rumsfeld (NewsBusters item with video) by citing the "thousands of [Countdown viewers] who responded so kindly," and continued his attacks as he claimed that the Defense Secretary, while employing "vicious" rhetoric and "embracing" the "methods" of "fascists" in his recent speech "against your right to dissent," claiming that Rumsfeld was "throwing dissent under the bus." The Countdown host also labeled some of Bush's logic in arguing Iraq's importance in the war on terrorism as "nonsense." Olbermann rounded up his big anti-conservative night by naming conservatives Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Senator Conrad Burns as his three nominees for his regular "Worst Person in the World" segment. (Partial transcripts follow)

During the show's teaser, Olbermann accused Rumsfeld of opposing "your right to dissent" as he plugged his segment with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer: "And Senator Boxer of California offering a nonbinding resolution demanding the President remove Mr. Rumsfeld in the wake of his speech against your right to dissent."

As Olbermann introduced the first segment, he mocked Bush as likely to soon claim voters have to choose to either "vote for him or Attila the Hun" and dismissively referred to Bush's comparisons of Islamic terrorists to Nazis and fascists "and anybody else you got." After playing a few clips of Bush's speech at the American Legion convention, he brought aboard Boxer to discuss her call for the President to fire Rumsfeld, during which Olbermann referred to Bush's explanation of Iraq's importance in the war on terrorism as "nonsense": "Senator Boxer, he also said if we leave Iraq, the terrorists will follow us, that we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here, but is there not an implication in that that if we stay in Iraq, they suddenly will stop following us anywhere else, they won't try to attack us here, and is that not just nonsense?"

After the Boxer interview, Olbermann highlighted praise from his viewers for his anti-Rumsfeld commentary from the previous night, referring to the "literally thousands of you who responded so kindly." Olbermann: "And a quick note of thanks to you and the literally thousands of you who responded so kindly to my special comment here last night on Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks. We are simply overwhelmed, especially by those who suggested we should repeat those remarks in full on this newscast tonight. On the theory that that would be akin to making everybody in a theater watch the same movie again immediately, we advise you instead, if you are so inclined, that the video and the transcript remain available on our Web site at Countdown.MSNBC.com."

For the second segment, Olbermann brought aboard Salt Lake City's Democratic mayor, Rocky Anderson, who took part in anti-war protests in the city attacking the President's "abuse of power." Although the Countdown host later mentioned to Anderson that John Kerry had won a majority of votes in Salt Lake City, Olbermann introduced the segment citing Utah's overall 71 percent support for Bush implying that the presence of protests in such a state might be a sign of weakness in the President's "core support."

Olbermann: "President Bush won over 71 percent of the vote in Utah in 2004, the greatest percentage of any state in the Union. So when his visit there this week was greeted not only by protesters, but the protesting mayor of Utah's biggest city, it definitely raised some questions about his core support. ... An estimated 4,000 marched to the federal building there and delivered a symbolic indictment against the President and Congress for abuse of power, but before the march began, they gathered at the Salt Lake County building to listen to Mayor Anderson lay out his case against the administration."

Mayor Rocky Anderson (D-Salt Lake City): "This is a new day. We will not be silent. We will continue to raise our voices. And we will bring others with us. We will grow and grow regardless of political party."

As the interview was concluding, and after Anderson contended that it was patriotic to voice dissent over the Iraq War, Olbermann made a response which could be interpreted as implying that war supporters do not care about those who have died in the war as he labeled anti-war protesters as "the" people who did not want to see those deaths. Olbermann: "And we never honor the war dead by smearing the people who did not want them to die in the first place."

For his third anti-Bush interview, Olbermann brought in frequent administration critic and semi-regular guest John Dean, using the interview to further attack Rumsfeld for his recent speech comparing terrorists to fascists, as the Countdown host accused Rumsfeld of "throwing dissent under the bus" and using the "methods" of fascists in a "rhetorical balancing act" even while being critical of fascists, claiming the speech "read like Quisling of Norway and Oswald Moseley of the British Union of Fascists." (A complete list of Olbermann's questions to Dean can be found at the very end of the transcript further down.)

Olbermann: "It has not been gone into at length in the initial responses to the Rumsfeld speech, but why is the administration on this Nazi and fascism terminology kick, especially given that the fact that the rest of Mr. Rumsfeld's speech read like Quisling of Norway or Oswald Moseley of the British Union of Fascists? Is that not quite a rhetorical balancing act to be so vicious in the terminology while embracing, to some degree, the methods of the people you're supposedly criticizing?"

And it turned out the anti-conservative flavor that took up the first 40 minutes of the show was still not enough, as the Countdown host also chose conservatives as all three nominees for his regular "Worst Person in the World" segment, as the night's choices were Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Republican Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT).

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the August 31 Countdown show:

Keith Olbermann, during teaser: "And Senator Boxer of California offering a nonbinding resolution demanding the President remove Mr. Rumsfeld in the wake of his speech against your right to dissent."
...

Keith Olbermann: "Good evening. This is Thursday August 31st, 68 days until the 2006 midterm elections, by which time the President may be asking you to vote for him or vote for Attila the Hun. Our fifth story in the Countdown tonight, first the Secretary of Defense comparing critics of the current war in Iraq to those who tried to appease Adolf Hitler and the Nazis before World War II, today Mr. Bush expanding on that theme to equate current terrorists not just with Nazis, but also fascists, communists and other totalitarians. Reaction ahead from Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California, from the mayor who led the protesting in the city where the President spoke, and from John Dean. First, the President's speech. Mr. Bush insisting that his address to the American Legion in Salt Lake City would not be political, and then proceeding to frame the war debate for the upcoming midterm elections. His assertion, the current struggle against Islamic extremists is as important as was the fight against Nazi Germany plus Mussolini, plus the Cold War, and anybody else you got."

[clips from Bush's speech]

Olbermann: "A war we did not ask for, yet for which we managed to mobilize tens of thousands of American troops along the Kuwaiti border with Iraq for an invasion some 6,000 miles from the U.S."
...

Olbermann: "One thing that Mr. Bush did not say during his speech today, that his critics are 'morally' or 'intellectually confused,' that level of vitriol, for the moment at least, still the exclusive territory of his Defense Secretary, when Donald Rumsfeld addressed the American Legion convention on Tuesday. Day three of the fallout over his remarks prompting action on Capitol Hill. Democratic Senator Boxer of California saying she will offer a nonbinding resolution next week calling for Mr. Bush to fire his Defense Secretary and hire a new one. ... Senator Boxer joins us now from California. ..."

Olbermann: "The administration also insisted again today that nothing in Mr. Rumsfeld's speech Tuesday was about stifling dissent, not even the part about those who disagree with the administration being morally or intellectually confused. Do you buy that?"

[Barbara Boxer]

Olbermann: "About the Commander-in-Chief's speech today, there are several parts of that address that a professor of logic might be able to drive a truck through, but there was one in particular that troubled me. I'd like to play a short clip of it and then call on you for your comment."

George W. Bush: "If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities. We can decide to stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq, in other parts of the world, but they will not decide to stop fighting us."

Olbermann: "Senator Boxer, he also said if we leave Iraq, the terrorists will follow us, that we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here, but is there not an implication in that that if we stay in Iraq, they suddenly will stop following us anywhere else, they won't try to attack us here, and is that not just nonsense?"
...

Olbermann: "And a quick note of thanks to you and the literally thousands of you who responded so kindly to my special comment here last night on Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks. We are simply overwhelmed, especially by those who suggested we should repeat those remarks in full on this newscast tonight. On the theory that that would be akin to making everybody in a theater watch the same movie again immediately, we advise you instead, if you are so inclined, that the video and the transcript remain available on our Web site at Countdown.MSNBC.com."

Olbermann, during before commercial break: "Much of Salt Lake City did not respond well to the visits of Mr. Rumsfeld or Mr. Bush, its mayor calling the latter a 'dishonest, warmongering, human rights-violating President.' Mayor Rocky Anderson joins us here."
...

8:18 p.m.

Olbermann: "President Bush won over 71 percent of the vote in Utah in 2004, the greatest percentage of any state in the Union. So when his visit there this week was greeted not only by protesters, but the protesting mayor of Utah's biggest city, it definitely raised some questions about his core support. Our fourth story on the Countdown, protesting the President, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson joins us in a moment. First the protest itself, an estimated 4,000 marched to the federal building there and delivered a symbolic indictment against the President and Congress for abuse of power, but before the march began, they gathered at the Salt Lake County building to listen to Mayor Anderson lay out his case against the administration."

Mayor Rocky Anderson (D-Salt Lake City): "This is a new day. We will not be silent. We will continue to raise our voices. And we will bring others with us. We will grow and grow regardless of political party."
...

Olbermann: "And we never honor the war dead by smearing the people who did not want them to die in the first place."
...

8:34 p.m.

Olbermann: "Our third story on the Countdown tonight is appeasement, suspected appeasement, by the Secretary of Defense. On Tuesday Mr. Rumsfeld explained why he invoked the Nazis."

[clips of Rumsfeld's speech]

Olbermann: "Was Mr. Rumsfeld likening critics of the war to the appeasers of the 30s?"
...

After quoting Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff's contention that Rumsfeld was not comparing war critics to appeasers, and clips of newspaper headlines that all had the same interpretation, proceeded to his interview with John Dean.

Olbermann: "This semantical dilettantism about calling people appeasers or not calling them, is this backtracking or is there some further Machiavellian or Rumsfeldian political plan behind making an obvious reference, whipping up a firestorm, and then taking the position that you were not referring to what you were referring to?"

Olbermann: "When your book came out, we talked at length about the psychological study of authoritarian personalities and how they had overtaken the conservative movement. Is there room in that psychological structure for one of them, like the Secretary, seriously misjudging the playing field and overreaching? Is that one of the symptoms of all of this? And did he do that in this speech?"

Olbermann: "Can there be, in your opinion, a bigger or broader danger to our democracy than when the very notion of debate, never mind the particulars of debate becomes not just anathema to the leaders, but is no longer seen as a requirement for the very survival of the democracy?"

Olbermann: "Dissent is obviously essential to our history. No dissent, no revolution. No dissent, no emancipation of the slaves. No dissent, in fact, no Republican party. So why throughout that history do some of us like Don Rumsfeld in this case, always turn to throwing dissent under the bus first?"

Olbermann: "It has not been gone into at length in the initial responses to the Rumsfeld speech, but why is the administration on this Nazi and fascism terminology kick, especially given that the fact that the rest of Mr. Rumsfeld's speech read like Quisling of Norway or Oswald Moseley of the British Union of Fascists? Is that not quite a rhetorical balancing act to be so vicious in the terminology while embracing, to some degree, the methods of the people you're supposedly criticizing?"

Olbermann: "And the President today, I got the impression that he was, you talk about conflating, he had conflated the Cold War with the fascists, with Mussolini, with Hitler. It really is, is there anything to be gained by exaggerating a threat like this, by putting it in terms of Apocalypse?"

John Dean: "Keith, I'm struck at how they're trying to play the American people as stupid, and I think this election is going to determine whether they're right, whether they're smarter than everybody thinks, or whether they really have made a terrible mistake by playing everybody for being as dumb as they seem to think they are."

Olbermann: "We'll keep our fingers crossed."