Monday, June 30, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, June 30
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Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons

Special Comment:
Obama's FISA opportunity
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Guest: Chris Cillizza, Jim Webb, Richard Wolffe

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Bill and Barack's excellent adventure. They speak. No one is injured.

The flap over General Clark's criticism, that being a POW does not mean that you are an expert on foreign policy.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: No one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign and that goes for supporters of both sides.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: If that's the kind of campaign that Senator Obama and his surrogates and his supporters want to gauge, I understand that. But it doesn't reduce the price of a gallon of gas by one penny.


OLBERMANN: Well, so, then you're even. But to answer Wes Clark, why did John McCain trout out one of the swift boaters? Why this blowback if Ann Coulter could infamously say this to a wheelchair bound Vietnam vet and still earn a living.


BOBBY MULLER, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA FOUNDATION: Ninety percent of the cases that U.S. soldiers got blown up, Ann, are you listening? They were our own mines. The problem is that around the world today.



OLBERMANN: The president flat-out lies in giving credit for Jim Webb's new G.I. Bill.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: I want to thank members who worked hard for the G.I. Bill expansion - especially Senators Webb and Warner, Graham, Burr, and McCain.


OLBERMANN: McCain was opposed, fought it tooth and nail. Senator Jim Webb joins us to respond.

Senator McCain says the election is about trust and, "on several items, Senator Obama's word cannot be trusted." How long would McCain's list of such items be? Would you believe three pages?

And: Senator Obama and FISA. Would even the Republicans now acknowledging that the telecom immunity is civil only, not criminal. How he can have his cake and eat it, too, or why he must vote against the bill? A Special Comment.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, June 30th, 127 days until the 2008 presidential election.

In 35 days, it will have been four years since the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" launched their first ad against Senator John Kerry.

In our first story on the Countdown: The swift boaters making their first entry into the 2008 campaign, not as a 527 group but because Senator John McCain today used one of them as a surrogate. This, on a day, when his opponent, Senator Obama, not only praised the presumptive Republican nominee's patriotism, but declared all future attacks on that subject off limits.

In his about patriotism in Independence, Missouri, Senator Truman's town, President Truman's town, Senator Obama today flatly rejecting General Wesley Clark's comments in which he had questioned whether Senator McCain's military service means, he automatically has the qualifications to be president.

Yesterday on "Face the Nation," Bob Schieffer is saying to General Clark about the candidate's executive or military decision-making resumes, "I have to say Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down." The general replying, "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

This morning, the McCain campaign is setting up a conference call, unveiling a new so-called "Truth Squad" to defend Senator McCain from attacks on his military record. On the call, the McCain campaign introducing a surrogate named Bud Day describing him nearly as a fellow POW. But the campaign did not describe, is that Mr. Day appeared in one of those Swift boat ads during the 2004 campaign. That is Mr. Day there.

Senator McCain having condemned the swift boat ads in 2004, saying they're reminiscent of the smear campaign launched against him during his initial run for the White House in 2000, quoting 2004 John McCain, "It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me." 2008 John McCain - not so much.

During his speech in Missouri today, Senator Obama is contradicting General Clark without naming him.


OBAMA: I also believe that patriotism must, if it is to mean anything, involve the willingness to sacrifice, to give up something we value on behalf of a larger cause. Now, for those who fought under the flag of this nation, for the young veterans like Vince, the young veterans I meet when I visit Walter Reed, for those like John McCain, who have endured physical torment in service to our country, no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary.

Let me also add that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign and that goes for supporters of both sides.


OBAMA: We must always express our profound gratitude for the service of our men and women in uniform, period, full stop.


OLBERMANN: And Senator Obama with the audacity to hope that no party should have a stranglehold on patriotism.


OBAMA: None of us expect that arguments about patriotism will or should vanish entirely. After all, when we argue about patriotism, we're arguing about who we are as a country, and more importantly, who we should be. But surely, we can agree, that no party or political philosophy has a monopoly on patriotism.


OLBERMANN: At the start of his remarks, the senator having had his own patriotism under attack, making clear, he would not allow it to happen to him or others.


OBAMA: The question of who is or is not a patriot all too often poisons our political debates in ways that divide us rather than bring us together. I've come to know this from my own experience on the campaign trail. At certain times over the last 16 months, I found for the first time my patriotism challenged. At times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears and doubts about who I am and what I stand for.

So, let me say this at the outset of my remarks. I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign.


OBAMA: And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.


OLBERMANN: Asked directly today at a news conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, whether he questioned Senator Obama's patriotism, Senator McCain answering something else.


MCCAIN: I think that Senator Obama is a great American success story and I think his family is. I think he is someone who is admired and respected throughout this country and the world. I think our difference is how we intend to move forward in conducting the affairs of this country. We have very different views and very different positions and I look forward to ventilating those.

But I think all Americans are proud of Senator Obama and what he's been able to accomplish, he and his entire family have been able to accomplish in this nation, and I think it's living proof of some of the greatness of America.


OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek," who joins us tonight from Chicago.

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: I heard Senator McCain describe by ABC News tonight as genuinely recoiling from personal attacks on his opponent. But what he did not say in response to that last question there, do you question at all Senator Obama's patriotism was, "Of course, I do not question Obama's patriotism, period, full stop." Why didn't he answer it that way?

WOLFFE: Well, the most immediate response is because he's behind in the polls and they want to keep this out there for immediate effect in terms of - especially, Obama's high approval ratings. Now too, be fair, McCain went out of his way to be very nice and very respectful about Senator Obama there, and that's important.

But you only have to look at how patriotism was used four years ago as a proxy for questions for, want of a better word about John Kerry's virility, and how it's being used this time around in the hands of McCain's surrogates and certain Republican operatives for something else - whether it's the most generous description about Obama's foreignness or his newness, and at its worst - as a proxy for talking about the color of his skin.

So, these are the things that are swirling around right now, but the most immediate dynamic is the poll numbers.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of four years ago, Bud Day has impeccable military credentials, Air Force Cross citation, won the Medal of Honor and then was in the swift boats. If you're Senator McCain, and assuming you really had been somehow unfairly treated by Wes Clark yesterday, why seed the high ground by turning first to somebody connected to this synonym for political sleaze in the 21st century?

WOLFFE: Bud Day is an interesting character and this whole debate is fascinating. For a start, John McCain has to figure out how to maintain the brand of 2000, the sort of principled straight-talking candidate at a time when he really needs to go negative on a candidate like Barack Obama. So, he's caught with the tension there, of that dynamic. But the whole so-called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" episode, it gets to something more personal.

John Kerry wasn't just any old candidate in 2004, he was a personal friends, someone who was close enough for Kerry to consider, strongly consider McCain as being his running mate. And in the middle of that, the reason they bounded was because they were both attacked by the same people, some of the same people behind the Swift Boat veterans" who went after John McCain in South Carolina and suggested that he had somehow abandoned Vietnam veterans because he was in the opposing side of the POW/MIA question.

So, McCain has got to be conflicted. He's got to feel conflicted when he sees some of these people coming out.

OLBERMANN: Lost in all these, I think, the basis of General Clark's statement yesterday. First off, he was asked to question that made it sound like that being shot down and held prisoner were in and of themselves qualifications for somebody to be president of United States. Second, McCain has been running as if that were on question to believe true, why is it not OK to question this certainly debatable proposition and why didn't Senator Obama defend him today?

WOLFFE: Well, first of all, I think, Wes Clark spoke in a very ham-handed way and he seemed to be impugning John McCain's military experience, his service in Vietnam. And that's the problem about talking about in disparaging terms, apparently, about being shot down. But, you're right, the actual essence of the sort of simplified debate about John McCain is worthy of scrutiny.

Just because McCain had military experience on the ground in Vietnam does not mean he has the policy, national security and foreign policy experience to be a great commander in chief. That's what is at issue right now. And it seems perfectly legitimate to discuss that, just as it's legitimate to discuss Senator Obama's experience.

Does John McCain's experience in Vietnam give him any reason to be a good national security foreign policy leader? That's worthy of any kind of debate.

OLBERMANN: Ideally, the patriotism or the sacrifice of the service of all vets, whether it's theoretically the best member of the military we ever had or the worst member of the military we ever had in terms of performance, whatever it is, whatever is in-between, it should be sacrosanct. But between the Ann Coulter 1997 remark that I've played in the opening and the abuse of John Kerry four years ago, it seems awfully like the Republicans are a little bit late to saying they should be sacrosanct. Did they arrive at this, this morning?

WOLFFE: No, they didn't. And it's interesting seeing how this has played out. Look, when Democrats look at the Vietnam experience, I think a lot of them say, "Well, we're on the right side of the war but politically, it was damaging." It's also the treatment of the veterans when they came home was something that this country should be ashamed of. And so, there's a lot of corrective action that's been happening since then.

I think Republicans, certainly, the more thoughtful Republicans in the White House would say, "The politicization of the war through this Iraq period, whether it was in the first resolution going to war or since then in 2004, that is not been helpful for the war and for Republicans in general. So, maybe that's what they're reexamining now.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," as always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For more on what Senator Obama tried to position as the headline of the day, his speech on patriotism, let's turn to political reporter, Chris Cillizza.

Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The Obama speech today, touched down on what patriotism means to him and how in a political context, nobody's patriotism should ever be questioned, was this a very well-articulated bit of wishful thinking or what was it?

CILLIZZA: I think it probably was a little bit of wishful thinking just, I hate to sound like the cynical Washington reporter but - look, the reality of this is, Keith, is that we come through this many times in the primary campaign even, these are surrogates that are saying these sorts of things. I don't think we will hear direct questioning of patriotism on either side, by Senator Obama or any one directly affiliated with his campaign; or Senator McCain or any one directly affiliated with his campaign.

That said, I think it is extremely likely that we will continue to hear questions about whether Barack Obama is actually patriotic enough, whether he wears a flag lapel pin - whether or not that comes to the McCain campaign is in some ways besides the point, because it will be part of a broader dialogue.

OLBERMANN: This speech, it looks like he's rephrasing something that worked for him fairly well late in the primaries, this is the first in the series that he's going to give this week; tomorrow's going to be about faith. Again, he did this during the primaries, about Iraq, about race; he rolled off three big speeches in a row one week. Is this sort of a stepping up to the plate kind of thing, that what he wants to show he does best that what might be seen as potential problems, he can take them in in one speech or a series, try to turn them around into assets?

CILLIZZA: You know, Keith, I think it is and the Obama campaign has the unique ability because of their candidate to put him out front and that really puts their best foot forward. This is a guy who is a uniquely gifted speaker, someone who can convey both an idealistic vision and a pragmatic vision in the space of one speech.

I think he did himself an enormous amount of good during the primaries, not just in the speeches as you mentioned, but every primary night when everyone was tuned in on MSNBC, certainly, they got to see him speak and he's a tremendous speaker. He connects well with people.

So, by putting him out there, by letting him share, and I think this is an important point, Keith, in both the race speech that he gave after the Jeremiah Wright incident and this speech, Obama talked about his personal experiences. He talked about his grandfather handing him the dog tags in Patton's army. He talked about growing up as a child of a mixed race, not feeling like he was part of anything except American.

I think that's important and powerful in telling the Barack Obama story.

OLBERMANN: While we have you, teased this basically at the beginning of the show, I had mentioned it since. Senator Obama and Bill Clinton talking today, by phone, for 20 minutes, was it d'tente, was it peace in our time, was it cuss words by the dozen? Was it, "I only got a minute, I'm getting into the subway, I'm going to lose you on the cell phone," what happened? Do we know anything about it?

CILLIZZA: Well, let me borrow another literary term, if I may - will be a separate piece that they have sort of agreed to disagree in some ways.

Look, Bill Clinton made very clear he preferred his wife; he thought she was more experienced. He thought she was the one who should be president. But at the same time, Bill Clinton knows he has some rebuilding to do of his reputation of both he and his wife's legacy in this party.

I would expect him to be active for Barack Obama because it's both in the party's interest and his best interest.

OLBERMANN: Can you hear me now?

Chris Cillizza of, thank you, Chris, have a good night.

CILIZZA: Thanks, Keith. You, too.

OLBERMANN: President Bush thanks John McCain for his work on the new

G.I. Bill, even though Senator McCain tried to sink the new G.I. Bill, Senator Jim Webb whose bill that was joins us.

And: Obama and FISA. There are two choices. Vote against it or what the Bush administration is now admitting, the bill creates no criminal immunity, he's got to declare that if elected, he will prosecute the telecoms and administration officials if there's evidence. A Special Comment ahead tonight.


OLBERMANN: Just because President Bush and Senator McCain said it would leave troops to leave the service, that's no reason for them not to take credit when the bill passed over their unyielding opposition. The real proponent of the new G.I. Bill, Senator Jim Webb is next on Countdown.

Mr. McCain also wants a new campaign buzz, saying Obama's word can't be trusted. This while he was talking credit to the passage of a bill he tried to kill.

And: Obama and FISA: A Special Comment is ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The line is from the movie "Chinatown." The mortician chortles to Jack Nicholson, "middle of a drought and the water commissioner drowns, only in L.A."

Our fourth story on the Countdown: From the day he introduced his new G.I. Bill, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia faced the utter opposition of President Bush and Senator McCain. Senator Webb joins us in a moment to react to today's "Chinatown-like" inside outing of this process in which at today's signing of the new G.I. Bill, President Bush congratulated himself and Senator McCain.


BUSH: The bill is a result of close collaboration between my administration and members of both parties on Capitol Hill. I am particularly grateful that Congressman Boehner, Hoyer, Obey, and Lewis. And I want to thank members who worked hard for the G.I. Bill expansion, especially senators Webb and Warner, Graham, Burr and McCain. This bill shows the American people that even in an election year, Republicans and Democrats can come together to stand behind our troops and their families.


OLBERMANN: Last Friday, Mr. McCain had already congratulated himself for the passage of a bill he had tried to strangle.


MCCAIN: I'm happy to tell you that we probably agreed on an increase in educational benefits for our veterans that not only gives them increase in their educational benefits, but if they stay in for a certain period of time, then they can transfer those educational benefits to their spouses and/or children.


OLBERMANN: Senator Jim Webb joins us tonight from Washington. Thank you, again, for your time tonight, sir.

SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VIRGINIA: Well, thank you for remembering this day; it's a very special day.

OLBERMANN: It is. And I know that the point of this is the bill and the point of this is the troops. But two questions about what we just heard there, the first one, I think, is pretty obvious, was that galling to hear that or what? Or the fact that it's known (ph).

WEBB: Well, I think it's safe to say that there was a good deal of cooperation among Republicans and Democrats that just didn't include the administration.


WEBB: You know, I had expected it. This president missed a real opportunity to show leadership and to show true respect for the people who served. He should have had the Republicans, such as Chuck Hagel who he didn't even mention, by the way; Democrats, members of the veteran groups around him.

This isn't an expansion of benefits which he just said in the tape you played, it is a new program. It's the first war-time G.I. Bill since Vietnam and I'm really proud that we were able to get it through and the rest of it is just kind of amusing.

OLBERMANN: Well, did either of them, did either the president or Senator McCain really get on board on this or were they obstacles and they just sort of the last ones out of the way?

WEBB: No, neither of them really did get on board. We accepted this transferability provision, which, by the way, had been in the law for six years, this isn't a new idea. But every single thing that we argued for and that they were against is included in this. You note that this had to come to the president on a supplemental appropriations bill rather than a clean bill, which you said he was going to veto.

But, you know, I don't care. We've got something out there that's going to give the people who served since 9/11 the same kind of benefits as those who served during World War II and they've got a chance at a first class future and I couldn't be happier.

OLBERMANN: Senator, not to turn this into what have you done for me them lately, but it's your G.I. Bill, you worked on this since day one after your election, after being sworn in, obviously, you have a list of things to do for the troops. What's the next thing on the list? What's the next most urgent thing to get done?

WEBB: Well, the first thing I would is that, I actually wrote this bill along with legislative counsel before I was sworn in and was able to usher it through. I also sponsored the dwell-time amendment last year which try to get some balance in the rotational cycles, which was opposed by Senator McCain and the administration and others.

I think what we really need to work on over the next four, five months, and it goes back to the speech that Senator Obama gave today and this little fight that I've been watching and that is, we need to make sure that we take politics out of service. People don't serve their country for political issues.

And John McCain's my long-time friend, if that is one area that I would ask him to calm down on, it's that, don't be standing up and uttering your political views and implying that all the people in the military support them because they don't, any more than when the Democrats have political issues during the Vietnam War.

Let's get the politics out of the military, take care of our military people, or have our political arguments in other areas.

OLBERMANN: Well, we can cross our fingers on that one. We'll see if it happens and I know you feel the same way. I think I also on the subject of political questions, I think I know the answer to this last one. Is there anything new since the last time I asked you about the chance you might be running for vice president?

WEBB: Not really.

OLBERMANN: That was it, huh?


OLBERMANN: Well then I have time for one more question.


OLBERMANN: A quote out of "Washington Post" from yesterday, "It is a testament to the tenacity of Senator James Webb and the justice of this cause that Congress has enacted a new G.I. Bill for war veterans. The freshman senator's ability to work across party lines means that the men and women who risk their lives for America's well-being will in return get expanded education benefits, along with opportunities for better futures."

Ultimately, how difficult was this and did it encourage you or discourage you about the process of getting things done for people like the troops?

WEBB: I think that it shows that if you define issues properly and find people to work with, you can get things done. And we had, as the principal co-sponsors on this bill, two Democrats, two Republicans, two Vietnam veterans, two World War II veterans, Senator Lautenberg and Senator Warner, being the World War II veterans, and we got 58 co-sponsors on a bill in the United States Senate, 302 sponsors in the House, despite the opposition of the administration.

I think George W. Bush made a real bad mistake today in terms of trying to, or trying to show full respect for military service. I think he blew it.

OLBERMANN: But he got a good sound byte out of it. So, I guess that's all that actually matters for him from that point of view.

Congratulations, senator, I know how hard a fight it was and how long a fight it was and it will be well-appreciated, I think, by people of all political parties and thanks also for the big laugh in the middle of the segment.


OLBERMANN: Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, thank you, sir.

WEBB: Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: What Senator Obama has to do about FISA? He's already paid the political price, he might as well buy something with it. A Special Comment ahead.

And in Worst: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal claims that there were no major oil spills after hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Well, if you don't know count the 113 offshore oil platforms that were totally destroyed, I guess he's right. Worst Persons is ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Worst persons and the Republican who is blasting Democratic voters for being misogynistic and sexist towards Hillary Clinton four months after he was misogynistic and sexist towards Hillary Clinton. Senator McCain's claim that on several items you can't trust Senator Obama's word, probably a bad campaign topic given that the list of McCainian flip-flops is now three pages long.

And Obama's fluidity on FISA; there are two options here, vote for it but guaranteed criminal prosecution, or simply vote against it. My special comments ahead. But first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best escape, couple of llamas, couple of pot bellied pigs, two zebras and 15 camels broke out of a traveling circus in Amsterdam earlier this morning. Police suspect the giraffe, who not only kicked open the door to the holding pen, but may have also served as the lookout.

Number two, best rumor, "OK! Magazine" to publish innuendo tomorrow that baseball star Alex Rodriguez, who homered for the New York Yankees tonight, has, quote, been hanging out for months with Madonna. Spotted working out together, headline, "Madonna and A-Rod, sexy new friends." OK! never says there was an affair. Rodriguez is about to turn 33. Madonna, of course, is 206.

Number one, best self-outing, former Under Secretary of Defense Jed Babbin, writing a panicky screed at the blog today, demanding that the, quote, journalists who remain at NBC mutiny, form a small committee and demand a meeting with CEO Jeff Immelt, make him listen and promise to restore NBC's journalistic standards to what they should be. If he refuses, start circulating your resumes. There will be no future for you with the Olbermann network.

Yes, they will all be taking career advice from Jed Babbin. Going from under secretary of defense to online editor at He's really moving up in the world.


OLBERMANN: Over the weekend, Senator McCain said, quote, this election is about trust and trusting people's word and, unfortunately, apparently on several items, Senator Obama's word cannot be trusted. Our third story tonight, judging candidates based on their consistency. You see where I'm going with this?

The signing of the G.I. Bill not the only time Senator McCain was against something before he was for it, or vice versa or both. You may want to get pencil and paper and write these downs. On political reform, McCain last January opposed a grassroots lobbying bill he once supported. In 2006, the "New York Sun" reported that his presidential ambitions led McCain to reverse his support of a campaign financial bill called McCain/Feingold.

Last October he said he would vote against the development, relief and education for Alien Miners Act that he co-sponsored, and then said he would vote against an immigration bill that he introduced.

In 2006, he said on "Hardball," quote, I think that gay marriage should be allowed. Then after the commercial break he added, I do not believe that gay marriages should be legal.

On abortion, 1999, publicly supporting Roe v. Wade, privately opposing it in a letter to the National Right to Life Committee. In the 2000 debates, he would change the GOP platform to permit exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother. May 2007, no he won't, reported.

Storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, flipped. Military action against rogue states, flip. Negotiating with Kim Jong-il not acceptable until President Bush did it last week. With Fidel Castro acceptable in 2000, not 2008. With terrorists appropriate when Colin Powell went to Syria and in 2006 when McCain said sooner or later we'll talk to Hamas, but not appropriate now.

Unilateral action against suspected terrorists in Pakistan; confused leadership when Obama suggested it, not when Bush did it. Warrantless wire taps; six months ago, presidents had to obey the law, not anymore.

Torture detainees, no way, except for the CIA. Hold them indefinitely, wrong in 2003, the right move in 2008. The Iraq war, the right course 2004, stay the course 2005. Today, McCain has always been a Rumsfeld critic.

Tax cults for the rich. In 2001, he could not in good conscious support them. Now he can. The estate tax; 2006, I agree with President Roosevelt who created it and who had passed away. In 2008, most unfair.

This month not for privatizing Social Security, never has been. In 2004, he didn't see how benefits will last without it. In February, promised a balanced budget in four years by April, make that eight years. In May, glad to look at the windfall profits tax. By June, that was Jimmy Carter's big idea. In 2000, no new off shore drilling. Last month, it would take years to develop. This month, very helpful in the short term.

The Bush fund-raisers McCain called coyotes breaking the law in 2000. By 2006, they were co-chairing McCain fund-raisers. Buddy Jerry Falwell, an agent of intolerance in 2000. The Reverend Hague in, then out this year alone.

In 1983, opposed Martin Luther King Day. Today, not as much. 1986, opposed South African divestment. This month praised it. In 2000, defended South Carolina's confederate flag as a symbol of heritage. Two years later, McCain calling it, quote, an act of political cowardice not to say the flag should come down. Quote, "everybody said, look out. You can't win in South Carolina if you say that."

McCain's campaign says his positions evolve. Ironically, in 2005, McCain said alternatives to evolution should be taught in school. Evolving the opposite position he had taken in 2000.

Any smear in a storm; yes, we can, claims a conservative commentator was stolen from this guy. That this guy used it after the other guy is of no concern to the commentator.

Having your cake and eating it, too. Two routes for Senator Obama on FISA and telecom immunity, including a surprising admission about that immunity by the Bush administration. Special comment ahead tonight on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Senator Obama and FISA, my special comment, next. But first, time for our number two story, Countdown's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Apparently he was out of town for that big hurricane. Asked by Fixed News about any oil spills to worry about, he kicked in in full Pavlovian mode; "you know, that's one of the great unwritten success stories after Katrina and Rita, these awful storms, no major spills."

Sadly, no. The Minerals Management Service reported 124 off-shore spills after Katrina and Rita, including 113 oil platforms totally destroyed, and the 44 on and off-shore spills in south east Louisiana which the EPA described as "worse than the worst-case scenario." Governor, quick quiz, can you spell Louisiana?

Our runner up, Monica Crowley, at least one of the spark plugs has blown on this engine. Talking about the Obama slogan, yes, we can. "Well, she said breathlessly, "it turns out that Barack Obama actually stole that campaign line. Obama lifted his campaign line, yes, we can, from the recent presidential campaign of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Monica's not very bright. Ahmadinejad did campaign using a line that translates as we can. That was in 2005. Obama used the phrase, yes, we can originally in his Senate campaign in 2004. That would be earlier. So Miss Crowley is rushing back to a microphone to apologize and then to accuse Obama of writing the line for Ahmadinejad.

But our winner, here we go again, another William Kristol Monday. The "New York Times" columnist, on the air, "I think Hillary Clinton was gracious, has put behind her the horrible sexism and misogyny the Democratic primary voters demonstrated, which I'm appalled by, personally. Never would have happen in the Republican party."

Mr. Kristol is ignoring the public commentary by prominent Republican on Fixed News on February 3rd of this year, who said the only people supporting Senator Clinton's bid for the presidency were, quote, "the Democratic establishment and white women." Then this Republican added, quote, "white women are a problem. That's - you know, we all live with that." Which Republican's horrible sexism did Bill Kristol forget? His own. All that was said by William Kristol, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: Finally, as promised, a special comment on FISA and the junior senator from Illinois. The Democratic leadership in the Senate, Republican knuckle-dragging in the same chamber, and the mediocre skills of whoever wrote the final version of the FISA bill, have combined to give Sen. Barack Obama a second chance to make a first impression.

And he damned well better take it. The Senate vote on this tortured and reckless piece of legislation has now been postponed until after the 4th of July break. The Democrats, completing their FISA experience, a collective impression of Homer Simpson falling off a cliff and hitting every bramble and rock on the way down, didn't exactly plan this fortuitous delay.

Last week, the vote on their cave-in was imminent. But, while arguing over a piece of housing legislation about how many mortgage lenders can dance on the head of a pin, Republicans dithered so long about protecting their constituents, the banks, that the Senate calendar got backed up.

This, in turn, gave Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid some time to think.

There was one among his group, chosen to run for President, who had loudly assailed the idea of handing a get-out-of-jail-free card to corporations who had approached definitional fascism by breaking the law in concert with the Bush Administration.

But this Senator had suddenly realized that to the large group of voters who operate with an information base that would make Cliffs Notes look like the Encyclopedia, if, in the final vote, he stood against FISA, he would hand them a rock with which they could hit him over the head, a rock wrapped up in a piece of paper reading: "Obama voted uh-uh, thing terror stop." Thus, Sen. Obama, was born your first second chance.

Sen. Reid was kind enough to help you out by composing an amendment that would keep FISA, which you rightly endorse, but strips out the telecom immunity, which you rightly oppose.

It's a protest, a decidedly lame one, but in our daily world of political transactions, voting for the amendment when it has no chance of passing and has been in essence constructed as pure Obama CYA, that is a petty crime.

Whether it will do more harm to your premise of "new politics" than to your credibility as an immunity-opponent is for you, Senator, to assess and live with.

It would be sweet to have a pure, politics-free president, but the last of those retired from office in 1797. And while we've all quoted the farewell address of "The Father Of Our Nation" for 211 years now, nobody seems to want to remember that its point was to urge his children that whatever you do, for God's sake, don't form political parties, some day they will kill you.

Anyway, Senator, your problem here isn't the backlash about telecom immunity, and it isn't really about your political fluidity on the FISA bill.

Your problem is what happens even if this plays out according to plan next week: One, you vote for the anti-immunity amendment. Two, the anti-immunity amendment fails. Three, you vote for the FISA legislation. And four, the FISA legislation passes. And five, senator: the Republicans still run against you with the 'elections-for-dummies' message: "Obama voted uh-uh thing terror-stop."

Because inside that obscenity that was Charlie Black's comment about how a terrorist attack in this country would be good for his boy McCain's chances for election, inside the inhuman calculation that Benazir Bhutto did not die in vain, she helped McCain in the New Hampshire primary, inside all that, there is a sad and cynical reality; the Republicans can scare some of the people all of the time, and they can scare all of the people some of the time. This is all they are right now.

Nobody ever said it better than did Aaron Sorkin in his script for the movie "The American President": "Whatever your particular problem is, friend, I promise you, Bob Rumson" - and for Bob Rumson, read John McCain - Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it."

Republicans, with almost no exceptions, have no true credibility on counter-terrorism, no track record of prevention or amelioration, and their president can't even remember the name of the skyscraper he claims to have saved in Los Angeles.

And yet, somehow, the Republicans have managed to convince the public that it doesn't matter that Mr. Bush had already completed 22 percent of his first term when he, his administration, and his party, failed so catastrophically on 9/11.

The President and party who were at fault were magically transformed into the president and party who would never let it happen again. An unjust, repellant, nefarious, trick. But, politically, rather a neat trick.

Senator, the Republicans are going to paint you as soft on terror no matter how you vote on FISA or how you vote on the Telecom Immunity Amendment or on the next farm bill.

Last week it was Grover Norquist calling you "John Kerry with a tan." By November 1st, it'll be Dick Cheney calling you "Osama Bin Laden with a tan." When you announced your support of this latest FISA bill, with or without the telecom immunity, the Republicans actually raced to get out a press release accusing you of flip-flopping. You shared the exact same position on which they are running their entire campaign and they criticized you anyway!

So, Senator, from their point of view, they think they've got you boxed in. Vote for FISA and you've contradicted yourself. Vote against FISA and it's "Obama voted uh-uh thing terror-stop." Vote for FISA and against immunity, and it's political expediency, and Democrats soft on terror, and "Obama voted uh-uh thing terror-stop."

This is a problem, Senator, because, flatly, of all the measures that can be taken to aid our damaged nation, and our de-valued constitution, the first, if not the foremost, is not blocking telecom immunity, but rather making sure no Republican is in the White House past noon next January 20th. Of all the remedial efforts against the Bush Administration's high crimes and misdemeanors, and of all the prophylactic steps against further inroads against the freedoms of the citizens of this nation and the rights of everyone else in the world, the primary step must still come to us through the prism of politics.

Would that it were otherwise. But it ain't. Frankly, Senator, this political tight-rope act you've tried on FISA the last two weeks, which from the outside seems to have been intended to increase the chances of your election, probably hasn't helped that chance in the slightest.

There is, fortunately, a possible, a most unexpected, solution, your second second chance.

Since the final version of the FISA bill was passed down from on high, John Dean has been reading it, and re-reading it, and cross-referencing it with other relevant law, and thinking. Something bothered him about it. Or, more correctly, something didn't bother him about it. Turns out lawyers at the ACLU have been doing the same thing for the last ten days. John compared notes with them, and will be devoting his column at "Find Law" this week, to this unlikely conclusion: The Republicans, who wrote most of this bill at Mr. Bush's urging, managed to immunize the telecoms from civil suits, but not from criminal prosecution.

Senator, here is John Dean's summary of his findings, which he sent me this morning: "It is clear not only from the language of the bill, which must be read in the context of other related statutes to be clearly understood, but also from the legislative history, that there is absolutely no criminal immunity for anyone in these FISA amendments."

More over, Senator, it seems as if a lot of people have known this for a long time. "During the January 24th, 2008 debate in the Senate, Sen. Brownback noted, "The immunity provisions would not apply to the Government or Government officials. Cases against the Government regarding the alleged programs would continue. And the provisions would apply only to civil and not criminal cases."

In fact, Senator, just last week, Attorney General Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence McConnell sent a letter, for the record, to House Speaker Pelosi emphasizing that the liability protection, quote, "does not immunize any criminal conduct."

And if you ask, Senator, about the President responding to all this by belching out a series of pardons or a blanket pardon to those who broke the law on his behalf, Dean has you covered here, too: it "would require acceptance by them of the fact that they had broken the law, and thus be an admission of guilt."

"And a blanket pardon would be an admission by Bush that his war on terror has been a lawless undertaking, operating beyond the bounds of the Constitution and statutes that check the powers of the president and the executive branch."

"It would be an admission by Bush, too, of his own criminal culpability, which is why Nixon refused to grant his aides a pardon."

Senator, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. Keep your eye on the wording of the legislation to make sure the Republicans don't realize its flaws. Then vote for the amendment to strip telecom immunity out of the FISA bill. Then after that fails, vote for the FISA bill, if that's your final answer. Then the minute the president has signed the FISA bill, you announce that you voted for it because it renews FISA and because it permits a bigger prize than just civil suits, that it allows for criminal prosecution of past illegal eavesdropping.

Say, loudly, that your understanding of this bill is such that if you are elected, your Attorney General will begin a full-scale criminal investigation of the Telecom Companies who collaborated with President Bush in eavesdropping on Americans. And mention that your attorney general will subpoena such records, notes, e-mail, data, and testimony from any and all Bush Administration officials, FBI or CIA personnel, or any members of the Executive Branch who may have as much as breathed in the general direction of these nefarious acts of domestic spying at Mr. Bush's behest.

Wait, you say there's a political hit waiting for you there too? Another "Obama voted uh-uh thing terror-stop." Actually, Senator, you've already gone down this road when you spoke to my colleague, Will Bunch, of the "Philadelphia Daily News" on April 14th of this year. He asked about the possibility of criminal investigations of the 43rd President and his henchmen.

"What I would want to do," you told him, "is have my Justice Department and my attorney general immediately review the information that's already there and to find out, are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can't prejudge that because we don't have access to all the material right now."

"You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve."

"Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover-ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is: nobody above the law. And I think that's roughly how I would look at it."

Make this clear, Senator. You've already taken the political hit from the right for saying you'd seek to strip out or rescind immunity. You've already taken the political hit from the left for saying you'd vote for the FISA bill even with the immunity. You've paid the political price in advance. Now buy yourself and those who have most ardently supported you something worth more than just class action suits against Verizon.

Explain that you are standing aside on civil immunity, not just for political expediency, but for a greater and more tangible good, the holding to account of the most-corrupt, the most dangerous, and the most anti-democracy presidential administration in our long history.

Of course, if you disagree with this interpretation, if you think the FISA bill doesn't have the giant loophole, or if you don't think you, as president, would be ready to support criminal prosecution of, well, criminals then your duty is clear. Vote against the FISA bill, if it still carries that immunity.

The Republicans are going to call you the names any which way, Senator. They're going to cry regardless, Senator. And as the old line goes: give them something to cry about.

Good night and good luck.


Friday, June 27, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, June 27
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guests: Howard Fineman, Chris Hayes, Ryan Lizza, Derrick Pitts

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

Campaign racism, unplugged and unquestionable. Conservative icon, Grover Norquist, dismisses Obama as, quote, "John Kerry with a tan." And McCain maintained his ties to Norquist, getting and continues sending representatives to Norquist meetings.

First, Charlie Black says a terrorist attack here would be good for McCain's chances. Now, another leading Republican supporter dives right into the deep end of the racism pool. Who's minding the McCain store?

June 27, 2007, on the eve of the Howard University debate, Clinton leads Obama 30 to 18 in Pennsylvania, 38-15 in Florida, 40-12 in Ohio.

June 27, 2008 -


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, we are coming together for the same goal, to elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: She rocks. She rocks. That's the point I'm trying to make.


OLBERMANN: Unity, New Hampshire, peace in our time.

The Republicans' partisan attack against that peace. Kansas Senator Brownback with the "bad timing award" for the week.


SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, (R) KANSAS: I think the biggest thing really I've seen of Barack Obama is that willingness, an aggressiveness to talk bipartisan, and yet to vote and be hard left, most liberal member in the United States Senate.


OLBERMANN: Ringing a little tinnily in light of Obama's FISA vote about which the left is justifiably ripped towards over.

Worst: Page Six sued for $10 million. Sean Hannity flip-flops so fast his head swivels completely around him, just like in "The Exorcist." And Congressman Delahunt and David Addington get stupid over whether al Qaeda watches C-Span.

And eat your intergalactic vegetables. There may not really be life on Mars but there may indeed be arable soil.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well - but strawberries probably not very well.


OLBERMANN: All that and more: Now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Friday, June 27th, 130 days until the 2008 presidential election.

To hear the newspaper recount it, the top Republican and McCain supporters simply sauntered into its Washington bureau and dropped the first overt racism bomb of the general election campaign.

If it sounds like Grover Norquist's suggestion that Barack Obama was just, quote, "John Kerry with a tan," was meant to upstage the Obama/Clinton unity love fest, in our fifth story on the Countdown: He did not quite succeed. Full coverage of Norquist's remark presently: first, they didn't go to Smiley, Pennsylvania, they didn't go to Compromise, Mississippi, they didn't even go to Happiness Park, Illinois. The forecast: 76 degrees and cloudy this afternoon in Unity, New Hampshire.

From rivals to allies in just 16 ½ short months, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and the senator who wanted to be the Democratic nominee, making the final journey to Unity, both figuratively and literally together. Before boarding, he gets a pat on the back, she get a kiss on the cheek. Let's see McCain and Huckabee do that.

The reporters on board the plane are telling us that senators, Obama and Clinton, even sitting together as you see. His tie and her pantsuit, matching shades of periwinkle blue. We even have wardrobe unity.

Before anybody wretches from this sudden togetherness, the candidates sharing the stage for the first time since Senator Obama clinched the nomination. Senator Clinton speaking first, she united and it feels so good.


CLINTON: Well, Unity is not only a beautiful place, as we can see, it's a wonderful feeling, isn't it?


CLINTON: And I know what we start here in this field in Unity will end on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama takes the oath of office as our next president.



OLBERMANN: The New York Democrat stressing it was not the long road to Unity that mattered but that they'd finally arrived there together.


CLINTON: We may have started on separate paths, but today our paths have merged. Today, our hearts are set on the same destination for America. Today, we are coming together for the same goal, to elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.



OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton, echoing Senator Obama's refrain, saying that the Republican candidate would mean four more years of Bush.


CLINTON: Here's the choice in this election. If you like the direction America is going, then, vote for Senator McCain, because you'll definitely get more of the same. But if you think we need a new course, a new agenda, then vote for Barack Obama and you will get the change that you and we need and deserve.


CLINTON: And to anyone who voted for me, and is now considering - not voting or voting for Senator McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider.


OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton, musing that the presumptive Republican nominee probably wished the Democratic in-fighting were to continue.


CLINTON: Senator McCain and the Republicans may have hoped that we wouldn't join forces like this. They may have wished that we wouldn't stand united to fight this battle with everything we've got. But I've got news for them. We are one party, we are one America. And we are not going to rest until we take back our country and put it, once again, on the path to peace, prosperity and progress in the 21st century.




OLBERMANN: In his remarks, Senator Obama happy finally to be sharing the stage with Senator Clinton with a common goal, so very happy.


OBAMA: As somebody who took the same historic journey as Senator Clinton, who watched her campaign and debate, I know firsthand how good she is, how tough she is, how passionate she is, how committed she is to the causes that brought all of us here today.


OBAMA: I've admired her as a leader. I've learned from her as a candidate. She rocks. She rocks. That's the point I'm trying to make.


OLBERMANN: Senator Obama with a variation of his compliment that it is his 10 and seven-year-old daughters who will benefit most from Senator Clinton's historic candidacy.


OBAMA: Because of the campaign that Hillary Clinton waged, my daughters and all of your daughters will forever know that there is no barrier to who they are, and what they can be in the United States of America.


OBAMA: They can take for granted that women can do anything that the boys can do. And do it better. And do it in heels. I still don't know how she does it in heels. I don't know.


OLBERMANN: Senator Obama praising both of the Clintons, the former first couple, as pillars of the Democratic Party.


OBAMA: But we need them. We need them badly. Not just my campaign, but the American people need their service and their vision and their wisdom.


OBAMA: In the months and years to come because that's how we're going to bring about unity in the Democratic Party, and that's how we're going to bring about unity in America, and that's how we're going to deliver the American dream in every corner of every state of this great nation that we love.


OLBERMANN: All right, everybody on stage for the big finish.


OBAMA: This is our chance, this is our time to march forward in unity as one people to the future, and I promise you that if you are willing to join me and you are willing to join Hillary Clinton, if you are willing to organize and mobilize, then we are not just going to change this country, but we will change the world. Thank you, Senator Hillary Clinton. Thank you, New Hampshire. Thank you, Unity. Let's get to work. Thank you.



OLBERMANN: Time now with our thanks in advance to bring in our own Howard Fineman, also senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine, joining us tonight from New Hampshire.

Good evening, Howard.


OLBERMANN: They look great. They dominated the news cycle all day without making any actual news. Is that a win, win, win for the Obama advance team?

FINEMAN: Oh, I think it was. But I think in a way, and the pictures were beautiful, and even though having been up there in that field outside the little elementary school in Unity, at times, things seemed kind of scripted and even a little stilted, at moments. The pictures were fabulous, but I think the best thing the advance team did was to make sure that Obama and Clinton had time together. They had three hours of travel time, both on the plane, as you mentioned, also on the long bus ride up to the little town of Unity.

Hillary and Obama got a chance to relax and talk with each other and joke about inconsequential things for a couple hours, to be comfortable in each other's presence. So when they walked out on the stage, when they were joking together, they had a sense of camaraderie and fellowship that they might not have had otherwise. That was actually a very lucky and smart thing for them.

OLBERMANN: Now, the realities of this, you have, I must say, a great piece up on the behind the scenes here. Just how difficult was it behind the scenes to pull off this appearance of peace, love, and harmony and how much did it deviate from the actual fact behind the scenes?

FINEMAN: Well, behind the scenes, Keith, there's hard bargaining going on over, not surprisingly, money and over airtime. Not for an event like this, but at the convention in Denver in August. What I've been told is that in the bargaining over just how much the Obama campaign is going to push its donors to help pay off Hillary's debt, one of the topics that has come up is the amount of airtime and procedural time Hillary's going to get.

A lot of Hillary supporters want there to be a roll call vote. They want her name, Hillary's name, to be placed in nomination, to go through the roll call vote, to emphasize just how many votes she got, both popular votes and delegate votes. The Obama people don't want to do that. They don't want to waste the time on that. They don't want to indicate that Hillary is all separate movement unto herself.

So, I've been told that Obama's donors have been told that Hillary will not get to have her name placed at the nomination convention. That's the word going on. That gives you an indication of the kind of bargaining that's going on behind the scenes.

OLBERMANN: Yet, because it looked so good today and created so much attention, is this why Senator Obama wants or is even, as he put it this afternoon, needs the help of both Clintons going forward and what about the other Clinton?

FINEMAN: They need - they all, three of them need each other.

Obama needs the Clintons. Obama needs the voters that supported Hillary. Don't forget in the latest polls, even though they show that six in 10 Hillary supporters from the primary are now supporting Obama. That still leaves four out of 10 who aren't so certain about it.

Obama needs the support of ardent feminist and women who were energized by Hillary's campaign. Many of whom were out here at this rally today up in Unity. Some of them are cheering, most of them still cheering primarily for Hillary, not for Obama.

And also, the Obama campaign needs the money. Having decided not to take public financing, Obama needs donations both primary money and general election money from all of the Hillary fat cats. So, all the fat cats need each other here.

And obviously, Obama needs Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was sort of conspicuous by his absence today, that was deliberate. But I think the joint message of Hillary and Obama together is, "Hey, Bill, come on in, the water's fine."

OLBERMANN: And do we have a later Barack Obama/Bill Clinton event like that or is anything that the former president does with this necessarily include his wife on the stage - three rather than two, one and one?

FINEMAN: Well, that's an interesting question I don't know the answer to. I think the more press they can get out of a nice event like this - again, in other words, the next time there's an Obama/Hillary thing it won't be such a big deal, but if they can schedule later in the year an Obama/Bill Clinton rapprochement, that would be huge news, that would be a dynamite show. And so, they probably would want that separate thing just to dominate another day's worth of news cycles.

OLBERMANN: And we now know that both couples, the Obamas and the Clintons, maxed out and made those donations, $4,600 to the other respective campaign in the last 24 hours, peace in our time, that's all been cleared up. All the anxiety over a purely symbolic gesture in terms of the money needed. Why?

FINEMAN: Well, that's because of what I was saying before. They need each other's maxing out capabilities. Obama needs the Hillary people all to give money to his campaign.

And so much has been made of Obama's Internet support, but by my guess, it's maybe 1/3 or so of the $300 million that he raised. Most of Obama's money comes from bigger donors and he needs all of Hillary's donors having decided to forego public funding.

The other way around, Hillary has $10 million in vendor debt. She's going to eat the $12 million of her loan to herself, I'm told, but she's still got to make up $10 million. She needs Obama's people.

Now, I know today, there was a conference call, Keith, of top Obama donors headed by the finance committee out of Chicago. And what they told the Obama donors is, "Look, if you think you can, if you want to, give money to Hillary's campaign." It wasn't an order.

And it wasn't, drop everything and give money to help Hillary pay off her debt, because a lot of the Obama people are angry at Hillary. They think she failed. They think that they shouldn't have to clean up the mess, but the Obama campaign did do something Hillary wanted, and I dare say Hillary may not have walked out on that stage unless she got the guarantee, which was that that finance conference call will be made and it was.

I talked to one of those donors for Obama tonight and I said, "Well, now that you got the call are you going to give? And she said, "Well, I'm thinking about it." And it's not clear.

OLBERMANN: And the thinking about it might also be the incentive

for her to do what he needs her to do the rest of the way. So, think about

that as we try to figure out -

FINEMAN: They're going to keep doing this, playing this game all the way along to the end, until they get from each other what they need.

OLBERMANN: Exactly. And we'll see where they go from here. And the answer will not be "Compromise, Mississippi."

Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, in New Hampshire - as always, sir, great thanks, have a good weekend, Howard.

FINEMAN: Thank you. You, too, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Barack Obama is, quote, "John Kerry with a tan." Nothing subtle about that, is there? Why a leading Republican went to the "Full Monty" of racism and what John McCain will have to do about it?


OLBERMANN: Kansas senator, Sam Brownback, plays point man on the GOP's strategy to paint Obama as a leftist who never goes bipartisan, even though, at least, five times Obama has worked in bipartisan fashion with Sam Brownback. Even for Grover Norquist, this was outrageous. Obama is, quote, "John Kerry with a tan," where is the umbrage and where is the coverage?

And in Worst: Sean Hannity's live flip-flop and Page Six sued for $10 million.

All ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: How do you smear a guy as unpatriotic without smearing him as unpatriotic? Well, you claim he loves something else more than his country.

Our fourth story tonight: The McCain campaign debuts its anti-Obama strategy. Obama puts himself first, partisanship and party first over country. The McCain camp memo is going out yesterday with the heading, "Country First Versus Self-Serving Partnership."

So, who got the memo? Self-serving partisan Karl Rove yesterday, wrote that McCain wins in the battle over putting principle above ambition. Rove, who put country about, oh, 14th, when he revealed the name of the CIA operative. Then, there's Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback, the former presidential candidate, pushing McCain's new theme on a campaign conference call yesterday.


BROWNBACK: I think the biggest thing really I've seen of Barack Obama is that willingness and aggressiveness to talk bipartisan, and yet to vote and be hard left, the most liberal member in the United States Senate.


OLBERMANN: Obama talks bipartisan but when it comes down to it he votes hard left? From, December 16, 2005:

"Obama/Brownback, Durbin and DeWine" - DeWine is another Republican - "introduce comprehensive legislation on the Congo."

From, May 3rd, 2006: "Brownback worked with senators Robert Menendez and Barack Obama to pass the amendment." And October 26th, 2007, "Senator Brownback and Senator Barack Obama introduced the Iranian sanctions enabling act."

"USA Today," May 18, last year: "Obama and Brownback together on another issue."

The "Washington Post," December 27, 2005, forget the headline, "By Barack Obama and Sam Brownback."

But when it comes to McCain's supposed status as a maverick, which Senator Brownback also pushed yesterday, one final headline from an exhaustive survey of McCain's voting record, from 1999 on, conducted by the "Arizona Republic" newspaper. May 7th, 2008, "In tight Senate votes, McCain not a maverick, when it matters most, he seldom bucks his own party."

Let's turn to the Washington editor for "The Nation" magazine, Chris Hayes.

Chris, thanks for your time again tonight.


OLBERMANN: All right. Out of 56 Obama bills that have co-sponsors, 18 had only Democratic co-sponsors, 38 had at least one Republican co-sponsor. Is this McCain line of inquiry going to get anywhere?

HAYES: I don't think it is. And I think there's a few reasons. One of them is that I don't think people really seek out bipartisanship as an end of itself but as a means to an end. You know what, I had a colleague named David Soroto who wrote a column once who said, "Look, if Republicans and Democrats, you know, get together and they help an old lady across the street, that's good bipartisanship. If they're driving a van that runs her over, that's bad bipartisanship, right?" I mean, the Iraq war was bipartisan. The Patriot Act (ph) is bipartisan.

So, bipartisanship is a real fetish of people in Washington but I think voters want things. They want an end to the war, they want a safer economy or maybe they want conservative things, but bipartisanship in and of itself isn't necessarily what they're seeking.

OLBERMANN: Also, without questioning McCain's patriotism, but as a member of the Keating Five who embraced Falwell and embraced Roberts on after they blamed America for 9/11, does it really make sense for McCain to try to run as the guy who never puts politics above principle?

HAYES: I don't and I don't think it does. And actually, in some sense, it cements the kind of irony and tragedy of the John McCain presidential campaign, which is that he's done exactly that. He's sold out his principles for his ambition.

I mean, take immigration reform, right? They're on the phone yesterday and their conference call is talking about McCain bucking his party, which he did and bucking the conservative wing of his party on immigration reform, but as the primary went on, he completely walked away from the policy. In fact, saying, that he, (A), wouldn't vote for his own bill, and then he was, you know, speaking to some Hispanic leaders in Chicago saying he was going to bring immigration reform.

So, McCain has done exactly the thing which he's now accusing Barack Obama, which is putting his own ambition to be president above these sort of - these kind of independent principles that he used to have.

OLBERMANN: And how does the Obamas always on the left thing jibe with Obama's support of the latest FISA bill which is continuing to honk off a lot of his own supporters?

HAYES: It doesn't jibe well. It's kind of ironic that in the two weeks that Obama has really been putting his kind of centrist foot forward. That's when the McCain campaign has chosen to come out with this "Obama is a hard left" message.

And saying it to someone who's sort of proudly a member of the hard left, you know, I think it's a little absurd to call Obama hard left. I mean, if you look at what he's been doing the last few weeks particularly on the FISA bill, on the two statements he released in the wake of the Supreme Court decisions, you know, there's no way that you can classify him as this sort of aggressive liberal. And I don't think he comes off as one which I think is what kind of bedevils the Republicans some much.

OLBERMANN: And lastly here, reported today that the official Republican strategy for House candidates, run as anything but a Republican. Run as an independent, go as a socialist, a vegan, a weakened, whatever you think of that doesn't say Republican. Is that - is that part of this, to distance McCain from the Republican brand without going that far?

HAYES: That's exactly what it is. I mean, bipartisan sounds a lot better than Republican at this point. I mean, look, if you were - if you ask, you know, voters in polling, are you going to vote for a generic Democrat or Republican in the presidential race, you know, the generic Democrat wins by about 10 or 12 points.

What you're going to see happen down the stretch, and we're already seeing happen, is from the Obama perspective, they're basically trying to turn Obama into a generic Democrat because, you know, it's such a strong Democratic year, they want to kind of move him right into the middle sweet spot for that generic Democrat.

On the Republican side, they're trying to do the opposite. They're running as far as they can from the Republican label and that's why bipartisan has this kind of nice sound to it and you don't have to talk about what party you're actually from.

OLBERMANN: Right. He just happens to be a Republican.

HAYES: That's right.

OLBERMANN: Like he had a tattoo somewhere from years ago.

Chris Hayes, Washington editor of "The Nation," great thanks, have a good weekend.

HAYES: Thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of FISA, following up on what he said here last week, John Dean has reviewed the newest version of that bill and again concluded - nothing in it gives telecoms criminal immunity, only civil immunity. So, Monday on Countdown, a brief Special Comment on FISA. How Senator Barack Obama can have his cake and eat it, too.

See something strange up there in the tree, like a bathtub in a tree, and a guy in it?

And Rupert Murdoch's Page Six editor being sued for $10 million for a phony story that wrongly claimed an innocent woman had made a sex tape. Worst Persons ahead.

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

Number three: Black list-gate. First, it was Dixie Chicks and now, it's Harry Shearer? His songs "Songs of the Bushmen," as in George Bush, will not be advertised on billboards owned by the infamous Clear Channel Corporation, they are the same people who banned songs of the Chicks from their radio stations after Natalie Maines said she was ashamed Bush had hailed from Texas. Release the hounds.

Number two: Breaking the military-gate. Sergeant Darren Manzella has been discharged from the army. His offense - he gave an interview to CBS in Iraq last December in which he was asked and he told. Sergeant Manzella, who enlisted in 2002, and went to the Middle East twice, was awarded the Combat Medical Badge. He said, "Most of the time he was in the service, his colleagues and commanders knew he was gay and didn't give a crap. And though we are strapped for people who want to stay in, the army threw him out anyway, under the "Don't ask, don't tell" program, the moronic, self-defeating, prejudice legalized, in fact, institutionalized in our military.

And number one: Blackwater-gate. Federal agents raided an armory near Raleigh, North Carolina, seeking 34 automatic weapons, half of them for Bushmasters, the other half, AK-47s made in Romania that were illegally purchased in 2005. The real ownership apparently was (ph) through a sheriff in Camden County, North Carolina, who somehow retained title to the machine guns even though they remained in an armory.

Who's armory? The one at the corporate headquarters of, of course

Blackwater Worldwide.


OLBERMANN: Best persons in a moment. And rule one, when you try to steal the manure, remember not to fall into the manure. First, on this date in 1829, a British man born Jacque Louis Masey (ph) died at Genoa in Italy, triggering a series of events that led to the creation of the Smithsonian. Masey was the illegitimate son of Hugh Smithson, and eventually took the family name. Scientist and investor, he amassed a huge fortune, which 179 years ago today, passed to his nephew, Henry Hungerford (ph), with the proviso that if Hungerford never had any children, the money would in turn pass to the government of the United States for the increase and diffusion of knowledge; 105,000 gold sovereigns, worth about nine million in today's money, shipped in boxes to Philadelphia, and eventually Congress passed a bill creating the museum and research facility and naming it after James Smithson, or more correctly after his money.

Let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: We begin with a guy climbing a ladder into in a bathtub in a tree. In Oil Dail, California, this is Ray Bishop's Jacuzzi. Originally fashioned as a bird bath, Bishop said he couldn't resist using the thing himself. Up in this tree, this hygienic Tarzan can falafel - sorry, louffa his back side and he keeps an eye on his coolers and his F-150 in the yard below. He uses a hose to fill the tub, and has a privacy fence to keep his neighbors happy. But the best feature is that when Bishop is done soaking, he just grabs a few squirrels with which to towel off.

Staying in the drink, meet Professor Splash. Professor Splash, holder of the Guinness Record for a high dive into low water. This week he was the main attraction at the opening of an area water park. The attempt, a 35-foot dive into 12 inches of water, the old Daffy Duck dive. Whatever you do, be careful, Professor Splash. Release, rotation, splash.

Professor Splash teaching a graduate level course on getting it done. I don't want to nit pick here, but isn't that a big, foam cushion under that kiddie pool, Professor Splash?

Finally to Miami, in what police are calling the brothel bust. Five alleged prostitutes, a Madame and a drive turned mass transit into a different word that rhymes with mass transit. Commuters would hand over 40 dollars to get on the bus. For a slight additional fee, they would also be granted the ride of their lives. Finally, though, an undercover cop saw the bus rocking and he came knocking. Now all seven proprietors are under arrest. The bordello on wheels was no secret in Miami. This hotel clerk had allowed the alleged call girls to use his rest room. He described the women and his own tremendous willpower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of them had a cowboy hat on. They had daisy duke shorts on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever tempted to get on the bus to see what it was like inside?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very tempted, my friend. Very tempted.


OLBERMANN: One of the GOP's supposed deep thinkers, Grover Norquist, taking the election to a new high and low. Obama he says is just, quote, John Kerry with a tan. After Charlie Black's prediction that a terrorist attack will be good for John McCain's chances, will the Republican nominee ever get a grip on his surrogates? Does he even want to? These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best way to start the day, Douglas Terry of Marchwood, England, says he has had the same breakfast since he was 13, four rashers of bacon, one sausage, two eggs, three slices of toast, mushrooms, tomatoes, black pudding and a bowl of cereal. He's now 105. He began this breakfast routine in the year 1917. His arteries, which live in a separate home, say they're doing fine as well.

Number two, best time saver for the police, an unnamed suspect in a series of traffic accidents in Connecticut turned himself into the police in Bridgeport, though not on purpose, when he crashed his truck into the state police garage.

Number one, best comeuppance, two women in Eberholtzen (ph), Germany, trying to make manure bombs. Manure inside a stocking, possibly in connection with the European Soccer Championships. Well, they got more than they counted on when they tried to steal some from a farm. One of them fell in, fell into the vow manure depository. Police say the victim's friend tried to help her out. Needless to say, they were a little dirty by this point. So the helper ripped off her dress and left it right there and she ran off in her underwear. The one who fell in, she ripped off all her clothes and left them there, and she ran away naked. No word if police are offering a reward for their capture, but every news organization in the world is offering a reward for video.


OLBERMANN: The story literally walked itself into the Washington bureau of the "Los Angeles Times," figuratively bit the editor on the backside and they put it on the blog. Our third story on the Countdown, three days after chief strategist Charlie Black's conclusion that a terrorist attack on the U.S. would help John McCain's campaign, Republican Grover Norquist crossed the racial line, which McCain had been trying to cleave, crossed it by about 5,000 miles.

The right wing tax reform crusader, who once called McCain the nut job from Arizona, now lending dubious support, telling the "LA Times" that Barack Obama is John Kerry with a tan. Norquist public relations guy told the "Times" today that the context was that Obama had no policy differences with Carter in 1980, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore or Kerry. Kerry with a tan simply, Kerry was the latest of the string. They don't dispute the quote.

This coming while McCain was still maintaining radio silence over Charles Black, reminiscing about how the Bhutto assassination helped McCain in the primaries, and answering the question of whether a terrorist attack on the U.S. soil before the election would be good for McCain. "Yes, it would. Certainly to be a big advantage to him."

Charlie Black once lauded by Roger Ailes, at the time a GOP attack dog, as, quote, "the kind of guy who if he came home and found somebody making out with his wife on a rainy day, he would break the guy's umbrella, and ask him to leave, then him killed a year later."

Joining me now after that dubious introduction, Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker Magazine." Thank you for your time.

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: John Kerry with a tan, seriously?

LIZZA: You know, Grover has never been known for being the classiest guy in Washington. And his schtick has always been sort of out there, provocative comments. Although I've never known him to be racially biased or inject race into politics. I think it's an interesting test. I mean, this is the first high-profile Republican to inject race into an attack on Obama. And, look, it's not an all out explicitly racist comment, but it puts it out there. And I think for McCain, it will be a question of, does he decide to police this kind of thing? Does it become a big enough issue, where he has to step forward and say something? And what - you know, what line - what line does he establish?

OLBERMANN: Is it - in that context, is it too twisted to think that it's almost a trial balloon? As you suggest, Grover Norquist has never had a problem putting his head through the plate glass window, and being the first one to do so for what he perceives is his cause, But clearly there has been, with the use of terms like exotic - we've heard tan has come up before on Fox News. There are all sorts of code words. Is this an attempt to push that envelope and see how far they can go racially and if it's - if Grover Norquist has to be thrown under the bus, he's spent half his adult life there. He's used to it. What's the difference. Is there a chance this is the test?

LIZZA: Well, there's a fine line. You can't be explicitly racist in American politics anymore. Everyone knows that. So to play the race card, you have to sort of constantly find new ways to do it. So I tend to doubt that this was a trial balloon. Although, you know, Grover is a seasoned politico and certainly chooses his words very carefully.

On the other hand, Keith, remember there was a warning to Republicans that Karl Rove delivered early in this political cycle. He said, one of the most careful things - what Republicans need to watch out for is what he euphemistically called message discipline, if they're going to run against Barack Obama. In other words, we can't as Republicans be caught saying anything that can be interpreted as racially biased, because it will backfire against Republicans with voters who won't tolerate that. So, you know, this would seem to me to violate that cardinal rule.

OLBERMANN: Yes, swing and a miss on that one. Also during this little visit to the "L.A. Times" bureau yesterday, Mr. Norquist was nice enough to talk up McCain. He's not part, even ex-officio, with the McCain campaign? What ties actually exist between Grover Norquist and John McCain?

LIZZA: It's interesting, because until this week, a lot of people would have said, well, Grover's not a big fan of McCain, and the McCain folks aren't big fans of Grover. They have a very tortured relationship. Back in 2000, Grover was one of the conservatives that tried to destroy John McCain. After that election, John McCain investigated Grover Norquist. Grover was tied up in the Abramoff scandal and McCain really made his life miserable.

But as McCain started to run toward the 2008 election, he and Grover started to sort of see more and more eye to eye. McCain reversed himself on tax cuts. That pleased Grover. It's his top issue. Most recently, it was reported just this week that McCain now has a staffer that attends Grover Norquist's weekly meeting. This is a famous meeting in Washington where conservatives get together and talk politics. So they've established a relationship.

OLBERMANN: Last thing here, first it's Charlie Black and terrorism and that dubious remark from the beginning of the week in "Fortune." Now it's Grover Norquist and racism. Does McCain have no control over his surrogates or people who seem to be on his side of the equation? Or does he want to have no control over people who can say crazy things like this?

LIZZA: You know, this is the fine line, right? Look, as a candidate, there are certain things you can't say. So you do want third parties out there saying them on your behalf. And you want to be able to put some distance between them. I tend to doubt that this is one of those examples, Keith, because it just seems like - I don't see the upside for McCain for a top surrogate to be charged with injecting race this way into the campaign.

You know, I think most of the people who aren't going to vote for Barack Obama because he's black, they kind of already know that. So I don't see how it's in the Republicans' interest to push it, but I could be just naive.

OLBERMANN: They're looking for euphemisms. They're not looking for John - a tan John Kerry. Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent of the "New Yorker." Again, many thanks. Have a great weekend.

LIZZA: Thanks, Keith, you too.

OLBERMANN: Apropos of Senator McCain, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been clashing with his party's presidential nominee, John McCain, over oil drilling off the California coast. The governor is Tom Brokaw's guest Sunday on "Meet The Press" on your local NBC station. Check your local listings.

Waiter, I would live like to have an order of Martian asparagus. What the scientists think they have discovered on white might yet be renamed the green planet.

Sean Hannity goes from complaining one minute that the media will not credit Bush with a diplomatic triumph in North Korea, to agreeing next that North Korea pulled a diplomatic fast one over on us, next in worst persons.


OLBERMANN: The good news is we may shortly find life on Mars. The bad news is it may be asparagus. But no roasted garlic or onion wine glaze to go with it. That's ahead, but first time for our number two story, Countdown's worst persons in the world.

The bronze shared by Congressman Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff David Addington, who made each other look stupid at a hearing. First, Addington said he could not talk about torture techniques, because, quote, al Qaeda might watch c-Span. Then Delahunt said, quote, right, well, I'm sure they are watching and I'm glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington. While one of the loonier of the conservatives in Congress, Steve King, got even dumber when he said Delahunt was inciting al Qaeda to violence against Addington, it was a damn fool thing of Delahunt to say, and not that bright from Addington either.

Runner up, Richard Johnson, editor of Murdoch's Page Six in the "New York Post, just been sued for 10 million dollars for defamation. In a story that has since proved to be false, Page Six identified Lindsay Smigo (ph), fiance of radio host Gregg Opi Hughes as a women in a sex tape with a man other than Hughes. The Post based its story on one of its so called sources named Chaunce Hayden, who is also named in the suit. Hayden late insisted he had made it clear to a Page Six reporter that he had never actually seen the purported tape. And the Post presented the story anyway.

But our winner, self-proclaimed McCain surrogate Sean Hannity of Fox Noise, victim of one of the funniest moments in broadcasting history last night. After the story of North Korea's deal to end its nuclear program, Hannity went on to cheer lead for President Bush and bash his media critics. "The news today brings a clear foreign policy victory for the Bush administration," he pleaded. Then he got angry. "But will the press report it that way?"

He then introduced his guest, former unconfirmed UN Ambassador John Bolton, who promptly completely disagreed with him. "I think it's actually a clear victory for North Korea, demonstrating again that they can out-negotiate the U.S. without raising a sweat."

Hannity promptly went from 100 percent for the Korea nuke deal to 100 percent against it. "Boy, I tell you, they've done it time and time again. I'm sort of perplexed, Mr. Ambassador, to understand why we keep going back to the well, knowing that they haven't kept the agreements in the past."

In addition to his case of perplexity, Mr. Hannity is said to be recovering from third-degree whiplash. Sean Hannity, today's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: Somewhere H.G. Wells is smiling; "the probability is very good for microbial life on Mars." Our number one story on the Countdown, that the conclusion of the head scientist of the Phoenix Lander project, that and we should look out for Martian asparagus, probably not super-intelligent asparagus, but possibly super-nutritious.

If there is life on Mars, it probably only exists deep underground. An analysis of soil samples showing that Earth plants like turnips, green beans, asparagus could thrive on the red planet if the UV light doesn't kill them off first. Of course, we already suspected that the Martians were real. After all, the lander found ice or at least ice particles in a photo. And the European Mars spacecraft sent back even more compelling evidence, a massive smiley face spread across the planet's surface.

If that were not convincing enough, the NASA spacecraft Spirit found this, a big foot like creature lurking behind a Martian rock. Soil samples indicate that the only specific vegetables could survive on Mars, as we mentioned, we feel confident saying that our Martian cousins look something like this. That's very interesting.

For confirmation of our suspicions, let's turn to Derek Pitts, chief astronomer of the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Thanks for your patience and your time, Derrick.


OLBERMANN: So are our artist renderings of Marvin the Martian asparagus accurate?

PITTS: They are except for one small detail. According to Bugs Bunny, they're accurate, but they are missing limbs, aren't they. They need some legs or something to go with this. Otherwise the helmet, I think, is just perfect.

OLBERMANN: So what would life on Mars actually look like if - would they be subterranean moles, super intelligent asparagus, a truffle with a bad attitude? What would they be?

PITTS: Here's the deal, Keith. The problem with Mars is that even though, as we look at the soil and we have these ideas now of these nice nutrients there, the real problem is that the ultra-violet radiation would kill anything on the surface of Mars. So it all has to be subterranean.

What are we talking about subterranean? We're really talking about microbes, micro-organisms or maybe some sort of a virus type creature that could live in that environment, but we're not talking about anything with arms and legs.

OLBERMANN: All right, but you have a chance now of something existing there, either in the past or the prospect of it even now. But are we getting too excited too soon about this? Should we be holding these conclusions until the lander actually finds something that could be classified as being alive?

PITTS: Most definitely we should hold the conclusions. We should be excited about how successful the lander has been at doing the analysis. After all, it's doing it over a distance of 170 million miles away, totally by remote control in a very harsh environment. So the chemistry that we're getting out of it is spectacular. But we should hold our congratulations for anything beyond just the fact that we've been able to do the chemical analyses. We still have several steps to go before - and several missions to go before we get to the life part.

OLBERMANN: To the point of it not just being life but some sort of conscious life, I mean found some, you know, some tubers that were living there, that would be one thing, unless they were able to communicate and they had a socialized tubers, perhaps. Do we get increasing bits of information on each one of these trips that that is a remoter and remoter possibility?

PITTS: Yes. What we're finding is that we are not thinking about the possibility of finding any sort of sentient life. I mean, we're not even sure there's sentient life on this planet, let alone on Mars. So I think that what we really are looking for - what we will be focusing on is this microbial life. That has a really good chance of being there. If you look at the environment, we see the water. We see that there are nutrients and they seem to be some other organic elements there. These will help to push us over the edge toward the microbial life.

OLBERMANN: Some of us here have been pushed over the edge for quite a while. I will not include you in that group. I'll just refer to myself that way.

PITTS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Derek Pitts of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Always our great thanks for playing along with us. Thank you, sir. Have a good weekend.

PITTS: Any time, Keith. You, too.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1,885th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. All that was clearly planned out by not so highly intelligent asparagus. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, June 26
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guests: Richard Wolffe, John Harwood, Hillary Mann Leverett, Michael Musto

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

The swing states swinging blue. Colorado, Obama by five. Michigan, Obama by six. Wisconsin, Obama by 13. Minnesota, Obama by 17. And numbers are even bigger amongst independents.

The conclusion: An emerging Democratic coalition. Even within the Democratic Party, the "AP" Poll, Clinton supporters - 23 percent for McCain; 53 percent for Obama.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to be determined to chart a new course and we cannot do that without electing Senator Obama our president.


OLBERMANN: And here's your "thank you" card.


MICHELLE OBAMA, SEN. OBAMA'S WIFE: Because of Hillary Clinton's work, the issues of importance to women and to working families are front and center in this election.


OLBERMANN: Charlie Black and John McCain's belief that a terrorist attack here would be good for their campaign now says an ex-McCain strategist, it was just a big joke caused by the reporter's bust line.


MIKE MURPHY, FORMER MCCAIN STRATEGIST: I think there must have been tremendous reporter cleavage involved or something.


OLBERMANN: (INAUDIBLE), the reporter was a guy. But thanks for keeping the story alive.

Two years ago, the Bush administration mocked the Clinton administration for negotiating with Kim Jong-il. Six weeks ago, President Bush mocks Obama, saying, "to negotiate with the terrorists and radicals was the false comfort of appeasement."

Today, President Bush cut a nukes deal with Kim Jong-il.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: So, I'm - it's been, multilateral diplomacy is difficult at times.


OLBERMANN: And: Bill-O's vendetta against me and NBC and GE reaches new heights.


BILL O'REILLY, TV HOST: I'm not objective here; I'm trying to get this guy. I'll admit it; I'm trying to get him.


OLBERMANN: He's also lying about him.

And: Mini-me shows off his mini-me-ness. The bird show you sex tape and a sound byte taken totally out of context.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is great, to show people that I can do other things.


OLBERMANN: All that and more: Now on Countdown.


O'REILLY: He's a bad number (ph).


OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Thursday, June 26th, 131 days until the 2008 presidential election.

If you had the sneaking suspension that as a presidential candidate, John McCain might be slowly turning into Bob Dole, but that if this was the suspension you did not dare give voice to, hit the mute button quickly and keep it off until I give you the "hi" sign.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Never mind Dole. After the first comprehensive polling in the swing states today, he might be turning into Alf Landon. And again, this could always be June for Barack Obama the way it was June for Michael Dukakis.

The Quinnipiac Poll, for the and the "Wall Street Journal," showing what its own directors described as an emerging Democratic coalition of women, of minorities, and of young voters propelling Obama to lead up to 17 percentage points among likely voters and 21 percentage points among independent voters in four states that could well decide the election.

In Colorado, Senator Obama is leading Senator McCain by five among likely voters, 49-44; among independent voters by 12, 51-39. In Michigan, Senator Obama is topping Senator McCain by six among likely voters, 48-42; among independents by eight, 46-38.

In Minnesota, where the presumptive Democratic nominee is up by 17 percentage points over his Republican rival among the likely voters 54-37, and looking at independents, the lead grows to 21. And in Wisconsin, Obama is up by 13 among the likelies, 52-39; and the same margin among the independents of 13, 50-37.

"In short," says the assistant director of Quinnipiac, "November can't get here soon enough for Senator Obama, he has a lead everywhere, and if nothing changes between now and November, he will make history."

All right. Here's that "hi" sign to those viewers still on mute.

There's even evidence of a Democratic coalition inside the Democratic Party. Another new poll from the "Associated Press" and Yahoo! Today, Senator Obama is winning over more than half of Senator Clinton's former supporters, 53-23 for McCain. In April, only 40 percent of Clinton supporters having said they would back Senator Obama over Senator McCain.

Obama's outreach to Clinton supporters is just now picking up steam. Tonight in Washington, Senator Clinton introducing her former rival to her financial backers, the so-called "Hillraisers"; his top fundraisers having been asked to garner five or six checks each to help pay down her campaign debt.

In Washington, Senator Clinton telling a group which supported her in strong numbers during the primaries, a gathering of Hispanic leaders, that the best way to help their communities would be it, "to make sure that we have a Democratic president taking the oath of office."


CLINTON: We cannot afford four more years of the same. It won't be good for any of us, and, therefore, we have to be determined to chart a new course. And we cannot do that without electing Senator Obama our president.


OLBERMANN: In New Hampshire, where senators Clinton and Obama will campaign together tomorrow - new video for everybody. Senator Obama's wife, Michelle, is getting a head start on the healing.


M. OBAMA: Because of Hillary Clinton's work, the issues of importance to women and to working families are front and center in this election. And tomorrow, as I said, she and Barack are going to be right there together, right here in this state in Unity, New Hampshire, and we are so incredibly proud and pleased to have her support.



OLBERMANN: A few caveats about those poll numbers. The Quinnipiac pollsters noted that Senator Obama's lead nationally is not hugely different from where Senator John Kerry stood four years ago at this time. And our friend and colleague, Howard Fineman writing that "June polls of a horse race that ends in November aren't all that reliably predictive as the survey experts say."

Time now to call on our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: All right. Howard's point first, it's only June. But the McCain campaign has spent a lot of energy and is throwing out a lot of math in trying to debunk all these very pro-Obama polls. Why is that? Is it because the one tangible right now is the effect that polls like these have on fundraising right now?

WOLFFE: Well, first of all, Howard's right. It's early, and it was early on the day of the election in 2004 when people in the Kerry campaign headquarters, where I was at the time, were cracking open champagne on the basis of the exit polls. So, you know, people need to take a deep breath here. But the debunking process is important for the McCain campaign because these kinds of numbers are depressing for their own turnout, they're depressing for volunteers, they're depressing for yes fundraising.

And you can debunk any number of polls. People did that with a "Newsweek" Poll earlier, the problem is, it's not just "Newsweek," it's the "L.A. Times" Poll, it's the state-by-state numbers. And if this congeals, if these numbers keep flowing for a month or so, then, the race starts to take on a dynamic, just because of the numbers.

OLBERMANN: Where is it not congealed? Is there anything seen so far in any of the polling that the Obama people think is soft, in doubt, even unlikely to hold?

WOLFFE: Well, they do think some of these state-by-state numbers may be overstated. But, say in Florida where they have been put up four or five points, and they haven't really campaigned, they think it may be pretty much dead even and certainly the Gallup tracking poll has the two candidates nationally dead even.

But they have mapped out a game plan across these states on the back of these polls that is very ambitious, because they do put some credibility, a lot of credibility, in fact, in the numbers they're seeing from places like Georgia and Alaska. It's not just a head fake here; this is serious campaigning they're planning to do.

OLBERMANN: All right. Richard, as to the demilitarized zone among the Democrats, "New York Times" reported that Bob Barnett, the Washington lawyer, was brought in to negotiate between the Obama and Clinton camps and the things on the table, Hillary's role at the convention. Why hasn't Obama yet written his $2,300 check into the Clinton sinking fund? How many Clinton staffers will latch on with the Obama campaign?

The Obama people are dealing with this minutia perhaps if those poll numbers are correct. But why are they doing it? Is it because if they're up nationally by 15, they actually want to be up nationally by 50 because they don't think they have any margin for error in the long run?

WOLFFE: Well, that's true. They're very competitive and they don't want to take anything for granted. There is still room for them to grow in terms of the Hillary Clinton base, also among women voters, but more immediately, they need money. They need to raise primary dollars which could most easily come from the Clinton folks right now.

Of course, the Clinton folks want to reach out to the Obama base and there is some friction there. There's friction because the Clinton folks don't think that Obama has done enough in terms of, for instance, sending an e-mail out to his whole base saying, "Please, help Hillary." So, they need each other right now just in terms of the money. But, moving forward, the Obama folks are pretty confident they can pull the party together on their own.

OLBERMANN: The polling here suggested that if Clinton is the running mate, 28 percent said they'd be more likely to vote for the Democratic ticket; 25 percent said they'd more likely to vote for the Republican ticket. Once again, second or third poll like this looks like a wash if she's on the ticket. In that light, do we look at tomorrow's event in Unity, New Hampshire, Unity festival, as a closing chapter or some sort of preface?

WOLFF: Well, I don't think it's a closing chapter on the veep side because actually, that's already closed. You know, if you talk to Clinton supporters, the people who really stuck with her, they don't hold out any hope.

You know, all that talk of demanding a place or at least being considered strongly on the short list, that's all faded away here. What they want is respect. They want an acknowledgment of what she's done and, of course, some discussion about what her future role should be. So, you know, moving forward, they're trying to figure this out, but there are no demands being made right now.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," as always, sir, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And apparently, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to try to beat Senator Obama. Well, try 6:45 a.m. That was the hour this morning in which McCain senior adviser, Steve Schmidt sent out a memo accusing Obama of partisanship.

And we'll quote from it, "There has never been a time when Barack Obama has bucked the party line to lead his on an issue of national importance. He has never been part of a bipartisan group that came together to solve a controversial issue. We don't need to trade Republican partisanship for Democratic partisanship."

The memo does not mention Senator Gordon Smith by the name, it might as well could have. The message, coming one day after the Oregon Republican in the middle of a tough reelection fight released a TV ad touting his bipartisan work with, you guessed it - Barack Obama.


NARRATOR: Who says Gordon Smith helped lead to fight for a better gas mileage and a cleaner environment? Barack Obama. He joined with Gordon and broke through a 20-year deadlock to pass new laws which increase gas mileage for automobiles. Governor Ted Kulongoski praised their bipartisan partnership on this critical issue. Gordon Smith, bipartisan leadership for energy independence.

SEN. GORDON SMITH, (R) OREGON: I'm Gordon Smith and I approve working together across party lines and this ad.


OLBERMANN: Wow. Let's bring in CNBC's chief Washington correspondent, also, a political writer for the "New York Times," John Harwood.

A pleasure, John, good evening.


OLBERMANN: So, the McCain strategy is now to go after Obama on partisanship despite, say, the Richard Lugar testimony about having worked with him, and that Gordon Smith combination of campaign commercial and love letter?

HARWOOD: I've got to tell you, Keith, that's going to be a pretty difficult strategy to pull off. Right now, Republicans are so concerned about the negative environment here, that it's really every man for himself. Gordon Smith is not going to follow the party line.

And I think one of the realities of this campaign year is that Republicans do not hate Barack Obama. It's not going to be easy to demonize him. And by the same token, Democrats don't hate John McCain. So, I think that old element of the playbook may not work so well.

OLBERMANN: There's something else that doesn't fit the partisan idea, it's really not to Obama's credit, but obviously, it won't help McCain either.

I know the practical politics of the FISA bill. He shuts off a whole line of your soft on terrorism attacks if he doesn't vote against it; and you get as hot about the issue as I have, you would rather see a President Obama prosecuting the telecoms criminally, rather than a Senator Obama throwing away a vote to keep open the civil suits from most of the other Democrats already caved in.

But regardless, Obama kicked the left in the teeth on telecom immunity.

HARWOOD: Exactly so. Barack Obama loves to get attacked from the left on being too moderate on the war on terrorism. And there have been other things, Keith, too, where he's tried to make signals to the middle, saying, "I'm a free trader," and saying he might cut corporate taxes, saying he might delay some of those tax increases on the wealthy.

All of that is aimed on telling swing voters: You cannot put Obama in a far left box or paint him as a rigid (INAUDIBLE). That shows the difficulty John McCain is going to have making that argument that Steve Schmidt offered making it stick.

OLBERMANN: And the other one, the sort of the dark politics here. The "Washington Post" said the Republican strategists in the House are backing off their attempts to demonize Obama. The Smith ad obviously suggests that Republicans on the ground may not go along with the partisanship argument. Is there another McCain strategy at this point?

HARWOOD: I think, at the end of the day, what John McCain has got to try to do is persuade Americans that it's simply too risky to put this young, relatively inexperienced senator in as president. Not an easy argument to make there.

There's such a powerful Democratic wave right now, unhappiness with Bush, concern about the economy, unhappiness and weariness with the Iraq war. But that's what they've got to do. It's going to be change versus risk and they've got to try to make that argument sell.

OLBERMANN: Can the Obama people come back, John, with bipartisan or partisan arguments of their own, given that McCain's voting record over the last two years is consistent with the administration - 100 percent this year and 95 percent last year?

HARWOOD: Well, it's very difficult for them to impeach John McCain's reputation as a maverick, but one way that they can prevent him for making the partisan argument against them is to say, "Hey, look, you voted against the Bush tax cuts when you were in the Senate in the early part of the decade, but ever since you've been running for president, you've been embracing those tax cuts." So, John McCain's got some flip-flops that he has to deal with, as well.

And, of course, one of the thing and realities about Barack Obama is much of the time that he's been in the Senate, he's been running for president in a Democratic primary. That pushes you to the left just as John McCain in the last couple of years has been pushed to the right by the Republican primary process.

OLBERMANN: John Harwood of CNBC and the "Washington Times," it's always a pleasure, John, thank you.

HARWOOD: You bet.

OLBERMANN: Funniest doggone thing, President Bush implied Obama was an appeaser because he wanted to talk to tyrants rather than just blow them up. Senator McCain called Senator Obama naive because he wanted to talk to tyrants rather than just blow them up.

Today, North Korea backed off it nuclear program after we talked to their tyrant.

And the McCain campaign claim that "a terrorist attack in this country would be good for their candidate" takes a bizarre twist. An ex-McCain advisor blames the comment on the cleavage of the reporter of the story. The reporter is a guy.


OLBERMANN: In 14 days, it will be exactly two years since the Bush administration mocked the Clinton administration for having sent flowers and chocolates and a Michael Jordan autographed basketball to Kim Jong-il, in the naive hope that it could talk him out of his nukes programs. Today, the Bush administration actually succeeded in talking Kim Jong-il out of his nukes programs.

Plus, you're on the Supreme Court and you don't know what the Second Amendment is?

And Bill-O's admission that he's not objective and he is trying to get the CEO of a major corporation. It could explain he lied about him last night. Worst Persons is ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The Bush doctrine: If you do it, it's appeasement. If we do it, it's diplomacy.

And our fourth story tonight: President Bush today lifted some of the U.S. sanctions on North Korea, a member of the "Axis of Evil" about which Vice President Cheney once said, "We don't negotiate with evil, we defeat it."

Mr. Bush said he lifted the sanctions after extensive multi-party negotiations, including the U.S., evil, China, Russia, Japan and south evil. Bush's appeasement to "evil" including lifting the provisions of the trading - with the enemy act and 45 days from now, ending evil's status as an official state sponsor of terrorism. Mr. Bush defended his weakness, claiming that diplomacy with America's enemies works.


BUSH: Multilateral diplomacy is the best way to peacefully solve the nuclear issue with North Korea. Today's developments show that tough multilateral diplomacy can yield promising results. And so, it's been - multilateral diplomacy is difficult at times.


OLBERMANN: Just two years ago, the White House ridiculed the Clinton administration for its previous efforts at diplomacy on this very issue.


TONY SNOW, THEN-WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY: Bill Richardson went and look for flowers and chocolates and he went with light-water nuclear reactors, and he went with promises of heavy oil and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan and many other inducements for the dear leader to try to agree not to develop nuclear weapons and it failed.


OLBERMANN: Of course, Kim Jong-il did not have nuclear bombs until six years into the Bush administration, and despite Mr. Snow's contempt for the Clinton offer of oil, National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley today confirmed that part of the current U.S. offer includes jet fuel.

In return, Kim today gave China a partial declaration regarding his nuclear program, promised access to facilities for verification, and released 19,000 nuclear documents which U.S. officials will now translate into English from their native evil.

Mr. Bush compared today's capitulation to his previous deal with Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, after Libyan agents blew up a plane load of Americans out of the sky over at Lockerbie, Scotland.

We'll turn now to Hillary Mann Leverett, the former National Security Council director for Iran and the Persian Gulf.

Thanks for your time, once again tonight.


OLBERMANN: I don't mean to mock engaging North Korea, I'll even applaud the administration for getting done what it's gotten done. But how on earth can they do it while they insist that engagement with tyrants is automatically appeasement?

LEVERETT: It's a very good question. You know, as a realist, I support this deal. I support the progress on this deal with North Korea, as I supported the deal with Libya when I was in the Bush administration and as I continue to support and advocate a similar deal with Iran.

But for this administration, particularly at this point, this is pure hypocrisy. Less than a month ago, President Bush went to Israel, stood before the Israeli Knesset and invoked holocaust imagery by calling these types of talks - appeasement. He and the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, have both called these types of talks appeasement.

But, of course, these are the types of talks that actually work to minimize threats and allow the U.S. to take advantage of opportunities worldwide. It worked with Libya and it worked with, I think it will work with Iran and it is working with North Korea. It is hypocrisy in terms of the politics.

There's also hypocrisy in terms of the substance. Keep in mind that on Iran, the big pre-condition, the big thing that we insist Iran has to do, is suspend uranium enrichment before we'll even talk to them, let alone have a deal with them. This deal today goes forward not only having talked to the North Koreans but an actual deal with actual awards even though North Korea, I guess, to continue its uranium enrichment.

OLBERMANN: And, do we also do something else with this by refusing to talk with North Korea and now doing it in earnest after they have a bomb? Do we worry that the administration has given incentive to rogue nations that, you know, get the bomb and that will force us to the table?

LEVERETT: Yes, absolutely, particularly in this case. I remember in the first term, when I was at the White House, Secretary Powell at the time made the terrible political mistake of going public saying that our policy with North Korea would be to continue the talks that had been initiated under the Clinton administration. For that, he was scolded inside the White House internally, and then was forced, really, to go public to apologize for making such a mistake.

Of course, then, when North Koreans tested their nuclear device and demonstrated to the world that they had enough material for six bombs, then we were willing to sit down and talk to them, have a "give and take," come to a deal and defuse the crisis.

OLBERMANN: You mentioned Iran. Does this change anything today with the Bush administration and Iran, or do people like Dick Cheney see no connection between some sort of successful negotiation with North Korea and not bombing Tehran?

LEVERETT: Well, that's a very - that's an important question. I mean, I think what's happened here is there is a demonstration that unconditional, direct bilateral talks actually work to defuse crises, to deal with our adversaries, and to take advantage of opportunities. We have been unwilling to do that with the Iranians.

So, here, I think the Iranians will take the message that they need to up the ante both in terms of their rhetoric and their action and then, that's the message the Iranians are getting. Internally, inside the U.S. government, my concern is, that the - for lack of a better word, hard-liners epitomized, I think, by Vice President Cheney, they don't ever give away nothing, something for nothing.

I think in terms of their agreeing with this deal on North Korea today, we could very well see and my concern is, that we could very well see a more militaristic push on dealing with the Iranians. Potentially in another unnecessary war dealing with Iran because the administration is not really coming clean with the American people in terms of what works - unconditional direct talks versus their ideas of what could work in theory.

OLBERMANN: So, we may have been seeing internal diplomacy with the "republic of Cheney" in addition to what we just saw with Kim Jong-il.

Hillary Mann Leverett, former staffer on the National Security Council during the current Bush administration, once again, great thanks for your time.

LEVERETT: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: The graduation ceremony at which the initials B.A. did not stand for Bachelor of Arts.

And: That word militia in the Second Amendment, "Forget about it," says one of tonight's Worst Persons in the World.

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

Number three: Rigging the election-gate. Lost in the Supreme Court's misunderstanding of the Second Amendment today, another whopper from Justice Alito, the "millionaire's amendment" has been ruled unconstitutional. It was the act that balanced funding in the House and Senate races when a rich guy was using his own money to run against a not so rich guy. If a candidate funded his own campaign, he or she had to submit extra disclosure forms about it and the opponent could start raising funds at twice or even three times the usual legal limits.

Justice Alito and the four other chowder heads threw that out today because it discriminates against the rich guy.

Number two: More oil drilling-gate. Senator McCain favors it who voted him in is Congressman Issa from famed Tim Russert's name while he argued for it in the House and now a criticism saying, "Drilling in U.S. waters offshore would produce nothing for five or 10 years and even then only add a minimal amount of oil for the supplies. And so, in the year 2018, it would not knock more than a nickel off your gallon of gas."

Which Democrat said that? Well, not a Democrat, rather Guy Caruso, the head of Mr. Bush's Energy Information Administration. He is the administration's top forecaster on energy. You figured it out, haven't you? Who the only people are who could possibly benefit from more drilling, right? The people who make money when you fuel your home with oil products and not say - wind.

But our winner support the troops-gate, this is about private first class Isaac Stevens 3rd infantry division, 11 Bravo Company. That's where he started. And he suffered a head injury and spinal damage during training. Last November, PFC Stevens was discharged with his claim for medical benefits not yet processed.

You heard me, he was removed from the army, no longer received his army pay and had not yet been granted any army benefit money. Did I mention the injury have left him in that wheelchair? That was last November. By February he was broke. By March, he was in a homeless shelter. By April, from his wheelchair, he had had to fight off the sexual advances of another man in the homeless shelter.

Fortunately, for Private Stevens, a social worker at an army base, working in her spare time, got him into an apartment with help from a non-profit, non-governmental organization. But nearly 20,000 disabled soldiers like Isaac Stevens were discharged in the last two years, and most of them had to navigate or fall through cracks between the last day of pay and the first day of benefits, a gap of up to a year.

You let this happen, Mr. Bush and it's your critics who are not doing enough to support the troops?


OLBERMANN: Best persons in a moment, and he wanted to apologize for breaking out of their jail, so he turned to flowers. First, 45 years to the day since President Kennedy's famous speech in Germany in protest of the Berlin Wall, in which he expressed the west's solidarity with Germans imperiled by the Soviets. "Ich bin ein Berliner," he said, translation, I am a Berliner.

Since June 26, 1963, it has gradually become an unaccepted fact that the president unknowingly committed one of the great bloopers in political history, that to residents of Berlin, Berliner was not their term for themselves but rather for a local jelly-filled doughnut, the Berliner. In point of fact, Berliners called those doughnuts (INAUDIBLE), although Germans in other towns did call them Berliners. So JFK did not actually make a gaff the equivalent of standing in occupied Denmark and saying "I am a Danish."

Let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: We begin in Briarcliff Manner, New York with a high school prank gone horribly wrong. This is a Youtube video of last week's Briarcliff High graduation, featuring senior David Toronto, who before he grabbed his sheep skin dropped trou and lifted gown. The crowd was shocked. The principal was angered and after he refused to give Toronto his diploma, he called the cops. Monday, Toronto, surrendered to the police on disorderly conduct and exposure of a person charges. Not just any person, today he pleaded not guilty, as we look at a loop of Toronto shooting the moon. Toronto was released. He still has no diploma. He faces another court date in July. Let's hope he faces it.

Finally, to the nation's capital, where no watermelon is safe this time of year. Not to mock the idea of fireworks safety. Just imagine a day without thumbs, let alone a lifetime. But every year the Consumer Product Safety Commission releases these weirder and weirder and wicked awesomer videos. The CPSC once again reminding us not to hover directly over your fireworks after you light the fuse. Letting mother pull up a lawn chair next to your pyrotechnics remaining a bad idea. And when you're sitting down to do some light summer reading, make sure to sweep the desk for live ammunition. The CPSC says last year 10,000 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries. That's not even counting these brave, innocent, vulnerable dummies. Put your fingers in your ears. Thank you.


OLBERMANN: McCain's chief strategist Charlie Black's claim that a terrorist attack would help McCain's chances of election taking a weird turn. A former McCain strategist says the remark must have been inspired by the reporter's cleavage. The reporter was a man.

As is Verne Troyer, Mini-Me. He has a sex tape. For it, they want a price of 100,000 dollars. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best bad joke and/or on-air loss of mind, right wing water carrier Hugh Hewitt, asking his listeners to find him two tickets to next fall's USC/Ohio State football game, because, quote, it is probably the last football game we'll ever get see before the United States gets blown up by the Islamists under Obama.

In the event you were joking, gosh, you sound almost like Thurber. In the event you weren't, gosh, you sound almost sane.

Number two, best improvisation, nobody seriously hurt, but Frederick Duane Mckainy (ph) of Jackson, Michigan has been arrested for first stabbing his mother in the back of the neck with a regular kitchen fork and then getting in an argument with a passerby and hitting her in the head with ten pounds of frozen chicken.

Number one, best manners, Luis Camacho-Mendoza. He broke out of the county jail in Van Buren, Arkansas. Jailers believe his heart wasn't really in it, not just because when they found him a day later hiding in a private home in a pile of clothes, quote, he wasn't hiding too good because you could see the outline of his head in the pillowcase. No, not because of that, but because when they discovered him missing, he had left on his bed a flower, which he had fashioned out of toilet paper.

Upon his recapture, Mr. Camacho-Mendoza explained he left the flower because he felt sorry for all the trouble he was causing the captain at the Van Buren Jail.


OLBERMANN: John McCain has yet to address it seriously. Charlie Black has yet to resurface since it was revealed. In our third story in the Countdown, former McCain chief strategist Mike Murphy is now talking about Mr. Black's revelation to "Fortune Magazine" that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil between now and the election would be, in his opinion, would be good, good for McCain's chances of becoming president.

Mr. Murphy has somehow turned it into a sexist joke. In 2004, of course, McCain made similar remarks about the impact of a bin Laden video on George Bush's election chances. He is silent now, but not so Mr. Murphy, going on Dennis Miller's radio show to defend his friend offer a preposterous rationale for his behavior.


DENNIS MILLER, COMEDIAN: Charlie Black, the aide decamp for McCain who (inaudible) it here, does he have to go, do you think?

MIKE MURPHY, FMR. MCCAIN STRATEGIST: He's an old friend of mine, so I'll defend. I don't know what happened. I think there must have been tremendous reporter cleavage involved or something. Charlie got of his focus. He's a good guy. He's apologized for it.


OLBERMANN: Tremendous reporter cleavage. Except that Charlie Black was not talking to a female journalist when he made that statement. He was talking to "Fortune" editor at large David Whitford, who, as far as we can tell from this photo, has zero cleavage. I'm joined now by the senior editor of "The Atlantic," Joshua Green. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

JOSHUA GREEN, "THE ATLANTIC": Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Mike Murphy was obviously trying to be funny. Not knowing the reporter was mail shows a notable sloppiness, but not a big deal. But at heart here, a cleavage joke about terrorism, I'm missing something about why that is appropriate.

GREEN: Well, not just cleavage, man cleavage. I don't think it is. I think it was, obviously, you know - it compounds the gaff. They're trying to diffuse it. You can sometimes do that with humor. This, obviously, isn't a subject and the joke misfired. Look, there's a ritual that you follow in these situations if you step in it the way that Charlie Black did. You take your lumps. You let the candidate attack you, distance himself from your comments, and then you disappear for a couple weeks.

So, if I had to guess, I would imagine Charlie Black is in the northern Marianna somewhere, getting some R and R. In a couple weeks, if this blows over, he'll be back on the campaign trail.

OLBERMANN: The Obama camp has said repeatedly it's not up to them. They've been very hands-off here about whether Black should continue on the McCain campaign. Are we beginning to on day four of this understand their position, because the Republicans are keeping the think alive by themselves. And if Black does not get fired, he and his remarks become lay-ups for Obama in the debates?

GREEN: That may be it. I don't see why you couldn't bring this up in the debates even if he did get fired. I think they're focused on the economy this week. They wanted to hew to that message, the Obama campaign has. The McCain campaign hasn't had any trouble kind of keeping in the news themselves with help from Mike Murphy. So, I think they'll wait and let this play out on its own.

OLBERMANN: Another familiar refrain about this one; why isn't the Charlie Black remark itself or McCain's non-reaction to it or the two 2004 McCain remarks that seem to presage what Charlie Black said, why are all these things not getting that much media attention? And how different might that equation be if one of Obama's key campaigners made an equivalent remark of some kind about a terrorist attack in this country before the election?

GREEN: Two things at play. Number one, I think there is a bias on the part of a lot of people that what Charlie Black said probably, you know, more or less is right. So therefore, people don't get that excited about it. Number two, you know, just about the only thing the McCain campaign has been talking about is national security. Had the shoe been on the other foot and an Obama adviser made that line, it would certainly be, you know, in the front of the Drudge Report, and it would be a message that Republicans would be pushing.

You know, again, Obama has chosen not to do it. The issue has sort of dragged out a bit on its own. But it really isn't getting the kind of impact and the kind of play that you would expect, certainly not if it was a Democrat that made the remark.

OLBERMANN: This might be my wishful thinking, and I'm stating that as a disclaimer up front, but between this and the deal between Mr. Bush and North Korea after McCain was calling Obama naive for wanting to make a deal with nations like North Korea, is Senator McCain getting some bad luck on these national security issues, or is it some bad policy making or what is it?

GREEN: I think it's sort of a whole perfect storm of just GOP badness. He's not getting any favors out of the White House, who are negotiating with evil. He's not getting any help his Senate colleagues. Gordon Smith is practically begging Barack Obama for an endorsement. He is kind of out there on an island on his own. I think that's one reason why his campaign seems to be having so much trouble functioning.

OLBERMANN: By the way, just to clarify that's the People's Democratic Republic of Evil when we're talking about that particular kind of evil.

GREEN: My bad.

OLBERMANN: Joshua Green, senior editor of "The Atlantic," great thanks on this.

GREEN: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Tremendous reporter cleavage, seems more applicable to the story of Mini-Me's sex tape.

Who can hear those magical words sex tape without thinking of this guy? He's back in worst persons ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Mini-Me having mini relations caught on a mini-cam. The Verne Troyer sex tape, provided I don't change channels myself, next.

But first, time for our number two story, Countdown's worst persons in the world. The bronze to Sean Hannity of Fixed News. On the Rupert Murdoch network talking about those carbon off-sets you purchase to off-set your carbon footprint; "those off-sets, that is the biggest hoax in the world. You know what it's like, you go cheat on your wife and then say, honey, don't worry, I bought an off-set. Good luck."

This is the second time Hannity has dismissed off-sets and going green and climate change. Apparently utterly unaware that his boss pledged to make News Corp carbon neutral by 2010; "while we reduce our own carbon footprints, some emissions will be unavoidable. As a last resort, we will off-set these emissions. The carbon off-set is a financial tool to support projects that prevent carbon from being released in the atmosphere. Done right, they will widen the implementation of carbon saving technologies and give an incentive to create new solutions."

Murdoch has also boasted that the telecast of the most recent Emmys was carbon neutral and added, watch your arse, Hannity, me boy.

Our runner up, Bill-O. Having exhausted his company's supply of fiction for direct attacks on me and Matthews and the late Tim Russert in the "New York Post," Bill O is back to his GE Iran fantasy, saying on TV, "when Goodyear stops selling tires to Iran in 2006, GE, the parent company to NBC, became the only major company to continue dealing with the Mullahs. CEO Jeffrey Immelt admits the situation, saying GE can't quit Iran cold turkey."

No one is dealing with the mullahs, you simpleton. There's international firms still working in Iran. One of them has a contract to use GE stuff and has promised it expires next Monday. I know this is complicated for anybody whose brain still runs on steam, Billy, but there are no GE deals with the government of Iran. Not that this interrupts Bill. On the radio, he lied this way about Immelt: "He's selling stuff to Iran who are killing American soldiers." Nice grammar. "But that shows you how corrupt the whole operation is. And, remember, they're the parent company of NBC News, the most corrupt news agency in the history of the United States, so it all links in. I mean, I'll tell you, I'm not objective here, I'm trying to get this guy. I'll admit it. I'm trying to get him."

This just in, Bill-O is not objective. "I'm trying to get him."

Stick to what you're good at, trying to get your women producers.

And our winner, Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court. You've got around 30,000 gun deaths in this country per year, another 75,000 non-fatal gun wounds, half the suicides are by gun; and this clown and his four colleagues decided that the 32-year-old ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., and the demand that firearms kept in the home be locked or disassembled was unconstitutional based on the Second Amendment. You remember the Second Amendment, "a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Despite years of fog created by the NRA and right-wing organizations, that isn't very complicated; for the purposes of forming a state militia, you're entitled to keep and bear arms. Obviously, those would have to be the kind of use in arms since 1791, when the Bill of Rights was passed, the musket, the wheel-lock, the flint lock, the 13th century Chinese hand canon. Stuff like that.

Scalia, of course, simply decided that the militia part of the Second Amendment is some sort of quaint anachronism that he could happily ignore. There's the beautiful thing about our country, they say anybody can grow up to be a Supreme Court justice. And in Antonin Scalia, there's your proof, and tonight's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: An update on a story we told you about earlier. Senator Obama and Senator Clinton after their meeting tonight with Senator Clinton's donors at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington; Senator Obama telling them he will personally donate the legal maximum 2,300 dollars to the Clinton campaign to help clean up its 22 million dollar campaign debt. There is Senator Clinton leaving. Neither of them spoke to the assembled media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Due to mature and graphic subject matter, viewer discretion is advised.

OLBERMANN: If that doesn't get the point across, number one story on the Countdown tonight, the return of stories my producers are forcing me to cover. And Verne Troyer, AKA Mini-Me, has made a sex tape. Let's start out team coverage with a sound bite gratuitously pulled out of an interview that has nothing to do with the topic.


VERNE TROYER, MINI ME: This is great to show people that I can do other things.


OLBERMANN: You bet. Yes, the 2'8 thespian, whose most recent project "The Love Guru" has been a flop at the box office appears to be exploring alternate sources of income. This according to, which posted a sex scene co-staring his former live in girlfriend at its website. Smiley face modesty affects courtesy of our editors. The video, mysteriously leaked to the public, is being shopped around reportedly by Kevin Blatt (ph) of Paris Hilton sex tape brokerage fortune fame. It could fetch anywhere from 100,000 dollars to, you guessed it, one million dollars.

When gravitas is imperative in a story like this, we always know where to turn; Michael Musto, who pens "La Dolce Musto" in the Village Voice and joins us now. Good evening.

MICHAEL MUSTO, "THE VILLAGE VOICE": Was he ingesting helium there?

OLBERMANN: No, I think it's always like that.

MUSTO: OK. He's cute.

OLBERMANN: Mini-me resorting to a sex tape. Is this a sign of troubled times for our planet?

MUSTO: Keith, this is known as a documentary short subject. But even so Verne needs a step ladder to give somebody a hickey, let's say that little people do have stuff going on sometimes. In fact, I heard that Herve Villache (ph) was so endowed that they could use his stuff as a ramp to the plane. True story.

OLBERMANN: I'm still back in documentary short subject. If the Screen Actors Guild authorizes this reported strike, we might start to see more of these videos. Could that turn into something of a commodity and suppress the market value of something like the exquisite and beautiful expression of the human love act here?

MUSTO: If so, I'm totally for the strike. Let's suppress the market value of this trash. The problem is that Verne's girlfriend, when she pops her eyes when she sees his business, that is going to be called acting. Therefore, she'll be called a scab. By the way, if you want to see more scabs, check out Amy Winehouse's new sex video.

OLBERMANN: The notion that this tape was leaked, would it be Machiavellian to suspect this was all deliberate for some reason, including the fact that one of the most highly trafficked gossip website just happens to have a sneak peek promo.

MUSTO: Yes, the only thing that legitimately leaks in Hollywood is Pamela Lee's left breast. By the way, her sex video now looks like "Gone With the Wind" compared to this. And Screech's looks like "Citizen Kane," Citizen Candy Cane. It's ridiculous. Obviously, this whole thing was totally planned and marketed, even more than when Ryan Seacrest impulsively kissed Terri Hatcher in public.

OLBERMANN: The last check of the TMZ online poll that went with this had 90 percent saying that they would not buy the tape, which leaves this terrifying fact, that 10 percent say they might.

MUSTO: They're liars. The whole 100 percent are going to buy it. I wouldn't believe they wouldn't buy it when it was Tonya Harding's tape, which looked like two guys doing it. I don't know, when Joey Buttafuoco rolled over onto Amy Fisher. That was like a snuff film. But in this case, they're going to want it. This is more alluring than when Dudley Moore fondled Linda Hunt.

OLBERMANN: Verne's co-star is this, according to "In Touch Weekly," we can now report is 22-year-old aspiring actress and model Renee Schrider (ph). Do we know anything about her other besides the obvious joke that size doesn't matter?

MUSTO: Right, she's not a size queen. There is a picture of her on TMZ, interestingly, with Paris Hilton. So she doesn't only like people with small privates. Also, she has a dog which is bigger than Verne. Also, here's an exclusive, Keith, I overheard her saying to Verne, if you have sex with me and I hear about it -

OLBERMANN: She's so big, two guys could make love to her at the same time and never meet. Is the ultimate lesson on this, Michael, please leave pornography to the professionals?

MUSTO: Yes, like Pamela Lee. No, the message is when you hear that an "Austin Powers" star is doing a sex tape, don't excited that it might be Heather Graham, or even Seth Green. It's going to be the midget.

OLBERMANN: All right, fine. I know him. He's a great guy, but you just threw me with that one.

MUSTO: He's taller than Verne.

OLBERMANN: The one and only Michael Musto. Thank you, Michael.

That was Countdown for this, the 1,884th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.