Friday, February 29, 2008

No show. Maybe Keith gets leap days off.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 28
video 'podcast'

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Alter, Dana Milbank

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

Another day, another angle.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you saw the debate the other night, my opponent said, he never held a substantive meeting because he was off running for president. So, I don't think he should be counting as experience since he never did anything.


OLBERMANN: Vote for her, stem the tide, stop the momentum because Obama has yet to call his first oversight hearing in a year. He's chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee for European affairs and it oversees relations with NATO and NATO is ruling Afghanistan. Yes, except that it's actually another subcommittee that oversees U.S. relations with Afghanistan and except that the Republicans are today, now using this one too.

Along with what Michelle Obama has so now aptly named -


MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: They threw in the obvious ultimate fear bomb.


OLBERMANN: The implication to the unintelligent of his middle name.

As McCain again appeals to them, from Obama, no fear on the issues.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to make very clear to voters in the Democratic primary that I am very confident about being able to make the case as to why John McCain is looking backwards and we need to take this country forward.


OLBERMANN: Worst Persons: Bill O ends his slump, the man who spoke of not going on the lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, compares somebody else to the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis.

And the president gets stranger and stranger. Led a news conference today, then, a comedy club audition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Americans don't have recourse, are you just telling them with it comes to their prime (INAUDIBLE) to suck it up?

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: Yes, I wouldn't put it that way if I were you. (INAUDIBLE). Anyway, yes.


OLBERMANN: Where have I heard that laugh before?




OLBERMANN: Oh, right.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening, this is Thursday, February 28th, 250 days until the 2008 presidential election. Not to give you flashbacks to SATs or flash forwards, but which number is bigger, 15 million or four?

Our fifth story on the Countdown: The hint is that 15 million represents the minimum difference between two remarkable February fundraising efforts, 35 million reported by Senator Clinton. Considerably more, several reports peg at least 50 million for Senator Obama. But no, in this world, none of those numbers is larger than four.

Obama leading in Texas by 4 percent, 48 to 44, Keith number of 12. One of the states President Clinton said, his wife must win on Tuesday or she cannot get the nomination. Tuesday's outcome may also hinge on what Senator Clinton now has in common with President Bush, Senator McCain and the Republican National Committee. All of them today, united in slamming Obama for his foreign policy experience or lack there of.

Mr. Bush today taking up Mr. McCain's false claim that Obama said, there is no Al Qaeda in Iraq. Obama was answering a hypothetical question on Tuesday's debate, the premise that Al Qaeda had already been pushed out. And Mrs. Clinton pursued the same theme with the same line of reasoning that she raised in that same debate.


CLINTON: My opponent, when he's asked about his foreign policy experience, he often talks about sharing a subcommittee in the Senate that was responsible for European relationships. And that included NATO. And that's really important because NATO is in Afghanistan. And we have to win in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. And we can't afford to have Afghanistan deteriorate and become a haven for terrorism again.

Except if you saw the debate the other night, my opponent said, he never held a substantive meeting because he was off running for president. So, I don't think he should be counting that as experience since he never did anything.


OLBERMANN: Obama's lack of hearings now picked in the RNC news release but none of his critics mentioning that while Obama's Foreign Relations Subcommittee deals with the U.S. relations with NATO, a different Foreign Relations Subcommittee chaired by John Kerry has jurisdiction over Afghanistan. And the full Foreign Relations Committee was the one that held several hearings on the military efforts there. The former chairman of that committee, Republican Dick Lugar, already on record saying, he wanted Obama on the committee after hearing him discuss nuclear proliferation.

Mrs. Clinton also on defense today, after neither rejecting nor denouncing Dallas Hispanic leader Adelfa Callejo (ph) for saying Obama's problem is that he happens to be black. No rejection or denunciation they say until the campaign can confirm the remark was made.

Obama meanwhile today picked up another superdelegate, Georgia Congressman John Barrow, saying Obama's short time in D.C. is less than important than his bipartisanship and his record. Obama himself has pointed to his foresight opposing the Iraq ward and considering unilateral strikes on Al Qaeda in Pakistan, a policy the Bush administration only embraced this year with two lethal predator attacks here. The second one, just today, killing 13 suspected militant in Pakistan. That kind of judgment, at the heart of Obama's response when he was challenged about his experience as it was today by a skeptical voter in Texas, reminding the audience by omission that Senator Clinton is no long-time D.C. elected veteran either.


OBAMA: I haven't been in Washington as long as some of the other candidates, so, if your criteria for who the best equipped as to be president is how long you've been there, then, we shouldn't have had a primary and caucus. We could just look at Joe Biden, who had been there the longest and settle it that way.

But I think what the American people are looking for is not just longevity, but they're looking for judgment. And they're looking for who can bring the country together. All right, I appreciate it. I think I convinced him.

All right. There you go. I got his vote.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, of course, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Clinton, McCain and Bush versus Obama. Has she got him right where as the old clich' goes, "he wants her"?

FINEMAN: Well, possibly so, because he's obviously the star of the show, the center of attention, the guy who's controlling the debate. I just got off the phone with one of Hillary's top advisers and they may be deluding themselves. But they're saying, look, we think this guy has trouble closing the sale. We thought that after New Hampshire and we thought that after South Carolina. We feel good about Ohio and Texas, this person told me.

Again, they're maybe deluding themselves. And it's interesting that their argument is strictly about Obama's qualifications and not about Hillary's. That's why in the sense, he has all of them right where he wants them.

OLBERMANN: OK, I really don't get that one considering, what, he has not or he's literally not been behind in delegates in or on one day since the voting began. What hasn't he closed, exactly?

FINEMAN: I don't know. I'm just reporting what they are saying.

OLBERMANN: OK, fair enough.

FINEMAN: I mean, because they have been, they have to - they're keeping on keeping through even though being outspent two to one, even though he's winning all these primaries and caucuses, even though he's the guy with the mo and the message at this point. They're reduced to saying, you know, we're not sure he can close the sale. We're going to raise as many doubts about him as we can in the remaining days. And that's what they're doing.

OLBERMANN: All right. Well, but the flag that went up the flagpole today is about his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee for European affairs because of its impact on NATO and Afghanistan. Without a governor or former governor running, maybe, we'll have more of an approach to the Senate during the campaign, but, will things like Senate subcommittee hearings resonate with voters now or in the long march to November or is that just too heavy to stick against the wall?

FINEMAN: Yes, I think it's probably a good rule of thumb in presidential politics that if you mention the word subcommittee, you don't have a really strong argument. People don't know what a committee is, let alone a subcommittee. So, now, it doesn't work. It doesn't work.

And also, it's not like Hillary's chairmanship at various oversight hearings of subcommittees has led to cataclysmic changes in American policy. I mean, every time she mentioned the Senate, she brings up the topic of her own failure to realize that the war was a mistake in the eyes of Democratic voters. So, it doesn't help her at all.

OLBERMANN: And moreover, would you imagine if there are several people in several newsrooms around the country who are looking now exactly at that the foreign experience that she claims and how much of it from the first White House was really ceremony versus substance?

FINEMAN: I think they definitely are. If that's what she's going to go make this, perhaps, the final argument of the primary season, people are going to take another look. A lot of it was ceremonial, a lot of it was high-level sing (ph) and listening to her husband debate decisions in the White House, but she didn't make the call. She wasn't the one with the responsibility.

And in terms of the Senate, she has learned about military affairs, about foreign affairs. She's studious and has learned a lot, but she hasn't had to make tough calls in any kind of management or leadership position any more than Obama has. And one she had to make by voting, didn't help really her cause.

OLBERMAN: As we've seen with the similarity in their voting records that she keeps pointing out. Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, great thanks for your time tonight, Howard.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Of course, if Senator Clinton loses on Tuesday, loses the

nomination, there is still one more way she could return to the White House

as vice president. We mentioned last night, Senator Clinton was asked whether she would consider Obama as number her number two, surprisingly perhaps, she herself broadening the question to include the flip side of that equation and didn't rule out running as his VP.


CLINTON: I have to say, it's very, very flattering but both of us answer it the same way. We don't want to be presumptuous. We don't want to, you know, count our chickens before they hatch. But obviously, our highest goal is to win and to win in November. And so, we're going to do what it takes to have a unified Democratic Party that wins.


OLBERMANN: And of course, the vice presidency could be bait instead of incentive to others for the remaining powerful endorsements. Former candidate, Bill Richardson saying, he will decide who and whether to endorse by the end of this next week, which positions himself nicely to influence the largest Hispanic block in Texas on Tuesday. And then, there's the fact that both Obama and Clinton today focused on economic issues.

Obama in fact today, sporting a new banner with that theme:

"Reclaiming the American dream", right there in the podium, which happens to be the favorite issue, the favorite topic of another former candidate, John Edwards - who made poverty the keystone of his campaign and has also yet to endorse despite meeting with each of the remaining candidates in person.

Let's turn now to Richard Wolffe, MSNBC political analyst and senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek", traveling with the Obama folks in Texas. Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right. Does Senator Clinton have a March surprise to poll prior to Tuesday and how big would it have to be to change the game, the way the debate does not seem to have?

WOLFFE: Well, it would have to be huge. It would have to be a hit job basically on Obama. And I don't think she's got it. If they had it, they would have done it already.

And really, the surprise they needed to engineer was about her husband. She needed to step out of the shadow of her husband, after South Carolina, have that symbolic split, that sort of vice presidential transition and it didn't happen. So, what comes now will seem too little too late.

Like I said, unless, if some piece of scandal about Barack Obama that they have been sitting on all this time, and why would they have done that?

OLBERMANN: Well, it was about that subcommittee, obviously. Was she

in that little quote that we heard from the speech, was she trying to leave that door open about the vice presidency or was that just an off the cuff response or was it party unity kind of moment, no strategic implications whatsoever?

WOLFFE: Well, I think the important strategic note that there was the emphasis on unity, remember, that was her great moment in the Austin debate. And that is a sign about how far she's prepared to take this if in fact, she does lose next week. The idea has been floating around that they would go all the way to the convention.

Well, you know, if you believe unity is the most important thing, that's not what they are going to do. But, you know, v-talk, it's such a moving target. What would you need as a VP in July or August of this year and can you really negotiate that from the position of weakness when you are behind in the delegate count? The answer is no.

OLBERMANN: And is the "dream team" itself from either, you know, either head on that two-headed beast, is that a media creation? Do Democrats really want that? And would it seem to make strategic sense for either of them to pursue the other as a running mate?

WOLFFE: Well, when we polled it, it's something like 60 percent of Clinton supporters want Obama or maybe 50 percent of Obama's supporters want Clinton. But in strategic terms, it doesn't make a huge amount of sense for Barack Obama. It makes much more sense in terms of party unity for Hillary Clinton.

But again, what do these people need in July or August? By then, the debate will have moved on considerably. I think, you really got to look at not the current race, but the comparison with John McCain. They will be looking for someone who can take on John McCain.

OLBERMANN: And to that point and to this endorsement questions and the holdouts from Richardson and Edwards, is it possible that they are angling for the number two spot or there are subtler motives at work there?

WOLFFE: Well, I'm sure they are angling, but, you know, the longer they leave this, the market value falls in terms of what they can bring. John Edwards at union support has already shifted mostly to Barack Obama. Richardson, again, how much does he really bring in terms of the Latino vote? Whatever they're angling for, there's a lot of discussions going on, I just don't think the VP position is among those.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC. We thank you for your time. Have a good night, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The candidate spouses continuing to make news. Michelle Obama on her husband and his middle name, and the latest formal Republican attempt to turn that middle name into an epithet, to her description, the ultimate fear bomb.

And I'm afraid you and I have an appointment inside this man's brain. Translating today's presidential news conference. It must be hell in there.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Michelle Obama perhaps describes perfectly the fear bomb. First, it was the GOP committee in a county in Washington State, now, it's the state Republican committee in Tennessee, implying that Barack Obama is secretly Muslim.

If we need more Worst Persons: Bill O is back, comparing somebody to the Ku Klux Klan, incredibly after his lynching remarks, not comparing himself.

All ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It may become one of the classic coinages of modern American politics like where is the beef, there you again - the fear bomb.

Our fourth story on Countdown: The Republican National Committee formerly denouncing the tactic, well, after its use by various bullies with microphone and the Tennessee state's GOP, Michelle Obama has often referred to the fear bomb used against her husband in the 2004 Senate race. Today, she said it's happening again.


M. OBAMA: They threw in the obvious, ultimate fear bomb that we've been hearing now. They said his name. They said, look out for his name. When all else fails, be afraid of his name and what that could stand for because it's different.


OLBERMANN: Using Senator Barack Obama's name is a ploy, a ploy that he is a Muslim when in fact, he is Christian, and he is otherwise, un-American. It is not new, indeed. Comedian Rush Limbaugh has done it, beginning at least a year ago.

Local radio host, Bill Cunningham, two days ago, did it as a warm-up act for Senator John McCain. In fact, previously, he'd invented on-air a fictional extra middle name, Mohammed.

But the latest incarnation comes from the Tennessee Republican Party in a statement released earlier this week, quoting, "Concern about the future of the nation of Israel, if Senator Barack Hussein Obama is elected president of United States." Thus, the middle name used to stoke, a false specter of anti-Semitism.

Today, the Republican National Committee formerly denounced the Tennessee use of Senator Obama's full name and the Tennessee GOP altered its statement.

The new statement removed a reference to a photo of Obama wearing what it had inaccurately described as Muslim garb. But it incorrectly maintains that Obama is linked to Minister Louis Farrakhan and is anti-Israel.

Let's call in "Newsweek" magazine's senior editor and MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Alter. Jon, good evening.


OBLERMANN: Is that a crucial part of the dynamic here that Republicans as an institution can pretend, or if you prefer, maintain this high road of the RNC statement that denounced this in Tennessee, McCain denouncing Bill Cunningham, but that has absolutely nothing to do with right wing hacks using this and besides, this, the GOP can have it both ways, and then, let it happened and then, denounce it after the fact. I mean, this essence of the swiftboat process supplied as something a little more heinous in fact?

ALTER: Yes, I think the difference from the swiftboating is that in that case, you had two different groups with two very different interpretations of the facts. I believe that, you know, the merits rest (ph) with those who supported Kerry but nonetheless, there was a dispute over what happened during the Vietnam war.

This is not a dispute over facts. This is an Internet lie that a lot of people believe. Even Ross Perot believed it until he called me up a few weeks ago, and I told him, to his surprise that, no, Obama was not a Muslim, which he said he was happy to hear.

So, in some cases, you're just talking people who have not been paying close attention, are inclined to conspiracy theories and will be a process of education that will take place over time and eventually, this will never be totally removed from the process. But it will be marginalized and I don't think it will dominate the way swiftboating did.

OLBERMANN: Well, this, calls to mind your story about Perot calls to mind, the Republican Party committee in Clark County in Washington, which posted this by biography which is based this Internet rumor, this mass e-mail, describing him as a Muslim, saying he was sworn in on the Koran, and the idiot there said, he thought it was all true. Boy, he was surprised when it turned out that it wasn't. Is there any evidence of that in Tennessee and could people at that level of the Republican Party really use stupidity as a defense in this?

ALTER: Yes, well, I think they will or at least use the Internet defense. You know, because, people believe, if I read it on the Internet, it must be true as opposed to something in a newspaper or magazine which must be media biased. You know, so, there is that whole, you know, assumption on the part of a lot of Americans and there's also a lot of ignorance.

Today, I went to an Obama event in Beaumont and he passed out leaflets. These are to Obama supporters that showed him in church and he mentioned in his speech that he goes to church and prays to Jesus, because even among loyal Democrats, there is misinformation about Obama. People just haven't been paying close attention. They're only now tuning in and you know, hear about his middle name and they believe what their neighbor told them that he's a Muslim and was sworn in on the Koran, even though that was Congressman Allison from Minnesota, not Barack Obama.

So, once people get more educated, this will recede or will never entirely disappear. In same way that if you back in early elections, you know, it's kind of ironic in the 1920 election, for instance, there were a lot of rumors circulating that Warren Harding was actually black. All the way up to Election Day, there were a lot of Americans who believed that Warren Harding is really black. But he was elected president, anyway, overwhelmingly. And so, most people are smart enough, you know, to sort these things out.

OLBERMANN: Wow, that's a misunderstanding right there. When even Karl Rove says, don't do this, it makes Republicans look racist. Could this continuing throughout the campaign, could it ultimately work to the Obama campaign's advantage? Because he, A, because they're now, he gets to work up those defenses, if you will, again, sort of reactions to it like passing out those fliers that you mentioned today; and B, it does in fact, make those who spread it look racists?

ALTER: Yes, that's right. I mean, there are some dangers here. For instance, you know, Obama's relationship with his church and his pastor, you know, who has some people in his family who had some praise for Farrakhan. So, there will be issues that will have to be sorted out here.

But, generally speaking, I think this could rebound in his favor if John McCain has constantly denounces people in his own party for being racist. That's not where McCain wants to be going forward.

OLBERMANN: Yes, and then, have to prove that you didn't meet the guy when you said that you didn't meet him and he said, no, we'd met twice, he knew this was coming.

Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, as always, great thanks, Jon.

ALTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: As you know, there is no 21st Democratic debate yet scheduled, I'd say that's Democratic debate, however, we may have a template for the next one. It looks good.

And: Waterboarding at your office. The wonderful thing about our government when the innovates (ph) that innovation to move quickly into the private sector. Ahead on Worst Persons.

But first: The headlines breaking in the administration's 50 other scandals - Bushed.

Number three: MRAP-gate. It turns out that it is more than just the military refusing to buy ready to go explosion-proof vehicles for our troops in Iraq, so, they could instead for an American made model due out in 2010. It's more than just 600 or 700 American troops dying needlessly in Iraq because the marines dragged their feet. The marines are also investigating why request from commanders in Iraq were also ignored for 18 months for the compact high powered laser dazzler. What on earth does that do? Well, it divert drivers or people on foot, in this case, Iraqi civilians away from military checkpoints or convoys so the troops could scare such threats or innocent bystanders away rather than say, doing what the marines and other troops had to do instead - shooting and kill them.

Number two: Earmarks-gate. In the State of the Union, Mr. Bush threaten to veto spending bills with too many of them from Congress. And Mr. McCain has piously announced that he would veto any earmarks. It sure (ph) veto hand warmed up boys. Republican congressman trying to attack earmarks by starting a voluntary GOP earmark moratorium by gotten pledges from exactly 21 Republican congressmen.

And number one: Telecom immunity-gate. The Washington insider publicly issue a roll call reporting today that those in charge for fundraising for Mr. Bush's party's Congressional election this fall are baffled by a corporate group that just isn't giving any money to the Republican hopefuls to the House and Senate.

The telecom companies - these companies just won't do anything, the report quotes a GOP leadership aide, musing about the hysterics the president has been having about immunity for them. Even, he added, "When you have the Democrats working against their bottom line."

And stop laughing at the shallow base irony of this and analyze it for a second. The Republicans cannot figure out why the telecom giant's immunity for whom is a greater priority for Mr. Bush than is preventing terrorism. Why they might be disenchanted with or angry at the Republican Party. Maybe they're angry because they need immunity because of the Republican Party?


OLBERMANN: On this date in 1979, Mr. Ed, the deep voiced palomino star of the CBS sitcom of the same name, passed away. Age uncertain.

Actually it was the second Mr. Ed, a look-alike who had been used for publicity after new episodes of the series ended in 1966. The original Mr. Ed, a pedigree horse called Bamboo Harvester who's ancestry could be traced back to the 1880s had been put down in 1970 at age 21 after old age problems with kidneys and arthritis. Of course that wasn't Mr. Ed's real voice. It was supplied by an actor named Alan Rocky Lane (ph) because of course Bamboo Harvester was a gelding and he was ashamed of his high, squeaky voice.

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin in Moscow where presidential debates are a little bit more free form than ours.

That's candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky manhandling the campaign manager of rival candidate Andrei Bogdanov. Bogdanov sent his campaign manager out there because he threatened him. It looks like you made the right call. Thankfully, nothing like this ever happens here. OK, maybe once.



UINIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your hands off of me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, please. Joe, please. Folks, I'm sorry you had to see that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not right.


OLBERMANN: To a candy shop in Orland Park, Illinois and a bear heist caught on tape. This is a tape of three youths entering the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, note Truffles. The oversized plush bear sitting in a chair. Watch as the shocking footage shows the youth unfastening, lifting and stealing the bear and doing the truffle shuffle out the door.

The shop owner is pulling out all the stops to get Truffles back, offering, and I quote, "a box of chocolates or something" for the safe return of the bear. I don't see how this doesn't get wrapped up quick.

If you dare to join me on this next project, I will try to go inside the mind of President Bush and deconstruct today's news conference. Don't wear your good boots. This, this was the good moment. This is when Barack Obama became the Democratic front-runner?

The comedy stylings of Dana Milbank ahead. All of this ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's top three "Best Persons in the World."

Number three, best revised talking point. Tony Snow back with Fixed News. You'll remember his colleague Bret Baier tried to sell the Bush as Abraham Lincoln meme only he that Bush and Lincoln are the same because of Lincoln, quote, "the country essentially hated him when he was leaving office."

Mr. Baier not realizing that Mr. Lincoln was not leaving office. He was assassinated.

Snow got closer while on "The Colbert Report." "Lincoln as late as late 1864 was telling his guys to get ready, the next incoming administration of George McClellan."

Yeah, but then Lincoln actually won something. Sherman took Atlanta and Lincoln got reelected. You left that point out, Tony.

Number two, best dumb criminals. Two guys in Sidney, Australia. They walked into a bar there, brandished machetes, and told the customers to lie on the floor and surrender their wallets. They had not noticed that 50 of those customers were members of a local motorcycle gang. The burglars are recovering from their injuries and their new tattoos.

Number one best dumb criminal individual, police in Aachen in Germany said they caught an elderly shoplifter. He was trying to hide a stolen suit under his clothes, but he had forgotten to take out the hanger first. Sir, your hook is showing.


OLBERMANN: "1984" had newspeak, we have Bush speak. Rhetoric designed to obfuscate reality and to quell descent. "1984" now meant (ph) Bush speak.

In our third story on the Countdown, the country was treated to a full 45 minute dosage of it this morning. The president holding a news conference this morning to show his version of events. The surge in Iraq is working, the Iraqi government is making political progress. American is not headed towards a recession. And of course Democrats are trying to kill us all by refusing to give telecom companies immunity.


GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: At issue is the dispute over the telecommunication companies should be subjected to class action lawsuits because they are believed to have helped defend America after the attacks of 9/11.


OLBERMANN: The telecommunications companies are believed to have helped the government spy on Americans now?

Mr. Bush is back to believes, not known. Earlier this month the had finally admitted they had helped, whoops, he's back to known now and back to that stuff about it's legal. It's the kind of legal that you need immunity for just like it was illegal. This was 20 minutes later.


BUSH: It was legal and now, all of a sudden, plaintiffs attorneys, class action plaintiffs attorneys, you know. I don't want to try to get inside their head. I suspect they see a financial gravy train. Trying to sue these companies.


OLBERMANN: Aside from the fact it was the Republicans in Congress who refused the losses the telecoms might have in court, the president just accused American civil liberties lawyers who are seeking to protect the liberties enshrined in that Constitution thing of being money grubbing trial attorneys. What about the rights they are trying to protect?


BILL PLANTE, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You can get the government to protect telecom companies from lawsuits but there's no recourse for Americans who were caught up in this. I know it's not intended to spy on Americans but in the collection process, information about everybody gets swept up and then it gets sorted. So if Americans don't have any recourse, are you telling them what it comes to their privacy to suck it up?

BUSH: I wouldn't put it that way, if I were you in public. You've been around long enough. Anyway - yeah - um.


OLBERMANN: I think I'm going to send Bill Plante a candygram. Of course not on that point. You can't publicly tell the American people to suck it up when you take away their civil liberties, you can only publicly scare the pants off them so they acquiesce to what you want to do.


BUSH: Allowing the lawsuits proceed could aid our enemies. Because the litigation process could lead to the disclosure of information about how we conduct surveillance and it would give al Qaeda and others a road map as to how to avoid the surveillance.


OLBERMANN: The president already evidently forgetting that classified material such as surveillance techniques will not publicly be divulged in a trial, if it's even allowed at all even though Scooter Libby's attorneys used that defense at every turn. The only aid such proceedings might give would be to Bush's political enemies who could use telecom evidence to prove the administration also broke the law. As the highly unlikely hypothetical the telecom companies will stop helping the government entirely.


BUSH: Without the cooperation of the private sector, we cannot protect our country from terrorist attack.


OLBERMANN: Of course, a week ago tomorrow they all lined up and decided to continue their cooperation any. But you cannot protect this country? What the hell are we paying you for?


BUSH: Some in Congress say we have nothing to worry about it because if we lose the cooperation of the private sector we can use the old FISA law. Well, they are wrong. FISA, was out of date and did not allow us to track foreign terrorists on foreign soil quickly and effectively.


OLBERMANN: Would you please read the memos. Open your mail. That claim has been vigorously disputed by the chairman of the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, they wrote a joint op-ed this week that read, quote, "in emergency, they NSA or FBI can begin surveillance immediately and the FISA court order does not need to be obtained for three days. When U.S. agencies provided critical intelligence to our German allies to disrupt a terrorist plot last summer, we relied on FISA authorities, those who say that the FISA is outdated do not appreciate the strength of this powerful tool."

Senator Pat Leahy going even further. He compared the president playing politics with national security to a little child playing with matches.


BUSH: No renewal of the PATRIOT Act, I mean the Protect America Act is dangerous for the security of the country. Just dangerous.


OLBERMANN: Whatever it's called. As to what else is dangerous, the president accusing Democrats of putting Americans at risk because of their policy about Iraq.


BUSH: Congressional leaders are sounding the same call for withdrawal. I guess when it comes to pushing for withdrawal, their strategy is to stay the course. If we followed their advice a year ago, Iraq would be far a different and more dangerous place than it is today. And the American people would be at greater risk.


OLBERMANN: Speaking of international risk, our own chief White House correspondent David Gregory is checking to see if the current occupant knows any more than his potential successors about developments in Russia and coming up short.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The Democratic candidates, when asked about the new Russian leader, Dimitry Medvedev, didn't know a great deal about him. I wondered what you could say about him?

BUSH: I don't know much about Medvedev either.


OLBERMANN: I'm going to send David two candygrams.

Maybe a nickname and a quick peek into his soul would help, Mr. President. And it's not just foreign affairs the president professed ignorance of, but domestic concerns as well.


QUESTION: What's your advice to the average American hurting now, facing the prospect of four dollar a gallon gasoline. A lot of people facing .

BUSH: What did you just say? You're predicting four dollar a gallon

QUESTION: A number of analysts are predicting four dollar a gallon gasoline this spring when they reformulate.

BUSH: That's interesting, I hadn't heard that.


OLBERMANN: Yet four minutes later, when he was asked where money for his presidential library might come from, he said this .


BUSH: We just announced a deal and frankly I've been focused elsewhere, like on gasoline prices.


OLBERMANN: He's focused on the gas prices that he doesn't know about.

It's nice to see this presidency is finishing up strong.

An obscure Australian magazine breaks the gentlemen's agreement and reveals that England's Prince Harry is on the front lines in Afghanistan. Drudge calls it his exclusive so the British are enraged at Drudge. So there is good news tonight.

And the American distributor of rage, Bill O says it was not a topic worthy of the Democratic debate. Waste of time. Hurts the country. And he proceed to then spend more time on it than we did at the debate. Worst persons ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Not perhaps since it kept mum about King Edward VII and the married American lady has the British media actually stayed this silent this long. But it's all out tonight. Where Prince Harry has been for 10 weeks.

Leading our brief look at celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs," Harry has been fighting in Afghanistan on patrol with Gurkha troops fighting the Taliban serving as an air strike coordinator. The British media today releasing these videos and interviews with the prince who says he's amused no one knows where he's been or what he's doing except his fellow blokes.

Actually an Australian women's magazine revealed the covert mission last month. No one seemed to notice it until today when the Drudge Report claimed it as an exclusive. Poor Drudge. Doesn't get the exclusive but does get the blame.

A British network newscast implied if Harry or other British or American troops suffered increased attacks or injuries or deaths in Afghanistan, it will be, quote "blood on his hands."

Harry had wanted to fight in Iraq, but was denied because of fears he would be a special target. The prince saying he is well aware of his nickname, "The Bullet Magnet" and tries to keep a low profile.

The British military says it is not sure he will stay in Afghanistan now that the secret is out. He may have already have been moved out.

The day after Roger Clemens told reporters to get a life, he's the story he belittles has become a federal case. The FBI now confirming it is investigating whether Clemens lied to Congress. This two weeks after he told a House committee under oath that he never used muscle-building drugs.

And the day after the committee asked the Justice Department to investigate because of significant questions about his truthfulness.

The committee pointing out that Clemens' testimony has been contradicted by his former trainer and fellow teammates. Clemens' attorney talking tough, saying we always expected an investigation, so what's new?

Wasn't speeches, wasn't the policy, wasn't the personality, exactly what Senator Obama says did make his poll numbers soar ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's "Worst Persons in the World." And a brief preface here. All week, I avoided mentioning him. So proud, we were going to put out a press release and stuff. Ah, well, at least we can run the animated introduction.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: I don't want to go on a lynching party unless .


OLBERMANN: The bronze to Joshua Kristofferson of the motivational coaching business in Provo, Utah, called Prosper. Employee Chad Hudgins says his department was asked by Mr. Kristofferson to go to a hill near their office. According to Hudgins, Kristofferson asked Hudgins to lie down his head toward the downhill part and then he had the other employees hold Hudgins' arms and legs. Then, says Hudgins, Kristofferson produced a gallon jug of water over Hudgins' mouth and nostrils. He allegedly waterboarded him. And says Hudgins, while he thought he was drowning, he could hear Kristofferson telling the other employees they needed to work as hard at sales as Hudgins had just been working to breathe. Nice.

Mr. Krisofferson, phone for you, president is calling.

Runner up, Bill O. Almost got through the week. Tonight he announced al Qaeda was linked to Saddam Hussein. Last night, he was complaining that somebody posted to a comments board at the sentiment that Nancy Reagan should die soon. "What's the difference between the KKK and Arianna Huffington? I don't really see any difference between Huffington and the Nazis."

Death wishes, Billy? You personal Web site had a comment on it last year about assassinating Hillary Clinton. The Ku Klux Klan? It's been barely a week since you said, "I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence." This is what shrinks would call projecting. Hire a few of them.

But our winner, oh, him again.

This is a beaut, too. He is bitching about Tuesday's debate, about the question about quote, "Louis Farrakhan who endorsed Barack Obama. That's important? That's important but NBC News made a big deal out of it.

The press gotcha game is boring. Tedious. It does the country no good."

He then proceeded to do a six and a half minute segment about this unimportant, boring, tedious topic that does the country no good. Then another two minutes on it later, then two and a half more minutes on it. He did 12 minutes total on Obama and Farrakhan. The boring tedious does the country no good topic. Well, sir, on that subject he is the expert. Bill ORLY, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: Senators Clinton and Obama have participated in nearly 900 Senate votes. They voted identically nearly 900 percent of the time. So that's not what changed the Democratic race from a Clintonian route to what could be an Obama wrap up next Tuesday.

No, in our number one story in the Countdown, it was how he danced. Senator Obama not only dancing again with Ellen DeGeneres on her show today, sort of, but telling Ms. DeGeneres his first dance on his program kicked his campaign into another gear, quoting, "my poll numbers skyrocketed after that." Really?

Ralph Nader who picked a vice presidential running mate today and Senator McCain and Senator Clinton not dancing yet, but there's plenty of time remaining.

To explore this and other yuks of the rich pageant that is this day in politics, the national political reporter of the "Washington Post," MSNBC analyst Dana Milbank. Good evening, Dana.


OLBERMANN: What's with the dancing? Nothing against what Obama did in particular but do we really want to see the other ones try to shake it on TV?

MILBANK: You can see where this is going, Keith. And remember he said he wanted to see Bill Clinton's dance moves to see whether he was the first black president. But I suspect it's a matter of time until Obama won't even grant interviews to cable news hosts unless they are in fact dancing with him.

OLBERMANN: All right. Well he won't be on this program. Do you think Senator Clinton's campaign took the deliberate approach to the dance or not dance issue? Did they have a split of opinions? What did Mark Penn think? Was it a gut feeling on Senator Clinton's part? What happened?

MILBANK: Well, if you recall the photograph of then first lady Clinton dancing in her bathing suit when they didn't think camera's were catching her and her husband on vacation, you'll probably know that it was indeed gut instinct. This indeed was the one time she was very correct to follow the instinct.

OLBERMANN: Senator Obama asked by "Us Weekly" the boxer or brief question. Talk about questions for President Clinton. He said, quote, "I don't answer those humiliating questions. But whichever one it is, I look good in them."

Credit him with unflappability. That's unflappability, isn't it?

MILBANK: I don't know about unflappability, both the boxers and the briefs have flaps these days. But it was a seamless answer. Let's grant him that. This is a guy who "People" magazine has beach babes issue frolicking in the surf. I think he missed the obvious answer that you can triangulate on this and go with boxer briefs without any difficulty at all.

OLBERMANN: And there is no crack of light between him and the truth on this one.

All right. This thing about McCain has resurfaced. He was born on a military installation in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936. American parents. His father was a Navy officer. This was actually debated today on Fixed News. This is crystal clear. Son of Americans in military service on a base. He could have been born on the moon. It doesn't matter where he's born. He is constitutionally American born. Are there rumors this is being floated by the McCain camp itself so he can drop out at some point if he really gets tired of this?

MILBANK: If he really gets tired of it he just can drop out and he could always use that cancer thing, if he wanted to. You can just imagine the great luck Obama or Clinton would have campaigning against him saying he should not be qualified because he was born into the military.

OLBERMANN: And lastly. Ralph Nader. Vice presidential running mate Matt Gonzales. Former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors? No disrespect but that's the best he could come up with?

MILBANK: I was there today. I thought for a minute it was Alberto Gonzales but it wasn't. Turns out this guy has already lost a race for district attorney and for the mayor of San Francisco. Very well-qualified to run a losing race for the vice presidency.

OLBERMANN: And to not succeed Ralph Nader when he is not elected.

Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC. Thank you, Dana.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,765th day since the declaration of Mission Accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 27
video 'podcast'

Guests: Dana Milbank, Howie Kehoe, Margaret Carlson

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

The day after the Clinton campaign presses superdelegates not to commit and certainly not to switch: And superdelegate Congressman John Lewis of Georgia today officially switches from Clinton to Obama.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what keeps me optimistic is, you know, the success I've had thus far and what I think the prospects are for Tuesday.


OLBERMANN: And what are those? The debate underscoring the underrated key to Obama's campaign he founds unflappable.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think actually, Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. If the word reject, Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word denounce, then I'm happy to complete the point and I will reject and denounce.


OLBERMANN: Raise and spend: Obama's TV ad advantage in Ohio and less easily seen seed money on the ground in Ohio and Texas. Texas, where a staggering 420,000 Democrats had already voted early as of Monday.

First Iraq battle of the election: Senator McCain admits he didn't see it, but he criticizes Obama's claim that any president would have the right to pursue Al Qaeda even in Iraq, even if we gotten the troops from Iraq.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have some news. Al Qaeda is in Iraq. Al Qaeda is called Al Qaeda in Iraq.

OBAMA: I have news for John McCain. That is that there was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.


OLBERMANN: And another McCain flat denial rings flat itself: The radio bully who tried to use Obama's middle name as an epithet at yesterday's McCain rally in Cincinnati.


MCCAIN: I've never met Mr. Cunningham.


OLBERMANN: But Mr. Cunningham says, he's met McCain twice. That the McCain campaign chose him specifically, that they chose him because he can throw, quote, "red meat": to the McCain crowd.

Is Roger Clemens meat? The House Oversight Committee asked the attorney general to investigate Clemens for perjury before Congress. Not just the Democratic chair asked, but also the ranking Republicans. Oops.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

Good evening, this is Wednesday, February 27th, 251 days until the 2008 presidential election. As a practical matter, the superdelegates figure to end up meaning nothing to the Democratic nomination. As a mathematical matter, the decision by just one of them to leave Hillary Clinton's column for Barack Obama's may be utterly insignificant.

But in our fifth story on the Countdown: As a symbolic matter, the day after her last debate, the day she pleaded with the superdelegates to give her more time, that move may mean everything. According to the "Huffington Post", the Clinton campaign has now e-mailed supporters a list of talking points to pressure superdelegates not to make any endorsements right now, six days before Rhode Island, Vermont, Texas and Ohio go to the polls.

The e-mail reads, quote: "It would be unfair and unjust to cut off the nominating process now. There might come a time when the process needs to come to a close, but that time is not now."

If, as we expect, Hillary wins Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, the current dynamics of this race will shift dramatically. The goal post is also shifting dramatically there, with the Clinton firewall now expanding to include Pennsylvania which does not vote until April 22nd. And there is movement as well within Pennsylvania.

The latest Quinnipiac Poll shrinking Clinton's lead, her down to 6 points, 49 to 43 with that undecided plus margin of error variable at about 12.5 and her lead down from 16 points just two weeks ago. In Texas, the Secretary of State today, saying early voting there is at unprecedented, almost unbelievable at levels, 680,000 so far, double 2004's turnout, also predicting record turnout on the actual poll day, Tuesday.

Despite Senator Clinton's plea, her superdelegate lead is also shrinking today. Two members of Congress, including red state senator, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, threw their votes and endorsements to Senator Obama. The other, Congressman John Lewis, representing a multiple blow to Clinton in so much as he used to be in her camp and so much as for nearly, two weeks after his switch was rumored, he refused to confirmed it and so much as, his personal reputation as a Democratic stalwart and before that, an at the barricades, civil rights activist. One of the men of spoke just before Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 is impeccable. He also led the march at Selma.

He did explain this decision to NBC's Andrea Mitchell.


REP. JOHN LEWIS, (D) GEORGIA: I love Bill Clinton, I love Hillary Clinton, but something is happening in America. Something is unbelievable, it is unreal. Forty-three years ago, I marched across the bridge in Selma. It was much easier than the decision that I have to make, but I have to make it.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: You're saying this decision was harder than the Selma march?

LEWIS: It was much tougher.


OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton today was asked whether she failed today stem her losses by failing to land a knockout blow in last night's debate.


CLINTON: I'm surprised by it (INAUDIBLE) debate. And, you know, I think a lot of people who watched it would come away and feel very positive and comfortable about what I said and what I presented as my credentials and my position on these issues. I think there's a real contrast. (INAUDIBLE).


OLBERMANN: Real contrast it seems including some that kinder credo to Obama's benefit as she try to raise doubts about his ability to keep cool and exercise judgment under pressure, giving him one opportunity after another to do exactly that. On attack after attack, Obama appeared unrattled, responding at times with the former political jujitsu, striking back in areas she calls his weaknesses, such as Pakistan and at times, letting her land blows, using the momentum to his own advantage, most notably, on the tricky subjects of Louis Farrakhan and separately, NAFTA.


OBAMA: I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. And I think actually, Senator Clinton's answer on this one was right. Had we pursued the policy that was looking at democratic reforms in Pakistan, we would be much further along now than we are. So, on the critical issues that actually matter, I believe that my judgment has been sound and it has been judgment that I think is superior to Senator Clinton's.

I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it, but if the word reject, Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word denounce, then I'm happy to concede the point and I will reject and renounce.

CLINTON: Good, good, excellent.



OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to MNSBC analyst, Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post", author of course, of "Homo Politicus". Dana, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Was Senator Obama well-prepared last night or he just constitutionally unflappable by nature and is that, I don't know, sense of center, maybe that's the phrase for it, is that something that can resonate with voters, if the guy seems calm?

MILBANK: I'm not sure they want calm. But, you know, they've had 20 of these debates. I don't think you can call them debates anymore. It's like a traveling theatrical production in which they could switch sides and deliver each others lines. Now, what's happened is, he's just gotten a lot better during the debates as he went along. So, Clinton still seems to be better than him in each of these, but he seems to have narrowed the gap and that may be all he needs.

OLBERMANN: It's not as if Senator Clinton did not lay a glove on Senator Obama last night, but why doesn't she get seem to get benefit when she does, is that, OK, media bias?

MILBANK: Yes, it's in fact, a media conspiracy.

OLBERMANN: I'm sorry, you got the memo writing (INAUDIBLE) hear about the questions.

MILBANK: Exactly. Look, the Clinton's have had contempt for the media for 16 years. It has been reciprocated. But let's set that aside. When she was doing very well, last year, she got good press. Now, she's lost 10 states in a row, she's getting very poor press.

If she wins in Texas and Ohio next week, a lot of people in the media are going to shut up and the whole trajectory of the story will change immediately. It's the media's following a winner and they perceive her as a loser right now. That's all.

OLBERMANN: Something else, back to Obama and the personality and what shows up in the debates, especially the last couple. And I think it's a thing that thus of us who watched this stuff constantly, may not appreciate. It took Hillary Clinton 20 debates just to get close to an apology for her Iraq vote which we saw last night. So, she tries to scold him about just denouncing Farrakhan, not rejecting Farrakhan support.

Most politicians in that situation in the moment would hum and hom (ph), they have a meeting and they'd issue a statement the next day. And John McCain, (INAUDIBLE), "I never him, I never met him, I didn't know he was going to say any of that." Instead, he just says, if you think reject is a stronger word, then, I denounce it and reject it. You answer that immediately and you extinguish controversy. It seems so simple and yet it seems so rare in politics.

MILBANK: You know, Hillary Clinton did her opponent a real favor right there. He had sort of dug himself a hole because what he seem to be saying is, I don't like the words he said, but OK, I'll take his support any way. If she'd let it alone and let that fester, that could have come back to bite him. She essentially gave him an out and allowed him to revise and extends his remarks, if you will, but she refrained from landing a potentially larger blow there, I think.

OLBERMANN: Can he change what Americans of the 21st century and those survivors of the late 20th century view as politics as normal enough, so that that sense of subtext helps him between now and the general if indeed he is the nominee?

MILBANK: Well, Keith, we're at a point where people are distributing photographs of Barack Obama wearing a Kenyan tribal dress. So, I suspect that nuance and subtlety is not yet in the foremost of the voters' minds, not to mention the media's mind.

And as you alluded to it in the opening there, John McCain is not going to be subtle at all in trying to tease out these differences in Barack Obama's vulnerability. So, I think praise of subtlety may be premature.

OLBERMANN: On the other hand, if you are subtle and the guy next to you is just a little bit hyper, he may seem hysterical by contrast. We'll see. Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post". Great thanks, Dana.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For a candidate that's so haunted by her vote authorizing the use of force against Iraq, Senator Clinton's campaign seems in some ways to have taken on the cast of nothing so much as the Bush administration's post-war Iraq strategy. Just the success in Iraq got move from election to election, benchmark to benchmark, so too, Clinton's superdelegates have been told, wait until Super Tuesday, wait until the Potomac primary, wait until March 4th, and now, wait until April 22nd. Mission accomplished perhaps awaiting in Pennsylvania, raising the question, is Senator Clinton counting on some sort of superdelegate, wait for it, surge?

With us now with answers, MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, also an associate editor at the "Washington Post". Gene, good evening.


OLBERMANN: So, this is the strategy, ask the superdelegates to help you stall while you what? You wait that Obama gets a better job offer in another country?

ROBINSON: Well, I think the strategy right now is more of a tactic is to try to keep the superdelegates from all bolting the coral even before next Tuesday. You know, she is losing superdelegates, Senator Dorgan, Congressman Lewis, Senator Dodd yesterday. And I think the danger for the Clinton campaign is that there's something like a superdelegate stampede, that there's a consensus, some sort of consensus forums that this really is over, that it's time to start healing the party, that any superdelegate shenanigans or, you know, kind of overturning essentially the will of the primaries and caucuses isn't going to fly. And the best way to ensure that that doesn't happen is just to all declare for Obama and get Hillary Clinton out now. And I think that's kind of the proximate danger that they have to worry about.

OLBERMANN: That's lovely and it's a nice tribute to democracy and process, but it could also simply be self-interest on parts of some of the superdelegates?

ROBINSON: Absolutely, these are politicians, these are elected officials. You know, the very, very old saying in Washington, you know, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. I mean, (INAUDIBLE), friendship is great and a lot of these people are friends of the Clintons, long time supporters, but in the end, part of the deal of being a politician here is that, you do what you got to do and they're looking at how their constituents voted, they're looking at the way the wind is blowing and saying, you know, we think we see which way this is heading.

OLBERMANN: All right. Mesh this strategy, Gene, to these headlines from the campaign today. Number one, if you plea to the superdelegates, give me this extra time and give me the breathing room. And the next day essentially, it's followed by John Lewis of all people, saying, yes, it's tougher when he got his head crushed in by the cops at Selma, but he's going across another kind of bridge. What does that mean for you?

ROBINSON: It's nothing good. It means nothing good for your strategy because she really can't win without the superdelegates barring some sort of magical, you know, Neo sects smocking (ph) kind of revelation between now and the convention. It's very difficult to see how she could catch up in pledged delegates. So, who's going to make her the nominee? It's going to be the superdelegates and if the likes of John Lewis is defecting and other superdelegates are declaring for Obama, this is nothing good for the Clinton campaign right now.

OBLERMANN: And lastly, Gene, what's to be inferred from that news from Texas that 680,000 Democrats have early voted. And Lord knows what that means in terms of the polls on Tuesday. What does it mean for Senator Clinton and what does it mean for Senator Obama?

ROBINSON: Well, I'm not 100 percent sure what the Clinton campaign has been doing in terms of early voting in Texas. I know that Obama has been telling people, go out and vote early. You can vote now. The video that we've showed was a group of students at a historically black university in Texas who all going to, you know, marching en masse to vote early. So, if that's who's voting early, again, it's not a great sign for the Clinton campaign.

OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson of the "Washington Post" and of course, MSNBC, always a pleasure sure, Gene, thank you.

ROBINSON: Great to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: When you think of money in the campaign, you think of advertising. But the Obama cash surge may have its truest impact on the ground, among the door to door canvassers. What a cash surge it's turning out to be?

And Senator McCain is going to outpoint Senator Obama about Iraq might have the game plan out a little better than he evidently did today. The blow-by-blow ahead. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The new math: Barack Obama crosses the 1 million donor mark. He said, 90 percent of our donations were from small donors, $25, $50, the Federal Election Commission says, 50 percent of what he's raised has come from those who gave $1,000 or more. It's not have to up until 140 percent.

Later in Worst: John McCain has to back down from yet another absolute denial, this in the case of a Cincinnati radio bully - we never met. So (ph), maybe he did.

Ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: We have something that may be new from the campaign trail from NBC's Ron Allen who's traveling with the Clinton camp. And reports something interesting that I'd like to read directly from Ron's correspondence about this. He said: "Senator Clinton was asked today about the possibility of Senator Obama being her running mate and after the standard, don't want to be presumptuous counter-chickens kind of answer," Ron says, he points out the nominations have to be won first.

She said that she and Obama have both been asked this question repeatedly and whether or not she'd be his VP, whether or not they'd form some sort of dream ticket, her answer was: "Our highest goal is to win. We need a unified party and we're going to do what it takes to win." There was nothing in there indicating that she would not want Obama on her ticket or would refuse to be on his. Not necessarily urgent breaking news but something noble and interesting off the campaign trail, as reported by our own Ron Allen tonight. "I had confidence," said another candidate in the race, "that the American people if they were motivated would in fact, finance the campaign.

Our fourth story on the Countdown: Senator Obama's confidence once again expressed last night and once again, rewarded this morning by 9:13 Eastern time. That's when his campaign passed the 1 million donor mark. As of 6:36 Eastern time tonight, it was up to 1,007,034, as to how much those 1 million-plus donors have given Obama, the campaign is tight lipped. Speculation on the Internet estimates he has raised as much as $50 million just in February. He's using the cash to outspend Senator Clinton and obviously in the March 4th states.

NBC political director, Chuck Todd has his own estimate here that Obama and his union backers have four times as many ads as Clinton does in Ohio. And according to advertising expert Kevin Tracey (ph), Obama has spent 7 million in Texas and Ohio since the 12th of February. Clinton has only spent 4 million in that time. Over the past 30 days, Obama has spent 23 million compared to Clinton's 14.

Camp Clinton now playing catch up, sending an email out to supporters from Bill Clinton asking for cash to match, what they call Obama's $1.9 million worth of airtime in Texas, quoting, "Let's show the Obama campaign that they can't win the race just by throwing more money at it. Let's match that $1.9 million ad buy of his and make sure this is a race of ideas because that's a race that we know Hillary will win. Contribute now to help us raise $1.9 million in 24 hours."

Let's talk some more numbers with MSNBC's David Shuster. David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The TV ad budgets are obvious things to see, you can quantify them and see the results. But how is the money gap here impacting literal boots on the ground. What can the Obama people do organization that the Clintons can't in Ohio and Texas?

SHUSTER: Since they can open up more offices, they can make more phone calls, they can distribute more literature, and they've also got the flexibility to essentially flood a particular part of Texas or Ohio with resources if they see the need. The other thing, Keith, comes in terms of the advance work. You won't see it so much in terms of the candidates but with their surrogates, for example, there have been complaint that Bill Clinton, for example, has not been getting big crowds in part because some of the work is left to local volunteers and people don't know about his event. Michelle Obama for example has not had that problem because of the advance team and the work that can be done to try to make sure that people know about her events and know about all in fact, of the Obama events.

OLBERMANN: Senator Obama said last night that the average donation of his campaign is $109. And the quote was - "We have now raised 90 percent of our donations from small donors, $25, $50" and FEC though says, just over 50 percent of what he's raised so far, came from the donors who gave $1,000 or more. At first glance, that would seem to add up to like 140 percent, this does not add up literally or figuratively. Can you explain this please?

SHUSTER: Right. It's complicated because Obama put two different issues and that thing sent (ph), put aside, Keith, for example, the average donation amount because that will make this even more confusing than what I'm about to say. When you talk about dollar amounts, the total amount collected more than half in that Obama pot, came from high rollers or people giving more than $1,000.

When you talk about the total number of donors, that's where Obama's 90 percent is accurate. So, here's another way to follow this: Out of 1 million people who have donated to Barack Obama, 900,000 gave small amounts, 100,000 gave large amounts. Thus, the 90 percent small donor figure, even though half of the total dollar figure came in those larger increments.

OLBERMANN: Right. So, it's half the money raised for 10 percent of the donors and 90 percent of the donors are 50 bucks (INAUDIBLE). I thought I'd failed math again.

The issue of funds leads naturally into this question of public financing for the general election. Obama was pressed about the Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire from last year, during the debate last night. The question got oversimplified in the process. Obama did not just say yes to public financing in the general election, he went on and he gave a lengthy answer about hoping to negotiate with the Republican nominee, some sort of spending cap. It was a very nuance answer. Is there any better idea today, why in his response last night, he did not emphasize that nuance? Is it just perceived as being too complicated to be worth it? To hit the public with that answer right now?

SHUSTER: Well, Keith, it is a very complicated decision for Barack Obama in part because of all the money he's been able to raise. Keep in mind though, when you talk about public financing for the general election, that means the two months between the conventions and the November election. Obama knows that if he's the nominee, he's going to have a huge advantage over John McCain in the next five months. The question is: How much of an advantage can Obama produce for those final two months and that depends of course, on what John McCain decides to do and how Barack Obama fundraising goes this spring and over the summer.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC's David Shuster in Washington for us. Thank you, David.

SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Police in Romania try to change their image. Now, they're going to have to try to change this image. That lane.

Another day and another flat denial retracted by the McCain campaign. "I never met him," he says to the radio bully who'd try to use Obama's middle name as an insult. Today, well, now, it's - "I may have met him."

But first: The headlines breaking in the administration's 50 scandals


Number three: SCHIP-gate. Not only did the president veto the $35 million expansion of federal health insurance for uninsured or underinsured kids but three governors told Congress that Mr. Bush is now trying to force their states to roll back their coverage, to deny or expel children from SCHIP whose families have incomes of few thousand dollars over the Bush organization cut off point of $44,000 a year. Take away their gruel and their begging cups while you are at it.

Number two: MRAP-gate. The good news we told you yesterday, the marines want the Pentagon to verify and investigate the internal marine investigation that showed that foot dragging and favoritism denied American soldiers MRAP, armored protected vehicles in Iraq and led to hundreds of them being killed by roadside bombs. The bad news? The marines have now stopped that internal investigation telling the civilian scientist they have commissioned that he had exceeded his authority by talking about MRAPs to all because the commission never mentioned the MRAPs vehicles by name. In other words, they are going to try to bury the thing in Pentagon red tape.

And number one, a new one: Foreclosure-gate. As Congress starts to gain a head of steam on changing bankruptcy laws to save the victims of predatory lenders, Mr. Bush is threatening to veto the help for homeowners in trouble. We look at this as a bailout, said spokesman, Tony Fratto, but worse than that, it is interfering with contracts. The Bush administration has a message for those homeowners facing financial disaster: "Screw you."


OLBERMANN: I was reminded by a viewer that we completely blew Monday's birthday notation because 65 years ago Monday was born at Liverpool, England George Harrison. Apart from having probably been the most musically talented Beatle, he was also the first to travel here to the United States. His sister Louise had moved to Benton, Illinois early in 1963.

And that September, five months before the group made its epic debut on the "Ed Sullivan Show," George Harrison went to visit her. While in that town 100 miles east of St. Louis, Harrison stopped by the local record shop and offhandedly asked about this group, the Beatles. The guy there said he'd never heard of them proving all things must past.

With thanks to the viewer who reminded me, you may have already guessed, is Louise Harrison. Let's play "Oddball."

We begin about 439 miles northwest of Benton in Omaha, Nebraska. Where thanks to an icy blast unsuspecting drivers finding themselves literally skating down the street. Yes, it's that guiltiest pleasure of television, watching terrified motorists and laughing at them because we have not in the car with them.

And much like any other ice rink in the world some of the participants managed to execute dainty pirouettes but others ended up simply going too fast and bumping into the barrier. That's funny.

Maybe these guys can help out the Nebraskans next snow day. They are traffic cops of Timokora (ph), Romania. Instead of getting yelled at by angry drivers every day, they can now expect to get laughed at. Their boss has mandated ballet lessons twice a week to teach the men how to make their traffic directions more graceful and elegant which the department hopes will entertain drivers. As you can see from the footage, the boys in blue are thrilled by their new assignment. Plus they're in yellow.

Did the general election campaign start today? McCain tries to school Obama about Iraq. Obama praises McCain's war service and then smokes him inside.

Speaking of which, it might be good news for some federal prison ballclub out there. They could get Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on their team. These stories ahead.

But first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three best self-serving cooked books press release. Our friends over at CNN who were nice enough to pledge things to make it look like their 8:00 shows were a few thousand viewers aged 25-54 ahead of this show for the month of February. They gave their 8:00 show the same name as their election night coverage and so they counted the 8:00 hour of election nights as their regular 8:00 election night show.

I know this is kind of personal and peevish, but this is the same crap O'Reilly pulls. If you play the ratings game by the spirit of the rules, you can't do this, but then CNN would have to admit Countdown is beating them by 118,000 viewers, by 41 percent every regular night. Oops.

Number two, best strategy, Karl Rove. Seriously. "The Atlantic" Web site reports he met in private with Republican state executive directors last month and told them not to try to demagogue Senator Obama's middle name. That doing so would perpetuate the perception that Republicans were bigoted.

Comedian Rush Limbaugh promptly slammed John McCain for apologizing for his local demagogue in Cincinnati when he demagogued it. I can't believe somebody's name is off limits, I just don't believe it.

Number one, best resume item for a new politician. Brock Olivo, former running back of the University of Missouri. Says he wants to run for Congress as a Republican from Columbia Missouri.

Not only was I a football player, he says, proudly, but I also was in social studies class. So going to class is so rare for a college football player, you can try to run for Congress based on it.


OLBERMANN: If today's first head to head clash between Senators McCain and Obama over Iraq is any indicator of an election campaign to come, the senator from Arizona needs to get himself a seatbelt.

Our third story on the Countdown, McCain mischaracterizes what Obama said about al Qaeda in last night's debate. Then Obama uses it to run rings around the Republican. Senator McCain today said he didn't watch last night's debate. Perhaps he should have.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am told that Senator Obama made the statement that if al Qaeda came back to Iraq after he withdraws, after American troops are withdrawn, then he would said military troops back if al Qaeda established a base in Iraq. I have some news, al Qaeda is in Iraq. Al Qaeda, it is called al Qaeda in Iraq. And, my friends, if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base. They wouldn't be establishing a base, they would be taking a country.


OLBERMANN: Yeah, that's another point. We'll get to that later. Here's what Senator Obama actually said last night in answering a question from Tim Russert which was, "Do you deserve a right as an American president to go back into Iraq once you have withdrawn with sizeable troops in order to quell any kind of insurrection or civil war?"


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I always reserve the right for the president as commander and chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure we are looking out for American interests. And if al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad.


OLBERMANN: So, Senator Obama today answered Senator McCain's comments but not before making preparatory remarks which are both laudatory and disarming. "McCain is a genuine American hero that deserves respect and gratitude."


OBAMA: First of all, I do know that al Qaeda is in Iraq. That's why I said we should continue to strike al Qaeda targets. But, I have some news for John McCain. That is there was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.

They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11, that would be al Qaeda in Afghanistan that is stronger now than at anytime since 2001. I have been paying attention John McCain.


OLBERMANN: Senator Obama also pointed out that quote, "Senator McCain likes to say that he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell, but so far all he has done is followed George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq."

Let's call in the Washington editor for "The Week" and political columnist for Bloomberg News, Margaret Carlson, Margaret, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Perhaps the first Iraq battle of the general election was joined. Did Senator Obama seem a lot more prepared for it than Senator McCain, or at least more prepared for it than Senator McCain thought he would be prepared for it?

CARLSON: Well, if John McCain had watched the debate last night, he would have seen how well prepared he was. Senator Obama certainly enjoyed the moment when he got to say to Senator Clinton when he got to say you can't pull the bus out of the ditch because you drove it in. Referring to her vote on Iraq.

And John McCain is even more enthusiastic about the war in Iraq than Senator Clinton ever was. In fact, she quite regrets her vote. He gets to lecture McCain rightly because that al Qaeda thing. Can't you picture some P.R. guy in Fallujah said let's call ourselves al Qaeda, that will confuse them back there in America.

OLBERMANN: And to that point, there's an inference to be drawn from this. If one of the candidates does not know the difference between al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq, which of course only began after we leveled Iraq's political structure and we didn't bother to secure the borders and stuff, obviously McCain's base will look at that conflation and cheer and Obama's will look at it and say what an idiot.

But what about the people in the media? Is John McCain betting that the distinction is too complex for undecided voters? Is that the strategy?

CARLSON: Well, Keith, that's a good point. It's been muddled up until now. Obama is going to have to keep hammering away at that. He takes a little time because he does have to, each time say, we honor your service. But he says it as if McCain was serving in the French Foreign Legion or maybe the War of 1812. It makes him sound like a World War I veteran or something. However, it can be separated and people can be told and Obama may be able to do it where others have not been able to thoroughly unweld those two things together.

OLBERMANN: You mentioned that paid tribute every time out. If this turns out to be McCain versus Obama, have we seen anything like this before? One candidate mentions the other candidate he's going to pay tribute to his war service. If you do that, is it foolish because you remind everybody that he served in the war or do you inoculate yourself by complimenting the opponent and then saying anything you want to about him?

CARLSON: Probably you just don't lose anything by being as gracious as possible. It does make John McCain seem like another generation as compared to Barack Obama. The moment in the debate, not this one last night, but the one before that everybody remembers is when Hillary actually said I'm honored to be on stage with Barack Obama, whether she meant it or not. A little grace goes a long way.

And he is a genuine hero. Don't you always ask yourself when you see John McCain, could I have stayed five year ins that prison without cracking? I don't know that I would have been that brave.

OLBERMANN: It's extraordinary - If it's more than graciousness, it's an extraordinary move on Obama's part. We'll see how that plays out if they in fact go head to head.

Good to talk to you, thanks for your time tonight, Margaret.

CARLSON: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: An unexpected bit of bipartisanship from Washington. Democrats and Republicans asking the attorney general to investigate baseball's Roger Clemens for perjury.

And a Florida politician who wants license plates there to reflect the state's, quote, "confederate pride." Yeah we should all take pride in a four year armed attempt to overthrown the government of the United States. Worst persons in the world ahead.


OLBERMANN: William F. Buckley died. Roger Clemens has had his testimony referred to the attorney general and referred by a Democrat and a Republican for a perjury investigation. And in worst persons, I never met Bill Cunningham, says Senator McCain. I met McCain twice, says Bill Cunningham, maybe they did meet says the McCain campaign. All that ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The country's total net vocabulary probably dropped a full percentage point this morning. Our number two story on the Countdown, the erudite conservative icon William F. Buckley has died, fittingly while writing in his desk in his study.

Proof that at least in the 20th century people could be judged on personality, whimsy and intelligence and not merely politics.

Buckley virtually invented conservative politics in a modern sense, voiced it on his TV show "Firing Line." The last 29 seasons of which were shown on PBS. And some of his positions were gloriously, indefensibly wrong. As a student, he opposed U.S. involvement in World War II, he defended Senator Joseph McCarthy, he suggested tattoos for AIDS patients and ruminated on denying the vote to the uneducated.

William F. Buckley was suffering from emphysema, he was 82 years old.

Roger Clemens tells reporters covering him in spring training that they need to get a life. A congressional committee's letter to the attorney general about prosecuting Clemens for perjury suggests he me need to get a criminal lawyer.

That's next but first time for Countdown's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to lunatic fringer Jonah Goldberg once again not letting details get in the way of the invective, claiming the media was ignoring that quote, "Obama's campaign headquarters in Houston had a Che Guevara emblazoned Cuban flag hanging on the wall." Yeah. The Fox station which first showed the flag had to issue a correction. Because that was not Obama's campaign headquarters it was the office of a woman who volunteered in Houston for Obama. And when the Obama campaign found out about it they told her the flag was offensive and needed to be taken down.

And Jonah, you've now already compared him to Hitler and fascists and now Che Guevara. It's only February. At this rate you're going to run out of slanders by April, and readers too.

Our runner up, Florida state representative Donald Brown who has introduced a measure to allow Floridians to buy special confederate flag license plates to, quote, "show pride in their heritage." Which part of your confederate heritage are you more proud of, Representative Brown, the pro slavery part or the part that mounted an armed treasonous insurrection against the lawful government of the United States or the part that led to a war that killed 600,000 Americans?

And the gold tonight. Senator McCain. After radio bully Bill Cunningham tried to use Senator Obama's middle name as an epithet while warming up the crowd for McCain in Cincinnati yesterday, McCain repudiated them and said I've never met the man. After which Cunningham said, no, the campaign had hired specifically to throw quote, "red meat" to their crowd. Oh and he and McCain had met twice. The first revised statement from the McCain camp, oh right, they might have met at a rally or somewhere like that.

This is the third business day in the last four in which Senator McCain has had to alter one of his absolute denials. That's quite a streak, senator. Senator John McCain, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: When baseball's Roger Clemens had his showdown day of testimony with steroid accuser Brian McNamee congressional party lines could not have been more distinct and Clemens' prior massaging of Republican legislators could not have looked smarter.

But in our number one story tonight, in bipartisanship even more startling than usual. Not only the Democratic chair of the committee to which Clemens may have lied, but also the ranking Republican who had openly defended Clemens today both asked the attorney general to investigate whether or not the star pitcher has committed perjury. Henry Waxman and Tom Davis writing of Clemens to Attorney General Mukasey, "We believe that his testimony in a sworn deposition on February 5, 2008 and a hearing on February 13th, 2008 that he never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone warrants further investigation.

"That testimony is directly contradicted by the sworn testimony of Brian McNamee who testified that he personally injected Clemens with anabolic steroids and human growth hormone."

The committee also notes the contradiction between Clemens and Andy Pettitte. They also reveal in a separate memo there is also medical evidence that may prove an abscess Clemens had on his leg in 1998 was actually caused by a steroid injection gone bad.

Today in Kissimmee, Florida, Clemens was in camp with the Houston Astros pitching/batting practice when the news of a possible perjury investigation came through.

No comment. Joining me now, Greg Kehoe. Former prosecutor for the Department of Justice who once worked on the prosecution of Howie Spira (ph) for trying to blackmail Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Mr. Kehoe, thanks for your time tonight.

HOWIE KEHOE, FORMER PROSECUTOR: No problem. Great to be here.

OLBERMANN: Clemens' lawyer says that that letter from Mr. Waxman and Mr. Davis is irrelevant, it doesn't increase the chance of a perjury investigation. It doesn't decrease it. Is he whistling past graveyards there?

KEHOE: Obviously any type of investigation like this has to have a formal referral from the Hill to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is not going to commence the proceeding without that. But, the department is then going to look at the counts individually to see if there's evidence to sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

OLBERMANN: Before we talk about whether or not that is possible. What are the practicalities, what's the time frame? Start investigation, conclude one, decision on prosecution, prosecution length, what could the prison time be, give me the numbers.

KEHOE: I wouldn't think, looking at the referral, that it would be finished in less than a year, maybe even more. Because the department, if they take the case, will look through this individually. That being said, a conviction for perjury is serious or a conviction for a false statement under 1001. And it can carry with it a sentence between 14 months, 16 months, possibly more.

OLBERMANN: And the relative parameters here, three years ago next month Rafael Palmeiro wagged his finger at this same committee saying I never took steroids, then six months later it was revealed he tested positive for steroids. Obviously there is a huge gray area there. Obviously he could have been using, as unlikely as it sounds, steroids for the first time in a 20 year career and he got caught and he also was not lying to them. But, between that stage where it's murky and this stuff with Clemens, is that the illustration of how high congressmen hold the perjury bar before they would request a perjury investigation?

KEHOE: Criminal cases can be referred. All they sent was this investigation, go to the department to take a further look at it. The Department of Justice as a law enforcement body is going to look at each and every one of the charges to see if they can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt. Perjury charges, false statement charges are very difficult to charges to prove in a court of law. They are simply not going to take them based on he said she said type of evidentiary proof.

OLBERMANN: Is it possible they are trying to shake something loose here? I mean, if you were Clemens' attorney, what advice would you give him in the wake of this letter being sent?

KEHOE: I think at this point, given the fact it has been a referral to the Department of Justice, the best thing Mr. Clemens can do is just keep silent and let the process take its course. If further questions are asked of counsel, the decision can be made to answer them. But if I was representing Mr. Clemens I'd say no further statements at this time.

OLBERMANN: At what point might you contemplate if there is something to correct in the record, correcting the record?

KEHOE: That's always a possibility. People have lapses in memory. I'm not talking about Mr. Clemens, but I am talking about other people, everybody forgets things during the course of their life. Sometimes questioning jogs memories. Whether or not that's going to happen with Mr. Clemens remains to be seen. But it does happen to people and I've had numerous grand jury investigations where witnesses called me six months to a year after the fact and said I'd like to correct something that I said under oath. They come in and correct it. And they are allowed to clarify that testimony before a grand jury and it's perfectly proper.

OLBERMANN: Could he preempt even a grand jury at this point if there is something to correct and actually go back to Congress and say no, let me revise what I told you. Would that do any good at this point?

KEHOE: It would be a difficult thing to do at this point simply because the oversight committee has completed their examination and have made the referral. Whether or not that would actually undercut a prosecution or the theory of prosecution, that's a thing to be said. I don't think a prosecutor would want to take a case after the witness has come forward and said I want to change my story.

OLBERMANN: We'll see how it turns out. Attorney Greg Kehoe, the former DOJ prosecutor. Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

KEHOE: You're welcome.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,764th since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Two episodes for this date.
Click to go directly to:
Pre-debate, 8 PM
Post-debate, 10:30 PM
Post-Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate Coverage for Feb. 26, 10:30 p.m. - 12:00 a.m. ET

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: And this time Senator Obama closes with the feel-good, big group hug moment. Senator Clinton, he said, near the end of tonight's 20th debate, campaigned magnificently and now one of them or both of them need to deliver for the American people. He said she would be worthy as a nominee and would be a much better president than John McCain.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas only had seven debates. They were three hours apiece. They were contained in the span of just over two months in 1858. They have been the measuring stick both for volume, duration, importance in American history. Senators Clinton and Obama in their 20th debate since April 26th of last year when we all gathered in Orangeburg, South Carolina. This was their third in a head-to-head format. Will these achieve the status of historical epics? And will there be a 21st debate?

With Chris Matthews at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State

University, I'm Keith Olbermann at MSNBC and NBC News world headquarters in New York. Ninety minutes of them, now about 85 minutes of us.

And, Chris, at the risk of incurring wrath, my thought was that Senator Obama scored a few points here, probably a few more than Senator Clinton, but this looked like a bunch of field goals, not touchdowns. And field goals are not going to resurrect Hillary Clinton.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: You know, I think we learned tonight why

Americans like high-scoring sports. This was a low-scoring game, perhaps like a hockey game. I didn't hear many goals myself. A lot of back and forth about health care, which I find almost absurd given the fact we don't have a national health care plan.

It's sounded like they were trying to refine a plan we've had for 50 years when in fact we have nothing. It's Brigadoon. It's imaginary so far, a national health care plan. Yet they were arguing around the edges of it for, what, 16 minutes there at the outset. I thought it was odd that Hillary Clinton would make fun of the format in the fact that she was asked the first question because of earlier debates.

And I thought that was an odd thing to say, that she was expecting the moderators in this case to put some pillows under the seat of Barack Obama. I don't think that kind of sarcasm has much meaning to people.

I thought it was interesting that when Tim Russert asked her at the end if there was one vote she could take back, she mentioned Iraq and the fact that she had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

And even though she has never quite apologized for that, the fact that she answered the question, did you have anything you'd like to take back, in fact, going further, she went along and said that she would like to take back that vote. I think that's the strongest statement she has made in that department.

I thought paralleling that was, of course, Barack Obama's statement that he should have done something to stop the Terri Schiavo intervention by the U.S. Congress into that state matter involving that young woman's late-in-life decision-making by her family.

And so I think that that was really about the edges of the thing. Tim asked her about her tax return. She said she would get to it. He asked her about the presidential papers. She said she was getting to that in the near term. I thought a lot of that was an efforting on the part of the moderators but not so successful.

I think it was interesting that they argued about Iraq. But I learned really nothing new except again Senator Clinton's admission that she would like to have that vote back. Let's bring in NBC's Andrea Mitchell, who has been covering this campaign and is here with me in Cleveland.

Andrea, I just know one prediction. They didn't argue about probably the biggest issue that will affect the next president. And we don't know what that is yet.


know what that is.

MATTHEWS: It could be Slavic sensibility about Kosovo, something that perhaps led to the beginning of World War I and may lead to another world war at some point. And I just wonder whether we're missing some of the big issues you cover all of the time.

MITCHELL: Well, we did get into some foreign policy questions today,

and she did, you know, raise the question of Kosovo there at the end. They did

talk about Vladimir Putin. I thought that he had one of the best sound bites

of the night on the Iraq War, though, when he talked about, it doesn't matter

whether you drove the bus into the ditch, it isn't to say who drove the bus

out, it's when she made decision to drive that bus, the Iraq War vote, into the

ditch. Don't have that exactly right, but...

MATTHEWS: The ditch was a powerful image there.

MITCHELL: The ditch was a powerful image. I actually thought that she presented herself as a fighter, that that was what was her mission was tonight. And she kept saying, I'm a fighter, you know, five or six times. That was the phrase she was using. And she came across very credibly, very strongly as a fighter.

When asked about the negative tone of the campaign and the mood changes over the last, you know, two or three days, she said, it's because I thought that, you know, I was disturbed that he was unfair in criticizing something I feel passionately about, health care. And I'm a fighter, this is something i will fight for. And you know, when I'm attacked that way, I will fight.

So I think she did present herself that way. And while the details of health care may seem a little bit onerous to people watching, I think people in Ohio, from all of our polling, really care about it. They care about jobs. Both of these candidates said, by the way, that they would opt out of NAFTA if as president the threat to opt out did not get Canada and Mexico to negotiate better labor deals. So they took a very hard line on NAFTA and trade.

MATTHEWS: Well, all politics is local. And here they are in Ohio, worried about NAFTA, and suggested that they wouldn't back it full force, where in fact, Hillary Clinton had been with - I always thought that the Clinton administration took great pride in NAFTA as an opening to world trade and it was so much breaking out of the old Democratic protectionist beliefs.

However, Keith, I think what's interesting is that Barack Obama again demonstrated that he has a superb advantage in the oratory department. On the stump, he is quite thrilling. That thrill is missing in his debate capacity. He doesn't seem to know how in the course of going back and forth with a strong opponent, as Hillary Clinton certainly is, and being able to lift the audience with a thrilling counterpunch or thrilling thrust.

It's always only him alone with a teleprompter and the audience to himself. And I think that's something people better pay note of while we have this chance.

OLBERMANN: There was several occasions that - where his unflappability came in. And this entire question of the tone of the debate between them is one we want to bring up with our chief White House correspondent, David Gregory, who is in Washington.

And, David, this was such a balancing act, certainly for Senator

Clinton who had to appear in some way wronged but not peevish. Did she achieve what she was trying to achieve?


beginning, no. I think she appeared to lose her temper in the beginning. She didn't like the format. She didn't like the questions, complaining about getting the first question all of the time as if that was unfair in her mind. And yet in those cases she was able to set the tone for the debate on that particular point.

So it seemed like she didn't complete that thought. I think that calmed down over time. What you see time and time again with Barack Obama is a coolness about him. He absorbs a particular attack or a question or a pointed statement and tries to maybe acknowledge the point and then turn it around.

I did think there was a particular point on the Jewish question that was a kind of microcosm for this entire debate between the two of them. I mean, the campaign in general. He denounced Louis Farrakhan who has, of course, made horrible comments about Judaism, but Hillary Clinton spoke up and said, no, how about you reject it out of hand? In other words, be more pointed.

This was a point that she has been making about some of his speeches, some of his approach to policy. Be more pointed and flatly reject it. Now that could have been a real slip-up for him had he fought her on the point. Instead he conceded the point and in effect again sort of defused the issue by saying, look, I denounced him. You say I should reject him. I'll reject and denounce.

I think that told us a lot how about these two debate one another and in the case of Obama, how he tries to deflect what can be an attack in the course of a debate. And I think that can be effective.

OLBERMANN: Well, there was earlier in the debate - much earlier. And

I want to get back to your point about that, the "Saturday Night Live"

reference, by literally playing it in a second. But there was also a point at

which her answer about - part of her answer about the description of NAFTA and what to be done about it - or what should be done about it, the willingness to threaten to pull out of it if a renegotiation can't be accomplished with Canada and Mexico where he simply said, that's the right answer and moved on.

There's a certain calmness that is very unusual in 21st Century and maybe even 20th Century American politics where you let a point go. If you think the other guy is right, you're not supposed to still let the point go and you're certainly not supposed to give them credit for it. And he's willing to do that.

Let's go touch back to the beginning point here and whether or not that kind of joke, kind of criticism, kind of gentle backhand to the press worked at all from Senator Clinton. Here's the tape.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them. But I do find it curious. And if anybody saw "Saturday Night Life," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.

I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues. But I'm happy to answer it.


OLBERMANN: The weird thing about that, apart from the fact that she has gotten the first question six out of the last 10 debates, according to David Shuster, went back and looked, David Gregory, the weird thing that is it kind of is contradicted by that second statement, which was, but I'm happy to answer them. And there was something that just didn't connect on that.

GREGORY: Well, right, because she didn't connect it. I mean, she's happy to field them because she knows what she wants to say. She has never been stumped by any of these questions. I think her - the implication, and I know this from some of her advisers who say this publicly and privately, that somehow there's a sort of gotcha mentality about her, to get her backed into a corner when, in fact, in a debate she can take a question, respond to it, and then turn the tables on Barack Obama, which she did at the very outset of the debate.

She wanted to argue about health care. She wanted to attack Barack Obama's plan. Well, she got the very first question about a change in tone from the past few days and, as Brian Williams pointed out, engaged in a 16-minute debate on health care. Very important debate. Well, she got to set the tone for having that debate. And it's because she got that first question.

So I think a lot of people will look at that and not quite understand the point that she was making.

OLBERMANN: And the last question before we finish up with you for the moment, David, that last question to both candidates, anything you regret in your political careers, anything - perhaps as Tim Russert suggested, anything in the way of a vote seemed to be a tailor-made question for Senator Clinton. And she gave the answer that one would expect that she would have.

David Gregory, stand by. Back out to Chris in Cleveland.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Keith. Tim Russert is NBC's Washington bureau chief and the moderator of "MEET THE PRESS," and of course, the moderator of tonight's debate.

Tim, I was amazed. I thought people wanted the first question. I mean, it just seems to me like every football team I know about wants to receive, you don't like to kick.


I asked the question about the Russian election on Sunday, I intentionally did not call on either one of them. It was a jump ball. I looked at both of them. Who wants in? Senator Clinton jumped in. She wanted the question.

So it's not a matter of - you know, a question about spending on public financing, that was directed to Obama. On Farrakhan, Obama. On tax returns, Clinton, because it's the issues that they have been talking about or not talking about.

This is not rocket science. We distribute the questions in a very fair way, and every - I think what happens, Chris, it's not the questions, it's the answers. You know, and you can't be a president who can make tough decisions unless you can answer tough questions.

And both of these candidates have been asked tough questions.

Sometimes they answer them well. Sometimes they struck out.

MATTHEWS: Let me go through some of the things you asked about. You asked about her tax returns. And she obviously has a joint return with the former President Clinton. Did you have a sense that she was committing in her answer to releasing her tax returns, as Obama has already done - Senator Obama has already done?

RUSSERT: Yes. She had prior to tonight said she would do so if she was the nominee in the general election. Tonight she said maybe before then, which is an indication to me that it's not an issue that she likes to talk about. That's why I cited Governor Strickland here in Ohio who made that a pivotal issue in his campaign. Why won't you release it, he said to the secretary of state. What, in effect - his campaign, what are you hiding?

And if you're going to loan your campaign $5 million, people are going to say, where did that money come from? Where did their income come from? There may be nothing there. But as a sign of transparency, so be with it. Same as with Senator Obama on public financing, when he wasn't raising lots of money, he was offered public financing.

Now it seems to be he is a bit reluctant. It's important to draw them out.


OLBERMANN: To that question, Tim, from the Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire, obviously your question was predicated on Obama answering the first word in his answer to that question about public financing was "yes." The last sentence of it read "if I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."

My question to you is not about your phrasing of the question, but why -

with that kind of ambiguity in his answer that he could have just pulled out from his jacket and read to you, why do you think he didn't do that? It does seem to broaden out that question a little bit, does it not?

RUSSERT: Yes, it does. And I was expecting that would be part of his reply because he gave that response to Senator McCain. The issue I think is that his campaign right now, Keith, realizes how much money they are raising, as he said, from small donors.

They're going to have a million people giving to this campaign, and that's something that they never anticipated or expected. One of the Obama campaign advisers told me that, if we agreed now to public financing, the Clinton campaign would accuse us of unilateral disarmament against the Republicans.

So I think it is an issue. My guess is in the end if Senator Obama took public financing, the Democratic National Committee could still spend tons of money on opposition spots against the Republican candidate and you would have in effect a twofer.

But there is a reluctance because of the success of the campaign thus far in raising money.

MATTHEWS: Is he reneging on a deal he made before?

RUSSERT: I think his commitment was very firm provided that the Republicans would go along with him and also take public financing, which McCain has said. Now, Obama will take it one step further. He wants to make sure that the 527s, the independent groups and some other areas are closed down.

But his answer was an emphatic yes. There's no doubt about it. And I think it's important that when someone says they're the candidate of hope and inspiration, if they say yes and they're not going to answer yes and provide yes as the answer, then I think it's important they tell us why.

MATTHEWS: Sounds right.

OLBERMANN: Let me ask you, Tim, a second point that I haven't heard raised yet. One of the back - obviously a lot of the backs and forths are old hat to the audience at this point after 20 debates and three one-on-ones here. But one new wrinkle to this, did Senator Obama finally get an opportunity to do this? Did events allow him to answer when Senator Clinton said that he had essentially said earlier in the debate series that he would bomb Pakistan and his response was to point out that the CIA under President Bush just bombed Pakistan to get the al Qaeda number three guy, Abu al-Libi?

Why - is that the first time that has come up and was that somewhat of a knockout answer on the part of Senator Obama in your opinion?

RUSSERT: Well, it was in terms of dealing with Senator Clinton. Interestingly enough, Keith, the Obama campaign had used that against Senator McCain about a week ago. Senator McCain was accusing them of taking unilateral action, of Obama advocating unilateral action against a host country.

And the Obama campaign said, wait a minute, the Bush administration sent the drone in and took out a guy without telling Musharraf they were going to do it. But I think on this stage and on this forum, I think it's very important.

I also think when he talks about the most important decision a commander-in-chief has to make is exercising judgment, and his judgment was not go to war in Iraq, and you couple that with Senator Clinton saying that's the one vote that she would pull back, I think it makes for an interesting discussion.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And you know, Tim, I have watched it like an old Ernest Hemingway fisherman, trying to bring in the big marlin. And for months now you've been trying to get Senator Clinton to offer some kind of response to her decision to vote back in 2002 to authorize the war. And I wondered if you felt that you brought it in a few more inches because, in your follow-up, you said, you would like that vote back? And she said, yes, Tim, I'd like that vote back.

RUSSERT: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: It sounded to me as far as - further than she has ever gone in saying, I want to re-vote that baby.

RUSSERT: Because it is an issue where all the other opponents, Senator Edwards, Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, every senator who voted for that war has said it was a mistake and I apologize and I'd like to have it back. She has never said that. Tonight I think she has.

MATTHEWS: And she chose to use that as a response to your question, open-ended, is there anything you would like to do over you did wrong the first time. And she chose to offer up her vote on the war resolution as the response to your question and then followed it up with, yes, I'd like to have that vote back. I think you finally brought your marlin into the boat.


RUSSERT: Because - well, her first answer was...

MATTHEWS:... I think.

RUSSERT:... I wouldn't have voted that way again. And I just - I

wanted to make sure that...

MATTHEWS: No, then you capped it, though.

RUSSERT: Capped it, right.

MATTHEWS: You pulled - she was in the boat floundering around, wasn't she? Anyway. Back to you, Keith. Tim Russert, thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: David Wilhelm is an Obama supporter, he was the campaign manager for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. Lisa Caputo served as press secretary to first lady Hillary Clinton. And they are both with us now.

And thank you both for that. Let's pick up where Tim Russert left off right there and Chris Matthews. Lisa, was that a new ground broken in terms of Senator Clinton's retrospective on her vote on the Iraq authorization vote in 2002?


know, Keith, if you look back at what she said, she has said consistently, look, there are no redos in the Senate. And if I had known then what I know now, I would have never cast the vote. I mean, I think Tim did an excellent job in pressing the question further. And she took the opportunity, when he asked the question toward the end of the debate, is there something you'd want to take back, and she reiterated, you know, look, yes, I would like to take back the vote on the Iraq War.

So I think it's consistent, but I think Tim is right. It's probably linguistically the furthest she has taken it.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Wilhelm, give me your assessment on that. Was that new ground or was that what we already thought you knew about Senator Clinton's position on that vote?

DAVID WILHELM, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Well, it sounded like new ground to me. What I thought was really interesting about tonight was that for Senator Obama I think tonight was a real opportunity to present himself as the next president of the United States. And I thought among the strongest parts of his debate performance were the areas related to national security.

The area - the policy area that Senator Clinton surely thought would be her calling card, tonight it wasn't that. Part of the reason was the backtracking or the new ground made here. But I just thought you saw somebody grow in front of all of our eyes and take real command.

He was firm. He was calm. He was in control. And I thought part of the strongest part of his debate performance was national security.

OLBERMANN: Was there at - Lisa, at any point in this - obviously in this situation that Senator Clinton finds herself in, was there a game-changing, a primary-changing event that can affect the outcomes of Ohio and Texas or secure them for Senator Clinton? Did you have a moment that you perceived in that for your candidate?

CAPUTO: Well, I think - let me first say I disagree slightly with my friend David Wilhelm. I think Hillary Clinton showed a far superior knowledge on foreign policy issues, even Senator Obama admitted he hasn't held an oversight committee hearing on the issue of Afghanistan.

And it was Senator Clinton who went into the long expose on the potential successor to Vladimir Putin. That said, I think there was an interesting moment tonight in terms of Senator Clinton's message going into the March 4th contests, which was she positioned herself as a fighter.

She said, it takes a fighter, a little bit of a play on "It Takes a Village." It takes a fighter. She referenced that she is the one who has the experience to fight for change for working class Americans, for the middle class, to fight for everyday Americans, to ensure that their futures are better. And I think that is a definite shift in message going into a state like Ohio where the economy and people's pocketbooks are major issues.

OLBERMANN: David, did you see it that way? Was there any game-changing moment for your candidate?

WILHELM: Boy, I - well, I don't think we needed a game-changing moment. The momentum is with Senator Obama. He's connecting in Ohio and Texas on issues related to trade, the economy, you name it. I did not see a game-changing moment, and I think Senator Clinton was frustrated as a result of that.

She had an almost impossible, daunting task coming into this debate, and that was to somehow change this - the current momentum that Barack Obama has. That did not occur. There was nothing about this debate that was a game-changer. And, in fact, I think Barack Obama comes out of this debate with his presidential stature enhanced, looking strong, firm, and in command.

OLBERMANN: David, Lisa, thank you kindly. David Wilhelm, former Clinton presidential campaign manager who is now on the Obama team. And Lisa Caputo, the former press secretary to Senator Clinton while she was in the White House. Thank you greatly.

We're going to have much more coming up in the next hour, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who is supporting Senator Obama for president. Chris Matthews in Cleveland, Keith Olbermann in New York. We'll be back after this.

OLBERMANN: In the 20th and possibly final debate between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois more than holding his own against the senator from New York.

For example, the subject of Pakistan:


CLINTON: I just believe that, you know, as Senator Obama said, yes, last summer, he basically threatened to bomb Pakistan, which I don't think was a particularly wise position to take.

OBAMA: I never said I would bomb Pakistan. What I said was that if we have actionable intelligence against bin Laden or other key al Qaeda officials and we - and Pakistan is unwilling or unable to strike against them, we should.

And just several days ago, in fact, this administration did exactly that and took out the third-ranking al Qaeda official.


OLBERMANN: And on the issue of how Senator Obama could react to the controversial Minister Louis Farrakhan's support, he explained he had denounced it. That, at first, was not enough for Senator Clinton.


CLINTON: There's a difference between denouncing and rejecting. And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know, inflammatory - I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we have got to be even stronger.

OBAMA: I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word "denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point.


OBAMA: And I would reject and denounce.


OLBERMANN: And, finally, on the subject of the attack ads that figured so prominently in the weekend's conversation between these two candidates, there was no such similar explosiveness tonight.


OBAMA: Senator Clinton has, in her campaign at least, has constantly sent out negative attacks on us, e-mail, robo-calls, flyers, television ads, radio calls, and we haven't whined about it because I understand that's the nature of this campaigns.

CLINTON: What I find regrettable is that in Senator Obama's mailing that he has sent out across Ohio, it is almost as though the health insurance companies and the Republicans wrote it.


OLBERMANN: And they were able to clarify their positions for the following 16 minutes on the nuances of their respective health care plans.

Good evening. At MSNBC and NBC world headquarters in New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, with Chris Matthews at Center at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University.

This is our continuing coverage of the final Democratic debate before the March 4 primaries, the final scheduled one between them this year. We will see if there another at some later point - Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, I'm out here with Andrea Mitchell. We're at the debate site here.

And we're joined right now by the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

You know, I learned again tonight why people like the NBA. They like the shot clock. They like a high-scoring game. This was a very low-scoring debate, I thought.


about on the issue of health care kind of to a draw. I thought Barack was especially strong on trade policy. And Hillary showed a certain mastery of foreign policy.

But what struck me was, there was no discussion of Appalachia - 33 counties in this state are in Appalachia, working poor people, coal miners, chemical workers. A coal miner dies every six hours from black lung disease. Didn't discuss the home foreclosure crisis. And it is the centerpiece of the recession in our country today. And, so...

MATTHEWS: Is that a big Ohio issue?

JACKSON: It's a big issue in Cleveland. I mean, the city has filed a suit against all of the lenders, for example.

But - but - and Texas. I mean, it's driving the recession. I mean, the impact of the subprime lending crisis has in fact got banks right now. It's driving the entire recession. So, how do you have Cleveland and don't discuss urban policy?


Do you think Barack Obama is going to get pushed and is being pushed too far on the ethnic front? He has to separate himself from Minister Farrakhan. A lot of other - he's being attacked for wearing an African costume during his trip over there last year.

Are people making him sort of reject his own people or rejecting people around him that may have different views, radically different views than him, in a way that will just antagonize the electorate?

JACKSON: Well, there is some baiting going on.

But, so far, he's been smart enough to get ahead and not get even. He didn't go for it, as it were. But what struck me, with all the focus tonight on Mr. Farrakhan, who is a free agent to express himself, O'Reilly made the suggestion about the - about Michelle Obama and about the lynch mob.

He's on the FOX. He's on the FCC. And how can you miss the implication of something so dangerously reprehensible about the wife of Barack Obama?

MATTHEWS: What did you make of her statement, "This is the first time in my life I'm proud to be an American"? What did you make of that statement?

JACKSON: Well, she was trying to distinguish between she's proud to see America come alive. I mean...

MATTHEWS: But "first time I'm proud of my country," the first time?

JACKSON: And - but she really is proud of her - you can be proud of your country, and not be proud of your government. The government has been very oppressive. People who fight for the country...


MATTHEWS: But she didn't say that. Reverend, she didn't say that. She said the "first time in my life I'm proud of my country." That's a strong statement.


JACKSON: I really think it's a play on words. That's no act of patriotism.

It does not suggest that Barack - or that O'Reilly ought to say, unless she brings clarity, he will bring out the lynch mob. Mr. Bush says even playing with the word lynch is reprehensible and it should not even be used in jest.

And, of course, when a mass media personality drops such a hint and suggestion as that, it can create, if you will, an atmosphere of danger.

MATTHEWS: Well, I don't like that.


MITCHELL: Well, you know, I - I did think, even though it was a low-scoring debate, I thought that Hillary Clinton achieved her purpose to an extent of saying: I am a fighter. Repeatedly, I am a fighter. And I'm a fighter for health care. I'm a fighter for things I believe in.


MITCHELL: Why has it been so negative? Why did I respond to those mailers? Because I believe that they were misrepresenting my position about health care, something I'm passionate about.

So, she kept re-injecting that in. Where I thought she missed was in sounding so peevish about, "I got the first question." It sounds like...

MATTHEWS: Are you going to give him a pillow?

MITCHELL: It sounds like inside baseball.

MATTHEWS: I don't think anybody has any idea what that's about.

That's inside baseball.

MITCHELL: She got so - she got so sort of wound up over that "Saturday Night Live" issue.


MATTHEWS: But, Andrea, I got to you...


JACKSON: But she got points, when she needs a knockout punch.

MATTHEWS: We have to withhold here - Andrea, there was a point in there which I thought was interesting at the end.

She said - Senator Clinton said: You know, we need - I'm a woman running for president, something - I got a real shot.


MATTHEWS: Things will be different if a woman is president.

It was sort of an interesting sort of argument, like, we will look at things differently if a woman is president.


MATTHEWS: I think that is a very interesting argument, but I never heard it put so frontally.

MITCHELL: We talked earlier - we talked earlier about the fact that, given the latest polls, if she's going to change her destiny and win in Ohio, it has to be the women returning to her, the women she lost in Wisconsin, Virginia and Maryland.


MITCHELL: That was an appeal. That was a last pitch deliberately to try to reach after those women.

MATTHEWS: I thought it was...

MITCHELL: Realize that your opportunity is about to be taken from you by this young interloper.

MATTHEWS: But, no - but it's not - it wasn't a selfish appeal to people, like, this is your chance, sisters, or whatever. It was a statement that this country will be ruled perhaps differently because of a woman's point of view, a woman's leadership. That's a heck of a...


MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at this.


MATTHEWS: I thought it was a - let's look at this.

MITCHELL: It was a gut-check question.

MATTHEWS: I thought it was a - well, let's all try to interpret it.

Here she is. Here is the senator from New York.


CLINTON: As I said last week, you know, it's been an honor to campaign. I still intend to do everything I can to win, but it has been an honor, because it has been a campaign that is history making.

You know, obviously I am thrilled to be running, to be the first woman president, which I think would be a sea change in our country and around the world, and would give enormous...


CLINTON:... you know, enormous hope and, you know, a real challenge to the way things have been done, and who gets to do them, and what the rules are.


MATTHEWS: You know, I was on a debate panel with you, Reverend Jackson, back in - it's only 20 years ago out in San Francisco.



MATTHEWS: You and Dukakis. You were in the finals. You made the playoffs with him.

You watch this young guy. How old were you? This fellow is 46, Obama. How old were you when you were in that race?

JACKSON: About the same age.

MATTHEWS: Same age.

What do you feel about this? I want sentiment here, Reverend.


MATTHEWS: I know I hear argument from you. I want to hear sentiment.

JACKSON: I'm guessed I'm impressed that, at a certain point, after 20 debates, people are not dealing just with facts, but feeling, how you feel about someone.


JACKSON: The feeling (INAUDIBLE) Barack is on the rise. And his strength right now is, people are feeling comfortable with him, feeling good about him.

And, so, while they debated the issues tonight, there was no - there was no knockout punch. And, as for the strength, I thought, when she said about being a woman, I mean, Indira Gandhi guided India, and Golda Meir Israel...


JACKSON: Then Mrs. Thatcher London - Britain.

I'm not sure what the big philosophical difference that makes. But do know, if Barack had said...


MATTHEWS: Well, haven't you noticed a big change in Argentina under Kirchner?


MATTHEWS: I'm just teasing.



MATTHEWS: And Merkel?

You're right. It's a good point you make.

JACKSON: Well, she was...

MATTHEWS: It's not necessarily a gender difference.

JACKSON: She was freer to say...


JACKSON:... if a woman rules, it's different.


JACKSON: If he had said this, if I'm an African-American, it would be different, it would be played very different.

MITCHELL: I think...

MATTHEWS: But you - what's good for the goose is good for the gander here, the other way around.

A lot of the arguments for Barack Obama is, here's this fellow with the sort of background in Kenya, look, grew up in Indonesia. That background itself would be helpful to our world relations. That argument is made.

JACKSON: Well, he has a sense of universality.


JACKSON: And that is important, that our foreign policy becomes so foreign to our values and become so isolated. So, his sense of a world view does matter.


MITCHELL: His appeal to many people is precisely that, the excitement, the change, the fact that this would be so revolutionary.

And she has had the misfortune of thinking that she was a history-making candidate, and seeing this, perhaps some would, say more historic candidate.


JACKSON: And, so, she was trying to remind women, this would be a sea change, and try to rally those who feel that gender might trump his change, because...

MATTHEWS: Well, it is a change.

We have been ruled by white guys with...


MATTHEWS:... with two-syllable or one-syllable names since beginning. It's Ford, Bush, you know, and Reagan. It's the simple - and now we have a chance for a woman president or an African-American president with a unique background.

Reverend Jackson, it is history. And we're watching it here tonight.

JACKSON: Well, you know, he has a combination of it. He has framed the issue from a horizontal black-white-brown, to a future, past. He's reframed the issue.


JACKSON: He brings these charismatic gifts and the exquisite timing and the resources. And he's almost untouchable.

MATTHEWS: Who's a better speaker, you or him?

JACKSON: Barack.


MATTHEWS: You heard it here.

Reverend Jackson, thank you.

Let's go back to Keith in New York.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, Chris.

Thank you, Andrea.

Thank you, Reverend Jackson.

And let's follow up with that point that Reverend Jackson made about a minute ago.

Let's turn to our panel, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, and Rachel Maddow, and "The Washington Post"'s Eugene Robinson.

Gene, let me start with you.

Reverend Jackson pointed out that if - essentially, if it had not been Hillary Clinton saying a woman president would be a sea change, would make history, would change how people perceive who is running things and how can run things and what can be done, but had been Senator Obama saying the exactly the same construction, exactly the same wording, only, he said, an African-American president would be a sea change and give people different ideas of who can run things and bring optimism and hope around the world, Reverend Jackson suggests we would not be reacting to that with the kind of round of applause that Senator Clinton got for - for her remarks.

Is his point well taken? And what would we be doing here in the other -

in that parallel universe where he answers that question that way?


Well, first of all, Keith, I notice you keep coming to me first in these debates...



ROBINSON:... with the first question.

And I really resent that.


ROBINSON: But, anyhow, I will make the best of it.

You know, I think it would...


ROBINSON: I think it would have been played very differently. It would have been seen as a - as a more polarizing thing to say.

And I think, afterwards, Senator Obama would have some rejecting and denouncing to do if he had - if he had tried to make that explicit argument.

He's been very careful during the campaign not to make that argument and to let race be what it is, without dominating the - dominating his campaign. But I think it would have been played very differently. And I think Reverend Jackson is right.

It seemed to me that this evening was about Barack Obama being presidential, being or presenting himself as a president of the United States. I noticed, when the - when the question was asked about Iraq, what if Iraq falls apart, what would you do, Hillary Clinton said it was a hypothetical. She doesn't like to deal with hypotheticals.

He jumped at the question to say that, well, we have to project U.S. interests. And I think it was - again, during that whole foreign policy part of the debate, it was him speaking as a president would speak. And I - I think that was part of his aim tonight.


Hey, Pat, that seems like an extraordinarily good point. And I will again use Reverend Jackson as a starting point, and disagree with him. He said he thought that Hillary Clinton had - had prevailed in the areas of international business and - and national security.

And, yet, we had the - the - the unanswerable answer by Obama to Clinton about Pakistan of bombing Pakistan: I didn't say I was going to bomb Pakistan, but, oh, by the way, that's basically what we just did in getting al-Libi in Pakistan, came back with an answer suggesting that Senator Clinton had equated longevity in Washington with actual practical experience or judgment, and - and responding to Senator Clinton's answer about being ready on day one, her refrain about that, with saying that, you know, being ready - you were ready on day one to enable George Bush to put us in Iraq.

Did - did Senator Obama do better on the international front? Did he -

did he seem presidential in that way, in a way perhaps he has not before in this series of debates?

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he did. I think it was his best points.

And, Keith, I have to say you have taken all the lines that I was going to respond to and say.


BUCHANAN: But I will say this. It's - the way he does it, he uses the concrete language. He said, yes, we're trying together to get the bus out of the ditch, but you voted to drive the bus into the ditch, which is a very effective way of saying it. It was very powerful, his wording.

He said, you know, it was the biggest strategic blunder in our history. You drove the bus into the ditch. And he followed up with that. And the language and rhetoric of that was very strong, very powerful, very unequivocal. It was really his best moment.

But, again - and let me say, I agree with Jesse Jackson on this. If he said, look, with a black American in the White House, there will be a different approach here to things, and we will look at the - that would have invited a lot of follow-up questions that Hillary's statement does not.

And I will say this. The way he handles the - I mean, when Hillary went up - they showed that clip of Hillary up there saying the celestial choirs are coming down, and mocking him...


BUCHANAN:... and as - when they cut off it, he said, sounds good to me. And it was a very funny line. And I think he...

OLBERMANN: And then compliments her joking delivery, too.




BUCHANAN: And, to me, this is what Obama's strength in.

But I will say this. I thought she was very strong going after him in the first half. I thought she was winning. In the second half, I thought he parried everything. I do agree that was presidential, as Gene says. And I think the second half of that debate was - I think it was - it's very tough to see how she turns this around, given the fact he did an outstanding job.

OLBERMANN: And I have now stolen Pat Buchanan's line.


OLBERMANN: I have now given Gene Robinson the first question, when he didn't want it.

So, all I have left is Rachel Maddow to - to not to be mad at me.

So, Rachel, why don't you just say whatever you perceived happened during the debate, and I will just stay out of it.




MADDOW: Thank you.

I would just say, before I think we praise Obama too much for the "driving into the ditch line," I think we should all recall that it would be a little bit weird, in a metaphorical circumstance or in real life, for anybody to vote to drive into a ditch. The metaphor does kind of fall apart when you get down to that level of detail with it.

Honestly, the big picture here is, I think that John McCain wins the debate tonight. I think this was the Democratic voter enthusiasm suppression act of 2008.


OLBERMANN: It took until late February, but the Democratic race has officially become grim. It was exuberant up until now. And, tonight, it was a drag.

And I think we have seen a lot of Democratic enthusiasm. We have seen huge turnouts from the Democrats. Tonight is the first real blow I have seen against them.

OLBERMANN: Well, those were some tired fighters out there, as we used to say in boxing.


OLBERMANN: Rachel, Pat Buchanan, Gene Robinson, stay with us. We will be right back with you later on in the - in the hour.

We will have much more on the final Clinton-Obama debate, at least the final one before the Ohio and Texas primaries next time - next week at this very time.

We will return. We will go back out to Cleveland. MSNBC's David Gregory will be with us as well.

You're watching MSNBC's coverage of the Ohio debate, only on MSNBC.


CLINTON: What I find regrettable is that in Senator Obama's mailing that he has sent out across Ohio, it is almost as though the health insurance companies and the Republicans wrote it.




OBAMA: We have gone through 20 debates now. And, you know, there is still a lot of fight going on in this contest, and we have got four coming up, and maybe more after that.

But the one thing I'm absolutely clear about is Senator Clinton has campaigned magnificently. She is an outstanding public servant. And I'm very proud to have been campaigning with her.


MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to Cleveland where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama met for what is their final debate before the Ohio and Texas primaries a week from tonight.

Keith Olbermann is with us with MSNBC at headquarters in New York.

And here with me right now is U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who is an Ohio Democrat from this area of Cleveland. She supports Senator Clinton.

Senator Clinton, did she win tonight?


MATTHEWS: Are you willing to state that clearly?

TUBBS JONES: I want to state she hit a home run...

MATTHEWS: All right.

TUBBS JONES:... and that I believe that this debate was a calming debate for both constituencies.

I think, over the past three or four days, you have seen them going at one another, which is all part of the political process. But the message I think both candidates wanted to deliver to their constituency was, when it's all over with, November is coming up, and we have got to be together.

MATTHEWS: Is there any earthly reason for another debate at this point, or have they said what they have to say to each other?

TUBBS JONES: Well, someone walked up to me today and said, well, no one has talked about an urban agenda. And I would like to have a debate around an urban agenda.

And, so, maybe there is time for one more issue.

MITCHELL: Congresswoman, let me ask you this.

As a supporter of Hillary Clinton's and as an Ohio politician, if she doesn't win here, which is critical to any Democrat winning the presidency, will you then urge her, or will others be urging her to step aside, to talk about the unity of the party, which you just mentioned?

TUBBS JONES: I will say to you that that is a very personal decision for Senator Clinton.

I have been involved in advising her around a lot of things, but, that one, I'm going to sit and let her make her decision. And whatever she decides, I'm going to be with her.

See, in politics, it's about being supportive and loyal, and not running and jumping ship when you're down and out. And, so, right now, I don't think she's out, but I think she's somewhat down. And I'm really to just hang out and say, come on, girlfriend, let's do this. Let's bring it along. And I think the people of Ohio may still be with us.

MITCHELL: But, after March 4, if that doesn't work out, if she's down and out, that might be a different story?

TUBBS JONES: It may well be. But I'm - again, I'm going to say, Andrea, I'm going to let her make that decision, because, see, nobody is with her at night after we have done 20 cities. And I did it for her. I have done it a couple of times. Nobody believes that is the case.

MATTHEWS: You know, we're all - we're operating on - this country is in shift right now. There's a lot of movement. I have never seen polls move so fast. They're moving. They move back a little bit. They move a long way in another direction.

We have never talked more about demographics. Maybe it's healthy we're admitting it. We talk about Latinos and Latinas. We talk about blacks, young blacks, older blacks. We talk about old whites, young whites, young women, white guys. I have never heard myself described as - as a minority group. Now we're one of the groups.


MATTHEWS: We're old guys - old guys, young...

MITCHELL: Believe me, you're not a minority.


MATTHEWS: No, but I'm - but we're talked about like that.

TUBBS JONES: We're going to have a show where we spend all the time doing just that.


MATTHEWS: Well, it's all about - it sounds like we're putting together television demographics, like we do with ratings or something.

But I guess the question is generation. And I hear things like young Latinos, young guys, young women of Mexican-American background in Texas are telling their parents how to vote, that it's in every community, this is going on.

I want you to talk about the generational thing in your community here in Cleveland. What is going on in the argument in the family rooms, at the dinner table?


TUBBS JONES: I think they're all over at place. I was on a panel the other day with Tavis Smiley.

And, so, I had on the panel Michael Dyson.


TUBBS JONES: Michael Dyson is with Barack.

MATTHEWS: His wife...

TUBBS JONES: But his wife, Marcia, is with Hillary.

Jesse Jackson is with Barack, but his wife - what - oh.

MATTHEWS: Jacqueline.

TUBBS JONES: Jacqueline.

MATTHEWS: Jacqueline.

TUBBS JONES: Jackie is with Hillary.

It's - so, there's this interesting peace going on. In my community - and my congressional district is probably 52 percent African-American, 48 percent all others. And it's - and people are all over the place.


MATTHEWS: Couldn't we save a lot of gas if we decided at home which way the vote was going?


MATTHEWS: I mean, if the husband and wife are going to vote different, stay at home. Save the gas. What do we do?


TUBBS JONES: Oh, I think it's fabulous.


TUBBS JONES: I think it's fabulous that people are so engaged and that - you know, keep in mind, there was a time when a woman in a home didn't say much about many things.


TUBBS JONES: And it's - a beauty of it is that women are empowered.

Girls are - young women are empowered. Young men are empowered.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a tough question. When you go to voting, and you have got a husband or wife, does the wife say to the husband, how you voting? I want to know.

TUBBS JONES: Probably.

MATTHEWS: Is this going to get that personal?

TUBBS JONES: Oh, it may well.


TUBBS JONES: And then they may say - and then they may say, I'm going to leave you alone. Or they may say, I already know what you're going to do.

MATTHEWS: I think the private ballot is a very important thing in a family situation.

MITCHELL: Hillary Clinton wound up tonight by saying it would be a sea change to have a woman as president.

Wouldn't it also be a sea change to have an African-American as president?

TUBBS JONES: I mean, others - I will say this. It will be a sea change no matter what happens.


TUBBS JONES: But I will also say this, that Barack Obama can't own Martin Luther King's dream. So, Senator Clinton can own it also.

And I think that that is what has been missing from this whole discussion about Martin Luther King's...


MATTHEWS: Well, as the guy says in "Charlie Wilson's War," we will see.


MATTHEWS: And that's the biggest truth...

TUBBS JONES: We sure will.

MATTHEWS:... we can give around here.

Thank you very much...

TUBBS JONES: Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS:... U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones...



MATTHEWS:... who is our hostess here in Cleveland - Keith.

OLBERMANN: Chris, we're joined once again by NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory.

And, David, let's talk about the movement on the answer about Senator Clinton's vote to authorize war possibilities, at least, in Iraq in 2002.

Let's listen to the clip first.


CLINTON: Well, obviously, I have said many times that, although my vote on the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq was a sincere vote, I would not have voted that way again.

I would certainly, as president, never have taken us to war in Iraq. And I regret deeply that President Bush waged a preemptive war, which I warned against and said I disagreed with.

RUSSERT: To be clear, you would like to have your vote back?

CLINTON: Absolutely. I have said that many times.


OLBERMANN: Has she, in fact, said that many times? I recall, even from the debate I did in Soldier Field last August, where she said - she trotted out the first version of that, I think it was, which I - you know, if I had known then what I know now...

GREGORY: Right. Exactly right.

OLBERMANN:... there's no way I would have voted in that way of giving him that - that carte blanche.

GREGORY: There's no question that, in the past, Senator Clinton has tried to parse that question and answer a lot more carefully by saying, you know, to do it all over again, there would have never been a war vote to have voted on, and, therefore, we would have never been to war.

I mean, this was a clear admonition tonight that she wanted it back. And, if you're Barack Obama, you do tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, leading up to next Tuesday's important vote in Ohio and Texas, and you say, this is the judgment issue. If Senator Clinton says she's ready on day one, then what he said tonight is, on day one, she was ready to give in to George Bush, to become, as he said, an enabler and a facilitator for his bad judgment.

This is where he wants to fight the debate in these next few days to try to - to really underline something that I think he brought up effectively tonight, which is to poke holes in this foreign policy experience that she has asserts that she has.

OLBERMANN: And it - also, is it not, to some degree, a twofer, David, because you not only can - can point - make that point, which I think he scored fairly heavily with during the debate - the debate tonight, but, also, you can say, this is where we have gotten to finally, almost a retraction, almost an apology there at the end, after 20 debates, that it's taken 20 debates and basically 13 months of a campaign just to get to this state?

Can he not make some hay off that as well?

GREGORY: Well, I think, yes, absolutely. I think he will try to, if - if he wants to. You know, there was a bit of him tonight trying to sit on the lead and that was an example where I thought he went for the jugular. We haven't heard that language from here before, to say this is the judgment issue that I want to drive home and that you're an enabler of George W. Bush. So I think he does try to make hay on that in the coming days, no question.

OLBERMANN: And the only real reference to the Republican in this, which perhaps would be a disappointment to Democrats who were, you know, comfortable with either one of these candidates, was brought up by Barack Obama who said that obviously he thought his judgment on this was not equivalent to pure seniority in Washington, and that his judgment was better than either Senator Clinton on this topic or Senator McCain.

How much - can he carry that in the next few days as part of Barack Obama already works toward a one-on-one campaign against John McCain?

GREGORY: Well, he'll try to. I mean, it becomes more difficult. There are things that Senator McCain can bring up on this issue that Senator Clinton doesn't want to, for the sake of Democratic unity, to get into a lengthier debate about Iraq.

There's no question Senator Barack Obama wants to say John McCain is basically a continuation of George Bush's war policy in Iraq. The record will be a bit messier than that in terms of John McCain's position who was critical of the conduct of the war. And certainly McCain can draw out Barack Obama and say things like, what did you know when you didn't have to actually cast a vote? You weren't in the Senate yet, you weren't privy to the intelligence that Senator Clinton was privy to at the time.

It's a separate matter that it turned out to be off-track, this intelligence. But there's a lot more detailed debate that goes to judgment and foreign policy that I think Senator McCain will bring up down the line that Senator Clinton has not gotten into. Even as - she has tried, and as she tried tonight on the issue of Pakistan, I think she could have made a better point had she been more precise about what Senator Obama had said vis-a-vis Pakistan, for instance, which you brought up before.

OLBERMANN: Right. As opposed to saying basically that he had said he was basically going to bomb Pakistan, his response was - yes.

GREGORY: Yes. But let's not say - but he basically said - let's say precisely and why that was bad judgment in her estimation. Because there's a serious point to be made about Barack Obama's foreign policy and the toughness with which he will approach a still very complicated part of the world and that is the Middle East.

OLBERMANN: David Gregory is staying with us. We'll be back with you in a moment, David. We'll have much more from Cleveland as well. You're watching our coverage in the aftermath of the Clinton-Obama debate. Democrats big 2-0, the final one before the Ohio and Texas primaries here only here on MSNBC.



think equates experience with longevity in Washington. I don't think the American people do and I don't think that if you look at the judgments that we've made over the last several years that that is the accurate measure.

On the most important foreign policy decision that we face in a generation, whether or not to go into Iraq, I was very clear as to why we should not, that it would fan the flames of anti-American sentiment, that it would distract us from Afghanistan, that it would cost us billions of dollars, thousands of lives and would not make us more safe.




OBAMA: I am absolutely clear that hope is not enough. And it is not going to be easy to pass health care. If it was, it would have already gotten done. It's not going to be easy to have a sensible energy policy in this country. Exxon Mobil made $11 billion last quarter. They are not going to give up those profits easily.

But what I also believe is that the only way we are going to actually get this stuff done is, number one, we're going to have to mobilize and inspire the American people so that they're paying attention to what their government is doing. And that's what I've been doing in this campaign and that's what I will do as president. And there's nothing romantic or silly about that.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Cleveland where Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton met in their final debate before their primaries in Ohio and Texas. Let's get another perspective on what we saw here in Cleveland tonight from Michelle Bernard of the Independent Women's Voice.

A perfect person to have on at this point, Michelle, which is to answer the question whether Hillary Clinton was right in saying - or correct in saying that a president who is a woman will bring a different way of looking at things and that's a healthy thing for America.


right thing to say. I mean, if - regardless of whether Barack Obama or Senator Clinton is the nominee, it will be a huge change in American politics. But the bottom line is, people should not be voting for Barack Obama because he's African-American. People should not be voting for Senator Clinton because she's a woman.

People, and I believe - very strongly believe that the American public, at least the Democratic American public, is going to vote for the candidate that they feel are the best-qualified to represent them and to be the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party. And race and gender will have nothing to do with it.

MATTHEWS: Well, what is that - how is that relevant to what's actually happening? I mean, let's face it, African-Americans are voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama and you're saying they shouldn't?

BERNARD: No, I'm absolutely not saying that. But what I am saying is I do not think, for example, that African-Americans are overwhelmingly voting for Barack Obama because he is African-American. You have got to remember just a few short weeks ago, most people were scratching their heads saying, why isn't Barack Obama attracting the support of more African-Americans?

There was a time until recently when African-Americans overwhelmingly were supporting Senator Clinton. All of that changed in South Carolina, in Georgia, in Iowa and has been changing all along.

The demographics that have been voting for him have been increasing since that first caucus in Iowa, what seems like an eternity ago. And I think that just as we have seen white women, for example, overwhelmingly voting for Senator Clinton, and they still are a large part of her base, we're seeing that those voters are beginning to hemorrhage away and it has nothing to do with the fact that she's a woman.

People, I believe, are believing for the person who they think are best going to represent what they're looking for in the next president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: OK. Michelle Bernard, thank you very much for joining us.

Let's bring in MSNBC's Ron Allen who has been covering the Clinton campaign.

He joins Andrea and I here.

You, sir, I was watching this...


RON ALLEN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:... on this show too.

MATTHEWS: Well, here you are and here you are among us with Andrea and

I. And a fresh perspective, sir.

ALLEN: Nothing terribly profound. I think it was a draw, too. I thought it was very interesting that Hillary Clinton seemed to be really trying very hard. And also a lot of people made a point of this health care debate going on for so long. On the trail, she has really been very passionate about it and I've been struck by how she has been talking about health care as a constitutional right, and as an issue of discrimination against the sick.

And this is what she has been saying to audiences out there in Ohio today. And that seems to be what she has decided is going to be what she wins or fails on, this issue.

MATTHEWS: Does she believe that - I mean, we have no national health plan right now in the country. It seemed to me they were arguing around the edges of something that doesn't exist. It would be one thing if we had a national health plan, we don't have one.

In other words, her continual complaint that Barack Obama doesn't cover 15 million people, why is that important given the fact we don't have any coverage to start with right now? That we have to build towards that eventually?

ALLEN: Well - but there was also a dispute about who's telling the truth. It wasn't just about the edges of health care, it was about who's telling the truth. That's what enraged her, she said, about these mailers that she had. It's that, you're telling people - you're telling poor people that I'm going to force you to buy a health care policy.

And I think it was as much about that and that's why I think she got so - took such offense to that, those comments, is because, again, this is something she feels so strongly about, she feels like he's just manipulating the whole thing and discrediting - and I think...

MATTHEWS: Let's put it together. Your argument earlier that she was very effective at continually referring to herself as a fighter, but fighting for health care is what she has done before and to be blunt, didn't get there. She didn't get it done.

ALLEN: Well - but that was a long time ago.

MATTHEWS: With a Democratic Congress, a Democratic president, her husband at the time, all the attributes you need to put something through, and now she may be going into office as a president with a perhaps not a Democratic Congress, it could be even tougher, (INAUDIBLE)?

MITCHELE: Well, look at the arc of her career though. Her career really began on a national scale when she was given the health care account by her husband, which his economic advisers, Bob Rubin, the late Lloyd Bentsen, all of the rest of them said was a terrible mistake, to hand one-seventh of the economy over to the first lady? To have the East Wing fighting the West Wing?

It's what made the Clinton White House dysfunctional in the first couple of years, largely. And she has now acknowledged that was a mistake, that she went about it too secretively, that she went about it without bring enough people in. That she didn't compromise.

She says she has learned her lesson. What she's saying to the American people, to Democratic voters, this is what I care about. I am a fighter. I am passionate about this. This is, as Ron points out, a constitutional right. And interestingly, if she succeeds in this campaign in Ohio, which is, I think a threshold to continuing, it will be because she's connected somehow with the voters here on health care.

MATTHEWS: And I think that is the big question...

ALLEN: I don't think she made enough of her experience. For example, she could have done a better job of drawing the contrast between what she did then and now and how she has grown. I also thought in foreign affairs, which is my thing, because I spent so much time overseas, that she doesn't really - the answer to the Iraq thing always hangs up the whole foreign affairs discussion.

She talked about Northern Ireland, she talked about Kosovo. But she really didn't explain more to people in ways that they can understand what she did as first lady and what she has done as a senator in a very practical way that shows she has more of a grasp of these things than Barack Obama.

He's hanging on this vote - you know, this one vote in Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Well, it is the war we're fighting.

ALLEN: It is. It is. But there is...

MATTHEWS: And I thought she did give ground tonight by saying she wishes she had that vote back now. Thank you, Ron. Now we have got to go right back now to Keith - Keith who is in New York - Keith Olbermann.

OLBERMANN: Chris, and let's go back and turn to NBC News chief White house correspondent David Gregory in Washington.

For anybody who paid attention to the campaign between these two candidates for the last five days, David, there was a thought that perhaps, at the beginning or maybe after that first commercial break, Hillary Clinton might appear from off stage and bring a folding metal chair down on top of Barack Obama's head. Obviously that did not happen and nothing linguistically happened similar to that. But did the back and forth of the last few days find its way into this debate?

GREGORY: Yes, I think it did and I think part of it was the emotion you saw from Hillary Clinton, both when she appeared to be angry a little bit in the beginning of the debate, whether with the moderators, with getting that first question. The fact - on a reference to Barack Obama getting better treatment, which has been her contention and that of her advisers.

But I also think there's that one instance when the sound bite was played of Hillary Clinton mocking Barack Obama's oratory and then she continued by saying, here was the larger point. And if we listen to that, I have a thought about it.



CLINTON: Stand up here and say, let's just get everybody together.

Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down.


CLINTON: Celestial choirs will be singing. And everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.



OBAMA: Sounds good.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Of all the charges...


OBAMA: I thought Senator Clinton showed some good humor there. I would give her points for delivery.


OBAMA: And look, I understand the broader point that Senator Clinton has been trying to make over the last several weeks. You know, she characterizes typically as speeches, not solutions, or talk...


GREGORY: Well, we - and what you - after that moment played out, Hillary Clinton, Keith, made the point that the larger point she was making that she too had high hopes about public service when she came to Washington with her husband and thought that anything was possible. And she learned the hard way on health care that you need a lot of fight.

And this was Andrea Mitchell's point tonight, showing fight, showing emotion is a contrast, I think, to what some people could perceive as aloofness in Barack Obama. It may be a strength on points when it comes to his debating style that he appears unflappable, but I think that she's making a point to Ohio voters to say I'm going to fight for you, I'm going to fight on health care, I'm going to fight to get NAFTA renegotiated.

That could have some resonance. And after all, I think this is what is her strongest calling card, that her political experience will lead her to fight the system hard and to learn from mistakes that she has made in the past. That's an experience question that she can make, I think, over Barack Obama.

OLBERMANN: Were there not occasions, though, do you think, David, in this debate tonight where the fighting instinct led her to hit herself in the chin with one of the punches? I'm thinking about the Farrakhan exchange, which seemed to be really dicey territory, you know, reject, you should denounce and he said, well, I'll reject and denounce, which might be the - you know, the new catch phrase for some cola somewhere.

But I mean, it seemed like every time she really went in on that point, he really calmed it all down and that may seem not so active, but it may have its own value in some respects.

GREGORY: Well, I think you're right and I think this is really what this contest is about. We now have through these debates a real contrast in these styles. I thought on that particular point that people will see this different ways.

Yes, he defused it, but it was I think strong for her to get in there and say, no, don't say that you have denounced Farrakhan in the past, say that you reject it categorically. You don't want his support and you want distance from his point of view.

That I think crystallized the kind of campaigner that she has been. And it was as if to say, don't be so aloof and don't parse the words about whether - he's not offering help so I have to reject it. So I think that was a strong point.

But again, he was able to absorb it in that very instance to not get defensive, as any number of us would get when you're attacked by somebody, you're going to say, I'll concede the point and have no more damage done with it.

OLBERMANN: And contrast it entirely to that last answer that we made - been making a lot of about Iraq, which, you know, whatever you think of Obama's answer about Farrakhan, it took him about 10 seconds to revise it.


OLBERMANN: It took her 20 debates to get around to the point where she would say, I want that vote back.

GREGORY: Absolutely.

OLBERMANN: All right. David Gregory in Washington, thanks for your perspectives tonight.

GREGORY: Certainly.

OLBERMANN: When we return, our panel will rejoin us to talk about the next week of this campaign heading into the Ohio and Texas primaries and whether we are all going to need to get a hat because it's going to come down so heavily. This is MSNBC's continuing coverage of the Clinton-Obama debate, number 20 in a series. We're back after this.


CLINTON: Well, I was having a little fun, you know, it's hard to find time to have fun on the campaign trail. But occasionally you can sneak that in. But the larger point is that I know I'm trying to get health insurance for every American that's affordable. It will not be easy. It's not going to come about just because we hope it will or we tell everybody it's the right thing to do.

You know, 15 years ago, I tangled with the health insurance industry and the drug companies and I know it takes a fighter. It takes somebody who will go toe to toe with the special interests.




OBAMA: The fact is that Senator Clinton often says that she's ready on day one, but in fact she was ready to give in to George Bush on day one on this critical issue. So the same person that she criticizes for having terrible judgment, and we can't afford to have another one of those, in fact she facilitated and enabled this individual to make a decision that has been strategically damaging to the United States of America.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to MSNBC's live coverage of the Clinton-Obama debate, perhaps the last one, at least in this cycle going into these primaries next Tuesday in Ohio and in Texas. We've asked, by the way, our viewers tonight to use their mobile phones to text message who they thought won tonight's debate. It's not a scientific poll, but here are the results.

Nearly 90,000 of you voted, that's 90,000 - I think it was precisely 89,000 actually, and 70 percent said that Barack Obama won the debate, 30 percent said that Hillary Clinton won the debate.

Now I have to offer this caveat, younger people tend to be more used to using text messaging. We know that. And we'll have to ask about - you have to suggest something about the ideology of those who participated. That's hard to do.

It's easy to do it generationally because Ron Paul, the libertarian, won the last one we did among Republicans debating. So you get a sense of younger voters perhaps more free-spirited in their thinking. But there you have it, 70 to 30 victory tonight by Barack Obama in our text message poll -


OLBERMANN: Yes, but older people can afford - better afford text messaging rates. Let's go back to our panel for a round-up thought here about where we're going to go now in this last week of the campaigns in Texas and Ohio, principally. Eugene Robinson, Pat Buchanan, and we'll start with Rachel Maddow.

Did anything happen tonight that suggests where we're going to go in the next week before Texas and Ohio?

MADDOW: Any Democratic voters who at this point who are still undecided between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama I do not believe are waiting to find out the difference between rejected or denounced. They are not waiting to find out the difference between preparations versus preconditions for meeting with the little Castro brother.

There's only one question they want answered right now, and it is, who can kick John McCain's tail? And if these two don't start competing on the basis of who can hit McCain the hardest and most effectively, who can win the election and win the argument nationally, I think that Democratic enthusiasm is going to take a blow now that we've sunk into all of this negative tit for tat stuff.

OLBERMANN: But, Eugene, we have got one week until Texas and Ohio presumably resolve things. Can the Democratic campaign against the Republicans survive another week without the kind of anti-McCain focus that Rachel suggests?

ROBINSON: Well, you know, I think they would be well advised to get back to a bit more of that. It was - John McCain really was missing from most of this debate tonight. I guess they both figure they have more important things to worry about now.

Barack Obama is trying to at this point close out the deal and Hillary Clinton is trying to move those polls or stop from moving in the opposite direction. I'm not sure I heard anything tonight that seems guaranteed to change the poll numbers.

But you know, we've been wrong before. So we are - you know, and that last thing, Andrea Mitchell mentioned it earlier, the mentioning that she would be the first woman president. You know, it could have some resonance. Does it change anything? I'm not sure.

OLBERMANN: Pat, if you were advising Barack Obama, would you have said to him, drop John McCain's name as often as you possibly can in this debate tonight, make part of it against McCain, sort of segue past Hillary Clinton right now?

BUCHANAN: No, I wouldn't. Hillary Clinton came at him tonight, she was the aggressor in this fight. She was backing him up, but he's counterpunching and he threw flurries. I think that he very probably won the debate on points.

I agree with David's point that she's going to get points for a tough, aggressive, offensive strategy, probably with working class folks in Ohio. But I don't see this changing the general momentum at all. And I mean, I think what Barack Obama is doing is trying to hold his lead. And From what I saw in this battle, he held it.

OLBERMANN: Sounded like about a 9-6 game, maybe 12-9, all field goals. Pat Buchanan, Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, our panel tonight in the aftermath of debate number 20, thank you to all of you.

MADDOW: Thank you.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And let's wrap up, Chris, is that the final score here, something like 12 to 9, Obama?

MATTHEWS: Well, who was favored? Well, I think perhaps - I think the big thing was that Hillary Clinton admitted that she would like to have her vote back authorizing the war with Iraq. I think, as I said before, our colleague Tim Russert finally brought the marlin into the boat tonight after weeks and months of trying to get it in.

OLBERMANN: All right. Twenty debates' worth. Stay with MSNBC, when we come back, we will have the complete Clinton-Obama debate for those of you who missed it or those of you who just enjoyed it so much you want to see it again.

For Chris Matthews in Cleveland, I'm Keith Olbermann at MSNBC and NBC News world headquarters in New York. Thanks for being with us and good night.