Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, June 17
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guest: E.J. Dionne, Jonathan Alter, Richard Wolffe

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

The Republicans return to the politics of terror. Senator Obama's support of habeas corpus and the Constitution means he's a, quote, "perfect manifestation of a September 10th mindset." "A law enforcement approach to terrorism," according to the McCain campaign.

Obama blasts back.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: I don't think they have much standing to suggest that they've learned a lot of lessons from 9/11. These are the same guys who helped to engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could have pinned down the people who actually committed 9/11.


OLBERMANN: In short, Obama speaks the forbidden truth George Bush and the Republicans failed to get Osama bin Laden or really even to try.

As high gas prices and oil dependency strangle the average American, Senator McCain's solution today - more drilling for more gas, for more high gas prices, for more oil dependency.

The politics of flooding: Obama with at worst a good photo op in the Midwest; the president with, at best, a softball for every comedian in the nation.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: I unfortunately have been to too many disasters as president.


OLBERMANN: Some of them even outside the Oval Office. Worst Person: The sock Obama created withdrawn, apologized for, now - re-introduced.

And FOX tries to sell war with Iran. Their missiles could hit inside the United States provided we move the United States 5,000 miles closer to Iran.

And: He is John McCain and he did not approve this message.


TERRY ADAMS, PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICE: I'm voting Republican because sometimes the Constitution is just one big inconvenient headache.


OLBERMANN: And: Why is the governor of Michigan brandishing a shoe?

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Tuesday, June 17th, 140 days until the 2008 presidential election.

Proving that often a farcical argument makes the best political firestorm, Senator McCain's campaign today accused Senator Obama of being "a perfect manifestation of a September 10th mindset" and of taking a law enforcement approach to terrorism.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: This comes 28 days after an FBI counterterrorism agent told the House Judiciary Committee that under President Bush the bureau had hired and appointed counterterrorism supervisors with little or no experience in anything but domestic crime and had a rule rotating out all counterterrorism specialists once they had reached five years experience.

In short, agent Bassam Youssef (ph) had said, under a Republican administration, the FBI was, in effect, taking a law enforcement approach to terrorism. John McCain today reviving the politics of "vote for the Democrat and you'll die," trying to make an issue out of Senator Obama's comments to ABC yesterday in which the Illinois Democrat told correspondent Jake Tapper that the U.S. government is fully capable of cracking down on terrorists, quote, "within the constraints of our Constitution."


OBAMA: It is my firm belief that we can track terrorists, we can crack down on threats against the United States, but we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution. Let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that in previous terrorist attacks, for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.


OLBERMANN: Senator Obama adding, and this portion of the interview was not broadcast, the transcript provided by ABC News, quote, "The fact that the administration has not tried to do that, has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, "Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims."

Former presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani, remember him - among the Republicans attacking Senator Obama for his stance. Mayor Giuliani's remarks containing - yes, a noun, a verb and 9/11: "Barack Obama appears to believe that terrorists should be treated like criminals - a belief that underscores his fundamental lack of judgment regarding our national security. In a post- 9/11 world," Giuliani continues, "we need to remain on offense against a terrorist threat which seeks to destroy our way of life."

That will be $900, except at the Bush era FBI as mentioned above.

The official McCain attack coming in the form of a conference call during which Senator Obama was accused of having that perfect manifestation of having a September 10th mindset and of not understanding the dangers posed by America's enemies.


RANDY SCHEUNEMANN, MCCAIN ADVISOR: What Senator Obama's statement reflects last night is that he's advocating a policy of delusion that ignores what happened in the failed approach of the 1990s, which allowed al Qaeda to thrive and prosper unmolested, and that policy clearly made America less safe and more vulnerable.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: This is an extremely dangerous and extremely naive approach toward terrorism.


OLBERMANN: Except when they use it at the Bush era FBI as mentioned above. The attackers in that conference call would be Randy Scheunemann, a neocon former adviser to Rumsfeld about Iraq; also, the former CIA director, James Woolsey, who served as a lobbyist for Ahmed Chalabi.

This afternoon, Senator Obama is making clear that he will not be lectured by such Republicans on who would keep America safer.


OBAMA: Let's think about this - these are the same guys who helped to engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could have pinned down the people who actually committed 9/11, in part, because of their failed strategies, we've got bin Laden still sending out audio tapes. And so, I don't think they have much standing to suggest that they've learned a lot of lessons from 9/11.


OLBERMANN: Time now to turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Did Senator Obama sort of reveal the rarely spoken truth in all this, that President Bush and the Republicans failed to catch Osama bin Laden and really did not make a serious effort to do so? Is that getting sort of lost in this back-and-forth?

WOLFFE: Are we talking about the same bin Laden that the president wanted dead or alive?

OLBERMANN: That one.

WOLFFE: And the bin Laden that he would capture with the so-called Bush doctrine which would be to treat terrorists and those who harbor them in the same way. You know, there is an interesting debate. I mean, to be fair, the administration has certainly stepped up its attacks in the Pakistani tribal areas in pursuit of the core al Qaeda leadership.

But Obama has a unique position in the sense that he can argue - something that John Kerry couldn't and a lot of Republicans and Democrats can't - which is that Iraq was a diversion, a distraction, and he opposed it from the beginning because it was just that.

So, he's in a very different position in terms of talking about the hunt for bin Laden. And remember, when he brought up the idea of increasing the hunt, taking on the Pakistani tribal areas, he was lampooned by the Republican candidates as Dr. Strangelove. So, you know, this whole debate can leave your head spinning.

OLBERMANN: All right. So, Obama says that he wants his administration to conduct itself within the law when fighting terrorism. The response then comes that he is attacked for advocating only a law enforcement approach to terrorism. Richard Clarke said today on Obama's behalf that this is the Karl Rove strategy of taking what the truth is and stating the opposite. Did we just get a preview of the rest of the general election? Does the future awfully like the past 2006, 2004, 2002?

WOLFFE: Well, they're playing the same playbook. And to be fair, both campaigns are trying to get tactical advantage here by pulling quotes out of context and running with them in a way that maybe more like a caricature than the real context.

But what we're seeing here is something broader, which is the idea that this is 2004 again, and the Republicans can run the same arguments as if the war in Iraq has gone just fine and bin Baden and the core al Qaeda leadership is all locked up in Guantanamo ready to for trial. Of course, there have been no trials out of Guantanamo Bay. And if there were a record to run on this idea, this argument would be just fine. Unfortunately, as the Supreme Court and many others have pointed out, it is a deeply flawed process.

OLBERMANN: And Obama coming back the way he did, not on the Republicans' terms, something was learned from these previous Democratic self-victimizations of going in and playing the semantic game. He just comes out and shoots from the hip. Is that the right call?

WOLFFE: Yes, and he's taking some advice there from John Kerry. He told them that but it's also his own instincts and his own record, as I've just mentioned, about Iraq. You know, we asked him, I asked him questions on the plane today about this very issue.

He is not advocating that people in Guantanamo Bay should have the full rights of U.S. citizens. He is saying they should have a modicum of due process. But more importantly, he makes the point that the Republicans are not in a position to lecture about the right way to treat these terrorists because they haven't dealt with the ones they've captured and they haven't captured the core leadership.

OLBERMANN: And Richard, lastly, if McCain - all the polling suggests that McCain's key route to the presidency, maybe his only route to the presidency, is to separate himself from President Bush. If that's the case, why on the conference call does he have two Bush neocons speaking Bushies (ph) on his behalf?

WOLFFE: You know, they are behaving as if they're still in the primary phase and need to lock down their base. I was speaking to someone who is very closely involved in the McCain campaign in 2000. And they're really scratching their heads here about why he's not running as an independent. That leaves the core McCain brand - right now, he's running as a Bush Republican.

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

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For more on the big picture, let's turn to E.J. Dionne, the "Washington Post" columnist, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. E.J., good evening.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Keith.

I can't be back on NBC without thinking of Tim. And I'd just - I appreciate all the coverage you've given him. I mean, he was somebody, a famous guy who never forgot he was from Buffalo. He knew it was as easy to be kind as it was to be cruel. So, he was kind and warmhearted. We miss him.

Thanks for having me on.

OLBERMANN: Our pleasure. Thank you for saying that. Back to the grind of this.


OLBERMANN: A perfect manifestation of September 10th mindset. I had to check the calendar this afternoon. Is this the 2004 presidential election all over again or did we move on or did we get frozen in time back there?

DIONNE: In 2002, I mean, it's really striking. I think what John McCain is trying to do is to push aside every other issue other than national security because that's really the only issue on which he and the Republicans still have a lead on the Democrats. And what he wants to do is to have people think that the main job of the president is to keep us safe, 9/11 we're going to revisit.

I think the problem with that strategy, which Richard alluded to, is that this ties McCain very closely to Bush, which he doesn't want be. And I don't think it works in the way it did. Not because we've forgotten 9/11, not because we've forgotten about terrorism, but because we've heard this before used in a very political way. And so, I think it has blowback on McCain as much as its does an offensive push for him.

OLBERMANN: And of course, it didn't work in 2006 in the midterms.

The Republicans lost the House and the Senate.

DIONNE: Right. Now, I think McCain's gamble is people vote a little differently when they vote for president than when they vote for a member of Congress in '06. It's much easier to cast a protest vote when you're voting for Congress, you want a chief executive. But again, it goes back to what Obama does with this and that Obama has the strength of having opposed the Iraq war.

McCain supports the Iraq war but really doesn't want the focus there. He wants it on this more general idea of toughness. And I think it's imperative for Obama to take on the whole national security debate. He can't just neutralize it.

I think Democrats have tried just to say, "Well, we need to neutralize this." No, I think this is one of those issues where he's got to win it. He can't just let McCain dominate the issue.

OLBERMANN: Well, to come back and say as he did today, "I'm not going to take any lessons from Republicans who basically failed on this" in every respect seems to be to that point. But does it need to be - how much further does he need to go? Should he saying - look, if John McCain is painting me as only wants to stay within the Constitution, doesn't this mean, why doesn't John McCain trust the Constitution and the laws of the United States? Should he be out there socking him in the jaw with something like that?

DIONNE: Right. I think that there is a way you could raise both the civil liberties issue and the issue of what's effective. When you look at this recent Supreme Court decision, we are behind the curve because the administration wasn't willing to work with Congress to fix what was wrong with Guantanamo or to shut it down and to have is a set of rules that everyone could agree would be constitutional. We'd be safer if we had done that.

And so, I think that the Obama argument is following the Constitution is not only the right thing to do, not only good for our civil liberties, it's also a more effective way to fight terrorism. And I think he's got to make an aggressive affirmative case.

OLBERMANN: So, the McCain argument works with this new body of voters we're hearing about this year, the so-called "low information" voters, that they're the ones to whom this attack is intended?

DIONNE: I actually have more confidence in the low information or so-called "low information" voters. There's a great academic called Sam Popkin (ph) who argued that voters operate on what he called low information rationality, which basically means that an awful lot of voters end up voting for the candidate they would have voted for if they had put four or five hours in it. And so, I think the "low information" voters can be moved by good information no less than the high information voters.

OLBERMANN: Yes, the BS detector works whether it's a $4 model or a $400 model.

E.J. Dionne of the "Washington Post" and the Brookings Institution - thank you, sir.

DIONNE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: John McCain is also claiming today the day after Al Gore endorsed Barack Obama, he is the green candidate, even though he's just switched from opposing offshore oil drilling to insisting on it. And only hours before the news was breaking, at this hour, that President Bush has just demanded of Congress.

And in Worst Persons tonight, Congressman Darrell Issa of California has just used the memory of the late Tim Russert on the floor of the House to try to sell offshore drilling.


OLBERMANN: The solution to the nation's gas crisis - more offshore drilling for gas, more dependence on gas, more profits for gas companies. John McCain said that this morning. And if he's trying to distance himself from the president, bad and breaking news at this hour, the president has just called on Congress to lift the offshore drilling ban.

And: They're selling a little sock puppet of Barack Obama made out to look like curious George. Yes, the monkey, curious George. Does that ring a racial problem with you by any stretch of the imagination? Worst is ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: John McCain can't buy a break as he continues to try to put daylight between himself and President Bush. First, McCain flip flops on his opposition to the 27-year-old moratorium on the drilling along the U.S. coastlines. Tonight, the breaking news that Mr. Bush will demand tomorrow that Congress do the exact thing.

So, on our fourth story on the Countdown: Suddenly the juxtaposition is Senator Obama is standing with a man who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change; and Senator McCain is standing with President Bush and big oil.

Just 20 hours after former Vice President Gore endorsed Senator Obama, touting his environmentally conscious energy policy in front of a Detroit audience, Senator McCain stood up in front of a Texas crowd to announce his own energy policy, boasting of his commitment to alternative energy and renewable fuels. A commitment that has not been reflected necessarily in his Senate voting record, while reversing his 2000 campaign stance against lifting the federal ban on offshore drilling, turning out to be something of a warm-up act for Mr. Bush, and now saying it should be up to the states to decide whether to explore for oil off America's coastline.


MCCAIN: As for offshore drilling, it's safe enough these days that not even hurricanes Katrina and Rita could cause significant spillage from embattered rigs off the coast of New Orleans and Houston. We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it's time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.



OLBERMANN: Senator Obama quick to point out that offshore drilling will have little to no effect on the current price of gas.


OBAMA: The biggest problem with John McCain's position is that it seems like a classic Washington political solution, which is to go out there and make a statement without any clear evidence that this would result in strengthening the U.S. economy or providing relief to consumers.


OLBERMANN: Joining us now, our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor of "Newsweek" magazine. Jon, thanks for coming in tonight.


OLBERMANN: Once again McCain's chances, all the polling say it's one thing principally. Separate yourself from President Bush. So, this morning, he reverses course at least an eight-year position on offshore drilling. Tonight, the president insists on offshore drilling. He's going to take it to Congress tomorrow. Was McCain knowingly Bush's talking horse on this, or was it total coincidence?

ALTER: No, it's kind of synchronized flip-flopping with Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, who also flip-flopped on this. And now they're in league with the boss. The president is going to come out and they're going to try to throw the onus on Congress to make Congress seem like it's standing in the way of reducing gas prices.

But you have to accept that the oil companies are telling the truth when they say that this was somehow result in lower prices at the pump, when it takes many years for - some people say as long as 10 years - for the result of this offshore drilling to turn up. And actually, if you look at the pricing by oil companies, what they usually do is leave the drilling, the leases kind of vacant.


ALTER: Until they can make big money. So, they don't pump a lot in order to keep prices low, they pump a lot in order to exploit high prices. So, it's no coincidence, for instance, that Exxon Mobil last quarter reported the largest profits of any company in world history.


ALTER: And Obama has now flip flopped on his previous opposition - support for.

OLBERMANN: McCain has.

ALTER: Excuse me. McCain has flip-flopped on his previous support for a windfall profits tax. So now he wants to give them even more profits, as if that's going to somehow lead to more exploration.

OLBERMANN: Well, that cheering there at the end of that clip was not from people who are saying, "Oh, the price of gas is going to go down," it was from people who are cheering because the price of gas is going to stay the same or go up. That was the point of that.

ALTER: Well, yes. You know, the idea here is sort of wrong on so many different levels. I mean, you also heard McCain saying that there was no environmental threat during the hurricanes because of supposedly these newfangled drilling apparatus on the continental shelf. It's true that it is better; it is safer than it once was. But we've had 80 spills in the last years.

The idea that there's no environmental threat is simply wrong. And that's why so many Republicans in states like Florida and California have also been against drilling out there.

OLBERMANN: So, now, they've added a security aspect of this. I'm sure the president, maybe the president will touch on this. Did you know China is drilling off the coast of Cuba? I mean, Sean Hannity told me this is true. Jean Schmidt, the congressman from Ohio told me this is true. Is it true? Do we have start embargoes? Do we have start saying Cuber (ph)?

ALTER: Well, they got that from Dick Cheney. You'd be shocked to learn. And he had to issue a statement saying that it was untrue.

OLBERMANN: Oh, then, I guess Jean Schmidt and Sean Hannity didn't get that.

ALTER: They didn't get the memo.

OLBERMANN: One thing I am stumped politically on the other side of things, how does Al Gore sell Barack Obama and alternative energy in Michigan?

ALTER: Well, I think what this is about - first of all, Gore is more popular in Michigan than people realize. He carried it in 2000. And also, Obama needs some shoring up there because he wasn't able to campaign there during the primaries. But the third reason to do it in Michigan is that Obama uses as a talking point that he can tell hard truths to interest groups.

And so, he says pretty much all over the country, "When I talk about higher fuel economy, I do it in Michigan," to show that he's independent and willing to stand up to special interests. So, I think he wanted to reinforce that. And besides, you know, the oil companies - excuse me, the auto companies have gotten some religion on the environment lately and I don't think will respond too badly to this message.

OLBERMANN: That's where the next profit is. Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, as always, many thanks.

ALTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A programming note. If Senator McCain's new energy policy seems to be 100 percent new policy and zero percent new energy, you don't know the half of it. How McCain's top advisors opened up the Enron loophole, that which is at the heart of the $4 gallon of gas and every energy crisis in the land. And that McCain himself had protected the loophole like it was one of his own children. A Countdown Special Report tomorrow night right here.

So, you say she is your girlfriend and she's got a degree from Illinois and a two-year drivetrain (ph) warranty? Very nice.

And this sleazebag actually just had the gall to use Tim Russert's name as part of his campaign to drill for oil off the California coast. Worst Persons is ahead.

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

Number three: Support the troops-gate. The latest evidence that for this government, that is not a policy but a brand name. ABC News is reporting that the Veterans Administration has been using our Iraq and Afghanistan vets in emotional distress as guinea pigs for unproven drugs for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. One of them is called Chantix. The V.A. gave it to our heroes for three months before telling them of the possible side effects which include suicide and neuro-psychiatric behavior.

Former army sniper, James Elliot, said he was told Chantix would help him stop smoking. Months after he began taking it, he found himself in his street in front of his house with a weapon asking the police to shoot him.

Number two: Halliburton-gate. Charles M. Smith, the senior civilian overseer in the army for war contracts, well, he was in 2003 and 2004, then he notified the then Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, that army auditors have determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion it was charging the Pentagon as expenses in Iraq, and then he was fired. And then the army hired outside contractors to re-review the KBR billion according to Mr. Smith. And then KBR got paid nearly all of the billion.

And number one: Pass the buck-gate. The Senate Armed Services Committee is investigating the history of harsh interrogation techniques and when and under whose insistence the idea that we should waterboard people or otherwise torture them, entered into the mindset of the Pentagon.

The general counsel to the Defense Department under then Secretary Rumsfeld, Jim Haynes (ph) testified to the Senate in 2006, that the proposal to use torture originated well down the chain of command from Gitmo commanders, who in October 2002 told the Pentagon that suspected terrorists had stopped cooperating. He produced a memo from the top military lawyer at the prison, suggesting specific harsh interrogation techniques would be legal.

Unfortunately, Senate investigators have found Pentagon memos and e-mail from July of 2002 in which the Rumsfeld elite were asking for suggestions from military experts about stress positions, sleep deprivation, hooded questioning and the like. Late that month, a final list of such actions was compiled. Many of those e-mails were written by James Haynes, the same Pentagon general counsel who insisted that the idea had originated at Gitmo four months later, even though they clearly originated in the Pentagon.

And beyond the obvious problem, that represents for our nation and what we are supposed to stand for. That small detail is a very, very, very big problem for Mr. Haynes and for the man for whom he worked, Donald Rumsfeld.


OLBERMANN: Best persons in a moment, and Victor told his python to attack the others, but the snake just stared at him. As the snake did not speak English.

But first, 98 years ago today, one of the great sports announcers was born. Russ Hodges broadcast the games of the Cincinnati Reds, Washington Senators, Washington Redskins, New York Yankees and New York and San Francisco Giants, 39 years in the big leagues. Three minutes of it, his unforgettable call of the Bobby Thompson home run to win the National League special play off in 1951; "the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant." Probably the greatest moment in baseball broadcasting history, recorded only because a Brooklyn Dodgers fan wanted to preserve the sound of Russ Hodges crying as his Giants lost the pennant to the Dodgers.

Let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: First in Oddball traffic, we begin with a one car, two hump pile-up on a highway in India. An ugly car/camel collision. The vehicle was totaled. Luckily, the occupants escaped with minor scratches. Sadly the camel did not make it - wait a minute, this just in: the camel lives. Run away, run away. Remarkably, somehow the camel survived the collision and loped back into town, where he found a lawyer and sued everybody.

To Tokyo, where we get a glimpse in the latest in inappropriate robot technology. This is E.M.M.A., Emma, the curvaceous female robot created by Sega. Fembot offers more than 60 moves, including giving smooches to nearby humans, when her programming kicks into what her designers call her love mode. E.M.M.A. costs 175 bucks and goes on sale in September. Sega has branded her a cheap alternative to a girlfriend and is marketing Emma - oh, god, this is that twilight zone with Jack Warden and Jean Marsh on that deserted planet come to life. Oh, no.


OLBERMANN: How to look like it might actually matter to you. The midwestern flooding and the political response. And I'm voting Republican because I don't feel that I deserve health insurance. The spoof video that may become the best advertisement of the presidential campaign. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world, an all best dumb criminals edition.

Number three, best dumb criminal international on foreign turf, a German reporter covering the European Soccer Championship, late for his flight from Verona in Italy to Vienna in Austria, so naturally he decided to delay takeoff by phoning in a bomb threat. Unfortunately, he then went to the gate and said, hey, I heard takeoff has been delayed. Of course, the airline had yet to make any public announcement that takeoff had been delayed. He's in the jailhouse now.

Number two, best dumb criminal international on home turf, unnamed 19-year-old thief in Frankfurt in Germany, caught with cronies breaking into a supermarket and handcuffed. He somehow got away from the cops only to show up minutes later asking for help removing the handcuffs at the police station. He's in the jailhouse now, next to the other three guys who didn't run away.

Number one, best dumb criminal domestic, Victor Rodriguez of Bridgeport, Connecticut. After he allegedly threatened his girlfriend, police were summoned. On the officer's arrival, they say Mr. Rodriguez looked at his nine-foot-long albino python, pointed at the policemen and told the snake to, quote, get them. A police spokesman pointed out that unlike, say, dogs, pythons tend not to respond to commands like get them or fetch. Who did this guy think he was, Voldemort?


OLBERMANN: If it was not quite heck of a job, Brownie, today, it was dangerously close. Our third story tonight, the Bush administration faced once again with American cities under water, only this time two potential presidents offer alternatives. After spending most of the Midwest flooding crisis in Europe, Mr. Bush today discussed how his administration, including the same Homeland Security secretary who ran FEMA during Katrina, is responding this time.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been briefed by Secretary Chertoff and Secretary Schaeffer and Director Paulison about the response. First task at hand is to deal with the floodwaters, anticipate where the flooding may next occur.

Unfortunately, I've been to too many disasters as president.


OLBERMANN: Really? First I'm hearing of it.

To the president's point, the Army Corps of Engineers already anticipated the next flooding. The Associated Press obtaining yesterday an Army Corps map showing 27 levees in danger of overflowing along the Mississippi. One levee did fail today in Illinois. Mr. Bush today said he would visit the region on Thursday and that the waters are now receding, the Mississippi, in fact, has still not reached its crest in some areas, including the Illinois town where Barack Obama went to help fill sand bags three days ago. Obama also asking his supporters to volunteer on his website, soliciting donations for flood relief.

McCain raised funds for himself this week, has not visited the region and yesterday issued a two-sentence press release about the floods.

On that note let's turn to MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, whose own program airs weeknights on Air America Radio. Good evening, Rachel.


OLBERMANN: Senator McCain's wounds in war and his time as a P.O.W. precludes him getting out and filling up sandbags, but was this conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan right that Obama's contrast with Bush after Katrina was powerful and was one of those iconic images that may carry a lot more than great policy or great words.

MADDOW: The contrast is striking. The fact that he was there relatively early - and this is an on-going disaster, but he was there relatively early. He was there at a time when there wasn't already blanket national media coverage of what was going. And by being there, he attracted more media coverage than there otherwise would have been. The fact that he was doing something practical on the ground alongside regular Americans, who were also trying to do practical on the ground sorts of help. It is the exact visual opposite of Bush flying over the already inundated Gulf Coast after he had finally realized that maybe his vacation had gone on a few days too long.

OLBERMANN: He's looking out there going, I see land. But as to Mr. McCain, he was obviously - the day before, he and Bush were celebrating McCain's birthday. Has he improved his performance in this or did he still miss out on Woody Allen's role, which is 80 percent of life is showing up.

MADDOW: Well, before locking up the Republican nomination for president, as far as I know, John McCain took one public tour of New Orleans post-Katrina. And then once he was running for president, he's now been to New Orleans and been to the Gulf Coast before. But as a senator, before he had that nomination, he'd been there once.

He voted against extending unemployment benefits to Katrina survivors. He voted against extending Medicaid benefits to Katrina survivors. He voted against investigating the cause of the levee failures in New Orleans.

OLBERMANN: And denied later that he did any of those votes.

MADDOW: Yes. That's right. When asked about it by a local New Orleans reporter, when he was down there on one of his photo ops since he's been running for president, he was asked why he voted twice against investigating the levee collapses. And he said, I don't know what you're talking about. So since the Midwest has been inundated in this current round of flooding, John McCain has mostly been in Texas. He gave this big speech to oil executives today, talking about the joys of drilling off the coast. I don't know if he's going to show up and do either a photo op or something substantive, but I think it would send a good message if he did.

OLBERMANN: Yes, at some point, maybe towards the fall. But how did they stack up, photo ops aside, in terms of prevention or immediate response to this? Because obviously, we have - whatever the causes of this are, we are in a cycle where we're getting more bad weather, for whatever reason that is.


OLBERMANN: And the answer, the ultimate answer is there's going to be more flooding, whether from sea or from rivers down the middle of the country.

MADDOW: It's more bad weather and the causes, as you say, are a whole different topic of discussion. But it's also failing infrastructure. We had a great investment in infrastructure and say that era of Eisenhower, then a generation later - a generation before that, we had a great investment in infrastructure in the Great Works Projects, in the works projects of the WPA and those other types of projects of that era.

We skipped a generation in infrastructure. A generation after Ike it was the time of Reagan. And we should have been investing in infrastructure all again, 30 years later, just like we had 30 years before.

OLBERMANN: Not if you're going to spend the time breaking the air traffic controllers union as your principal labor issue. Yes.

MADDOW: So, it is weather and it is global warming and it is issues like that, but it is also how resilient we are as a country. A big part of that is our infrastructure. So John McCain could prove himself to be a very different kind of Republican by saying, you know what, one part of Ronald Reagan's legacy and the legacy of conservatism and the Republican party that I reject is that we should neglect our infrastructure. I reject that. I believe that levees are not pork. I believe that we should invest in our infrastructure because it's an investment in our national strength. That would be a great moment from John McCain. We haven't seen that yet.

OLBERMANN: Or he could just say, I don't know what you're talking about, which could also be true.

Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC. That's a nice color in your jacket. Thank you.

MADDOW: I'm glad to see you got the memo.

OLBERMANN: Funny. Funny. This commercial talks about how these folks are voting Republican, but I'm not hearing them say many pro-Republican things in the commercial. What's up with that?

And this is what it looks like. Barack Obama transposed into the monkey Curious George. The inventors first apologized for this textbook minstrel show kind of racism, have now changed their mind and are coming out with it anyway. Worst persons next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Why did Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan take off her shoe before introducing Al Gore at the Barack Obama event last night? Why did that make me think of Castro and not Khrushchev? And for whom does Chauncey Billups (ph), who preceded the governor, play basketball? That's ahead, but first time for our number two story, Countdown's worst persons in the world.

Our bronze tonight to David and Elizabeth Wassen (ph) of West Jordan, Utah. They had created something called the sock Obama, a rip-off of Curious George, which depicts the Democratic candidate as a monkey. After the expected response, they apologized and said they were withdrawing the item from sale. But they've now told a local newspaper that, quote, a few new opportunities have been presented and they were retracting the apology and going into production?

OK, for what, 150 years, first among the most obvious racial insults to blacks in this country has been to compare them to monkeys and other simians. Twenty five years ago, Howard Cosell, who was the most non-racist guy in sports, nearly got fired for calling Alvin Garet (ph) of the Washington Redskins a little monkey. If I'm still not getting through to you, Mr and Mrs Wassen, here is the level of racism and prejudice you're showing: it's as if somebody made Mr. And Mrs. Lawson dolls, only they made three because they thought it would be funny and appropriate to assume you're husband and two wives because you're from Utah.

Our runner up, Gregg Jarrett of Fixed News, not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. But seriously, a Shahab missile fired from Iran, he said, quote, could actually hit, I think, some military installations in the United States. Distance from Tehran to Washington, D.C., 6,300 miles. Distance a Shahab missile can fly, 1,200 miles.

Please, Greg, John Moody and the other Fox guys spend a lot of time writing up those political talking points for you. Please take the time to read them or just recite them outright. Don't hinder the network's vital propaganda work. Thank you.

And our winner, the foremost quack in American government, the monstrous representative Darrell Issa of California. During a series of tributes on the floor of the House this afternoon in memory of Tim Russert, while the wake was going on, delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington said our hearts are breaking. Fortunately, Mr. Issa doesn't have one of those. "No story of Tim Russert would be complete if we didn't talk about loss this political season," he began his remarks. We're going to miss Tim Russert when it comes to people on the both sides of the issue of why we have five dollar gasoline and 135 dollar oil."

This cur proceed to invoke Tim's name five times during a self-serving political pitch for offshore drilling. Let me just quote Paddy Chaefsky's screenplay for his film, "The Hospital," Congressman, Issa, you're greedy, unfeeling, inept, indifferent, self-inflating and unconscionably profitable. Besides that, I have nothing against you.

Congressman Darrell Issa - I'm sorry, representative; he is not human, therefore man is the wrong term. Issa, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: The basketball player who served as the warm-up act at the Gore/Obama event last night in Michigan was Chauncey Billups of the Detroit Pistons. I believe I identified him as playing for the Denver Jelly Makers, who went out of business after the 1946 season. And the reason the next warm-up act, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, pulled off her shoe will be explained shortly. But when I said she was invoking memories of Castro at the U.N., I should have said Khrushchev at the UN, even though there's no evidence Khrushchev actually took off his shoe and banged it on the podium at the UN.

Maybe I should have said that the governor reminded me of the Denver Jelly Makers, who went out of business after the 1946 season.

Our number one story on the Countdown, and we haven't even gotten to the humor by politicians, like Cindy McCain's latest recipe scandal. Or this video, a Democratic Internet ad in sheep's clothing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're voting Republican because we don't like shopping at small neighborhood stores.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want the problem of choosing where to shop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we just love cheap plastic crap from China.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye, baby, have a good day.

I'm voting Republican so that my little Katelyn can be in a classroom with at least 30 other children. That way, she can be challenged by fighting for attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm voting Republican because women just can't be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies. Never, ever, ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm voting Republican because -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really enjoy being screwed by the utility companies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need more minorities in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hybrid cars really suck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't feel I deserve health insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because Texas needs more billionaires.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm voting Republican because sometimes the Constitution is just one big inconvenient headache.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the whole world should be run by one big corporation. I think it would be so much cozier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I can stay in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I can go to Iran.


OLBERMANN: How about, I'm voting Republican for the recipes. Cindy McCain caught with her hand in the cookie jar this time. Once again, the would-be state dinner hostess is accused of stealing a recipe, this one a Butterscotch Oatmeal concoction appearing under her name in "Parents Magazine," but taken word for word from a Hershey's website.

Lastly, there is Governor Granholm. The governor mentioned Senator Clinton, whom she previously supported. When the crowd booed, the governor held her pump aloft and claimed, quote, "these high heels have carried a lot of weight for first women everywhere, but I'm proud to say that I'm supporting Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States."

To follow that act, let's bring in comedian Christian Finnegan, also a regular contributor to VH-1s "Best Week Ever." Good evening, Christian.

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, VH-1: Good evening, sir.

OLBERMANN: Is this the new thing for the Obama campaign? Isn't this a bit out of "Monty Python's Life of Brian?" Is this going to supplement the fist jab?

FINNEGAN: I think it could be. When you're a woman angrily shaking your pump at a group of people, that makes a strong statement. Unfortunately that statement is, I'm one of the pissed-off house mates on "Flava of Love."

OLBERMANN: Her point had to do with the bearing the weight of progress. I think that's what she was saying. But brandishing the shoe, just brandishing it, is that a half measure? Should she have tossed it in the air or bounced it on her head?

FINNEGAN: The least she could have done is take the Filene's Basement price tag off the sole. If you are going to take off a shoe, you can't be afraid to use it. This might be a new opportunity. She could be like the personal Obama henchwoman, like Odd Job from the Bond movies.

OLBERMANN: Whip it at somebody. This video, no doubt many Republicans would disagree, but did that montage provide any kind of valuable public service?

FINNEGAN: Oh, my god. This video is going to make so many converts for the Democrats. All those people out there thinking you know what, I really love the political far left; if only they could be a bit more smug. Honestly, it's like I agree with all the points the video is making. But halfway through, I found myself momentarily longing for Fascism. Usually I only have that feeling when attending an outdoor music festival.

OLBERMANN: Less might have been more on that one.


OLBERMANN: Cindy McCain, if she doesn't want to sit home and bake cookies or worry about making cookies, nobody is going to blame her. Instead of doing what she did, should she just say, look, I'm not a cook. I don't want to be a cook. I don't want to make cookies, instead of just stealing people's recipes and putting her own name on them?

FINNEGAN: If you're going to steal it, it would have been so easy for her to Cindy McCain-ize these recipes. All she had to do was to put the phrase, tell your hired help before each instruction. Tell your hired help to mix three eggs in a bowl. Tell your hired help to add a cup of sugar. Make sure not to spill anything on your fluorescent purple lady suit.

OLBERMANN: And, of course, you're forgetting the other thing, based on where the family income comes from, mix plenty of Anheuser-Busch brewing products in there. Just add a little Bud, then at the bottom of the recipe it says, as they say on the commercials, Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri. That last recipe appeared in "Parents Magazine." In the comment section, one reader compared the cutting and pasting by Cindy McCain to that of her husband's policies. I'm thinking that was not what she was going for in this.

FINNEGAN: At least Cindy McCain is plagiarizing Hershey's and they are sort of an authority on cookies. Her husband is plagiarizing President Bush. That's like taking a cookie recipe from a Vegan. Yuck.

OLBERMANN: Do we have, lastly, combining all the days news, other solid reasons to vote Republican that were, say, perhaps left out of that video or left out of the McCain recipe scandal?

FINNEGAN: A personal plea here. As a comedian, I'm begging you not to elect Barack Obama, because I have no angle on this guy whatsoever. It's been months. Nobody knows what's funny about him. There's only so many purple lips jokes to go around.

OLBERMANN: Go talk to Fred Armison, because he's got the stare-down. Let's start with him. Christian Finnegan, comedian and contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever," thank you, sir.

FINNEGAN: Good night, sir.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1,875th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Countdown will be live from Washington tomorrow night. We gather there to bid good-bye to our friend Tim Russert. At the family's request, the private memorial service will be available to you live here on MSNBC. I'll join you for coverage beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern from the Kennedy Performing Arts Center. The service itself will begin an hour later. I'm Keith Olbermann, until then, good night and good luck.