Monday, March 3, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 3
video 'podcast'

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Eugene Robinson

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

O, Canada: Senator Obama denied it, the Canadian government denied it, no Obama adviser had reassured the Canadians that if he talked about renegotiating NAFTA, it was just political positioning, except one of them did and there's a memo.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would ask you to look at this story and substitute my name for Senator Obama's name and see what you would do with this story. That's what I would ask you to do.


OLBERMANN: Well, she can't complain about that right now. Senator Obama says he didn't know about the conversation and the story is backward and the Canadian government contacted Obama's adviser. The Canadians confirmed that and they apologized.

Has Senator Clinton moved the goalposts on staying in the race? What about what her husband said about winning both Ohio and Texas?


CLINTON: I believe that we're going do well tomorrow and I believe that that's going to be a very significant message to the country. And then, we move on to Pennsylvania and the states still ahead. So, I'm just getting warmed up.


OLBERMANN: So, too, are the pollsters: Clinton by nine in Ohio or Obama by two; Obama by one in Texas or Clinton by six. But is it the premise that she has to win both by 15 to 20 to stay viable? Chuck Todd explains.

John McCain has to explain but won't. An endorsement from a televangelist, from John Hagee who said, hurricane Katrina was God's retribution against gays, who called the Roman Catholic Church the great whore. McCain doesn't reject or denounce him.

And: Senator Clinton's latest last stand. Has she brought vulnerable Hillary back to the campaign trail?


CLINTON: Do I really laugh like that?



OLBERMANN: All that and more: Now on Countdown.

CLINTON (voice over): Well, I love your outfit.

OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening this is Monday, March 3rd, 246 days until the 2008 presidential election. The eve of VOTR night, V-O-T-R:

Vermont, Ohio Texas and Rhode Island.

And yet in our fifth story in the Countdown: The key dateline of what could be the night before the Democratic primaries and is Ottawa, Canada. For days of denials from the Obama campaign and the Canadian embassy in Chicago, that they ever discussed Senator Obama's position or positions on NAFTA, a memorandum confirming the meeting has suddenly surfaced. What was said at that meeting, almost irrelevant to the Clinton campaign, which seems to feel the memo itself, is all the ammunition it needs to win over any reluctant blue collar workers in the state of Ohio.

Senator Obama spending his day on the campaign trail in Texas. The "Associate Press" uncovering the memo that confirms Obama's economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee attended a meeting at the Canadian consulate in Chicago on the eighth of this month. At the news conference in San Antonio today, Senator Obama blaming the Clinton campaign for employing a, quote, "kitchen sink" strategy in, quote, "peddling the story". As to why he appeared to deny it last week, the senator saying that that was the information he had at the time.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nobody reached out to the Canadians to try to reassure them of anything. But they reached out unbeknownst to the rest of us, reached out to Mr. Goolsbee, inviting him for what he thought would be a fairly casual conversation and repeated what we've said on the campaign trail, which is that we believe in trade with Canada. We believe in trade with Mexico. We think the terms of NAFTA have to be altered. And so there's nothing - there's nothing more there.


OLBERMANN: Having leaked the story in the first place, today, the Canadian government now a conservative Canadian government was trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube. The embassy in Washington apologizing both on the floor of the parliament and in a statement which quoted, "The Canadian embassy and our consulates general regularly contact those involved in all the presidential campaigns and periodically, report on these contacts to interested officials. In the recent report produced by the consulate general in Chicago, there was no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private, including about NAFTA. We deeply regret any inference that may have been drawn to that effect."

The story having its desired effect for Senator Clinton in Ohio, NAFTA having been kryptonite for its blue collar workers, note the use of the past participle, and now, Senator Clinton showing signs of staying in the race after Tuesday no matter what happens tomorrow night.


CLINTON: I've been in lots of election both as a very active participant and as a candidate, and I think I know what's happening, and I believe that we're going to do well tomorrow, and I believe that that's going to be a very significant message to the country. And then, we move on to Pennsylvania and the states still ahead. So, I'm just getting warmed up.


OLBERMANN: Correction on the memo, eighth of February, obviously. We have not reached the eighth of this month yet. As to what might be happening tomorrow night, which would be the fourth of this month, Public Policy Polling showing Clinton with a nine-point lead in Ohio, 51 percent, 42 percent, almost but not quite equal to the Keith number, undecided plus the margin of error 9.9 percent.

A smaller lead of four points for Clinton in Ohio according to Quinnipiac, Obama gaining ground on last week's numbers in that poll. Zogby for Reuters, C-Span and the "Houston Chronicle", the only major polls so far to give Obama the lead in Ohio, a slight one of two points. Keith number is huge at 9.6.

Zogby is giving Obama a three-point lead in Texas, that Keith number there nearly 10.

Public Policy Polling putting Clinton ahead in the lone star state by six. And last week, they had been tied.

It's time now to bring in our own political director Chuck Todd. Good to see you in person, sir.


OLBERMANN: I want your math, but first your interpretation of Obama, o, Canada. Where the specifics of whatever they discussed irrelevant here? I mean, did Senator Clinton get what she wanted because her rival had to correct himself?

TODD: I think she did because of the way the Obama campaign responded to this. You know, at first, they made it seem to the press corps that there was nothing to this Canadian television report. This was a bunch of people over-interpreting things, there was nothing to it and all of a sudden here's a memo, here's his policy adviser who does have a meeting with somebody from the Canadian government.

For a campaign that wants to talk about transparency, they didn't act very transparent. And that's the point the Clinton campaign was hoping to make.

OLBERMANN: Should we also be asking at some point here, perhaps not as part of this campaign but at some point, why a Canadian government is leaking or somebody in a Canadian government is leaking internal diplomatic memos about a presidential candidate in middle of a nominating process in the neighboring country, not to try to start a war or anything, but it seems kind of odd at least.

TODD: It is very odd. And when you look at the stakes, I mean, the economic stakes, and NAFTA and what both candidates said at the debate last week and what they would do with NAFTA, it does make you wonder, you know, what are they up to. Does somebody have another motivation over there?

OLBERMANN: All right. Let's talk some of this math. There are various thresholds and we've already discussed many times that the threshold for Senator Clinton seems to be lowering every day, what is all right for her to go on, what justifies it. But actually speaks to her long-term viability assuming, just assuming for the sake of argument here that she wins both of these races. Just a one-point victory obviously is not going to mean what she needs in terms of delegate viability. What are the thresholds? Give me the actually numbers.

TODD: Look, if she won by one or two points in both states, both Ohio and Texas, Rhode Island, a very close, and then, last Vermont, she actually could lose the delegate math. The way it is, part of it has to do with African-American districts get more delegates both in Ohio and in Texas plus the crazy prima-caucus system in Texas where we have sort of two different contests, one that Obama probably do well.

She needs to win by double digits in both two states to make real progress on the delegate count. Perception-wise, victories at this point will make her feel better, will make maybe some of her donors feel better, and therefore, give her the money to go on and maybe she can pitch to the superdelegates. But as far as actual delegate math and figuring out how to get to 2,025, without winning by double digits, she's going to net double delegates.

Maybe she could net three delegates tomorrow. And that would be a big deal. The way I'd look at it, the most likely scenario, I got Obama netting more delegates tomorrow night even if he just wins two of the four states.

OLBERMANN: So, what is your informed analysis, your margin in Ohio and Texas? Give me those, just as quick predictions.

TODD: I think that it's a 10-point delegate swing in either direction. Meaning, plus five for Obama or plus five for Clinton. Add that when you put all four states together.

Obama is going to get five out of Vermont. He's going to net delegates out of Texas because of the caucus system and the way they award delegates. Ohio is the question mark. Can she get a big enough victory where she nets, eight, 10, 12 delegates out of there? And can she get a big victory in Rhode Island where she can net four or five?

OLBERMANN: Did she already move the goalposts and just looking for rationalization tomorrow to keep going?

TODD: I think it is hard for any candidate to win a primary in Ohio and a state that is needed so much, and then say, I'm going to get out. And I think that ultimately that's what she's saying to herself. And you know, Ohio has meant a lot to our election system.

OLBERMANN: NBC political director Chuck Todd. As always, great thanks. Here is your treat. You get a whole box of them tomorrow. Thanks.

TODD: You got it.

OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton's apparent moving of the goalposts with her claim that she's just getting warmed up, a probable surprise. To New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the one-time candidate, who's yet to endorse a former challenger having declared tomorrow D-Day for the Democrats.


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NEW MEXICO: D-Day is Tuesday. We have to have a positive campaign after Tuesday. Whoever has the most delegates after Tuesday, a clear lead, should be, in my judgment, the nominee. I think we got to be ready for a very strong John McCain.

Republicans are united right now. They don't have a divisive primary. It looks like the tone of our campaign is heading much too negative. And I want to see us after Tuesday, basically come together and see where we are and move on to the general election.


OLBERMANN: And two Obama supporters are pushing for Senator Clinton to bow out if she doesn't win big on Tuesday. Senator Kerry is saying, quote, "None of us is going to suggest what decision she ought to make. But I think, the bottom line is, you have to measure the reality. The reality is that Hillary Clinton has to win a big victory in both Ohio and Texas, not just winning a little bit."

And Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois repeating the sentiment, quote, "I hope that her decision on her future after Tuesday is made in the interest of unity of our party and ultimately, winning in November."

To that point now, let's turn to our own Jonathan Alter, also of course, senior editor at "Newsweek" magazine. Jon, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Barring the huge Clinton blowouts in Texas and Ohio, that nobody sees right now, will we not be on Wednesday right where we are today, and right where we were three weeks ago, asking ourselves how could Senator Clinton staying in the race help anybody other than Senator - not Clinton but Senator McCain?

ALTER: And of course, maybe helping the press because it will make a great story all the way to June if she stays in. But I think, Bill Richardson who held not one but two cabinet posts in the Clinton administration, U.N. ambassador and Energy secretary, he's kind of indicative of a lot of the thinking in the Democratic Party. They want to stop the bleeding and come together as a party.

When you see feel like Dick Durbin and John Kerry who are Obama supporters out there saying, hey, let's wrap this up if you don't win by double digits. You know, the Clinton people are not listening to them. They're Obama people and their attitude toward Richardson is, hey, he ran for president. Just because he got out, doesn't mean we need to get out.

So, I think, there are really strong indications, Keith, that the Clinton campaign will continue after tomorrow.

OLBERMANN: As to what they are listening to, the chief strategist of the campaign, Mark Penn, told the "L.A. Times" in an e-mail over the weekend, let me quote it, that he had no direct authority in the campaign. He described himself as merely an outside message adviser with no campaign staff reporting to me. He then, threw three other senior staffers in the Clinton campaign under the proverbial bus.

Marc Ambinder of "The Atlantic Monthly," phrase it on his blog today, isn't this like the NTSB issuing a report on an airplane before it has crashed. Are they seeing internal poll numbers? Has Penn seen something in advance on Texas and Ohio that would make him give a quote like that to a reporter the weekend before the key vote?

ALTER: No. I don't think so. In fact, I just heard a few minutes ago that the Clinton people have sent out e-mails to their top supporters saying, we're going to win tomorrow, you know, our polls look good. So, Penn isn't saying, he just, you know, was trying to kind of dodge blame because their path to the nomination is so shaky right now.

But what's fascinating about this, Keith, is that Harold Ickes, the long-time Clinton aide who has brought back in the fold now, to really run things. He told a reporter recently that Mark Penn at every turn insists that he'd be described as the chief strategist, precisely the opposite of Penn's interpretation that when he's called a pollster, Penn apparently gets very upset about that within the counsels of the Clinton campaign.

So, there is a lot of finger pointing, you know, within that campaign that will obviously continue should she not prevail and her path, even if she has a big day tomorrow, wins Ohio and Texas, claims, hey, we win the big states; this campaign continues; we got the momentum, which very well might happen. She has to win about 60 percent of all of the remaining primaries including in some heavily African American states in order to win this nomination. So, it's a tough road for her.

OLBERMANN: Well, is it not more than a tough road, that adjective tough, wouldn't seem to be efficient after what Chuck Todd is saying about tomorrow and what lies ahead? It would seem to be, the options are shaky, Pyrrhic or suicidal. What on earth is possessing them to think that they can do anything other than break the party in half to get the nomination, and what is the worth of the nomination if they have broken the party in half?

ALTER: Well, I think, a lot of Democrats are asking that question but from the Clintons' perspective, they go, look, maybe we can get a redo, a do-over in Michigan and Florida. There are a lot of seniors in Florida. That's part of their base.

They figure, maybe if they can pick up those delegates, have a 60 percent or 70 percent blowout in Pennsylvania, they can get back into this. Even if you give her 60 percent all the way to June, she's still behind in the pledge delegate count and there are not a lot of indications that the superdelegates want to reverse the will of the people. So, you know, she's going to making the strongest argument she can that she wins the big states, she's got the big mo and we'll see how that plays with other Democrats.

OLBERMANN: So who is Barry Goldwater if it doesn't turn out that way, it is not big enough for her to really go on the assessment of the rest of the party elders? Who walks in there and is, you know, Congressman Scott and Senator Goldwater? Who goes in there and says, get out before we have to throw you out?

ALTER: Well, you know, you've bring up one of my favorite episodes in American politics where Goldwater went on the lawn after meeting with Nixon telling him to quit. He said, what are you going to do now, Senator Goldwater? And he said, oh, just go home, have seven or eight drinks and go to bed.

It's not at all clear that there's anybody with the stature in the Democratic Party to actually go to them. It would have to be friends, like, you know, a Vernon Jordan or other feel like that who'd said, look, it's over. And I think, the only way that will happen is if she loses Texas.

OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC on the eve. Great thanks, Jon.

ALTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And a programming note: Join me tomorrow night for complete coverage and analysis of VOTR tonight: Vermont, Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island. I'll join you at 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 Pacific.

It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are asleep and your conscience rings. How could one Democrat run a fear ad against another Democrat? Rachel Maddow on that, next.

And: John McCain, be afraid, be very afraid. He has yet to reject or denounce the endorsement of a televangelist who believes we need to bomb Iran, to protect Israel, so, we can then convert the Jews during the upcoming Armageddon, all and that hurricane Katrina was God's vengeance against gays. One of the people senator McCain means when he says, my very dear friends.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: It's3:00 a.m. and there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something is happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call.

One thing is clear, if it's Senator Clinton or Senator McCain or Senator Obama, one answer is: It's 3:00 a.m., it is too late for you to be answering the phone, president. Hire somebody to answer it and only wake up if it's important. The impact of the ad and the Clinton campaign surprise answer when asked what her foreign policy accomplishments were to justify that ad.

And later in Worsts: The rich full list of finalists: Karl Rove, Jonah Goldberg; and Bill O comparing himself to Joseph Goebbels.

All ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: This weekend Hillary Clinton went Ronald Reagan one better. It's not just morning in America anymore, it's 3:00 o'clock in the morning in America forever.

In our fourth story tonight: Three months after telling Iowa Democrats, she should go after Republicans not Democrats, Hillary Clinton unleashed her own version of the daisy ad on Barack Obama in Texas Friday. Her message, only she can be trusted with the nation's safety.


ANNOUNCER: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep, but there is a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it's someone who already knows the world's leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.


OLBERMANN: Somebody answer the phone. And, no, that's not a robocaller for the McCain campaign on the other end of the line. Senator Obama's response came within hours.


ANNOUNCER: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there is a phone ringing in the White House. Something's happening in the world. When that call gets answered, shouldn't the president be the one, the only one who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq war from the start? Who understand the real threat to America was al Qaeda in Afghanistan, not Iraq?


OLBERMANN: Obama's ad also mentions his leadership on so-called loose nukes in the former Soviet Union. But on the same day the dueling ads debut, three of Clinton's advisers seemed to help Obama's cause during a conference call with the media. When someone had the temerity to ask about her foreign policy experience and for five seconds, none of her advisers had anything to say.


JOHN DICKERSON, SLATE: Hey, it's John Dickerson from "Slate". What foreign policy moment would you point us to in Hillary's career where she's been tested by crisis?

MARK PENN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR: Well, you know, I think that, A, as she says, she has been tested, you know, throughout her life in so many matters.


OLBERMANN: Her advisers did not name one foreign policy crisis. And as the "New York Times" reported last year, as first lady, Senator Clinton had no security clearance, no access to National Security Council meetings or the president's daily intelligence briefings, little involvement in 90s crisis such as Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, the U.S. embassy bombings or the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan. But the substance of her ad has drawn less attention than its tone, specifically, it's echo of Republican Party tactics, the tactics specifically denounced and deconstructed during the 2004 presidential campaign by a former president of note.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Now, one of Clintons laws of politics is this, if one candidate's trying to scare you and the other one's trying to get you to think, if one candidate's appealing to your fears and the other one's appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope. (INAUDIBLE)


OLBERMANN: And here with me now Rachel Maddow, host of her own program each night on Air America Radio. Rachel, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Mark Penn said, the internal polling shows that the scary morning in America ad is swaying millions of voters. Is that plausible? Should it be swaying people and by the way, which way is it swaying them?

MADDOW: Right. Well, what we know about what fear does in campaign tactics generally, campaign ads, specifically, is that it does sway voters. It does drive voters towards Republicans. Intellectually, we want voters to respond to fear mongering like this by rejecting it, by resenting it, by holding the candidate accountable for doing this.

The same way, that, intellectually, we know that Republicans are running right now on national security and military affairs just like the keystone cops running on a "tough on crime" platform. Intellectually, it's ridiculous, but all of that intellectual work doesn't undo the voters' instinct that we've learned and that we've lived by for so long, which is that when voters are scared they tend to be nudged toward Republicans.

OLBERMANN: So, she might with that ad, might as well be running against Max Cleland as against Major John McCain?

MADDOW: Yes. That's right.

OLBERMANN: But the foreign policy and crisis management that is implied by having the cojones to run an ad like that comes from what? I mean, they couldn't answer that on a call, does really she want to emphasize foreign policy in any substantive way, when she voted for Iraq and he opposed it. She mocked him for talking about these air raids in Pakistan against, theoretical air raids against al Qaeda targets and two weeks ago, the CIA ran an air raid in Pakistan against an al Qaeda tactic. He would seem to be actually ahead of her on this topic. Why is that - does that at all come up when that ad runs or is it way too non-visceral?

MADDOW: Well, I think it helps all the candidates to be really nonspecific about what experience means when you're talking about security and foreign affairs. I mean, if you think about it, is it relevant and salient in security and foreign affairs to be on an appropriate Congressional committee? Is it relevant and salient experience to have been in the White House when other people were making decisions on those subjects and you happened to be physically be there? Is it relevant and salient experience to be a prisoner in wartime? Do any of those things really count as the type of experience that would make you a better leader on security and military affairs and foreign affairs in the future?

I think all of the candidates right now, it serves them all, to just kind of have a vague nebulous resume pointer in that place and not have us get too specific. If Democrats were voting on the kinds of experience that these candidates are bragging on right now, we would be electing people like Chris Dodd and Wesley Clark. And maybe, the republicans would be, I don't know, electing Barbara Bush, Sr. or something.

We don't tend, voters don't tend to care. And I think, that's why it's a real nebulous plan for these guys.

OLBERMANN: Let me throw something out, (INAUDIBLE) I'd just saw on the Net, that is a couple of days old from Fort Worth, Texas. It's a CBS blog from a campaign when the eight million campaign stops. This is Senator Clinton saying, I only read it, I got to read about it in the computer, "I think you'd be able to imagine many things Senator McCain will be able to stay', she's talking about the campaign against him, "He's never been the president but will put forth his lifetime of experience. I will put forth my lifetime of experience. Senator Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002."

Is it unfair to say that she just ranked Obama third on this topic behind the Republican that she and the Democrats are supposed to be blood oath sworn to defeat?

MADDOW: That's what you say when you want to be John McCain's vice presidential choice, that's not what you say when you're trying to become the Democratic nominee for president.

OLBERMANN: Unbelievable. Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, I guess we'll talk tomorrow night.


OLBERMANN: All right. Great thanks.

MADDOW: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And I don't make a habit of checking the latest in developments in condom research. But I'm thinking, this might be too much in terms of safety and not enough in terms of convenience.

And finally: From Karl Rove's own mouth, we can't leave Iraq because of the price of gas. Worst Persons ahead.

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

Number three: Nexus of terror and politics-gate, again. Another group has spoke out against the president's fear mongering over this telecom immunity bull crap, writing a letter to the members of the House, urging them not to just delay passing telecom immunity but to reject it out right, saying, quote, "It dismisses with contempt the manufactured hysteria that industry will not aid the United States government when the law is clear. The perpetual promise of bestowing amnesty for any and all misdeeds committed in the name of security will condemn us to the uncertainty and dubious legalities of the past."

Who wrote that? The ACLU, the CCAI, the Computer and Communications Industry Association which represents Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Monster, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, a lot of others, you know, the clean telecoms.

Number two: Recession-gate. Last Thursday, the president insisted the economy is not headed into one, that (INAUDIBLE) slowdown, yes, 10 percent of the homes in this country are worth less than it would cost to pay off their mortgages in cash, but it's not a recession. Disagreement on that today, Warren Buffett tells CNBC, quote, "By any commonsense definition, we are in a recession." Is there truth to rumors that the administration plans to dig up herbal Hoover to disagree with Mr. Buffett?

And lastly: Why you do not hire the pathologically religious-gate. Two more White House Officials are gone. Daniel Cooper, undersecretary for benefits affairs in the Veterans Administration; and Timothy Goeglein, special assistant to the president, deputy director of the office of Public Liaison. They have both re-signed.

Mr. Goeglein was the president's middle man to Christian groups. Dana Perino thanked him for establishing the faith-based and community initiative and helping on the confirmation of Justices Alito and Roberts. And also, he was a plagiarist.

The "Fort Wayne Indiana News Sentinel" just discovered that in 38 columns that Goeglein wrote for them, 20 had portions copied without credit from other sources like the "Dartmouth College Review". And of this, the V.A. has backlog 400,000 vets, most of them from Iraq and Afghanistan waiting six months or more to find out if they'll get benefits. That would be a lot more palatable if this Mr. Cooper had not make a fundraising video for some crackpot outfit in which he said, studying the Bible was more important than your job or obviously his job.

Unlike many of his White House colleagues, unless, Mr. Cooper though admitted, he was not going to do his job, he was just going to sit there, reading the Bible, while you paid him to do that.


OLBERMANN: On a scale of under-appreciated bad days in our history, March 3rd ranks near the top. On March 3rd, 1820, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise, thinking it was resolving the issue of slavery for all time by permitting it in new southern states. Of course, this simply guaranteed that we would have a civil war.

On March 3rd, 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes was sworn in as part of the 1877 compromise, in which the Republican Hayes got the office even though he had fewer popular votes and maybe fewer electoral votes, while the Democrats got Hayes to roll back Reconstruction and pull the federal troops out of the south, which guaranteed the Jim Crow era.

Just a reminder, as the House looks for the Compromise of 2008 on telecom immunity.

Let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin here in New York in the latest, greatest events in umbrella technology. No, it didn't just blow on her face. It is the new-brella, evidently an improvement of the braca-umbrella of the 1970's and the first ever hands free umbrella/helmet/Cone of Silence from "Get Smart." What? The product seals your head and shoulders from the outside environment, keeping you warm and bone dry, while making it only nearly impossible to see what the heck you are going to walk through and to see through the rain-soaked plastic.

Missed it by that much.

Let's go to Omaha, Nebraska, where 17-year-old Ashley Berry (ph) made a shocking discovery in a frozen TV dinner. It is either a steel clamp from an assembly line, or the severed metal hand of a robot with a hankering for sesame chicken. Either way, don't microwave it! Luckily, the teen noticed the hunk of metal in her dinner. It's bigger then her head. She then alerted her grocer, who pulled the product from the shelf.

Federal investigators are now on their way to Omaha to figure out what went wrong, to gas the entire community and hit them with the memory erasing device and take the steel clamp back to Area 51.


OLBERMANN: The televangelists who says Katrina was retribution against gays, the Catholic Church is the great whore and John McCain should be president. Mr. McCain is alright with the first two, as long as he hears the third.

Excepting self-deprecating humor from "Saturday Night Live." It nearly worked for Gerald Ford thirty years ago. Might it have been a key piece of strategy for Hillary Clinton? These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best reason for becoming an ex-Weatherman; Steve Doocy of Fox interviewing a guy from a think tank funded by Exxon to talk global warming. Despite it being bitterly cold outside in the northern plains, we hear a lot about global warming and that we better do something to fix it or we're doomed. Is there another side to the story? Perhaps we should be worried about global cooling.

Or maybe you could do a story on how climate change is being caused by pixies and elves.

Number two, best creative calling in sick, Daniel Kuch of Pasco, Washington, told his employers he had been the victim of a drive by shooting so he would need some time off. Actually, he asked a friend to shoot him so he could miss work and that drug test.

Number one, best career ender. Eight days ago, Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for best actor for her portrayal of Edith Piaf. It turns out she had given an interview a year ago in which she questioned the moon landings and added that 9/11 was also a scam, not a political scam, not a terror scam, a scam to knock the World Trade Center down because to do so was a lot cheaper than to retrofit the buildings for cable and Internet and stuff.

In her first American film, Miss Cotillard is scheduled to play John Dillinger girlfriend - wait, this just in. Her first American film is now being developed at Foto-Mat.


OLBERMANN: It might have been the tensest moment of the 20 Democratic debates, the questioning last week of Barack Obama about how he handled an endorsement by Minister Louis Farrakhan. You recall, Obama said he denounced Farrakhan, and when Senator Clinton said he should have rejected the endorsement, Obama then said, if she thought reject was a stronger term, he would reject and denounce.

In our third story on the Countdown, tonight John McCain has his own version of Farrakhan, maybe Farrakhan super sized, and his response is neither reject nor denounce, but something closer to, what is that, Sonny? Last week, McCain held a public appearance with the televangelist, the Reverend John Hagee and accepted Hagee's endorsement, this despite Hagee's past comments about - hold that thought for a moment.

On Friday, McCain said that Hagee, quote, supports what I stand for and believe in. Today, McCain though it is simply not accurate to say that because someone endorses me that I therefore embrace their views. So what kind of views, what sort of political nuance does McCain not embrace? Hagee on Catholicism, quote, the greater whore, a false cult system. On Katrina, quote, New Orleans had a level of sin so offensive to God and they were the recipients of the judgment of God for that. Specifically, quote, there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that Katrina came.

On women, quote, do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist. Then there was his fund-raiser for a school, a slave auction. McCain apparently deciding he needs straight evangelical Protestant white male voters who own slaves and don't live on the Gulf Coast more than he needs anybody else.

Let's bring in MSNBC's David Shuster back at scandal desk in Washington.


OLBERMANN: Senator McCain would seem to be in somewhat deep here. How did he get there and why, through today, anyway, does he seem willing to stay there with Pastor Hagee?

SHUSTER: Well, Pastor Hagee leads a mega-church in San Antonio. His broadcasts are seen nationwide by evangelicals. His followers, essentially, match up with the demographic of those who are listening to talk radio, including Rush Limbaugh. So the thinking inside the McCain campaign last is that, given that Rush Limbaugh was pummeling John McCain for the apology he issued after that Billy Cunningham comments about Barack Hussein Obama, given that talk radio was pummeling John McCain for apologizing for that, the thinking inside the McCain camp was look, let's go talk and let's appear with Reverend Hagee, and that will with essentially cauterize the bleeding, staunch the bleeding.

Now, given that Catholic organizations, the media are pummeling John McCain for what Hagee has said in the past, the thinking inside the McCain campaign is look, we need to show evangelicals that we can stand up to the media, that we are not going to cave, are not going to be soft. The irony, Keith is that some of the media who are condemning John McCain include conservatives who don't like his views.

OLBERMANN: How are they going to have that disconnect where they throw Bill Cunningham under the bus for attacking Obama, but throw this guy under the bus at any point. If they don't throw him under the bus, he is going to be around the candidate's neck through the campaign. Is he not just the easiest target imaginable?

SHUSTER: Well, the distinction the McCain campaign is drawing is they say there is a big difference, according to the McCain campaign, between what somebody says at a McCain event, as compared to what somebody says in their own church or broadcast. When McCain stood by the apology for the attacks on Barack Obama, McCain said he supports the right of people to express their views on their own time at their own form, just not at a McCain event.

So, since Hagee didn't repeat his hateful speech or his apocalyptic views while physically standing next to John McCain at a John McCain event, that according to the McCain campaign appears to be the distinction.

OLBERMANN: The other quote, of course, can be what McCain said, which is that Hagee supports what I stand for and believe in. That may be more troublesome than any of the Hagee quotes. While we're talking about Hagee, should we be concerned perhaps about these apocalyptic views that a man eagerly anticipating the end of the world, calls nuclear war with Iran a certainty, wants McCain's finger on the button, and implied that he talked to him about Iran a year ago?

SHUSTER: A lot of Americans agree that Iran armed with nuclear weapons could be a threat to Israel. The difference, of course, is Hagee and John McCain have very divergent views about the need to protect Israel. For John McCain, it's because, look, Israel is America's best ally in the region. For Hagee, the idea is let's keep Israel in a position for the apocalypse, and that if Israel is united, the rapture can happen and all Israeli and members of the Jewish faith who aren't converted can be slaughtered and go directly to hell.

It is all creepy stuff. Again, even conservatives tonight say this is something that is not going away, that John McCain is going to have to address it at some point.

OLBERMANN: I think they are right. MSNBC's David Shuster, thank you David.

SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Live from New York, it's Hillary Clinton. When is a cameo on "Saturday Night Live" more than just a chance to get Kristen Wigs (ph) autograph? The kinder, gentler Hillary surfaces?

This McCain/John Hagee story resurfaces. Who is the poor schlub whose timing is so bad that he just said, quote, just imagine again if the putative Republican nominee had a racist, right wing pastor, had roots in the Minutemen Militia or the Tim McVeigh crowd. Find out next in worst persons.


OLBERMANN: A catch in the throat and a weary admission might have helped help her win New Hampshire. Could a cameo on "Saturday Night Live" do the same for Ohio and Texas? That's next. But first, our number two story, Countdown's Worst Persons in the World.

The bronze to Bill-O. First, he compares to the Nazis. Then when a family member of a holocaust victims writes to him, quote, the meaning of their deaths means more than a comparison to a meaningless blog, O'Reilly says he is wrong. Quote, there is no difference between Arianna Huffington and Joseph Goebbels, because a message of hate was posted about Nancy Reagan on and then removed.

Again, this is Bill O'Reilly, whose personal website had a post about assassinating Hillary Clinton. If he is really convinced there is a comparison between Joseph Goebbels and Arianna Huffington, then what he is also saying is there is a comparison between Joseph Goebbels and himself.

Our runner-up, Karl Rove on fixed news, explaining one of the real reasons he sent our kids to die in Iraq; quote, if we ever give up Iraq, with the third largest oil reserves in the world to the control of an al Qaeda regime or to the control of Iran, don't you think 200 dollars a barrel oil would have a cost to the American economy?

Way to go on trading American blood for oil, Karl. Before the war, oil was 36 bucks a barrel. Last week, it hit 102.

But our winner, and it's a term he rarely hears otherwise, lunatic fringer Jonah Goldberg, speaking last week about Senator Obama, quote, just imagine again if the putative Republican nominee had a racist right wing pastor, had roots in the Minutemen militia or the Tim McVeigh crowd. Katrina was a retribution for homosexuality; the U.S. should immediately bomb Iran and defend Israel so the Jews can be converted during the coming apocalypse and the Roman Catholic Church is the great whore.

Or Jonah, did you mean somebody besides Senator McCain's endorser, John Hagee? Jonah Goldberg today's Worst Person in the World!


OLBERMANN: In 1976, incumbent, albeit appointed President Gerald Ford, was losing in the first polls to the then breath of fresh air personified by Jimmy Carter by 33 points. Then, among many other things, Ford stopped grumbling about Chevy Chase's bumbling impression of him on "Saturday Night Live," and permitted his press secretary to host the show, and even filmed an opening for it himself, parroting Chase's line and announced, I'm Gerald Ford and you're not.

Ford made up 31 of those 33 points. Number one story on the Countdown, explaining perhaps Hillary Clinton's cameo in this building Saturday night. The senator has certainly been fond of SNL lately. You may recall, in the last debate here on MSNBC, she cited SNL's take of the previous debate to try making the point that the media has been tougher on her than on her opponent.

This past Saturday, the real Hillary Clinton was more than happy to meet her impersonator.


CLINTON: I love your outfit.


CLINTON: But I do want the earrings back.


CLINTON: Do I really laugh like that?

POEHLER: Oh, well.

CLINTON: The campaign is going very well. very, very well.


CLINTON: Why? What have you heard?

POEHLER: So no politics.

CLINTON: No politics. But I would like to take this opportunity to say to all Americans, be they from the great state of Ohio or Texas, Rhode Island or Vermont, Pennsylvania or any of the other states, live from New York, it is Saturday night.


OLBERMANN: Let's bring in "Washington Post" associate editor and columnist, MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson. Good evening.


OLBERMANN: Was that an extension of New Hampshire when she was vulnerable and human during the debate and afterwards, and it seemed to be reflected in her win there?

ROBINSON: Yes. It's human and I think it is probably an accurate calculation on the part of the Clinton campaign that showing her to have a sense of humor, which she does have, is a good thing. It is a mixed message though after the ad that portrays her as kind of the Darth President, who is going to protect your sleeping angelic children from bad things in the night. Nonetheless, I think it is a net plus.

OLBERMANN: It's 3:00 a.m., the phone is ringing and you are watching "Saturday Night Live" reruns on Comedy Central. I mention the Gerald Ford cameo from 1976. Nixon had been on "Laugh In," for anybody besides you and me who remembers "Laugh In." What does this actually do for a political candidate, other than give that human burnishing of the personality?

ROBINSON: It gives them exposure. You know, "Saturday Night Live" does a nice number. It - you know, there might be some people - I doubt there is anybody in the country who doesn't know what Hillary Clinton looks like, but it gets her out there. Beyond that, I don't think it does a whole lot. It humanizes. It is kind of funny. I thought she was pretty good, actually, on "Saturday Night Live."

OLBERMANN: Senator Obama appeared months ago, before the writers strike, in a similar small role. Are we now so micro-managing a campaign? It used to be, well, maybe if the candidate came on and did the whole -

Rudy Giuliani as mayor of New York hosted an episode. McCain hosted as senator from Arizona.

You don't have to do that anymore. A cameo is good enough?

ROBINSON: I think i think a cameo is good enough if and only if you get to say, live from New York it's Saturday night. If it is just weekend update, I'm sorry, that is not going to work. You have to say it.

OLBERMANN: Huckabee gets weekend update.

ROBINSON: Exactly. He gets weekend update. I'm wondering if Darryl Hammond might be working on a Keith Olbermann? Do you think?

OLBERMANN: No. No one has ever done a successful impression of me. I don't even do a successful impression of me. I can't resist this; apart from the fact that you say it's important to say the line. She didn't say the line right. She said, it is Saturday night. Rather than, it's Saturday night. It's an iconic line. She was off by one letter. That could be the deciding factor in some precincts.

What about the other guest on "Saturday Night Live?" Was Rudy Giuliani explaining that his campaign tanked because he was on there before wearing a dress? What was he doing on there at all?

ROBINSON: I have no idea. My theory, while it was happening, was that he's reintroducing himself to New York. He's is saying, you know, I'm not really that dyed in the wool conservative that I pretended to be all those months on the campaign trail. I'm really Rudy Giuliani. I'll probably put on a dress again on a skit sometime and I'm back.

OLBERMANN: And I'm running for something or I need your business here at Giuliani Partners.

ROBINSON: I need your business.

OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson of MSNBC, an educated consumer is my best consumer. Eugene Robinson of MSNBC, "Washington Post," we'll talk to you tomorrow night.

ROBINSON: Talk to you tomorrow.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1,769th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. One more reminder, Texas and Ohio might decide the Democratic nomination, might not. Either way, on voter night, Vermont, Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island, I will be anchoring MSNBC's special election coverage. Tomorrow, we begin at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 Pacific. Please join us then. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.