Friday, May 30, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, May 30
video podcast

Video via MSNBC:
McClellan effect on 2008
On shaky ground with Iran?
Best Persons: Robbers use thongs as a disguise
Video game falsely accused of being al-Qaida affiliated
Oddball: Mariah’s worst performance since ‘Glitter’
Finding a nominee before the DNC
Does McCain really know about Iraq?
Worst Persons: Olbermann to Murdoch: ‘Which one of us was crazy?’
O’Reilly’s nonsensical rantings: The remixed version

Guest: Rachel Maddow, Howard Fineman, Richard Wolffe

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

The current Bush secretary insists she's not lying but that the former press secretary is. But he is, quote, "not free to say that people from the president on down misled the American people."

The Scott McClellan fallout: If the White House and Republicans are still so freaked out, why didn't they ask him for any changes?

Tonight's starling news: McClellan sent the White House a copy of the book on April 23rd. He even met with the National Security Council and the White House Counsel's office.

And the more substantial fallout.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm intrigued by what Senator Obama has been running on - about changing the way Washington works.


OLBERMANN: Could one of the public faces of the Iraq war actually vote for Barack Obama? And what should you do when you hear the administration saber rattle about Iran?


MCCLELLAN: I think that you would need to take those comments very seriously and be skeptical.


OLBERMANN: The same goes perhaps for John McCain's, quote, "facts about Iraq."


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.


OLBERMANN: Except we haven't. Not even the White House makes that ridiculous claim.


MCCAIN: No, I said we have drawn down and we have drawn down.


OLBERMANN: Except, we haven't. Look it up.

Democrats: The weekend edition and rules committee and vital primary in Puerto Rico that won't change anything and features voters who cannot vote in the actual election.

The shocker from Pew Research: The cable network with the highest percentage of favorable references to Senator Clinton - us.

And network with the highest percentage of raving lunatics? Take a wild guess.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: NBC, which is in the tank, I don't know what that means - dishonest.

We'll do it live.

Has been dishonest.

We'll do it live.

And doesn't deserve any credibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want everybody to quit?


(BEEP) the thing sucks.

I got to get a little drink, I got to calm down.


OLBERMANN: Geez, buddy, maybe you had enough.

All of that and more: Now on Countdown.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that mean?


OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Friday, May 30th, 158 days until the 2008 presidential election.

Scott McClellan's sincerity and contrition continued to be the target of the White House and the right wing echo chamber. But the fellow rings true every time. Moments after he left this studio last night where he was asked about his 2004 put down of former Bush Security Adviser Richard Clark, after Clark's criticism of the White House, McClellan returned to his New York City hotel and ran right into - Richard Clark.

"Can you forgive me?" McClellan confirms he asks Clark. "I think I can forgive you now," Clark confirms he replied.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Day four of the McClellan fallout, having less to do with the book's contents than with everything the former White House press secretary said since, including on this news hour last night, that he is contemplating voting for Barack Obama, and also about his assessment of the possibility of military confrontation with Iran.

The shock and awe over McClellan's revelations continue. Fresh outrage today from former senator and three Republican presidential candidates ago, candidate Bob Dole, who an e-mail sent yesterday morning, and obtained by the folks at, calls the former White House press secretary a greedy opportunist. Quote, "There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don't have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues. No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique."

Senator Dole later adding, quote, "If all of these awful things were happening, and perhaps some may have been, you should have spoken up publicly like a man, or quit your cushy high profile job. That would have taken integrity and courage but then you would have had your credibility and your complaints could have been aired objectively. You're a hot ticket now, but don't you, deep down, feel like a total ingrate."

The e-mail is signed simply, Bob Dole.

That would be the Bob Dole, who during the 1976 vice presidential debate infamously said, "I figured it up the other day, if we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans enough to fill up the city of Detroit."

Senator Dole's wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole, thought to be facing a tough reelection fight in North Carolina, in large part because of so-called Bush fatigue - a sentiment that could affect all races on all ballots, including obviously, the race for president.

On the news hour last night, Scott McClellan telling me that even he is contemplating a vote for Obama.


MCCLELLAN: I have not made a decision. I'm thinking very carefully about that but I've been so focused on the book. I want to take my time and hear what the candidates have to say. I'm intrigued by what Senator Obama has been running on - about changing the way Washington works. I had respect for Senator McCain as well for the way he's worked across the aisle with Democrats. But I'm going to take my time and think it through.


OLBERMANN: As for what might yet be called the McClellan effect, the DNC already having posted a Web-only video called propaganda, using video from Mr. McClellan's book tour and file footage of Senator McCain and Vice President Cheney to make a case against the four more years of "McSame."


MCCLELLAN: As we accelerated the buildup to the war, the information that we were talking about became a little more certain than it was, the caveats were dropped and contradictory intelligence was ignored. Intelligence that had a high level confidence was combined and packaged with the intelligence that had a low level confidence, and together that made it sound like the threat was more urgent and more grave and gathering than it really turned out to be.

MCCAIN: I believe that Saddam Hussein presents a clear and present danger to the United States of America with his continued pursuit to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY, UNITED STATES: My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.

MCCAIN: There's no doubt in my mind, once this people are gone that we will be welcomed as liberators.

I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time.



OLBERMANN: Time now to call on in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: The new blowback in a moment, but even a loyalist like Scott McClellan, obviously a loyalist whose loyalty is wounded but also, obviously, so which as he could believe. If even he doesn't know who he will be voting for in November, does that tell us anything about the upcoming election?

FINEMAN: Well, I think, it's a warning sign for John McCain and the Republicans, let's not overstate it. Scott McClellan is a guy with some scores to settle and book to sell, but still, he represents a tradition of Texas Republicans. It's it's a little different from George Bush even though McClellan was there in that administration.

McClellan's mom was a politician there. His grandfather was the dean of the University of Texas Law School.

Don't forget that Mark McKinnon who was the ad guy in the Bush campaign, who said that he can't run against Barack Obama, can't advise against Barack Obama. So, there's a strain of moderate Republicanism, of Independent Republicanism in Texas and elsewhere that the McCain and Republicans are going to have to take account of. That's where Scott McClellan fits on the political landscape.

OLBERMANN: Why are in terms particularly of the election in November, why are the Republicans responding at all? Would not John McCain's best play be - ignore this, don't force Republicans, don't force independents, don't force those McClellan like Texas wherever they are to choose which Scott McClellan they believe, because at least some of them are, in fact, going to believe the 2008 version?

FINEMAN: Yes, well, the McCain campaign would just as soon keep quiet about it and let it go. I talked to them today and yesterday. They say, John McCain didn't know Scott McClellan, end of story.

But for the people around George Bush, both the ones who are still in the White House and ones who are not, like Karl Rove and others - this is a matter of honor, this is a matter of payback in the other direction. And they're out to destroy Scott McClellan's credibility if they can, and they're trying to do it in a very coordinated way, very much the kind of permanent campaign that McClellan himself is criticizing.

And McClellan is out there pretty much on his own. But I think that adds to the drama and probably adds to the sales and certainly adds to the number of news cycles this story is going to dominate things, not to the benefit of John McCain.

OLBERMANN: The White House saw the book on April 23rd. The lawyers from the NSC and from the White House - Office of White House Counsel saw it to look basically for national security issues which - as we know of this White House could be anything - could be a clean Kleenex somewhere and they may invoke national security in relation to and they made no changes, they asked for no changes on that basis, any way.

Two months warning and the best defense the White House comes come up with then for the charges leveled in the McClellan book is - this is not the Scott we know. What does that say about the merits of what he's written?

FINEMAN: Well, they haven't attacked the substance of what he's written for the most part. They are going after him as a person. They're leaving most of the substance of it alone. I think the reason that they didn't attack it is that they were hoping that it wouldn't be a big deal.

And by the way, Karl Rove isn't around there any more to see over the horizon for incoming. I mean, the political sensitivities of the White House may have been dulled somewhat and they're going about this now in a rather humpiest (ph) way both within it and outside the walls.

OLBERMANN: Outside the walls, Congressman Conyers from judiciary saying that there might be needs for hearings from the McClellan revelation. We hear this from Bob Wexler earlier in the week. Is this actually going to go anywhere, or is this just chatter?

FINEMAN: No, I think they'll probably call him up because he has some things to talk about. The Democrats control the committee. They have wide latitude. They think that there's territory to be gained here.

The Obama campaign has said that they think this is useful and reminding people about McCain's original support for the war, even though McCain was critical of the handling of the war.

So, I think you can expect the Democrats to go ahead. Wexler is very strongly behind Obama and so is Conyers, and they're going to go after if they can and you can expect to see McClellan on the Hill at some point.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - great thanks, have a good weekend.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith. You, too.

OLBERMANN: Mr. McClellan not behind the podium during the runup to the war in Iraq. That distinction, of course, falling to then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, at the time McClellan's still his deputy. But in the years that followed, Mr. McClellan putting in an ample hours defending the invasion, the aftermath, and the WMD that would never be found.

Given that experience, especially sobering last night, were his comments here about whether the White House might now be making preparations for military action against Iran.


MCCLELLAN: We don't know. I don't know. I mean, I should say it that way.

But they're still in this permanent campaign mode. They haven't backed away from that. You know, I can't speak specifically to what the intent is in the people's heads there. I think that, you know, our options are certainly limited with all of our commitments right now.

But I hope that when people look and read this book that they will learn some of the lessons from Iraq. And that we won't make some of the same mistakes that we made elsewhere.

OLBERMANN: So, knowing what you know if Dana Perino gets up there and starts making noises that sound very similar to what you heard from the administration, from Ari Fleischer in 2002, from other actual members of the administration and the cabinet, you would be suspicious?

MCCLELLAN: I would be. I would be. I think that you would need to take those comments very seriously and be skeptical.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek."

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: First, McClellan said in the book that reporters were too easy on the administration before the Iraq war and then he said last night that if Dana Perino starts beating that same drum, treat those comments seriously and skeptically, as we just heard.

Somebody who has covered this White House as long as you have, how can you not now treat absolutely everything it says about absolutely everything without a high level of suspicion?

WOLFFE: Well, first off, it shouldn't take Scott McClellan to make people suspicious or skeptical about what this administration says. You know, whether you're a reporter or member of public, or actually, in many ways the most damaging of all, what the rest of the world thinks. Because, remember, credibility has been key for the United States for many decades in terms of building a coalition and seeking support and that's, obviously, in very short supply right now.

But it's important to look at the lessons of what McClellan is saying and what we've seen through the war. It wasn't just that the threats were hyped up when it came to Iraq. It was also that the administration made a concerted effort to sell the war as an easy affair, a cheap, cost-free issue where they would not just be treated as liberators but Iraq would finance its own reconstruction and essentially, not many people would die.

It's important to think about Iran in those terms as well, not just about the threat being hyped, but the cost of any military action because both of these elements were hyped up.

OLBERMANN: You're right because everything we've heard, even the stuff that's leaking out, the saber-rattling, is about a limited bombing campaign, look for the nuclear sites and all that. It is even - even in the theoretical in that Dr. Strangelove way of theirs, it's theoretically short.

WOLFFE: Well, look, the very term surgical strike should make people sit and pause and think about it for a minute. There are impacts across the region, there's questions about targeting, but the lesson of Iraq should surely be that there is no surgical strike, there is no decapitation effort that would be successful here and it's very easy to get to get sucked into a situation that you don't control.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, you saying that, me saying that, people in the military saying that, critics of the administration saying that, it constitutes one thing. What does Scott McClellan saying something like that, hinting at that, saying - be skeptical, keep doubting this, what aura of verisimilitude has he added to this equation?

WOLFFE: Well, any action against Iran has to involve international players. It already does. The diplomacy is being run through European channels. The administration knows itself that its armed forces are stretched.

So, if you are going to build a coalition, they have to prove things way beyond anything that they even tried to do with Iraq. And so, yes, Scott McClellan is an important voice here but people's experience is also important. And I think, honestly, the administration is aware of that. That doesn't stop them from trying to saber rattle, but it makes the saber-rattling, frankly, seem a little bit foolish.

OLBERMANN: Last point relative to this. Dana Perino said over former boss, Scott McClellan today, that being in the loop that they said he was no longer in, is a matter of free will. And then she added that she has wonderful access and when she asked whether or not the president read the McClellan book, she answered, "I don't know, we haven't talked about that."

Did we just find out that one person's out of the loop is somebody else's wonderful access?

WOLFFE: Yes. You know, it starts to sound like Robert De Niro in "Meet the Parents" with the circle of trust. You know, here's the thing about Scott McClellan. His performance on the podium suggested he was totally incompetent. He was really badly suited to that job. He hated the public attention and being in front of the cameras.

But behind the scenes, I've known Scott since '99 and 2000. He actually was inside of circle of trust, that's why his comments are so damning and so critical here because he did have walk-in access - something that Tony Snow never did, and Dana Perino would be hard-pressed to have the same kind of relationship.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - thank you, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A quick programming note, if you did not see the McClellan interview, we're going to have a special airing of Countdown tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 Pacific. The McClellan interview including John Dean's perspective - the man who has walked that path before - tonight on MSNBC.

For the Democrats, Saturday afternoon live in D.C., Sunday in San Juan.

John McCain either doesn't know Iraq or his math or maybe both.

Please extinguish all cigarettes and douse your campfires at home, we're going to play the latest tape of Bill O'Reilly detonating.


OLBERMANN: And the weary Democrats close in on a final score. At least, Senators Obama, and Reid, and Speaker Pelosi, thinks so. Senator Clinton, no, no. She says meet me at the barricades.

Michelle Malkin, Rupert Murdoch and Monsignor Jim Lisante battling for Worst.

And in Bushed: They're terror experts, that's why they can't tell the difference between al Qaeda and playstation.

Ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: They have fought in 51 separate contests. The final round starts tomorrow and ends on Tuesday.

Our fourth story tonight: The saga of Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama, the beginning of the final chapter - unless she takes it to the convention.

Senator Clinton will have protesters on her side outside tomorrow's meetings of the party's rules committee in Washington when it meets to decide whether and in what proportion to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan.

Representing her: Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard and Florida State Senator Arthenia Joyner.

In the Obama trunks: Former Michigan Congressman David Bonior and Florida Congressman Robert Wexler.

At stake: 368 delegates or possibly 184 or zero or something in between.

On Sunday, Senator Clinton is expected to do well in Puerto Rico where 55 delegates are up for grabs, narrowing her delegate gap but not doing a damn thing for her popular vote argument because Puerto Rico does not get to vote for president.

And finally on Tuesday, the final contest, the final two states:

South Dakota and Montana with 31 delegates between them.

And then what? Senate Leader Harry Reid says, "The party leadership will urge remaining superdelegates to make up their mind next week." House Speaker Pelosi said today she does not recommend taking this to the convention. Guidance with particular potency coming as it does from the chair woman of the convention.

Let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Alter, of course, senior editor at "Newsweek" magazine.

Thank you for your time, Jon.


OLBERMANN: What are tomorrow's most likely outcomes?

ALTER: Well, you know, I've e-mailed a senior Democrat just shortly before air time. I said, "So, what's going to happen tomorrow?" And he said he's neutral. He said: they period get period it period done period.

I mean, this is becoming like a scene out of the late Sydney Pollack's "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" You know, where the dance marathon just goes on and on and on and there's a big appetite in the Democratic Party to finish this thing off.

OLBERMANN: Is there a danger though if you get into the game of attrition with any politician who's last name is Clinton - that you have automatically lost because they're so good at a game of attrition - if that's what this is now?

ALTER: Well, they are good at it and certainly would be an uncontrollable situation for this to get appealed to the credentials committee, and then, in turn get appealed to the floor of the convention. But it's possible that that could happen as a discreet kind of episode that actually wasn't related to the outcome of this and that it will as expected get wrapped up next week, even if Michigan itself is not completely concluded. The expectation is that Florida will be definitely resolved tomorrow.

OLBERMANN: Is coming up with something that looks like a really good settlement for the people in Florida or the people of Michigan - is that the worst thing that can happen for Senator Clinton because, as we've have discussed previously, we have San Juan (ph), we have Puerto Rico on Sunday, we have the two on Tuesday and then, it's nothing. There's no story hook for her big comeback until the convention by which time if she is not in the lead, she will have been forgotten, will she not?

ALTER: Yes, this is all kind of have been, in a "Cloud Cuckoo Land" at this point to actually, you know, see a route to the nomination for her.

But, basically what's going to happen is you get a half vote if you're a Florida delegate. That's the way they are going to resolve this. So that everybody gets seated, nobody has to stay home from Denver. But it counts for half. That's what the party rules clearly state should happen in this situation and there's every indication that it will.

OLBERMANN: So, once they let everybody vote argument is just - and the whole - if Florida and Michigan are off the table, we lost 50 percent of this team of the primary right now, once that's gone and then the last three primaries take place, what does Senator Clinton say late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning if not "Congratulations, Mr. Obama-nee"?

ALTER: Well, she's playing for this popular vote argument. Now, she's got all these demonstrators out there tomorrow in Washington, outside the hotel where the rules committee is taking place, almost like - remember the "Brooks Brothers Riot" in Florida in 2000 where the Republicans sent down these people to, you know, show their strength. I don't know how many people are going to be there but it's conceivable there could be quite a number.

The Clinton campaign unconvincingly said it didn't have anything to do with these folks showing up there. But, I think, what they're trying to do is create an argument that if Obama wins at the nomination that somehow stolen from her because she was the popular vote winner. Now, she can only say that she's the popular vote whether by using a kind of "Enron accounting," you know, where she doesn't count certain caucus states, she doesn't give Obama any popular votes at all in the state of Michigan. And those kinds of things in order to give her this bragging rights.

But she may take it or she might decide - look, enough is enough, it's time for a graceful exit. I think the odds favor the latter and that this thing will, as expected, come to a conclusion next week, Keith. Then, we'll have to talk about something else.

OLBERMANN: And then, there will be rounds of golf claps and everybody involved in Democratic politics, covering it or inside it, takes like all of the vacation time that they blew up in the last three months.

ALTER: Keith, you're forgetting the veep stakes. We got that.

OLBERMANN: All right. Just call me when they pick. Send me an e-mail.

Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - as always, have a good weekend and thanks for coming in.

ALTER: You, too, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A programming note: Chris Matthew and I will be here Sunday afternoon for complete coverage of the fallout from the decisions made by the rules committee, if they've been made by then, and the results the Puerto Rico primary, polls close there, 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

On Sunday, our special coverage begins at 2:00 p.m.

And now ladies and gentlemen, for the ceremonial first pitch, please welcome, international recording artist, who wishes to remain anonymous.

And Rupert Murdoch's $200 million bit of personal peek, Worst Persons ahead.

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

And it's an all nexus of terror and politics-gate edition.

Number three: Newt Gingrich at a book-signing outside New York City asked why there have been no terrorist attacks since 9/11 - answered, "I honestly don't know. I would have expected another attack." Don't worry, (INAUDIBLE). "This is," he suddenly corrected himself, "one of the great tragedies of the Bush administration, the more successful they've been at intercepting and stopping bad guys, the less prove there is that we're in danger, it's almost like they should, every once in a while, have allowed an attack to get through just to remind us."

This guy Gingrich, is he an American or a terrorist? I can never keep it straight.

Number two: The Pentagon prosecutors planning out the trials of Khalid Sheik Mohammad and four other detainees at Gitmo who just picked the starting date, September 15th, 10 days after the Republican convention nominates John McCain, 50 days before the election. Coincidence, no doubt.

And number one: The SITE Intel group. SITE, which has posted this startling bit of computer imagery which it says it found on two password-protected Web sites, believed to be affiliated with al Qaeda. The terrorist's goal, SITE Intel claimed, of what Washington, D.C. should look like after an Islamic nuclear attack on the U.S.

No, actually, it's from the video game "Fallout 3" produced not by al Qaeda but by Bethesda Softworks of Maryland, which advertises itself as "America's choice in post-nuclear simulation." And one of these quasi-governmental terror think tanks couldn't tell the difference.

Game over, man.


OLBERMANN: Best persons in a moment. First, on this date in 1902, Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry was born in Florida at a time when those going into public fields like acting tending to simplify and even anglicize their names, he went the other way. To further sell his standard comic character in countless films of the 20s and 30s as the laziest man on Earth, Lincoln Perry used the stage name Steppin Fetchit. In that heavily racist time, white audiences laughed. Perry laughed harder.

Under his real name, he also wrote for the newspaper the "Chicago Defender," and became the first African-American actor in the nation's history to become a millionaire. On that note, let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: We begin at the Tokyo dome in Japan, with Oddball's ceremonial first pitch, Island Records Recording artist Mariah Carey.

Oh, boy. That's a four hopper from the base of the mound in what is now the worst performance by Mariah Carey since "Glitter." It was however not the worst first pitch ever. At least she did not miss the catcher and hit the umpire, like Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory did. Both have been incidentally tonight have been signed to pitch in relief for the New York Mets.

Not new, but too good to let the week finish without seeing it, North Battleford, Sescatchuan (ph), Canada, where French sky diver Michelle Fournier (ph) preparing for a world record sky dive, propelled by a giant helium balloon, inside a capsule. Fournier will float into the stratosphere, jump out of the capsule and soar 130,000 feet to the ground. And it would have worked too, if somebody had not let go of the balloon.

Stupid interns.

Fournier was left on terra firma with the assembled media taping, as his balloon sailed off into the sky. How about a card trick? You guys like card tricks?


OLBERMANN: Mosul is quiet and troop strengths are back to where they were before the surge. Senator McCain says so. Of course, the suicide bombers in Mosul and math of the surge say otherwise.

And boom goes the dynamite. Bill-O goes nuts as Scott McClellan and you and I beat him in ratings by 26 percent. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's best persons in the world.

Number three, best coverage of Senator Clinton, MSNBC. The Pew Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and Harvard University analyzed TV coverage of the Democrats in January and February and found that of all references to Senator Obama on this network, 70 percent were positive. Of all references to Senator Clinton on this network, 72 percent were positive, the high for all of cable.

Then, said the survey, Senator Clinton complained about the bias against her and Obama's positive coverage dropped significantly on all television venues.

Number two, best Monty Python sketch brought to life, William Singlearg (ph) of Wellington, New Zealand, convicted of assault on a 15-year-old boy, of causing several puncture marks and welts when he threw at the boy a hedgehog, who may or may not have been named Spiney Norman.

And number one, best fashion risk, two robbery suspects from Rabada (ph), Colorado. There are the security camera shots of them as they stuck up the Diamond Shamrock Gas Station on May 16th. And you're right, they are disguising their identities by wearing women's thong underwear over their faces. Police say the men are armed and dangerous and that's not how you wear the damned thing.


OLBERMANN: In his strategic decision to keep Iraq at the forefront of the presidential debate, John McCain's campaign likely did not anticipate his tactical area of getting facts wrong on Iraq two days in a row on the very same subject. In our third story tonight, does the man who proposes to over rule the 70 percent of Americans who want out of Iraq know how many troops are in Iraq?

Last night, McCain claimed his judgment on Iraq is superior to Barack Obama because he predicted the surge would succeed.


MCCAIN: I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it's succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Both Basra, Mosul and now Sadr City are quiet.


OLBERMANN: Mosul, at least, deadly quiet, after a suicide bomber some how got a police vehicle and killed three troopers, wounding nine other people. On his other claim, quote, we have drawn down to pre-surge levels, we have not, a fact to his attention by a reporter today in conjunction with some of his other Iraq embarrassments.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your response to the Obama campaign's assertion that comments like that, as well as the comment about Sunni and Shia and walking through the Baghdad market, bring into question, sir, your judgment on the issue of Iraq?

MCCAIN: Let me just say again, we have drawn down. Three of the five brigades are home. The additional Marines are home by the end of July. They will have been back.


OLBERMANN: They will have been back, adding grammar to the list of torture victims. Neglecting to mention the fact that even when all five brigades will have been back, the Pentagon says an additional 10,000 troops support, logistics, MPs, et cetera, will have been staying there. McCain supporter Senator Jon Kyl today called criticism nit picking, saying, take the worst possibility here, which is Senator McCain misspoke. So what?

Tonight, Obama tried to answer Kyl's Cheney-esque dumb question.


OBAMA: I don't think tens of thousands of American troops amount to nit picking. Tell that to the young men and women who are serving bravely and brilliantly under our flag. Tell that to the family who have seen their loved ones fight tour after tour after tour of duty in a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. It's time to have a debate on the war that's based on the truth.


OLBERMANN: We're joined now by MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, whose own program airs weeknights also on Air America radio. Good evening, Rachel.



MADDOW: So I guess those guided tours of Iraq didn't come with flash cards or fact sheets that he got to take home. Senator McCain is in the middle of repeated political attacks on Senator Obama, saying that Obama cannot understand Iraq well enough to be president because he has not been to Iraq enough the way that John McCain has. The whole point of that criticism is the implied case that McCain does know what he's talking about Iraq and he keeps disproving that every day.

OLBERMANN: Yes, also going there and doing it and walking around would be nice if you walked the entire country and could say I've been everywhere, rather than say, one square mile heavily protected by aircraft and machine guns. It is a lot of misspeaking on his area of expertise. Check me if I'm wrong on this, it was the economy that he didn't really understand, right?

MADDOW: Right. This is supposed to be his strong suit. He is running to be the war president. He's running to be the national security, I have good judgment about Iraq president. That is really - what his - that is the basic case of what it boils down to for him. With due respect to Senator Kyl, I think John Kyl is wrong here. The worst possibility about here this further misstatement from John McCain is not that Senator McCain misspoke again. The worst possibility here is that he really fundamentally doesn't understand very basic things about Iraq, like how many troops we have there, like the difference between Sunni and Shia, like who Iran is aligned with, if anyone, inside Iraq.

That's the worst possibility here, that the guy running to be the war president doesn't understand the basics of this war. And this is what he's supposed to be good at.

OLBERMANN: And that 10,000 troops here or there, 10,000 lives here or there are more important to the country than whatever he perceives is the benefit gained from of having all of those people there. About the third error in the equation, which we haven't mentioned, might it be more important that the goal of the surge was not violence reduction but reconciliation?

MADDOW: When President Bush announced the surge in January of last year, what he said was, was that we need to reduce violence in Baghdad specifically in order to give the Iraqi government breathing room, so that there can be political reconciliation, so that not only the Iraqi government can rebuild the country, but that it can bring all the disparate elements of Iraq's warring factions together within the Iraqi polity.

And John McCain says that Sadr City is quite, but in Sadr City today, they burned the prime minister in effigy, in addition to a U.S. flag. The largest Sunni political group in Iraq is not only still boycotting participating in the government, but they actually called off their talks about ending their boycott.

Political reconciliation is the point of the surge. Political reconciliation is not happening. You can still decide to call it victory if you want, but only if you decide also the word victory is meaningless here.

OLBERMANN: In the same breath today, McCain back-pedaled on his own judgment. He used General Petraeus in some ads, some political ads, after the entire military says don't use military officers in any way, shape or form in the campaign and he backed off. These burst of common sense coming through; what is happening here?

MADDOW: He keeps making mistakes. He keeps making big mistakes here. And sometimes he decides to run with them and sometimes he decides to correct them. On Petraeus, he did the right thing and decided to correct it. You do have to wonder about the impulse to use uniformed soldiers. Granted, General Petraeus is a soldier. He's in uniform.

To use him in a fund-raising pitch, you have to worry about that impulse. But obviously, McCain did the right thing by dialing that back. We have to wait to see whether he can also explain these repeated misstatements about the facts about Iraq. That would be the right thing to do, too.

OLBERMANN: By the way, I think you can argue Petraeus is a politician who happens to be general. We can go into that another time.

MADDOW: He's wearing the uniform. That's what makes him out of bounds on this one.

OLBERMANN: I know, I know. But not out of bounds to go and sell a political platform to Congress last September. Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, enjoy your day off. See you Sunday.

MADDOW: I will be here tomorrow too actually.

OLBERMANN: Enjoy your hour off.

MADDOW: I will, thanks.

OLBERMANN: OK, the ratings suggest you really liked our interview last night with Scott McClellan. Can you think of somebody who didn't? Here's your hint: we'll do it live!

And who is this woman? Is she wearing what the right ring bloggers have said is a terrorist scarf. If so, why aren't they picking on her? Worst persons ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Bill O'Reilly says he needs a drink. Based on his latest Youtube moment, it seems like he already had one. In the tank meets we'll do it live.

That's next, but first time for our number two story, Countdown's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Monsignor Jim Laconti (ph), giving the invocation at the New York State Republican party dinner last night. Rudy Giuliani and Congressman Peter King in the audience, Vice President Cheney later speaking. Monsignor Laconti says one more thing, lord, please tell Senator Obama that maybe change is a good thing and maybe he should think about changing his favorite preacher. One other thing, lord, please remind all of the preachers, Monsignor Laconti included, to stay the hell out of politics.

Our runner-up tonight, blogger Michelle Malkin, threatened to boycott her favorite Dunkin Donuts because it more important that the coffee be right leaning than taste good because it ran this advertisement, Rachel Ray in a ratty scarf, which Malkin and others decided was Islamic chic, a kaffiyeh, like Yasser Arafat used to where.

So Michelle, where are you on this victory by the Islamo-Fashionistas? This woman wearing another Jihadist scarf of mass destruction! Obviously like Rachel Ray and Dunkin Donuts, she must be a terrorist sympathizer. That's Megan McCain, Senator McCain's daughter.

Any time you want to speak up, Michelle. We're waiting. The whole consistency, credibility, insanity. Give me something to defend you with, Michelle.

But our winner, Rupert Murdoch, who actually told a "Wall Street Journal"conference that he would put a liberal show on Fixed News if he could find the right host. He was then asked if he would hire me and he said, quote, I fired him five years ago from Fox Sports. He was crazy.

Rupert evidently did not realize that he had finally confirmed an old rumor that he had indeed personally fired me as the host of Fox's Baseball Game of the week seven years ago, not five, after I reported on Fox that he was trying to find somebody to buy the L.A. Dodgers for him, even though I was cleared the story with Murdoch's personal PR guy first.

The crazy part, Rupert had to pay me 100,000 dollars a month the rest of that year to not work for him, and lords knows how many tens of millions of dollars I have helped MSNBC to make take out his pocket since. Which one of us crazy? Rupert Murdoch, today's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: As you may know, we have established a new policy to not devote any further segments to Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. Our number one story tonight, Bill-O apparently went nuts, Inside Edition, Youtube kind of nuts about MSNBC last night, possibly because we beat him by 26 percent in the ratings last night. This just in - well, we have a new, new policy. We may still devote an occasional further segment to Bill O'Reilly of Fixed News, like this one right now.

This is now about Scott McClellan and that he appeared on this news cast here, instead of canceling to go over and go on Bill-O's shout-a-thon. This website said somebody claiming to be involved with publishing the book left an unanimous tip that lines up nicely with what we've been told about this whole thing; "O'Reilly's producer would not agree to have Scott go on unless they could go first. Since we had already long committed to other shows who demonstrated early interest, we could not just put O'Reilly at the front of the cue and renege on those existing commitment, whereupon O'Reilly's producer declined to have him on at all. 'We're happy to sell books to anyone and have booked any an other on O'Reilly, but we're not happy to acquiess to the me first or I don't play at all tactics of show producers. Nor do we like them then trying to pass off the absence of the guest as some kind of evil, money making ploy on our part and moral superiority on there's. It's not OK for a publishing house to make money, but OK for a television show to try to get ratings, which lead to advertisers, which lead to money."

With that as preface to the explosion, please stand well back from your television as we bring you some of the highlights of Billy's peak.

When we come right back, Scott McClellan, partnering with NBC News to sell his anti-Bush book! Instead of partnering up with Fox to sell his book. I usually don't put people on, Bernie, if they are - because we talked to McClellan Way back in November and we were assured that -

Oh, Bill's in trouble here. He's about to say he blackmails authors.

If they don't come on his show first, they don't get to come on at all.

But Bill spins nicely out of this one.

"When you hear a guy like Rove pretty much rebut and knock down every single assertion, and we did it in a talking points memo as well, as far as this propaganda about the Iraq war."

So there was propaganda about the Iraq war? Thanks for clearing that up. So quickly this has stopped being about McClellan and it has returned to that which haunts Billy's speech.

"Russert has to, has to be tough with him, because Russert's now on the line. His whole reputation is on the line. If he soft balls McClellan, he's done in this business. Russert's finished."

And then, as it always should have been, NBC News will turn to Bill O'Reilly and say, gosh, Bill, we're sorry. We need you. We have been journalistic infidels. But now Russert is indeed finished as you prophetized. Won't you please host "Meet the Press" for us. Then you know what Bill will say? He will say nuts! Nuts! You had the chance to hire me and you blew it.

"I wouldn't work for any organization like NBC. If you're working for them, you're part of it. You're part of it!"

So the up shot of all this, we are unprincipled loons, McClellan has violated the secret Bill-O code and Billy obviously will not interview this tragic figure Scott McClellan.

"Usually, we get the guests first here, because we're obviously the highest rated program, but I may an exception in his case."

An exception, yes. Bill-O's guest on Monday, Scott McClellan! So much for principles.

As you know, I love reading Bill-O's word in that Ted Baxtery kind of voice, especially now that Bill has actually started to sound more like that caricature than what he used to sound like on TV. Nevertheless, I feel as if the readings just do not do him justice. And so, mixed in with a healthy dose of his Youtube, we'll do it live rant, we bring you the real Billy in the fully tanked remix of we'll do it live!


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Scott McClellan may appear on this program next week. But, first, his appearances have all been with left-wing NBC News.

OK, I don't know what.

That is ten times worse than NBC now.

I can't read it! There's no words on it.

His bluffs have gone far left and there are no bones about it!

Weight gain! Go, go! and I'll say -

Don't give me he's a noble buy. He's not. He hasn't said -

I can't do it! I was going to say a bad word. (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

I will tell you what! I wouldn't work for any organization like NBC, which is in the tank.

I don't know what that means.


We'll do it live!

has been dishonest!

We'll do it live!

and doesn't deserve credibility!

If you're working for them, you're part of it!

I'll write it.

You're part of it!

We'll do it live!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want everybody to quit?


(EXPLETIVE DELETED) thing sucks..

All right, I got to go. I got to calm down. I got to go. I got to get a little drink. I got to calm down.

This thing (EXPLETIVE DELETED) things sucks.


OLBERMANN: I think the bartender of life needs to cut you off, sir. That's Countdown for this, the 1,856th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Up next, what set Bill-O off, our interview with Scott McClellan, along with the perspective of John Dean, in a special edition of Countdown next.

And a reminder, we'll see you back here, we hope, Sunday at 2:00 pm alongside Chris Matthews for the live coverage of the Puerto Rico primary. Unfortunately, they're in Puerto Rico. We'll be here in New York. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.