Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No show. New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No show. Christmas. Or New Year. Or something.

Monday, December 29, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, December 29
video podcast

'Countdown to November 4th Revisited'

Friday, December 26, 2008

No show. Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

No show. Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No show. Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, December 23
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball
The toss: You can just text me

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Eugene Robinson, Erin Billings, Lawrence O'Donnell, Christian Finnegan

TAMRON HALL, GUEST HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

After a week of questions, Obama's team report on the Blagojevich scandal is out. The one surprise - the president-elect and members of his staff were actually interviewed separately late last week by the U.S. attorney. But as the Obama team has said repeatedly, they never took part in any attempt to turn Obama's Senate seat into a political game of "let's make a deal."


GREG CRAIG, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: No one in the Obama circle was aware of what was going on in the governor's office or in the governor's mind.


HALL: Did people on the right scream fire before there was even any sign of smoke? All this as U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, tells the group working on impeaching B-Rod to back off. He doesn't want them to mess up his investigation.

Could "Governor Hang Loose" actually end up escaping impeachment?

And the remaining open Senate seat: Norm Coleman doesn't want a repeat of the Florida recount debacle as he hires a lawyer that represented Bush in the Florida recount debacle. And the empire state, the catch with Caroline, sure, she'll discuss her private financial records if she gets appointed senator first.

The worst vice president ever: One in four Americans seemed to think so, while Cheney tries to justify the Bush administration's ever-expanding executive authority.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: If the president, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?



HALL: And, yes, any excuse to show this.

Who knew that it would be good for the global economy? The Turkish shoemaker who made these shoes can't keep up with the demand.

And, Joel McHale and Craig Ferguson profess their love for all things Keith.


CRAIG FERGUSON, TV HOST: I love Olbermann. You and Olbermann have some kind of man thing going on, haven't you?

JOEL MCHALE, COMEDIAN: Yes. No, we're dating. And I.



FERGUSON: See, I kind of (ph) thought Olbermann liked me.


HALL: All that and more: Now on Countdown.


FERGUSON: Keith, how are you doing?


HALL (on camera): Good evening. I'm Tamron Hall. Keith Olbermann has the night off. This is Tuesday, December 23rd and 28 days until the inauguration of President-elect Obama.

On the day he arrested the Illinois governor earlier this month,

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald declared that there was no evidence that the

president-elect was involved in the Blagojevich scheme to sell Obama's

opened Senate seat. But since that apparently was not enough to keep folks

from trying to link Obama to the scandal - on our fifth story on the

Countdown: The Obama transition has released its own Blagojevich report

which reveals that last week, Fitzgerald interviewed Obama himself, chief

of staff-designate, Rahm Emanuel, and adviser, Valerie Jarrett. But also

shows yet again, that the president-elect and his staff, were not - repeat

not, involved.

Mr. Emmanuel had one or two conversations with Governor Rod Blagojevich during which the Senate seat was not discussed. The report also shows that Emanuel had four conversations the governor's chief of staff, John Harris, who was also arrested by Fitzgerald. In those conversations, the pros and cons of various Senate candidates were discussed.

At one point, ABC News has reported Mr. Emanuel made the case that Jarrett, an Obama confidant, should get the job. In return for pick Jarrett, Harris asked Emanuel, quote, "All we get is appreciation, right?" Emanuel responded, "Right." There was no mention of this exchange in today's report, a discrepancy we asked the Obama team tonight to clarify for us - no response as of yet.

But from the wire tapes released by Mr. Fitzgerald, we already learned Governor Blagojevich's reaction when he found out that all the Obama transition was willing to offer was its appreciation. At one point, Mr. Blagojevich called President-elect Obama "a mother" - my mom is watching so I won't say the rest. Quoting the governor further, "They're not willing to give me anything except appreciation, bleep them."

And, though, today's report says no quid pro quo was discussed, just the possibility of Blagojevich serving, as he suggested to a union official, as a member of the Obama cabinet, did not pass the last test with Jarrett herself.


CRAIG: The union official describes to her a conversation that he had with the governor, in which the governor raised with him the idea that the governor might be considered as a possible candidate to be the secretary of Health and Human Services. Ms. Jarrett viewed that as a ridiculous proposition.


HALL: Well, a lot to talk about with our political analysts, Richard Wolffe, also, of course, the senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Hello there, Richard.


HALL: So, in terms of big surprises out of this report, would it be fair to say the only unexpected thing was that Fitzgerald has interviewed the three principals here?

WOLFFE: Well, there are a couple of interesting wrinkles in this. But there's nothing that even faintly approaches the illegal. There's nothing that seems to be inappropriate. Yet, there's an interesting sort of voyeuristic angle of Fitzgerald talking to the senior officials and obviously, the president-elect as well. But, what's at the heart of this was the suggestion that somehow, transition officials were involved in this illegal deal, and they clearly were not. So, we're hunting around for scraps here.

HALL: Well, speaking of scraps, Richard, a lot of people are wondering if the RNC and other critics out there who seem to be, really, honestly salivating for a scandal, maybe a chink in the armor of the Obama transition, if these folks jumped the gun here.

WOLFFE: Well, they are looking for a number of things. Obviously, they're trying to put the transition on the defensive and tarnish the president-elect in some way. What they'll really have here is guilt by association. But it didn't work so well for them through the election and they tried very hard.

The other aspect, the other root they have here is that some of these transcripts that could finally come out show a discrepancy to this official report that Greg Craig wrote up, the incoming White House counsel. If there is a discrepancy, they have some way to go in terms of the truth-telling questions. But right now, there's nowhere else to take this story.

HALL: Well, but, Richard, assuming that ABC got the quote right, between Harris and Emanuel, why wouldn't, though, the gist of that exchange be somewhere in the report that we saw today especially when you hear that all they were getting was appreciation, a slap on the back?

WOLFFE: Well, if ABC's quote is correct, then the official report is wrong in at least three places just on Rahm Emanuel. I mean, it's three places. Greg Craig says that Rahm had no conversation about a deal either with the governor, his chief of staff or with the senior staff on the transition team. So, it would be a flat contradiction of what's in this official account. If it's true, then Rahm Emanuel is in a very difficult position, again, because of truth-telling not because of illegal conduct.

HALL: But let's talk about that here. You're going to have a trial eventually. You will have tapes. The question of information being contradicted is a very real thing if we're not hearing everything in this report. So, wouldn't the Obama team really work hard to put everything on the table to make sure that when this trial does happen, that they're not now back in the hot seat?

WOLFFE: Well, you're absolutely right. They do not want any surprises out of this. And the interesting piece out of this official report is the vagueness around the account of Rahm's conversations. They don't know how many calls there were. In two points, there were several calls and nobody can really remember. That's troubling if you're really trying to nail down the facts here and when you know that there are tapes out there.

HALL: Well, let me ask you. Last week, President-elect Obama said that he found it a little frustrating that the report had not been released. He's in Hawaii now, not frustrated but relaxing. But beyond Fitzgerald's request to hold off on the report and the release of it, has the transition, in your opinion, made any mistakes in how they handle this story?

WOLFFE: And he didn't look very frustrated in those beach photos. But I do think - I do think they have some mistakes and they really needed to get out this information much earlier. They say it was Fitzgerald who asked them to delay.

HALL: Right.

WOLFFE: I think they could have come up with a verbal accounting of this and not look as if they were trying to be so evasive. I think a lot of that may have come from this uncertainty about Rahm Emanuel's conversation. But in that sense, not dealing with it early, letting it dragged on, that has cost them something.

HALL: Because some people wonder, Richard, if this could have been a two-day story as opposed to a week, and maybe more than that now.

WOLFFE: Yes. Really, when you look at what's in this report, you think it should have been dealt with earlier. That's the problem with a transition where it's split between Chicago and D.C. people who are concerned about their own jobs. This is the kind of story that they needed to deal with early.

As such, it's been an important lesson for I think all of those folks when they get into the White House because they're running this train. There is no other campaign to define themselves against. They have to deal with this kind of thing much quicker when they're in the White House.

HALL: All right. Very interesting. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - thank you very much and Happy Holidays, Richard.

WOLFFE: And to you, Tamron.

HALL: Well, as far as the investigation of the Illinois governor's activity concerning Barack Obama, Blagojevich - he got a break today from none other than the man who charged them in the first place. The special investigative committee of the Illinois legislature, considering the impeachment of Governor Rod Blagojevich asked the federal prosecutors whether they could interview people connected to the scandal. But the U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, put the kabbash on that request, saying it, quote, "could significantly compromise the ongoing criminal investigation."

I'm joined now by our own Eugene Robinson of the "Washington Post."

Thanks so much for making time for us tonight.


HALL: Well, Eugene, so, if the impeachment committee essentially can't gather their own evidence against Blago, how do they move forward on it now?

ROBINSON: Well, first of all, Tamron, you, of course, know Illinois politics quite well. But the Illinois State Constitution is pretty vague on what constitutes grounds for impeachment, impeachable offenses. It pretty much seems to let the legislature define what would be grounds to impeach the governor. It gives them a lot of latitude at the very least. And there he is - this affidavit on file, filed the day that Governor Blagojevich was arrested.

The details of this whole series of allegations and the conversations as quoted by Patrick Fitzgerald now - is that enough for the House, essentially to indict him? Because that's what the Illinois House would do. It might well be. Is that enough for the Illinois Senate to convict him and remove him from office? I'm not sure it is. I'm not sure what the sort of legal grounds are for that.

HALL: Right.

ROBINSON: But they can continue to move ahead. They just don't have access to the primary sources.

HALL: But is moving a head the only goal here? Obviously, they want to impeach him and they might or at least someone believes that they need the wire tapes or some kind of hard evidence in this. And as you know I live in Chicago and it's a tough town. You got to bring it in some cases and it sounds like if Blagojevich wants to bring it, the other side certainly has to counter.

ROBINSON: Exactly. If you know, Governor Blagojevich, I'm not sure I'm nominating him for membership in Mensa, but he's played this pretty smartly. He's held on to his office because if he had resigned when this first came out and everybody was telling him to resign, but in fact, he'd just be another schlub who was under indictment by the U.S. attorney. He's still the governor of Illinois.

That fact in and of itself is a tremendous bargaining chip that he has. It might be a get-out-of-jail card at some point. So, I think he's going to hold on to it as long as he can.

HALL: Which would be incredible - so, if Blagojevich isn't leaving, the legislature can't force him out, what happens? I mean, do the people of Illinois sit essentially as hostages here? I mean, they had a radio show the other day, Eugene, that offered people a chance to throw a shoe at a cardboard cutout of Blagojevich and people signed up, a lot of people signed up.

ROBINSON: Yes. I think you could throw shoes at him all you want but you can't get him out of office until you do so legally. And, short of impeachment or conviction, which clearly wouldn't happen for a long time, I'm not quite sure how they can pry him out. So, he's going to be there for a while as he said. I believe him.

HALL: Excuse me, Eugene, but I got to ask you then - what happens to the Senate seat? Beyond the people of Illinois and their concerns and them not getting any business done, according to Lisa Madigan, the attorney general, what happens to that Senate seat?

ROBINSON: Well, that's a good question. The Illinois - the legislature could, I believe, pass a law and try to essentially do it by special election. I think they could do that legislatively. That's a political lead, dicey issue, however. The Democrats would like to hold on to that seat. Who knows what would happen in a special election, especially with a Democratic governor under this sort of cloud.

So, they don't want to go to a special election if they can help it. But as I've heard them talking, they certainly don't want to have Blagojevich appoint Obama's successor. So my guess is that nothing happens for a while until we see if impeachment is going to be on train and if they're going to be able to make it work.

HALL: So, Gene, if that is the case, let's go through a soap opera, we'll have a "Dynasty" moment here. What happens if Blagojevich is still in office when Obama takes the presidency? Isn't that going to cost a huge problem for Obama and that you got this guy in charge of your home state and thus in charge of things like potential block grants for a stimulus package? Isn't he the problem child then?

ROBINSON: This is the pageant of democracy, Tamron. You know, this is what you have to deal with.

I'm not sure how the administration would deal with it if they wanted to somehow, circumvent Blagojevich. I don't know if they could earmark the money somehow. I don't think so. He's the governor. He's going to be the governor for a while. We need to get used to it.

HALL: Oh, boy. All right, Eugene, thank you very much. Eugene Robinson of MSNBC and "Washington Post" - thank you so much and Happy Holidays.

ROBINSON: Good to talk to you, too.

HALL: Good to talk to you, too.

ROBINSON: Merry Christmas.

HALL: The Illinois Senate seat is not the only political drama out there. The Minnesota recount is running out of ballots to count and recount but the legal battle continues with no end in sight. And in New York, why is Caroline Kennedy keeping quiet about so many questions? Could it derail her chances to replace Senator Clinton? That and more ahead on Countdown.


HALL: Still ahead: Al Franken leads in Minnesota Senate race but Senator Coleman says his count shows him ahead. No love lost between Vice President Cheney and Vice President-elect Biden. And the Iraqi shoe-thrower is facing trial on New Year's Eve. And Keith causes a bit of a fight on late-night TV.

Next on Countdown.


HALL: It makes the 2000 recount actually look short. Minnesota is still without a senator, and unlikely to have one until after Congress is back in session.

Our fourth story on the Countdown: Decision 2008 is now Decision 2009. While the State Supreme Court has yet to rule on charges of double-vote counting, there is still the feat of some 1,600 incorrectly rejected absentee ballots to decide. The state canvassing board is meeting to decide that December 30th. Then the board won't meet again until January 5th, one day before the 111th Congress convenes.

And right now, the recount has Democratic challenger Al Franken ahead by just 47 votes. His campaign is asking the board to reconsider some 43 other ballots in his favor. But, Republican Norm Coleman's campaign claim that errors in the recount mean that he actually is ahead by 29 votes.

For his part, Senator Coleman is not worried, telling a local TV station, quote, "I'm not really agonizing about the outcome. Life goes on regardless of what your job is. I certainly love what I do. If I can keep doing it, I'll be thrilled. And if I'm not, I'm sure I'll do something else." Adding to that, when it comes to the recount, he said, quote, "I feel fairly confident. The numbers look good to us. Certainly, there's uncertainty. I'm not worried about it. I've done everything I can do."

And to another Senate seat up for grabs, that of Hillary Clinton in New York, a little personal information is known about one of the top candidates for the job, Caroline Kennedy. But when the "New York Times" asked for some basic info such as whether she has ever been charged with a crime, or what companies she's invested in, Mrs. Kennedy declined, saying via a spokesman, that she will not disclose any such information until after she becomes a senator.

As to the likelihood of that - well - a Quinnipiac Poll finding that most of those polled, 33 percent want Kennedy in that seat, 29 percent say Attorney General Cuomo, 24 percent prefer someone else. And that uncertainty about Kennedy echoed by Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman, who said of her handlers, quote, "They are basically Sarah Palin-ized her," or "They basically Sarah Palin-ized her," adding that DNA in this business can take you just so far. "You know, Rembrandt was a great artist. His brother, Murray, on the other hand, Murray Rembrandt wouldn't paint a house."

Well, we're joined now by Erin Billings, associate editor with "Roll Call."

Thanks so much, Erin, for joining us tonight


HALL: So, let's start in Minnesota. The secretary of state says that they are not bound by Washington timetables. So, if that is the case, could this go on indefinitely?

BILLINGS: I hope not.


HALL: That makes a lot of us.

BILLINGS: I think they're hoping on January 5th they're going to actually certify either Senator Coleman or Al Franken as the winner. What happens from there is the real interesting part. I mean, you know, certainly, we've had - what - six weeks of drama over this? We're going to - we're almost into two months of drama.

But, you know, the loser could petition the Senate and ask to have the Senate do its own recount. They could challenge it in court. They could contest the certification by the canvassing board. So, there are some other steps here that could still be exercise by one of these candidates.

And we just don't know. I know that the hope is that they could have some resolution by January, and there may be an exhaustion factor here.

HALL: Oh, God.

BILLINGS: I mean, there maybe a point where Senator Coleman or Mr.

Franken decide, all right, enough is enough, let's just.

HALL: Do you think they'll get so tired and just both pass out?

BILLINGS: I don't. I just, you know, there's a slim hope, Tamron, a slim hope.

HALL: Yes. So, I guess, we can hope for something interesting like that even though there had been so many twists and turns. But, Erin, what does a lack of a senator from Minnesota, not to mention the lack of one in Illinois and that whole issue of things going on there - what does that mean for the next Congress? Does it seriously hurt the Democratic Party and the president-elect?

BILLINGS: Well, you know, we are looking at starting the next Congress on January 6th and we're probably not going to have a fully-seated Senate. I mean, as you mentioned, Illinois is not going to be resolved. Minnesota is probably not going to be resolved. And then we have the issue of Senator Biden's seat and we have Senator Salazar from Colorado who's just been nominated as the interior secretary and, of course, we have New York.

So, the Democrats are going to have a little bit of a lift. The only

saving grace, probably, is that the president-elect, Barack Obama, doesn't

want to push a lot of controversial issues early on. He wants to deal with

deal from the middle. He wants some consensus issues to go forward.

You know, the first real test, obviously, is going to be that monster stimulus package.

HALL: Right.

BILLINGS: But that, notwithstanding, I mean, most of the issues are going to be bipartisan. So, they will probably be able to kind of work their way through it initially. But certainly, Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't want to start this Congress off and have to wait through the first few months, down two, three, four, five senators.

HALL: Let me ask you - let's go to Caroline Kennedy. You bring out the issues here in New York, specifically, though, with Caroline - why won't she release this basic information in the interest of her own future here? You know what people are thinking. Suspicions start to come about. Eyebrows start to rise. Why the refusal? It makes it appear that she's hiding something.

BILLINGS: Well, I mean, you know, certainly one could make that argument. I mean, on the one hand, she doesn't have to. She hadn't been tapped at the appointee or the designee. She's only expressed interest in the seat. She has, I guess, running for the appointment. But there's no legal reason why she has to make this information available. So, she probably is thinking and her allies are probably thinking, "Well, why subject myself to further scrutiny?"

You know, as you know, Tamron, she has been under the media spotlight something fierce since her name surfaced as the prospective successor to Hillary Clinton and, you know, so she.

HALL: But quickly, Erin, I want - I hate to interrupt you but I want to ask you about this, though, Sarah Palin thing. I mean, there may be a list of about five people out there right now a lot of folks don't want to be compared to in the world of politics. Sarah Palin, like it or not, may be one of those people on the list. And when you're in a situation as Caroline Kennedy is now being compared by somebody within her party, wouldn't that inspire you to give up some of this information and maybe come out and be more vocal?

BILLINGS: Well, I mean, there certainly have been some similarities here. I mean, people have said that Caroline Kennedy is acting like Sarah Palin, not responding to the media questions, not making herself available, you know, not being forthright about where she is, where she stands on things. So, certainly, that is something that she is having to wrestle with.

But, as I said earlier, she doesn't have to. There's no legal reason for her to do it and she already is being - you know, she is the new flavor for the media. They're so excited to have, you know, someone else to pay attention to. After two years of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, now they've got Caroline Kennedy. And she probably figures, "Hey, why should I subject myself to more scrutiny if I don't have to?"

HALL: All right. Erin Billings of "Roll Call," nice to talk to you.

Happy Holidays, Erin.

BILLINGS: You, too.

HALL: All right.

Recount got you on edge? Holidays stressing you out? Countdown's on your side. Next with Oddball.

And, who's on Keith's side in the late night face-off between Joel McHale and Craig Ferguson?

That and much more: Ahead on Countdown.


HALL: Good evening. I'm Tamron Hall, in for Keith Olbermann.

And it seems particularly appropriate that 185 years ago today, a brand new poem was published for the first time unanimously in the "Detroit Sentinel" of New York. The true author still remains a mystery. It was attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. The scholars now think that Major Henry Livingston actually penned it. Regardless of who wrote it, it remains one of the most famous poems in the world and it begins, "It was a night before Christmas when all through the house not a creature was starring, not even a mouse.

And on that note - let's play Oddball.

We begin in Tokyo, Japan, with a solution to holiday stress. Instead of throwing the Christmas china at your loved ones, why not throw it at a wall instead? That's the idea behind Katsuya Hara's mobile venting place, a traveling booth where stressed-out customers can pay for $2 for a cup or $11 for a plate and then hurl the dinnerware as fast as possible against the wall. Apparently, this is scientifically proven to reduce stress until you realize you spent all your Christmas shopping money breaking plates.

And finally to Indianapolis, Indiana, where the RCA Dome has stood as a proud symbol and home to the Indianapolis Colts for more than 24 years, an enduring symbol of perseverance, honor and the Hoosier way, a noble edifice, sure to stand proud for generations and generation to come.

Never mind!


HALL: Speaking of that, things are blowing up between the current vice president and his placement. The war of words between the two playing on TV. Cheney, Biden, match up.

And a shoe throw down; the apology that wasn't and why the journalist behind bars is now a hero to shoe salesmen. Those stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best new city ordinance passed this week by the City Council of Brighton, Michigan, giving cops the right to ticket and fine anyone who is, quote, annoying in public. It looks like the entire cast of "The Hills" will be steering clear of the Wolverine State this holiday season.

Number two, best surprise Christmas gift, Tina Cook of Instow North Devon (ph) - that's in the U.K. - who woke up in the middle of the night last Friday complaining of a severe stomach pain. Ten minutes after arriving at the hospital, Miss. Cook delivered her third child, a five pound eight ounce boy named Alfie. Miss Cook said she never knew she was pregnant. She didn't even feel a kick.

And number one, best reason for a trip to the pet salon? Back to the U.K., where we meet Pete, the purple squirrel, who has folks in his hometown of Southington in Hampshire wondering exactly how his coat has turned a regal shade of purple. One theory suspects he's been chewing into old printer cartridges and inking up his fir while grooming. Another theory suspects some type of genetic mutation. The crack staff of Countdown pretty sure he's really into Prince.


HALL: On January 12th, 1848, the new Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln gave a speech explaining his opposition to the Mexican-American war and his demand that the President Polk produce evidence of his claim that Mexico constituted a threat. Lincoln said that Polk wanted, quote, to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory. You see where I'm going with this?

Our third story tonight, Vice President-Elect Biden taking on his predecessor for an unrepentant embrace of military glory. Cheney this week, of course, admitting one of the perks that historically make presidents, rather than Congress, prone to wage war, it gives them power. According to Cheney, absolute power.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: If the president, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Umm, in general proposition, I'd say, yes.


HALL: Last night, Mr. Biden addressed Cheney's unconstitutional claim in a detour he took after he was asked about President Bush.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT ELECT: Well, I've known him a long time. It's presumptuous to feel sorry for another man. But I feel somewhat - I feel somewhat badly for him. I think the incidents in Iraq was unfortunate, that guy throwing the shoes. It was just uncalled for. It was - I think that President Bush, unlike Vice President Cheney, is, upon reflection, beginning to acknowledge some of the serious, if not mistakes, misjudgment that he made.


HALL: In fact, while a new CNN poll finds that 64 percent of Americans consider Cheney a poor vice president, including 23 percent who would pick him as worst ever, Cheney suggested that he's had the Constitution on his side.


CHENEY: There are bound to be debates and arguments from time to time, and wrestling back and forth about what kind of authority is appropriate in any specific circumstances. But I think that what we've done has been totally consistent with what the constitution provides for.


HALL: Well, as Think Progress quickly pointed out, at least one respected Constitutional expert disagrees, namely, the Supreme Court, ruling in June of '04 that Bush and Cheney could not simply snatch up any one they wanted without access to the courts, under cover of calling them a suspected terrorist. And, in June of this year, knocking down the Bush-Cheney ad hoc system of military justice, as well, as unjust. The warrantless wiretapping we first told you wasn't happening and then, we're told, was legal, was found to be unconstitutional in a 2006 federal district court ruling.

Other than that, totally consistent with what the Constitution provides for.

Joining us now is MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell, who also is a contributor of "Huffington Post." Thanks, Lawrence, for making time for us tonight.


HALL: So the vice president also took a shot at Mr. Biden, saying it sounds as though Biden will have a less consequential role than he did. Can you talk to us about how history will portray Cheney's role? And also, on an emotional level, what, for anyone else, would have been a personal, perhaps reflective farewell on friendly turf, his apparent utter lack of regret or even a glimpse humanity. He close 9/11 as a highlight of the presidency.

O'DONNELL: Well, he said 9/11 was the most important moment of the presidency. And I agree with that. I don't think there's any question about it. This is the only vice president in history who, in his office in the White House, had to get on the phone and ask the president of the United States for the authority to shoot down civilian airliners, and the president gave him that authority. This is the only vice president who had to be run, physically run out of his office because it wasn't safe. They believe it maybe attacked that day. And that day changed both of those men.

There are people who have known Dick Cheney a long time, who, a couple of years later, would say they didn't know who he was anymore. They didn't recognize the way he thought about things. And in terms of regret, Tamron, it's pretty rare to find politicians regretting things they've done in the past, from Dick Cheney to Ted Stevens or anybody else. There's two kinds of people in the world, the people who have things go wrong and look back at and say, what did I do wrong, and the people who have things go wrong and immediately say, well, I did nothing wrong. It wasn't my fault. And that's kind of what we're dealing with in the Bush administration, is that we did nothing wrong.

So the Supreme Court, as you pointed out, thinks differently, especially about the detainees. This is what they said this year in that 2008 case that you mentioned. The laws and Constitution are designed to survive and remain in force in extraordinary times. That is in direct contradiction to what the vice president has been saying.

HALL: You named two categories of people there, Lawrence. Could there be a third category of politicians who look for any excuse to justify, perhaps, pointing to Cheney's claim of a Constitutional endorsement for this administration's every act? Could that fall in a category of people who look for manipulation of the law?

O'DONNELL: Well, yes, and not only that, but on, say, weapons of mass destruction, the Cheney shadow government - and by the way, what Biden is saying is simply I will not run a shadow government out of the vice president's office. That is, indeed, what happened during this administration, especially in the ramp-up to Iraq. The Cheney team was unsatisfied with regular intelligence channels. And they kind of set up their own method of evaluating intelligence. They read it wrong and they were absolutely certain there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Dick Cheney was absolutely certain we would be, as he put it, welcomed as liberators in Iraq. He's yet to correct himself on that. He is yet to say, I regret constructing a plan that was based on the notion we would be welcomed as liberators. He has no regrets for that.

HALL: Lawrence, speaking of notions, for the people at home who have not read the Constitution, or who don't have it sitting right beside the bed as we speak, can you debunk the notion that the war is a presidential get out of laws free card?

O'DONNELL: Anthony Kennedy did that in the Supreme Court's decision this year on the detainees. He said, liberty and security can be reconciled. And in our system, they are reconciled within the law. That is the principal that the vice president doesn't seem to understand. He seems to believe, firmly, that liberty and security cannot be reconciled in our system, that you must, at certain times and extraordinary times, choose one over the other, and he chooses security over our traditional liberties.

But this Supreme Court decision this year has very specifically said, that is wrong. Our Constitutional approach is exactly the opposite.

HALL: And you may have, with that, explained that third type of personality that may exist out there. Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC and the "Huffington Post," thank you so much, Lawrence. Good to see you. .

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Tamron.

HALL: Joe Biden says the shoe throwing incident in Iraq last week was uncalled for. Someone who doesn't agree, the guy who threw the shoe. He might actually be good for the economy, too, sparking a worldwide shoe buying frenzy.

And meet the Fockers, that would be Friends Of Countdown. Apparently, Craig Ferguson is jealous of Joel McHale and wants a little Focker action himself. I said Focker.

And coming up at the top of the hour with Rachel Maddow, Reverend Rick Warrens's Youtube address railing against the outcry against him. But his message against the media is not as tolerant as he'd like to think.

But first, because they're not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals, Bushed.

Number three, get me out of this-gate. President-Elect Barack Obama is coming under new pressure to do something about if foundering U.S. effort in Afghanistan. 2008 set a record for American fatalities there. The Taliban making steady advances and obviously, Osama bin Laden in little danger of getting caught by Mr. Bush's government. Who's putting the pressure on Obama to do something about all of this? The Bush administration. The "Chicago Tribune" reports that Pentagon and national security officials are giving Obama the findings of various strategy reviews in hopes he will make a quick effective change to salvage the war Mr. Bush downgraded so he could go to Iraq.

Number two, Wall Street versus Main Street-gate. The Associated Press asked 21 banks receiving more than a billion each in bailout funds what they're doing with that money. None of them gave a specific response, not one! We do know that tax payers are subsidizing corporate jets for the bosses at six of these banks. AIG has seven, Citigroup four, JP Morgan four, Bank of America nine. What this says about the Bush administration bailout? Priceless.

Mr. Bush is not forcing any of them to give up their planes, but his auto bailout would force union workers to make no more than those at non-union shops like Toyota, arguing that high union wages hurt the car makers. Yesterday, we learned that Toyota has had its first operating loss ever, despite the fact that Toyota already paid its workers exactly what Toyota does.

And number one, she doth protest too much-gate. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino blasted back at the "New York Times" report on how Mr. Bush's administration helped create the global economic crisis. Here response, without naming a single factual error, apparently revealed how the White House thinks everyone operates, hint, think WMD. Quote, "this story amounted to finding selected quotes to support a story that reporters fully intend to right from the onset, while disregarding anything that didn't fit their point of view."

So does anyone but the Times blame the Bush administration? Talking Points Memo reports the SEC is reviewing years worth of closed cases to see how many got screwed up. Veterans of Mr. Bush's SEC tell TPM that his appointee tried to dismantle the agency, and de-emphasize enforcement, leaving one post vacant for two years, the post charged with ensuring the SEC could anticipate financial upheaval like this one.

And now, here we're in the land of milk and honey. Michael Milk, honey.


HALL: You know him as the host of "The Soup" on the E Network. That's the show featuring the best, worst and weirdest clips of what's on TV. In our second story on the Countdown, viewers of this show also know Joel McHale as a frequent guest, often joining Keith as a frequent guest in the capacity of social commentator, weighing in on the news and issues of the day. Now the latest appearance by Joel McHale last night on "The Late Late Show" with Craig Ferguson. What does that have to do with Keith Olbermann? Take a look.


CRAIG FERGUSON, "THE LATE LATE SHOW": Did you do Olbermann's show when you were there? You and Olbermann have some kind of man thing going on, haven't you?

JOEL MCHALE, "THE SOUP": No. We're dating.

FERGUSON: See, I rather thought Olbermann liked me and then you came on the scene and he hasn't spoken a word to me since.

MCHALE: Well, he doesn't really understand a thing you say. You have this crazy accent. You left a couple of phone messages and I'm like, I don't even know what he's talking about. You need like closed captioning. No, he - he doesn't like foreigners. No, he likes you very much.

FERGUSON: Is it because you're both very tall? Is it some kind of tall club that I'm too short to be around? Is that what it is?

MCHALE: There is a height requirement to be on his show.

FERGUSON: I'm 6'2. It's tall in some cultures. In Scotland, I'm a giant among the people there. They are little hobbits. I'm like ahh, bring me tributes.

MCHALE: If Olbermann and I went there, we could take the country over.

FERGUSON: You could try. Yes. That would be fun to watch.

MCHALE: Right.

FERGUSON: I'll pay. I'll take you over in my little plane. Does he come to see your stand-up comedy show.

MCHALE: Yes, he came to the stand-up show in New York and he began sending me pictures - he was taking pictures of me.


MCHALE: Yes. While I was on stage, and he was sending me the pictures. And I'm like, he's not even paying attention to what I'm saying.

FERGUSON: Keith, what the hell are you doing?

MCHALE: What's wrong?

I just hope next time he's just so - he's laughing so hard he drops his phone, maybe.

FERGUSON: He would never do that. There's as much chance of that as him dropping his wallet.


HALL: From the "Late Late Show" to the shoe heard around the world. It turns out the apology we told you about, not so much. Does the thrower have any regrets? Maybe not the smartest thing to be talking about a week before he goes on trial. Details at the top of the Countdown.


HALL: Not since Nancy Sinatra immortalized "these boots are made for walking" has footwear become such a part of popular culture. In our number one story on the Countdown, the maker of the shoes that an Iraqi journalists hurled at President Bush has been forced to hire 100 extra staff in order to keep up with the demand. Meanwhile, that Iraqi journalist, he's set to stand trial on New Year's Eve and faces up to 15 years in prison if he's convicted.

Muntadar al Zaidi, charged with aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit, has not apologized for what he did, and reportedly said, if he had the chance, he would do it again. He also says he was forced to write that letter of apology released last week, this according to his brother, who visited him in jail on Sunday.

As for the Istanbul shoe maker, Serc and Turk (ph) has gotten orders for more than 370,000 pairs of Baiden (ph) shoes, the very kind used in the infamous shoe throw. Requests fort he shoes have come in from all over the world, including 19,000 orders from the U.S. The particular type, one called Model 271, has simply been renamed the Bush Shoes.

Let's bring in comedian Christian Finnegan. Good evening, Christian.

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN: Hi, Tamron, nice to meet you.

HALL: Nice to meet you too. So outside of what Sarah Jessica Parker did for Manolo Blahniks, have any pair of shoes in the history of man ever created a stir like this?

FINNEGAN: Listen, Tamron, I don't claim to be an expert on the subject or particularly passionate on the subject of feet. For that, you would have to flip over to Dick Morris on Fox News. But this is definitely the biggest shoe-related political incident since Khrushchev. If you compare the two, you can see how great the free market system is, because this anonymous reporter guy throws a loafer at the president. All of a sudden, these things are the new Uggs.

What happened with Khrushchev? Bangs his state issue, Soviet model footwear number nine at the UN. What happens? No PR campaign. No mentions of page six? It was only a matter of time before that system collapsed.

HALL: Christian, I'll give you a little insight into the mind of a woman. We judge men by their shoes and their watch. Watch and shoes. And this brand of shoes selling faster than this man can make them. Is this the ultimate stocking stuff to give maybe a boyfriend or husband?

FINNEGAN: My family's taking it one step further. In my house, they've actually replaced stockings entirely. We actually nailed these shoes up to the mantle and stuffed them with candy. On Christmas morning, we'll sing "Joy to the World," and I'll huck one of them at my dad's head.

HALL: Sounds like an attractive design of a home there. By the way, don't you think it's a pity that this is not happening in America, because we know that retailers could certainly use the business, the boost of the shoe there?

FINNEGAN: Wow, let's not give the big three automakers any ideas here.

HALL: No competition.

FINNEGAN: We'll get the CEO of Chrysler trying to run down the president in a PT Cruiser. Anyone who tries to injure the president should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I will say this, if you are determined to pelt a public official, do the patriotic thing and throw American.

HALL: Throw American. Speaking of American, we haven't heard from Vice President Cheney about this incident. What do you think he thinks of someone throwing a shoe at President Bush?

FINNEGAN: I kind of think Cheney gets turned on by stuff like this. You know what I mean? If the vice president had his way, that guy's shoe would have had a severed foot in it. Here's my theory: I think the vice president is kind of like the collective sadistic older brother to the world, like he tortures you, giving you nuggies and purple nurples, until you flip out and take a swing. And then whatever happens from that point on, you asked for it.

HALL: Riddle me this, Batman, will this be one of President Bush's fonder memories? Do you think he and Laura Bush will be at their Texas home in their rocking chairs, thinking, oh remember when?

FINNEGAN: Yes, the good old days. I don't know. I'm sure he's happy it happened at the end of his term and not the beginning. Think of it, we could have had eight years of the Secret Service walking around press conferences with sacks like taking people's shoes as if they were car keys at a frat party. Say what you want about the president, he did dodge that shoe successfully. You've got to put that in the win column. That side of the ledger is pretty empty, so you take what you can get.

HALL: Let me ask you, lastly, Christian, you know how parents in the '70s - I'm a kid of the '70s - they used to bronze your baby shoe. Is this worth bronzing and maybe putting up on the mantel?

FINNEGAN: I think so. I think they took down that statue of Saddam in Baghdad. Maybe there's room for a new statue there.

HALL: All right, comedian Christian Finnegan, it's a pleasure to talk to you. You made my night. Thank you very much.

That will do it for this Tuesday edition of Countdown. I'm Tamron Hall, in for the vacationing Keith Olbermann. Have a great night, everyone. Mom, where's my text message saying I did a good job? Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rachel Maddow. You know it's bad when your mother sells you out. Rachel, where is my mom.


Monday, December 22, 2008

video podcast

Transcript missing. This was Countdown's Favorites of 2008. Best we could do was a Huffington Post article:

Keith Olbermann ran down a list of his favorite people of 2008 Monday night on "Countdown."

"When looking back at this historic year, it became clear we could not pick our favorite things this go-around," Olbermann said. "There was only one thing in 2008, it seemed: the never-ending, always-entertaining race to replace President Bush. So given the prism of the historic election, we'll remember this year by highlighting our favorite candidates and characters of Decision 2008."

Friday, December 19, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, December 19
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guests: John Dean, Christian Finnegan, Robert Kuttner, Chris Cillizza

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

We waited 11 days for his statement and this is all he stated?


GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) ILLINOIS: I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong. Now, I'm dying to answer these charges. I am dying to show you how innocent I am.

Rudyard Kipling wrote.


OLBERMANN: Oh, boy. So, now this is about Rudyard Kipling? Did you try to sell him the Senate seat?

Maybe Norm Coleman would be interested. He now trails Al Franken in the Minnesota recount.

Finally, somebody does something about Detroit - $17 billion in loans with a catch.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I do want to emphasize to the Big Three automakers and their executives that the American people's patience is running out.


OLBERMANN: Mark Felt is dead. The Watergate source "Deep Throat," that left one man in the know and more a clearinghouse for FBI agents thwarted (ph) by Richard Nixon. John Dean joins us.

Worsts: The Obama college photos you didn't see them before the election because of a conspiracy, the one that exists in the brains of Sean Hannity and Gretchen Carlson.

Bests: Lou Dobbs calls the prime minister of Canada un-American.

Yes, I know.

And, Sarah Palin palling around with drug dealers? Bristol Palin's future mother-in-law, the day before the baby is due - arrested. Six counts of drug possession and distribution and/or manufacturing.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) ALASKA: I love those hockey moms. You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and the pit bull?



All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Friday, December 19th, 32 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

People who've got to know whether or not their president is a crook. "Well, I am not a crook. I've earned everything I've got." Substitute the word the governor for president - and in our fifth story on the Countdown: You would pretty have not what Richard Nixon said 35 years ago last month, instead, you'd had what Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich said today. Of course, the governor spiced up with a passage Rudyard Kipling's fame poem "If," and perhaps all you need to know about Blagojevich is he bailed out of the stanza just before Kipling warned "Don't look too good nor talk too wise."

The Illinois governor making his first official comments this afternoon since having been arrested 10 days ago on federal corruption charges. The governor reciting some Kipling, bashing "Meet the Press" - come on, David just started - in doing so, probably bashing by proxy the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, who appeared on the program on Sunday. B-Rod denied any criminal wrongdoing and vowed to stay on the job indefinitely which is kind of, at least, at times, how long his statement this afternoon seemed to be going on.


BLAGOJEVICH: Thank you very much. I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrong doing. That I intend to stay on the job and I will fight this thing every step of the way. I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong. And I'm not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob. Now, that's what I'm going to do.

Let me tell you what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to do what my accusers and political enemies have been doing. And that is talk about this case in 30-second sound bites on "Meet the Press" or on the TV news.

Now, I'm dying to answer these charges. I am dying to show you how innocent I am. And I want to assure everyone who is here and everyone who is listening that I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way. However, I intend to answer them in the appropriate forum, in a court of law. And when I do, I am absolutely certain that I will be vindicated.

Rudyard Kipling wrote, "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you and make allowance for their doubting, too. If you can wait and not be tired by waiting or being lied about, don't deal in lies or being hated. Don't give way to hating."

Now, I know there are some powerful forces arrayed me. It's kind of lonely right now. But I have on my side, the most powerful ally there is and it's the truth. And besides, I have the personal knowledge that I have not done anything wrong.

To the people of Illinois, I ask that they wait and be patient, sit back and take a deep breath and please reserve judgment. Afford me the same rights that you and your children have - the presumption of innocence, the right to defend yourself, the right to your day in court - the same rights that you would expect for yourselves.

And one last thing, to all of those, to those of you who have expressed your support to Patti and me during this difficult time, I'd like to thank you for your thoughts, I'd like to thank you for your prayers and I'd like to thank you for your good wishes. Patti and I cannot express to you how grateful we are for your kindness. Merry Christmas, happy holidays.


OLBERMANN: William Devane is JFK in "The Missiles of October," right? Am I right?

Time now to call in Chris Cillizza, White House reporter for the "Washington Post," also the author of "The Fix" at

Chris, good evening.


OLBERMANN: I'm guessing that answered the question whether or not the governor will be stepping down voluntarily.

CILLIZZA: Yes. If there was any doubt, I talked to a lot of Democrats who were privately hoping that he might just get up there and say, "You know what? You got me." But knowing Rod Blagojevich, knowing that he's become increasingly isolated over the course of this five-year now federal investigation, not a lot of them had a lot of hope.

He delivered what many people expected, which was a very fierce denial that he had done anything wrong and basically a long take on the fact that his political enemies had created this situation. It's very fascinating. Three minutes, but a fascination bit of political theater.

OLBERMANN: Yes, probably the best pure speech by a governor since the fellow who quit New Jersey three or four years ago. But, who's he referring to when he talks about his political enemies and why reference to the political lynch mob, and the reference to "Meet the Press"? Is this about the prosecutor? Is it about the attorney general of Illinois? Who does he see?

CILLIZZA: I mean, at this point, I think, he views almost anyone who aren't Rod or Patti Blagojevich as his enemies. Even his chief of staff has resigned. There was a question at the press conference later whether his chief of staff might turn on him and become sort of an informant.

But I think that "Meet the Press" reference was clearly aimed at Lisa Madigan. She's the state attorney general. She's the daughter of Mike Madigan who, to put it mildly, he and Rod Blagojevich have not gotten along for a long time. And she's the person most likely who is going to challenge him if he wound up seeking a third term. So, I think that was a little jab at her.

But again, in the end, Rod Blagojevich has done to himself. It's not Lisa Madigan's fault. She's probably taking advantage of the situation, but I'm not sure you can blame her.

OLBERMANN: I know that the general assessment of this was people were amazed that he was currently cool and he sounded Reaganesque in his if the delivery if it will a bit higher pitch, but I thought I heard a lot of nervous catching of breath.


OLBERMANN: .heavy breathing, and that twice repeated "I will fight, I will fight, I will fight," it's very tough to repeat a phrase exactly the same way fanatically three times. Never mind the words, what did the tone sound, did it sound odd to you?

CILLIZZA: It did. And, you know, Keith, I'll go back - go back to the day before this - he was arrested. He appears with workers striking outside a plant and he's much more breezy. He sort of says "let the sunlight shine on me. I have nothing to hide. All you will hear on those tapes - the wiretap is me using colorful language."

He was much more halting today. I caught that same thing, the heavy breathing. He was clearly nervous. And I hate to say it, but there were some sort of Nixonian tendencies there. You know, the whole "I want to tell you the truth" that reminded me of, you know, someone saying, "I want to tell where that secret treasure is buried. I just can't do it, yet."


OLBERMANN: Lastly, Chris, the national implications here. The Minnesota seat is still and we will delve into that in a moment. The New York Senate seat is still empty; Illinois is not going to get filled anytime soon. When Congress convenes in January, how badly are Democrats going to want to have those actual bodies in those actual seats? And what is the likelihood when are we going to get one from Illinois?

CILLIZZA: You know, this prolongs the process. The reality is that if Rod Blagojevich stays in office, the impeachment proceedings are going to have to continue in the state legislature. He can wait to veto the bill, which I'd assume he would do. It then would have to go back to the state legislature. You're looking at a number of openings, including Minnesota, where we are probably not going to have a declared winner when Congress reopens.

And remember, Harry Reid and the Democrats want to pass Barack Obama's agenda, especially the economic stimulus as soon as possible. Keep the momentum he has built, he, being Barack Obama during this transition period. Keep the momentum he has built, he being Barack Obama during this transition period. It's going to be harder when they are down three or four senators as they inevitably are going to be.

OLBERMANN: Chris Cillizza of the "Washington Post," good enough to come to us here on a Friday before Christmas - great thanks, have a good weekend, a good holiday season.

CILLIZZA: Keith, for you, anything.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.


OLBERMANN: Speaking of that Minnesota Senate seat, day four of the canvassing board meeting in that state to decide the fate of hundreds of disputed ballots in the recount between the Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken. A turning point this morning, Franken is taking the lead in this contest for the very first time. The "Minneapolis Star Tribune" reporting now that the Democrat is in front of the Republican by 251 votes out of 3 million cast. The canvassing board to resume its count of challenged ballots on Monday.

Our friend, Nate Silver at is now projecting that Franken will lead by 70 votes once all of the disputed ballots have been reviewed. The race however is far from over, but the circumstance such that it might prove difficult for Senator Coleman to regain his lead.

Up next: What happens to some 1,600 absentee ballots that were rejected in error? As we reported last night, the state Supreme Court turning down a motion by the Coleman campaign to keep those ballots from being counted. But - and it is a doozy of a "but," both candidates and county officials must come to an agreement on the validity of each ballot by the 31st of this month. Ballots that the Coleman campaign doesn't want to see counted in any event.

And a reminder, January 6th, is the start date for the new session of Congress. Beyond that, Senator Coleman going back to the Minnesota Supreme Court over a question of duplicate ballots, in an attempt to keep the recount from being certified.

But lest you think nothing ever actually happens, presto, it's an auto industry bailout. But who is looking out for the children of Wasilla, Alaska? The city is described by state troopers as Alaska's meth capital. They are not saying that the drug one woman there has been accused of distributing perhaps manufacturing, but there are six felony counts against her. And oh, by the way, her son and his fiancee are expecting their first baby tomorrow. The very pregnant fiancee is, of course, the daughter of Governor Sarah Palin.

Scandal? You betcha.


OLBERMANN: The auto bailout and its caveats and whether or not it was essential and whether or not it can work. The death of "Deep Throat," Mark Felt and his still unidentified assistants in a veritable assembly line of leaks revealing Watergate - assessed for us by John Dean.

And the insurance company which it says it owes the victims of an arson fire nothing because they'd insist they did not actually die from fire. The Worst Persons in the World - ahead tonight on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The auto industry was bailed out today: $17.4 billion in emergency loans to prevent G.M. and Chrysler from collapsing. During an eight-minute long televised announcement, time to end before the stock market opened, President Bush laid out a so-called "rescue package" complete with conditions, deadlines, and concessions especially from the unions.

In our fourth story on the Countdown: Instead of bankruptcy for two of the Big Three, the federal government will tap the fund initially set aside to bail out the financial industry. But unlike the lifeline for the banks, this one has strings attached.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: By giving the auto companies a chance to restructure, we will shield the American people from a harsh economic blow at a vulnerable time. And we will give American workers an opportunity to show the world, once again, they can meet challenges with ingenuity and determination, and bounce back from tough times, and emerge stronger than before.


OLBERMANN: Please submit your receipts. At the same time, Mr. Bush was outlining his plan which includes a requirement that management and the United Auto Workers get union wages on par with those of foreign automakers, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was suggesting Congress release the second half of that $700 billion package approved for Wall Street. His reasoning, the auto bailout had basically exhausted the remainder of the first half.

As for President-elect Barack Obama, who encouraged the current president to use the TARP money shortly after the election, echoed his support but not without putting the onus on management as well.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I do want to emphasize to the Big Three automakers and their executives that the American people's patience is running out and that they should seize on this opportunity over the next several weeks and months to come up with a plan that is sustainable. And that means that they are going to have to make some hard choices.


OLBERMANN: Meantime, Republican senators, many of who are from states in bed with those foreign automakers and who had blocked an earlier piece of legislation that bore striking resemblances to this one, they are not happy. Lindsey Graham objecting to TARP money for the car companies, in a statement, quote, "These funds were supposed to be used to stabilize financial institutions. The TARP legislation would certainly not have passed if we had known it was going to use for this purpose."

Likewise, for John McCain, quote, "Just last week, the Senate rejected a bailout plan because it failed to provide assurances that the domestic manufacturers would fundamentally change the way they do business to ensure their long-term viability. I find it unacceptable that we would leave the American taxpayer with a tab of tens of billions of dollars while failing to receive any serious concessions from the industry."

We are joined by Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the "American Prospect," and author of "Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency."

Good evening, sir. Thank you for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Let's start with the obviously, the most relevant questions. Was this necessary and is it going to work?

KUTTNER: Well, I think it's necessary to give the automakers some breathing room if they are going to restructure themselves. I mean, we've got a very serious recession. Auto sales are down 40 percent. And the question is: Are you going to let these companies go bankrupt or are you going to give them one last chance to try produce cars that are fuel-efficient, that Americans want to buy, that don't fall apart after a few years?

But this is going to take a little bit of time. This is not going to be done on three or four months. What I find interesting is that senators like Graham and McCain are being very tough about what they expect from the automakers in the way of concessions and in the way of accountability. You don't hear any of this when it comes to the much, much larger sums that are going to the banks.

OLBERMANN: Well, certainly, and that's perhaps the most intriguing subplot to this $17.4 billion for the auto industry, $250 billion for the banks. And, I guess, there's another in total that it will workout over around $682 billion-something for the banks. Again, I made the joke about save your receipts, it's as if the banks and mortgage companies didn't have to sign for the money, it was just take as much as you need. Where is that scream for any kind of clarity or accountability from those financial institutions?

KUTTNER: Well, Wall Street, obviously, has more powerful friends in Washington than the automakers do. And when you think about it, it's easier to run a bank if you don't try and run it like a casino than it is to figure out how to make a car that people want to buy. And both sets of executives have not been doing a stellar job.

But you would think for the $700 billion that the taxpayers are giving to the banks, you would have even something approaching the kind of accountability that's being demands of the automakers. And yet, Paulson is just shoveling out the money. The treasury is not demanding any kind of accounting about what the banks are doing. You just have to hope that when the Obama team comes on in a month from now, they'll do a better job both with the banks and with the automakers.

OLBERMANN: This loan, bailout, bridge loan, various descriptions used today, apart of this plan under the President Bush scheme called for the industry, the auto industry, to become viable by March 31st. Has anybody defined viable and whatever it is? Is it possible by March 31st?

KUTTNER: No, it's totally impossible. I mean, you're talking about a radical restructuring of the industry which could take a year, could take two years. And I think it's their last chance. Obama will probably give them more money but he will have more accountability. The government will probably be involved in the restructuring.

You know, there's a historic parallel, Keith. In 1941, when we went to war, they shut down the assembly lines, and within eight months they retooled the auto assembly lines to make tanks, and bombers, and fighters. And this was the ingenuity of the American industry, American workers on display. If we can do that to win a war, we ought to be able to do that to save this industry. But it's not going to be done by March 31st.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, everything gets done with somebody's palm being greased. And I don't mean that necessarily with money being handed, but there are interest being solved. Hank Paulson now responds this by saying, "Look, well, now, the rest of the front half of the bailout for Wall Street is gone. Now, you have to release the rest of the money to the financial institutions." Did that - is it as straightforward, a quid pro quo, as that looks? Did this thing happen for Detroit because Paulson was somehow empowered to go and ask for the rest of the mortgage bailout?

KUTTNER: No, I think the two things (INAUDIBLE). I mean, I think Bush did not want to see the auto industry fold as his final legacy in his last 30 days in office. And I think Paulson has such little credibility with Congress given how he's run this bailout, that they are not going to give him the remaining $350 billion. They are going to wait for the Obama team to come in, they're going to put more conditions on it, and one hopes the Obama team will do a better job.

I mean, don't forget, originally, this was going to be money used to buy up toxic bonds. And then, Paulson couldn't make that work, so he turns around and just gives the money to the banks.

OLBERMANN: Robert Kuttner, the co-editor of the "American Prospect," author of "Obama's Challenge" - great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

KUTTNER: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Serene political discourse South Korean-style. This - this is a filibuster. Thank you.

And there's nothing like watching a public figure self-destruct. Sean Hannity's now daily conspiracy theory about Barack Obama. This one involves a cigarette and a hat. Worst Persons is ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. And he's not only Canadian, he's un-American.

First - the time line is a little murky - but on this date in 1904, the hockey team from Dawson City in Canada's Yukon Territory finally got going on its cross continental journey to face Ottawa in the Stanley Cup championship. Delayed by cold weather, good weather, bad weather, bicycles freezing in the snow, avalanches, missed trains, missed boats, dog-sled teams that didn't dog-sled, on a transcontinental rural trip from Vancouver to Ottawa, the Klondikers finally got there and played game one of the best-of-three series on January 13th and they lost to Ottawa, nine-to-two. Three days later, in game two, Dawson City lost to Ottawa 23-to-two. For some reason, there is no epic story known about their trip back to the Yukon.

Let's play Oddball.

Appropriately, we begin at 1060 West Addison at Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the NHL's Blackhawks are getting set to host an outdoor hockey game on New Year's day on NBC. The grass field that normally hosts Cub baseball is being converted into an ice hockey rink complete with two-fully functioning Zambonis. Well, one fully functioning Zamboni.

Frozen breaks, dude. The driver was fine. And the ice-cleaner was none the worse for wear, if you can believe that. And now, you know why they don't drive those things in reverse.

To South Korea's national assembly where it is the season to be brawly. A committee inside that room is talking about a trade deal with the United States. The people outside don't like the deal. They are using crowbars and a sledgehammer to gain entry and filibuster.

But before they get pass the furniture barricade, the guys inside empty a couple of fire extinguishers on the angry mob of lawmakers who go and find themselves a spigot and return the favor with a nice drink from a fire hose. Now, if you are getting a kind of South Korean parliament deja vu feeling, that's only because this is a rematch. Almost exactly a year ago, December of 2007, this was the scene at the previous South Korean donnybrook. Can't we all just get along and stick to throwing shoes?

The man who was Watergate's Deep Throat is dead. John Dean on the place of history or in history of Mark Felt and all those who told what Mark Felt what he told Bob Woodward. And, drug charges against the future mother-in-law of Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol. The day before Bristol is due to give birth. Wow.

These stories ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Number three: Best evidence. These marbles have fallen through a hole in his pocket. Lou Dobbs on CNN complaining about people complaining about the economy and plays a tape of Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada who's asked, "Are you scared?" Harper replies, "I'm very worried about the Canadian economy." Dobbs comes back on with, "We're all concerned. We're all worried. Anyone paying attention is concerned and worried. But, are you scared? Are you afraid? No, that's un-American."

That was about the point at which Lou realized that yes, the prime minister of Canada is by definition "un-American."

Number two, best the grass is greener moment, Darren Corbett of West Yorkshire in England. He was volunteer for the stage act of hypnotist David Knight. To thank him, Knight cured Corbett's habit of smoking 30 cigarettes a day by transferring his addiction from tobacco to a popular British snack, fries that smell like scampi. He now has to eat 20 packages a day of scampi fries.

Number, truly the best person. At his local Home Depot on Tuesday, Mr. Gil Steward saw on the floor a man's wallet. It was filled with nearly 1,000 in cash. Mr. Steward picked up and gave it to the manager. Minutes later, another man was shaking his hand vigorously, thanking him because that cash was money for his Christmas presents and his mortgage payment. Mr. Steward happened to go back to Home Depot yesterday. That's when he saw on the floor a big bag full of money. He took that to the manager too. And then he was being thanked by another guy from a vending machine company, who had somehow dropped the receipts. Mr Steward says it's just a fluke, but he adds, I think I'm going to play the Lottery this weekend. A merry Christmas to Gil Steward.


OLBERMANN: As it proves, today is the day we were meant to learn the true identity of Deep Throat, a secret which "Washington Post" journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein promised they would keep until the man or woman had passed away. Instead, he outed himself 33 years after Watergate, admitting, quote, I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat.

Tonight, in our third story on the Countdown, W. Mark Felt, the former deputy associate director of the FBI, has died of congestive heart failure in Santa Rosa, California. He was 95. Throughout his life, Mr. Felt consistently had denied that he was the confirming source for Woodward and Bernstein's investigation into the 1972 break in at the Watergate hotel, not even telling his own family of his role until 2002. He reportedly felt ashamed of leaking, of being a disloyal government servant.

According to his son, Mark Jr., quote, he would not have done it if he didn't feel it was the only way to get around the corruption in the White House and the Justice Department. He was tortured inside, but never would show it. But finally, his children convinced him he was, in fact, a hero. He went public in a May, 2005 article in "Vanity Fair." Immortalized by Hal Holbrooke in the movie "All the President's Men," the true identity of Deep Throat fueled decades of speculation about everybody from Nixon's chief of staff, Alexander Haig, to Pat Buchanan, to John Dean, who joins us in a moment.

But it was Mark Felt, first code named by Bob Woodward with those same initials, my friend, who was secretly meeting with the reporter. Simultaneously leaking information to the "Washington Post," while also assigned to investigate the source of the leak. It turns out Nixon actually knew Mark Felt was leaking information. His chief of staff, H.R. Halderman, clearly told him that on one of the Watergate tapes. But adds, quote, if we move on him, he'll go out and unload on everything. He knows everything that is to be known in the FBI.

I'm joined now by the White House counsel at the time of Watergate, John Dean, author, of course, of "Worse than Watergate," and "Broken Government." Always a pleasure, sir. Thank you for your time again tonight.


OLBERMANN: Mark Felt struggled for decades with his identity and his legacy as Deep Throat. Now that he's gone, what do you think that legacy is? Place him in history for us.

DEAN: Well, as you said, we did know he was leaking. In fact, he had a reputation in the Department of Justice. It was not favorable. Some called him a white rat, because he did leak a lot. I think because of Watergate and his role of Deep Throat, a lot of people are going to consider that very heroic. People who are still Nixon apologists are not going to feel it so heroic. I personally think it was very daring, very important. Indeed, he changed history by at least supporting Woodward And giving him comfort in what he was doing and making sure the stories were published.

OLBERMANN: As we've discussed several times, John, Mark Felt gave information he could not personally have known. He gave wrong information, as you have so thoroughly documented. There were obviously people feeding Mark Felt, a series of associate Deep Throats, if you forgive the expression. Is knowing their identities and their motives essential for historical understanding or is Mark Felt's identity enough?

DEAN: I think it's enough. We certainly are not going to add anything by knowing who fed Felt what and why. It's not going to illuminate anything. It's not going to change the picture. It's, however, a good mystery story, still. I suspect some Watergate buffs will still try to piece those pieces together. It is difficult to put all the information into Felt's ambit, if you will. So I think people will continue to look at it.

OLBERMANN: We can't call you a buff. You're closer to somebody who had the inside picture is still trying to wait for the corners to develop on the Koda-chrome. What remains? What are the questions that you would still have about Felt's role and the role of those who worked with him on the inside to get this information out?

DEAN: As you know, I was something of a Deep Throat sleuth myself and spent a lot - wasted maybe a lot of time trying to figure it out. The reason I never had Mark Felt directly in my radar is because he didn't fit. Woodward always told me that when you have all the clues, you'll understand exactly who it is and they'll all fit. They don't all fit.

For example, one of Woodward's greatest stories is when he breaks the fact that one of more of Nixon tapes have been erased in the first week of November, 1973. However, Felt has left the FBI six months before that. When I looked at that, Keith, nobody, outside a very small group in the White House, had that information. I still can't put those kinds of pieces together and answer those kinds of questions about him as Woodward's sole source.

OLBERMANN: Is it possible - I don't know that we've discussed this before. Is it possible that there was somebody in the White House - you said we hear the tapes about the knowledge that Felt was a leaker - who was playing an inside out game, who was seemingly supportive of Nixon on the inside towards the end, and was still feeding Felt after Felt left the FBI with information like that which you just described?

DEAN: It is possible. There's no question it's possible. In fact, when I romanticized what who Deep Throat might be, I always hoped it would be a White House insider. I thought Pat Buchanan would be a wonderful Deep Throat. Pat doesn't exactly share that feeling, but nor did Dave Gergen when I named him as a potential Deep Throat. Some of these people took great offense to this.

I think it's very possible somebody could have or indeed, in the particular story I'm talking about, Woodward identified all those people - sources for that story - as White House sources. So it may well be a little bit of journalistic license, if you will.

OLBERMANN: Try to sum this up and Mark Felt and what he helped reveal and what that meant for the country and what you did for the country and what those who stood up at various times through that did. That aside, you pointed this out already and many times in many other conversations, this is just an extraordinary fascinating mystery story, even if it weren't a political mystery story. What is left? What is the secret that remains to this that you would like to ask whoever actually could supply the correct answer?

DEAN: Well, Keith, we certainly know why they broke in. We know it was an act of stupidity, a very foolish fishing expedition to find information on Larry O'Brien. We know why it was covered up, because there was a similar foolish break in the Daniel Elsberg psychiatrist office by the same people who had been arrested at the Watergate. What we don't know and what we still may find out is Howard Baker's famous question, what did the president know and when did he know it? There are still tapes coming out in the next couple batches that could well tell us much more about Nixon's actual knowledge. Those kind of interest me.

OLBERMANN: Given that the country survived, I guess this is the gift that keeps on giving. John Dean, always my pleasure, sir, merry Christmas a little early, take care.

DEAN: Same to you, Keith. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: For cynics and others who like to know which politicians are palling around with which kind of wrong-doers, the mother of Sarah Palin's future son-in-law arrested, six drug felony counts in Wasilla, Alaska.

A nightmarish fire set by a woman trying to cover up the fact she had not filled out some paper work. Three people killed. Nearly two years later, the insurance company says it owes the dead nothing because they did not die from the fire. Worst persons ahead.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, with everything new, crazy thing that Rick Warren says, is he turning into Barack Obama's second Reverend Wright?

But first, because they're not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals, Bushed.

Number three, gay-gate; 66 members of the United Nations are supporting a measure urging the world to decriminalize homosexuality. Nearly 80 countries still ban it. Some punish it with stoning or torture. Or in the six in which it is still a capital offense, hanging or decapitation. The declaration was proposed by the French, the French with their right wing government. It is opposed by the Russians, the Chinese, the Islamic nations and George Bush's America. No comment yet from Pastor Rick, the Internet porn I'm addicted to, is all straight, Warren.

Number two, environment-gate. Now, we know why the Bush pushed through a midnight regulation insisting federal agencies could not consider the global warming implications of a given project: so that Mr. Bush's corrupt head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen L. Johnson, could rule, as he did last night, any last minute applications by utilities to build new coal fired power plants may not be reviewed for greenhouse emissions or its impact on global warming. This even though the Supreme Court ruled last year that the EPA can regulate the top global warming gas, Carbon Dioxide. Johnson is a global warming denier, who has gone so far as to suppress global warming findings by his own administration and lied about it to Congress. Well, he's now vaulted a higher hurdle. Steven L. Johnson has, in effect, overruled the Supreme Court.

Number one, a new Gonzo-gate, with extra added Condi. Speaking for Dr. Rice, Alberto Gonzales, while White House counsel, appears to have lied to Congress about the infamous 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union Address about Saddam Hussein and Uranium in Niger. In 2004, Gonzales answered the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's request for testimony from Dr. Rice, because the then National Security Adviser refused to testify. He wrote that the CIA had twice orally cleared the Uranium claim for use in Bush's speeches.

Unfortunately, the House Oversight Committee has now turned up evidence that Gonzales, speaking for Rice, was not telling the truth about those two oral clearances. One of the writers of Bush's speech on September 12th, 2002 has told the committee that the White House instructed him to include the Uranium lie, and when he did, the CIA rejected the claim, refused to clear the use of the language, because the story was, quote, not sufficiently reliable to include it in the speech. Then the Uranium crap was included in Mr. Bush's speech of September 26. The deputy director of intelligence at the CIA told the committee that said personally she phoned Condoleezza Rice, quote, recommending that it be taken out.

So Condi wouldn't testify. Then Gonzales responded on her behalf and put lies in her mouth.


OLBERMANN: Sometimes fate just lets a nation collectively dodge a bullet. The other grandmother of Sarah Palin's grand child, due tomorrow, arrested on six charges of drug possession, drug distribution and/or production. Feel the breeze as the projectile whizzes past us. That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

A tie for the bronze between Sean Hannity and Gretchen Carlson of Fixed News. Seen these, the pictures of Obama taken in college, just released by the classmate who took them in the new "Time Magazine?" Carlson need a vacation. She said "there are some very intriguing Barack Obama photos. Look at this one. This is him smoking a cigarette, which we had not seen. Would it have served any purpose to release these photos before the election."

Hannity, meanwhile, senses a conspiracy. "Where were these pictures during the campaign? Just take a look at this. Barack Obama has a hat, you know, pulling a drag on a cigarette. Do you think the media thought it might not help Barack Obama?"

Well, of course. John McCain would have won, if only America would have known Barack Obama smoked cigarettes and used to own a hat.

The silver to the Florida State Department of Revenue. In September, Scott Anderson of Titusville was not charged any sales tax for a small purchase at the hardware store. He thinks that's because he works for the Federal Parks Service, and the store might have incorrectly charged his purchase to the Park Services tax free account. So he calculated the tax himself and he mailed a check, along with a letter of explanation to the state of Florida. A month later, he got a letter back, charging him 50 dollars in fines, because it decided he was a business which had not paid his taxes. Mr. Anderson wrote another explanation, promptly got back another letter from the state saying he now owed 650 dollars in fines, and faced criminal prosecution.

A local TV station got involved here and a Florida tax official said the threats will stop and Anderson will not be fined either. By the way, the amount of sales tax he was not charged but paid himself, the part that set all this off, a dollar and a half.

But our winner, Carl Lindner Jr., chairman of Great American Insurance Company. A fire set in a Houston office building in March 2007 seeking to cover up the fact she had not filled out paperwork by a certain deadline killed three people. Their names were Shana Ellis, Janet Hargrove and Marvin Wells (ph). Their survivors sued, seeking a total of 25 million dollars in damage. Great American Insurance has asked the court to rule that it doesn't owe the families a dime. Mr. Lindner's company, Great American, says is insurance policies do not cover payments for pollution, discharges of pollution, or seepage of pollution, or pollution gases, or pollution related smoke.

Great American Insurance is claiming that the victims died not because of the fire, but because of pollution in the form of smoke. Great American is the so-called excess insurer in this macab case. The lawyer for the primary insurer, responsible for the first million dollar, says he thinks the claim is outrageous. But, it is not to Carl Lindner, chairman of the Great American Insurance Company, and today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: A drug bust in the Crystal Meth capital of Alaska. Six felony counts, some for manufacturing a substance. In our number one story on the Countdown, the new thriller in Wasilla and the target, the future mother-in-law of Governor Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter, which could mean really, just by definition, Governor Sarah Palin is palling around with drug dealers.

Forty two year old Sherri Johnston (ph) was arrested yesterday at her home in Wasilla, a town that state troopers declared last September was the Meth capitol of Alaska. It happened after police served a warrant on her home, at the, quote, conclusion of an undercover narcotics investigation. Johnston was charged with six felony drug counts, specifically second degree misconduct involving a controlled substance that is generally manufactured or delivered, and fourth degree misconduct involving controlled substances or possession.

State troopers not releasing information about the kind or amount of drugs. Mrs. Johnston is, of course, the mother of Levi Johnston, the 18 year old who drew notoriety in September, just before the Republican National Convention, of course, when Governor Palin announced that her teenage daughter, Bristol, was pregnant and Levi was the father. Governor Palin showing that natural empathy and connection to the average American that has rocketed her to the top of the greasy political poll. Her spokesman today responding to the sad news by saying, quote, this is not a state government matter. Therefore, the governor's communications staff will not be providing comment or scheduling interview opportunities.

Mrs. Johnston was booked at the Matthsew (ph) pre-trial facility yesterday and released at about 2:00 pm on a 5,000 dollar bond. Bristol Palin is due to give birth tomorrow, according to her grandfather. And the previously announced impending marriage between Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston is still apparently impending.

Let's turn now to our old friend, comedian Christian Finnegan.

Christian, good evening.


OLBERMANN: I'm thinking that with that last statement, "this is not a government matter. Therefore, the governor's communication staff will not be providing comment or scheduling interview opportunities." With that, the governor's refusal to say, you know, a human thing about this, like this is sad news or I hope this works out, that her silence on this also serves as a big giant go to it for commentators and comedians. What do you think?

FINNEGAN: I guess somebody has to fill the vacuum. The sad truth is that nothing you say or I say would be nearly as entertaining as seeing Sarah Palin discuss this head on. Can you imagine that press conference? You know, I'm just feeling so sad about the methamphetamines and also, too, as well, the addicts with the facial sores and the neck tattoos and the paying for random sex acts at the bus depo. It's just so not awesome.

To think we're going to be deprived of that press conference is just devastating to me.

OLBERMANN: Think of it this way, maybe you'll get to hear all that at the trial. Let's play this out a little further. These are the future in laws of Governor Palin's daughters. So if we can assume then social interaction between the governor and Mrs. Johnston, at some point, then particularly if you put the governor's standards to this for what constitutes this, is it a stretch to say the governor's been palling around with a drug dealer?

FINNEGAN: This is the problem when you start playing guilt by association; eventually, one of your associations is going to make you look like an ass. Keith, I strongly urge you not to go down the same path, because, right at this very moment, it could be said that you are palling around with someone who is responsible for over 40,000 dollars theft of office supplies. There is also a public indecency thing. But my point is, nobody's hands are clean here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: There's not 40,000 dollars of office supplies left in that office behind you. So I don't know what -

FINNEGAN: Not here. Many years of temp work.

OLBERMANN: Will this, do you think, become the governors most persistent backdrop, at least symbolically speaking, because there's not photo op like this, but since the turkey slaughter videotape.

FINNEGAN: You keep thinking it's the last one. This woman is a genius. The way they just keep littering out there, a little piece, a little piece. Just when the turkey thing is starting to get old, a new hit single drops. I'm telling you, this Meth lab is the "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to the turkey slaughter's "Love Me Do." I mean, which makes you know she's got a "Sergeant Pepper" some day. I've got my fingers crossed waiting for it.

OLBERMANN: Mrs. Johnston's, Governor Palin's, brand-new grandchild is due tomorrow. The timing of this is just extraordinary. You want to take a venture here, in light of recent developments, about baby names.

FINNEGAN: If it's a girl, Crystal is a nice name. A boy, Methew. Methew maybe. I will say this for the record, I wish that kid the best. I guarantee you, knowing what we know now, Levi Johnston is going to be a great father, because he's obviously used to being around people with no teeth.

OLBERMANN: Do you think the 64,000 dollar question, is this going to reduce Governor Palin's likelihood that she'd run for president in 2012 and please say no?

FINNEGAN: Not if I have anything to do with it. The Palin 2012 presidential campaign, I feel about that like the way a comic book geek feels about a new Lord of the Rings movie. I am willing - even if the Republican don't nominate her, I say we just get a party started. We'll start collecting signatures. I know a couple people over at Huff Post. We'll get this thing going. What do you think, Keith?

OLBERMANN: I'm in. Put me down for line number one. I'll write my name right now.

FINNEGAN: Dare to dream.

OLBERMANN: The comedian Christian Finnegan, many thanks, and please empty your pockets before you leave.

FINNEGAN: Happy Holidays.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,050th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Up next, Rachel with the latest bizarre Rick Warren interview, and whether he might self-destruct before the inaugural. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, December 18
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons
The toss: It's fine (Keith's mustache)

Guests: Harry Shearer, John Harwood, Rob Boston, John Dean

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

Now, he's got a pastor problem. The president-elect selects Rick Warren to give the religious invocation at the inauguration.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Because that's what America is about. That's - part of the magic of this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated.


OLBERMANN: Political genius bringing evangelicals in to the tent. But how on earth do you foster tolerance by turning over part of the biggest platform in the world to the intolerant?


RICK WARREN, PASTOR: I'm opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and call that marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

WARREN: Oh, I do.


OLBERMANN: Pastor Warren also says he supported California Prop Eight to protect free speech so pastors would not be prosecuted for hate speech, somehow.

A torture commission: The day after Carl Levin tells Rachel he'd favor one to decide whether or not to prosecute those in the CIA or even Dick Cheney.

As Chrysler goes lights out for a month, the president fiddles while the window for a bailout burns.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: I haven't made up my mind, yet. So, you're assuming something is going to happen.



OLBERMANN: No. We're assuming you have a mind. Harry Shearer joins us on this.

Worsts: Billo tells his own viewers they are wrong.

And, Bushed: The nexus of politics and terror revisited.


BUSH: Here at home, we prevented numerous terrorist attacks, including an attempt to bomb fuel tanks at JFK Airport.


OLBERMANN: By starting a fire at a pipeline 30 miles away.


BUSH: The plot to blow up airliners bound for the east coast.


OLBERMANN: In which the plotters did not have tickets or passports.


BUSH: The scheme to attack a shopping mall in the Chicago area.


OLBERMANN: By a guy who tried to buy one grenade from an FBI agent.


BUSH: And a plan to destroy the tallest skyscraper in the Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN: The name of which the president could not remember.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Thursday, December 18th, 33 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

As outrage flies over Obama's selection of right wing evangelist, Rick Warren, to deliver the invocation at that inauguration, words spoken exactly two weeks ago tonight would seem, in retrospect, prescient: "The bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with, it has to just be stopped." The speaker was Rick Warren.

In our fifth story: If Warren represents people to whom agreement with their religious beliefs is the only measure of right or wrong, how can Obama gain anything from their side? And if in preaching their Evangel, Warren compares gay marriage to incest and pedophilia, how can Obama gain anything from his own side?

Even Warren, to some degree, acknowledges this in a just issued statement which reads in part, "I commend President-elect Barack Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me with whom he does not agree on every issue to offer the invocation at his historic inaugural ceremony. Hopefully, individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America." Warren statement is just released.

Protest of this choice by no means limited to the 6 million gay and lesbian Americans who helped elect President Obama. Now, this is the same Rick Warren who campaigned actively for California's Proposition Eight banning gay marriage, the same Rick Warren who believes ministers who seek to deny the civil rights of gay Americans are themselves prosecuted for his hate speech, he will deliver the invocation on the west front of the Capitol on January 20th.

In a letter to the president-elect, the Human Rights Campaign is calling Mr. Obama's choice of Reverend Warren, quote, "a genuine blow to lesbian, gay, bi- and transgender Americans. By inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table." The Human Rights Campaign also disputing the idea that Reverend Warren has ever sough or would ever seek the middle-ground, adding, quote, "Reverend Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together, instead, Reverend Warren has often played the role of general in a cultural war waged against LBGT Americans."

If you were to ask Reverend Warren himself if he were homophobic, as Ann Curry did for an interview airing tomorrow night on "DATELINE NBC," he would tell you no because of donuts.



WARREN: Of course not. I have always treated them with respect. When they come and want to talk to me, I talked to them. When the protestors came, we served them water and donuts.


OLBERMANN: Lost amid the outrage that there will be another preacher at the inauguration, one with an actual role in American history that does not owe to having had a bestselling book. Mr. Obama is asking the Reverend Doctor Joseph E. Lowery to deliver the benediction. Reverend Lowery having co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

President-elect Obama mentioning Doctor Lowery and his reasons for having choosing Reverend Warren at a news conference this morning in Chicago.


OBAMA: I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on. I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion. What we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.


OLBERMANN: Let's call in John Harwood, CNBC's chief Washington correspondent, of course, political correspondent with the "New York Times" as well.

Good evening, John.


OLBERMANN: Our friends in the Washington bureau, including Chuck Todd is going to be covering the Obama White House, as NBC News chief White House correspondent, wrote this morning that David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs have to be smiling at this outrage because it never hurts when you sometimes disappoint/anger your party's interest groups. What is the upside here that they are referencing?

HARWOOD: Well, Barack Obama, of course, is becoming president, Keith, of all the people, not just the people who voted for him or backed him in the Democratic primaries. He's made a cardinal principle in this campaign to reach out to people who disagree with him. He clearly meant it. And he sees evangelicals - he got a quarter of the vote among white evangelicals, slightly better than John Kerry did, but he thinks there's more of an upside, especially among younger evangelicals.

Rick Warren, though he is very conservative on some political issues, is more moderate in style and temperament. He's a younger leader. The Falwell and the Robertsons are off the stage, and this is an opportunity for Barack Obama to try to make some headway with little substantive cost to his own agenda.

OLBERMANN: The idea of compromise, though, from those who got Obama elected. For eight years under the current president, comprise has meant in essence, everybody who's not on the far right needs to concede something to the far right and then they'll call it a compromise. So, now, the first compromise for President-elect Obama and, at least, in this case, everybody - it's true everybody who is not on the far right still needs to concede something to the far right and that's compromise.

Setting aside the issue here, just talking about the politics of the equation, why shouldn't the left and much of the center be upset about this?

HARWOOD: Well, here are a few reasons. Troops out of Iraq within 16 months; $800 billion stimulus package including alternative energy, infrastructure, aid to cities, a huge program that Barack Obama is continuing to push to dramatically spend healthcare coverage. He has not backed off one iota of the left-leaning issue agenda that he promoted during the campaign.

We are now in this usual period, Keith, where the only thing we have is optics and symbolism. And people are looking at those including this choice, including some of his cabinet members and saying, oh, he's tacking to the center. He hasn't done it on policy. And once the administration starts, I think that will be more plain to those in his base and they'll be able to be less upset than they right now.

OLBERMANN: Is there a second political calculation here, John, or am I giving them too much credit here? Obama statement in there, "It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans." That is pretty much a first for an American president. Did he bury his own lead with the Warren invitation or maybe did the Warren invitation buy him some political coverage so that he could make such a blunt statement about gay equality even if it's so long in coming?

HARWOOD: It certainly buys him cover while he is reaching out to those younger evangelicals. Again, it goes to this point about the substance of his agenda. He is an advocate of gay and lesbian rights. There is, incidentally, going to be a place in his parade for gay and lesbians, that hasn't been as prominent in past campaigns.

But again, on the substance of the issue, the left ought to be confident that Barack Obama is one of them. This is a case of symbolism, and it's symbolism that, as I said, does not exactly cross from Barack Obama's agenda.

OLBERMANN: In terms of symbolism, finally, John - does Doctor Lowery balance out or he's intended to balance out Reverend Warren?

HARWOOD: Well, absolutely. And if you look at the most powerful symbolism of this inauguration is the fact that we are swearing in the first African-American president, bridging the divide that is the deepest and most troublesome throughout American history. So, I think Joseph Lowery, though not chosen to counteract with Warren, is going to be - an issue that he stands for and represents - is going to be much more powerful in the larger scheme of things.

OLBERMANN: John Harwood of CNBC and the "New York Times" - as always, John, thanks for your time tonight.

HARWOOD: You bet.

OLBERMANN: Beyond the politics, there is the policy that is driving the outrage in the first place. For more on Reverend Warren and what he stands for, let's turn to Rob Boston, the senior policy analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: The inclusion of a preacher who believes in exclusion and turns to government in order to achieve it or other religious ends, is the entire premise flawed and is it more flawed when you bring in a political equation like this? I mean, can you teach tolerance to the intolerant merely by being tolerant?

BOSTON: It would be nice, but I think it's a tall order. I think, one of the reasons people are so disappointed is that, you know, for the past eight years, the religious right's voice has been heard very aggressively throughout all facets of the Bush administration. And now, we were thinking there'd be a change in tone. Yet, one of the first voices we are going to hear from this administration is anti-gay, anti-reproductive freedom, anti-science, another religious right fundamentalist. We need a change in tone.

OLBERMANN: The comment that Doctor Warren just released, that even he seems to be recognizing, I'm wondering what's your reaction to this is particularly, "I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me." Even though there are references here to supposedly both of them representing the idea of civility in American political discourse, is there something of a triumphant tone to what Warren has just said?

BOSTON: Well, Warren, to me, is - he has a great P.R. machine. And he has people thinking he's a moderate, but he's really just Jerry Falwell in a Hawaiian shirt. And we don't need that again. You know, with the sort of passing of the guard of some of the old religious right leader, some of them have died, others of whom are sort of in semi-retirement, a lot of us are hoping for a more moderate religious voice to come to bear. And we're not getting that.

We're getting the same old sort of fundamentalism from Rick Warren, who, despite what his P.R. machine cranks out, is not a moderate. He's just another conservative fundamentalist, hard right.

OLBERMANN: Is this - it seems like it's bigger than the 6 million gay and lesbian Americans who voted for Obama, never mind the women, there are any other group that have might have felt particularly represented by the candidate, don't Democrats take the civil rights of all Americans when they belong to that group or not, rather seriously?

BOSTON: I think so. And, actually, I think one of the interesting things about this, you were talking earlier about Joseph Lowery being involved in this, too. The comparison is unusual. You look at Lowery who is this giant of civil right. He's dedicated his life to lifting people up and ensuring equality. And then you look at Warren who endorsed Proposition Eight which took away the civil rights of an entire class and individuals. Why would you want to put those two on the same stage? It simply doesn't make sense.

OLBERMANN: What if this touched some other group? I mean, if there was another example of intolerance from somebody who had been invited to have a formal and important role at the inauguration, if there were and a validly racist preacher or member of the Aryan nation, you can fill in almost any blank in there you want, a man who's come out against left-handed people. Would there not be more of a clear understanding of why this is such an issue to so many people?

BOSTON: Oh, certainly. I mean, if this guy had made anti-Semitic statements, for example, he wouldn't be looked at for a second, as it should be. But, you know, there are a couple of groups you can still bash with impunity in this country. And Warren has bashed them both.

One, of course, is being gays. The other, and this is kind of overlooked, is nonbelievers. Warren has stated that people who don't believe in God really aren't fit to hold public office in America.

And you can still bash those two groups and get away with it. Now, I think, you know, maybe we are moving slowly, very slowly down the road where that sort of behavior will not be acceptable but we aren't there yet. And the fact that Rick Warren is being given a national stage is further proof of that.

OLBERMANN: Do you have any idea what it is, other than getting people to listen to the inaugural address which may or may not be - I mean, the right wing that he brings in to this, what is Obama getting in this equation? What does he expect to see? A benefit of the doubt or is he just going to get people who tuned in to hear Rick Warren talk for a minute and a half?

BOSTON: Well, Obama's instincts are all about inclusion. And normally, I think, that's a very good thing. I mean, obviously, we want that.

But there are ways to reach out and include Rick Warren and the audience he represents without giving him such a high profile role to play in this inauguration. This is going to be historic. It's a milestone. And one of the first voices we're going to hear is Rick Warren's and I just think that is very unfortunate.

OLBERMANN: Rob Boston from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State - great thanks for your perspective, sir.

BOSTON: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Legal definitions at the very heart of whether or not we will ever see Dick Cheney or the others put on trial for torturing people in your name. Senator Carl Levin with an unexpected call for an independent commission to determine if prosecution is possible and of whom. John Dean on the reiteration this week of the remarkable truth nothing more quickly leads to the capture or conviction of a criminal than if he is proud or boastful about his crime. And the vice president sure seems disturbingly proud of his role in the torture, doesn't he?

And breaking news tonight from Minnesota, Al Franken gets a big break from the highest court in that state.


OLBERMANN: The vice president admits to facilitating what everybody except he and the Bush gangs seems to agree is the torture of people being held by the government of the United States. Senator Carl Levin now is supporting a commission to pursue possible charges against those who helped torture to happen. Could we see Dick Cheney on trial? John Dean joins us next.

Also, the nexus of politics and terror, again, as the president now says it is four attacks he has stopped. He has indeed saved us from terrorist acts committed by people who think they can blow up an airport by lighting fire to a fuel pipeline 30 miles away.

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: If ever we come to witness the trial of the people versus Cheney, an astonishing admission this week by the potential defendant, Vice President Dick Cheney, could very well end up as Exhibit A.

Our fourth story tonight: War crimes and the slowly growing momentum for investigations that could lead to indictment.

In an interview with ABC this week in which Mr. Cheney admitted he authorized waterboarding, claiming it is not torture. In a new interview today, he claims it was moral and ethical, quote, "The foremost obligation we had from a moral or an ethical standpoint was to the oath of office we took when we were sworn in on January 20th of 2001 to protect and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic." First seven months don't count.

But at least, we now know that America's dissent into torture was apparently the result of Cheney's screwing up his own oath of office which actually reads, "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush thus becoming the Constitution's greatest domestic enemies, having waterboarded and tortured three people.

In past administrations, waterboarders faced charges and hard time if convicted as recently as Vietnam. This U.S. soldier was court-martialed and bounced out of the army. And even then-Governor Bush refused to pardon the sheriff who was in prison for having waterboarded.

Last night with Rachel Maddow, Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin discussed Cheney's admission and whether the U.S. will seek justice against those who did the Constitution and America's reputation this injustice.


RACHEL MADDOW, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" HOST: Do you think there will be prosecutions and will you argue that there should be?

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIR: What I think it is our role to do is to bring out the facts which we have to state our conclusions which we have, which is where the origin of these techniques began, and then turn over to the Justice Department of the next administration because, clearly, this Justice Department is not willing to take an objective look; to turn over to the next Justice Department all the facts that we can and have put together and get our report, the rest of it declassified.

But then, it seems to me, it is appropriate that there'd be an outside commission appointed to take this out of politics so they have the clear subpoena authority to get to the parts of this, which are not yet clear, that is the role of the CIA. We looked at the role of the Department of Defense. But the role of the CIA has not yet been looked at. And let an outside commission reach the kind of conclusions which then may or may not lead to indictments or to civil action.


OLBERMANN: Joining us now, one-time Richard Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, most recently, the author of "Broken Government."

John, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Have those remarks and/or changed the landscape at all on this?

DEAN: Well, I think that the remarks, because of the report that accompanies them from Levin and his committee, as well as Cheney's remarkable statements that are almost bordering on boastful confessions are certainly creating new interest in whether this should be prosecuted or not. I would be surprised if Cheney really wants to test the law but he's getting out there pretty close to it.

I think most of the people who might be involved are trying to stay below the cover and hope that the statute of limitations - which in this case, is about eight years - will pass and they'll have no criminal exposure.

OLBERMANN: Well, to that point, why would this be getting that sort of special commission, special prosecutor treatment rather than the incoming attorney general, Mr. Holder, just sending somebody out to arrest these guys before they leave the capital a month from Saturday?

DEAN: There is a degree of conventional wisdom that suspects that Mr. Obama really doesn't want to take this issue on, that he would rather not have his Department of Justice in the middle of this fight. It's not a unifying sort of move that he might be trying to do. So, I think that might be why Senator Levin suggested a commission.

But, you know, the problem with a commission, Keith, is, it will indeed let the statute of limitations pass. A commission couldn't conceivably determine who might be prosecuted, who might not because the time would pass and there'd be no chance of doing that unless they'd change the statute itself, which I doubt they'd do.

OLBERMANN: In addition to which as we saw with the 9/11 Commission, the people who screwed up - for lack of a better term - don't ever want to be identified as screwing up, so we get these bipartisan commissions and in that case, certainly, almost openly dedicated to not pointing fingers. Don't we have to point fingers? Is that not the way justice works to some degree?

DEAN: Well, a commission is a notorious way to not point fingers, you're correct. And if we don't, if there is no effort to, indeed, single out who, indeed, is involved, why they are involved, what they've done - this is going to really reflect terribly on the entire country, not just on the Bush administration which is engaged in these activities, but it really will reflect on the Obama administration for its refusal to pursue them and prosecute them. So, I think there are serious consequences if they refuse to point fingers.

OLBERMANN: All right. So - from the perspective of justice and this more overarching point that you just made about the nation's reputation and, I guess, some sort of, at least, political self-respect, which of the various outcomes is both best and most realistic?

DEAN: I think the best and probably the most realistic would be if Mr. Obama, indeed, does exactly what he said during the campaign, that he will indeed, when his attorney general is seated, have him instructed to immediately look and see if these offenses have been committed, if they are prosecutable because, of course, the Congress has been messing with these laws, softening it, adding defenses, redefining torture. But, indeed, to look at it and see what's there and then report to him and the nation to make it very clear that this is not the policy the Obama administration or the United States. Anything less is going to leave it in a very fuzzy, cloudy, and probably difficult way for the country.

OLBERMANN: And after 40 years in this game and around it, what's the most likely outcome?


DEAN: That is a tough question. I - you know, given the fact that the heat is going to take on Rick Warren, he's going to take an awful lot more heat if he doesn't do something to honor his campaign commitment. So, I think there's a possibility he might, indeed, tell his attorney general, Mr. Holder, if he gets the nomination confirmed, to proceed and take a look at this.

OLBERMANN: We will see. John Dean, former White House counsel, columnist, author - always a pleasure to speak with you, my friend. Thank you, sir.

DEAN: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Al Franken and Norm Coleman are already in court, suing over the Minnesota Senate recount. Big victory for the Democrats today - breaking news next.

And something broken here, too, and it's not news. Sean Hannity suggests "Time" magazine traded its Man of the Year Award in exchange for a job with the Obama administration for one of its deputy editors.

A paranoia-filled edition of Worst Persons is ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Bushed, in a moment. And Mr. Bush takes us back to the nexus of politics and terror, again.

First, breaking news tonight in a potentially crucial verdict in the battle to strengthen the Democratic majority in the Senate, by defeating the Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman. The state Supreme Court now getting involved and ruling that Minnesota must count absentee ballots that were tossed from the process due to clerical error. There's an estimated 1,600 of them. Tonight's ruling is good news for Franken, who is expected to do better than Coleman among those absentee ballots and had pushed for the ballots to be included in the count. The Coleman camp had argued in court against including these ballots, after already losing ground in this week's on-going challenges by both tickets against individual ballots cast for the other camp.

Coleman, in fact, doing so poorly in those challenges that his former lead of several hundred has dwindled by various estimates to at least two, but possibly as many as five, not hundred, just five.

As for the unfilled Senate seat that has generated not only Olympian sized scandal, but also, in this case, of the president-elect the same recycled questions from the media, a day of quiet. From Governor Blagojevich himself, not a peep today, despite yesterday's claim that he couldn't wait to tell his side of the story and might do so yesterday. Of course, he also yesterday invoked Elvis Presley and said, quote, hang loose. When President-Elect Obama introduced his choices for three more economic posts today, he was not asked this time about the governor at all.

Obama has said he will release his transition's internal report on the matter next week.

This president says it's imperative that he not leave his successor a crisis. Doesn't mean he's going to do anything about the auto industry. Harry Shearer joins me to see if that makes any sense to him.

If the shoe was on the other foot, meanwhile, that continues. The man who threw this has now asked for a pardon.

But first, because they're not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals, Bushed.

Number three, people will love him when he's dead-gate. Vice President Cheney becoming the latest to insist that history will generously judge Mr Bush, and thus his administration and thus Mr. Cheney, too. His, quote, "place in history will likely grow during the next 20 to 30 years." He trotted out the argument about how Gerald Ford was vilified for pardoning Richard Nixon, but now he's not anymore. "By the time of his passing a couple of years ago, opinion had totally turned on that. In fact, most people by then, even many who had been very critical 30 years before, were in agreement that, in fact, it was a good decision. It was the right thing to do from the standpoint of the country."

Apart from the reality that the act of pardoning a crooked president to soothe a ruptured nation bears no resemblance to lying that nation into an unnecessary war and getting 4,000 of our troops killed, apart from the fact that 30 years from now, rather, Bush is much more likely to be considered asleep at the switch on 9/11 than he is now, Cheney's also wrong about the idea that Gerald Ford is viewed favorably 32 years after he left office. The last polling on overall presidential popularity done by Rasmussen for July 4th, 2007 still had Ford in a tie for the 12th most unpopular president of all time, even though he was only in office for 30 months.

Number two, nexus of politics and terror-gate. The president's ever changing number of how many domestic acts he prevented is back up to numerous. Officially, that would be four, based on his speech at the War College. "We prevented numerous terrorist attacks, including an attempt to bomb fuel tanks at JFK airport, a plot to blow up airliners bound for the East Coast, a scheme to attack a shopping mall in the Chicago area, and a plan to destroy the tallest sky-scraper in Los Angeles." It's sky scraper, but OK.

The sky scraper was the one where Mr. Bush got the name wrong while announcing it to the world, before he told local authorities in Los Angeles that he was going to tell everybody, setting off mild panic there. The airliners one is the reason you can't bring liquid in your carry-on, the British based scheme for which the plotters had not obtained a ticket, nor passport, and chemists laughed at the idea anyway. The mall was the deal in '06 where the guy got no further than trying to buy a hand grenade from an undercover FBI agent. And the JFK plot, that was the mutant who thought he could cause an airport to blow up by starting a fire at a fuel pipeline 30 miles away.

So thanks for stopping all these. Nice work, Jack Armstrong.

Number one, insult the dead-gate. This is a White House talking point still, even though your average three-year-old could disprove it using only an Etch-A-Sketch. Spokesman Tony Fratto, on the air with Fixed News parent John Scott. Scott gave the setup line about how 9/11 was unforeseeable and thus not even slightly Bush's responsibility and said, "nobody was thinking that there would be terrorists flying 767s into buildings at that point."

Mr. Fratto replied, quote, "that's true. I mean, no one could have anticipated that kind of attack, or very few people." Yes, well, it ain't true and out of respect for the people who died that day, you damn well better stop saying it. A president's daily brief as far back as December 1998 says bin Laden was preparing to hijack U.S. aircraft in hopes of trading hostages for jailed radicals. The August 6th, 2001 brief, of course, told President Bush, if he read it, that there were patterns of suspicious activities in this country, consistent with preparations for hijackings.

The FBI agent John O'Neil repeatedly warned of the prospect of suicide hijackings, basically got drummed out of the Bureau for saying it. The FAA had distributed a CD-Rom early in 2001 to the airlines and the airports warning that terrorists might hijack a plane in order to use it as a weapon. That Mr. Fratto's employers might not have been expected to know the exact hour of these attacks does not give him or anyone else the right to perpetuate the lie that 9/11 was impossible to conceive. Clearly, many inside this nation's government anticipated it. It was Mr. Bush and his gang who chose to ignore them.


OLBERMANN: Would you buy a car with a ten-year warranty from a car maker that's in Chapter 11? Less than 24 hours after Chrysler announced it will hold off its own total collapse by closing all of its factories for at least the next month, in our third story tonight, Mr. Bush has finally announced he has finally gotten to a plan. He's come up with a plan to come up with another plan, not necessarily to save the American auto industry, but to at least ensure that if Chrysler and General Motors do go bankrupt, their bankruptcies will not be, quote, disorderly.

Rest easy, America, the man who saved New Orleans is on the case. Among the possibilities, as we suggested, some kind of bankruptcy plan that involves federal assistance. The preferred Democratic route of taking as much as 14 billion or so out of the 700 billion allocated for Wall Street. The White House still right now in negotiations with both GM and Chrysler And the unions. The White House seeking additional concessions from the workers, of course, on top of those already made to keep the companies afloat.

Mr. Bush's obliviousness to the human stakes of the survival of the car companies on par with his obliviousness to human suffering during Katrina. All this being seen during a speech today at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, in which the president spoke not of what might happen to American workers, but what might happen to the markets.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm worried about a disorderly bankruptcy and what it would do to the psychology and the markets. And, frankly, there's one other consideration. And that is I feel an obligation to my successor. I've thought about what it would be like for me to become president during this period. I have - I believe that good policy is not to dump him a major catastrophe in his first day of office.


OLBERMANN: And yet, of course, a dump of historic proportions is exactly what Mr. Bush is leaving his successor, not to mention his eight-year dump on the rest of us. Joining us now from New Orleans, humorist and social critic Harry Shearer, a Grammy nominee for his CD "Songs of The Bushmen," and of course a cast member on "The Simpsons." His band, the High Value Detainees, is set to play in Los Angeles the day before the inauguration. Harry, thanks for joining us.

HARRY SHEARER, SOCIAL CRITIC: My pleasure, Keith. Speaking of dumps, yes. No, it's good stuff.

OLBERMANN: Bankruptcy is not the same as failure. But as the suggestion - the question posed at the beginning of the segment here, who's going to buy a car from a company that's in bankruptcy or even one that the president is considering forcing into bankruptcy.

SHEARER: Well, I know that question has been raised a lot. Having flown on a number of airlines that were in bankruptcy, there's a certain trust that we now have decided we'll afford to companies in the throes of bankruptcy. I know that the ten-year warranty is an issue, but when you get on an airplane, you trust your life to a bankrupt corporation and somehow we've managed to do that.

OLBERMANN: It's hopefully shorter than ten years, that period of time.

SHEARER: Yes, it is.

OLBERMANN: What is this? Do you have any insight on this? Because it remains one of the mysteries of the entirety of the fall, even the late summer. What is this continuing and powerful protective streak toward the, quote/unquote, market, but not toward the working middle class of Detroit or, you know, for that matter, of New Orleans?

SHEARER: Well, Keith, the market is where the people in Detroit and New Orleans have to go buy their food. Look, there is an ideology at work here. And I think we saw it most clearly in the big TARP bailout, which is, OK, the problem is these companies are too big to fail, so the solution is, as a price for getting federal aid, get bigger, merge with each other. It's like going to the doctor, you get cured of lung cancer because you were smoking too many cigarettes and you're prescribed smoking two packs a day for you.

OLBERMANN: Is there something dangerous about ascribing this calamity in this industry just to incompetence? There presumably has been some, just as presumably there have been issues with the unions? Don't these become fig leaves, at some point, that disguise the results of a very conscious, orchestrated ideology at work here, which you touched on here with the idea of making the bigger company, when they're too big to fail?

SHEARER: Yes. But I would not go past sort of ordinary politics. I mean, the senators from those southern states which have BMW and Toyota and Nissan plants in them gave huge tax - or those states gave huge tax breaks to those companies to lure them down there. I'm sure that there probably were campaign contributions that cycled their way back to those senators in gratitude. That's the American political system writ large, or writ huge or Brit Hume. But that's what we have.

OLBERMANN: The note on which we began here, should we not be surprised at finding a big dump as we come to President Bush's end? I suppose that's the case. But what exactly is the scale of the clean-up job of - I won't make the reference again. But what's Obama's clean-up job going to be like? Any idea?

SHEARER: First of all, I find it amusingly nervy that the president is now so considerate as to not want to dump a big crisis on Obama's desk. Thank god the war in Afghanistan is wrapped up, so we don't have to deal with that mess. I have great respect for the - sort of the self possession of Barack Obama, but it seems to me, when regarding the two troublesome wars, shall we say, and the troublesome economy, as well as the troublesome climate, and a few other major problems being dumped on his desk January 20th, that I find it hard to believe he doesn't go into a secret part of his bedroom and weep in falsetto at about 1:00 in the morning, just considering this.

You know, the size of these problems, on the one hand, and the scale of the hopes on the other are going to collide in some way very soon.

OLBERMANN: And here is Bush saying, simultaneously, that he will not leave this great crisis for his successor. And, yet, really, sitting there and blithely, almost - not only ignoring the human equation in what's happening in the auto industry, but neither is he coming to a decision. Even if it were a decision based entirely on its impact on the markets, at least it would be a decision. This is Nero-like.

SHEARER: Yes, it is. But he is talking slower as he comes to the end. I noticed that at the AEA - AEI appearance. One thing that occurs to me is the creative thinking being done in the Bush administration is being done for a specific purpose. We all found out I think last week that they had inserted into the original bailout a provision that the - what we thought was going to be restrictions on corporate executive pay and bonuses only applied if the Feds bought assets at an auction, and then the Treasury decided not to have any auctions.

So they're not doing nothing. Let's put it that way. They're still paying attention to what, I guess, they really care about.

OLBERMANN: When does the public start paying attention to things like that?

SHEARER: Should be any time now. Right after dinner.

OLBERMANN: Humorist and social critic Harry Shearer, always a pleasure, my friend. Thanks for being with us.

SHEARER: Good luck with your cold.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, kindly. I'll get rid of it next year, I hope.

The international shoe-gasm continues unabated. Now, the flinger asked for a pardon.

The war on Christmas. Bill-O the clown's own viewers complain he's wasting their time. He tells them they're wrong. Worsts coming up.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the president-elect's disturbing choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration. The San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is her guest.


OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow with Mayor Gavin Newsom on Obama's Rick Warren decision at the top of the hour. Before that, the new shoe review. The guy who threw his size 10s at Mr. Bush asks for a pardon. First, time for Countdown's number two story, and in this holiday season, what more could you ask for than an all Fox edition of tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Bill-O the Clown. Tuesday night literally claiming he had saved Christmas in Great Bearington (ph), Massachusetts, that while that town might be saying it was shutting off municipal Christmas decorations at 10:00 p.m. to lower it's carbon footprint, quote, "the real strategy here is to diminish the public display of Christmas in that secular town." But there are signs the natives are restless. Evidently, Fixed News was swamped with complaints about O'Reilly's obsession with a war that isn't happening, because he began his comedy hour last night by saying, "while, our ratings have been very high this month, some viewers have written to me complaining we're over covering the Christmas controversies. They say the subject really isn't that important. Well, they're wrong."

Nothing says megalomania better than announcing to your own customers that they're wrong.

Our runner up, Gretchen Carlson, who seems to have caught whatever Bill-O has. I mean the Christmas delusion. "I'm so enraged by all these Atheist displays and trying to push Jesus to the back seat on Christmas day." The guest on her show tried to get her to throttle back a little bit, saying, "I would advise some of the people of faith who are watching this happen in their towns and cities across the country not to go stealing their signs, you know. Let them make fools of themselves in the public square and say a prayer for them."

The voice of comparative reason there was not enough for Carlson, who begun to lose It: "If you let them do that, then over time, they'll have the control. If you don't stand up and fight for it, it might just disappear. I'm talking about Christianity."

The non-panicky guest tried to talk Ms. Carlson off her ledge of persecution complex was Michelle Malkin. When Michelle Malkin is the cooler head, you know you are in big trouble.

And to our winner, the manatee. This is paranoia, quote, "shocker, the president elect is crowned "Time Magazine's" person of the year. This after "Time Magazine's DC bureau chief accepts a job in the Obama White House. I'm sure it's a coincidence."

Seriously, it was a bribe to get a decreasingly relevant magazine cover. Echoing Carlson and Malkin, Hannity had to be talked down by one of his guests, who replied, "I think "Time Magazine" can defend naming him the man of the year. They normally name the winner of a presidential election campaign the man of the year. The cooler head in this case was the national distributor of right wing media paranoia, Brent Bozell. And when Brent Bozell is the reasonable one, you are Sean Hannity, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: The farewell kiss felt round the world is far from fading. In our number one story on the Countdown, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush has now asked for a pardon. Not from President Bush, from the Iraqi prime minister. Four days after the president ducked, the still jailed journalist, Muntadir al Zaidi (ph) has reportedly apologized in a letter delivered to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, quoting, "it's too late to now regret the big and ugly act that I perpetrated."

Al Zaidi also asked for the prime minister's pardon, instead of the possible multi-year imprisonment for having insulted a foreign leader. Meantime today, activists in Cairo, Egypt hit a poster of President Bush with a shoe protesting al Zaidi's detention. And shoe throwing as a general symbol of political protest is still potent in Manila today. A migrant workers group threw shoes at a picture of President Gloria Arroyo.

But all the shoe news was not laden with regret and frustration. An Egyptian man has offered his 20-year-old daughter to al Zaidi for marriage. And the daughter, Amal Guma (ph), reportedly agreed. Quoting her, "this is something that would honor me. I would like to live in Iraq, especially if I were attached to this hero." Bring your own shoes.

As for shoe-hurling comedy. If you missed it, we covered some of it with "The Soup's" Joe Mchale, who dodged most of the 37 pieces of footwear that came his way. I kept it simple, one shoe, one miss. Well, kind of grazed me. And the late night host are not done with the topic either.


CONAN O'BRIEN, "THE LATE LATE SHOW": It was reported today that the Iraqi journalist who threw the shoes at President Bush had his arm broken when security subdued him. They broke his arm. Even worse, it was his shoe-throwing arm. That guy is out for the season.

DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW": More bad news coming out of the Middle East. Apparently now Iran - Iran, yes, is developing a long-range loafer.

JAY LENO, THE TONIGHT SHOW": President Bush announced before he leaves office, he wants to visit the poorest regions of the world, any place where people can't afford to buy shoes.

Well, you know, I'll tell you, that - that Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush the other day said he planned his attack for months. Planned it for months. That's what he said. I mean, you take off one shoe; you throw it. You the throw the other shoe. He planned it for months. And he still missed both times.


OLBERMANN: And new postings on the web, which range from the low-tech





OLBERMANN: From that to new sketch comedy, courtesy of


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zainab here from Zainab's Shoe's, Iraq's number one discount footwear emporium. We have new mephistos now on sale for 149 Dinar. We have shoes you can throw at anything that makes you mad, mail boxes, graffiti, the computer screen, that neighbor!


OLBERMANN: Nice mustache. I used to have one like that, only it wasn't fake. That's Countdown for this the 2,049th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. I don't really know why I said that. Good night and good luck.