Friday, June 27, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, June 27
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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.