Wednesday, March 19, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 19
video 'podcast'

Guests: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Alter

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

No revote in Michigan.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama speaks passionately on the campaign trail about empowering the American people. Today, I'm urging him to match those words with action.


OLBERMANN: Only one problem, the Michigan State Senate opposed the vote and seems today to have killed it. Did Clinton go there just to try to make Obama look bad?

Old man yells at cloud: John McCain lies about Iran again, today, for the fourth time in 48 hours.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's common knowledge and it's been reported in the media that al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. It's well known.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just yesterday, we heard Senator McCain confused Sunni and Shiite, Iran and al Qaeda. Maybe that is why he voted to go to war, with a country that had no al Qaeda ties.

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


OLBERMANN: Conflating like President Bush or out of it, which is he?


MCCAIN: Bomb, bomb Iran.


OLBERMANN: Five years since he attacked Iraq, the president's latest rationalization?


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATE: In Iraq, we're witnessing the first large scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden.


OLBERMANN: Even though the al Qaeda in Iraq isn't bin Laden's group, even though the al Qaeda in Iraq didn't get there until we let them in.

And: You don't like the war?


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting.



OLBERMANN: The vice president says screw you.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.


CHENEY: We will in fact to the greatest liberators.


OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening, this is Wednesday, March 19th, 230 days until the 2008 presidential election.

For Senator Clinton, there is the vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq, the one she wishes probably never happened, and the Michigan revote that likely never will happen, no matter how hard she might wish it tonight.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Five years to the day after the Iraq war began, Senator Clinton preferring to spend her day in Detroit talking about a primary do-over in that state that instead looks over and out. Her opponent, Senator Obama using the anniversary of the conflict to address military families near Fort Bragg and to attempt to cast himself as the only true anti-war candidate. We begin there.

Obama beginning his day by playing basketball with troops stationed at Fort Bragg. Later in his second big speech in as many days, suggesting to military families and local officials that Senator Clinton could not be trusted to end the Iraq war because she started opposing it only after she began her bid for president. Senator Obama is taking on both his Democratic challenger and the presumptive Republican nominee.


OBAMA: Senator Clinton says that she and Senator McCain have passed a commander in chief test not because of the judgments they'd made, but because of the years they've spent in Washington. She made a similar argument when she said her vote for war was based on her experience at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

But here's the stark reality. There's a security gap in this country, a gap between the rhetoric of those who claim to be tough on national security and the reality of growing insecurity caused by their decisions, a gap between Washington experience and the wisdom of Washington's judgments.


OLBERMANN: Before a crowd in Detroit, Senator Clinton touching on the Iraq conflict as a tangent, suggesting that if Michigan and Florida are ignored during the Democratic primary, quote, "We won't be able to end the war in Iraq."

She also framed the revote controversy as a civil rights issue.


CLINTON: This goes way beyond this election and it goes way beyond whose running. Because, no matter where you were born or how much money you were born into, no matter where you worship or the color of your skin, it is a bedrock American principle that we are all equal in the voting booth.


OLBERMANN: Wayne County, Michigan clerk, Cathy Garrett citing previously scheduled local elections in a letter to Michigan State Representative Kathleen Law, quoting, "To sandwich a proposed "do-over election" between a May and August election would seriously put both elections in harms way."

The Democratic National Committee today is issuing a memo saying it believes a Michigan revote would be within its rules.

Obama campaign lawyer Bob Bauer stating technical and procedural concerns in his own memo against, like the disenfranchisement of independents, and perhaps those who voted in the first primary.

Senator Clinton, again from Detroit stepping up the pressure on her challenger to support a Michigan revote after the issue appeared moot.


CLINTON: Senator Obama speaks passionately on the campaign trail about empowering the American people. Today, I'm urging him to match those words with action. To make sure the people of Michigan and Florida have a voice and vote in this election.


OLBERMANN: But whether there would be a revote was not within Senator Obama's power to decide due to a lack of support there, the revote never even making it to the floor of the Michigan State Senate.

Other news today: Stemming from Senator Clinton's time as first lady, a document dump of her White House schedule released by the Clinton library only in response to a Freedom of Information Act request shedding some light on her daily activities. Based on what's been slugged (ph) through thus far, of the more than 11,000 pages, nearly 4,800 have parts redacted.

The Clinton campaign saying of the schedules that they are merely a guide and do not reflect all of her activities, that would certainly be true for January 26, 1996, her calendar for that day is saying only no public schedule, even though that was the day the first lady testified before a federal grand jury about her legal work on Whitewater-related real estate transactions.

The documents are also showing that in 1993, she was helping her husband win Congressional approval of NAFTA.

It's time to call in our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of the "Washington Post." Dana, good evening.


OLBERMANN: I got Chuck Todd about Michigan, specifically in a moment. So, let's you and I start at that finish line there. What is the document's revealing that she held a pro-NAFTA event at the White House telling us?

MILBANK: Well, given what could have been uncovered here about travel-gate, file-gate, Hillary care, bimbo eruptions and anything else from those Clinton years is probably good news that all they found was this one document from November of 1993. It was a drop by, meaning, she just stopped by a meeting, this was before NAFTA was passed. A meeting aimed at its passage.

Now, normally, you wouldn't make much of this, except that Hillary Clinton has made her record as first lady front and center in her presidential campaign. So, potentially, that is fair game, all though it is one drop by, 15 years ago.

OLBERMANN: And she didn't stop by and say, look, in 15 years, I'm going to revise and reopen with the Canadians and the Mexicans, so, standby for this.

There is something else tonight, Senator Clinton, a quote from her on the trail today, "An extraordinary leader and a wonderful advocate for our military," talking about General Petraeus. President Clinton today in Pennsylvania, quote, "He's a very fine man," talking about Senator McCain.

Again, I'm missing something here because I'm relatively new to politics, is it not custom to wait until after you get the nomination to praise the poster boy of the other party and the nominee of the party?

MILBANK: Well, that is the custom. There's a couple different issues here. The McCain issue is trying to present Hillary as the most formidable foe to McCain. So, she put herself on the same stage.

Petraeus is more complicated. In fact, Obama mentioned Petraeus as well today, not necessarily to praise him, but to point out that Petraeus, himself has suggested that the progress of the government in Iraq has been wholly inadequate. So, Petraeus is unassailable.

I think not since the Greek god eras as a warrior been so respected. So, they want to be very careful with him and hopefully enlist him to their side of this argument when he returns to Congress next month.

OLBERMANN: About this speech that Senator Obama gave at town hall meeting in North Carolina, in Charlotte this afternoon. It was described by your newspaper as long and wide ranging and during it not once did a questioner bring up the issue of race or the issue of Iraq. What do we make out of that? Is that good news regarding race or bad news when it comes to Iraq as a primary season traction issue? What does it mean?

MILBANK: Probably good news on race although that's an issue where people might be uncomfortable bringing it up even if they were thinking about it. The Iraq thing is bad news, not necessarily just for Obama, but for Democrats generally. I was astonished today on the fifth anniversary to see how anemic the demonstrations were in Washington, just a couple hundred people.

The interest in Iraq in terms of public opinion has just plunged. A poll was showing in fact, it was lagging behind concern about Heath Ledger's death. So, if that, in fact is dropping so dramatically off the table, that's pretty serious bad news for the Democrats.

OLBERMANN: Well, clearly, there remains one issue regarding protest and size, there's no drop. If they were dropped, multiply it by 150,000, for every person that you mentioned.

Well, last question, in wake of that speech yesterday by Obama and the Iraq speech today, there were questions as to whether or not the remarks about race would resonate beyond the day's news cycle. He's got another big speech tomorrow on the economy and Iraq. As long as he keeps making these big speeches, is the issue of how long the race remarks resonate, does that really matter anymore?

MILBANK: No, in fact, it's better news for Obama if the race remarks for now are not resonating. It will mean he has done his job, if things have moved along to the, again, the back and forth on the economy, the back and forth on Iraq. He has put the marker down on what people are calling a remarkable speech.

Inevitably race will return to the election at some point but if he's been able to climb out of that hole that the Reverend Wright dug for in, that's good news for Obama.

OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the "Washington Post," I guess we'll have to wait for some polling to see just whether or not he's dug himself out of that. As always, Dana, great thanks.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: As promised, MSNBC and NBC News political director, Chuck Todd in Washington tonight. Chuck, good evening to you.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good morning, sir, or afternoon, or evening, sorry.

OLBERMANN: Well, we'd just went to the whole day. Thanks for stopping by.

What happens now? The revote initiative in Michigan is over after the State Senate today? What happened then and what happens now?

TODD: Well, it's almost over. Right now, you have - there's sort of a gang of four groups trying to get this redo done. You've got Debbie Dingell, wife of long-time Congressman John Dingell. You've got representatives of the governor's office, Governor Granholm. You've got Senator Carl Levin and you've got the leading labor union out there, the United Autoworkers, UAW.

Right now, the UAW is putting a lot of pressure on the Democrats in the State Senate and the State House to try to get this revote to happen. It is not working. It's very contentious. There are other labor unions who stepped in saying, you know, we can't have this.

So, there's a lot of anger that's developing inside the Michigan Democratic Party and a lot of fingers being pointed. Clinton forces blaming the Obama campaign that the fact that they are not saying anything about a revote is a de facto, you know, whisper saying, you know, hey, that really means we don't want it.

But, whatever the case, this thing looks dead. And ironically, a lot of the reporting I've done tonight indicates that some folks believe Senator Clinton's trip to the state was a bad thing, actually hurt the cause because it all looked too one-sided.

OLBERMANN: And Governors Rendell and Corzine, Clinton's supporters, wrote a letter basically offering up a list of underwriters who have $12 million to pay for another primary which "A," enable all manner of jokes about buying an election, but "B," underscored this point that - did it look like Senator Clinton went in after the decision had already been made and tried to blame it on Obama? That couldn't have looked good for her, did it?

TODD: No, this was an attempt to try to get her in there to show, to see if her coming to the state would sort of guilt these, some of these lawmakers who are on the fence about this and seeing if they would, not change their minds, but at least reconsider the revote.

But you know, look, that letter, of which became public of the 10 sort of sugar daddies of the Democratic Party agreeing to fund this thing combined with Senator Clinton's trip into the state, it really did scared some folks, even some Clinton supporters who thought, you know, this thing cannot look like it is a Clinton orchestrated election.

It has to look like it's an election that is supported by both sides.

And Obama's silence has been interpreted that he is not behind this thing.

OLBERMANN: Let me play a clip from Senator Clinton today and then, contrast it with something that just sort of fell out of the Internet this afternoon. This is from Detroit. This is talking about why she had not removed her name from the ballot in Michigan.


CLINTON: When others made the decision to remove their names from the ballot, I didn't, because I believe your voices and your votes should count.


OLBERMANN: Seriously, I was just looking for a date for the January 15th vote in Michigan. (INAUDIBLE) what date it was and out of a Google search fell this from October 11th last year, Senator Clinton all but certain Democratic nominee at that point said on the campaign trail in New Hampshire to the public radio station there:

"It's clear this election they're having," meaning Michigan, "is not going to count for anything. But I just personally did not want to set up a situation where the Republicans are going to be campaigning between now and whenever and then after the nomination, we have to go in and repair the damage to be ready to win Michigan in 2008."

This does not sound quite as high minded as saying "I am here to give you a voice, Michigan." Are we backfilling here?

TODD: We are a little bit.

Look, she needs this and I think the fact that her appearance in the state today, in the state of Michigan to try to encourage these lawmakers, these state lawmakers to get this revote passed, I think sort of underscores how damaging the campaign believes not having revotes and not being able to count on these Michigan and Florida delegates or is going to be to her chances of getting the necessary delegates, being able to actually win this thing on delegates.

So, you know, I think that she knows she needs this badly, thought there was a shot at it about 48 hours ago and thought maybe the last ditch effort to save it was to show up. Ironically, from what I'm hearing, a lot of people wish she hadn't come into the state today, there may have been a better chance for it to go through had she not been there.

OLBERMANN: Vote in Michigan is next to last ditch, winning something in Michigan and showing it to the superdelegates is last ditch. That's gone now. That's no longer part of the presentation whenever point that comes in overrules the regular delegates.

So, I'm asking this question sort of rhetorically and sort of seriously, is this nomination process over, has this been decided because there isn't going to be a vote in Michigan?

TODD: Well, you have to sit there and say, well, mathematically, it's certainly over in this respect. There is no way that Obama won't be the pledged delegate leader at the end of this process and there's no way he won't be the popular vote leader.

However, he's not going to be at 2,025, excuse me, now, it's 2,024 but it may get back up to 2,025 with that magic number depending on special House elections. But, he's going to be short of what he needs too, so this still is going to be decided by the superdelegates, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Chuck Todd of MSNBC and NBC News political director. As always Chuck, great thanks and thanks for walking through the whole day to cover all the rears. We appreciate it.

TODD: You got it.

OLBERMANN: The Lieberman whisper. Was he really correcting John McCain's, quote, "mistake about al Qaeda and Iran yesterday, considering the Republican nominee then made that, quote, "mistake" again today.

And: The fifth anniversary of Iraq. The president says it's noble. And if you're part of the 2/3 who'd think it was not worth it, the vice president says, your opinion doesn't matter, you do not matter.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: A once famous bit from a W.C. Field's movie: His wife asked him, "Are you drunk or are you crazy?"

For the fourth time in 48 hours, Senator McCain insists Iran is training al Qaeda operatives for use in Iraq. The question to him is not drunk or crazy, but are you forgetting or lying? And suggesting that a "President Obama" would be a racist and anti-Semite, that something even for one of the lunatic fringe's craziest water carriers, which one? The answer is ahead in Worst Persons here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: At first: John McCain's claim that Iran was taking members of al Qaeda in Iraq, training them and then sending them back to Iraq appeared to be a momentary misstatement that he meant to say extremists.

On our fourth story tonight: Despite the fact that McCain himself said he was wrong, his campaign today issued a prepared statement saying, quote, "Al Qaeda and Shia Extremists - with support from external powers such as Iran - are on the run but not defeated."

In fact, he's linking of Iran with al Qaeda in Iraq has been a pattern with McCain during his Mid-east trip telling right wing radio on Monday, quote, "As you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they are moving back into Iraq."

If you also watched yesterdays news conference in its entirety, the notion that McCain momentarily misspoke becomes even less tenable. In the first two minutes, he speaks about both al Qaeda and Iran never mentioning Iraqi extremist, militias or insurgents, then, expands on his fears about Iran's influence.


MCCAIN: We continue to be concerned about Iranian taking al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.


OLBERMANN: Seven minutes later, still having never said extremists, McCain portrays al Qaeda and Iran as mutual beneficiaries of a U.S. departure.


MCCAIN: If we pull out of Iraq, and obviously, the Iranian influence is dramatically increased. Al Qaeda has greater influence and endangers the region dramatically.


OLBERMANN: Three minutes later and still never saying extremists, McCain is questioned by a reporter off mike, so we can't hear it, not only repeats but defends his previous claim.


MCCAIN: It's common knowledge and it's been reported in the media that al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. It's well known.


OLBERMANN: He continues his answer with more discussion of Iran's influence, more discussion of al Qaeda being on Iran, a problem in Mosul, references which clearly are about al Qaeda in Iraq. No point, does he ever use the word he's supposedly had in mind all this time, extremists.

So, why did he change his language? As you will see, he did not, as his campaign claimed, correct himself.


MCCAIN: If we leave Iraq, it will enhance Iranian influence in the region to the detriment I think of every nation in the region.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMANN, (I) CONNECTICUT: You said the Iranians were training al Qaeda, you meant to say they were training extremists, terrorists.

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


OLBERMANN: With us now to whisper sweet nothings into our ears, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, of course, also the senior editor for "Newsweek." Good to see you, Jon.


OLBERMANN: He insisted to Kelli O'Donnell in Jerusalem tonight, this was a slip. This is the quote, "To think that I would have some lack of knowledge about Sunni and Shia after my eight visit and my deep involvement in this issue is a bit ludicrous."

So, how do you slip three times, get corrected your friend, Joe Liebermann and then come back the next day and slip again?

ALTER: Well, first of all, this is something John McCain and those of us who covered him for many years are familiar with this kind of, it's almost like out of the old "SNL" skit where Chris Farley said, I'm so stupid and he bangs himself on the forehead and gets kind of charm points for admitting having slipped up.

Here's that fatigue and it is tiring during all these travel and all that kind of thing or just sort of human error. So, he's gotten a lot of breaks over the years for being imprecise from the press in part because there's a lot of fatigue with playing gotcha games with all these politicians and at some certain point, does get a little bit silly.

But, having said that, what John McCain is clearly trying to do here is conflate again, all of the bad guys over there in a way to confuse Americans who are not paying close attention. When I asked them for evidence that Iranian Shia were supporting Sunni's inside Iraq, they referred me to American Enterprise Institute study that was very old. The sourcing was old and not at all explicit.

This is not the main thrust of what's going on there and it's counter intuitive since the Shia and the Sunni don't like each other for anybody who's been paying any attention. And so, what he's trying to basically do is say, look, they are all a bunch of bad guys. Trust me because I'm the one who has experience here. And Obama and Clinton are trying to call him on it.

OLBERMANN: But he's saying all terrorists are al Qaeda, all extremists are al Qaeda. You're basically then offering the public two choices and neither of them seem to be very good for Mr. McCain which is it's a senior moment, it's not Chris Farley, it's Emily Litella.

A two day long senior moment interrupted by the second or two of clarity or it's a conflation worthy of George Bush which is to say, a bold face lie about it. It's one of those two things that has to be one of those two things. It would seem that the Republicans have a rather large hole in their defensive line on this.

ALTER: I think it was some kind of combination of this. I mean, it wasn't a senior moment but a little bit of a slip. He corrects it, then part of him is thinking, well, why make a big deal of correcting this sense I want to conflate as you say and to convey to the American public that there are people in Iran who want to do us dirty. And if we have to kind of mess a little bit with the facts in order to convey the impression, he's willing to do that.

OLBERMANN: And the Republicans do what defensively and what happens in a debate against either one of these Democrats who are fairly quick on their feet in the moment that he is caught in one of these contradictions that seem to happen about every 10 days?

ALTER: Well, first of all, the Democrats have to be careful not underplay the threat posed by Iran. Iran is making mischief inside Iraq.

OLBERMANN: I'm not talking just about Iran but I'm talking about John McCain saying "A" and then, "Z" and saying now it's just a slip or I didn't know, I wasn't fully briefed, I'd made a mistake. What about that construction, whatever the topic is?

ALTER: That could really come back to haunt John McCain because John McCain is a smart guy, but he's never been a policy guy or never been a detail guy. In the 15 years I've known him, he doesn't like to get way down into the, you know, into the muck on these issues the way Clinton and Obama and a lot of other politicians do.

And it's very possible that debates will turn on some of the smaller factual points and he could find himself, you know, in a position that's little bit hard to defend if he's not very clear and very up to date on a lot of facts.

OLBERMANN: What's all this I keep hearing about violins in Iraq? Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, as always good to see you, thanks for coming in.

ALTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Sadly, we have another state government sex scandal to report to you tonight. All right, it just a cow milking contest but I bet Eliot Spitzer had something to do with this.

And: In Worst Persons, suggesting that a "President Obama" would be a racist and an anti-Semite? Well, Sean Hannity knows that topic.

Worst Persons is ahead.


OLBERMANN: On this date 80 years ago, the actor Patrick McGuyen (ph) was born, inscrutable tough guy, star of "Secret Agent Man," twice an Emmy winner for guest shots on "Columbo." He was also the creator and star of what is, 40 years after its last episode, one of the most challenging TV series ever created, "The Prisoner." You're number six.

If you've never been sure if that accent of his means he was born in Ireland or Scotland or South Africa or England, wrong on all counts. He was born in Estoria, in Queens, near Laguardia Airport. Let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): I am not a number. We begin in Tennessee, where the hold legislators gone wild has hit the heartland. At the capital of Nashville, state senators and representatives took a break from milking the tax payers to milking the old fashioned cows in a contest. Be careful, this is how Eliot Spitzer got started.

Part of an effort to recognize Tennessee agriculture, the race was to see which law maker could squirt the most moo juice into the book during a set time period. Senator Charlotte Burkes (ph) your big winner. For her effort, she gets a nice trophy and is named a Democratic super delegate.

To the world of daytime talk, where my colleague, Chris Matthews, appeared on the "Ellen Show." We have seen our fair share of questionable dancing come out of Washington in recent weeks. This effort takes the cake.

And right here, down goes Ellen. She should challenge him to a duel. The Ellen website asked, was Ellen attacked by Chris Matthews? She called it the best dance ever. Matthews said was trying to do the Philly Dog. I don't think I can face him again. I don't think I can face him again.


OLBERMANN: Speaking of not facing things, on the fifth anniversary, the president thinks the war is noble, and represents the first Arabic uprising against al Qaeda, and the vice president doesn't care what you think about the war. Still crazy after all these years.

What baseball moguls did today that almost participated the first strike by one team since 1912.

But first, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 other scandals, Bushed. Number three, 1984-gate. More evidence of this in a moment, but here's Dick Cheney rewriting history from a speech during his trip to Baghdad; "this long term struggle against global terror became urgent on the morning of September 11th, 2001." You mean August 6th, 2001, right? When the president got that briefing that he should have read and should of done something about. He didn't and you didn't.

I'm sorry, I forget how beneficial 9/11 was to you, Mr. Cheney.

Number two, OBGYN-gate. This is not the president again talking about them not being able to practice their love with women all across this country. This is the American college of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issuing new ethics guidelines. If physicians do not feel they can, in conscience, provide the standard reproductive services that patients request, they should refer those patients to other doctors.

No, sir, says the administration. The Health and Human Services secretary has written a policy letter saying that if a doctor objects to abortion, he should not have to refer his patients elsewhere, because, obviously, it's all about the doctor's rights, not the patient's rights.

Number one, Bear Stearns-gate. You think the sub-prime mortgage crisis has just about over-extended credit in legal predatory lending? The FBI confirming last night that its probe of 14 mortgage lenders has now grown into criminal investigates of 17 of them. A section chief telling Reuters, quote, common sense would indicate that we would look at the Bear Stearns collapse.

Possible criminal mismanagement of investors' money, banks doing no due diligence, the relationship between the huge money made by the banks' managers of their hedge funds and the current crisis. You watch, this is going to make Enron look like the failure of a lemonade stand.


OLBERMANN: "I assure you this will not be a campaign of half measures," the words of George Walker Bush exactly five years ago tonight as he plunged America into a war that to date has caused 3,991 American soldiers their lives, cost four and a half million Iraqis their homes, cost the American tax payer 526 billion dollars, with hundreds of billions more already unavoidable.

Yet, in our third story in the Countdown, the president still declared this morning, with a straight face, that, quote, the successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable.


BUSH: The surge is working and as a return on our success in Iraq, we've begun bringing some of our troops home.


OLBERMANN: Of course, those troops were part of the escalation and due to be rotated home anyway. The president just slipped in this week that there are no more troops due to return after July; 140,000 American soldiers will still remain in Iraq, more than before that surge began. As to local citizens, -


BUSH: Today, there are more than 90,000 concerned local citizens who are protecting their communities from the terrorists and insurgents and extremists.


OLBERMANN: According to reporting done by "Rolling Stone Magazine," those concerned citizens are actually former Sunni insurgents, who have now given their loyalty to the American military in return for cash. Such newly formed militias are acting as a counter-force to the predominately Shiite Iraqi security forces. So, we have now armed both sides of the sectarian divide.


BUSH: For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be a place where al Qaeda rallied the Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs join with Americans to drive al Qaeda out. In Iraq, we're witnessing the first large scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden.


OLBERMANN: So our half assed invasion of Iraq, which allowed a bunch of terrorists to flood the country and buy the local terrorism franchise, was actually genius, because it's apparently yielded a popular uprising against bin Laden, an uprising that America is funding, an uprising that's so fundamental that the president thinks it's incapable of surviving if American troops go home.


BUSH: Al Qaeda would regain its lost sanctuaries and establish new ones, fomenting violence and terror that could spread beyond Iraq's borders with serious consequences for the world's economy.


OLBERMANN: The economy? So, we've been in Iraq to disarm Saddam, to find WMD, to change regime, to liberate the Iraqi people, to bring democracy to the Middle East, to stop al Qaeda, to protect American, to stop Iran. Now it's the economy, stupid!

Finally, if you were in any doubt as to the administration's opinion of the war and of your opinion about it, witness the vice president's interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz.


CHENEY: I'm on the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So? You don't care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuation of the opinion polls.


OLBERMANN: He doesn't care what people think. Speaking of being blown off course, he spent the fifth year of the war he engineered fishing from a yacht belonging to the sultan of Oman.

We're joined now by Jon Soltz, chairman of Vote Good to see you in person, Jon.

JON SOLTZ, VOTVETS.ORG: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: What's worse, the vice president's indifference or the president's on-going delusion and effort to sell the war as a success of any kind?

SOLTZ: I have to tell you, I think they are both equally horrible statements. When it comes to the president trying to sell the war, make no mistake, five years ago, when we were sitting in the Kuwaiti desert, we were going into Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. I was for it. I believe it. I wanted to go. I was happy be there.

It was a hard thing when you come home and find out that's not true. I think back to one instance I had when I talked to one of my guys. He was blown up. They had taken bones out of his rib to reconstruct his arm. I think it was the only time in my life I really cried in front of a soldier.

I asked myself a simple question and I said it to him. I said, I hope that this is worth it. To see him today, continually trying to sell a war when he has a policy of retreat against Osama bin Laden, it's hard for me.

When I hear the vice president talk about so, well, the military overall feels just like the American public, in regards to the percentage of us that don't support this policy in Iraq. Not just that he has complete disregard for us, but we have great military men and women who serve as recruiters in our military. They have the hardest job in the Army.

They go into homes and they ask mothers and fathers to give their sons to the armed forces. It's the first time ever we have put up a volunteer force in this protracted war. How are they going to recruit when the people don't support the war policy? We can never mobilize for war. Both statements are horrible.

OLBERMANN: When he says that and he shows contempt, it's not just for the American public, it's for the soldiers as well.

SOLTZ: Absolutely and for the people out there trying to recruit people to the military every day.

OLBERMANN: The president is still conflating the reasons for war in Iraq with the hunt for bin Laden. They don't have anything to do with each other. And now, as that happened, today there's a new audio tape, apparently a posted message, from bin Laden that's aimed at Europe and the Pope. That is a stark reminder that whereas this is supposedly all - had something to do originally with finding bin Laden. All it's done has protected bin Laden. This war has protected Osama bin Laden.

SOLTZ: I say it real simple; George Bush and John McCain, who is obviously going to be the Republican nominee, they have our country in a policy of retreat against the people that attacked this country on 9/11. You have 90 percent of your Army in Iraq. You have 10 percent of your force structure in Afghanistan.

Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. It is a policy of retreat. My question is, these bin Laden videos, it's sickening that he's out there, but this is actually a benefit for the opposition party in this country. This is a benefit for the Democrats. The fact that bin Laden is on the lose, that proves that this war in Iraq has been a complete disaster. Here we are five years later, and the man is on the loose.

OLBERMANN: What do you think - One of the last quotes from Bush that we played, "al Qaeda would regain its lost sanctuaries, establish new ones, fomenting violence and terror that could spread beyond Iraq's borders, with serious consequences to the world's economy?" He has now mentioned the world's economy and oil, the price of gas. These have now been used - they were reasons that were thrown out by the lunatic fringe on the left five years ago, saying, this war is about the economy and the price of gas. They were shouted down on the street and called traitors to this country.

Now the president is using this as rationale. What do you think when you hear that?

SOLTZ: I go back to the whole issue of wars sell themselves. You shouldn't have to debate why we're in it. When you look at reasons for this war, the reason for this war was weapons of mass destruction. When we were getting mortared in Baghdad in 2003, it was very clear there was no WMD there. There's been no reason since. He's just had excuses for the last five years to keep us in this mess.

The only reason that we have in Iraq right now is a political strategy and political reason for the president to not have to admit that he made a huge mistake in Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Jon Soltz, chairmen of As always, we say it the same way, thanks for your time and thanks for your service.

SOLTZ: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Jon, be well. Oddly, while the president and vice president made such fools of themselves on this day of remembrance, their poodles said almost nothing. Where are your war pom-poms now, Rush.

And in Worsts, she's very upset that these photos of here helped inflame Iraq, not that she posed in them or took them, not that she was doing the torturing depicted. She's very upset that it's all the media's fault. Worst persons ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The fifth anniversary of their war and what is the lunatic fringe commenting on? Comedian Rush Limbaugh oinks about Jeremiah Wright. Bill-O asked if Spitzer's prostitute will sue a newspaper. If the war is as noble as the president says it is, how come even his puppets are afraid to talk about it? Rachel Maddow is next.

But first, time for our number two story, Countdown's worst persons in the world. The bronze to baseball, which today precipitated the first labor action by an individual team since the 1912 Detroit Tigers. The day before the World Champion Red Sox were to leave for Japan to play the season opener there, the Sox found out that their coaches and staff would not get the same appearance fee the players would.

Led by Captain Jason Varitek and Manager Terry Francona, the Sox said then we're not going to Japan and we're not playing today's exhibition game. Baseball played its tune. The exhibition game started one hour late. The Red Sox will go to Japan.

For the players, it wasn't about the money. It was about the principal of supporting those who support them. For a guy like the bullpen catcher, Manny Martinez, his annual salary is 30,000 dollars. The compromise on his appearance fee for the trip to Japan is 20,000 dollars.

Our runner up tonight, Private Lynndie England. You remember her as the pointing woman from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. She has told a German news magazine she's, quote, pissed off because, as she sees it, those images caused the insurgency to pick up. She is blaming herself for her role in un-American torture? No. "If the media hadn't exposed the pictures to that extent, then thousands of lives would have been saved."

She's blaming the media. "Yes, I took the photos, but I didn't make it worldwide." If you're wondering how Miss England stays in shape these days, it's the mental gymnastics required to blame the distribution of the photos, not the person who took them, her, or the person involved in the torture, also her.

But our winner, Sean Hannity of Fixed News, continuing his race baiting on Obama. "He agreed with Wright. I don't know that he does, but if he did, that would mean a racist and an anti Semite would be president of the United States."

Hannity, let's say your tortured logic is right? Racist, anti-Semite, wouldn't that make him more appealing to your audience, an audience who includes somebody who last Saturday posted on, where it remained unremoved for 24 hours, quote, I think more people knowing about Obama's background now is going to hurt him extensively and almost assuredly get him killed if he's elected as president.

You have a website that permits assassination fantasies and you're trying to inflame these idiots. Instead of talking about Obama, Sean, be an American. You ought to be talking to the secret Service about helping them track these psychopaths down. Sean Hannity, today's Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN: The fifth anniversary of the Iraq war marked with a speech by its chicken little creator, President Bush, coinciding with a cranky interview by its mother hen, Vice President Dick Cheney. But in our number one story in the Countdown, from the war's principal media cheerleaders, nary a peep.

Exhibit number one, comedian Rush Limbaugh, who spent the better part of his radio show today disparaging Senator Obama, including the supposed white guilt encouraged by Senator Obama's speech on race yesterday. Limbaugh's fixation with Jeremiah Wright official. He's awarded with a daily segment.

Fox News coverage of the war, fifth anniversary or otherwise, equally minimal, largely tangential. A lengthy segment today with the banner, "Obama Slams Iraq War in Major Speech." Better to angle each story along the lines of the war's critics than the war's catastrophes.

Yet even with Fox Noise, the shame seems to lie somewhere under the surface. Once President Bush's speech this morning was over, it was pretty much ignored.

Fox did have time to squeeze in Senator McCain's visit with Israeli leaders, as well as dozens of other stories having nothing to do with Iraq, all par for the course. Just yesterday, the Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual report on the news media. In 2007, Fox's total coverage of the Iraq war was about half of ours at MSNBC.

Then there's Bill-O, whose big thing today was the O'Reilly culture quiz. To exchange bitter sarcasm with me, a pleasure as always, to welcome Air America host and MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow. Good evening.


OLBERMANN: So time to crow about how great this five year war long is doing at its midpoint. Where's Limbaugh? Where's Fixed News?

MADDOW: I was on the Fox News website just before I came into the studio. I think we should note that there's a lot of competition for news real estate right now. I was very drawn in by their front page feature on a man in Australia who constructed a robot that shot him in his drive way. We may be five years into the worst foreign policy disaster in a generation, but there are killer robots in Australia driveways that he's covering.

OLBERMANN: They have attacks with sharks too, sharks with robots.

MADDOW: At any moment the shark element could come into the story.

They'll be on it.

OLBERMANN: To be fair from Fox, Bill O'Reilly has not in this five years ignored war, just maybe not the Iraq war.

MADDOW: He's been embedded on the front lines. He has been willing to do a lot of war reporting, actually, to be fair. It's just that his war of focus has really been the war on Easter and to lesser extent the war on Christmas. That has not left a lot of time for the killing wars.

OLBERMANN: Don't forget the war on porn stars, hookers and strippers, and the war on against facial recognition features, you know, the body language experts. We have that war covered too.

MADDOW: There's a lot of wars to cover and you have to pick your battles. He's decided that Iraq and Afghanistan are for others to cover.

OLBERMANN: That network strategy is attack the war's critics, equate actual coverage with a lack of patriotism. That's the selling point all this time?

MADDOW: Yes, in all seriousness, don't forget that it was Bill

O'Reilly who claimed that it's bad to cover the war. He's the guy who said

I looked it up to be sure. He said, does a bombing in Tikrit really mean anything?

OLBERMANN: If you're in Tikrit, it sure does.

MADDOW: Yes, it really does. If you're an American soldier there or if you're an Iraqi there, it mean as lot. So if the quantity of the news coverage about the war decreases, it's easier to qualitatively skew the coverage so it says more of the story you want to tell, rather than the pesky story about, you know, dead people.

OLBERMANN: But, of course, it doesn't matter, as we heard from Vice President Cheney. This ultimate response today, when the war's champions are confronted with the reality that two-thirds of us think it hasn't been worth it. "So," he said, "I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls."

Apart from the whole let them eat cake, or something worse, quality to the thing, isn't the point here that there have not been fluctuations in the public opinion polls? From five years ago tonight, it's been a straight line in one sense or another down hill, in terms of public acceptance, tolerance for this crap war.

MADDOW: And the United States - the people of the United States and the people of Iraq have been remarkably unified on thinking that this war is a bad idea and that U.S. troops ought to leave Iraq as soon as possible. They have been remarkably unified on that. Dick Cheney has never cared. I don't even think he's saying the war is going well because he wants us to believe that. I don't think he cares what we think.

I think, for him, the war really has gone well. I think 110 dollars for a barrel of oil, and western oil companies getting their mitts on Iraq's oil, instead of Iraq controlling it, that's a good war. That's occasion to go fishing on the yacht of the sultan of Oman.

OLBERMANN: Just the savings that the ex-Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, made on the taxes on the payroll for the employees who were listed in the Cayman Islands made this a great war for Dick Cheney.

MADDOW: It's an occasion for celebration today.

OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Air America, always a pleasure. Thanks for coming in. That's Countdown for this 1,785th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.