Monday, March 31, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 31
video 'podcast'

Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons

Special Comment: (replay)
Feeling morally, intellectually confused?
via YouTube, h/t webweaverToo

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Dana Milbank, Chuck Hagel

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

The blowback: Senator Clinton says she's staying in TFN. Other leading Democrats answer, give her the hook. Politico, quote, "A top Democratic strategist supporting Clinton, the big question is: does she walk to the door, or is she shown to the door?"

Senator Klobuchar of Minnesota endorses:


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: Between Barack and a hard place, I chose Barack.


OLBERMANN: Well, that's a new one. She says Senator Clinton should continue.


AL GORE, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not applying for the job of broker.


OLBERMANN: Is he applying for the job of comprised candidate on his birthday? A British newspaper claims ex-staffers insist, there is still chance the Democrats will turn to Al Gore if the nomination is unsettled.

A president unsettled?


ANNOUNCER: The president of the United States.


OLBERMANN: But wait, there's more. To avoid the controversy, they did not have him throw that first pitch to a guy named at the "steroids" report. Did they know the ironic political truth about the guy to whom he did wind up throwing it?

The truce in Iraq: It's working other than the bullets in Basra and the rockets in the Green Zone in Baghdad. "If in fact the surge has calmed things," says Senator Chuck Hagel, "why then is the administration talking about keeping more American troops in Iraq for the remainder of this year than before the surge?"

Our special guest: Senator Hagel.

Worst: He might as well be on the payroll of FOX News. He just endorsed them.

And: Wal-Mart battered again.

And: The fifth anniversary of Countdown. We begin our retrospect with the first Special Comment.


OLBERMANN: The man who sees absolutes where other men see nuances and shades of meaning is either a prophet or a quack. Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.


OLBERMANN: All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, March 31st, 218 days until the 2008 presidential election. Happy anniversary.

It may happen exactly as Senator Clinton has predicted. Party leaders, superdelegates, not the pledged kind selected by the voters rearing up and taking command of the Democrat Party, determining that one potential presidential nominee can succeed and the other cannot. That one can lead them to the White House and the other can lead them only to friction and even fracture, and saying to one of them, in the name of God, go.

Only in, our fifth story on the Countdown, they may not wind doing that to Senator Obama, they may instead do it to her. today reporting that Democratic Party elders are clearly tilting against Clinton's hopes for keeping the nomination contest open indefinitely, looking for a way to end the bitter nominating contest before the convention in August.

A top Democratic strategist Politico identified only as supporting

Clinton, telling the Web site, "There's a little bit of a deathwatch going on. Instead of, 'Who's going to win?' the chatter is, 'How's it going to


The strategist adding, "There is general panic among Democrats. The big question is: does she walk to the door, or is she shown to the door?"

Much of what is happening unfolding publicly is what Politico calls a virtual convention and the modern equivalent of a smoke-filled room. Obama backers like Senator Leahy getting ahead of their candidate by bluntly stating that Senator Clinton should get out now.

Party officials like Howard Dean, is urging superdelegates to decide by the 1st of July. And superdelegates like Senator Amy Klobuchar deciding to endorse and endorse now and not endorse Senator Clinton.


KLOBUCHAR: For me, I had really, after our caucuses had started to know which way I was headed. But out of respect for both candidates, because I like them so much, I had delayed that and had waited to see, in part, to see if there was a time I could come in, when I could bring our party together and as time went on if finally decided that I wasn't going to stay silent.

It was not an easy place to be - uncommitted - it was something of a hard place. And between Barack and a hard place, I chose Barack.


OLBERMANN: She spent all that time dreaming up that joke. Senator Clinton, herself, taking the extraordinary step of calling up two reporters for a major newspaper over the weekend, to inform them that she will be staying in the race until the end.

One topic of conversation she'd probably would not initiate herself, the state of her campaign's finances. Reports are emerging over the weekend that campaign bills, both large and small have been going unpaid.

Today, it emerged as irony syringe (ph) drawn across the lab (ph) that she had not been paying the health care insurance premiums for her campaign staff. That they made her plan for universal health care and insurance and health care itself, central to her campaign, Senator Clinton's organization is letting nearly $300,000 in health insurance premiums go unpaid according to another report by

Clinton campaign spokesman, Jay Carson insisting that this month, all outstanding bills to insurance providers were paid off and that health insurance to employees or their families and partners did not lag as a result of the lag in payments.

While on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania today, Senator Obama is stressing it's the quality, not the quantity of a campaign donation that counts.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What has been remarkable about this campaign though is the 1 million-plus donors that we've created, mostly online, are able to sustain our campaign, I think, indefinitely through $25 and $50 and $100 contributions. It's a lot easier to, you know, maintain a budget when you've got a million small donors who are there with you and believe in what you are doing compared to if you are raising $2300 checks from people who at some point tap out.


OLBERMANN: Time to call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: That scenario that Senator Clinton clearly has been envisioning and striving for, seeming to be reported to be folding or unfolding or is folding her tent, but unfolding against her, was it ever, do we know in the Clinton camp thought it was a possibility that if they raise this specter of the party elders getting together and deciding this with or without agreement of the elected delegates, the pledged delegates, that it may somehow still go against her? Was that even a possibility in their minds?

WOLFFE: Well, no, the real strategy here was that the party would come out for Hillary Clinton. And, in fact, early on they did, but not in enough numbers. So, her pledged delegates in some ways were always outweighed by the superdelegates and that superdelegate number has stayed the same. He is the real problem at the heart of the Clinton strategy.

Inevitability was their strongest argument. When that biggest one, the most consisting thing, when that fell apart with one loss after another and over the internal fighting and the superdelegates not moving to her in big numbers, then, inevitability fell apart, too. And that's where were at. That's why we're seeing a steady trickle, even a steady flow going for Obama and really just a small handful going for Hillary Clinton since February 5th.

OLBERMANN: All right. We have the Leahy statement last week which, obviously, the Obama people were actually not happy with because it was much farther than their position had gone and Senator Obama said over the weekend, if she wants to stay in, she has the perfect right to, she's on the ballot.

Klobuchar's endorsement today, not exactly the biggest thing that ever happened, there is a report of North Carolina's entire seating Democratic Congress base en masse endorsing him before the primary. Are we seeing actually drip by drip kind of evolution of this process that Politico described or are they off on the edge of things? Is it, in fact, the way that their describing it, that there seems to be a mood building if you want to have this decided by us, it's not going to work against you, is that valid?

WOLFFE: Well, there's no question that party insiders are looking at the side of John McCain being out there, rebuilding, raising his own money and having nobody arguing against him or at least the candidates with only half an eye on him, and they're worried and they are moving towards making a decision much earlier than some of them ever thought they would.

I mean, Senator Casey in Pennsylvania is a casing point here. That movement is actually happening. It's a steady process, but, of course, the math is the math.

And the problem for Senator Clinton is Barack Obama only needs about 1/3 of the uncommitted superdelegates, she needs about 2/3. That means he can reach the number if this steady flow keeps going, he can actually reach that number by June. She, obviously, needs to increase the momentum for her amongst those party insiders, the people who are supposed to know her best.

OLBERMANN: Did she precipitate whatever is going on by this interview with "Washington Post" and having it made clear that she requested this interview, wasn't something that was asked of her?

WOLFFE: Well, talk about between a rock and a hard place, I mean, you know, she had very little choice now, to actually address this question head on. And the fact of the matter is, the Clinton campaign has found much easier to run against the media than it has against the Obama campaign. And he was a case where the story, in the Clinton folks' opinions, has really been pushed by the media, they had to work with the media to try and stop it.

But look at what a turnaround that is, a campaign that really shunned the media to begin with now reaching out. And people can sense that the strength arguments have been weakened.

OLBERMANN: That reaching out to FOX News and Richard Mellon Scaife, it would truly (inaudible) a storm. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," as always, sir, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OBLERMANN: There is another name in consideration for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. It is that of former Vice President Al Gore. Some Democrats are still believing that the man who used to be the next president of the United States, would be a perfect consensus candidate if there really is no way to resolve this peaceably.

Two former Gore campaign officials reportedly telling the British newspaper, "The Telegraph," that a scenario first mapped out by members of Gore's inner circles last May now has a, quote, "sporting chance of coming true."

Amid that scenario, if neither Clinton nor Obama has the required of 2025 delegates needed for the nomination by the time the convention starts, a group 100 superdelegates would sit out the first ballot preventing either candidate from winning outright, so the nomination could then be offered to Al Gore. Another scenario paints Mr. Gore not as spoiler but as healer, the party elder who would help to push of the candidates gently out of the race.

Last night on "60 Minutes," Mr. Gore telling Lesley Stahl that he is not interested in that job, though apparently, he does feel the candidates' calls.


GORE: They both call and I appreciate that fact.

LESLEY STAHL, TV HOST: And what about the idea of the honest broker who goes to the two candidates and helps push one or the other of them?

GORE: Kind of a modern Boss Tweed?

STAHL: Except his name would be Al Gore.

GORE: Well, I'm not applying for the job of a broker.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to our Dana Milbank, national political reporter for the "Washington Post." Dana, good evening.


OLBERMANN: All right. So, he's not applying for this job and we have spent hour upon hour parsing the exact job interest and the exact language that Al Gore uses to explain his relative interest in any position. We've been doing that for many years.

But in saying that he's not applying to be a modern Boss Tweed, and that's his analogy, not ours, Boss Tweed might be the wrong name to invoke here, does that mean he wouldn't do it if it got so dire of the Democrats needed three wise men to come in and sort it out?

MILBANK: Well, even in this state, I think, Gore is safely (ph) has to add 10 or 15 pounds until his in a Boss Tweed category here but he clearly didn't rule it out and his people say as much. A larger question is: why on earth would he want to do this?

He spent so much time finally rising from the muck of politics. He's seen as above partisan politics. He's extremely wealthy. He's respected around the world.

As soon us you get back involved in this brokering game, there's immediately going to be mud all around you. And if - you know, why get in the middle of some sort of a mud wrestling battle here, it's going to bring down his reputation. That's why he's reluctant to do it, but not ruling it out entirely.

OLBERMANN: Now, the thing in the British newspaper has predicated to some degree and something Joe Klein wrote in "Time" so we can take that for what it's worth, whether this is speculation or it's actually former members of Mr. Gore's campaign from 2000 are actually spreading this possibility.

But, you know, everybody has asked over the last two years: is Gore going to run for president, and my answer was always kind of facetiously, I don't think he wants to run, but if everybody would agree to vote for him and sort of just writing in by unanimous consent, he's be happy to do it.

Is there any prospect that under those circumstances of the divided saying, the only way we can figure how to heal this is to select none of the above and you are none of the above, will he still respond in this context?

MILBANK: Of course, he will do that but the chance of that sort of thing occurring is just - it's outlandish. And the Gore people say as much themselves that it would be just predicated on the Obama side surrendering, on the Clinton side surrendering, and somehow unifying behind this man, realizing that the second they do that, of course, he's back in the squabble all over again. So, yes, he would do it, no, it's not going to happen.

OLBERMANN: Well, we've seen a lot of things we didn't think were going to happen, they had happen, and they continue to happen and will continue to happen (INAUDIBLE).

All right. So, what I'm saying to you is: if you got - if Al Gore got the consent of one group, either the Clinton supporters, the majority of the Clinton supporters and could pressure the Obama people into supporting or some of the Obama people might say, well, better him than her and vice versa, if they got enough of the Obama people to say that, is it not structurally possible?

You can subtract Gore from the equation. Is it structurally possible for the outcome of this to be none of the above?

MILBANK: Well, yes, sure, it is structurally possible. And, you know, it's true. There's a lot of Democrats think that the presidency was stolen from Al Gore, so there'd be a certain rough justice in him stealing it from somebody else who had won the delegates there. But there's all kinds of arrangements that could be made so that the delegates could vote any which way they want as long as they are released by the candidates, again, if this goes beyond any sort of long-shot possibility.

OLBERMANN: And it involves the use of a lot of duct tape on the candidates as well. Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the "Washington Post," speculating with us tonight. Great thanks, Dana.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: John McCain, Iraq expert says he's surprised the Maliki government trying to bust Muqtada al-Sadr. Then, gets it wrong over who offered the newest truce in Iraq and winds up crediting al-Sadr with a victory there. Is it good news or just good spin?

Senator Chuck Hagel joins us.

And the bad news for President Bush, first new baseball only stadium in Washington in 107 years, he throws out the first pitch and he is still booed him.

Worst news for President Bush: The man who threw the first pitch to, well, he's - I'll explain it later.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Iraq, all quiet on the western and eastern fronts unless you count the rockets and the guns. Senator Chuck Hagel joins us on that and the whispers about who might want him as vice president.

And: Wal-Mart is still silent on the Debby Shank case. Well, Governor Rendell probably should have been silent before he went to today promo about the fairness of a FOX News network that still suggests his candidate, Senator Clinton might have had something to do with the death of Vince Foster.

Worst Persons: later on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: How bad are things in Iraq? Nearly a week ago, Prime Minister Maliki said the assault in Basra would be definitive, but his aides say, resistance has been tougher than expected and critics see a political motive for going into Basra which deluded the focus against al Qaeda. The Basra assault has destabilized the region, weakening Maliki, bolstering his enemies, giving new influence to Iran.

In our fourth story tonight: Things are so bad, Iraq may now have its own Iraq. In keeping with that precedent, after calling Sunday cease-fire a victory, Maliki's government was hit again today with rockets in the Green Zone and continued fighting in Basra.

And today, McCain said he was surprised despite the fact that U.S. has pushed for crackdown on Muqtada al-Sadr's militias there, despite the fact that McCain was in Iraq and spoke with Maliki the day before the assault was launch.

Now, that Sadr's cease-fire seems to have boosted Sadr's standing, McCain was asked whether this all had backfired on Maliki, quoting him, "Apparently, it was Sadr who asked for the cease-fire, declared a cease-fire. It wasn't Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declaring a cease-fire."

Except the McClatchy newspapers reported last night that Sadr had only called the cease-fire after members of Maliki's government asked Sadr to do so during a secret trip to meet with Sadr in Iran, making McCain wrong about the facts on his signature, making Sadr, not Maliki the victor in this conflict by McCain's own reasoning and making Iran, and not McCain, not the U.S., the mediator of choice for Iraq's two top Shiite factions: the Maliki government and the Sadrists.

With us tonight on this vital issue, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, a decorated veteran of Vietnam, and author now of the new book, "America: Our Next Chapter." Senator, great thanks for your time tonight.

HAGEL: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: General Petraeus reports to the Senate next week. What new questions do these events in Basra put in your mind to ask him?

HAGEL: Well, first, Keith, we need some strategic context from him as to what he is going to recommend to the president as to the next steps on our policy for the remainder of this year. Where are we going? I don't believe we have ever had a strategic context here. I think we have further destabilized the Middle East, and undermined our own interests there, aside from doing great damage to our military, our structure, our system.

This issue on Basra, Keith, is one that we've essentially deferred for the last couple of years. Many of us have been very aware - our intelligence people have - that the Shia warlords have been in charge down there, and we've essentially been paying them tribute for access to the port. And what Maliki was thinking, I have no idea. But the whole bizarre cycle that you have just recounted here, using Iran as a good example - we won't talk to Iran, we won't engage Iran, we threaten Iran, but the Iranian president is in Baghdad recently, most of the Maliki government are exiles from Iran. We go - we being Maliki, our guy - goes to Iran to try to get Iran to help with the problem in Basra. I mean, this is "Alice in Wonderland" over there. What's up is down; down is up.

OLBERMANN: Do you know, does anybody know if President Bush is doing enough or anything to ensure that the surge is not buying Maliki time and firepower not in order to bring about political reconciliation, but time and firepower to cement his own political position?

HAGEL: Well, I don't know about that, but I will tell you this: When Crocker and Petraeus were before our Senate Foreign Relations Committee last fall, we asked a number of these questions. I asked specifically what is the purpose of the surge? Now, I was told - the president has said - it was to buy more time for the Iraqis so that they could move to some high ground, trying to accomplish some political accommodation leading to political reconciliation.

That's not been done. We've essentially squandered precious American resources and lives. And we've lost time. We have deepened our involvement there, where we truly are in a quagmire. It is going to be very, very difficult now to unravel all of this and start working out of this in a responsible way.

What's astounding to me, Keith, is that the administration keeps spinning this in some bizarre Orwellian way that things are going better with all of this violence; this shows that Maliki and the Iraqis can stand on their own - even though they have had to call us in on a number of occasions the last three days.

So that's the kind of question that will be, and that series of questions will be asked of General Petraeus when he's before our committee next week.

OLBERMANN: As you pointed out, if it's getting better, why do we have more troops - will we have more troops post-surge than we did pre-surge.

But let me ask you one other issue that is related somewhat to this. In your book, in "America: Our Next Chapter" you have written - let me quote it exactly - "A bipartisan unity ticket with the president from one party and vice president from the other could be appealing to Americans."

Would you yourself consider being involved in that option this year, and have - as rumors have been going around in various cities - feelers gone out to or from your people to that of either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama, who is co-sponsor with you on counter-proliferation?

HAGEL: No. When I wrote that chapter and wrote the book, it had nothing to do with me and my political future. My point there was, Keith, this, and I think most Americans are so frustrated with our system, that we are locked in a political paralysis, state of paralysis in Washington. The next president is going to have to govern with a consensus. That means that next president is going to have to reach out. I think a bipartisan cabinet. The possibility of maybe a bipartisan ticket. I'm not predicting that, I'm not suggesting that. But we are living through one of the great transformations in American politics in the world. And that means that we are forcing ourselves into a reorientation to be relevant. That's what politics is about. Are we relevant or not? Are we fixing America's problems or not? Are we leading or not?

We are not. Both parties have failed here. We have squandered the last eight years, and that is going to propel a whole new dynamic in American politics as every watershed election has.

OLBERMANN: I think a lot of Democrats would agree with you on that. A bipartisan cabinet worked for FDR. It worked for Lincoln and many others. Perhaps they'll listen to you. Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. The book is "America: Our Next Chapter." Tough questions, straight answers. Thank you for some of them tonight, Senator.

HAGEL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: It is our fifth anniversary. We'll salute one of the men who made them possible: Former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the first Special Comment.

Do you like those car crash shows? There's a corner of our planet where it's nothing but car crashes and it's next.

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

Number three: Iraq and 9/11-gate. Former Gitmo detainee Murat Kurnaz, repeating in an interview what he had told his attorney three years ago while still being held by the U.S., that when he was originally picked up and stored in Afghanistan for two months, interrogators hung him by his arms from the ceiling of a freezing aircraft hangar for five days with doctors coming by periodically to assure his captors it was OK to keep on hanging him there.

Kurnaz says his interrogators demanded he admit he was an operative of and associate of Mohammed Atta, the 9/11 plotter. The torture sadly is old news, the news is Kurnaz was from Germany.

So? Remember the attempt to link 9/11 to Iraq by way of Mohammed Atta and some apocryphal meeting he was supposed to have with the Iraqi intelligence service in Prague on April 2001? Get some German-born Muslim to admit he know Atta and you're halfway home to putting Atta at a meeting with Iraqi agents, even if it never happened.

Number two: Mortgage-gate. Mr. Bush's secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Alfonso Jackson under criminal investigation has resigned. The top Bush guy on homes quits in the middle of the homes crisis. Mr. Conner (ph) says to Jack Nicholson in the movie "Chinatown," middle of a drought, the water commissioner drowns. Only in L.A.

And number one: Mukasey said what-gate? Almost ignored in the coverage of his speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco pleading for telecom immunity, Attorney General Michael Mukasey also said, quote, "Before 9/11, that's the call that we didn't know about. We knew there has been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan, and we knew that it came to the United States, we didn't know precisely where it went."

What? The government knew about some call from the safe house in Afghanistan into the U.S. about 9/11, before 9/11, and even though it had the same FISA courts and the same right to act against international targets in 2001 as it has does now, they didn't do anything about it?

Well, this would seem to leave only two options, either the attorney general just admitted that the government for he works is guilty of malfeasance complicity of the 9/11 attacks or he's lying.

I'm betting on lying. If not, somebody in Congress better put that man under oath right quick. You could send them to Gitmo I suppose.


OLBERMANN: On this date in 1596, Rene Descartes was born in France, mathematician and philosopher, perhaps best remembered for what is translated into English as a five word maxim about life. He expressed it first in Latin, Cogitu Ergo Sum (ph). In English it's usually rendered as "I think, therefore I am." That's an over-simplification. It proves that Descartes was trying to establish what in the universe we could be certain was truly there and what we just believed was there. He came down to Cogitu Ergo Sum, more fully translated as, I think, so at least I can prove I exist. I don't know about the rest of you.

On that note, let's play Oddball. If it doesn't exist, I assume the screen will just go blank for you right now.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): Tada. We begin in Wimbledon, England with proof of the existence of life, home of the famous tennis championships and the only slightly less famous figure eight banger championship. Beaten up old cars, bangers as the Brits call them, racing in the rain crossing tracks and crashing into each other with gustto, smashy, smashy.

Dozens of bangers got swiped, nudged, rolled out of the competition. One poor guy getting even stuck in the middle of the eight and having to run for his life. The race only ending when a lucky banger eventually emerged as the last one unscathed, 37 hours later.


OLBERMANN: Speaking of sports, The booing for the president's ceremonial first pitch in Washington was only part of the story. Who he wound up throwing that pitch to, just to avoid controversy a minor controversy, is amazing.

And he said some dumb things before, but Governor Rendell let one go this morning, stupid enough to earn him a place in the Worst Persons Hall of Fame. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best discount. Her friends plane was late, so Terri Patsalide spent much more time drinking coffee at the Giraffe Juice Bar in Heathrow in London than she expected. Her bill was 715,000 dollars. Appropriately, Miss Patsalides blanched at the extraordinary price for four cappuccinos. The server promptly corrected it to 24 dollars. Appropriately, Miss Patsalides blanched at the extraordinary price of four cappuccinos.

Number two, the second dumbest criminal, an unnamed 16 year old who saw an elderly man carrying two grocery bags down a street in Santa Rosa, California, and promptly produced and announced, old man, give me your wallet or I'll cut you. The victim responded, I'm an 84-year-old ex-Marine. I've been in three wars. I've been threatened with bayonets. Step any closer, son, and you'll be sorry.

The kid stepped closer. The 84 year old ex-Marine promptly kicked him in the groin. He then picked up his groceries and went home, leaving the boy doubled over on the street. He may still be there for all we know.

Number one, the best dumb criminal, Lisa Ann Martini of Sparks, Nevada. She was arrested at her home on a charge of having received 1,300 dollars worth of botox injections in her face at a clinic, then announcing she had to have make a phone call and simply driving off without paying, a new variation on dine and dash. Police are not confirming this, but we understand Miss Martini, shown here, was arrested because when they went to ask her a series of questions to determine if she was the botox and bolt bandit, she just couldn't stop smiling.


OLBERMANN: For a president of the United States, there is nothing quite like experiencing the barometer public opinion in person from a crowd that had not been vetted for your affection. In our third story on the Countdown, President Bush, who even his fiercest critics acknowledge is a pretty good baseball fan, threw out the first pitch on the deliriously happy occasion of the grand opening of the first new baseball only stadium in Washington, D.C. since 1901, and they still booed him.

Just before the game in which he was set to throw out the first pitch, a couple of the visiting Atlanta, Braves gave the president a team jersey and suggested he wear it while throwing out the first pitch. The president laughed, the prospect of possibility getting booed while wearing the opponents' jersey; Mr. Bush said of that, quote, "I'm not going to give them any excuses."

Evidently, among the more than 40,000 people at brand new Nationals Park, no additional excuse was necessary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States -


OLBERMANN: Now be fair, that would be a strike in the American League. He had practiced, reportedly, on the south lawn of the White House. As for the catcher, it would have been the Nationals' new starting catcher of Paul Loduca, but he was named in the recent Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball and it was the president who had been touched on the issues of steroids in sports in the 2004 State of the Union.

So evidently, to save the president the embarrassment, the Nationals had not their catcher catch Mr. Bush's first pitch, but their manager, their manager Manny Acta, a lovely and decent man, who holds no political grudges, but does like to spend his road trips happily arguing with one of his coaches, an arch conservative, manager Manny Acta, who himself says he watches this newscast every chance he gets.

He likes the special comments, he says.

Speaking of which, this is our fifth birthday. We signed on March 31, 2003. We begin a week of reminiscence by bringing you the first special comment, the moral and intellectual confusion of Donald L. Rumsfeld.

Speaking of which, Fixed News is actually questioning whether the presidential candidate this man supports might freak out, quote, from PMS, unquote, during a national emergency. And today, he said their coverage of her has been balanced. Worst persons next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Anniversary week here on Countdown, and we will celebrate five years to the day of the first newscast in this series by returning to a date slightly more recent, August 30th, 2006, the first special comment. That's next. But first time for Countdown's Worst Persons in the World.

The bronze, as it will go nightly until they do the right thing, Wal-Mart, still silent about the story of Debbie Shank, it's former employee in Missouri. Her health and life ruined by a tractor trailer truck in 2000. Her medical expenses paid for her by her Wal-Mart health care plan with her long term 24 hour a day care to be paid for by a small settlement from the trucking company, a settlement for which Wal-Mart sued Mrs. Shank.

She never knew that the health care plan allowed Wal-Mart to get back any money it paid her, so she was left with 417,000 dollars for a lifetime of care. Wal-Mart sued her for and won from her 470,000. It is so bad for Mrs. Shank that husband divorced her because she could get a slightly larger Medicaid pay out as a single women. A brain injury left her incapable of remembering that her son was killed in Iraq last September, so she has to find out about it every day as if it were the first time. Today, the "Miami Herald" joined the chorus of news outlets denouncing Wal-Mart. Pleas ask your local newspapers and radio and TV stations to do the same.

The runner up, Judge Richard Burnat (ph) of the Municipal Court of Hamilton County, Ohio. I understand the dilemma here, but Draco of Athens would be appalled. Gary Weaver was arrested in 1990 for paying for 22 dollars in merchandise at a store with rolls of dimes that actually turned out to have mostly pennies in them. Weaver never appeared in court for the theft. The warrant was out standing. So when Weaver was arrested for disorderly conduct last week, bond was set at one million dollars. One million dollars because 18 years ago, he told the clerk he was giving him 22 bucks when he actually gave him only 6.16. Hey Victor Hugo, we've got a Les Miserables sequel for you.

But our winner, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, the man who was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee when it lost the White House to George Bush in 2000. He went on Fixed News this morning and first said, "during this entire primary coverage, starting in Iowa and up to the present, Fox has done the fairest job, has remained the most objective of all of the cable networks. You hate both our candidates. No, I'm only kidding."

Unfortunately, he didn't stop at I'm only kidding. Going on to tell the Fox Noise people, quote, "you actually have done a very balanced job of reporting the news."

Governor, seriously, if you think the network that still brings up Vince Foster as if his death was Senator Clinton's fault has been balanced towards your candidate, if you think the network on which Dick Morris regularly says Senator Clinton completely fabricated a story about her daughter and 9/11 has been balanced, and if you think the network whose commentators speculate whether Senator Clinton as president would be subject to, quote, "PMS and mood swings" has been balanced to her, if you think the network whose supposed newscaster asked Senator Clinton about Iraq, quote, "why are you so determined to declare defeat," has been balanced towards her, if you think the network which suggested Senator Clinton's moment of emotion in New Hampshire made her likely to break down during a time of national crisis has been balanced toward her, if you really think Fox News, which has done all of that in just the last three months, has been very balanced about reporting the news about Senator Clinton, then Governor Rendell, you are not only no friend of Senator Clinton, but you are also an idiot.

Governor Ed Rendell and Fox News, today's Worst Person in the World!


OLBERMANN: It is an astounding observation and powerfully expressed; our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear, kept us in a continuous stamped of patriotic fervor, with the cry of grave national emergency. Always, there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not rally behind it.

It sounds like who? Noam Chomsky? Katrina Vanden Heuvel? H.L. Mencken? General Douglas MacArthur, you know, old soldiers never die, let's nuke China MacArthur, in 1957.

Our number one story in the Countdown, each American generation since at least the 1880s has been warned by its own government that it was facing unprecedented peril, and if enough time had gone by between these Machiavellian bursts of hyperbole, each American generation has forgotten that it can be manipulated just as easily, just as pointlessly into surrendering judgment, surrendering political power, surrendering freedom.

We begin our week long commemoration of Countdown's fifth anniversary by noting that you and I had not been fully asleep before August 30, 2006, but we had been too drowsy for too long. Then the secretary of defense ended our lingering and foolish reveries.


OLBERMANN: The man who sees absolutes where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning is either a profit or a quack. Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a profit. We end the Countdown where we began, our Number one story with a special comment on Mr. Rumsfeld's remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday. It demands the deep analysis and the sober contemplation of every American, for it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence, indeed the loyalty of the majority of Americans who impose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land.

Worse still, it credits those same transient occupants, our employees, with a total omniscience, a total omniscience which neither commonsense nor this administration's track record, at home or abroad, suggest they deserve it. Dissent and disagreement with government is the life's blood of human freedom and not merely because it the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of his troops still fight this very evening in Iraq. It is also essential, because just every once in a while, it is right and the power to which it speaks is wrong.

In a small irony however, Mr. Rumsfeld speech writer was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis for in their time, there was another government faced with true peril with a growing evil, powerful, and remorseless. That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld's, had a monopoly on all the facts. It too had the secret information, it alone had the true picture of the threat. It too, dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld's. Questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England's in the 1930. It knew Hitler posed in true threat to Europe, let alone to England. It knew Germany was not re-arming in violation of all treaties and accords. It knew that the hard evidence it had received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions, its own omniscient, needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth. Most relevant of all, it knew that its staunchest critics need to be marginalized and isolated, in fact it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty warmonger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused. That critic's name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly we have no Winston Churchill's evidence among this evening, we have only Donald Rumsfeld's demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill. History and 163 million pounds of bombs over England have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty and his own confusion, a confusion that suggested that the office cannot only make the man, but that the office can make the facts.

Thus did Mr. Rums make an apt historical analogy accepting the fact he has the battery plugged in backwards. His government absolute and exclusive in his knowledge is not the version of please one that stood up to the Nazis it is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today's omniscient ones, that about what Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this, this is a democracy, still, sometimes just barely and as such, all voices count, not just his. Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience, about Osama bin Laden's plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein's weapons four year, ago, about Hurricane Katrina's impact one year ago, we all might be able to swallow hard and except their omniscience as a bearable, even useful recipe of fact plus ego.

But to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance and its own hubris. Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to flu vaccine shortages to the entire fog of fear which continues to envelopes our nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and their cronies have inadvertently or intentionally profited and benefited, both personally and politically.

And yet he can stand up in public and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just the receipt for the emperor new clothes.

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child at whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion, we as its citizens must now address, is stark and forbidding. But variations of it have faced our forefathers when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag.

Note, with hope in your heart, that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light and we can too. The confusion is about whether this secretary of defense and this administration are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek, the destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld's other main assertion of that this country faces a new type of fascism as he was correct to remind us that a government that knew everything could get everything wrong. So too was he right when he said that. Though probably not in the way he thought he meant. This country faces a new type of fascism, indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign off each night in feeble tribute, I have no utterly no claims to the words of the exemplary journalist, Edward R. Murrow. But never in the trial of 1,000 years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other polarities thought they and they alone knew everything and branded those who disagreed confused or immoral.

Thus forgive me for reading Murrow in full.

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty" he said in 1954, "We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who fear to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. And so, goodnight and good luck."


Sunday, March 30, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 30
video 'podcast'

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: Pay the $2!

Guests: Lewis Black

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hi, this is the special 5th anniversary edition of our nightly idiosyncratic newscast on cable on MSNBC. We call it Countdown. It's a mixture of politics and humor and every once in awhile, I just kind of off with one of these special comment things like wait - we're in black and white? I mean, I know the industry is going through financial restructuring - we can't afford color?

I mean this of all days, Senator Clinton staying she's staying in the race until kingdom come and we're staying in black and white? Hey, pay the $2.

ANNOUNCER: The following program is brought to you in living color on


OLBERMANN: Thank you.

Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Till hell freezes over.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants.


OLBERMANN: And she agrees. I have no intention of stopping. Senator Clinton says in an interview she requested. "Until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan."

For the Democrats, any exit strategy? This was math so bad that Obama's daily tracking poll lead grows by 10 points today. This with delegate numbers so bad, Clinton might be able to count Florida and Michigan and still not be in the lead.

Ever more delicate Iraq. Al Sadr announces a truce, only it's the kind in which his insurrectionists don't have to give up their weapons. And the president spins unrest as good news.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And by the way, we are withdrawing troops. It's called return on success.


OLBERMANN: Of course, they are only the troops even he can't legally keep there.

The commander in chief threshold task. Senator Clinton speaks up. We have found a copy. Question 15, can you name the new president of Russia?




OLBERMANN: Question 5B, have you ever been tardy to a show on this network?


OBAMA: Thanks, Keith. Sorry we're a little bit late. Hope we don't mess up the countdown.


OLBERMANN: Question nine, how often should the commander in chief joke about nuclear holocaust?




OLBERMANN: Lewis Black tells us whether the current commander in chief passed that test or if he hasn't even handed it in yet.

And the governor's favorite escort service. Turns out it's number two woman executive was trying to make money to finish her college degree in - horticulture. No, I'm not kidding. All that and more now on Countdown.

Good evening. This is Sunday, March 30th, 219 days until the 2008 presidential election.

She did not channel Winston Churchill. She did not say we shall go on to the end. We shall fight in Pennsylvania. She did not say we shall fight in the primaries and in the convention. She did not say we shall fight on the blogs, we shall fight on the Sunday news shows, we shall never surrender.

No, in our fifth story on the Countdown, in an interview she requested, Senator Clinton told the "Washington Post" she will never withdraw from the Democratic primaries nor bow out before the Democratic convention. Quote, "That's what credential committees are for."

On the same subject, Senator Obama said, in effect, whatever. He has not been specifically asked. His reaction to another quote from Senator Clinton largely overlooked. "This will all be for naught if we don't win in November." You might very well think so. I could not possibly comment.

After the first open plea that she bow out, Senator Clinton telling the newspaper she would not even consider dropping out for at least the first three months and beyond that, not until Florida and Michigan are quote, "resolved" on terms she finds acceptable.

Quoting here "I know there are some people who want to shut this down and I think they are wrong. I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan. And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention. That's what credentials committees are for."

The some people to which the senator refers, a substantial number of Democratic leader. Among them only Senator Leahy of Vermont saying it on the record. Leahy later clarifying his comments to say he has - or she has rather every right, but not a very good reason, to keep running.

On the campaign trail this afternoon in State College, Pennsylvania, Senator Obama saying the long primary is good for Democrats. Yesterday in Johnstown, Senator Obama saying his surrogate and colleague Mr. Leahy had been premature in calling for Senator Clinton to drop out.


OBAMA: My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants. Her name's on the ballot and she is a fierce and formidable competitor. She obviously believes that she would make the best nominee and the best president. And I think that, you know, she should be able to compete and her supporters should be able to support her for as long as they are willing or able.


OLBERMANN: Senator Obama's supporters tonight echoing - his staff tonight echoing that that statement is still valid after the comments have come out from Senator Clinton in the "Washington Post." Senator Obama also however believing that undecided super delegates should be able to reach their decision by the time voting has concluded in early June.


OBAMA: We will have had contests in all 50 states, plus several territories. We will have tallied up the pledge delegate vote. We will have tallied up the popular vote. We will have tallied up how many states were won by who. And then at that point, I think people should have more than enough information to make a decision.


OLBERMANN: Before starting along a parade route in a small Pennsylvania town yesterday, President Clinton - hint, he is the one in the green scarf - telling Democrats to relax. In California this afternoon, yesterday's relax had become today's chill out.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't you let anybody tell you that somehow we are weakening the Democratic Party by telling the people in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Indiana and Kentucky and West Virginia and Montana and South Dakota and Oregon and Puerto Rico that they count too. We are strengthening the Democratic Party. Chill out. We're going to win this election if we just chill out and let everybody have their say.


OLBERMANN: As for where things stand nationally, Senator Obama making it a little chillier for Senator Clinton. In the Gallup daily tracking poll, it is now out of today 10 points and that is now behind the so-called Keith number of undecided voters, plus the margin of error, 8 percent, so-called by me.

Time now to bring in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: What is the reaction among Democratic leaders to Senator Clinton's declaration? It's obviously not a surprise to anybody. But is it a surprise that she said it so fervently and comparatively early?

WOLFFE: Well the reaction is a bit like an invitation by Dick Cheney to go hunting. People tend to duck for cover at this kind of thing. And they duck for cover for a number of reasons.

First of all, people want this thing over as soon as possible. Secondly, every time someone has had the courage or the foolishness to stick their head above the parapet, it's been blown off. Nancy Pelosi had a letter for 20 fundraisers, donors saying back off just least week. Senator Leahy had everyone from Barack Obama down, telling him to shut up when he said she should back out. So this is a difficult situation for anyone to get involved with. The track record is pretty ugly.

OLBERMANN: One thing that was specifically contained in those remarks. Senator Clinton told the paper that Florida and Michigan would need to be resolved. Maybe I'm misremembering. Were they not resolved before the votes there? Did Senator Clinton protest the decertification of either state's primary while no other candidate still seemed capable of challenging her? Had she not acquiesced to that which she is trying to change right now?

WOLFFE: Well to be honest, it has been noticed in places like Iowa and New Hampshire that her former commitment to this whole process, the rules which some of her own top officials approved in the DNC, that has sort of been fudged and gone back on. And now the whole system that was set up is obviously under question.

To be fair, there is something unresolved about having delegates from big states not being seated at the convention. But the rules were the rules then. Everyone signed up for them. And essentially the outcome back then at the start of this whole thing was that they wouldn't be seated. So in a sense, it was resolved, but in an unsatisfactory way.

OLBERMANN: To the immediate and long-term future, what would happen, do you suppose, if Senator Obama stopped engaging Senator Clinton in the primary process? I mean, at all. Obviously, they've got the one debate in Pennsylvania coming up, for certain. Otherwise, what would happen if he just started to campaign against Senator McCain and was very kind of off-handed as he was yesterday toward Senator Clinton?

WOLFFE: Well he has been edging towards that. He has two 800-pound gorillas in the room. You cannot actually ignore the Clintons at any stage. And when he has effectively done that, become complacent, it really hasn't gone well for him. He was complacent in New Hampshire. He was complacent or at least tired in Texas and Ohio. He doesn't compete at his best when he is ignoring the very threat in front of him.

So yes, he's got to prove that he can take on McCain. Democrats want to see him doing that. But if ignores her completely, that's a time when a surprise could come up and bite him.

OLBERMANN: Your colleague at "Newsweek," Jonathan Alter, had a very fascinating story from a very highly placed Democrat who had a long history involving the Clintons. And to boil it down, saying leaders have gone to her and said look, if you drop out after Pennsylvania, we could collectively make you perhaps governor of New York or you might have to face this prospect of going back to the Senate, get blamed for losing the election whether you're the nominee or you're not. And good luck, by the way, in the Senate in which the big guns largely sided not with you, but with Senator Obama. Is that particular scenario about the New York's governor race is still a long shot, is there anybody in fact bargaining with her? Or to put it a little less delicately, offering bribes to her?

WOLFFE: Well, that's a difficult conversation to have. I mean, this is beginning to seem like the final scenes from "No Country For Old Men." I mean, it won't be over until everyone's dead. And in this situation, they are just so premature to be even talking about this kind of thing. Especially with the Clintons, who are trying to prove to everyone there's a reason to keep going.

OLBERMANN: John Kerry says this ought to be done by July. Today, Chuck Schumer of New York joined Howard Dean in saying June, get it done by June. Nobody saying how. Is there any indication what they're thinking of? What is the difference as if the statements by Senator Clinton suggests, she's not going to give up no matter what's proposed to her.

WOLFFE: Well, it's incredibly important that Chuck Schumer was the one who came up and said this now, because really if there's any sort of scenario where some group of people could go to her and say maybe it's time to fold here, it's the New York delegation, the people who have stood closest to her.

It's not clear that that actually would be enough. Of course, we don't know how this is going to play out over the next few weeks. Chuck Schumer could be one of those people who could bring down the curtain or at least be one of a group. That's important. The mechanism, the structure, we don't know.

OLBERMANN: 2008, Barry Goldwater, for the former Goldwater girl, how ironic that would be. Richard Wolffe, "Newsweek" and MSNBC. As always as during the week and throughout the last five years, great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: This will all be for naught if we don't win in November, she said. What do the newest delegate counts tell us after caucusing yesterday that has shifted Texas from a Clinton win to clearly an Obama victory?

And other spinning, far more serious. Basra is in flames, al Sadr has ceased fire, but will not surrender his weapons. Have you not heard the good news from Iraq? You're watching Countdown on NBC.


OLBERMANN: In Ft. Worth, an eight-hour delay coupled with lack of air conditioning led to shouting matches. In San Antonio, the owner of a facility threatened to throw people out for fighting. In Houston, they literally called the cops in. Scenes from just before Texas seated seceded from the union at the start of the Civil War? No.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, the unhappy dance across Texas yesterday as Democrats try to find their way through the latest stage of the labyrinth that is their primacaucusvention there.

Close a million showed up to convene in 284 different places yesterday. And by most account, the precincts were totally unprepared to handle the crowd. Local newspapers reporting meetings stretched so long in the night, that many left without knowing whether their votes had even been counted. The Texas Democratic Party still trying to tally the results. But with just over half of all precincts reporting, the "Associated Press" reports Obama is ahead of Clinton 60-40.

So while Senator Clinton won the March 4th primaries, giving her 65 pledged delegates to Obama's 61 delegates, Obama's campaign is claiming overall victory in the Lonestar State, projecting that the senator from Illinois will now get 38 pledged delegates from yesterday's caucuses, while Senator Clinton gained only 29.

The Clinton campaign disputes that and says all votes should be counted before anybody declares victory. Overall at this point, Senator Clinton trailing Senator Obama in pledged delegates, 1,408 to 1,251.

Joining us now, MSNBC and NBC News political director Chuck Todd.

Chuck, thanks for some of your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: So do the math for us, again. Has Obama, as his campaign claims, won Texas? And if so, or even if not, what does that do for the national picture?

TODD: Well one thing folks should keep in mind. In our NBC camp, we have already allocated all of the Texas delegates, sans nine. We were waiting for these final caucus results to finish in to allocate the final nine.

Now, what the Obama campaign is claiming is that seven of those nine belong to them as far as our totals are concerned and Senator Clinton will only get two. We have allocated already the primary and most of the caucus results. So at best, the Obama campaign is going to net all of five delegates, which would expand their pledge delegate lead to 150, almost 160 pledged delegates. Throw in the super delegates and the lead is down to about 125.

OLBERMANN: Chuck, both sides acknowledged that a lot of the delays yesterday in Texas was Clinton supporters challenging legitimacy of delegates, every delegate counts, every vote counts strategy. Not to endorse the no vote left behind theory of Senator Clinton, but riddle me this. How does Texas' system with its sort of three parts to it not disenfranchise the actual voters there?

TODD: Well it really is a mess. If you think about it, here you had millions of folks come to the polls to vote in the Texas primary. And they only allocated two-thirds delegates that way. Then they had this caucus process, which only people who voted in the primary could attend the caucus.

Then they held those results for three weeks, we didn't know the results. That's why we couldn't allocate those final delegates. We knew about half the results, but we didn't get reports from the other half. So it was a mess. It does - I think the Clinton campaign, knowing that there was really a mess going on in Texas, wanted to add to the chaos because they're trying to sort of delegitimize a little bit, how many delegates that Obama gets via this caucus process, in order to try to make that claim that hey, that pledge delegate lead he's got, that's mostly because he's just figured out the caucus process better. That really doesn't matter in the big primaries. She still wins and she did obviously win the primary.

OLBERMANN: Obviously it's not Texas, but central in this baton like march to Denver in the convention as the Clinton called, seat Michigan and Florida if there aren't going to be revotes there. Is there a statistical threshold approaching at which Senator Obama might already have enough delegates that he could acquiesce to that seating of those delegates from Michigan and Florida and still lead in the overall count?

TODD: On May 6th, by May 6th, Keith, there will be of the 566 remaining pledged delegates, 349 of them will be allocated between three states, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana and then also Guam has got four in there. They're on May 4th, sort of wedged in between Pennsylvania and that May 6th primary date.

At that point, when there are only going to be 217 delegates left to be divvied up after May 6th, at that point, if Obama is still sitting on this same delegate lead - which frankly, it's very possible. The way Pennsylvania allocates delegates, his areas of strength in Philadelphia, he should over perform his actual vote total number. North Carolina is a state he could do well in.

If the numbers basically remain unchanged as far as the margin, about 150 to 160 in pledge, 120, 125 when you throw in the supers, then he can be the magnanimous one. I believe this is the Karl Rove idea. I think he wrote an article over the weekend suggesting this, that maybe Obama be magnanimous and say, here you go, Senator Clinton, take all the delegates you want out of Florida and Michigan you claim you've won. You still won't be ahead. Add in the popular vote and you still won't be ahead. Then all of a sudden it actually hurts her overall argument that this race can still go on because if he can sit here and say take these extra delegates that you're claiming that we thought were in dispute and take that vote, and you're still not ahead.

OLBERMANN: Chuck Todd, political director for NBC News and MSNBC. As always, Chuck, our greatest thanks.

TODD: You've got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Waiter, there's a snake in my vodka. Don't worry, sir, he won't drink much.

And how easy would your life be if you could lie to 22 million a week and not get fired? Comedian Rush Limbaugh makes the finals of tonight's contest for the worst person in the world.

But first another nightly Countdown feature, the headlines breaking the administration's 50 running scandals of the administration, Bushed! Number three, Katrina gate. What happened along the Gulf in September 2005 and what didn't happen evidently was not bad enough. One of the contractors hired to award thousands of federal grants so people could rebuild their homes is called ICF International of Virginia. It is now hiring a collection agency to get a lot of that money back. ICF says it may have overpaid as many as 5,000 recipients from the Road Home Program. A group representing many of those recipients say that's not true, ICF is just exacting revenge against Katrina victims who complained about how little money they were awarded.

Number two, your tax dollars in action gate. The good news from the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the number of government laptop computers disappearing from the DEA is down 50 percent from five years ago. The bad news, the number of government guns disappearing from the DEA is up from five years ago. And one of the weapons they just can't seem to find anywhere, a stunt machine gun.

And number one, the nexus of politics and terror gate. The Navy warrior for detainee at Gitmo has filed a legal document saying the terror prosecutions are rigged. In it, he quotes a meeting from September 2006 in which the deputy secretary of defense Gordon England told all the military attorneys to try to schedule any trials before you vote for a president this November. "We need to think about changing - charging some of the high-valued detainees" the document quotes the deputy defense secretary as saying, "because there could be strategic political value by charging some of these detainees before the election." Of course, there's no reason to suspect that the administration has ever played politics with terrorism nor ever tried to scare you into voting for them.


OLBERMANN: Forty-one years ago today was taken perhaps the most famous photograph in music history. At the Chelsea Manor Photographic Studios in Flood Street in Chelsea London, using real wax models from Madame Toussad's, designed by Peter Blake taken by Michael Cooper was the photo for the cover of the Beatles album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Sixty-one different people from Lawrence of Arabia to Bob Dylan. A couple were cut out, Leo Gorcey from the old Bowery Boys movie who wanted to be paid, Ghandi. The record company was afraid of backlash in India. And, oddly, Senator Clinton claims she was in the photograph as well.

At this point the comic relief provided by one of our nightly MSNBC staples. Let's play "Oddball."

We begin over to Bayou Bob's Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch in Texas where old Bayou Bob himself has been arrested for selling vodka without a liquor license. And oh yeah, there's dead rattlesnakes in the booze too. Police confiscated over 400 bottles of Vodka containing single baby rattle snake, saving the Lonestar Stake from a potentially killer cocktail. Right, Texas law guy?


SGT. CHARLIE CLOUD: From what our research says, it's not poisonous. We're going to take a bottle of it to our lab in Austin and have it further analyzed.


OLBERMANN: Graphic kind of got in the way. He's not a Texas alcoholic. No truth to the rumors that the lab is in that guy's music and he will analyze it with some cranberry juice and a twist of lime.

At Waikato, New Zealand, where we join the annual running of the sheep, just like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, except the sheep have the streets to themselves and at the end of the line, they're turned into sweaters. As for how many sheep participated this year, organizers could only offer an estimate of 2,000, because the guy in charge of counting kept falling asleep.

Iraq, violence in Basra continuing to escalate. A sketchy truce in Sadr City and breaking news about a U.S. soldier captured in 2004. It is not good news. Rachel Maddow joins me.

And that famous commander in chief threshold test, we've gotten a copy of it. Lewis Black is here to explain how Mr. Bush did on it.

Stories ahead, but first time for another Countdown's nightly features, our top three best persons in the world. Best is meant ironically. Number three, best euphemism, Pastor Craig Rhodenizer from upstate Lyndonville, New York. He had been missing since Wednesday and everyone feared the worth. Not to worry. They found him alive and kind of well, within 400 miles away at the KC Lounge Strip Club in Riverside, Ohio. He told the missus he was headed out to Best Buy to get his computer fixed.

Laptop, lap dance, what's the difference?

Number two best unintentional irony. Akshay Thusu and the other students at the University of Texas in San Antonio. They finally completed a five-year project to draft a new honor code, urging classmates not to cheat or plagiarize. They put it online for feedback were and were immediately informed some of it had been plagiarized word for word from the honor code at another university. They think they just left out the footnote.

And number one best old joke disproved. Grace O'Toole, who's the

number two female executive in a prostitution ring. According to the "New

York Post," it was patronized by former Governor Eliot Spitzer. A note she

posted on the Web in 2006 indicates she may have been trying to raise money

to resume her college degree, possibly in political science. Or being that

she was a big botany fan, possibly in horticulture. Horticulture? That

old joke is you can lead a horse to water, but you can't lead a -


OLBERMANN: Breaking news tonight that a U.S. soldier missing in Iraq since 2004 has been found. More specifically, more awfully, his remains have been identified. The father of Sergeant Matt Maupin telling the "Associated Press" tonight he has received that word from the U.S. military. This just one week shy of four years since Sergeant Maupin was captured. Capture videotaped, a subsequent video purporting to be his execution never verified.

Four years later, John McCain and President Bush have been touting the success of the surge in Iraq this past week. If you didn't hear them, it may have been drowned out by this week's mortar fire.

Our third story on the Countdown tonight, it's so bad, U.S. officials in the Green Zone today used a phrase likely to starch the shorts of anybody who remembers the Cold War. Duck and cover. After Senator McCain's trip to Iraq last week, he called the escalation a success, the same day the Iraqi government launched an assault in Basra against militias loyal to Muqtada al Sadr, demolishing last year's cease fire, triggering new militia fighting in sometimes militia seizing towns of Nasiriya, Hut (ph), Killa (ph), Amara, Karbala, Shatrah, Zuwayre (ph), Baquba and others, Baghdad among them.

Today, al Sadr called a cease fire, demanding that government release Sadrists who have not been charged be arrested and stop its raids on al Sadr's political allies. But al Sadr is also refusing to disarm. This it is unclear how long this cease fire of the fighting that ended the previous cease fire will itself last.

McCain and Mr. Bush praised the government assault as evidence of Iraq's ability to shoulder its own military burdens. Mr. Bush Friday talking U.S. withdrawal.


BUSH: We are withdrawing troops. It's called return on success. And our intention is to pull down five battalions by July. Troops are coming out. Five brigades, excuse me. Troops are coming out because we're successful.


OLBERMANN: In fact, troops coming out will leave behind a force larger than before Mr. Bush's so-called surge began. And by the time Mr. Bush spoke those very words, Iraq's military proved insufficient and Americans had entered that combat. Not to mention that some of the Iraqis, 40 Baghdad police officers defected to the militias yesterday.

Joining us tonight, MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, also host of her own program every weeknight on Air America Radio. Thanks for your time tonight, Rachel.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush's criteria for success, or of the escalation or the surge, however you want to phrase it, a reduction of violence, political reconciliation in Iraq, the ability to reduce U.S. troop levels to where they were pre-escalation. On which of those criteria are Mr. Bush and Senator McCain basing their claims of success in Iraq?

MADDOW: Well the reduction of violence did happen in some parts of Iraq for some amount of time. Obviously from the footage you were just airing and the news we've all seen this week, it is much, much worse in some other places.

In terms of political reconciliation, that's hard to claim when some Shiite factions are now literally at war with each other. Not in some political metaphor, but are literally waging war against one another in the south of the country and in parts of Baghdad.

And in terms of U.S. troops coming home, in the last few months, we've seen more U.S. troops in Iraq than any other time since the invasion. As you mentioned, after the surge is over, we will have more troops there than before Bush announced this dramatic change in strategy after the November '06 Republican election losses.

It doesn't look like Petraeus or Bush is going to plan to bring down the troop numbers down significantly before Bush is out of office. So if the goal posts keep moving and if the grounds on which you are going to claim success are never remembered, are somehow moved down the field all the time, then success becomes just a political word that doesn't have any absolute meaning at all.

OLBERMANN: It's not just goal posts. This is about the coin toss.

This is the heads, I win, tails, you lose coin toss.


OLBERMANN: When violence dips, Senator McCain, for one, calls this a sign of progress. When violence flares, he calls it a sign that progress is fragile, but both cases he says demonstrate why American troops need to stay there. How does that argument play in November? Is it too simple even to sell to people who want a rationalization to stay in Iraq?

MADDOW: That's the very simply thing that war proponents, whether it's from the Bush proponents now or whether it's from McCain and his advisers for the future. That's the very simple thing you need to understand about what their argument has said, is that heads, I win. Tails, you lose.

Essentially, McCain has argued that if we are not incurring casualties, then U.S. troops can stay forever. But if we are incurring casualties, then U.S. troops can't leave. What that boils down to is casualties, no, they need to stay forever.

Remember when the argument from Bush was we will stand up Iraqi forces so that American forces can stand down? In 2006, Bush and the Pentagon were saying they expected Iraqi forces to be completely in control of all of Iraq by some time in 2007.

And in January 2007, Bush said that would happen by November 2007. Well, of course, now it's March 2008. Iraqi forces aren't even in control of one quarter of Basra, which is Iraq's second largest city. The Pentagon in its latest quarterly report has dropped all mention of when Iraqi forces might be expected to be able to control their own nation. The goal posts just keep moving and keep moving and keep moving.

OLBERMANN: Perversely, do our elections play into events in Iraq? Republicans really want political reconciliation in Iraq now if it mean that is a radical Islamic cleric like al Sadr might do well in Iraqi elections this October, one month before our elections in this November?

MADDOW: Or that Nuri al-Maliki may shore up his political success by allying himself with the Badr brigade, which is the second largest Shiite militia in Iraq, which has even stronger ties to Iran than Muqtada al-Sadr's Medhi army does.

What's going on, you have John McCain surrogates for example like Lindsey Graham, his very close associate on the morning shows today saying it's Iranians killing Americans and trying to turn the crisis in Iraq, the security crisis in Iraq right now into a call essentially for the U.S. to wage war on Iran. It sounds to me like they're trying to push the situation in Iraq right now for their own political gain and toward the next war.

OLBERMANN: Gosh. Who would have thunk that? MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, who has of course her own radio show weeknights on Air America. Thank you, Rachel, good night.

MADDOW: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The much awaited revelation of the commander in chief threshold test. Yes, there is a physical coordination exam.

And our infamous nightly segment, the worst persons in the world. Wal-Mart, suing a brain damaged gold star mother to get back the money its health care plan paid her.

One bit of self promotional dribble. If you really like this show, there's a book filled with these special comments in which I've criticized the current administration, if any. It is called "Truth and Consequences." And after a glorious run, it is now 11th on Amazon's list about books about journalism, stuck between Oprah and something about George Orwell. And it is now available without a prescription.


OLBERMANN: It was Senator Clinton who revealed the existence of a commander in chief threshold on the 6th of this month. Her adviser Howard Wolfson four days later who let the ultimate cat out of the ultimate bag, that there is a key commander in chief test. Well get a pencil, a number two one, and some paper. And find out right now if you or your favorite candidate are presidential tipper. Because our number two story on the Countdown, it took us three weeks, but we have located a copy of the actual commander in chief threshold test.


OLBERMANN: Question one, where does the Green Bay Packers football team play its home games?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: An indifference to Lambert Field and Vince whom I've quoted a few times, I have to go to this Packers fan here.

OLBERMANN: Miss this one as that gentleman did and your marginal victory in Wisconsin is reduced to 12,000 votes. Lambeau Field.

Question two, there's a guy you don't like with a camera at a campaign spot. Do you call him, A, our young visitor or, B, an obscure racial term from North Africa?

GEORGE ALLEN, FORMER SENATOR: Let's give a welcome to macaca here.

OLBERMANN: Question three, the commander in chief physical challenge.

Question four, have you ever hosted a failed show on this network?

Question five, are there still air check tapes of these shows?


I'm Alan Keyes.

OLBERMANN: A yes to question four or five, and you have failed the commander in chief test. Question 5a, have you ever been tardy to a show on this network?

OBAMA: Keith, sorry we're a little bit late. I hope we don't mess up the Countdown.

KEYES: The very thought sickens me.

OLBERMANN: Question six, the biathlon event, just the Olympics, a combination of cross country and shooting.

Question seven, military experience. If you have any, make sure you bring documents. Question eight military experience, if you have any, even if you served in Korea, do not pose in a tank if you look funny in a helmet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America can't afford that risk.

OLBERMANN: Question nine, what is the correct way for a commander in chief to address the subject of the presidential inseam?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See if you can't leave me about an inch from where the zipper uh ends round under my - back to my bunghole.

OLBERMANN: Question 10, how often should the commander in chief joke about nuclear holocausts?

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

OLBERMANN: Let me repeat question ten. How often should the commander in chief joke about nuclear holocaust?

MCCAIN: Bomb Iran. Bomb, bomb, bomb. Anyway -

OLBERMANN: Question 11, which previous commander in chief should you invoke most often during your campaign?


MCCAIN: Ronald Reagan.


MCCAIN: Ronald Reagan.

ROMNEY: Ronald Reagan.


ROMNEY: Ronald Reagan.

OLBERMANN: Question 12, how close should you claim your relationship to that commander in chief was?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've had triumphs and made some mistakes. We've had some sex - setbacks.

OLBERMANN: Question 13, are you now or have you ever been confused about who will be your right-hand man when you are commander in chief?

BUSH: Left-hand now knows what the right hand is doing. The left hand now knows what the right hand is doing.

OLBERMANN: Question 14, the lightning round.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you name the president of Chechnya?

GEORGE W. BUSH: No. Can you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you name the president of Taiwan?

BUSH: Yeah, Lee (ph). The new Pakistani general who has just been elected - not elected, but took over office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can name him?

BUSH: General? I can name the general.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the prime minister of India?

BUSH: The new prime minister of India is - no.

OLBERMANN: Question 15. Who is the new president of Russia?

CLINTON: Medvedev (ph), whatever.



OLBERMANN: Question 16, explain the fallacious reports of an interaction between secular groups of the 90 percent Shia population of Iran and the violent groups of extremists in 40 percent Sunni Iraq identifying themselves as al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. And no help from the other students.

MCCAIN: Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: You said the Iranians were training al Qaeda. You meant to say they were training extremists, terrorist.

MCCAIN: I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda.

OLBERMANN: I said no help.

MCCAIN: Bomb bomb bomb, anyway -

OLBERMANN: And lastly, question 17. The commander in chief field danger assessment. Watch this sample videotape carefully. Is this a dangerous situation on the front lines somewhere, requiring the commander in chief to run to his or her vehicle or is this a meet and greet photo op at an airport?

And for bonus points, is that a little girl with a poem or a sniper?

Very short sniper with a poem.


OLBERMANN: So if you got between zero and four answers correct, you're not only not qualified to be president, you shouldn't be allowed out of the house by yourself. Five to eight right, it probably wouldn't hurt if you visited Washington, but please don't stay over night. Nine to 14 right, well, we've done worse. If you are going to run, we recommend you stick to trying to seek the nomination of the wig party or perhaps the Federalists. Fifteen or more right, congratulations. You are qualified to be president. Why on earth are you wasting your time watching this show?

What does a current occupant get on that test? Our friend Lewis Black from Comedy Central's "Root of All Evil" is here to do what he does oh, so very well, pass judgment. That's next.

But first time for another one of our regulars features, Countdown's nominees for the worst person in the world.

Our bronze goes as it will until they resolve this to Wal-Mart. In 2000, one if its Missouri employees Debbie Shank was horribly injured by a semi, brain damaged, in a wheelchair in a nursing home, now. She was left with $417,000 to pay for a lifetime worth of 24 hour a day care and Wal-Mart sued her for the $417,000. There was a clause in her Wal-Mart health care that she did not know about, which allowed the company to get back any amount it paid for her recuperation. So legally, Wal-Mart is right. But Mrs. Shank's injuries are such that she has a hard time remembering new things. When she asks about her 18-year-old son Jeremy every day, they have to tell her every day that he was killed in Iraq last September and she goes through that as if for the first time every day. Wal-Mart, low prices, lower ethics every day.

The runner up, comedian Rush Limbaugh, standard manure here. But as usual, every once and a while he goes overboard and gets caught in a flat out lie. Now saying of Senator Obama, he's never reached across the aisles for legislation. He's a blank slate by his own admission. Except when he reached across the aisle for the Lugar/Obama initiative on nuclear proliferation, cosponsored with Richard Lugar in Indiana, who is a Republican senator. Except when he reached across the aisle for the Congo relief bill, cosponsored with Republican Senators Brownback, Collins, DeWine and Inhofe.

But our winner, Dick Morris, he said this on FOX News the other day. Now he's written it in a column for a lunatic fringe Web site and he's lied twice about this. Talking about the quote, "elaborate yarn" Senator Clinton told on the "Today Show" a week after 9/11, that her daughter was jogging around the World Trade Center when it was hit.

Quoting Dick, "The kindest thing we could say was it was a fantasy or a fabrication." Problem is, Senator Clinton never said it. See, even from the ancient past, 2001, Dick, we still keep the tapes from the "Today Show." And what Senator Clinton did say about her daughter and the World Trade Center was, quote, "She was going to go down to Battery Park. She was going to go around the tower. She went to get a cup of coffee and that's when the plane hit. She was close enough to hear the rumble."

"A fabrication about 9/11 and Chelsea," writes Morris, continuing to lie, "calls into question her entire credibility."

No, it doesn't. It would call into question your entire credibility, if your entire credibility hadn't been shot when it turned out when you used to let your hooker listen into your phone calls to the White House. Dick, three-way calling Morris, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: You want to worry about the future of the democracy? Just remember that while there has never been a real version of that commander in chief threshold test we showed you before the commercial, until a couple of years ago, you had to pass an actual exam written and practical to get a license in Pennsylvania to be a taxidermist.

Number one story on the Countdown, shouldn't we ask as much of our would-be presidents as we do of our say, ham radio operators or has that ship already sailed?

Lewis Black has a somewhat judgmental show on Comedy Central, "Lewis Black's The Root of All Evil" and in June, he'll have a new book, "Me of Little Faith." Good to see you sir.


OLBERMANN: Why don't we have some sort of test? I mean showing up with a number two pencil should give you some hope for the guy.

BLACK: Yeah. Actually, I think if you started with a urinalysis, they would still find a way to cheat.

OLBERMANN: There is the device that the football players use.

BLACK: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Allowing you to bring someone else's urinalysis to the test.

BLACK: But what I did like about the concept of a test is if would do that and then whoever got the highest score just won and we didn't have to go through this. You know, seriously. It's just too much that's gone on. I don't know how you do it every single night having to watch this.

OLBERMANN: I don't have to go through it - a urinalysis test. That's how I do it. President Bush, commander in chief, in your estimation, studied the man now for seven years, other things in chief?

BLACK: Vacationer in chief.

OLBERMANN: That's true.

BLACK: He's the chief vacationer. He takes every August when I'm still doing stuff that really - there's no reason I should be working and there's like - and we're in the midst of another catastrophe, and he's out there.

I go, well, he's doing it for me. He's doing it for me. And he also sleeps for us. How can he sleep? He sleeps more than - I mean, we do these things where you kind of have days where you - you know, we do this kind of show, we get pumped up, hard to go to sleep. He goes through it. Boom, every day, it must be like an adrenaline rush. How does he sleep?

What's he taking? Why doesn't he tell us?

OLBERMANN: Well it's the other option, a phrase that was once used to me in sports - I'm not saying it applies to anybody currently. But no pain to gain. But the corollary to that was no brain, no pain. So I'm not saying that applies. All right, an actual threshold test. Some minimum requirements, would it have been helpful for this administration? Would he have expected more of himself, perhaps?

BLACK: Reading. Just reading. The ability to read a resume would have been nice, as opposed to kind of picking up a piece of paper and going, oh, yeah, that will work.

OLBERMANN: Who sent this guy? One thing, oh, yeah, I know him.

BLACK: And he believes in God.

OLBERMANN: The threshold moment of this administration, can we even keep track of them? The actual test in the field where you're already the president and suddenly people go, check, please.

BLACK: I think as a stand-up comic, if I were to go back through all of this that I've talked about and made fun of, I would be on stage. It would be a telethon.

OLBERMANN: Jerry Lewis out, Lewis Black in.

BLACK: It's endless. And then when you think, well, you kind of forget he's there for a little bit and then all of the sudden you turn around and you know the bank is going down. Because he said the bank was going to be OK. Everything is going to be OK. The economy is OK. Then all of a sudden, Bear Stearns goes to hell. Then the next day they say, we're going to regulate it with the - we're going to use the federal regulated reserve system. Then you go and read the paper. They have really no plan. And you just go, you have no plan at this point?

OLBERMANN: Well, again, a test would have been helpful at some point. Do you have a plan of any kind? Let's look ahead in the brief time.

BLACK: Do we have to?

OLBERMANN: Yes. McCain, Obama, Clinton, how are they scoring so far in our imaginary mental exam?

BLACK: I think three. That would be the score O would give each of them.

OLBERMANN: Out of what?

BLACK: Out of 100.


BLACK: Especially if they're going to keep this up. My feeling is that I've seen so much of them that I feel like they've already been president. I can pretty much figure out what it will be like and let's pick somebody else. Let's move on.

OLBERMANN: You're on the phone to Al Gore saying, this is how this should be resolved? You're going to intervene?

BLACK: He can pass the test, but let's not push it.

OLBERMANN: Who is it? It's you, isn't it?

BLACK: Oh, yeah.

OLBERMANN: Jon Stewart?

BLACK: My mother won't allow me.

OLBERMANN: Well then who?

BLACK: Santa.

OLBERMANN: All right, Santa. Lewis Black of Comedy Central and the upcoming book "Me Of Little Faith" and the chairman of the Santa for president committee.

BLACK: I am. I've been pushing this. Well, you'll come around.

OLBERMANN: You keep pushing.

BLACK: Another month of this, you'll come around.

OLBERMANN: Thanks for coming in.

That is Countdown for this, the 1,795th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. As unlikely as this seems, we bring you Countdown live every weeknight on cable on MSNBC at 8 Eastern, 5 Pacific. This is our fifth anniversary week. We'll be looking back at the wilder moments from the "Dragnet" episode about Senator Larry Craig to the journalistic innovation we call "puppet theater" to tomorrow night, replay of the first special comment of August 2006.

Till then, I'm Keith Olbermann. From New York, good night and good luck.


Friday, March 28, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 28
podcast missing

Video via MSNBC: Oddball

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Paul F. Tompkins

AMY ROBACH, INTERIM HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Pressure mounts for Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race.

Senator Patrick Leahy jumps to the chase.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama.


ROBACH: President Bill Clinton's response?




ROBACH: This as Barack Obama picks up the super and big Pennsylvania endorsement.


SEN. BOB CASEY, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: I believe in my heart that there's one person who's uniquely qualified to lead us in that new direction and that is Barack Obama.


ROBACH: Could Hillary Clinton be leading New York State soon?

Jonathan Alter leads us with an exclusive Democratic Party officials working on an elaborate plan to get Senator Clinton to run for governor of New York maybe as soon as this summer.

And: As the Dem battle carries on, John McCain rolls out his first ad of the general election.


ANNOUNCER: The American president Americans have been waiting for.


ROBACH: The implication of that with Rachel Maddow.

And recognize that voice?


ANNOUNCER: The American president Americans have been waiting for.


ROBACH: Any implications behind that guy doing the voiceover.

And the implications of these: Belly dancing in Turkey, planning a personal disco in her basement, these and other Mother Theresa moments have caused Paris Hilton to officially name herself a role model for girls.

Happy Women's History Month.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening, I'm Amy Robach. Keith Olbermann has the night off.

Some Democrats believe that the party's nominating process has picked steam only recently while others feel it has long since past it's sell-by date, but not until today, that a leading Democrat, has actually called on one of the candidates to drop out of the race.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Senator Patrick Leahy says it's time for Senator Clinton to pick up her marbles and go home.

In a radio interview this morning, the Vermont Democrat who supports Senator Obama turned up the heat on Clinton because of his concerns that Senator McCain is getting a huge head start. He also said Clinton's criticism of Obama is hurting her Democratic rival far more than it is damaging the presumptive Republican nominee.


LEAHY: There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination. She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama. Now, obviously, that's a decision that only she can make. Frankly, I feel that she would have a tremendous career in the Senate.


ROBACH: Later, Senator Leahy put out a statement clarifying his remarks quoting from it: "Senator Clinton has every right, but not a very reason, to remain candidate for as long as she wants to. As far as the delegate count and the interest of a Democratic victory in November go, there is not a very good reason for drawing this out. But as I have said before, that is a decision that only she can make."

Yesterday, Senator Chris Dodd who also supports Obama suggested that party leader should come together in April to force an end to the nomination fight.

Meanwhile, Senator Obama picked up a new supporter today, winning the endorsement of Senator Bob Casey. The Pennsylvania Democrat had been planning to stay neutral until after that state's primary next month, but at a rally in Pittsburgh, Casey said the enthusiasm that his four daughters have for Obama changed his mind. Casey also told reporters that he hopes the Democratic primary doesn't go much longer than the end of May.


CASEY: I think we'd be better off having a nominee in the time period, certainly in late May or early June. That would be ideal, I think. Because, if you get too far into the summer, I think, positions begin to harden and I think that we lose time to not just unite and bring people together, but also we're giving the Republican nominee more time to make the case against our nominee without having enough rebuttals.


ROBACH: The leader of the Democratic Party with different time frame in mind, Governor Howard Dean said this morning that he wants superdelegates to weigh in by July 1st, three months from now.



superdelegates to say who they are for publicly sometime -


DEAN: Well, I think it would be nice to have this all done by July 1st. If we can do it sooner than that, that's all the better. And we don't want this to generate into a big fight at the convention.


ROBACH: So, what about the candidates? How do they feel about all of this?

Well, Senator Clinton wanted voters in Hammond, Indiana to know that she knows a thing or two about come backs and she does not plan on dropping out.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know what it's like to be counted down and counted out. But I also know that there isn't anything that will keep us down if we are determined to get up and fight on.


CLINTON: You know, there are some people who want to stop this election. And I got to tell you, I think it's pretty exciting that Indiana is going to get to pick the next president of the United States.


ROBACH: On this network, this afternoon, Obama campaign national co-chairman Bill Daly (ph) said people should not be calling on Senator Clinton to drop out of the race. Senator Obama himself told voters in Pittsburgh that the long campaign has been a good thing.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's some people who felt like, God, when is this thing going to be over. It's like a good movie that lasts to about a half hour too long.


OBAMA: But, the truth is that, I think this has been a great campaign, a great primary season. It's been hard, it's been tough, but it's been hard and tough because both Senator Clinton and I understand what is at stake. How important this race is. How important the next presidency will be.


ROBACH: Time now to bring in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek." Richard, good evening.


ROBACH: So, if Senator Leahy says that he is primarily worried about the attacks against Senator Obama and what that it may do in a general election, why not - I mean, is the problem Hillary Clinton or is it really just the tone of the campaign? And if that's what he truly intended, why not to say, hey, everybody keep it clean?

WOLFFE: Well, yes, look, he can make the case that the tone of this race is directly related to the length of it, but actually that's no excuse for the negative spiral tone that we have seen going on from both campaigns in the last couple of weeks. And at this stage, it really - this prolonged race has actually on balance, probably helped these candidates to become better candidates.

The danger is. Are they wasting that financial advantage that over Republicans by attacking each other? Are the factions (ph) going too far? And unfortunately Senator Leahy's comments only aggravate the tone. They don't make it any better.

ROBACH: Yes, it's actually interesting because Senator Clinton sent out a fundraising e-mail based on Leahy's comments. I mean, in a weird way could this actually help Hillary Clinton's campaign?

WOLFFE: Well, let's be clear. They send out fundraising e-mails for just about every burp (ph) and whistle on this campaign. And of course, really, money is the thing that can curtail the campaign much more than any superdelegates saying anything.

But the truth is, there is a very compelling argument for Senator Clinton or any candidate to say, they, the establishment, my opponent is trying to shut me up, try to stop you from voting, let's go on. Now, of course, that's going to be hard to make that case in Pennsylvania, because the Clinton is really, only establishment in Pennsylvania. But it is nonetheless, a very powerful argument for the Clintons.

ROBACH: Yes, and, Richard, a lot of people have been waiting to see if there would be that bandwagon effect following Governor Bill Richardson endorsement of Barack Obama. So, what we saw today from Senator Leah and Senator Casey, could that have an impact that many have thought on those ever important superdelegates in which way they decide to lean?

WOLFFE: You know, the argument for Senator Clinton right now is through superdelegates. And it has to be a very compelling one to get them to overturn Barack Obama's lead among the pledged delegates. That kind of compelling argument is more than just, I'm a better candidate or on balance, my strengths are more than his.

It really has to be that this guy is a flake (ph). He's going to lose by 49 states. And anytime you have superdelegates of the caliber of Bob Casey, or Bill Richardson coming out, it makes it harder to say that Barack Obama is going to lose and lose badly. You can't dismiss those kinds of voices.

ROBACH: And, Richard, if there still aren't enough superdelegates that weighed in after the races in Montana and South Dakota, that's on June 3rd, how might Howard Dean be planning on forcing people to make up their minds by, he says, July?

WOLFFE: You know, I have no idea what goes on in Howard Dean's head. I covered his campaign and I struggled to answer that question even then. Look, he can threaten these people, there's no pressure he can apply to them. That's a lot of wishful thinking going on.

Ultimately, one of them is going to reach the magic number. They just hoping and praying, it doesn't happen until August. They want to do it before then.

ROBACH: Yes, I mean, that said, Richard. I mean, with all that you've covered over the course of several campaigns, you know, what is the likelihood here? I mean we're seeing an absolute stalemate between these two candidates and a lot of superdelegates, as we mentioned, on the fence. I mean, what is the likely timeline here?

WOLFFE: Well, look, the hurdle for Barack Obama is lower. He needs, according to a great analysis by Chuck Todd, about 1/3 of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates and Hillary Clinton needs 2/3. That lower bar is just easier for him to attain in a shorter time frame.

But what that time frame is, we just don't know. We're really guessing here.

ROBACH: All right. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," thanks for your time and insight tonight.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Amy.

ROBACH: All right. Democrats are reported to be looking for a consolation prize to give Senator Clinton have come up with a doozy. How does Governor Clinton sound to you?

Well, "Newsweek's" Jonathan Alter is reporting that some Democrats are floating the New York State House as an option to lure Senator Clinton before the bloody primary campaign leaves the party too damaged to win in November.

Jonathan Alter joins us now. Thanks so much for coming in.


ROBACH: This is certainly an intriguing scenario to say the least.

Has the Clinton campaign said anything about this today?

ALTER: Yes, they aren't buying it, you know. In fact, Howard Wolfson said, it hadn't even heard anything about this but it comes from, I can only describe the main source as a very senior Democrat, and I can't get more specific than that, but people have to, I guess, take it on faith a little bit that this is not just any old smoe (ph). This is somebody important who has gone to the Clinton's and said that this is an option they should consider, after Pennsylvania, but without stretching the whole thing out.

The reason the option has risen is that after the resignation of Eliot Spitzer, the new governor of New York, David Paterson has gotten off to a very rocky start. There were revelations by him, actually, of extensive drug use when he was younger, a number of affairs, and there are allegations that those affairs used campaign money.

He has denied that, and so far, he seems like he's going to hang on as governor. But there are a lot of rumors in Albany. And so, those rumors then generate since that, hey, maybe, you know, Paterson might have to resign too. Then, they'd have a special campaign.

ROBACH: What would have to happen? I mean, New York has gone through a tumultuous couple of weeks and we've heard quite a lot of detail, Paterson trying to get it all out so that no one would have any, you know, they wouldn't have anything on him. What would have to happen to Governor Paterson in order for this all to happen?

ALTER: Well, there are a couple of scenarios and by the way, in New York newspapers, Rudy Giuliani's name has now surfaced to run for governor if Paterson can't act (ph) - I mean, you could have a special election should he have to resign, should there be some very damaging revelations, which is possible. If not, he's up in 2010 and wouldn't necessarily make the strongest candidate in 2010.

Hillary Clinton could probably slip into the governorship pretty easily should she decide to run. So, the question that's in the minds of some of these Democrats who like Hillary Clinton is: Would she better off positioning herself for 2012 from the Senate or from Albany? And they make the argument, the executive experience and other things that would benefit her in Albany would give her a very strong claim on 2012.

ROBACH: And you mention 2012 because of McCain and new reports

that Senator Clinton believes Barack Obama will lose to Senator McCain and

obviously -

ALTER: Yes, might.

ROBACH: Might well lose to John McCain.

ALTER: Not necessarily, but it's not a shoo-in. And then, she

would want to maintain -

ROBACH: McCain's 75, so he's likely not to seek a second term.

ALTER: Exactly and then, she, you know, wants to maintain her viability for 2012. So, there are people who are very concerned about her long-term future who want a graceful exit strategy if that it becomes clear that this presidential thing is not working out too well this year for her.

ROBACH: And, if that's the case, (INAUDIBLE) if she believes that

I mean, she needs John McCain in the presidency in order to make this all work. What incentive would there then be her to get out of this race early? It would be better to stay in and kind of beat up Barack Obama a bit, right?

ALTER: Well, I think, that's a little bit - I mean, she's not getting out of the race anyway, right? She's have said that she will stay unless she loses Pennsylvania or loses, you know, Indiana and North Carolina in which case she will definitely have to get out. So, she's probably staying in.

But there are a lot of Democrats who are worried about the damage that this does. Now, Hillary Clinton has not shut the door on this governor talk by the way. Bill thinks it's nonsense. But, you know, Hillary understands she does have to make some contingency plans if this doesn't work out for her, start at less thinking about it a little bit.

She's in the struggle right now and, you know, wants to win and is going to stay in but you can't help thinking ahead a little bit. Does she want to go back to the Senate where so many senators, you know, Ted Kennedy, Pat Leahy, you know, Casey, but there are a whole bunch of Democratic senators now who she essentially feels like they stabbed her in the back?

And would she prefer to go back and work with them and be majority leader maybe? Possibly, that would be the best thing for her. But what these, well, you know, friends of Hillary Clinton think is, governor is not so bad. Maybe it's an option worthy thinking about for her.

ROBACH: It is certainly very interesting, indeed. Jonathan Alter, thanks so much, of "Newsweek." We appreciate it as well as MSNBC.

ALTER: Thanks, Amy.

ROBACH: Well, much more on the political impact of Jonathan story. This exit strategy for the perceptive of the Clintons, and how might the all important superdelegates react?

Chuck Todd is coming up next.

And: With his nomination locked up, Senator McCain unveiled his first general election ad. The meaning behind the message and what about the voice-over, is there a hidden meaning who tracks the spot?

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


ROBACH: Would Hillary Clinton really give up her fight for the White House to be governor of New York? John McCain says he's the American president Americans have been waiting for. And Paris Hilton says she's a role model for young women. No joke.

A lot to get to, ahead on Countdown.


ROBACH: It's more than the current president had five years ago and yet dependent on so many contingencies, it's feasibility is highly questionable.

Our fourth story on Countdown: More on the Clinton exit strategy. Not from Iraq, but from the race. As Jonathan Alter reported, some Democrats are now holding out the New York governorship as a charactic (ph) to lure (ph) Hillary Clinton into leaving this presidential campaign, an exit strategy entirely dependent on the current New York governor, David Paterson losing support and dropping out and dependent on Clinton truly believing she can no longer win the Democratic nomination.

Joining us now to assess whether any of it is even possible, is our own political director Chuck Todd. Chuck, thanks for your time tonight.


ROBACH: All right. So if Paterson drops out, and that is clearly a big if, will Hillary Clinton even want this job?

TODD: Look, I'd be shocked. You know, that said, you know, it just was a shocking thing when we found out that she decided that she wanted to be a U.S. senator in New York. You know, we'd figure it would be Arkansas or Illinois and New York was sort of kind of a shock when that happened.

But Albany is a mess. It's a tough place politically. You got to do - it's a dirty, muddy place. I don't mean dirty, and some sort of that is bad politics but it's just, you got to get down into the weeds.

It is not a good launching pad anymore, I think, to go to the presidency. It's a tough thing for her to do. I think it has bogged down a lot of governors in the past and made it very difficult to go to the national office right away.

ROBACH: Yes, and coupled with that, we heard Jonathan Alter pointing out in his piece that Bill Clinton apparently, has adamantly opposed to any talk of this. So, how much does that affect this potential?

TODD: Well, look, I mean the whole reason why somebody is floating this, frankly, is to try to create this air of inevitability that she is done. That she doesn't, that she can't win the nomination.

And, you know, it is highly unlikely, that it's truly somebody that wants Clinton to somehow be the nominee for the presidency that is floating this idea. So, you have to sort of look at it through that lens, which is probably exactly how the Clintons feel about right now. And look, they're both - Obama and Clinton are in the trenches.

I mean, frankly, I've heard, you know, rumors that Obama wants to run for governor in 2010, himself, in Illinois if for some reason this doesn't work out. But you almost wonder, did those whispers come from some Clinton supporters, who want to figure out a way to make sure people think there's a plan B for them.

ROBACH: Yes, I mean, it's interesting because just this mere suggestion that Hillary Clinton could have an exit strategy, should she believe she's done in the presidential race? I mean, does that have any real, maybe even a minor impact on these undecided superdelegates were thinking, wow, she's thinking, what if? This could be, you know, mine, to help me decide.

TODD: Well, look, I'll tell you what the Clinton campaign thinks. They think that the Obama campaign has been very clever this week in creating this idea that somehow the race is over again. And that every three or four weeks, the Obama campaign, they say, creates a week like this.

You know, where they had a couple of their supporters come out and say, you know what, it maybe time to go. Pat Leahy out of Vermont, Chris Dodd has sort of intimating that in an interview, both are Obama supporters. Then you throw in the Bob Casey endorsement, last week it was Richardson endorsement.

So, it was sort of book end (ph), what it looks like he's the guy with momentum. The polls are showing that it looks like he weathered the storm about Reverend Wright. He's starting to pick.

So, you wonder, do they helped plant the seed of this story as well, so that people think, oh, wow, maybe she is done and then donors stop giving her money and then, it becomes this perception that she's done becomes a reality.

ROBACH: And Bill Clinton on the campaign trail today, Chuck, declared that the remaining primary contests are not about delegates but more about the popular vote. And he told this crowd in North Carolina, quote, "Now, we're going to have to go all the way through to the end to see who has the most popular votes."

Is this the Clinton campaign's only real remaining argument to try to secure this nomination? And what's the likelihood that she could have the edge on the popular vote?

TODD: Well, it is her only way to sort of create some - give the superdelegates something to say, well, OK, Obama won pledged delegates, but she won more votes.

Look, the likelihood if you don't count Michigan and Florida, two contests that the DNC doesn't count, it's very hard for her to surpass Obama in the popular vote. She'd have to win Pennsylvania by some 15 to 20 points. And, frankly, she has to not lose North Carolina by very much.

And yet, right now, polls show Obama winning North Carolina about the same amount as she may win Pennsylvania. So, that would cancel each other out. And then, maybe, there'd be no way that she could erase that 700,000 vote margin.

So, I think it's very difficult. It's possible. But, look, if she doesn't figure out how to upset him in North Carolina, I don't see how she's the nominee.

And, I really think, ultimately, that's what this is about. This is about her not getting so much momentum out of Pennsylvania that she actually beats him in North Carolina, a place that he should do well.

ROBACH: All right. Chuck Todd, political director for NBC News and MSNBC. Chuck, thanks and have a great weekend.

TODD: You got it, Amy, you too.

ROBACH: Well, spring time means the return of baseball. And for Oddball, that means the return of the high pressure opening pitch and breaking Britney news.

People some think that her appearance on a CBS sitcom went so well, she's ready for live stage work. Oh, boy.

That and more: Ahead on Countdown.


ROBACH: It was on this date in 1930 that the great Turkish city of Constantinople officially switched its name to Istanbul. Of course, way back in the day, the city was founded by the Greeks and called Byzantium, making Istanbul not Constantinople for merely Byzantium the Sean Poppy Puff Daddy P Diddy Colmes ancient cities.

Let's play Oddball.

Speaking of name changes, we begin in Tampa, Florida where yesterday, the spring training home field of the New York Yankees was changed from Tradition Field to George Steinbrenner Field. Steinbrenner, the Yankees owner was on hand for the ceremony, but let his wife, Joan do the honors of throwing out the first pitch to the pristine and newly named ballpark.

There are no umpires, but I'd call that one a ball.

To East Providence, Rhode Island, with a cat that's almost as big as the entire state of Rhode Island. This is Alice the cat, weighing in at a amazing 22,000 pounds. No, that's actually a decimal, so that's about 22 pounds. Actually, Alice has lost weight since her owner left her at the Rhode Island ASPCA. She started at a whopping 26 pounds. The shelter says, once she gets down to about 10 pounds, they will find Alice a new home. Good luck with that.

Finally, let's go over to Germany. We are at the Nuremburg Zoo. We get the latest trivial update on Flaca (ph), the baby polar bear. This is footage of the bear taking the first steps outdoors. Look at her go. The zoo emptied out the tiger cage to let Flaca roam around. This is her first exposure to the great outdoors. After spending the first three months of her life inside, mostly playing video games and napping.

Stay tuned to Oddball for more unimportant yet gratuitously cute baby zoo animal updates.

Senator John McCain revealed his first campaign ad of the general election. Rachel Maddow on what exactly McCain is going for in the ad, and is there a hidden message in the symbolism of who tracked the ad?

Later, Paris Hilton goes to the only country that will allow her to judge a beauty contest, Turkey. She tries to convince people there she's a role model for young girls. Yes, right. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best destination for a one way ticket, the moon. The low, low price of only 10,000, Celsestis Inc, the same company that sent the ashes of Scotty from Star Trek into orbit, will take some of yours up and leave them on the lunar surface. Six people have already signed up to call the moon their final resting place. So act now, don't delay, space in space is limited.

Number two, best reason to read the fine print, Wang Zhiqing of China, needed some stitches and shots after being attacked by wild dogs. His insurance claim was rejected, not because his doc was out of network or he didn't have that referral, he was rejected because he didn't know karate and if he did, he could have fought the dogs off.

Number one, best example of having your priorities in check, a drive in Oakland is OK after losing control of her car and landing in a stream early Thursday morning. She freed herself from the car and swam for safety while holding her morning cup of Joe upright. Can't really blame her; have you seen what a double pump non-fat Caramel Machioto is costing these days?


ROBACH: In a move that mirrors the paradox facing John McCain, today, he released the year's first general election ad. In one state, our third story tonight, the ad offers answers to the question of who is John McCain and offers hints to the question, who is John McCain running against. On that subject, a couple of viewing tips, note the gender used in the questions about the next president and see if you recognize the actor narrating the ad.


MCCAIN: Keep that faith; keep your courage; stick together; stay strong; do not yield; Stand up; we're Americans and we'll never surrender.

POWERS BOOTH, ACTOR: What must the president believe about us? About America? That she is worth protecting? That liberty is priceless? Our people, honorable, our future prosperous, remarkable and free.

What must we believe about that president? What does he think? Where has he been? Has he walked the walk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your rank?

MCCAIN: Lieutenant commander in the Navy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your official number?

MCCAIN: 624787.

BOOTH: John McCain, the American president Americans have been waiting for.

MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.


ROBACH: Considering that all presidents have been American presidents, it is not clear whether McCain's line is a dig at Mr. Bush, what he wasn't the president we were waiting for? Or an attempt to question Barack Obama's Americaness, or even a preemptive attempt to deal with the fact that McCain himself was not born in America, but on a U.S. Naval station in Panama.

The Democratic National Committee today speculated that McCain launched the ad in only one state, the state of New Mexico, because he only raised 11 million dollars last month. McCain on Monday will explore his biology further, launching a tour of some pivot sights in his life. Oh, McCain's ad narrator. Listen one more time.


BOOTH: John McCain, the American president Americans have been waiting for.


ROBACH: It's actor Powers Booth, perhaps known as "Deadwood's" resident salon keeper and brothel owner. As well, as the evil vice president on "24" who tries to steal the presidency from a black man, but that's a story. It was a TV show. It was wrong of us.

With us now is MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow. That was for you - who has her own show every week night on Air America. Rachel, good evening.


ROBACH: The ad reportedly aimed at Barack Obama. So what does this tell us about how McCain will, or perhaps will not, run his campaign?

MADDOW: I just have to comment on how cool it is that you guys figured out that this is the guy who played the pimp and the guy who plays the guy who steals the office of the presidency from the black president.

ROBACH: I don't think they were thinking about that. They just liked his voice.

MADDOW: You have to think about that when you launch a general election campaign. Who was the second choice, Darth Vader? Also a good voice but blew up a planet. Might be an awkward thing to bring. I find that incredible. It's the perfect Friday detail on a politics story.

In terms of what we can gleam from McCain's campaign from this ad, I think that this kind of signals to us that he's going to do the typical nod wink at some of the harsher issues in the campaign. He's not going to come out and say Barack Obama is not really an American. Prove to me that he's an American. But he's going to nod and wink at the issue. He's going to end his campaigns with John McCain, the American president that Americans have been waiting for in America, and hope we get the point.

It also opens up that he ground for outside groups to maybe come in and make the charge against Obama explicitly.

ROBACH: Historically, we haven't seen McCain put out his Vietnam experience in a political sense. If he does it too early, does he run the risk of over-exposing himself to Americans on that level?

MADDOW: John McCain often protests that he does not want to campaign on his Vietnam service. But it's not the first time he's brought it up. Even in this campaign, this is at least the second time he has used that tape from his P.O.W. days in a campaign ad. He has gone to this well. I think that if I were his campaign manger, I think I would recognize this as the strongest card he has to play with the American public, and I would understand why he would play it early and often, even if the candidate insists that he's not playing it.

The question is whether or not the American people will see him as trying to cash in on that service and whether that will be seen as untoward in some way.

ROBACH: Now, we know in the polls are going to go up and down and all around between now and then. But we are going to looking at every little detail and micro-analyzing. Right now, McCain is running fairly even with the Democrats. You say that's not a good thing at this point.

MADDOW: There is a way to see this as not good for John McCain. It would be one thing to be running neck and neck after a general election campaign, but what's going on right now in the campaign is that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are beating each other senseless and driving each others' poll numbers down, not showing their best face to the voters. There's tons of scandal and dirt about them going on right now in the political world.

John McCain is traveling abroad and looking professional, but nobody's paying him any attention.

ROBACH: By not getting attention, does that do a big disservice to his campaign in another sense?

MADDOW: Not if you're John McCain, because John McCain's default relationship with the press is very positive. So if he's being ignored, anything that's being written about him is being written from the perspective that the press has had on him from 20 years, which is very, very positive. He's not yet getting attacked by Democrats and he's only tied with them? That doesn't bode well, even if I tend to think head to head match up polls tend to become less useful this time in the campaign. When we get closer to the general, we'll know more about what this means.

ROBACH: It's interesting, because we're hearing Bill Clinton calling John McCain a moderate and saying that McCain was the only Republican who could offer that positive change. Is this helping McCain to have Bill Clinton talking him up? Why is Clinton doing it?

MADDOW: He called him a moderate today. Yesterday, he praised his leadership on global warming. At the same time, Hillary Clinton was telling supporters don't vote for John McCain, even though there are differences between me and Obama. Whichever one gets the nomination, vote for the Democrat, not McCain. Bill is out there telling a very different story.

There's one outlandish interpretation of this, which is that Bill Clinton is trying to endorse John McCain, so Republicans worry and think there's something wrong with John McCain that he's got a Bill Clinton endorsement. I think that's a little bit outlandish, although I've heard it today. I think it's more likely that he is trying to say - Bill Clinton and the Clinton campaign is trying to say that McCain and Hillary are at the same stature and Obama is lesser. I can see the idea behind making that argument. The problem is that it has the more immediate affect of making it seem like he's promoting a McCain/Clinton ticket.

ROBACH: Very interesting. Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, thanks so much.

MADDOW: Thanks, Amy.

ROBACH: Who's your daddy meets do it yourself. Oh, no, what is Maury to do?

The birth of a new acting career. You will never believe what acting job might be ahead for Britney Spears. Ahead on Countdown.


ROBACH: It is one of the most pertinent questions in modern America, spawning a generation of talk shows, reality shows and side shows unparalleled in our culture. Our second story on the Countdown, who's your daddy. As our own Michelle Kosinski reports, the answer just got a lot easier.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Whether who done it or who's the daddy.

MAURY POVICH, TALK SHOW HOST: You are the father.

KOSINSKI: The DNA test has become our modern day case closer for some tricky problems. Generally though, it has to happen at a doctor's office or by court order. But now, all that public baby daddy drama can be bypassed to the privacy of your own home. While this Youtube dreamed of a Maury Povich paternity kit -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Easy to read results, baby daddy and not baby daddy.

POVICH: You are not the father.

KOSINSKI: Sorenson Genomics, a Salt Lake City company, answered the call with the first over the counter home paternity test. Around 20 dollars to buy, 120 to send away for the results.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The accuracy of the test is absolute.

KOSINSKI: It all worked for Natalie Maines and her boyfriend, and baby Kylin (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Find out in five days and have that peace of mind and be done with the stress.

KOSINSKI: The paternity test joins a growing family of do it yourself health, now a seven billion dollar a year business. This Florida company makes home tests for HIV, male and female fertility and colon cancer. There's even a new home genetic test for bipolar disorder.

LYNN DORNBLASER, MINITEL INTERNATIONAL GROUP: That's all about consumers taking control of their own health issues. It's also about finding ways to avoid going to the doctor, to avoid high insurance costs.

KOSINSKI: But trying to be your own doctor could have some draw backs. There's really no oversight of these tests, though that may change. In 2005, the FDA issued a warning about certain unapproved tests that could give false negatives and prevent people from getting care they need. As for DYI paternity, you should know that the results aren't admissible in a court of law. Though not everyone wants the court room drama -

JUDGE LARRY SEIDLIN, FORMER FLORIDA JUDGE: I hope to god you guys give the kid the right shot.

KOSINSKI: Along with the personal drama. You can take that test behind closed doors.


ROBACH: Don't worry Maury fans, there are still at least three good reasons why he still will be in the baby daddy business. The home test costs 20 bucks, the results costing an extra 120. But Maury, he's going to do it for free. You take the home test while at home. Maury will fly you to New York on an all expenses paid trip. You only get to share the home test with your friends and family, but Maury will share your parental news with the entire world. Free test, free trip, free publicity. It's a win, win.

From oh daddy to woah momma in tonight's keeping tabs, with Britney Spears being seriously considered for a major acting role, all because of her bit roll on the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother." Spears received good reviews for her performance, and now a London theater company is more interested than ever. They want Spears to play Blanche Dubois (ph), the tragic lush in the classic play by Tennessee Williams, "A Streetcar Named Desire." A producer saying, quote, Britney has been on the list for some time, but was considered too risky until recently. She's living out the story. So to harness that on stage would be amazing for an audience to see and cathartic for Britney too, end quote.

No word on whether she's interested, you all.

If you think Tom Cruise would some day like to say, beam me up, you would be right. It apparently has nothing to do with Scientology. Cruise recently visited the set of the upcoming "Star Trek" movie. He is friendly with its director, JJ Abrams, and is a big fan of the series. A source telling MSNBC, quote, he asked JJ if there's a way can meet Leonard Nemoy. He said he always respected his work, end quote.

Yes, and those big ears Mr. Nemoy used to wear were the coolest.

Respect and Paris Hilton not two things you hear together very often for reason. Now Paris says forget the sex video, forget the boozing and the DUI and that jail sentence, she, Paris Hilton, is a role model for girls everywhere. The top of the Countdown after the break.


ROBACH: Paris Hilton is in her prime. How else can you explain a woman judging a beauty pageant in Turkey and building her own personal disco in the basement of her house. That's living. In our number one story on the Countdown, Miss Hilton knows it, seeing herself as a role model to girls.

This from the heiress who once compared herself to other iconic blonds like Marylon Monroe and Princess Die. Hilton has been in Istanbul, Turkey to judge the Miss Turkey Pageant. Quote, this is my first time judging anything like this, Hilton said. I'm going to look at how the girls carry themselves, what they look like, the way they dress and what they say.

With that exacting criteria out of the way, Hilton was able to ponder the media's treatment of her, saying that 90 percent of the stories about her are complete lies. "I don't pay attention to lies because I'm a good person. I work very hard and I built this empire on my own. I think this is an inspiration for a lot of girls out there." For good measure, Hilton belly danced with one of the Miss Turkey contestants.

Meanwhile, back at her new six million dollar estate on Mullholand Drive, workers were busy renovating, including that nightclub being transformed from a basement. Let's bring in comedian Paul F. Tompkins, also a regular contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever." Good evening, Paul.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, VH-1: Good evening Amy.

ROBACH: So, this issue of Miss Hilton being a role model has once again crept up. Despite her lifestyle and here past issues and video tapes, is it conceivable that she could be a positive role model for young girls?

TOMPKINS: If Paris is under the impression that she could be a positive role model for young women, I would guess this is proof that Paris Hilton suffers short term memory loss, does not own a television and has never read a magazine.

ROBACH: How did you suppose she end up there in Turkey? Any thoughts?

TOMPKINS: It's hard to know how famous she is in Turkey. Is this a great get for them? Or is this a we have to settle for Paris Hilton kind of thin? In Turkey, I don't know if Paris is the Angelina Jolie over there or if she is more like the lady that wore all the make up on "The Drew Carry Show." Or if she is somebody that used to be very famous, now isn't, but then she was rescued from obscurity by the Turkish Quenton Terrentino, ala John Travolta.

ROBACH: Miss Hilton says she's going to pay attention to what the contestants say, as well as how they look and dress; do you think she really means that?

TOMPKINS: Oh, Amy, she means what she says. Like she said, after she got out of jail, she was going to do all this charity work. The fact that she hasn't done it yet means that she still will do it. She's a woman of her word.

ROBACH: We have to talk about this nightclub that's apparently going to hold up to 200 people. It was her basement. It's being converted. The club's going to have its own entrance. It's going to be decorated like a Parisian speak easy, whatever that is, with a lot of black furniture and gold fixtures. Is this just a logical extension of a fully stocked Hilton mansion?

TOMPKINS: Well, you know what they say. One of the first rules of home ownership is you can't go wrong operating a business out of your house. I think it's a good idea to bring something like that into your home. I would prefer if she got a bowling alley in there, a la "There Will Be Blood." I like the image of Paris crouched over a bloody Nicole Richy, clutching a bowling pin and saying, I'm finished.

ROBACH: Yikes. All right, we've also learned that Hilton is going to appear in "My Name is Earl" as one of Earl's dream fantasy. Let me guess, you're looking forward to that one.

TOMPKINS: How I feel about it is irrelevant. I think the cast must be disappointed because the stunt casting of Paris Hilton surely means that this is the final season of "My Name is Earl."

ROBACH: It's jumped the shark, as they like to say.

TOMPKINS: Climbed on top of the shark, jumped over the shark on top of four other sharks.

ROBACH: Paul F. Tompkins, comedian and contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever." Have a great weekend, Paul. Thanks for being with us tonight.

TOMPKINS: Thank you.

ROBACH: That's going to do it for this Friday edition of Countdown. A Programing note; There will be a Sunday edition of Countdown. In honor of the show's fifth anniversary, Countdown will celebrate with a show on the network, Sunday at 7:00 Eastern, 6:00 central. I'm Amy Robach in for Keith. I'll see you on the network tomorrow morning, on "Weekend Today." Have a great night everyone. See you tomorrow.