Howard Dean guest hosted Countdown with Keith Olbermann at an opportune time last night, following reports that the Senate Finance Committee–helmed by Montana Democrat Max Baucus–is preparing to exclude a public option from its long-awaited healthcare bill.

"What if the Senate Finance Committee has already done the Republicans’ dirty work for them?" Dean asked rhetorically at the beginning of show.

Dean has just authored a book on healthcare reform–detailing why America needs a public option–and knows quite a bit about the subject from his years as a doctor and governor of Vermont. He called Baucus’s reported bill the "so-called compromise."

Dean asked Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, why Baucus would "give away something something so fundamental to healthcare reform as a public option?"

"We‘ve got to have a public option in the plan that we send to the president‘s desk," Van Hollen responded. "We‘re all still hoping that the Senate Finance Committee bill will have a public option."

Dean noted that 72 percent of Americans, according to a New York Times poll, support a public option. "Is what Americans want already dead in the Senate?" Dean asked.

"No," Van Hollen answered. "I certainly hope not. It‘s certainly not dead with respect to the bill that we‘ll send to the president‘s desk." But it isn’t clear what kind of leverage House Democrats have with the likes of Baucus, nor do we know yet whether they’ll be able to keep their own Blue Dog conservatives in line.

"Voters were promised change they can believe in," Dean told Van Hollen. "Are you concerned about what may happen to our party in 2010 or 2012 if we don‘t get any change at all?"

Van Hollen said that Democrats will be judged on whether they delivered on a promised new direction. What they end up doing on healthcare will go a long way towards answering that question.

In the next segment, Dean asked Wendell Potter–a former spokesman for Cigna turned whistleblower–"ideology aside, what motive do Republicans and Blue Dogs have to defeat the public option?"

"I think the motive is to satisfy the expectations of the insurance industry," Potter responded.

As a riposte, Dean played a clip of Bill Kristol praising government-run healthcare for our troops.

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Later in the show, Dean interviewed The Nation‘s Chris Hayes about the right-wing birther moment. He asked Chris if Republicans risked losing even more political capital by pushing such lies. "I’m not sure how much reputational capital is left in the Republican Party at this point," Hayes answered. Zing!

At the end of the show, Dean talked to Olbermann, who’s vacationing in Cooperstown, about the possible reinstatement of Pete Rose to major league baseball. Dean admitted the talk show gig was "a lot harder than I thought it was."

He’ll be guest hosting again tonight.