Friday, April 18, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, April 18
video 'podcast'

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guest: Maria Milito

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

It may have been sleazy, it may have trivialized Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, but it may have worked.

Gallup daily tracking poll over four days: Obama's national lead drops from 11 points to three in just the interviews done Thursday tonight. Clinton led for the first time in two weeks.

Or Obama is pulling away? New "Newsweek" national poll: Obama 54 percent, Clinton 35 percent. He leads among women, older Democrats. Sixty-one percent think him honest and trustworthy. Forty-one percent think her so. Have (ph) that poll done after the debate, pollsters say little difference in the answers before and after.

Polling the superdelegates: Impressed with her performance at the debates according to two reports and still unswayed.

Playing the victim: Senator Clinton says: we need a candidate who does not complain about how pressure there is and how hard the questions are.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't know what Senator Clinton's talking about. I haven't been complaining about tough questions.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm with Harry Truman on this: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.


OLBERMANN: A kind of a role reversal for Senator Clinton who has previously complained about said heat.


CLINTON: If anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.


OLBERMANN: Senator McCain is likely to get a full set of den (ph) furniture when he is interviewed by George Stephanopoulos Sunday. So, we're offering him a few tough questions: Why as recently as last November did you have a friendly conversation with a man who tries to overthrow the two party system of government in the 1970s? Better take notes, George.

And: These "American Idol" contestants, I just don't think they're working out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I can't live if living is without you, I can't live.


OLBERMANN: What do you mean, it's "Bulgarian Idol"? Here we go exporting Democracy again.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Friday, April 18th, exactly 200 days until the 2008 presidential election. And if ever you wanted to kick a pollster in the privates, tonight would be your greatest temptation. An attempt (ph) has it turned out, was agreed upon by supporters of both senators, Clinton and Obama.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Reliable polling suggests, Thursday's debate enabled Senator Clinton, make it Wednesday's debate, enabled Senator Clinton to almost completely erase Senator Obama's national lead. Unfortunately, equally reliable polling suggests, Obama has pulled away by Clinton to open up a nearly 20-point lead and that Democrats answer the questions the same way after the debate as they did before it.

Senator Obama's lead in Gallup's national daily tracking poll is dropping sharply over the last four days from 11 percent to 8 percent to 7 percent to now 3 percent. Today's average, the end of that graph: Senator Obama 47, Senator Clinton 44.

In the interviewing done just last night by Gallup, Senator Clinton in fact received a greater share of national Democratic support than did Senator Obama for the first time in two weeks.

But a second new poll out this afternoon from "Newsweek" conducted Wednesday before the debate and yesterday right after it, showing Senator Obama pulling away nationally. The Illinois Democrat now leading in this poll by nearly 24 points among Democrats and Democratic leaders, 54-35. That would be outside the Keith number of undecideds plus the margin of error in the poll, 14 percent.

The previous "Newsweek" poll taken last month, after the Ohio and Texas primaries, had these candidates in a statistical dead heat: Obama 45, Clinton 44. One of the more devastating breakouts for Senator Clinton, in the new survey showing that a majority of all registered Democratic voters:

51 percent are now seeing her as dishonest and untrustworthy.

Neither polls however, a survey of undecided superdelegates, 15 of them telling the "New York Times" they have not been swayed by this week's debate nor by Senator Obama's recent gaffes, nor by Senator Clinton's attacks, quote: "Despite giving it her best shot in what might have been their final debate, interviews on Thursday with a cross-section of these superdelegates - showed that none have been persuaded much. If there were some moments of concern reflected in the debate - the talk of Mrs. Clinton's high unfavorability ratings, Mr. Obama's flashes of annoyance - they all doubted that those moments would be deal-breakers, either."

Most superdelegates that "USA Today" reports it has talked with, saying they will not make their decisions based on the results even of Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. Governor Dean is saying last night that he needs superdelegates to say who they're for starting now: "We cannot give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing time. We've got to know who our nominee is."

Fallout from Wednesday's debate is still dominating the campaign trail today. If you will recall that before Senator Obama literally brushed off the debate in Raleigh, North Carolina yesterday, he said, "I think we set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people."

Senator Clinton today, is equating Senator Obama's criticism about the trivial tone of the first half of the debate to complaining about hard questions.


CLINTON: Did some of you see that debate the other night?


CLINTON: Well, I know that some of my opponents' supporters and my opponent are kind of complaining about the hard questions. Well, having been in the White House for eight years and seeing what happens in terms of the pressures and the stresses on a president; that was nothing.


CLINTON: I'm with Harry Truman on this; If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.


CLINTON: And just speaking for myself, I am very comfortable in

the kitchen. So -


OLBERMANN: As Senator Obama was getting on his campaign plane today and into his waiting vehicle, a reporter on the tarmac shouted to him that Senator Clinton says you've been complaining about the debate, Senator Obama shook his head and said, "No." The question was asked again and he smiled and said, "Who's complaining?" A refrain he repeated in an interview with the Pennsylvania television station.


OBAMA: I don't know what Senator Clinton's talking about, I haven't been complaining about tough questions. As I recall, it was Senator Clinton who spent much of the last couple of months complaining about how the media wasn't treating her fairly. So, I haven't complained about tough questions.

The only thing I have suggested with respect to the debate was that we need to talk about the issues that the American people are talking about and if we spend half of the debate not talking about gas prices or health care or how we're going to keep jobs here in Pennsylvania, then we're probably not going to be really focused on what we need to do over the next several years.


OLBERMANN: To look at the politics of piling on in a moment with Rachel Maddow. First, time to call in our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of the "Washington Post." Dana, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Gallup, a precipitous drop for Senator Obama, eight points in four days, "Newsweek," Senator Clinton out of it, nearly 20 points behind, an enormous swing since last month. Does this mean we have no idea what the public thinks or does it mean we're getting one picture of the head of the brontosaurus and another picture of its trunk?

MILBANK: I think you're being charitable, Keith. I think we're looking at brontosaurus right in the butt right now. What happens here is we don't have a lot of data out there. Normally what you need to do is average these polls. We don't really even have enough to do that.

Probably, the gut instinct tells you, Obama after the debate, after the whole "bitter" episode after Bill Ayers, seems to have gathered some movement that was perhaps exaggerated by the Gallup Poll.

Now, the real question and more immediate question is: What's going on in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina because that in turn will drive the national horserace numbers?

OLBERMANN: The 15 superdelegates, the "New York Times" says it interviewed and who said they have not been swayed. There are six others who apparently have been. Three for Senator Obama today: Mr. Clinton's former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who just said he had enough of the negative campaigning; former Senator Sam Nunn; former Senator David Boren; former New Jersey governors, Florio and Byrne; and Congressman Betty Sutton. All announced their support for Senator Clinton.

Is this response for Governor Dean: "All you guys need to decide now and six people raised their hands?

MILBANK: Well, if those six people were listening to Howard Dean, that would be the first time anybody did. So, I suspect that's not what's going on here. But what really is happening is they're looking at Pennsylvania coming up on Tuesday and the superdelegates are saying, this is the last chance I have to be a leader rather than a follower.

So, this is about the last time they're going to get any credit with the candidates for jumping on board. After that, it will be presumably just be - seem to be somewhat obvious that they're just trying to go with the winner.

OLBERMANN: One more poll question, that Gallup number, does it give any impetus in the Clinton campaign, any hope that the decision to go negative to, you know, take Obama's words and throw them back at him with all sorts of connotations added actually paid off and it's worth doing it again and more in whatever time there is left to her?

MILBANK: Well, it's unclear whether that is in fact the conclusion that should be drawn. I have no doubt that that is the conclusion that will be drawn. You've seen Clinton in the recent days, sort of the Goldilocks, a little too hot, a little too cold, looking for just right here. Certainly, this is going to give weight to those in the campaign who are saying, take it to him even harder. So, I think you'll err (ph) on the side of too hot rather than too cold in this next few days.

OLBERMANN: Last point, another story here tonight, coming back from the past, Canadian NAFTA controversies, Jake Tapper from ABC says, there was a debate held in at the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto this week, an official with the Clinton campaign, the former Michigan governor, James Blanchard, former ambassador from Clinton to Canada, a state co-chair of Senator Clinton's campaign, one of the big Hill-Raiser, a fund-raising group.

He told Canadians: Don't worry about Senator Clinton's anti-NAFTA hype, what she's really referring to is altering trade negotiations with Mexico, with China, not with Canada. Is this something, Dana, that the Obama camp can push out or is it better just have to leave NAFTA alone?

MILBANK: You know, who would have thunk it, Keith? We thought this election would be about Iran and Iraq and here we are and talking about Canada and NAFTA over and over again. I suspect, the folks will get a nice e-mail press release out of it. Probably, don't want to get involved in this too terrible much. It brings up the awesome goals (ph) we say again, but at the very least, it blunts that entire issue.

OLBERMANN: Now, if that turns into a tie if anybody wants to go back and recount. That's for it, too, like Texas.

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

Have a great weekend.

MILBANK: You, too. Thanks.

OLBERMANN: Senator Obama pointing out today that it, quote, "Was Senator Clinton who spent much of the past couple of months complaining about how the media was not treating her fairly." Her campaign was even coining a term for it at that point, "The Politics of Pile On," in the wake of a much criticized performance by Senator Clinton at the MSNBC Democratic debate held in Philadelphia on October 30th last (ph).

At that time, Senator Clinton is a clear front-runner in the race. The Clinton campaign having assembled and released a short video with the title: "The Politics of Pile On," that showed her opponents mentioning her name over and over again.


OBAMA: Senator Clinton.


Senator Clinton.

OBAMA: Senator Clinton.

EDWARDS: Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton. Hillary. Hillary Clinton.


EDWARDS: Hillary. Hillary.

OBAMA: Hillary. Hillary.

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE: The first lady and now Senator Clinton.

CLINTON: I seem to be the topic of great conversation and consternation and that's for a reason.


OLBERMANN: By the 26th of February, Senator Obama having pulled away during a 10-0 run throughout the month. The Ohio-Texas primaries are exactly one week away, Senator Clinton started off saying the MSNBC debate in Cleveland with what might be called "a bit of a chip on the shoulder."


CLINTON: Could I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time? And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious and if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to Rachel Maddow, the host of her own program on Air America Radio on weeknights. Rachel, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Is it safe to say, if "SNL" was doing skits on the politics of pile on 2 ½ months ago, we're not remembering this incorrectly that Senator Clinton did, in fact, spend a good portion of her campaign complaining that the media had been treating unfairly and moreover, she'd been treated unfairly in debates?

MADDOW: It's all on tape. We just saw the run-through of it.

None of that is deniable.

I think, the thing that's quite - I guess surprising here, maybe I'm being naive, but it seems weird to try to make this a negative for Barack Obama when you are on tape having done it yourself. I don't actually think it's that much of a negative for either candidate to be complaining about their treatment in the press or their treatment in debates.

I think that some of Hillary Clinton's most effective moments on the stump have been her pushing back against the media, pushing back against some of the construction of the campaign, and it's sometimes in some cases really capitalizing on the anti-media sentiment.

That's real among voters and among her supporters. That's been some of her best stuff in the campaign. So, to try to turn it into a negative when it's coming from Barack Obama when she's on tape having done it so explicitly for her own campaign is curious. Maybe, I shouldn't be surprised, but I am.

OLBERMANN: Is there a difference between complaining about being treated unfairly, when you're being asked difficult questions, perhaps unfair questions even about policy and Wednesday night and the first half of that "crap-fest" on ABC where which, you know, Senator Obama brushed off his shoulders as if there were, you know, a sudden case of dandruff. Are those two different things or are they different degrees, or they the same thing in the public line (ph)?

MADDOW: I think they're two different things. And I actually feel like there is now a big media narrative and it's become a political narrative about the response and the backlash against that debate. And the Clinton campaign and some in the mainstream media are trying to talk about the backlash to that debate as being "a protect Barack Obama" backlash - a "You are unfairly going after Barack Obama" backlash.

I think paying pretty close attention to the way people are complaining about that debate, both in talk radio and in terms of what you can read on ABC's own Web site, when people have been writing in with their vociferous comments about it, and my sense is that only a small portion of that response is in defense of Barack Obama or saying that he was being unfairly targeted in that debate.

What I'm seeing overwhelmingly is that people are mad about the tone of the questions, that it was questions about all of this side issue: character, caricature, guilt by association stuff, and even the Bosnia question directed to Hillary Clinton, rather than, you know, torture and (ph) the Constitution, Iran, Iraq, the economy, gas prices, all of this other stuff that got shunted to the back end of the debate and overshadowed and we had to wait an hour to get to. I think that's what people are mad about. It's not that things were unfairly directed to Senator Obama.

OLBERMANN: Last point. There's something of a shocker on the Web this evening, after Super Tuesday, Senator Clinton was at private fund-raiser and the tape was just dug up and posted in which she said, she'd been hurt by one organization, in a, quote, "activist base of the Democratic Party, I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So, they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidated people who actually show up to support me."

The one organization she was slamming was which was founded in 1998 to defendant President Clinton during the impeachment and begun life as something called "Censure and Are any words for the irony here, or the seeming lack of gratitude? I mean, what should James Carville call Senator Clinton for this tape?

MADDOW: I don't know if there's a clever way to combine the words Judas and sold you (ph). But I don't think that's what we're seeing here. I don't know if Hillary Clinton intended for this critique of Moveon to get out. If she didn't, the politics about are probably different and if she intend for this critique to get out. But looking at the mobilized, organized fundraising heavy anti-war liberal network of the Democratic Party and throwing them under the bus, is a bold political move to say the least.

OLBERMANN: Well, yes. If you're going to elect a Democratic president, those people are going to do it, at least in part, and it's a good thing to alienate them and berate them in public.

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Air America. As ever, many thanks, have a good evening.

MADDOW: You, too, Keith. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: John McCain releases his family tax returns, well, his. His wife's - they're secret, except for her charitable donations, those he reveals.

And we reveal eight questions just right for George Stephanopoulos to ask him in their interview Sunday.

And just when you think all the fascists are back under a rock somewhere, "If there is a threat," this startlingly un-American man says, "you have a right to defend society, people will give up all their liberties to avoid that level of threat." A big night in Worst Persons.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Senator John McCain releases his family's tax returns, well, when I say family's, I mean, he releases just his, not his wife, but he does reveal how much the two of them gave to charity.

And as George Stephanopoulos is taking questions from other reporters and possibly passersby on the street, we have eight for him for his interview with Senator McCain on Sunday, including number three: About your continuing association with radicals in the 1970s.

And: Newt, Bill-O, and the Chinese government in Worst Persons.

All ahead on


OLBERMANN: Barack Obama released his family's tax returns and had to take kidding that your books will make you a lot more money if you running for president while they're released. Hillary Clinton released her family's tax returns and had to take something much sharper than kidding that she and her husband had made $109 million over a decade and were calling somebody else elitist.

In our fourth story tonight: John McCain released only his tax returns not those of his wife, believed to be worth nine figures as she is but he did release they're joint charitable donations, including ones that rounded at the schools their kids go to. And some of his budget plan has also been revealed, it would see him as "president borrow $2 trillion." How did he pull all this off?

The tax returns showed that most of his income, about a $250,000 a year comes from his Senate salary, the rest coming from book sales, his naval pension, and as a senior citizen from Social Security. McCain paid $84,000 in taxes last year, a rate of 34 percent, and donates all the royalties from his books to charity, about which, more in a moment.

Not included: The income of wife, Cindy, who just happens to run an Anheuser-Bush distributor, one of the nation's largest, privately-held, that is held by Cindy's family, beer distributorships. Various estimates putting her worth at around $100 million, all of which explaining how the McCains could afford to give $200,000 in charity last year, most of it to the McCain family foundation which donates to organizations like the schools McCain's children attend.

Mrs. McCain's beer money however, vast as it might be, is insufficient to bail out America in the McCain new budget plan. "Bloomberg News" today reporting that McCain calls for borrowing almost $2 trillion which would then be combined with the savings realized from McCain's cuts in government spending on things like medical research, into a total of possibly more than $5 trillion in tax cuts over eight years, mostly for the rich incorporations such as, for instance, that pressing need to eliminate the estate tax on any inheritance up to $10 million.

According to "Bloomberg," talking to non-partisan budget watchdog groups, McCain's claims of budget balancing rely on optimistic estimates of tax loophole closing and in one case, a claim of saving $30 billion a year in tax breaks based on a Treasury Department report that estimated $27 billion to be saved over 10 years. And, of course, one slight omission from the McCain budget, no accounting for the $12 billion spent every month in Iraq and Afghanistan which would total, $14.5 trillion if the war would have to go on, say, for 100 years.

Let's bring in Rick Perlstein who's the author of "Nixonland" and senior fellow at America's Future, and also a contributor to "The Nation" magazine. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

RICK PERLSTEIN, AUTHOR, "NIXONLAND": Keith, great to be here.

OLBERMANN: Let's start with these taxes. What's notable for being in them and what's notable that we're not seeing?

PERLSTEIN: Well, if you heard the new joke about John McCain, of course he's the candidate you want to have a beer with, his wife owns the beer company. You know, $100 million, they have two sets of books. Do you remember why she says that she can't release her tax returns because she wants to protect the privacy of her daughters, of her children?

I call it the Julie Nixon option because it reminds me of when Richard Nixon sent his daughter out to give speeches about why he was innocent in Watergate, and not telling her that he was guilty in Watergate; and, this whole idea of hiding behind your children to score a political point. If you think this guy is a straight talker, she should be drawn in court (ph), I think.

OLBERMANN: Well, perhaps not in the taxes. Let's turn to this budget leak here about wanting to freeze government spending. Is government spending not one of the prime levers that the government has to revive the economy if, say, the economy has suddenly gone bad as this one has?

PERLSTEIN: Sure. I mean, you may recall when a recession comes, presidents talk about stimulus packages. That means you unfreeze government spending. You know, not only that, I mean, some of the tax cuts he's proposing are absurd. I mean, he's talking about a holiday for the gas tax.

The gas tax goes straight into the trust fund for highways. Our highways are a mess. We had a bridge in Minneapolis plunge into the Mississippi River - and by the way, Keith, the guy who vetoed that tax bill, Tim Pawlenty, is the front-runner to be John McCain's running mate.

OLBERMANN: And of course, the Minneapolis bridge will be something that might come up in the St. Paul Republican convention, but that's something else. If McCain's going to balloon what has already ballooned deficit spending here, who is he borrowing the money from and what affect would that have on the rest of the country and the rest of the economy?

PERLSTEIN: Well, I would say our children and our grandchildren, but it'd probably be more accurate to say, you know, their children and their grandchildren. It may be unto the fourth generation.

You know, our infrastructure is a time bomb. I mean, the American Association of Civil Engineers gives our weight spotter (ph) in these infrastructures, that's pipes beneath the streets, a D-minus. You know, we cannot keep this deferred maintenance going out on anymore and expect to be a functioning civilization. I mean, it's all the concern he's got (ph), tax cuts, although the day before yesterday, he was saying that the tax cuts were irresponsible.

OLBERMANN: McCain has also said repeatedly, as we know that his understanding of the economy is limited, yes, I think so. But who's driving his economic policy? Are these the same masterminds that gave us the Bush economy?

PERLSTEIN: Well, John Jacob (ph) wrote an article in "The New Republic" in which he pointed out that half of his economic advisors are budget hawks. You know, the people at the Concord (ph) coalition who are saying that the speech the other day was a lunacy. The other half are these kind of typical conservative trickledown folks who are saying, you know, "Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts." And, you know, it's not very nice to make fun of a 71-year-old for not being able to have a coherent thought, but he does seem to be doddering from one to another from day to day.

OLBERMANN: Well, it's comforting that all his advisers can have a comforting - a coherent thought, either. It's nothing to do with age.

Rick Perlstein, contributor of "The Nation" magazine, thanks for being with us.

PERLSTEIN: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: I lived nine years in Los Angeles, never once was there an earthquake there while I was on the air. These poor guys get one while being the news in Fort Wayne in Evansville, Indiana today.

And since he's apparently accepting contributions, we have some questions George Stephanopoulos should ask John McCain on Sunday. For instance, number five, Senator, does Pastor Hagee love Catholic, Muslims, New Orleans (ph), gay people, parades (ph), and life on earth as we know it as much as you do?

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

Number three: Corrupt the military gate. We've already seen how Mr. Bush politicized General Petraeus. Now there's Air Force Major General Stephen Goldfein who says the Pentagon's inspector general sat in on a contract-awarding meeting in November 2005, to dole out a $50 million contract for giant video screens to embellish the Thunderbirds air show, and promptly said at its end, "I don't pick the winner, but if I did, I'd pick SMS." The head of the selection team probably gave in and awarded the contract to SMS, a company that had just been created by civilians with close ties to the Air Force Thunderbirds.

Not only did Major General Goldfein repeatedly try to influence the Air Force officials awarding the deal but the corruption went much farther than that. He talked the president into making a testimonial sales pitch for the SMS Company from the White House map room which the company included in its contract proposal.

Number two: Housing-gate. After the secretary of Housing who insisted there was no mortgage crisis coming left office today in disgrace and under criminal investigation and during a mortgage crisis, Mr. Bush has chosen his successor, Steve Preston, the head of the Small Business Administration. Before he did that, he was the executive vice president of a bunch of lawn care companies like Terminix, and before that, he was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers.

And house unguarded, chicken slaughtered, put the wolf in charge.

And: Win we win, lose we win-gate. The Pentagon's interior think

thank, the National Defense University has issued its report on the war in

Iraq. The report author, former senior Defense Department executive,

Joseph Collins writes, quote, "Measured in blood and treasure, the war in

Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle. It has

diverted manpower, material, and the attention of decision-makers from all

other efforts in the war on terror.'

Our efforts in Iraq has made that nation an incubator for terrorism and emboldened Iran. And the outcome of the war is in doubt.

So, President Bush and Senator McCain will have to take their Plan A strategy, we're winning in Iraq so we have to stay there and switch over to their Plan B strategy, we're losing in Iraq, so we have to stay there.


OLBERMANN: In a moment best persons and the geography bee that will reportedly feature the champions of all 52 U.S. states, seriously.

But first, proving a job interview can often make or break the world. On this day in 1861, the head of U.S. military forces, General Winfield Scott offered the command of what would become the army of Potomac to Colonel Robert E. Lee. Unfortunately at almost the same time, the state house in Lee's native Virginia voted to secede from the union. So instead of taking over the nation's defense, Lee quit the army and shortly thereafter would cast his lot with the rebels. Let's play "Oddball."

I haven't been talking right since this earthquake. This 5.20 magnitude that shook the Midwest early this morning. It rattled 16 states. It did a lot of minor damage. Thankfully no fatalities reported. Scared a lot of clerks and in case you have any doubt about the scope of this thing, witness the stunned news anchors from ABC's Ft. Wayne, Indiana affiliate just after this thing hit. And the newsroom in our NBC affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky during the quake and this shaky weather report from the NBC outfit in Evansville, Indiana. Good work out there, Byron.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds like some rain is on the way, Byron.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we're hearing some shaking here, sounds like we have an earthquake here, so we'll have to check that out here - I'm just guessing or maybe we had some brief gusty winds. Is it an earthquake?


OLBERMANN: Yes, Tricia, that's some rain you're hearing. Yes, and this is hilarious. Until the day you at home find yourself on TV during an earthquake and you suddenly look at up at those 449 lights hanging from the damn studio ceiling and for the first time you ask yourself why, exactly how strongly bolted down are they?

Over to Ft. Lauderdale, what the flip is this? This is Oscar the naked cockatoo. Oscar's actually a lady. For 11 years, she has had a disorder that causes her to pluck the feathers off of her own body. Oscar is an otherwise healthy animal. She's become the mascot of the Broward County Animal Shelter where every day she dances around like this saying things like, hello, and pretty bird and these freakin' feathers are killing me.

After the democratic debate, George Stephanopoulos takes on John McCain on Sunday. We have eight helpful Stephanopoulos like questions we think he should ask John McCain, such as when you wrote about indulging in the vices sailors are infamous for, which vices and were you ever client number nine?

And the question about this is, what the hell is it? Bulgarian

"American Idol?" These stories, but first time for Countdown'S top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best bad juxtaposition of the "New York Times" Web site. The headline about the pope was "Benedict meets with Victims of Sexual Abuse." The photo underneath it suggests it was a very crowded meeting.

And if you think is unfortunate, apparently the first version of this under the same headline showed a wide shot of the pope speaking at the baseball stadium in Washington with about 45,000 people visible in the photo.

Number two best candidate for a sore arm, the picture pitcher from Kawamoto Technical High School in Japan. With one out in the bottom of the second at Shunshukan High, Kawamoto was losing 66-0. Not only does that make the pitcher's ERA 446.61, but he's already thrown 250 pitches at which point his coach forfeited the game saying of the poor kid, there was a danger he could get injured. Yes you know, that ship might have sailed after he gave up 26 runs in the bottom of the first.

And number best typo in the "Loudoun Times-Mirror" of Virginia, saluting two local school kids who advanced deep into Virginia's state geography bee, particularly Christopher Miller, whom the "Times-Mirror" noted will represent Virginia at the National Geographic Bee in a field consisting of the quote, "champions from 52 states." Apparently this includes the state of confusion and the state of the editor failed geography.


OLBERMANN: As we reported yesterday, ABC's George Stephanopoulos defended the questions in Wednesday's Democratic debate saying all they did was throw at Democrats what the right eventually will. In our third story tonight, Sunday Mr. Stephanopoulos will interview Senator John McCain, raising the question, is he now obligated to throw at McCain what the left eventually will? Of course some of the left foreswear such partisan side issues. An aide to then Governor Clinton claiming during the 1992 campaign that Americans care about more important things.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: What he's going to do in this campaign is focus on what's important to the American people on the jobs and the education. That's what the American people care about. They want to move into the future. They don't want to be diverted by side issues.


OLBERMANN: Still, since 2008 Stephanopoulos felt it appropriate to ask questions on behalf of Sean Hannity this week, we want to lend him a hand with his McCain interview. So George, we want to test Senator McCain's response to hostile distraction, you can pretend he's a Democrat and ask any of these questions. Taking notes?

One, in your book senator, you mentioned visiting burlesque houses and you said in Rio, you indulged in quote, "the vices sailors are infamous for." Exactly how many times have you employed prostitutes? Or were you just referring to public drunkenness?

Two, on your association with shady characters, as a member of the Keating Five, you helped delay regulators from going after savings and loan that ripped off elderly investors of their live savings and cost taxpayers more than $2 billion. Senator, why do you hate the elderly and taxpayers?

Three, your continuing association with radicals from the 1970s, a man who tried to destroy the two party electoral system and subvert democracy and who to this day remains utterly unapologetic saying only that he wishes he had done more of it and better. As recently as November 8th of 2007, you had a public conversation with this man, G. Gordon Liddy, not merely a criminal, but an unrepentant enemy of the constitution who's now in radio. Senator, why do you hate the constitution?

Four, after first calling Jerry Falwell an agent of intolerance, you took that back and began praising that man despite the fact that he blamed America for 9/11. Why in six years have you not repudiated Mr. Falwell's damming of this country? Why do you still symbolically share the same pew with him?

Five, you proudly accepted the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee who wants the U.S. to start a nuclear war as part of the apocalypse, who called Catholicism the great whore, and who said Katrina was God's punishment of New Orleans for holding, quote, "a homosexual parade." Senator McCain, does Pastor Hagee love Catholics, Muslims, New Orleans, gay people, parades and live on earth as we know it as much as you do?

Six, senator, why did you commit adultery? No, not that lobbyist stuff, I mean with your wife back in the '70s while you were still married to the first wife?

Seven, last year you admitted lying to voters when you said South Carolina's confederate flag was strictly a state issue, when you knew it wasn't. When you knew it was offensive to many Americans, presumably those who wanted Americans to win the Civil War. Why, sir, did you lie to protect a racist symbol of terrorists who wanted to destroy this country when you could have not?

Eight, finally sir, a lot of Americans judge their politicians entirely by simple symbols, flag lapel pins, where your hands are during the pledge of allegiance. Wouldn't you agree, Senator McCain, that perhaps the most potent symbol of loving America is whether or not you chose to be born in America? Senator McCain, why did you choose to be born in Panama? How can voters be sure that this kind of elitism doesn't mean that you will not owe your allegiance to Panama and the Panamanian way?

Also, George ask him if there's anything he can do about helping the contestants on the Bulgarian version of "American Idol." I mean, this is like Abba. They're trying to sing English phonetically.

Bad day for Bill O. FOX's own newspaper will not touch the fake G.E./Iran story he's still trying to sell to his sheep. Worst persons next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: If you hate "American Idol," wait until you see "Bulgarian Idol." We think we found out whatever happened to William Hung. That's next.

But first, time for Countdown'S worst persons on the world. The bronze to Newt Gingrich. The new quote is alternatively described or ascribed to Thomas Jefferson and Gingrich's own hero Benjamin Franklin. "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." So what did Newt say in Drew University in New Jersey? "If there's a threat, you have a right to defend society. People will give up all their liberties to avoid that level of threat." No, no they won't. There's a reason, sir, that you are an ex-speaker of the House now on the fringes of even your own party, and the reason is no, no, they won't.

The silver to the government of China, which continues to abuse CNN and my former colleague over there Jack Cafferty. Cafferty said of the Chinese government, "I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they have been for the last 50 years." Jack wasn't specific enough when he said that, he meant the government, not the people of China nor Chinese Americans certainly. Yet that nation's government run TV network and Web site are reporting that CNN slandered China. They are demanding apologies from CNN. The Web site reports the phrase, "don't be too CNN" is "running rife on Internet." Let me try to help resolve this diplomatic crisis. I too think the Chinese government is basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they have been for the last 50 years. OK, Jack, when they come for you, make sure you guys pick me up on the way out of town.

But our winner, Bill O. As G.E. continues to wrap up its three-year divestment from all business operations in Iran - it will be out completely by the end of June - he continues to wrap up his assault on the company and it's chairman because they have not made me stop criticizing Bill. We told you on Monday that the CEO of General Electric is a bad guy and an incompetent manager. Well today the front page of "The Wall Street Journal" echoes our report. The article didn't mention him doing business with Iran. I wish it had. But the exposure of his incompetence is really bad. "The Wall Street Journal" didn't mention Iran? "The Wall Street Journal," now owned by, like FOX is owned by, like Bill O'Reilly is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Even the "Wall Street Journal" didn't think there's anything in the story about G.E. and Iran. Bill, doesn't that tell even you something? You're out on the end of a limb and your own company is sawing it off behind you. Want to take me on? Do so, be a grown-up, fight your own battles for a change. Because for among other reasons, apparently your uncle Rupert is no longer fighting them for you. Bill, here kitty, kitty, kitty, O'Reilly, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: For many people in this country, there was no real point to "American Idol" until William Hung came along who, so many years ago. And he has still not met his match. But in our number one story on the Countdown, Mr. Hung's spiritual sister has now been found in the land far, far away, Bulgaria. Her name is Valentina Hasan. She auditioned for the Bulgarian version of their show, "Music Idol" last month. She's become a pop culture sensation, being brought back to that show much like her American counterpart Mr. Hung, even though she had been eliminated after her initial tryout. Pay close attention to what she thinks is the title to this Mariah Carey cover of a Harry Nilsson hit from the '70s.

The middle part was good when she turned into Mariah Carey. The judges asked her in what language she was singing and she answered quite simply, English.

Let's turn now to Countdown'S "American Idol" princes, also mid-day-day host of New York's classic rock station Q104.3, Maria Milito, who now becomes also our Bulgarian Idol princess.

MARIA MILITO, RADIO HOST: That's very funny. Ken Lee. Doesn't he make jeans? Isn't that the Levi competitor?

OLBERMANN: Little Kenny Lee, it was a doll character. A star is born, huh?

MILITO: I guess so. William Hung yesterday, today this woman.

OLBERMANN: But there is something to this, really, this is the first one I have had any kind of empty for because the number of people who sing along to a song for 30 and 40 years and now because of the Internet, you know the words. But for years there were many songs, "Louie Louie." Nobody knew, for 25 years, but people thought there were no words to that song, and this is perfect because she thought can't live was Ken Lee. There's a certain wonderful quality to that. I'm actually enthused for the first time.


OLBERMANN: She should be brought here as one of the hosts.

MILITO: One of the hosts of "American Idol?" Get rid of Paula?

OLBERMANN: The celebrity judge thing.

MILITO: A celebrity judge? I don't think so. I don't think she has a grasp of the English language. But then again, neither does Paula Abdul. So you're right.

OLBERMANN: And this woman as an excuse rather than just prescription.

MILITO: That's true.

OLBERMANN: It was also better than the actual - ironically it was a Mariah Carey theme this week.

MILITO: Yes, which is a little weird because the judges are always criticizing the females when they sing a Mariah Carey, a Whitney Houston song, any of the big vocalists. And they have a Mariah Carey theme which makes absolutely no sense. But Mariah Carey got into shape, she looks good. Yes but this one, I can't. I just can't. I won't say it. But you hear that spinning sound? That's Harry Nilsson, spinning in his grave, you realize that right?

OLBERMANN: Yes, I understand. I'm glad you said it rather than me. It really sort of underscores when we see Bulgarian idols, to how many countries -

MILITO: There are over 40.

OLBERMANN: It's like avian flu.

MILITO: It's true, there are over 40 countries that have "American Idol." It's called "Pop Idol," "Music Idol." But here's the best pardon. Did you know this? Simon Cowell gets a piece of every artist.

OLBERMANN: Of course he does.

MILITO: That's incredible. That's a lot of money.

OLBERMANN: It should be called Simon Cowell Idol.

MILITO: I know exactly, that's true.

OLBERMANN: Let's go back to Bulgaria for a moment and look at another clip.

And the real story to that is - is that George Lopez? Who was that doing the judging there?

MILITO: Stop it. The guy with the mullet? And this guy, the big guy?

He's like banging his head on the desk during "Billie Jean."

OLBERMANN: And this contestant who did "Billie Jean" placed in the top 12 as I understand it. Is the problem that there are no Bulgarian pop hits to sing, or they're just getting Nilsson albums and Michael Jackson albums in the record shops in Bulgaria now?

MILITO: It could be, but when you think about it, as my mother would say, god rest his soul, but Harry Nilsson is dead and so is Michael Jackson's career. So maybes yes.

OLBERMANN: Before we leave this subject. I understand the woman they voted off on "American Idol" this week has some news about man and a horse?

MILITO: Well, yes, she was engaged on March 15.

OLBERMANN: That's very exciting.

MILITO: But she didn't want it to interfere with her auditioning on "Idol" because it's too much concentration and whatever else. Once she got booted, then I guess he re-proposed to her on the set of "Idol." It's so cheesy, it makes me nauseous.

OLBERMANN: What about the horse?

MILITO: I think she sold her horse in order to go to the auditions. She was at the Philadelphia auditions that we went to, that you sent me to, and now she wants to get her horse back and the guy won't sell her the horse back. She should just ride the horse into the sunset, bye bye.

OLBERMANN: And told her to you know what himself and the horse she rode in on.

MILITO: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, our Bulgarian Idol princess Maria Milito, have a good weekend.

MILITO: You too.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,814th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night, and good luck.