Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, April 30
video 'podcast'

Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons

Guests: Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, Chris Kofinis, Jim Shank, Maria Milito

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

Out of gas: The rational superdelegates have all decided and they've secretly told the campaigns and the Obama people are happy. Where does that leave Senator Clinton's bid to snatch the nomination?

Out of gas: Carpooling to work in the car of an Indiana sheet metal worker playing fill her up for him only it wasn't really his car and she spent most of the event on the phone and she's really hasn't bought gas in a while.


REPORTER: When was last time you bought gas?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, I haven't personally bought it for a long time because of Secret Service.


OLBERMANN: Poll result show: Obama 46, Clinton, 43 in tonight's NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" Survey.

"He's so full of it," Senator Jim Webb on McCain's foot dragging on the new G.I. Bill. McCain says Webb's staff has not been eager to negotiate. Webb says, "I have personally talked to John three times." Old man yells at cloud.

Fraud at Wal-Mart: The disabled woman who they were suing to get back the medical expenses they paid for her. The suit they dropped a month ago to end the nightmare of bad pub. Wal-Mart still hasn't given Debbie Shank back control of her money. Her husband, Jim, joins us here tonight.

And we join Paula Abdul's meltdown already in progress.


PAULA ABDUL, "AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: Jason, first song I loved hearing your lower register - the second song, I felt like your usual charm, it was missing for me. It kind of left me a little empty.

RANDY JACKSON, "AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: It was just the first song.

ABDUL: Oh, my God, I thought you sang twice.

RYAN SEACREST, "AMERICAN IDOL" HOST: You're seeing the future, baby.

You're seeing the future. She's coming back.

ABDUL: You know what? This is hard.


OLBERMANN: No, not really.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.


ABDUL: This is hard.


OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening, this is Wednesday, April 30th, 188 days until the 2008 presidential election.

And a campaign whose race for the superdelegates is reportedly secretly over and a campaign the subtext of which has been complaint and even metaphorically martyrdom, there are words that would have sent supporters Senator Clinton into a paroxysm of rage. That the nation needed a president, quote, "that has testicular fortitude."

Our fifth story on the Countdown: That there is no rage and there are no death threats tonight, explicable thusly - the gonadial (ph) reference was made by a labor leader as he endorsed Senator Clinton intending it as a compliment to her fortitude. This was Paul Gipson, president of an Indiana Steelworkers Local as Senator Clinton was described as smiling sheepishly behind him, insisting that to alter and improve NAFTA America needed, well, let's let him say it.


PAUL GIPSON, PRESIDENT, STEELWORKERS LOCAL 6786: I truly believe that that's going to take an individual that has testicular fortitude. You know, that's exactly right. That's what we got to have.



OLBERMANN: It is the second odd thing said on her behalf in 24 hours. In North Carolina, which had the words been directed against Senator Clinton rather than for her, might have provoked the campaign's well oiled umbrage machine. In the endorsing the senator yesterday, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley said, Clinton was so determined that she, quote, "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy."

An odd photo-op highlighted today on the trail, Senator Clinton's typical morning commute with an average Indiana sheet metal worker, nothing typical nor average for either them. Jason Wilfing and his family driving 45 minutes from their home outside of South Bend this morning, to meet Senator Clinton at her hotel in Plymouth, Indiana, he was not even driving his own pickup truck which could not accommodate the Secret Service. This is a loaner from his boss. He normally does not commute to work in a motorcade that includes eight low gas SUVs either.

Senator Clinton having little time for small talk with her driver - I'm sorry, host, as she multitasked doing a radio interview by telephone. Eventually, time for the pit stop, the whole enterprise choreographed down to a specific gas station, a specific pump at that gas station so that cameras could be in position when the caravan arrived. Senator Clinton paid for the half tank, but Mr. Wilfing pumped the gas, the senator admitting she's out of practice.


CLINTON: Oh, I haven't personally bought it for a long time because of Secret Service. So, you know, I have a unique situation, but I sure have heard a lot from so many people about what it cost them to buy gas.


OLBERMANN: That stunt an opportunity for Senator Clinton to make a pitch again for her summer gas tax holiday which she said, "Would spare families like Jason Wilfing's, and our own correspondent Ron Allen pointed that Senator Obama and other critics called that proposal a gimmick that would save families like Mr. Wilfing's only $28 all summer, Senator Clinton suddenly had new beneficiaries for her plan.


CLINTON: It is very helpful to a lot of people. You know, the people who drive long distances and there are folks who commute 60, 75 miles. So, it's going to be a lot more for them. It also is really important for our truckers, the American Truckers Association said that just in the summer months, trucking - truckers would save like $2 billion.


OLBERMANN: So, why didn't she spend the morning riding shotgun in the cab of a semi? Senator Clinton's day did not get better when she went inside to the convenience store and could not operate the coffee machine without assistance.

It also did not get better with this news today's superdelegate endorsements favoring Senator Obama three to two, Senator Clinton needing about 2/3 of remaining undecided superdelegates under the rosiest of projection.

And is reporting that Capitol Hill insiders are telling them that the battle for congressional superdelegates is over, one prominent Obama surrogate hinting that Senator Obama was the victor. Asked which way the committed but unannounced superdelegates are leading, Senator Claire McCaskill telling Politico, quote, "As James Brown would say, I feel good."

Senator Obama narrowly leading in the new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" Poll out this evening: 46 to 43. The Keith number of other plus not sure plus margin of error is 11.1. As for concerns that the Democratic primary fight could hurt the party's chances in November, putting aside for a moment who the actually nominee might be, when asked their preference for the outcome of the general election, more than half of those surveyed, choosing the generic Democrat, 51 to 33.

On that note, let's bring in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton's drive along this morning, I mean, this was obviously "kept the gas tax holiday" story alive for another day. And by no means was it John Kerry in a germ-free suit that looked like a giant condom or Mike Dukakis in the tank. But, did this go well?

FINEMAN: Well, you can't say it went very well. She - some of the staged theatrics of it got out of hand for her. But talking to the Clinton people tonight, they're happy about it because they're relentlessly focused on this issue. They're doubling down on advertising in Indiana and North Carolina to the extent they can with the gas tax holiday thing, plus the mention of the mortgage foreclosure freeze, they think it symbolizes the kind of campaign that she wants to run and they've taken on such a note of "us versus them," of "us versus the elites."

It sounded to me like when I talked to Clinton campaign headquarters that they're all sitting around in muscle t-shirts getting ready to drive off in their Harleys. They've got a real "us versus them" mentality that includes the media, that includes Barack Obama who they managed to convince themselves as the paragon of elitism.

OLBERMANN: But who's the "us"? We know who the "them" is, it's everybody. Who's the "us" because, the economists who - besides Senator Obama, economists are pointing out, the price of gas could go up, demand would go up, refineries wouldn't be able to meet the demand, gas companies might see an opportunity to, you know, scarf up more profit with the price being dropped by some percentage. Also, she's lined again with John McCain on this.

Am I missing something here? Is this - not in terms of the campaign, but in terms of the context of the actual issue, is this where she really wants to be?

FINEMAN: Yes, it's where she wants to be. It's very much where she wants to be. It really is shot and beer, a bowl off. I expect her to be driving the 18-wheeler herself down I-70. And they don't care about the theory. They don't care for once about what Paul Krugman says.

They used to like what Paul Krugman says and as for the relationship with McCain, they say that they would pay for the holiday with windfall profits taxes on the oil company, something McCain doesn't do. They just managed to convince themselves that they're going to go for every vote of every person who resents the system. The theory of it be damned and they'd taken lots of hits for their mortgage foreclosure freeze, they're taking similar hits on this.

They've made a virtue of necessity and they're trying to glory in it as they become the sort of working man's friend campaign as things play out here. That's the role that Hillary is finally come to in this campaign and the one that seems that she's going to play out from here until the end of the nomination process.

OLBERMANN: The remark about testicular fortitude about Senator Clinton by one of her supporters. If this had been said critically of her, obviously, the political world would be aflame tonight and dire consequences would be threatened as we speak. But just on the substance, with this man here, Paul Gipson said, is this a compliment? Does this help her campaign or her image?

FINEMAN: Well, the mind reels at the possible campaign trinkets we're going to see now, Keith. They love it. They absolutely love it. And they love the implication behind it, if you put this together with the "pansy" remark from North Carolina - they love the implication of it.

They're trying to paint Barack Obama as somehow an effete elitist, and Hillary who spent all of her time, you know, years ago with all the soft money crowd who had the fat cats with her as opposed to the Internet crowd at the beginning of the campaign, they're trying to paint her as the working girl. That's the role that she's got. They picked through the polls and looking for support among working people, white-collar Catholics, seniors, you know, those working women in Pittsburgh, and now, they are going for the same crowd in Indiana and North Carolina.

That's with a she's got left to play. That's what's on the table, Keith, and she's playing it for all its worth. And one thing about the Clintons, they're never embarrassed about where they end up in politics and this is where she's ended up.

OLBERMANN: Check your shame at the door, indeed. Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek." Not your shame, you know what I mean.

FINEMAN: Yes, I know what you mean.

OLBERMANN: As always, sir, great thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Now, back to this issue of superdelegates. A closed issue if is right, not if you witnessed though a small protest in Washington today. A group of 150 Floridians rallied on the streets outside Democratic National Committee headquarters in D.C. One of them, a superdelegate pledged to Senator Clinton named Corrine Brown, claiming, "We will shut down the convention if we are not seated, then nobody will be seated."

That's a Democrat talking about other Democrats. Although another Clinton superdelegate also addressed the crowd, organizers going out of their way to remove any impression the group might be, well you know, biased towards Senator Clinton. Many in the crowd wearing t-shirts bearing the names of every Democratic candidate, Kucinich, Dodd, Biden, Obama, you get the picture.

At this point, let's turn to Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis, who served as communications director of the Edwards campaign. Thank you for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: One member of that crowd outside the DNC headquarters who was asked if she was a Clinton supporter told NBC, quote, "We're not supposed to talk about that." Without - the implications of that by itself, what was that event today in Washington?

KOFINIS: It's one of those spontaneous manufactured events that is supposed to, I think, create this impression that there's a grassroots movement to push the seat in Florida. I mean, listen, I think, this is clearly something that the Clinton camp either, you know, knew about or clearly supported one way or the other. I mean, it's obvious that they want Florida and Michigan to be seated. It's something that I think they need in order to build up the popular vote count let alone their delegate vote count. I just don't see it's going to happen given everything we know.

OLBERMANN: And let's say it does happen both with Florida and Michigan, does it really help to the degree that it needs to be? I mean, this report from today said that the congressional delegations have already made up their minds and just have not said anything publicly yet at a sense of staying out of this. Senator McCaskill made it seem as if certainly they had not fallen into that 66 percent to 33 percent breakdown that she would at best need. Is this - what is this about at this point?

KOFINIS: I mean, here's the problem, I think, for the Clinton

campaign. It's a math problem. And if you look at the key statistics, I

think, that the superdelegates are going to factor in and when they decide

when they finally decide - it's going to be who's ahead in the pledged votes. Senator Obama is. Who's ahead on the popular vote? Senator Obamas is. Who's won more states? Senator Obama has.

You know, who's - for example, you know, leading in the money race? Senator Obama is. I mean, those, I think, are really powerful factors and part of this gamesmanship back-and-forth is the Clinton campaign trying to at least steal one of those statistics away, specifically the popular vote one. I mean, I'd just don't know how you do that when in particular Senator Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan. I think it's a really hard sell.

OLBERMANN: Why haven't those congressional superdelegates, if Politico is right, announced their preferences? Why, in other words, are they putting us and their party through more of this if they don't have to?

KOFINIS: I'm not sure if there (inaudible) or Bacchus's (ph) or both. I mean, it's part the question I think a lot of people keep asking. I mean, the reality is here as long as Senator Clinton keeps winning, they're going to prolong this thing at least to the end. I think, if Senator Clinton loses both Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday, I think you're going to see an avalanche of superdelegates going Senator Obama's way.

If that doesn't happen, as I expect it will be a split, you're going to see a trickle, well, you know, kind of what you seen since, you know, Pennsylvania with Senator Obama leading and then them holding up to June 3rd. And then, I think, those statistics are going to play really heavily and I think already playing heavily, but it's going to keep the superdelegates on the sidelines for the time being.

OLBERMANN: On that narrow chance, the can opener option that in fact, this is decided not by delegate count or maybe not by vote count in the primaries or nothing that relates to the actual votes we've seen, but that somehow the Democratic Party leaders decide the Democratic nominee and as Senator Clinton hopes that is not Senator Obama. Is it - I talked about this 35 times today on the streets of New York, is this automatically somewhere written that if you don't pick the person who finished first in all of those categories, you have to pick the person who finished second?

In other words if there's a decision to overrule a vote, is it automatic that Senator Clinton is the beneficiary of that, or could there be a third candidate who winds up with this nomination? And again, just theoretically.

KOFINIS: I mean, only if it went to the convention, I think, is that a small possibility. I think what you've seem from the relationship of the party - in the party in particular, Governor Dean and others, saying that they want this thing decided in June. I mean, I would personally hope it was decided early but that's, you know, that's par for the course.

So, I don't think that's going to happen. I think those statistics end up weighing very heavily on the superdelegates, and I think, you know, wait and see what happens in Indiana and North Carolina and let's hope it's over sooner rather than later. But don't count on it.

OLBERMANN: Well, Chris Kofinis, former communications director of the Edwards campaign, as we celebrate one year plus since the first debate, here's hoping. Great thanks.

KOFINIS: Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN: Michelle Obama with one of great answers ever in the political interview today.

Wal-Mart dragging its feet a month after it promised that Deborah Shank would get her money back. She doesn't have it. Her husband, Jim, joins us.

And exactly does this bill promise, assemblywoman, the one guaranteeing a woman's right to pursue sexual happiness?

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Wal-Mart feared your anger, promised its former employee, Debbie Shank, would get her money back. It's been one month since the bad publicity ended the Shanks do not have the money back yet. Her husband joins us.

Back on the campaign trail: Michelle Obama's answer to Meredith Vieira about Reverend Wright is pretty much closed off that topic.

Next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: In case there was any question and yes there was, whether the Obama campaign was intending to move on from the Reverend Wright following Senator Obama's a definitive renunciation yesterday, the senator's wife provided a definitive answer today.

That answer, our fourth story tonight: Next question, please.

Speaking with Meredith Vieira for an interview that will air on THE TODAY SHOW tomorrow and also on Countdown, Michelle Obama was asked for her personal feelings about Wright.


MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC HOST: Michelle, do you feel that the Reverend Wright betrayed your husband?

MICHELLE OBAMA, SENATOR OBAMA'S WIFE: You know, I think that Barack has spoken so clearly and eloquently about this.

VIEIRA: But do you personally feel that the reverend betrayed your husband?

M. OBAMA: I believe that we got - you know what I think, Meredith, we've got to move forward. You know, this conversation doesn't help my kids. You know, it doesn't help kids out there who were looking for us to make decisions and choices about how we're going to better fund education.


OLBERMANN: Check, please. That interview with both Michelle and Barack Obama tomorrow morning on TODAY, tomorrow night on Countdown. Meanwhile, today, the candidates backfill resumed after a year trying to disprove his rival's claims that he is not presidential enough, Senator Obama has apparently succeeded so well that he is now addressing his rival's claims that he's not average enough.

So today, the black son of a white single mother held a small town hall with his wife talking about their student loan debt and Michelle Obama struggled to be a mother to their kids while holding on to a job they needed the income for, and years ago, trying to keep her husband out of politics.


M. OBAMA: I'm the cynic in the family. I am the one. Right? This is the hope guy.


M. OBAMA: I've seen it. I'm like - you really do believe this stuff, don't you?


M. OBAMA: And it's a good thing because he has always said, because I've spent my life trying to convince him not to be a politician, like teach, write, sing, dance. I don't care what you do, just don't do this. These people are mean.


OLBERMANN: Let's bring in a nice person, MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, also a columnist and associate editor of the "Washington Post." Thanks for your time tonight, Gene.


OLBERMANN: If McCain and Clinton and the media keep chopping right in the forest but there's no news to hear, will it still make a sound?

ROBINSON: Well, you know, I think the media have developed kind of dog ears on this subject. So, I think if any sort of tiny sound or ultrahigh frequency peep, you know, a rustling of branches or anything, it seems that we - the story is irresistible to, you know, cable networks and newspapers and everybody basically in our business. So, it doesn't go away immediately. But, I think a lot of the wind is taken out of the sails of this alleged issue since Obama can reply to, you know, questions about Wright by saying - well, I've already said, the guy is nuts, so, let's move on.

OLBERMANN: And not perhaps in so many words but yes, that was obviously his intent yesterday. It is a fascinating reversal though. This man now having to prove he's average enough when the campaign against him, I mean, the 3:00 a.m. ad and such, were predicated on the idea that he wasn't presidential enough. Now, I mean, these are not opposite ends of the spectrum but presidential and average, you think if you're not one, you're going to be the other one, correct?

ROBINSON: Right. I mean, I am on record as not wanting an average president, especially this time. You know, we've tried this. It does not work. I don't want an average person as president. Indeed, I don't think we have average people in the race. Hillary Clinton is certainly not an average person.

You know, in a sense, I mean, if Obama has kind of - if perceptions of him or certain of his qualities are important, here's one that at least he can do something about. He can't do anything about the fact that he is black, nor would he want to. And if some people are not going to vote for him because of that, then, fine. But, you know, there's nothing he can do.

But if people perceive him to be kind of professorial and super intellectual and maybe just a little reserved and maybe just a little aloof, you know - and they don't like that, then maybe he can show people that that's not what he really is. You know, I mean, if indeed that is not what he really is, then, he can certainly make a show of being more of a normal person.

OLBERMANN: Is there something else to it though? John Boehner the House Republican said that the Republicans will win in November because Obama's appeal will be limited to arugala-eaters. We have the steelworkers union leader from Indiana, Mr. Gipson, the one who made the remark about Senator Clinton's testicular fortitude, again, those are his words. He also decried "the Gucci-wearing latte-drinking self-centered egotistical people that have damaged our lifestyle."

I don't know who the hell he's talking about. But I feel like I'm missing the subtext here that these are code words for something, not something racial, maybe it's something about Obama, what is the insecurity that he reminds people like John Boehner or Paul Gipson that they have?

ROBINSON: SAT scores basically. I mean, it's kind of class with an intellectual component, you know, that this is one of those smarty pants guys and the implication, I guess, is that someone is sufficiently intelligent and has enough advanced degrees is not able to relate to or even comprehend the problems that people have who don't have those advantages, I guess.

OLBERMANN: All right. I go with the smart guy every time.

ROBINSON: I really want the smart guy. I really do.

OLBERMANN: I want the guy so much smarter than me that it hurts me - that it pains me that that there's that much smartness between us.

ROBINSON: If he or she is the smartest person in the room, and just got all time (ph), I'm happy.

OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC, and according to Britain's newspaper, "The Telegraph," the 37th most influential political pundit in our fair land. Great thanks, number 37.

ROBINSON: Thanks, 37 with a bullet, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Yes, you bet.

A program note: More of Meredith Vieira's conversation with Barack and Michelle Obama tomorrow morning on THE TODAY SHOW and an exclusive tomorrow night here on Countdown, new portions of that interview are debuting right here on this news hour - Senator Obama on Countdown tomorrow night.

Here today, gone tomorrow: The roundup of the odd and the Wal-Mart story that outraged the nation. Wal-Mart said it was going to leave Debbie Shank alone. Why then has it not given her family control of her money? Her husband joins us here.

That's ahead but first: the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals - Bushed.

Number three: Brain damage-gate. Forget the moral imperative to give returning troops the best possible health dare, especially to those health problems incurred during their service, forget the damage done to recruiting efforts when we discard used soldiers like trash. The nation's top military think tank, the Rand Corporation is now offering a motive for helping the troops that even this administration might care about - money.

Rand officials are testifying this week that the Bush administration provided appropriate treatment to all the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering brain injuries. It would actually save money in the long run because things like lost productivity and suicide attempts are expensive. So, now will you take care of the wounded? There's profit in it.

Number two: Losing-gate. The State Department's annual report on global terrorism is out. No decline on the number of global terror attacks from 2006, and despite the Republican claim of monopoly on fighting terror, more than six years after 9/11, anti-America terrorists still maintain actual safe havens in Somalia, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Yemen.

The report also says al Qaeda has improved operational planning for targeting the U.S., thanks to a Pakistani cease-fire that Mr. Bush defended in 2006 when he said, quote, "We'll let the tactics speak for themselves after it happened." Well, the tactics. So, what do you have to say for yourself?

And number one: Homeland Security-gate: The "Washington Times," the conservative paper, today reports that among the 9,000 false positive hits per day on the terrorist "no-fly list" are some Federal Air Marshals. An anonymous agent told the "Times" in some cases, planes have departed without any coverage, meaning no marshals because the airline employees were adamant they would not fly. Another agent said that he's been getting harassed for six years because his exact name is on the "no-fly list."

You heard me, because of this always growing, all consuming terrorist "no-fly list," some of the people who are supposed to be on the plane to stop the terrorists on the plane are getting mistaken for suspected terrorists and being kept from getting on the plane.


OLBERMANN: Best persons in a moment and legislation that would ensure a woman's right to sexual happiness. Got to see that 527 ad. First, we're off by a day, but on April 29th, 1958, Gary Cohen was born, for 20 years now play by play man of the New York Mets and graduate of one of those other schools in the organization that Cornell runs, the Ivy League. I believe it's called Columbia. Also a Countdown viewer. Happy 50th, Gary. Let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: Think those road trips are bad, try going to Silligori (ph), India, where this dude managed to pull an empty train and three cars for a record breaking 12 feet using only his pony tail. You think that's impressive? In Bashpour (ph), India, another hirsute Superman able to lift 22 pounds of weights using only his mustache and a grimace. Can't quite manage to lift the bike though. Pony tail, moustache, impressive; next year a guy tries all of this with his nose hair.

To the Internets and an interview gone horribly awry on ABC News Now. Greg Olgood (ph) of Proctor and Gambol demonstrating a device that transforms filthy worm filled water into drinkable water. The interview went swimmingly until Mr Olgood decided to prove how good the device worked at the end of the interview.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got to leave it, thank you very much. That's great, thank you. And that is "Money Matters" for now.

OLBERMANN: Always look before you drink.


OLBERMANN: Wal-mart thought it had stopped the public anger when it dropped its lawsuit to recover the medical expense money it fronted from one of its employees. But a month later, Debbie and Jim Shank still don't have access to their money. Wal-Mart has now issued a statement and Jim Shank will join us. Paula Abdul finds a worm hole and travels through time. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best accidental psychedelic drug inventor, Albert Hofman, the Swiss synthetic chemist who inadvertently discovered LSD. He died at the age of 102, 65 years after he took the first acid trip and then had the first bad acid trip. Hofman also responsible for pioneering several medical useful drugs. He discovered Peyote mushrooms and through his invention of LSD, he was also responsible for the Sid and Marty Croff (ph) TV Show, "H.R. Puff and Stuff."

Number two, best armed leg, Jerry Moody, a homeless man from Fort Pierce in Florida. Picked up at the truck stop by cops, taken to the E.R. for undisclosed injuries, where revealed he had a gun, 23 rounds of ammunition on his person, as well as four knives concealed in his prosthetic leg. Mr Moody was arrested for not having a permit for the weapons, but he was immediately cast in the next Quentin Tarantino flick.

Number one, best constitutional amendment; for women in her conservative nation, Ecuadorial assembly member Maria Soledad Vela (ph) has introduced a bill that would ensure the pursuit of sexual happiness. Miss Vela claims the write to enjoyment will ensure women can make free, responsible and informed decisions about sex lives. An opposition member accused Vela of trying to decree orgasm by law, saying it, quote, isn't possible.

Responds Assembly women Vela, "I never asked for the right to orgasm, only the right to enjoyment." Why in the hell hasn't this come up in one of our presidential debate?


OLBERMANN: For three days running, Wal-Mart made it into our nightly list of worst persons in the world, until finally, on April 1st, that company announced it was dropping its claim to the money its health care plan had paid to Wal Mart employee Debra Shank after she was left permanently brain damaged in a horrific truck accident. Tonight, our third story in the Countdown, it appears Wal-Mart has snatched evil from the jaws of goodness. Wal Mart is dragging its corporate feet.

Debbie Shanks husband, Jim, who took on two jobs to pay for her on-going health care and who was even forced to divorce her just so she could get a little more money from Medicaid will join us presently. First a reminder of just what happened to the Shank family. Debra Shank, a mother of three, working for a local Missouri Wal-Mart, when her mini van collided with a tractor trailer in 2000. She was so grievously injured, she not only cannot remember the accident, she cannot even remember that her son had been killed in Iraq.

To pay for her 24-hour care, her husband successfully won about 417,000 in a settlement put in a trust fund. Wal-Mart then successfully sued the Shanks for all of the money, citing small print in their health care plan. While Jim Shank asked for some compassion, the company insisted it was being compassionate by only taking what was left in her settlement trust, and not the full amount their health care plan paid out.

It was only after the national outrage that Wal-Mart agreed to drop its claim. And yet, nearly a month later, the trust is still in the company's name. The Shanks still can't touch the money. Wal-Mart has sent us a statement late today, reading, "our commitment to the Shank family has not changed. We want to see the trust within the Shank family control as soon as possible and in a manner that protects her from a tax stand point. To do that, we have to take several steps in the right order. We have been in on-going communication with the Shank's attorney and he is fully aware of our timetable. We should have the trust in Mrs. Shank's name soon."

As promised, Jim Shank joins us from St. Louis. Thanks for some of your time tonight, sir.

JIM SHANK, WIFE INJURED IN ACCIDENT: Keith, it's a pleasure.

OLBERMANN: What happened since April 1st, when Wal-Mart said they would give the money back, and what do they mean in that statement that this is about taxes and that your attorneys know all about it?

SHANK: I was just informed on the way up here that they were in contact with my attorney today, and we have to go to court and get all of the judgments in their favor, we have to get them all reversed, have a judge sign off on it. Then, supposedly, everything will be turned back over to us. The tax thing, you're guess is as good as mine.

OLBERMANN: Are you confident this is going to work out all right?

Did we hit some sort of hitch because the publicity push stopped.

SHANK: I'm trying to be confident that it will be worked out. My attorney tells me, it's going to happen, just be patient. But I've been patient. I'm try to be patient. I'm smiling and being patient. Where's my money?

OLBERMANN: Tell me why people would say, this is going to be resolved. They have conceded the point and they claim they are doing this now just to make sure you don't get messed up somehow with the taxes. That's understandable. Explain to me why it's important that you and Debra get that trust fund money back soon? What's the actual difference it will make, particularly, in her life and yours?

SHANK: Well, we've got her in a private room again, but there's a bill to be paid there. And I can't pick that off the trees. We have another lawsuit pending that we need to pay against one of the local hospitals. And same thing, I don't have the money to pay it. And it's - the lawsuit is coming up soon. So we need answers.

OLBERMANN: What have you heard as we await these answers? What have you heard about this kind of thing happening to families like yours? I mean, companies taking money away from victims after seemingly the accident has already devastated their lives, now coming back for some reason and saying that this small amount of cash is essential for the health of their health care plan?

SHANK: I've had people comment to me through letters and through the newspaper that the same thing has happened to them. Some of them are bitter, why are we getting all the publicity? Why are we getting the money back and they didn't. Others are understanding and they just hope the best for us. I don't understand. I'm glad this has all been brought to light so maybe it won't happen again and people will read the fine print in their contracts, and not be hit blind-side, wow.

OLBERMANN: If you want to, forward us any of those things. We won't turn this into, everybody has 20 minutes on TV. If we can do anything, obviously it worked to some degree. The most important point is last here, how are you and how is Debra doing?

SHANK: She's in a private room, like I said, and that's temporary happiness. She could be happy for an hour or she could be happy minute. You just never know with her. It's - it's a crap shoot every time you see her.

OLBERMANN: What about you, how are you?

SHANK: The drugs are working fine. I was going to go to Brazil and see if I could get happiness there and try to move on.

OLBERMANN: Jim Shank, thanks for your time tonight. We hope this gets resolved for you and the family soon. Until they make it right, Wal-Mart goes back on the list. Let us know what goes on.

SHANK: Thanks, Keith. I appreciate it.

OLBERMANN: Take care. And no, I don't want to cover Paula Abdul's on air hallucination. However, no, I can't look the other way.

Did you know the U.S. never invaded Iraq? We're told so by Bill O'Reilly, who, of course, told us three months ago that the US did invade Iraq. Worst persons next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: I promise you no more "American Idol" stories. So this Paula Abdul thing is classified as a performer hallucinates on network TV story. That's next, but first for our number two story, Countdown's worst person in the world.

The bronze to reporter Jay Gormley (ph) and the CBS station in Dallas/Ft. Worth, breaking the news that in Monday's news conference, Reverend Jeremiah Wright had referred to Texas Christian University as a, quote, godless Christian college. He went to the campus in Ft. Worth and got suitably angry reaction from TCU student and folk. Only after Gormley's report aired did anybody at KTVT realize they had misheard what Jeremiah Wright had said. He didn't say Texas Christian University, a godless Christian college. He was reciting a short list of colleges and said Texas Christian University and Jarvis Christian College. Well, May sweeps started on Monday.

The runner up, Senator John McCain, who has refused to work with Senator Jim Webb on the new bipartisan GI Bill, and instead proposed his own legislation. McCain is now, of course, blaming Webb. Quoting McCain, I haven't been in Washington, but my staff there said that his has not been eager to negotiate. Senator Webb pulled no punches. In reply, he said, he pleaded with McCain's top aid months ago to get involved in the bill. And asked of McCain himself, says Webb, quote, he's so full of it. I have personally talked to John three times.

But our winner, Bill-O, presenting yet more evidence his Choo Choo no longer has even one wheel on the track. Announcing last night, we didn't invade Iraq. It was a vote in Congress. It was a declaration of war. It was a declaration to enforce the first Gulf War Treaty. When a politician two years ago described it as an invasion, he was wrong? When a commentator said three months ago yesterday, I'll submit that most folks still have no idea why the Bush administration invaded Iraq, he was wrong? When a commentator said in March of 2006, quote, Iraq was invaded to create a friendly country between Iran and Syria, he too was wrong?

The politician who insisted we invaded Iraq was President Bush. The first commentator that insisted we invaded Iraq was Bill O'Reilly. The second commentator who insisted we invaded Iraq was also Bill O'Reilly. Yes, Bill, we never invaded Iraq, and Americans were the war criminals at Malmedy. Bill, "never mind what I said earlier, I can't remember it, why should I," O'Reilly today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: We're back to this again, stories my producers are forcing me to cover. Our number one tonight, the latest cringe-worthy, Youtube Paula Abdul meltdown. You and I can claim we don't care, but it is like the late, great comic Bill Hicks used to admit about his inability to stop watching the TV show "Cops"; I'm like a guy with a sour tooth. I can't stop touching it with my tongue.

The set up, so to speak, simple enough; since the show was supposedly pressed for time, the host, Ryan Seacrest, had asked that the judges take notes and critique the five contestants after their second song. At the end of the first round, Seacrest brought out all the singers so the judges could critique their first song en masse. Randy Jackson complied efficiently and then it was Paula's turn.


PAULA ABDUL, "AMERICAN IDOL": Oh, God, we've never had to write these things down fast enough. Jason, the first song I loved hearing your lower register, which we never really hear. The second song, I felt like you're usual charm was missing for me. It kind of left me a little empty. And the two songs made me feel like you're not fighting hard enough to get into the top four. David Cook -

RANDY JACKSON, "AMERICAN IDOL": Just on the first song now.

ABDUL: Oh, my god, I thought you sang twice?

RYAN SEACREST, "AMERICAN IDOL": Paula, you're seeing the future baby.

ABDUL: You know what, this is hard.

SIMON COWELL, "AMERICAN IDOL": Paula, who is your favorite?


OLBERMANN: Over here, dear, I'm the one in the middle. Pay no attention to the other two of me. If that seemed to surpass her usual stammering on the show, it's also right up there with her other greatest hits, guest appearance on QVC, and more than a year ago, the bewildered yet joyful interview with the local Fox affiliates.


ABDUL: Good morning, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you looking forward to this season?

ABDUL: How about a lot of you coming in? It is a wild party where you are.

You know what, listen, any publicity is good publicity. You got to learn to eat it up and embrace it and say Seattle has the best delusional people.

It's just a nice piece to wear. You can wear it with a shirt, a suit.

And you know, you can wear it around your jeans into the area of -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In your belt loop.

ABDUL: I'm creating my own - hi, everybody. It's my anniversary.


OLBERMANN: Let's bring Countdown's "American Idol" princess, also the mid day host of New York's classic rock station Q-104.3, wearing a shirt and a scoot, Maria Milito. Hi.

MARIA MILITO, NEW YORK'S Q-104.3: Happy anniversary. That cracks me up still, I'm sorry.

OLBERMANN: There have been various explanations from Mrs. Abdul as to what the hell that was.

MILITO: She said she was talking about David Cook's performance, who was the second singer. What doesn't make sense is she said to Jason Castro that both the first and second that he sang weren't that good. And then when she said I was talking about David Cook. She said you were great. So she contradicted herself.

OLBERMANN: Maybe she experienced both of these things and we only saw part of it.

MILITO: It was, I don't know. Then, supposedly, she was in on the rehearsals in the daytime. That's why she was all confused. They did everything differently last night. Instead of judging and critiquing them after each person sang, they did - all of the five contestants did their first song and then the judges critiqued them. I think that threw her off. It really threw her off.

OLBERMANN: Like a horse seeing that stable for the 9,000th consecutive day, and on that day going - that kind of freak out thing.

MILITO: Maybe, a slight change.

OLBERMANN: Does this exclude the possibility that that was just another publicity driven or seeking setup.

MILITO: I think it could have been. They've said the show is down seven percent of the ratings, and not as many people are watching it and blah, blah, blah. It's kind of boring. Maybe they did it on purpose.

OLBERMANN: Down seven percent publicity, down 70 percent sanity. Or what about the possibility that she is seeing the future? What about the possibility that she's found the worm hole, that she has special powers and we should all be very respectful because she can go ahead an wreak havoc.

MILITO: If she can see the future, no offense - I know I'm the princess - she should tell us who wins and let's just call it a day. We have four more weeks of this. It is a little boring this year.

OLBERMANN: You know what the problem is? She can see the future, but when she comes back, she forgets.

MILITO: That could be. From the medication maybe?

OLBERMANN: She takes more of it in the future. That's the other problem.

MILITO: It could very well be.

OLBERMANN: Even time travel, would that be enough to save the show at this point or to goose the ratings?

MILITO: No, I don't think so. Stop it. It doesn't mean anything. It means they just have to revamp it for next year. I heard they are talking about not showing the auditions, which a lot of people watch just for the auditions. That's the best part.

OLBERMANN: I was going to say, that's where they lose me, when they auditions end and they actually start singing.

MILITO: I hear the producers are definitely trying to do something to rejuvenate the show, unless it jumped the shark, but I don't think so.

OLBERMANN: What would you introduce, a cooking segment or best designer?

MILITO: Maybe a circus act at the beginning.

OLBERMANN: But she's the circus act.

MILITO: Maybe animals on there, dogs throwing frisbee. I don't know.

That would work.

OLBERMANN: And she leaps up and catches them.

MILITO: I thought I was a dog.

OLBERMANN: - for that moment.

MILITO: Right, for the moment, the meds.

OLBERMANN: Is this the absolute measure of where it is right now, that when she did whatever it was she did last night, and got completely lost and heard a song that nobody else heard.

MILITO: Yes, and then they got all of this publicity. Everybody is talking about it today.

OLBERMANN: But Simon Cowell didn't -

MILITO: He actually, almost like a parent does to a child out of control - he cringed but he didn't make fun of her. He didn't criticize her. He just said, who is your favorite, Paula. He covered for her.

OLBERMANN: Maybe he's afraid when the inevitable pitch to one side or the other - talk about being a little pitchy - when she just passes out, one way or the other, he's just afraid she'll land on him.

MILITO: Maybe and suffocate him? Then what? He's the star of the show?

OLBERMANN: I know, and he needs all the extra hot air. Maria Milito of New York's Q-104.3, our very own "American Idol," and Paula Abdul gratuitous Countdown meltdown princess.

MILITO: Princess.

OLBERMANN: Nice hat.

MILITO: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,826th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Programming reminder, our exclusive interview with the Obamas tomorrow starting on "The Today Show," plus exclusive excerpts tomorrow night right here on Countdown. In the interim, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, April 29
video 'podcast'

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Emily Heil, E.J. Dionne

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

Total repudiation: Senator Obama cuts all ties to Jeremiah Wright whom Obama now says, "caricatured himself."


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.


OLBERMANN: And Wright's latest remarks, Obama says, "they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate."


OBAMA: There are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.


OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton's quixotic quest for a nomination she cannot straightforwardly win continues, the endorsement of a superdelegate, North Carolina's governor, a week before North Carolina's primary is hers. But, at what cost?


GOV. MIKE EASLEY, (D) NORTH CAROLINA: This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.


OLBERMANN: Did you say a pansy? Words have meaning as Senator Clinton and her supporters continue to insist.

And endorsements have meaning. So, why haven't Al Gore or John Edwards or Elizabeth Edwards put a stop to the fight by choosing sides?


ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS' WIFE: I don't think that Vice President Gore or my husband, Senator Edwards, believes that their endorsement would change that dynamic.


OLBERMANN: But a "New York Times" report that Senator Edwards is holding back because he wants a cabinet position from whoever wins.

There are no winners at this White House: Mr. Bush with a sad and embarrassing performance at his news conference today.




BUSH: Good, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. You're trying to get me off, be it's


BUSH: Is it true you named her Georgia?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Is that OK with you?

BUSH: It's your baby.



OLBERMANN: Caligula, only without the imagination.

Bill-O's queasy obsession with racy photos of a 15-year-old pop star, the photos he wants to hold a conference about. Oh, boy. There are new photos for him to get sweaty over.

Plus: This is who FOX thinks participated in the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening this is Tuesday, April 29th, 189 days until the 2008 presidential election. If that was as we postulated here yesterday, a second chance at a first impression, it was a second first impression where the adjectives and analogies were delivered in carload lots.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: After Reverend Jeremiah Wright's nationally televised train wreck yesterday, Obama in his own words today said he was outraged, saddened, angry, shocked, surprised and disappointed at the inexcusable, divisive, destructive ridiculous, outrageous and appalling caricature spectacle exploitation performance and rants.

In Philadelphia last month in the similar speech about race, Senator Obama having said about Reverend Wright, quote, "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother."

But then came what Reverend Wright said yesterday at the National Press Club attacking Senator Obama and the U.S. government in equal measure and bizarrely claiming that the outrage of his sermons posted on the Internet had nothing to do with Senator Barack Obama but was an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.

Because of that, by this afternoon in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Senator Obama changed his mind, insisting that Reverend Wright had caricatured himself, insisting that Reverend was never his spiritual adviser nor his mentor, insisting that Reverend Wright was no longer the man he had met two decades ago.


OBAMA: The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs.

And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then, he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.


OLBERMANN: Add it all up and Reverend Wright's grace period as well as his time being in Senator Obama's good graces now officially over.


OBAMA: I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church. He's built a wonderful congregation. But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then, there are no excuses.

They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.


OLBERMANN: Let's call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine, who joins us tonight from the campaign trail in Charlotte, North Carolina. Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Certainly this is the second time Senator Obama has tried to put the Reverend Wright controversies behind him by replacing some of the sound bytes from the pastor with sound bytes of his own. It worked to some degree last month. Some would argue it worked brilliantly. Is it likely to work to any degree again?

WOLFFE: Well, I think he went a long way beyond the sort of strategy before about replacing his words - Reverend Wright's words with his words. In a sense, voters, I think, were looking for two things out of this. First of all, how the candidates respond to these kinds of crises. What we saw today was Obama moving finally in a decisive way and showing some emotion.

You know, in covering him for more than a year, I've never seen him express this kind of anger and dismay on anything. So, that's one important factor here.

And the second piece of this is the big question about this: What was the relationship between these two men? Did Reverend Wright speak for Obama? Did Obama speak in the same way as Reverend Wright?

What we saw today was such a complete denunciation, such a complete break, that anyone who has a question in their head about how close these two people are should have it really answered. There is a vast chasm between them now.

OLBERMANN: Obama said he had not seen the video of the Wright performance until this morning. Somebody, obviously, in his campaign did him a great favor by showing it to him. In a way, did Reverend Wright do him another favor because yesterday, with a day to think about this, it was pretty obvious, Mr. Wright made himself look cartoonish, less, you know, an angry threat than a kind of self-absorbed nut job, almost - does whatever still exists of the Wright controversy get proportionally reduced from that original question of: Does Obama agree with this man? Is it less of a concern now? Is it closer to why did he ever listen to this guy?

WOLFFE: Well, he has done him a favor in a sense of being so buffoonish yesterday and certainly repeating some of the more outrageous things that got him into hot water in the first place. And I think what was really important here was as well the lack of respect - the disrespect that Senator Obama talked about, that he gave him the benefit of the doubt, tried to put his comments into some context in Philadelphia, and that favor was not returned in any way. You know, the selfishness, the egotism, that all made it easier. But clearly, this wasn't that easy. If it was easy, it would have been done a long time ago.

OLBERMANN: There was a lot of speculation yesterday as to what Obama should do and whether or not whatever he did, if he acted in any way in disagreement at any of the various degrees of disagreement with Reverend Wright, if it would hurt him within the African-American community. Is there any evidence that what he did today will significantly affect him in that community?

WOLFFE: I think he will take some hits for it. Yes, absolutely, especially in Chicago, especially in a community that he put his roots in. But we often talk about a "Sister Soldier" moment and I think this went actually, considerably beyond that 1992 moment, in the sense that this was much more of a personal issue, the stakes are higher, and what he did here was, you know, people often say when does Obama challenge the orthodoxy or challenge a core group? He's challenged his voting base right now. And clearly, there are a lot of African-Americans, a lot of African-American ministers who don't agree with Reverend Wright but still a gutsy move, I think.

OLBERMANN: It reminds me of something I experienced with him nearly two years ago, when he picked against a team widely supported in Illinois for the baseball World Series championship. Obviously, nothing in terms of importance but it did reflect his willingness to say, "You know what - I'm not going to get 100 percent of the vote."

Last question, Richard, Reverend Wright's playing the dozens comment yesterday, that for him this had been reduced to or maybe amplified to the level of the kind of personal schoolyard trash talking insult sequence. Is it likely we have heard the last of Reverend Wright on this? And presuming he speaks again, what does Senator Obama do about that?

WOLFFE: Well, I think he's said what he has to say about Reverend Wright. But there should be little doubt. I think Reverend Wright has enjoyed his moment in the spotlight and he'll probably speak up again. Interesting today, reporters met him in D.C. where he is at some theological conference and he said the media was trying to make it about him and Barack Obama.

Well, actually, it's Reverend Wright who's been stirring this stuff up. I think we'll hear from him again. But the question is: how is a media going to react? In a sense, the political impact has been answered, but I'm sure there will be a taste for the sort of freak show of Reverend Wright still to come.

OLBERMANN: Yes, but his role in the presidential campaign only exists if people want it to, if people who are opposed to Obama in the media decide it should be. Is that a fair statement, do you think?

WOLFFE: I think people who continue to report on this as a political story should ask themselves: What is the impact of this on the race when the candidate has broken so clearly from him? There will be fascination about Reverend Wright just as there is fascination about Al Sharpton and a host of other people. But in terms of the politics of this, I think we heard what the answer is. We heard it today from Barack Obama.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek" at the RNDC (ph) station of the CNC in Charlotte. Great thanks and great thanks to your friends there. Thank you, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Senator Obama able to work out some of his anger against Reverend Wright clearly this morning, not as you saw but as you see here by joining the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team in Chapel Hill for a scrimmage. He's out (ph) the long time where he battled against Senator Clinton was tough, imagine playing ball with student athletes half your age and twice your height. After one play as he was jogging down the full length of the court, the senator breathlessly telling reporters, "These guys are better than me." It could have been much worse, at least he was not bowling and at least nobody endorsed him today by comparing him favorably to a, quote, "pansy."

North Carolina Governor Mike Easley doing Senator Clinton few favors today in his endorsement remarks.


EASLEY: There's nothing I love more than a strong, powerful woman. So, I've been in hog heaven today. This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.


OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton is also gaining the support of Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton. Controversy-free, Senator Obama also got two superdelegates today from Kentucky, Congressman Ben Chandler, also an Iowa DNC member. Senator Obama still with a seven to four lead in superdelegate pickups in the week since the Pennsylvania primary. This brings the superdelegate total to Clinton 266, Obama 244. The overall count now in delegates: Obama 1,734, Clinton an even 1,600.

We'll turn now to Emily Heil whose column "Heard on the Hill," appears in the newspaper "Roll Call." Welcome, Emily, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Obama and Wright in a moment. First, Governor Easley and the "pansy" remark which obviously kind of jumps off the page at you. The Human Rights Campaign which is the country's premier group promoting gay rights commented to the "L.A. Times," "We certainly wish the governor would have chosen his words better. We've expressed our disappointment to his staff."

Nothing from Senator Clinton's campaign on Governor Easley's word choice, which you would say, well, maybe that's not a big deal but that campaign has focused on what people have said in relation to it. Should the Clintons have commented by now?

HEIL: Well, you know, words do matter and certainly, everyone knows that everyone is going to be parsing every word that comes out on the campaign trail. But you know, I think that there is a limit to that and how sensitive you can be. You know, clearly, some people are very upset by this and it is a loaded word. I don't think it's universally accepted as a sexual slur. And then, maybe, it just was meant in the common parlance of denoting weakness.

So, I don't know necessarily that even on a slow news day, when you didn't have a campaign, you know, a candidate making a major policy announcement and the Reverend Wright controversy bubbling over, you know, I don't think that those things so much put it in perspective or drown it out as they do put it in perspective. I don't think it's going to be a big fuss on the campaign.

OLBERMANN: To Obama. This two-two split in superdelegates today and the seven-four lead that he's had in picking up superdelegates since Pennsylvania. Does that suggest that the Wright issue is not the super-issue that it may appear to be from the outside looking in or are these just two simultaneous things?

HEIL: Well, I think that Senator Clinton had certainly hoped that the Wright controversy would really bury Senator Obama. So to the extent that it really hasn't, you know, it's not living up to their wildest dreams. And certainly, the most controversial comments of the reverend have been out for a long time, and they've been out, kicked around, and still superdelegates are breaking for Obama.

So, some of them are clearly deciding that this isn't going to be a big issue for them. But it's important to note that a lot of superdelegates are playing things really close to the vest. And we won't know how this or really any other campaign issue affects their decision for quite a while.

OLBERMANN: From issues, Emily, to tactics. This morning was the second Obama basketball game in front of cameras in four days. He's also doing more of these small town hall style meetings instead of the big arena size rallies that were cornerstone of the campaign especially early on. But, is it in fact the change of tactics since Pennsylvania: go small and go blue-collar?

HEIL: Sure. Well, I think, clearly he has decided basketball is a winner for him, much more so than bowling, smart move. But I think that if you want to avoid the sort of looking like you're out of touch, like you're an elitist, it's far better to be in this sort of one-on-one or intimate situations than to be in this sort of rockstar arena visual situations.

So, I think that it is a strategic decision on the part of the campaign. I mean, to the extent that everything, every visual is so clearly thought out and planned. Yes, you have to figure that it's all strategic and I think that's a smart decision for him.

OLBERMANN: Emily Heil, whose column "Heard on the Hill" appears in the newspaper "Roll Call." Great thanks for joining us tonight.

HEIL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: North Carolina votes in one week. It will vote probably without knowing how its last presidential hopeful and his wife will vote. Elizabeth Edwards on the non-endorsement.

And: George Bush at the non-news conference. If this is all a joke to you Mr. President, it's all going to be a joke to us. We'll look for facts if any.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The theory: The endorsement of John Edwards or Al Gore or Joe Biden could resolve the Democratic nomination quandary. The answer to that from Elizabeth Edwards is next.

In Bushed: The former chief prosecutor of Gitmo says, he was told, "No acquittals. The president needs convictions, for the elections."

Ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Exactly 90 days now since former Senator John Edwards suspended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, and exactly seven days until the primary in Edwards' home state.

And in our fourth story on the Countdown: And still he has endorsed no one. And just as importantly, neither has his popular and respected wife, Elizabeth. A group of John Edwards' supporters last week announced they were backing Barack Obama, fueling speculation that Edwards does, too.

As for why he has not spoken out yet, the "New York Times" today, quote, "An unnamed aide saying Mr. Edwards wants a spot in the winner's administration," and quote, "doesn't want to pick the loser." But here on MSNBC today, Mrs. Edwards gave a more tangible explanation to Norah O'Donnell as to why she and her husband and another prominent Democrat have resisted calls for them to go public with their preferences.


ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARD'S WIFE: If we thought that somehow there was harmful blood letting that an endorsement would solve, then there would be reason to do it. But I don't think that Vice President Gore or my husband, Senator Edwards believes that their endorsement would change that dynamic.


OLBERMANN: Mrs. Edwards also addressed speculation that her endorsement of Hillary Clinton's proposed health plan was in reality a backdoor way of signaling that she prefers Senator Clinton overall as well.


EDWARDS: I've endorsed Senator Clinton's health plan. And people ask me about particular policies, I'll be happy to comment about the policies of either of these candidates. We have two great candidates. And in terms of health care, I'm proud that even though I prefer one plan over the other, that both plans have as their goal universal coverage.


OLBERMANN: At this point, let's bring in E.J. Dionne, a columnist with the "Washington Post," a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. E.J., good evening.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Always good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And we feel the same way here. Did Mrs. Edward just solve the mystery of why she and her husband and Gore and Biden and half a dozen others have not endorsed anybody and settle all this because simply put, they don't believe it would settle all this?

DIONNE: Well, I think she's right. She's a very shrewd woman. I think, maybe, we're talking about the wrong thing that with all the damage that Obama and Clinton have caused each other, maybe Edwards is going to announce his getting back in the race, he's the only electable Democrat left. But I think she's right that endorsements are of questionable value.

And I think that in this Democratic race, no one is going to slow this down until there is some outcome at the polls. I talked to a couple of people close to the Edwards today. One said absolutely nobody knows what they are going to do and anybody who says otherwise is wrong. The other said, it's very likely that they won't endorse anyone. So, that may be - the indication she gave may reflect exactly where they are.

OLBERMANN: But she said in theory today that things could change in the next week and there might be an endorsement. But that's really unlikely to happen. But if there's going to be an endorsement at any point by either of them, is this not the time to do it because not there - is there not a shelf life problem with an Edwards' endorsement after North Carolina votes?

DIONNE: Well, not if endorsements from major people like the ones you mentioned, Al Gore, John Edwards and others could send a signal toward the end of the process that it's time for somebody to go, to use Al Gore's old phrase about the first President Bush.

You know, and that it's not clear how much an Edwards' endorsement, how many vote can he swing in North Carolina. He hasn't been in office in a while. I'm sure he could swing some. But it would probably be more powerful as part of the unified effort to shut it down at the end.

OLBERMANN: The "Times" report, Edwards wants a cabinet post and can't afford to offend either candidate. Firstly, is that the way it works, and secondly, does it ring true to your knowledge of him? Because it sounds a little tiny to my ears - the idea that he would be keeping himself in as an alternate candidate that you raised, some much more realistic than the idea that he's holding out in hopes that either one of them would make him secretary of HEW or something.

DIONNE: It didn't sound - although I thought, if you want somebody to negotiate with the drug companies as part of the health plan, the trial lawyer John Edwards would be a pretty good guy to have at the table. But it didn't sound right to me. The one logical thing is that in these endorsements, a lot of time, the gratitude you get from the candidate you endorse is far outweighed by, if I can use the word the bitterness, of the candidate that you don't endorse. So, perhaps, if there is anything to that story - a non-endorsement - is probably the path to take.

OLBERMANN: Yes, you pronounce that word candidate often like the word Kennedy.

DIONNE: I'm from Massachusetts. It's just a habit.

OLBERMANN: It sort of reminded me of the impact that was - the golden speech of Ted Kennedy for Obama and then the actual practical impact both in Massachusetts and California and the blowback from Clinton people against Kennedy which as you point out is extraordinary.

DIONNE: In my hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, which is about as loyal a Kennedy town as you can find, the city voted four to one for Clinton. So it's - you know, the endorsements don't always have the impact. I think mayors have more impact often than national figures in delivering votes.

OLBERMANN: Or even governors even if they make references to people being tougher than or make somebody looked like a pansy, a strange thing still. Last question here: How have the Edwards played this? Have they succeeded in pushing their issues to the forefront by staying on the sidelines or would have they gotten more bang for their buck by endorsing?

DIONNE: I think Edwards put some issues on the table through his campaign and it's continued since. I think the candidates are talking a lot more about poverty than they might have if John Edwards had not made it such a big deal. Mrs. Clinton's health care plan is very, very similar to the one that John Edwards put out first. Everybody sounds like a populist these days. Now, a bad economy will do that in a Democratic primary. But they all sound a little like Edwards.

I was struck that Mrs. Clinton recently said she was going to appoint a poverty czar. You wonder if that is that offering Edwards the very cabinet post that he is supposedly seeking. So, yes, I think he's had a real impact.

OLBERMANN: Fascinating. E.J. Dionne of the "Washington Post," and the second most famous native of River Fall, Massachusetts after Lucy Andrew Burton (ph). Great thanks for joining us, E.J.

DIONNE: And Emeril Lagasse, the great chef.


DIONNE: Thank you so much.

OLBERMANN: No. To heck with Lagasse, thank you, E.J.

It's not just national Lee Elia day. It's the 25th annual national Lee Elia day. I hope you remember to send a card to commemorate one of the greatest recorded meltdowns in interview history.

And: Another day, another disturbing Bill-O meltdown. He is more hopped up about the new racy photos of a 15-year-old girl.

These stories but first, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals - Bushed.

Number three: Blackwater-gate. We can talk forever about the abuses of the mercenaries for whom we are paying with our tax dollars and who somehow we have made immune to the laws of this country and Iraq, but there will never be a bigger symbol of the immense evil here than what Mark Halcon has done.

For six years, he has canceled his contract with them. Mr. Halcon runs the American Shooting Center, a firearms range in San Diego. He says in 2002, he and that city were asked to approve a contract to be a vocational training school run by two companies called Raven Development and Southwest Law Enforcement. It turns out they were fronts for Blackwater.

"For them to mislead the city council and claim they are a vocational training school," says Mr. Halcon, "makes we wonder what vocation they are training for."

Number two: Health care-gate. Startling data from a poll taking by the family foundation connected to the Kaiser health care people, who've heard of shotgun marriages and getting married because you have to and marrying for love, but marrying for health care? Seven percent of respondents say they or someone in their household decided to get married in the last year to become attached to their spouse's health care plan. Much of the administration spinned that as a faith based boost (ph) for marriage.

Number one: The nexus of politics and terror-gate. For the first three years we held prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Air Force Colonel Morris Davis was the man to whom the Defense Department turned to prosecute the cases in the 1930s. Davis was the pointman for what critics believe was a kangaroo court or a version of the Soviet show trials. Davis was to prosecute men like Salim Hamdan in his cells without any rights because he was accused of having been Osama bin Laden's personal car driver.

There was a rather unexpected witness testifying on Hamdan's behalf:

Air Force Colonel Morris Davis. He is a witness in the latest Hamdan's case arguing that the infamous Military Commissions Act the one that Mr. Bush railroaded to a pliant Congress between the midterm elections is unconstitutional. Davis didn't just say the Hamdan argument was right since it permits the use of evidence obtained by coercion or torture, he's saying nothing of hearsay, he also quoted the former general council of the Defense Department who says told him, "We can't have acquittals. We've been holding these guys for years. How can we explain acquittals? We have to have convictions."

Colonel Davis put it simply, he was under pressure to hurry through cases and get those convictions so President Bush could use them politically before the 2006 midterms. And there it all he's in the nutshell. The military cooping the Constitution and the sacred freedoms for which the heroes of that military have fought and died, as part of some kind of crazed worship of or fear of a cheap political hack and his gang.

And as distant as it all seems, just plug yourself into that equation, you somehow wind up at Gitmo in Salim Hamdan's place and you say, but I'm an American citizen, and the guard, and the torturer standing the guard says to you, "Oh, yeah, prove it, without a lawyer, without the right to trial. Prove it. And until then, you want some water? Pour it up your nose."


OLBERMANN: In a moment, best persons, and Jesus has shown up again on a lucky baby's ultrasound.

First, 25 years ago today, one of the best strategic minds in baseball went out of his mind and went into the rant hall of fame. Lee Elia was the manager of the Chicago Cubs who opened the 1983 season by losing 14 of their first 19 games. After the 19th game, on April 29, 1983, two Cubs players were so roundly heckled by Chicago fans that the players had to be restrained from going into the stands to confront them.

That is when Lee Elia lost it. His complete tirade against Cubs fans, who in those days only had day games to attend, lasts more than three minutes and has been used as a motivational tool by businesses and one former governor of Illinois. It contains no fewer than 49 bleep-able words. You will hear a few of them as we celebrate the 25th anniversary with a brief clip, right after I say, let's play Oddball, you country, blank, blankers.


LEE ELIA, FORMER CHICAGO CUBS MANAGER: The mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) don't even work. That is why they're out at the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) games. They ought to go out and get a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and find out what it is like to go out and earn a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) living. Eighty five percent of the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are working. The other 15 come out here. A (EXPLETIVE DELETED) play ground for the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Rip them, mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Rip them country (EXPLETIVE DELETED) like the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) players.

OLBERMANN: Rip, the. Mr. Elia is now selling a new pro-Cubs rants for charity.

Also in sports, to Via de Tamazula Palm de Progresso (ph) in Awatzico (ph), Mexico, where hockey is played not with a puck, but with a wooden ball slathered in animal grease and set ablaze. Apparently the game originated with the ancient Nixtec (ph) Indian tribe, who used the ball to simulate the movement of asteroids in the galaxy. You know, this could actually make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


OLBERMANN: Fact checking the Bush news conference; if we can cut through his asides, one liners and spitballs he threw at the teacher. OK, he didn't throw any spitballs. And you think you've gotten older during this campaign? No, actually, this is computer wizardry on what the presidency would do to these candidates. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best political news conference, Troy Buswell, head of the conservative party in Western Australia, having previously admitted he snapped the bra of a staffer from the opposition party; he has now admitted in front of a news conference today that with one of the women staffers in his own party, in his own office, when she got up from her chair, he went over and sniffed it. Mr. Buswell promptly teared up, from the admission, not from the sniffing.

Number two, best unintended revelation by a doll, the bobble head doll of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, handed out by the team to fans who attended Saturday's home game. The doll appears to be giving the fans the finger. Having won one only game this season and lost three, having struck out only 13 men, but walked 22, having his Earned Run Average balloon 4.50 runs a game since last year, you can say Gorzelanny has already been giving Pirates fans the finger.

Number one, best Jesus sighting. Been quiet for a while, but now the popular, well known savior has appeared in the ultra sound of the unborn baby of Monet Sledge of Lorraine, Ohio. I was shocked, like really, says Ms. Sledge. She sees Jesus on the cross in there. A, that is going to make for an interesting time after the baby is born, what with the new religion starting and all. B, in terms of the delivery, I'm hoping you don't have an actual cross in there.


OLBERMANN: The associated press is the closest thing mainstream journalism has to a circulatory system, the news life blood for newspapers, radio, TV and Internet left and right. Today, the AP headline for the speech by Mr. Bush was "Bush Rhetoric on Energy Strays From The Facts." So polite, the AP. In our third story tonight, we will grossly overuse the phrase in fact to address Mr. Bush's claims about the economy, claims that sought to blame Congress for it, on the eve of new government figures that may confirm the reality of the Bush recession.

Mr. Bush today said, in that very same event, that it took a long time to get into this fix and that it's the fault of Congressional Democrats who just took power last year. The details of linear chronology not sufficient to stop Mr. Bush from laying blame.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans are concerned about making their mortgage payments and keeping their homes. I don't blame them. Last year, I called on Congress to pass legislation that would help address problems in the housing market.


OLBERMANN: In fact, while Mr. Bush first blamed the mortgage crisis on home owners, his administration turned a blind eye when investment banks began buying risky mortgages and trading them in ways intended to disguise their risk. Even today, Mr. Bush opposes what even his own treasury secretary and Fed chairman both recognize, more regulation is necessary. And those bills Congress did not pass? They have been held up in the Senate by Republicans.

So what has Mr. Bush done, in fact?


BUSH: One of the things we have done on home ownership is the Hope Now Alliance, which hopefully makes people less anxious. Hopefully it helps - brought a sense of not only concern but action into the marketplace. And I was told this morning that Hope Now has affected 1.4 million home owners and helped a lot of them refinance, get refinancing or helped a lot of them get, you know, different interest payment schedules, all aiming for credit-worthy people to stay in their homes during this difficult period.


OLBERMANN: In fact, a report last week found that 70 percent of homeowners two months behind on their mortgage still are not getting help, not help paying, just help agreeing on terms they can pay. The number of homes repossessed in the first quarter of this year shot up 36 percent to 205,000. But mostly today, it was oil that the world's most powerful failed oil man had in mind. Again, blaming Congress. Again, lusting after Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


BUSH: They have repeatedly blocked environmentally safe exploration in Anwar. The department of energy estimates Anwar can allow America to produce about a million additional barrels of oil every day, which translates to about 27 million gallons of gasoline and diesel every day. That would be about a 20 percent increase of crude oil production over U.S. levels and it would likely mean lower gas prices.


OLBERMANN: In fact, Mr. Bush is right here. A few years ago, the EIA, the United States Energy Information Administration, considered the impact of drilling in Anwar, and said that gasoline prices would go down, dropping one cent per gallon by the year 2025. But Anwar is not Mr. Bush's only prescription for soaring gas prices.


BUSH: Another reason for high gas prices is the lack of refining capacity. It's been more than 30 years since America built its last new refinery. Yet in this area, too, Congress has repeatedly blocked efforts to expand capacity and build more refineries.


OLBERMANN: In fact, American refineries are only at 85 percent of capacity, according to the EIA. In fact, consumption fell from 2005 while production was stable. In fact, Mr. Bush got a new refinery bill that he said would increase refining capacity and Democrats said would enrich the oil companies. In fact, Congress ignored Mr. Bush's request to use old military bases as refineries because oil companies don't want to, because the silly military didn't build them near pipelines.

In fact, Mr. Bush has blocked Democratic measures, such as the Price Gouging Prevention Act. In fact, in 2000, Mr. Bush said the next president should fight gas prices by making OPEC increase production, a mission Mr. Bush failed at in January and again last month. In fact, American oil executives have increased refining capacity by expanding existing refineries. When top officials at the five biggest companies testified this month about whether they want new refineries, all of them said no.

They made record profits anyway.

And of Bushy's past, he admits he was clueless that there would be an insurgency in Iraq. Then he offers a retroactive solution that' even more clueless. Worst persons ahead. And did you know, he was the Douglass in the Lincoln/Douglass debates? You would know that if you watched Fox Noise. A little brain damaged, too, but that is what you would have learned. Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: Our number two story in the Countdown, news breaking tonight that a second American aircraft carrier steamed into the Persian Gulf today. The Pentagon ordering military commanders to develop new options for attacking Iran. Our NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reporting tonight that the U.S. military is increasingly concerned about Iranian backed attacks in the Gulf, particularly against Iraq.

As for how prepared the Bush administration might be act on those concerns, CBS News reporting that later this week, Iraqi Prime Minister al Maliki is expected to confront the Iranians to demand a halt. If that does not work, says CBS News, the U.S. State Department has begun drafting an ultimatum saying, in effect, knock it off or else.

On that note, time for Countdown's worst persons in the world. The bronze to former Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. This is a coincidence of timing. The man who discredited General Eric Shinseki when Shinseki insisted before the Iraq war that the only way to prevent an insurgency was to send 300,000 troops there. Wolfowitz now admits he was, quote, clueless about the insurgency, but still believes Shinseki was wrong, that the correct preventive should have been, quote, to build up Iraqi forces to be able to protect the population much more quickly.

Wolfy, you had Iraqi forces there. They are called the Iraqi army and you disbanded them. As for today, you should just quit right after the part where you admit you were clueless.

The runner up, Sean Hannity of Fixed News. With the Jeremiah Wright story having pretty much deflated, he has moved on to William Ayers, former member of the '60s and '70s radical group Weather Underground, with whom Barack Obama once served on the board of a Chicago charity. One of the group's victims complained to Hannity that he can't understand why Obama, would, quote, not condemn the actions of people in the past like Ayers.

Hannity, of course, never pointed out to the victim that Obama did condemn them. The words he used were deplore and detestable. As Hannity again called Ayers a, quote terrorist, he also neglected to point out that all charges against Ayers were dropped and he was never convicted of anything, let alone terrorism.

But our winner is Bill-O. I mentioned this last week when he got all hopped up about the slightly risque photos of Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana, calling the shot showing her mid rif and brazier peek-a-boo and demanding that a conference be held about them. Now, with new photos of Cyrus in "Vanity Fair," he devoted another segment to them last night, insisting that, quote, "Vanity Fair" is a bunch of older liberals, you know, looking for whatever they are looking for. And observing that both sets of photos, quote, puts her in the position - remember the Brooke Shields stuff when she was little? Put her in that situation where she becomes at 15 a sex symbol.

Bill, seriously, you probably don't want to go around all hot and bothered over a freshman in high school, while insisting that 15-year-old girls are, quote, sex symbols. Or maybe you could do a segment on what's wrong with men who act that way. Bill O'Reilly, today's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: Legendary is the baseball announcer who upon being handed a bulletin about the death of Martin Luther King's assassin, James Earl Ray, unthinkingly launched into a long, emotional fair well to the great actor James Earl Jones. Amazingly, we once went to put up a photo of lunatic fringe talk show host Neal Boortz and instead wound up showing former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia.

Our number one story on the Countdown, the other political round up of the day, including how the presidency would facially age the three campaigns, and a missing pro-Obama pig balloon, but beginning with a goof not unlike the aforementioned.

The Lincoln/Douglass debates, featuring Link from the Mod Squad versus Mike Douglass. Actually, that might have been closer. This was after Senator Clinton's challenge to Senator Obama for a Lincoln/Douglass style debate, 90 minutes, no moderator. Of course, the Lincoln in Lincoln/Douglass refers to then Senate hopeful Abraham Lincoln and the Douglass is Stephen Douglass, the incumbent senator whom Lincoln was trying to unseat in 1858.

The production staff over to "Fox and Friends" Sunday got it half right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said to an intern this morning, can you see if we can go get some video of the Lincoln/Douglass debates. I think it would be great. He looked at me and said, yes, I will see what I can find. Good luck finding that video of the Lincoln/Douglass debate.


OLBERMANN: Or a right picture even. The man on the left of your screen is not Stephen Douglass, but rather the abolitionist and freed slave hero Frederick Douglass, who was kind of on the same side as Lincoln. You mean oops, don't you? Just say, oops, and get out.

On that note, let's call in comedian Christian Finnegan, also a contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever." Good evening, Christian.


OLBERMANN: Stephen Douglass, Frederick Douglass; are there worst mistakes Fox News could have made than that one?

FINNEGAN: Sure, at least they stuck with Douglass' from the appropriate area. Michael Douglass is very presidential. Just yesterday, I saw him pimp slap Richard Dryfus on one of TNT's daily airings of "An American President." You could have gone with noted pugilist and political philosopher James Buster Douglass, or my personal favorite, '70s one hit wonder Karl Douglass, which would have implied that even back in 1858, everybody was Kung Fu fighting.

OLBERMANN: We know Lincoln was a very tall man with long limbs. He might have had a chance against Kung Fu Karl Douglass. With the folks at Fox News, who play the roles of the news anchors, did not acknowledge that they had the wrong one. Do you think they ever noticed? They just figured the audience at home would never know the difference? Or what?

FINNEGAN: Honestly, I think the people at Fox have a hard time imagining a world where a good Republican would argue on behalf of black people. I imagine the conversation was something like, let me get this straight, the debate was about slavery right? Who was Lincoln's opponent, probably some black guy.

OLBERMANN: They're surprised the Republican was not advocating the property right issue that was more important to them. Something else, we had this website called They have age progression technology. They aged each of these candidates through their presumed first term. I wanted to get your opinion on the handy work. Obama first. Obviously current on the left, slightly more wrinkly on the right.

FINNEGAN: I think Obama is one of those guys that even when he is 80 years old, he's still going to look like a 15-year-old playing Willie Loman in the school play. It's something I call the Ron Howard effect.

OLBERMANN: Lucky if he gets that. Let's move on to Senator Clinton, the picture of her.

FINNEGAN: That is a great picture. What you can't see is in that picture, Senator Clinton is marveling at her new coat made out of Dalmatian puppies.

OLBERMANN: OK, very nice. Lastly, Senator McCain - is this, let's see the McCain. Which is the new one? I got it now. He looks more like a California raisin in the advanced photo.

FINNEGAN: You are dead on, Keith, quite literally. This is from McCain 2012 campaign, when he will be drafted to run on the necromancy ticket. He will offer to get us out of the current recession by offering every American a human brain in every pot.

OLBERMANN: We don't have too much time to tell the pro-Obama inflatable pig story.


OLBERMANN: It relates to Roger Waters from Pink Floyd. There it is, pro-Obama. Surprisingly enough, was it a shock here, it is full of helium. They let go of it and it drifts away. Is this a surprise to somebody? The laws of physics apply.

FINNEGAN: Keith, scoff if you want, but the loss of this pig is going to cost Obama in that key aging stoner and laser show enthusiast demographic.

OLBERMANN: Yes, but think of how well he will do with the group that finally finds that pig when it comes down. Christian Finnegan, contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever," thanks for joining us tonight.

FINNEGAN: Toodles.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1,825th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.


Monday, April 28, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, April 28
video 'podcast'

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, Jonathan Alter, Rachel Maddow, Dana Milbank

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

Under the bus: Barack Obama's former pastor throws the presidential candidate into oncoming traffic.


REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH: He did not denounce me. He distanced himself from some of my remarks like most of you never having heard the sermon.


OLBERMANN: Reverend Jeremiah Wright speaks to the National Press Club. What does Obama do now after Wright insists.


WRIGHT: This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It had nothing to do with Senator Obama. This is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.


OLBERMANN: No, actually it is an attack on Senator Obama.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact that he is my former pastor, I think, makes it a legitimate political issue.


OLBERMANN: What next? Does Obama get a free second chance at the first impression? Does he now sever all ties to Jeremiah Wright?

Whatever is next it probably won't be Senator Clinton's idea that she and Senator Obama debate outdoors.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We could do it on the back of a flat bed truck. We could do it anywhere in North Carolina.


OLBERMANN: Not flat bed but back to nearly flat even. Gallup national tracking poll, two days, tied 47-all. Today: Obama 47, Clinton 46.

Republican changes: Last week McCain denounced Jeremiah Wright as campaign advertising issue. Now, he's flip-flopped.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama said it was a legitimate political issue. If he believes that, then it will probably be a political issue.


OLBERMANN: Hope you enjoyed your four days on the high road.

And the White House Correspondents' Dinner, where the atmosphere, like many of the attendees: a bit thick.


CRAIG FERGUSON, TV HOST: I'm a late night television show guy. You know, I make up crap that isn't true then I say it on TV. I'm like FOX News, I'm not a journalist.


OLBERMANN: All of that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, April 28th, 190 days until the 2008 presidential election. The idealized version of that event we learned about in a social studies class, let alone to choke us, was about the issues, was about the character of the aspirants, was about the struggle to define who would best serve the nation.

It was not about the candidate's girlfriends, they're marrying into money, the things they had said 30 years before, nor their spiritual guides. And the last one of those perfect American presidential elections was in 1772 when George Washington ran unopposed and only six of the states even had popular votes.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is back, not by the hand of Clinton, nor by the hand of McCain, but by the hand of Jeremiah Wright. And tonight, Senator Barack Obama has a fateful and perhaps decisive decision to make about him.

At the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. this morning, and Reverend Wright's third public appearance in four days, his speech gotten cheers and applause from black church leaders in the audience who were beginning a two-day symposium on the African-American religious experience. As when Reverend Wright explain what he meant last week when he characterized Senator Obama's response to him, as quote, "What a politician had to say," as the reverend proceeded to do what politicians often call:

"Throwing your friend under the bus."


WRIGHT: Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bytes and based on polls, Huffington, whoever is doing the polls Preachers say what they are say because they are pastors. They have a different person to whom they are accountable.

As I said, whether he gets elected or not, I'm still going to have to answerable to God on November 5th and January 21st. That's what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do. I'm not running for office. I am open to being vice president.



OLBERMANN: Good luck with that. Reverend Wright also asserting that the media uproar over his comments has nothing to do with Senator Obama.


WRIGHT: As I said, this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright and has nothing to do with Senator Obama. This is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition. And why I'm speaking on now - in our community, we have something called, "playing the dozens." If you think I'm going to let you talk about my mama and her religious tradition, and my daddy and his religious tradition, and my grandma - you got another thing coming.


OLBERMANN: Anybody who has ever seen the dozens played knows what he's talking about. There's absolutely no personal vindication at work there, none at all, nothing more than 100 percent. Reverend Wright's media blitz providing a whole new range of potentially damaging sound bytes by which to judge him and perhaps by association by which to judge Senator Obama. Yesterday, Reverend Wright telling an annual fundraising dinner, the NAACP, that he's descriptive not divisive. Friday night, of course, was his interview with Bill Moyers which aired on PBS.

As to how Senator Obama feels about Reverend Wright, on "FOX News Sunday," in response to a question from Chris Wallace about whether Reverend Wright was a victim, Senator Obama seemed to legitimize his former pastor as a political issue.


OBAMA: I think that people were legitimately offended by some of the comments that he had made in the past. The fact that he is my former pastor, I think makes it a legitimate political issue. So I understand that. I think that it is also true that to run a snippet of 30-second sound bytes, selecting out of a 30-year career, simplified and caricatured him and caricatured the church. And I think that was done in a fairly deliberate way. And that is unfortunate because, as I've said before, I have strongly denounced those comments that were the subject of so much attention.


OLBERMANN: To try to game plan how the Obama camp will handle these new comments in a moment with Howard Fineman.

First, our own, Richard Wolffe, senior House White correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine, on exactly how the terrain has changed today; he joins us tonight from Raleigh, North Carolina and the campaign there. Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Is this bigger than the sermon clips themselves were, and do the Clinton and Obama camps see it in those terms?

WOLFFE: Well, it's big in the sense that we're focusing on it and it's diverted attention away from what Senator Obama wants. I mean, to the extent that people confuse the two, Reverend Wright and Senator Obama, this is always a big problem that requires a lot of explanation, both about their relationship, and frankly, what I think we saw today was a lot of tension between Reverend Wright and Senator Obama.

You know, someone recently described to me, seeing the two of them at a book signing for the "Audacity of Hope," a phrase taken from Reverend Wright's sermon and they said that Reverend Wright seemed actually displeased by all the idolization and attention Senator Obama was getting. This kind of crackling tension has been out there all along.

And when Reverend Wright said today, mockingly, that he was the spiritual adviser to Senator Obama, obviously, a phrase we've all been using in the media, I think he was getting at something bigger there - this kind of rivalry, attention, the separation between these two prominent people from Chicago.

OLBERMANN: Yes, playing the dozens, that's not a card game by the way. That's a street yard origin, you say something about my mother, I'm going to say something much worse about your mother and it escalates into the most unimaginable things you can, I guess, imagine. By saying that the recent uproar over his comments has nothing to do with Senator Obama, never mind by undertaking this virtual press tour to begin with, is Reverend Wright not missing the central point that in terms of national political discourse, this has absolutely everything to do with Senator Obama and almost nothing to do with him per se?

WOLFFE: Yes, absolutely. I think he lost the plot a long time. But I also think he's smart enough to know that this is about Senator Obama. No matter how he tries to pivot or turn the attention back on himself, he is a guy who spent three decades building up his church out of nothing. And who comes to national attention, someone who is a state senator just a few years ago, a member of his congregation who doesn't speak the same language as him on race in America, doesn't share his views about race in America, or about pacifism or war or government or politics in general.

I mean, there he is casting this idea out that Obama is just pondering when he talks about Reverend Wright and race on the speech in Philadelphia. Like I said, I think he has a big problem with Senator Obama and his rise. And underlining all of this, no matter what you think about race and about the black church in America, that personal attention is very evident.

OLBERMANN: Well, I guess the last question here is - at the National Press Club today, Reverend Wright also recalled he told Senator Obama last year, "If you get elected on November 5th, I'm coming after you because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people." Is he aware then, or unaware that between today's event and the Moyers interview and the other stuff that's happening in the last couple of days, he to some degree has already come after Obama and it's got to be perceived that much of his speech today was exactly what Obama did not do to him, it was throwing Obama under a bus?

WOLFFE: Yes, I think that's right. Look, he's playing a role that he's played throughout. He's something of a rebel in the sense. He started up this black church in a predominantly white congregation. He's always been an iconic class and a sort of as a provocateur in terms of the politics. But what he's done here is really be a very poor advocate. He had a chance - had a chance, past tense, to be a good advocate for his causes for the next president of the United States. He's lost that.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," in North Carolina tonight. As always, sir, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: As we mentioned, yesterday, Senator Obama in explaining why Reverend Wright is not a victim, saying, "The fact that he is my former pastor, I think, makes it a legitimate political issue."

His chief strategist, David Axelrod, adding this morning, again quoting, "We don't have any control over Reverend Wright. There's not a thing we can do about it. Obviously, I don't think we would have encouraged him to go on a media tour."

For more on what's Senator Obama could be doing and may yet do in response, we'll turn now our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Howard, good evening to you.


OLBERMANN: All right. At this event in Wilmington today, Senator Obama said in regards to the negativity, "People throw elbows at you, you start feeling like, 'Oh, I got to throw an elbow back.' So, I notice over the last several weeks, I told this to my team, 'You know, we were starting to sound like other folks, starting to run the same negative stuff' and it shows that none of us are immune from this kind of politics but the problem is that it doesn't help you.

So - let me sure I got it right - the options. It does not help him if he fights back, and also, does help him if he does nothing - he seems to be caught in a bit of a bind here.

FINEMAN: Yes. And talking to observers around the country, who were neutral about this, including Willie Brown out here in San Francisco, was the former mayor and speaker of the California legislature, and a guy who knows his politics. He said that Obama is caught in a dilemma. He's caught in a kind of no man's land here.

There were serious discussions ways back when Obama decided to dis-invite Wright from giving a benediction or invocation in his candidacy launch in Springfield about totally cutting him off. He didn't do it at the time. In retrospect, they should have. They wanted to maybe throw him under the bus then. Instead, as you pointed out, he's the one who got thrown under. So, what he does now is not clear because there are no good options, as you say, you cut him off now, it looks all the more political. You stick with him, you keep confusing the identities of the two of them in a way that's not helpful.

OLBERMANN: But, is there a silver lining in this? I mean, does he get the unexpected thing that a politician never gets, a second bite of the apple? I mean, if he wants it, does he get, you know, the second chance to make a first impression?

Could he not now say: Look, I defended his right to preach, I defended his church, his actions in the last two weeks or three weeks, whatever period of time you want to put on it, have changed the equation entirely? If he thinks this is an institutional attack on black churches in America, I'm sorry but he's not seeing any of the reality here. I'm completely disconnected from him.

Could he not do that? Would that not be the best course?

FINEMAN: Well, he could head down the road and then you get right deeper into the politics of religion in America which is a serious thing, and again, talking to Speaker Brown, he said that Wright's church and Wright's rhetoric is not the black church. There are many black churches, very few of which would have statements like that from the pulpit.

Yes, the passion; yes, the style; yes, the social critique of America, but not the "God Damn America" and not the AIDS language and all that other kind of stuff. So, if Obama wants to head down that road that's deeper into a thicket that perhaps he has to take the country that would be very difficult to navigate.

Maybe there is a chance for him to cut him off entirely but as others have pointed, Wright isn't going away. And this looks like a book tour that he's going to be on because he is. He's writing a book that's probably going to be out right around election day of this year, whether Obama is on the ticket or not.

OLBERMANN: But if you cut him off as opposed to doing nothing, if you cut him off, don't you to some degree decrease the amount of attention that is paid to him. If he is - if there's not some sort of strong statement out of the Obama camp, I mean, the risk of doing nothing is to make him into a self-perpetuating every, you know, slow news day, news story between now and the nomination or the election, correct?

FINEMAN: Well, yes. There are some people though who still think Obama that should keep his cool and keep his powder dry. But if this continues another couple of days, if there's more of this out there, then I think more decisive action might have been to be taken. This is not where the Obama campaign wanted to be, it's not the conversation they wanted to have. Let's see if they can close it off the next day or two.

OLBERMANN: And clearly, it's the conversation Reverend Wright wants to have because he's selling a book and it looks like he's selling a book.


OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, thank you, Howard.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The polls are all over the place eight days after North Carolina, one of the candidates suggesting the ideal vision of another debate, one without any moderators.

And last week, John McCain said Jeremiah Wright was off limits in a campaign against Senator Obama, now, McCain has completely changed his mind. I know - you're shocked, shocked to discover there is flip-flopping going on in here.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The Gallup Poll: Obama's lead ballooned last week, evaporated then after Pennsylvania, it just go back to one point. Senator Clinton gets a valuable endorsement in North Carolina and she proposes a 90-minute debate just like Lincoln-Douglas. So, it's nothing like Lincoln-Douglas.

Waiter who's been unanimously defending online, Burger King and it's battle with farm workers, a vice president of Burger King, that versus somebody who just analogized Senator Clinton to Glenn Close from "Fatal Attraction." Oh, boy. Worst Persons is ahead.


OLBERMANN: As we mentioned last week, the first anniversary of the first Democratic presidential debate was this past Saturday - meaning that as a television series, they have lasted longer by eight days already than did Jackie Gleason's "The Honeymooners."

Our fourth story on the Countdown: With the North Carolina and Indiana primaries now eight days off as the polls open and close like a camera shutter, a proposal from Senator Clinton for a 22nd debate, no moderator, just the candidates head-to-head for 90 minutes. She says, "Just like they did it in the Lincoln-Douglas debate," even though that's not how they did it. And even though it feels like the first 2008 Democratic debate occurred well before the first Lincoln-Douglas debate.

For once, Senator Clinton earning the endorsement headline expected to pick up the support of Governor Mike Easley of North Carolina tomorrow, North Carolina votes a week from tomorrow. Senator Obama endorsed by New Mexico's Democratic senator, Senator Jeff Bingaman, meaning that in a state whose primary she won, Senator Clinton failed to gain the support of both the governor and the Democratic senator. Of course, that vote is over and done with.

Obama and Clinton each picked up a superdelegate over the weekend. Right now, Clinton 264, Obama 242 - not counting Easley, who's not yet formally endorsed. Obama still leads in pledged, 1,491 to 1,334, and that leaves him in the overall lead 1,733 to 1,598.

That's a balance that explains why Senator Clinton in North Carolina this morning, reiterated her call for what she thinks is a debate, 1858 style.


CLINTON: What I propose is let's just have a one-on-one debate. Just the two of us on the stage 90 minutes talking about the issues, asking each other questions like they did, you know, back in the, you know, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, where they went around, talking about - we can do it on the back of a flat bed truck. We can do it anywhere in North Carolina as far as that goes.


OLBERMANN: For the record the Lincoln-Douglas debates followed formal rules, one candidate spoke for an hour, the other rebutted for 1 ½ hours, the first then concluded with a rebuttal of ½ hour. Try that today and you'd have voters insisting on a hereditary monarchy immediately.

Senator Obama meantime, taking it seemed the cue from Bob Schieffer of CBS, in North Carolina, while fielding more questions on religion and patriotism.


OBAMA: Sometimes I wear flag pins, sometimes I don't. But I always have the flag in my heart and in my head when I'm running for president and when I'm not running for president.


OLBERMANN: Nationally, the gap between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton has narrowed since Pennsylvania but widened since Friday. The latest Gallup tracking poll puts Obama a mere point ahead of Clinton today, 47-46. It was 47 all on Friday and Saturday, Obama by 10 last Monday.

While on "Newsweek" still has Obama in the lead by seven points, 48 to 41, that is significant less than the 19-point lead he had in that same poll just a week ago.

Joining me now: Our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor with "Newsweek" magazine. Good to see you, Jon.


OLBERMANN: Gallup tracking poll, last Monday before Pennsylvania, Obama by 10, last Wednesday by five, Thursday by one, Friday and Saturday tied and yesterday Obama by one. What is that a picture of a Clinton surge after Pennsylvania followed by a sort of re-inflation for Obama or what is it a picture?

ALTER: I think it's all too close to call but that bleeding is not just Obama in the polls, it's another cuticles of the Obama supporters who are biting their fingernails because he's not having a good few days here. And they're nervous about it and they keep trying to emphasize the point that everybody made at the beginning of the process, including the Clinton people, which is it's not about national tracking polls it's about delegates.

OLBERMANN: That of course has changed somewhat in the Clinton speculation.

ALTER: Yes, on one particular camp it has changed.

OLBERMANN: Poll numbers of a different kind which are fascinating. From North Carolina, 91 percent of voters said race does not matter to them. But 54 percent knew somebody who wouldn't vote for a black candidate. Seven-nine percent said gender made no difference to them, but 63 percent knew someone who would not vote for a woman. This is one of the rules of polling, the "I'm swell but my neighbor stinks" rule?

ALTER: Yes, or if somebody has done something they put in terms - and they are telling an anecdote about it, they say, "I have a friend who did this or that." Yes, that's a long-time tradition in polling. But actually, the stark thing is that the number of people who even believe that other people are racist in their voting is much decreased over time and there's actually more biased against people over 70, interestingly, that they're willing to admit to than on race and gender.

OLBERMANN: Something on the ground of practical importance, most viewers would not know Governor Mike Easley if he came to the door during a show and rang the doorbell, but has the old maxim been true in this race? Do we - we would have previous examples of it that the endorsements that count are the big city politicians who have machines that get votes and get organization going and get people to the polls and the governors who have the same kind of organizations?

ALTER: Yes, I'd just frankly don't know what Easley's organization like in North Carolina. But it's obviously, you know, a good pickup for Hillary Clinton. She's in good position in the expectations game there because almost everybody else in North Carolina, and the congressional delegation, even the old Edwards folks are on the Obama team. So, this is something that she needed if she wants to be competitive there.

OLBERMANN: We're not going to get a Lincoln-Douglas style three-hour debate?

ALTER: No, field cage match, maybe. But no, look, we would love it and a lot of people watching the show might like to see it, but if you - you know, mean what (ph) - because we missed the 14th and 18th and 20th debates we need another one? I don't think it's going to play politically.

OLBERMANN: I know exactly what to do. Rerun some of last year's - and run a timer to see how long if so people notice.

Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, thanks for coming in, Jon.

ALTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And hey, look, I think I found a way to resolve the Democratic race. This is a religious celebration actually and an annual event, then lava field (ph) and holy hand grenade.

And: Too Glenn Close for comfort. A political correspondent makes a comparison to a Democratic candidate, then talks about something else, then repeats the comparison. Worst is Persons ahead.

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

Number three: Nexus of politics and terror-gate. Thomas Nelson, an Oregon lawyer who represents a Saudi who can't come into the country because there are terror financing charges against him has an unusual way of contacting his client. It's usual these days anyway, each time he needs to discuss anything with him, he can't use the phone, he cant e-mail, so, he goes to see the client in the Middle East.

"It's very clear me," Mr. Nelson tells "The New York Times," that anything I say to my client or the other lawyers in this case is being recorded." Department of Justice says, "Yes, we monitored contact between attorneys and clients but it's legal, trust us." Nobody does. That book sealed (ph) a long time ago.

Worse yet, Nelson and the other lawyers in the case said the department once mistakenly handed them a log book of phone calls made between the defendants and the attorneys, the log book of intercepted phone calls.

Number two: War profiteering-gate. The government's own inspector general for Iraq reconstruction reports that a couple of things American companies like Vecto (ph), were suppose to build in Iraq places like kids hospitals were marked down in official reports as completed when in fact they were never built. Just a few of these, mind you, only about 855 unfinished projects terminated before completion because of unforeseen factors such as violence, cost overruns and subcontractors getting killed and projects being blown up and stuff. Total cost unclear. But one hospital in Basra marked as finished by itself costs $50 million and was only 35 percent completed when work was abandoned.

And number one: I'd like to see your diploma-gate. The second most senior associate justice on Mr. Bush's Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, on TV now repeating in essence what he said earlier, that torture is not really as the Constitution prohibits, cruel and unusual punishment because when the policeman or whoever is torturing you, quote, "You say he's punishing you? What is he punishing you for? When he's hurting you in order to get information from you, you wouldn't say he's punishing you."

So you can torture the innocent or not yet proved guilty but you can't punish the guilty with torture. You don't see any logical inconsistency in that idea. The concept of punishment being in and of itself, torture or vice versa, that isn't very pretty obvious to you? You, still there, justice buddy? OK. Not only do I want to see your diploma, now, I want to see your grade point average.


OLBERMANN: And that breaking news is out of Virginia this evening;

National Weather Service now confirming three tornadoes ripped through the central and south eastern parts of the state this afternoon, injuring at least 200 people in the city of Suffolk alone. South of Richmond, in Colonial Heights, another 18 people hurt, as storms and tornadoes over-turned cars, blew out windows, damaged buildings. Virginia's Governor Tim Kaine has declared a state of emergency for the areas most affected by the storms. Updates throughout the evening as information becomes available.

We salute tonight the birthday of Isaac Sidney Caesar, the comic genius who starred in what was the first "Saturday Night Live," a weekly 90 minute live extravaganza called, "Your Show of Shows." Its success so transcended in its times that it and Sid Caesar later became the basis for two movies, "My Favorite Year," and "Laughter on the 23rd Floor."

Sid Caesar's birthday is September 8th, 1922, but I didn't want to wait because I found out two things about him last night. One is he was born in Yonkers, New York, the town next to the one I grew up in, and he's regular viewer of Countdown, which is pretty big news around here.

On behalf of Uncle Goopy, let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: We begin on the Greek Island of Hios, where we get a fresh stinking batch of some of the best B-roll of all time. It is the annual rocket war, a ritual pitting the parishioners of two churches against each other. This is called playing the dozens in Greek, each group firing home-made rockets at the other's bell tower on the eve of orthodox Easter. All of this happens during midnight mass.

For the first time, we take you inside the church during the bombardment. How peaceful that was. Greek police say technically the rocket war is illegal, but it is so cool they never arrest anyone, besides all those people with rockets.

Southern Indiana; if you needed any prove that you should stop your little kitty from eating paint, he or she could end up like this guy. The artist Ani Kay (ph), who wanted to separate himself from the traditional brush-using art community by using his tongue to paint. He has licked 20 watercolors so far. He hopes to French paint about 100 more. Ani Kay says he used to get nauseous and want to vomit when he first began doing this. It now qualifies him to be art critic for his own work.


OLBERMANN: Lost in the wrong stuff about Reverend Wright, John McCain with a complete 180 on whether or not Wright is fair campaign game. And Obama was at church, Clinton was under fire, McCain wanted to distance himself, the comedy stylings of President Bush at the White House correspondents' dinner, which is why I went to the Mets game. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best dumb criminal, 19-year-old car-jacking suspect, who had to stop mid jack - in Ohio this was - and ask for directions to the bank from which he wanted his victim to withdraw the money. Not only did he stop and ask directions, allowing the victim to signal to passers that he was a victim, but the two passers by he asked were a TV news reporter and their photographer, with this big camera with him. They called the cops, hence the arrest.

Number two, best wedding night, Dr. and Mrs. David Wielechowski of Shalor (ph), Pennsylvania. They got hitched a month ago in the Bahamas, then repeated the vows for the home folks on Saturday. Just as the doctor was taking the news Mrs. over the threshold at the Holiday Inn, they had a little spit. He karate kicked her to the floor of the hotel hallway.

Two other guests there raced to her rescue, only to be attacked by first the doctor and then, inexplicably, by the wife he had just kicked to the ground. Wielechowski eventually heaved a couple of metal planters at the two good Samaritans. At their arraignment, the Mrs. was still in her wedding gown and the groom, quote, left eye was blackened and swollen shut, was wearing tuxedo pants, a bloody t-shirt and one shoe.

Number one, the best bet to never get married, Amanda Montoya of Alberquerque, New Mexico and her unnamed boyfriend. They were spending a typical morning over at his house, at 10:30 am, watching a pornographic movie, when Miss Montoya suddenly pointed at one of the performers and shouted at boyfriend, that's you. She then produced a knife, stabbed him in the face, to little effect, fortunately, and he alighted from the scene, garbed only in his shorts.

She was later arrested. He turned out not to have been in the movie, actually. No truth to rumors that as he fled, the boyfriend was courteous enough to turn around to Miss Montoya and add, thanks for the compliment.


OLBERMANN: Presidential candidate John McCain has now not once but twice crossed ethical guidelines laid down for presidential candidates by John McCain. In our third story tonight, he's such a maverick, he not only doesn't play by other people's rules, he doesn't even play by his own rules.

Less than a week after McCain called a North Carolina Republican ad tying local Democrats to Reverend Wright by way of Barack Obama offense and divisive, McCain said yesterday, he would not comment about Wright and then preceded to comment about Wright, dredging up, exaggerating, mischaracterizing his remarks, justifying all of it by pointing out that Obama himself called Wright, quote, a legitimate political issue, somehow making it OK for McCain to engage in behavior he has called offensive and divisive.

After McCain told the "Arizona Republic" last year that he wouldn't tap his wife's beer money for his campaign, the "New York Times" now reports that until last month, McCain used her corporate jet, similar to this one, as a virtually exclusive campaign charter, reimbursing her beer company at less than quarter rates, thanks to a loophole in the law which he supported, which exempted family owned planes.

This coming just as McCain is calling Obama out of touch with the poor for opposing proposed summer time suspension of the 18 cent gas tax, 18 cents, less than the increase in gas prices in the last two weeks. That's not even airplane fuel.

Let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, whose own show airs weeknights on Air America Radio. Good evening.


OLBERMANN: What are the risks for McCain of trying to play good cop/bad cop, the solitaire version?

MADDOW: Himself, both cops in one guy. I think there's kind of two risks. The first is that his political identity evaporates. Rightly or wrongly, he spent 20 years cultivating and conjuring this image of himself as somebody who has strong political principles, who doesn't bend in the prevailing political winds. If he becomes known as a flip-flopper on everything from Falwell to torture, now to the wisdom and ethics of campaigning on Jeremiah Wright, that's going to be very low-hanging fruit for his Democratic opponent, if he ever has one.

The other risk is that guilt by association tactics could be a fast drive down a short street for John McCain. The more - the current ones, John Hagee and Rod Parsley and all of these other people who he has made recent political alliances with, but also going back to Charles Keating and the early days of his career. That's not something that he wants to invite scrutiny on, the guilt by association.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Keating played by the great actor James Cromwell, I think, in the movie. If you're strategizing for Obama, in light of today's speech from Reverend Wright, which of the options hangs McCain the furthest out to dry?

MADDOW: I think that if Obama goes aggressive on this, it could actually be a really problem for John McCain. What Obama could do - I'm not sure I've seen an inclination towards this type of aggression in the Obama campaign. But what he could do is he could say, listen, my personal private relationship with my pastor is now being dragged through the mud for political reasons. I have no political alliance with Jeremiah Wright. I disavow his political views. He disavows my political views.

But John McCain has made political associations. He's made overt public political associations in the past year with extremist religious figures like John Hagee and Rod Parsley, going as far to campaign with Rod Parsley in the last year. It may have national security implications for the United States of America for the Republican presidential candidate to have an association with a pastor, to call a spiritual guide a pastor that says the United States was founded in part to destroy the religion of Islam. John McCain should explain himself on that, because it may have implications for our country.


MADDOW: I'm not sure we've seen that aggression yet from Obama, but I think that would be the tact that would hurt McCain the most.

OLBERMANN: As we were just joking about, the next anti-Wright ad could come from the Obama camp. I'll believe that when I see it. This issue of being in touch with the poor; McCain was he on his wife's air bud plane when he said that?

MADDOW: Who has the foresight to write into campaign finance legislation a loophole that exempts your personal family corporate jet from campaign loopholes? I don't know that this puts him more in touch with the poor. It does establish his rich guy cajones like nothing else I have seen.

OLBERMANN: He may know more about the economy than we thought. If it had been any more specific, it would have said, if it's in the liquor or alcohol distribution business, if it's used for that. Last point here, at the risk of addressing policy instead of controversy, McCain dreamt up the gas tax roll back. Senator Clinton went one further and said, we'll do it, but here's how we fund it, which was a creative spin on this. Why doesn't Obama support the idea of rolling back the tax.

MADDOW: As far as I know, what Obama has explained is that the gas tax goes to fund things like maintenance, repair and building of new roads and bridges. And if you take away that funding without replacing it, you not only are doing our infrastructure a disservice, but you are also causing a lot of construction workers to be out of jobs, because that tends to be something that creates a lot of jobs in the construction industry.

Senator Clinton has proposed refunding the highway money with a windfall tax on oil companies. That does open up a can of worms. Seems like a pretty rational argument on both of their sides, from my take on it.

OLBERMANN: Nothing - we can't make a controversy out of it?

MADDOW: I don't think so.

OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, thanks for coming in.

MADDOW: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: This is what Craig Ferguson spent years trying to become a citizen for, the White House correspondents dinner? An update on his joke about me and the rest of the junk.

And in worst persons, you probably don't want to go comparing a presidential candidate to Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction." You just don't, especially if you actually own a bunny rabbit.


OLBERMANN: We have an update from Craig Ferguson of CBS, host of the annual White House correspondents' dinner, who insisted there was, quote, sexual tension between myself and Bill O'Reilly. That's next, but first time for our number two story, Countdown's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Stephen Grover, vice president of Burger King. A coalition of Florida farm workers is asking that company to pay its tomato pickers a penny more per pound. That would about 20 bucks more per day. McDonalds and Taco Bell have already done this. But the coalition has hounded by series of online anonymous postings by someone calling him or herself, SurfXAholic36, who contends the workers would never see the money and calling them a bunch of fools, and ripping the federation.

Somehow the woman who regularly uses that name, SurfXAholic36, found out about the posts and figured it out. Her name is Shannon Grover. She's Stephen Grover's daughter. "That was my dad," she told a newspaper in Fort Myers, Florida. My dad used to go online with that name and write about them. Vice president of Burger King anonymously trashing farm workers and using his daughter's online ID to do so.

Our sliver winner tonight, Tim Graham, part of the Brent Bozell's witch's kitchen known as the Media Research Center and News Busters. Graham, identified as the Director of Media Analysis, blogged by how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to both Pope Benedict and the Dalai Lama as his holiness. At best, writes Graham, Pelosi's promiscuous definition of holiness just show she is more of a shallow politician than a devout Christian.

Graham apparently was unaware that when the Pope was in Washington two weeks ago another politician addressed him as holy father, and when the Dalai Lama was there last autumn, the same politician addressed him as your holiness, and referred to him three times as his holiness. That other politician who Graham might observe matches Pelosi's, quote, promiscuous definitions of holiness, and shows he too is more of a shallow politician than a devout Christian; that guy would be President Bush.

The nice thing about being on the opposite side of the war with the Media Research News Busters crowd is they are really stupid.

But our winner, NPR political reporter Ken Rudin. On CNN yesterday, he broke a new bar. First of all, he said, thus forgetting rule one, any time your statement begins with first of all, stop immediately. It's a bad idea whatever it is. "First of all, let's be honest here. Hillary Clinton is Glenn Close in 'Fatal Attraction.' She's going to keep coming back and they are not going to stop her," unquote.

Greeted by a disbelieving, what, Ken? He added, "we'll figure that out. There's a lot of ways to imagine that."

You can choose a bad analogy. You can really screw it up. You can even say something innocent and cliched and it comes out sounding utterly inappropriate. Trust me, I did the latter. After comparing Senator Clinton to the insane, murderous, kidnapping, stalking, knife wielding, suicidal, bunny boiling character of Alex Forest, who has to be drowned and shot to be finally stopped in "Fatal Attraction," even the harshest critic of Senator Clinton is probably beginning to think, that might be a little harsh. Maybe an apology is in order.

Instead, a full minute later, Mr. Rudin wrapped up his guest appearance adding, quote, she'll say, look I'm in it until the end and I expect her to be in it until the end, as Glenn Close was." OK I'm not seeing any contrition here. Ken Rudin of NPR, at the movies so to speak, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: The correspondents at the annual White House correspondents dinner like to think, as the old bromide goes, that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. Well, they're never uglier then they are at the correspondents' dinner. The parallel is less Hollywood or the Oscars than today's regular Monday weekly luncheon at the Hawk Eye Restaurant of the Kiwanis Club of Kiyokook (ph), Iowa.

Our number one story on the Countdown, actually, I should just apologize right now to the Kiwanis Club of Kiyokook Iowa and the Hawk Eye Restaurant. This year, at least, thy upgraded hosts from Rich Little to CBS "Late Late Show" host Craig Ferguson, who just got his US citizenship and tonight is probably thinking he wants to give it back.


CRAIG FERGUSON, "LATE LATE SHOW": I'm a late night television guy. I make up crap that isn't true and then I say it on TV. I'm like Fox News. I'm not a journalist.

Bill O'Reilly, who is locked in that feud with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC - the two of them are at it everything night, that terrible feud. Everybody thinks they hate each other. You know what I see there? Sexual tension, that's what I say. That's a romantic comedy waiting to happen. You're the worst person in the world. You're a liberal yuppie scum. Are you as turned on as I am? You bet I am, mister.


OLBERMANN: Stop projecting. Mr. Ferguson did, at least, have an easy act to follow, President Bush, in his last appearance at these festivities.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not sure what I'm going to do next. After he left office, Vice President Gore won an Oscar and a Noble Peace Prize. I don't know, I might win a prize, Publishing Clearing House or something.


OLBERMANN: Cracker jack. After just a few jokes, the president showed video clips of past performances, a tactic that must have put the celebrities there in a bit of shock. I thought the writer's strike had ended quite a few months ago.

The dinner dates back to 1914, as do most of the jokes. We do have an update tonight from Mr. Ferguson, who advises he outright lied to the dinner about the joke about O'Reilly. The sexual tension, he says, is actually between me and him, Ferguson. Restraining orders are being sought at this hour. Let's turn to now to "Washington Post" national political reporter Dana Milbank, of course, also an MSNBC political analyst and can talk about this crap too.

Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That explains why you call him Bill O'Reilly, doesn't it.

OLBERMANN: OK, you're out. With all due respect, not really, is there any point to this event, any more?

MILBANK: That assumes that there ever was a point. I would - Let me go out on a limb here and say that there is more of a point than ever now. In this day of the declining news business - many of our colleagues are getting laid off - it's more important than ever for our employers to spend more money on alcohol to numb the pain of this. It is a huge investment in analgesic, shall we say. We should do this more often.

OLBERMANN: It is called the hidden newspaper buyout. I don't know if you know that's the little small type at the bottom of the invite. Short of giving them the last seven years of their lives back, was there anything President Bush could have done to win over that crowd?

MILBANK: Well, I think he reached his high water mark when he had the Bush impersonator come out a year or two back. Not much he could do at this point. If he makes a good joke, somebody will take it seriously and he'll get abused for it in the coming weeks. I think we should just be lucky he didn't send Barney out there at this point.

OLBERMANN: The celebrity mix - this is always the train wreck, the lost in space quality to this. Pamela Anderson, Ashley Simpson, a teen sensation pop band called the Jonas Brothers, Johnny Knoxville from Jackass, and then guys who are political wonks like Ben Affleck and John Cusack. It's not a shocker that journalists would invite them, but why did they go?

MILBANK: Well, you've already answer that, because politics is show business for ugly people. Let's say you've had some bad luck in Hollywood, career is a bit in decline, you're on the B list; you get out here to Washington and suddenly, you're at the top of the A list. You can't look better than you do here.

OLBERMANN: Is there anything to be gained though to have the interaction between Henry Kissinger and Pamela Anderson. I mean, 30 years ago we would probably have had a marriage there. Supreme Court Justice Scalia meeting Ashley Simpson, other than he gets a better of what torture is, what's the point of this?

MILBANK: Well, Kissinger has said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. So he got to put that to the test. Scalia is a brilliant questioner. I suspect he knows right now whether or not Simpson is pregnant or not.

OLBERMANN: And also works back to her sister and the lip synching from a couple years ago. Should the comics give up trying to make jokes about the two most self-righteous, cynical and bitter segments of the population while they are sitting in front of them?

MILBANK: Well, you're just sore about the O'Reilly jokes, but I think Ferguson was just fine, particularly since he went on the "New York Times." I think that's a welcome edition to any event.

OLBERMANN: Spoken like a true Posty. I'm just happy to be mentioned. When this - the last time I was involved in this, I think I was one of the waiters, and now I'm mentioned in this and in the other dinner from Cheney.

MILBANK: You're on a role.

OLBERMANN: It's not going to get better than this. Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC, great thanks.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: An update on tonight's breaking news out of Virginia before we go: the National Weather Service now confirming that three different tornadoes touched down in the central and southeastern parts of the state. The worst is seen here. It cut a 25-mile path of destruction through Suffolk County. At least 200 people were injured in that area alone. Wind speeds recorded as high as 110 miles an hour and the low end of that scale was 85. Another tornado hit Lawrenceville, in Brunswick County. There was one in Colonial Heights at a shopping mall. And Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia has declared a state of emergency in those areas tonight with extraordinary devastation, and at this point any way, a low casualty count. Good news on that front, even though they look like scattered match sticks through much of the Virginia county-side this evening.

That's Countdown for this the 1,824th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.