Thursday, July 31, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, July 31
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Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guests: Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, Paul Krugman, Chris Kofinis, Derrick Pitts

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

Meltdown. After the McCain "Britney Spears" ad, with its almost subliminal racism, a black man with two women, John McCain, personally, calls the Obama response "playing the race card."


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're going to try to say, "Well, you know, he's got a funny name and he doesn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the $5 bills."


OLBERMANN: But McCain didn't call that playing the race card when Obama said it three times yesterday and McCain didn't call that playing the race card when Obama first said it on June 20th.


OBAMA: I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with?




SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All I can say is that we're proud of that commercial.


OLBERMANN: Now, about two days behind his own campaign, McCain also repeats the lie about Obama in Landstuhl, 24 hours after his own campaign's official blogger acknowledged it wasn't true.

While you hawk the silverware to fill up the tank, Exxon Mobil is now making $1,486 profit a second. Its profits for the second quarter break all American records - $11,700,000,000.


OBAMA: We can't afford anymore tax breaks to oil companies while they make record profits, and we're paying $4 a gallon at the pump.


OLBERMANN: Ted Stevens indicted.

We've killed the al Qaeda guy who recruited the "shoe bomber." We've killed him for the second time in two years.

We found water on mars - again.

Luke Russert joins NBC News for the conventions.

And, the sound byte of the month -


WILLIAM BRATTON, LAPD CHIEF: Evidently, Lindsay Lohan has gone gay.


OLBERMANN: Live on local news the police chief of the city of Los Angeles, everybody.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Thursday, July 31st, 96 days until the 2008 presidential elections.

Senator McCain is saying this afternoon he wants the American people to decide who is playing the race card in this campaign. The first African-American with a shot of winning the White House now under attack for saying something yesterday, that he first said on 20th of June, to almost no response, or the campaign that has in a TV commercial, intermixed footage of that black candidate with images of two young white women.

In our fifth story on the Countdown: Who do you think is playing the race card?

The Republican today accusing the Democrat of playing it and playing it from the bottom of the deck because Senator Obama has responded to the Britney/Paris attack ad, by saying that his opponent is painting him as risky and different. Funny how the McCain campaign did not seem to have a problem with that yesterday when Senator Obama said it three times or six weeks ago at a Florida fundraiser when he went further, actually saying of himself, "And did I mention he is black."

This is the tape from yesterday.


OBAMA: They're going to try to say, "Well, you know, he's got a funny name. And he doesn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the $5 bills."

So, what they're saying is, "Well, we know we're not very good, but you can't risk electing Obama. You know, he's new, he's - he doesn't look like the other presidents on the currency."

"He's got a funny name. You know, he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills, you know."


OLBERMANN: Obama senior strategist, Robert Gibbs, is saying in a statement that Obama was not referring to race in Missouri yesterday. McCain campaign manager, Rick Davis, just as adamant that he was, telling our own Andrea Mitchell by telephone this afternoon about the Obama campaign's perceived indiscretion.


RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: His campaign actively has been feeding to journalists all night last night and all day today, the notion that somehow, something we have done in our campaign of which I could not identify for you today - was somehow had racial overtones.


OLBERMANN: Even though staff members like Mr. Davis speak for the McCain campaign and we have been told Senator McCain does not speak for the Senator McCain campaign. The senator is telling a crowd in Wisconsin that he is proud of the Britney Spears/Paris Hilton commercial and telling John King of CNN that the race card accusation stands.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is that a fair criticism for Rick Davis to say the Obama campaign is playing the race card?

MCCAIN: It is. I'm sorry to say, that it is. It's legitimate and we don't - there's no place in this campaign for that. There's no place for it and we shouldn't be doing it.

KING: They say that's not the case.


KING: OK. So, I -

MCCAIN: I'll let the American people judge.


OLBERMANN: There's no place for it. But apparently there is a place for merging the celebrity attack with the false, no longer abandoned Landstuhl attack.

The McCain campaign today sending out a statement for a former doctor at Landstuhl that reads, quote, "Last week, Senator Obama skipped a visit with wounded U.S. troops in Germany because the Pentagon would not allow campaign staff or media to company him into the hospital. I served as director of trauma surgery at that hospital for nearly four years and saw the effect that a visit from a celebrity like Senator Obama could have on morale."

Even before it, Landstuhl turned out to be back on the table after the campaign had supposedly rid of it. Senator Obama left wondering again what Senator McCain has in his platform besides attacks on him - featuring pop stars.


OBAMA: Given the magnitude of our challenges when it comes to energy, and health care, and jobs, and our foreign policy, you'd think that we'd be having a serious debate. But, so far - all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.


OBAMA: I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with?


OBAMA: Is that really what this election's about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?


OLBERMANN: Now, if we are addressing what is worthy of the American people, McCain surrogate/apologist, Senator Joe Lieberman, today is saying anyone now complaining about that Paris Hilton/Britney Spears ad, quote, "should just relax and enjoy it."


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, MCCAIN SURROGATE: So, the American people have an important choice to make in this election between Senator McCain and Senator Obama. I think the ads that Senator McCain is running are ads in that spirit; they simply compare the two candidates. When you talk about that, you know, and to some extent, the appearance of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears - people complain about it - I think they should just relax and enjoy it and be drawn - the idea is to draw people into the ad.


OLBERMANN: Anybody with any idea what Senator Lieberman means should immediately contact - Senator Lieberman.

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

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: How did Obama, saying what he said three times yesterday and having - actually said something even a little stronger for the first time in Florida towards the middle of June, how did that go from not being playing the race card as of last night, in the McCain campaign estimation, to being playing the race card today?

FINEMAN: Well, it's because the McCain campaign strategy has changed in the meantime. They've gone all negative all the time. All derisive ads, all Britney and Paris. And this is what they've been doing for the last several days and Obama walked into the propeller blades of the new McCain strategy.

I think the McCain people watched what happened in the primaries - saw that Obama was able to maneuver the race issue to his advantage, in many ways - in states like South Carolina, which totally flummoxed Bill Clinton. The McCain people decided they were not going to get in the same fix and decided to go on the attack as part of their new strategy to distract attention from whatever substantive issues Obama may be trying to raise in this campaign.

OLBERMANN: But also looking at the primaries and the Obama experience in that - is there a tipping point here? I mean, Landstuhl, Britney Spears, and the race card in three days - does McCain have to stop this at some point because others have tried this against Obama and inevitably wound up painting themselves into a corner where they didn't just look, initially they looked bitter, and then they moved on a kind of obsessed looking?

FINEMAN: Well, obviously, McCain's problem is he doesn't want to look like Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men" here. But he's got a problem. Most of the Republican conservative base doesn't like John McCain very much.

The only route he has to getting their support and getting them it show up, it seems, at least this is their theory, is to demonize Obama, to draw out the Republican base to go to the polls specifically to vote against this demon Obama. That seems to be the McCain strategy.

The risk for McCain is that he can lose whatever appeal he still has among independent voters. I just spent the day in Virginia, Keith, looking at that swing state. Obama's running strong in the Virginia suburbs, but McCain's got a shot there. But if McCain does this day after day after day, he's going to lose those independents in Northern Virginia.

OLBERMANN: And more to that point, I was amazed to hear McCain's answer to that woman at his rally, saying he was proud of that Britney Spears ad and then his answer to John King about the use of the phrase "race card." Is this a correct impression that this is not a carefully crafted campaign strategy by somebody else, but this is John McCain's personal game plan and this is John McCain right now?

FINEMAN: Well, I think it is John McCain right now because, I think, they're throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. This is John McCain in survival mode. It's not quite like the prison years, but he is tough character in a tough spot, and he's going to use anything he can to survive.

And they're getting some positive feedback, they think, from the polls, including the latest Gallup Poll which shows the race daily tracking tightening again. Of course, McCain isn't busting beyond 44 percent or 45 percent himself. But, at this point, he doesn't seem to care if he can drag Obama down to his level which he is trying to do, trying to get Obama in an alley fight. That's exactly what McCain is trying to do.

OLBERMANN: Well, and to that point, has Obama handled this correctly, politically. I mean, should the campaign really be claiming he was not referring to the Republican noting the color of his skin? And I ask this because the first version of what he said three times yesterday.

What he said on June 20th in the Florida fundraiser, the phrasing was very specific - let me quote this to you - "We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me, 'He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?'"

Well, obviously, that was a reference to the color of his skin and it was the only thing he did not repeat virtually word for word yesterday.

FINEMAN: Well, you can't take Robert Gibbs' statement at face value. You just can't. It doesn't make any sense and I think it's tactically wrong because Obama is saying that Democrats need to be on guard. Obama is saying that the country needs to be on guard. Obama is saying that it's a challenge for the country to deal, both with the positives and negatives of his candidacy.

He's trying to be honest about it. He should have all of his advisors and spokespeople be honest, too.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - as always, Howard, great thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: What if the McCain campaign had written two scripts for two different Landstuhl ads. For the ad they did produce - if Senator Obama canceled his trip to visit wounded troops in Germany, and one for - if he went through at the trip, accusing him of using wounded troops as campaign props.

A GOP strategist is telling "Business Week" that the campaign had just such a second script ready to go so that, quote, "no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch." McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis denying to Andrea Mitchell this afternoon that the campaign had a second ad ready to go, saying he still thinks Senator Obama made a mistake in judgment in not visiting the troops at Landstuhl.

Let's turn now to our own Eugene Robinson, also, of course, associate editor and columnist of the "Washington Post."

Good evening, Gene.


OLBERMANN: All right. Two ads ready to go. If true, would that not seem to prove that McCain having already reversed that position of "I'm running a completely clean" really could be willing to say anything to win the White House?

ROBINSON: Well, what that would certainly indicate is what is important is not the substance of the bashing but the bashing itself.


ROBINSON: And I think that is, that is where we are right now. I mean, you know, this was probably always going to be a negative campaign run by John McCain. He starts the race with a number of disadvantages. And the way to deal with that, classically, and often it works, is through negative campaigning. So, some Republicans are wondering what took him so long.

OLBERMANN: Yes, but on the other hand, a lot of other people are wondering, how did they get there this soon? We are getting one new sort of massive detonation today, the going negative portion of the McCain campaign seems to have started awfully early against historical references, does it not?

ROBINSON: Well, I guess, historical references, yes. And there is a certain kind of frantic nature, the sense you get that - you know, we talked about having two ads ready. You know, that they have a second, you know, Paris Hilton ad, too, a Lindsay Lohan ad, in case that tested better?

I mean, it's just like throwing this stuff against the wall. It's to create noise. It's to create a distraction. It's to make it about Obama and, you know, survive to, you know, deeper into the campaign. I think the McCain campaign was concerned about Obama just kind of running away with this thing.

OLBERMANN: But the frantic nature of this, though, never mind right or wrong - 96 days to go, can any campaign maintain this kind of pace in terms of attacks, or does it necessarily implode by just trying to do too much and trying to keep this bio-move (ph) 11 on a scale of one to 10 every darn day?

ROBINSON: Well, I don't think you can keep this up for very long. For one thing, as we've already seen, you can't keep the candidate on message if the message keeps shifting every day. So, you know, while we've disavowed the Landstuhl ad, you know, does he still support it? There's no way to expect a candidate in the middle of a campaign to keep all that straight. So, you're going to have some serious message problems, and then, just the energy level involved in, you know - I mean, they were so outraged that Obama dared, you know, note the fact that he's the first major party African-American candidate.

You know, fairly silly, in fact, that campaign doesn't have it be about that, but it's true. He doesn't look like those other presidents on the dollar bills. But, you know, that took a lot of energy to summon that sort of outrage in the McCain campaign. I don't think you can do this indefinitely.

OLBERMANN: And if the goal is to influence not necessarily national media but local media, as they have said, then they get hit with stuff like what was in the "St. Petersburg Times" today, "The self-described "happy warrior" in the 2000 presidential campaign has turned sour in 2008, and the candor and straight talk that once made him such an attractive candidate are rapidly disappearing."

That's obviously a crucial swing state. Is there some indication that this is backfiring on that grassroots level where they think it's actually going to succeed?

ROBINSON: Well, that's, you know, that's obviously not the kind of editorial you want to see. And the question is - is McCain aiming all this at the kind of "red meat" conservative Republican base that may have had some doubts about him from the beginning, or is he going to go after those independents who remember the old independent bipartisan John McCain.

Right now, he seems to be trying to energize the base and - you know, but I kind of take issue with the question of who these ads are aimed at. I think they are aimed at the national - they're kind of a national -

(INAUDIBLE) they're aimed at us. They're aimed at us as a kind of megaphone that gets the stuff out there and - so, I'm not sure I entirely buy the idea that, "Oh, well, we're just trying to reach folks that grassroots."

OLBERMANN: Well, save your wisdom on that. But just remember, if it doesn't work, they'll come out with an ad eventually saying Obama is not black enough. So, just stand by for that later on on the campaign.


ROBINSON: It will happen. You're right about that, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC - thank you, Gene.

ROBINSON: Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Exxon-Mobil made $1,486 per second in profits in the second quarter and John McCain is pushing for more oil drilling and more tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil. Gas, big oil, Obama, McCain and Paul Krugman.

And the Sy Hersh report - sitting around Dick Cheney's office, daydreaming of dressing up American Navy SEALS as Iranians, shooting at them, claiming Iran was trying to start a war and then attacking Iran.


OLBERMANN: With the price of a gallon of gas up $2.50 since George Bush was sworn in, why would anyone trust a Republican to do the right thing on prices at the pump, drilling or the profit that Exxon-Mobil just declared for the second quarter, $11,680,000,000? Economists and columnist, Paul Krugman, next.

Later: The sound byte of the month as Britney Spears' panties and the sexual orientation of Lindsay Lohan are discussed on a morning newscast, not by a gossip reporter but by the police chief of Los Angeles.

Live, local, and late-breaking: you are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Eight years ago, the average price of a gallon of gas was $1.47 and now it's $3.95. Eight years ago, Exxon-Mobil's second quarter earnings were $4,015,000,000. Today, that company announced second quarter earnings that are the highest in U.S. corporate history, a record breaking $11,680,000,000.

Our fourth story on the Countdown: Amazing what happens when two former oilmen are in charge of the country. How in the heck did we not see that coming?

Exxon's earnings as record-breaking as they were, were not as high as Wall Street projected, so the company shares dropped today. The classic case of "what have you done for me lately." Nevertheless, this year promises to be even more lucrative for the oil industry than last year when companies made over $155 billion.

Such record oil profits giving Senator Obama an opportunity to point out that his opponent's policies on oil are not geared towards helping the consumer, that according to the administration's own Energy Department - increasing offshore drilling will not lower gas prices now and will not produce any oil for at least 10 years, and even then, would not affect more than a few cents on a gallon of gas.

But a gas tax holiday would only save consumers half a tank of gas through the whole summer, and that the only people helped by such policies are the ones already making money hand over fist.


OBAMA: Senator McCain proposed a corporate tax plan that - listen to this - would give $4 billion each year to the oil companies, including $1.2 billion to - guess who? Exxon-Mobil. Last month, Senator McCain raised more than $1 million from, guess who? Oil and gas executives and employees most of whom - most of these campaign contributions came after he went to Houston to meet with a bunch of oil executives and announced that he was in favor of offshore drilling.


OLBERMANN: We're joined now by "New York Times" op-ed columnist and professor of economic and international affairs at Princeton University, Paul Krugman.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: We always fight the logical fallacy here but this cause-and-effect apply directly in this case, gas prices are more than doubled during the Bush presidency, oil profits have more than doubled during the Bush presidency.

KRUGMAN: Well, the gas prices and oil profits are going together. I mean, basically, you've got an oil company that owns some oil and the price goes up the way it has, they're going to make a lot of money.

Now, whether, you know, Bush is responsible for high oil prices, I don't think you can make that case. But we should remember that he promised, he said back in 2000, that he had - he knew what to do. He would deal and talk to OPEC into opening the spigots and, you know, they haven't managed to do that, so, this is a failed energy policy, for sure.

OLBERMANN: And speaking of failed energy policies - offshore drilling as a solution, even the Bush administration's own figures, experts, departments, are showing how meaningless this is, why is McCain still pushing it and why does it seem to be resonating with a lot of people?

KRUGMAN: Well, he is still pushing it because it's resonating. And I have to say, this is a little bit, you know, this is as clear cut, this is as cut and dry you can get. The Energy Information Administration last year in its energy report specifically addressed this and they said basically - no new oil, zero, zip until 2017 and insignificant effect on the price ever. So, you know, this is not, this you got from the horse's mouth, if you like.

But, you know, the people, it sounds good. We're going to drill, we're going to, you know, get some more stuff and American oil and I have to say - this is kind of disillusioning because, in the past, you know, when Bush has come out with crazy stuff, I partially blamed the news media for just not reporting on this. In this case, actually, the press has been pretty good in saying this is nonsense, but it's still working.

And half of the American people, according to the latest polls think that allowing this offshore drilling will, you know, cut oil prices next year when, in fact, it's going to take 10 years for it to do anything at all.

OLBERMANN: When you see a country like Brazil, which 30 years ago said enough to this and launched these serious, intense, alternative energy programs, and now, some huge percentage of their cars run on, essentially modified sugarcane.

Is the reason we don't do that here and have not committed to that here the fact that Exxon just declared an $11 billion second quarter profit and Wall Street was still disappointed? I mean, what is the incentive for these companies to spend to develop alternatives?

KRUGMAN: Oh, no, they don't - I mean, if you want to, you know, the reason to hate Exxon is not that it makes so much money, per se, it's the fact that it has not done anything to address the energy problem and it's actually spent heavily on, you know, financing climate skeptics, on basically blocking intelligent policy, on muddying the waters of our debate.

Now, whether we could have, you know, to be fair, we don't have a lot of sugarcane, so we couldn't really have done it as easily as the Brazilians did. But we could, you know, if Jimmy Carter had actually managed it sell us on energy conservation 30 years ago, we would be in a lot better shape than we are right now.

OLBERMANN: Back to the price of gas and the profits and this presidential campaign - if you look at the swing state polls, particularly in the 50/50 figure that you mentioned about, people believe that more drilling will affect, it will lower prices next year, and McCain has gotten a bounce from that belief - it would seem Obama is not winning one of the battles that might be easiest for him to win. Why not and what should he be doing that he is not doing?

KRUGMAN: Well, you know, I think he's falling into the kind of mistake that I would tend to make which is saying, "You know, this is silly, this is ridiculous. Nobody is going to believe that and that's not good enough."

And I think he's got - look, when I read Obama's response to the McCain ad about, you know, prices at the pump, Obama's response was, you know, "This is the same oil politics," which is true, but, you know, he was being dismissive. Obama was being dismissive when he ought to be outraged.

He's got to do some scene, "This is (INAUDIBLE). This guy is insulting your intelligence, he's really doing bad stuff, and you shouldn't be taken in by this," not sort of, "Oh, well, you know." I think that Obama is being a little bit too much of a professor, if I can say that.

OLBERMANN: Well, specify it, walk people through it.

Paul Krugman of the "New York Times," always in education, thank you, sir.

KRUGMAN: Thank you.

OLBERMNANN: OK, time for the religious citing of the day. An angel inside this window you say has nothing to do with the reflection of the lights across the street.

And the craziest sound byte of the month, maybe the year, as L.A.'s police commissioner today discusses whether Britney Spears is wearing pants and what Lindsay Lohan's sexual orientation is. Live on the local news.

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

Number three: He was so bad we had to kill him twice-gate. As the Web site points out, in January 2006, the Pakistani military claimed and the American media happily reported that in an air raid there, the U.S. had killed the Midhat Mursi, also known as the al Qaeda bomb maker and the man who recruited Richard Reid, the shoe bomber - Abu Khabab al-Masri from Peshawar, Pakistan comes the news today that during an air raid by drones in south Waziristan, the U.S. has killed Midhat Mursi, also known as the al Qaeda bomb maker and the man who recruited Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, Abu Khabab al-Masri.

Now, maybe we had to kill him twice because he used two different names.

Number two, Halliburton-gate. This is the ever-escalating story of the Halliburton subsidiary, KBR electrocuting our troops in Iraq. The House Oversight Committee is conducting hearings, the Pentagon's inspector general sent a memo to that committee, claiming that there is, quote, "no credible evidence that KBR or the Defense Department knew in advance about the electrocution risks in the soldiers' showers."

That's a lie. As committee chair, Henry Waxman pointed out, he produced a work order from July 8th, 2007, in which Sergeant Justin Hummer, stationed at the Legion Security Forces building in Baghdad reported, "Pipes have voltage, shock in shower." Sergeant Hummer survived, the man who next occupied that very same room, Staff Ryan Maseth, was electrocuted while showering on January 2nd of this year.

And, number one: Katrina-gate - or perhaps more accurately, Katrina-revisionist history-gate. The secretary of energy, Samuel Bodman, interviewed on "fixed noise" answered a question that could have been fresh off White House talking points, about whether technology has improved dramatically enough that offshore oil drilling now poses no risk to the environment. Bodman answered yes. "When we had Katrina and Rita, the two worst hurricanes in at least recent memory in '05, some three years ago, there's not one case where we had a situation with oil or gas being spilled in the environment."

Sadly, Mr. Bodman is not telling the truth. The United States government's Minerals Management Service published offshore damage assessment in May 2006, Rita and Katrina destroyed 113 oil platforms. Rita and Katrina damaged 457 oil pipelines. Rita and Katrina caused 124 offshore oil spills. Rita and Katrina led to total spillage amounting to 743,700 gallons of oil.

Rita and Katrina proved that offshore oil drilling risks damage to the environment. And Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman proved that he is a cheap liar.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and the chief of police of L.A. talking about whether or not a celebrity is gay. Damnedest sound bite of the month. But, first, on this date in 768, Philip I began his reign as pope. And also on this date in 768, Philip I ended his reign as pope. At a time when popes were regularly seated or removed as part of wars, Pope Constantine had been captured by military forces early in the morning of July 31st, 768, and forced to quit.

Philip, who was a chaplain in a monastery at Rome, was promptly installed as his successor. But the man behind the coup had somebody else in mind for the papacy. So at nightfall of the same day he became pope, Pope Philip I quit and went back to his monastery and shortly thereafter Stephen III was elected, making Philip pope for a day!

On that note, let's play "Oddball."

We begin at Miami, Florida, and two nominees for dumbest criminal of the day who tried to steal a light poll by strapping it to the roof of their van. Because the police are never going to notice somebody driving around Miami with that hanging off their roof. Nice tying of the red handkerchief there.

To Porterville, California, and an angel in a carpet store. Angel in a carpet store. No, no, more accurately, it was in the window of a carpet store. Hundreds of people have been thronging to the parking lot of this store every night to see the heavenly apparition which only appears when the gas station opposite the store switches its outdoor lights on.

Apparently the good people of Porterville have yet to be told about that little something called reflection. Ted Stevens of Alaska, indicted but defiant, insisting he will stay on in the Senate and they'll have to pry the pork from his cold, dead hands.

And NASA says there is definitive proof of water on Mars, and this time they mean it, I think. Derrick Pitts joins us. All that ahead.

First, time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world. Number three, best hire, Luke Russert. It's official, he will join NBC News and MSNBC as a correspondent-at-large with the conventions coverage from Denver and St. Paul, focusing on the youth vote.

Number two, best birthday present. The author J.K. Rowling on her birthday confirming today that the handmade Harry Potter sidebar she sold for charity, "The Tales of Beedle the Bard," will be made available in commercial editions in time for Christmas. Now if she will only reveal the hint about the U.S. elections she put in one of the Potter books.

Number one, best crazy-ass sound bite from a public figure. Our first video best, L.A. police chief William Bratton, who this morning interrupted a workout at his gym to come out on the street and volunteer to be interviewed live on our MSNBC station in Los Angeles to insist that proposed legislation to protect celebrities from the paparazzi is utterly unnecessary. Listen to this.


WILLIAM BRATTON, L.A. POLICE CHIEF: If you notice, since Britney started wearing clothes and behaving, Paris is out of town not bothering anybody anymore, thank God, and evidently Lindsay Lohan has gone gay, we don't seem to have much of an issue.


OLBERMANN: Evidently, Lindsay Lohan has gone gay. Only in Los Angeles could the police chief who was born in Boston and used to be in the chief in New York come out of his gym to explain on a live morning show that evidently Lindsay Lohan has gone gay!


OLBERMANN: Senator Ted Stevens heads to court and his Republican colleagues head for the hills. Our third story on the Countdown tonight. While the scold of the religious right, Tony Perkins, openly worries about how this will hurt the GOP's attempt to claw its way back to respectability. His word, claw.

Senator Stevens' lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, did the talking during today's brief arraignment in Washington, pleading not guilty for the senator on corruption charges. Stevens, accused of concealing more than $250,000 worth of goods, and services from VECO Corporation, seven years' worth.

Sullivan requested a speedy trial. It might commence as early as September 24th so that Stevens could, "clear his name before the election." The senator was booked by U.S. marshals, released on bail, his passport surrendered.

Meantime Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, handily weaving Stevens into the bigger picture, writing in his newsletter yesterday: "As Republicans try to claw their way back to respectability before an election cycle, Stevens' debacle may do even more damage to the Republican brand."

Trying to avoid bad branding, the presumptive Republican nominee donated to charity the $5,000 Mr. McCain had received from Northern Lights, Senator Stevens' political action committee. And most of the GOP senators up for re-election have also donated Stevens' PAC money to various other charities. Let's turn now to Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, former communications director for the presidential campaign of Senator John Edwards.

Chris, good evening.


OLBERMANN: A trial starting about September 24th. Did you suggest that to him or somebody in the Obama campaign or was this his own stroke of genius?

KOFINIS: Actually, I suggested a trial that lasts many weeks and with a televised verdict right before the election. You have to wonder whether Stevens got a bunch of phone calls from Republicans after today's hearing where they asked him, which side are you on? I mean, this is getting, you know, unbelievable.

I mean, this is just another sad example of a self-centered politician that seems to put himself first, instead of his party or the country and it's unfortunate. But from my perspective, I'd say, thank you, Mr. Stevens.

OLBERMANN: Well, but to that point, now Senator Craig, Senator Vitter, now Senator Stevens, only Senator Craig even briefly thought about resigning to help clear the issue of - you know, perception of Republican scandals aplenty off the table for his party. Is there any evidence of a sense of bigger purpose or even a little selflessness inside the Republicans?

KOFINIS: It doesn't seem to exist. You would think that someone would want to take one for the team, especially if they remember what happened in 2006 when all the scandals really hurt and devastated the Republican Party, you would think that some would say, listen, it's time to go.

It doesn't seem to be the case. It seems to almost be the opposite where the Republican Party from the halls of Congress to the White House seems to be working pretty hard to prove the old axiom that, you know, absolute power corrupts absolutely. It doesn't make sense, but it really is an indication of what state the Republican Party is in.

OLBERMANN: The remark by Tony Perkins to say the GOP is still clawing in the clawing phrase of restoring its brand, once again, did you write that for him?

KOFINIS: Well, the words I would use describe the Republican brand have a lot more expletives involved. So my guess is, you know, clawing was the family-friendly way of describing the state of the Republican Party. I mean, let's be frank about it, this is a party with no ideas, no vision, no future electorally.

I mean, they are going to suffer some serious losses come November, even the Republicans, I think, can understand that. And when you have Republicans like Newt Gingrich saying that the party needs to come up with ideas and a vision, you know you're in a pretty bad state of affairs.

But their problem is, they're not only facing I think, political trouble, they're facing the wilderness. If they don't change and start changing their ideas, they're going to suffer more than just political defeats in '08. They're going to suffer, I think, a complete rebuke from the American people.

OLBERMANN: And as far as Senator McCain having to give the PAC money from Stevens to charity, why did they take PAC money from Stevens in the first place? I mean, this is anti-earmark McCain and Mr. Earmarks, Ted Stevens.

KOFINIS: Well, hypocrisy is becoming an increasing characteristic of John McCain and his campaign in 2008. You know, it's kind of unfortunate. He has become a sad caricature of the candidate he was in 2000.

You know, as I say, the John McCain of 2000 wouldn't vote for the John McCain of 2008. He proves that every single day. But what this also does, I think, expose a really powerful angle of attack from not only the Democrats, but for the Obama campaign. You know, this notion of John McCain as a maverick, as an independent, it's a mythology. It does not exist, it is no longer true.

And that, I think, is a very powerful angle of attack over the coming months. You prove the reality that John McCain was not the person he once was. His candidacy will crumble. And once that happens, this election is effectively down.

OLBERMANN: Chris Kofinis, former communications director of the Edwards campaign, thank you as always, Chris.

KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: There is frozen water two inches below the Martian surface. OK. We've all heard something like this before, why this matters from Derrick Pitts of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

And this matters, you're sitting around Cheney's office thinking about dressing up Navy SEALs as Iranians and shooting at them so that we could claim Iran was trying to start a war? Part of worst persons ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: There is another lake somewhere in the universe, we're not alone. And there is another chunk of ice somewhere in the universe. It's two inches below the surface of Mars. Why we are supposed to believe the scientists are serious about that this time.

And another conservative radio yakker doesn't even realize he has just called Ronald Reagan the anti-Christ, while an exterminator survives by eating bugs, and another exterminator plots a phony war against Iran in the White House. They are tonight's "Worst Persons in the World."


OLBERMANN: There's water on Mars. Seriously, scientists mean it this time. They're not pulling your leg, probably. Oh, and there's a lake full of liquid ethane on a moon of Saturn. That's ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's "Worst Persons in the World." The bronze, to Theo Rasmulder (ph), a part-time gold prospector in Australia who was found by natives deep in the outback after he was lost without food or water for four days. Rasmulder survived by eating insects and termites.

Look, there's nothing wrong with doing that. You do what you got to do. It's just that Mr. Rasmulder said afterwards that the taste of the bugs wasn't "too bad." And that just when he's not getting his butt lost while prospecting for gold, Mr. Rasmulder's day job is bug exterminator. Maybe he can cut down on the insecticides, just go to your house and chow down.

The runner up, speaking of bugs, Brian Sussman of KSFO Radio in San Francisco, which seems to produce an abnormally large number of radio guys who don't have time for the facts, spouting the GOP talking points about Obama and expanding on them to claim Obama was running for anti-Christ.

"He's giving this speech in Europe. He is talking about us being citizens of the world. I've got news for you, dude, I'm not a citizen of the world, I live on this planet, but I'm a citizen of the United States of America."

I've got news for you, dude, Obama said he was a proud citizen of the United States and fellow citizen of the world, and the last guy that said something like that, "I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world," Ronald Reagan. Cool, a conservative too stupid to realize he just called Reagan the anti-Christ. Dude.

And our winner, Vice President Cheney. Seymour Hersh's reporting sometimes seems way out there, but usually he winds up having actually understated reality. So let's just keep this in the "probably" file for now. He told the Campus Progress Journalism Conference that in a meeting in the vice president's office, members of the administration sat around brainstorming ideas to provoke a war with Iran.

"The one that interested me the most was, why don't we build, we in our shipyard, build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats, put Navy SEALs on them with a lot of arms, and the next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives and it was rejected because you can't have Americans killing Americans."

That's the kind of - that's the level of stuff we are talking about. Provocation, but that was rejected. Can you see this happening in Cheney's office? Sure you can. Can you see Cheney getting all happy and worked up and almost smiling? Sure you can. Can you see when they get to the part about Americans being killed and you can't do that and he just stares them all and says, so?

Vice President Dick Cheney, today's "Worst Person in the World"!


OLBERMANN: Stop me if you've heard this one before. NASA has found water on Mars. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. No, seriously. The number one story - I know what you're saying here, I have been saying it all day, didn't they say this previously 10 or 20 times? The presence of H2O, albeit in the form of ice just beneath the red planet's surface. Scientists at the University of Arizona, leading the Mars Phoenix Lander mission, say ice was discovered in a soil sample from the Snow White Trench - hi ho, about two inches deep and nine inches wide.

In other interplanetary news tonight, Saturn's moon Titan now boasting its own liquid, not for drinking though. Using instrument aboard the Cassini spacecraft, NASA concluded that Ontario Lacus, a lake about the size of North America's own Lake Ontario, contains Ethane produced when Methane reacts with sunlight. But it's a liquid, which happens to be a key component of crude oil.

Hey, let's start drilling, Senator McCain.

Time, once again, to call upon Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer from the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia.

Good evening, Derrick.


OLBERMANN: OK. I think I have been hearing this since I was in high school. How many times have we discovered water on Mars or just about discovered it, and why is today different?

PITTS: We're not pulling your leg. Honest to goodness, we're not. No. Here is the real story. The story is that finally we've been able to do the actual scientific tests on the soil to determine that water actually is there. Before we were looking at all sorts of other sort of indirect evidence. Photographs from orbit, radar studies, things like that.

Now, the way the scientists say, in the actual testing itself, we've been able to touch and taste the water. So we know it is really there now for sure.

OLBERMANN: All right. They taste - I heard this before earlier.

They tasted it. Who tasted it?

PITTS: It's actually the testing device itself that is lined with about - I think it's about 24 different sensors that can actually, in a sense, really taste it. So they know for sure it's there, but there's nothing else in it so far.

OLBERMANN: And they've already decided it is better than the tap water in L.A.

PITTS: Far better.

OLBERMANN: Let me put my cynicism aside. This discovery, what are the implications about life on Mars then or now?

PITTS: OK. So now what we have is the real set-up, Keith, for the possibility that life could have existed on this planet and maybe still does. We know for a fact that in order to actually chase the story of life, we have to look for the water. Now we know for certain.

And remember, NASA is trying to make sure it very carefully checks off each and every step to make sure that there's no mistake because you don't want to make a mistake going down the line of saying whether or not there's life if you don't have water, so on and so forth like that.

OLBERMANN: All right. I guess it's easy to understand, relatively speaking, why water on Mars would be a big deal, but what is the excitement about a lake full of ethane on one of the moons, the Titan moon.

PITTS: It may not seem like it's a very exciting story just for that reason, but actually it is. Because ethane is one of the organic compounds that we find all over this planet. And in fact, when we look at this, we have to look back at the parent element of this and that's methane.

And when we look at that, we're actually looking at something that we find plenty of here on this planet and really does indicate that there are organic compounds. So, if we were to say, for example, take some of the atmosphere of Titan and mix it with an atmosphere or an environment like Mars, add some heat and a few other reactions, you might end up with something like what we have here on Earth.

So that's how we have to think of it, is that we have one piece over here on Titan, another piece over on Mars.

OLBERMANN: Can't miss while we have you. This is not from today, but Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man who walked on the Moon, came back this week and said we've been visited repeatedly by UFOs. He has been talking about this stuff since the '70s. He even did an ESP experiment while he was on board Apollo 14.

Should I be believing him or is there just a good statistical chance that one of the astronauts necessarily had to believe in all this stuff anyway?

PITTS: Well, let's take away the fact that he's an astronaut, he has been to the Moon, and just look at him as a regular person. He's saying that aliens have been here. We have to ask the basic question, do you have any proof? He has none. So, his value of stating that aliens have been here, even as an astronaut, is no greater than anyone else's.

OLBERMANN: And he has no opinion on the value of there being a lake of something somewhere in the universe? He doesn't have any extra added insight into that would you assume?

PITTS: I don't know how well his ESP works that far out or not. But no, I don't think so.

OLBERMANN: And by the way, is there any value to the fact that there is a lake of something, never mind what it is. Is - does the geological or topographical structure of a lake mean something in outer space?

PITTS: Actually, it really does. It shows us that the process that we have looked at here on Earth for creating streambeds and valleys and all those sorts of things is copied everywhere else in the solar system. We see it on Mars, we see it on Titan, and this is evidence that liquids falling from an atmosphere can create streams that eventually create these reservoirs like lakes.

OLBERMANN: And perhaps provide more offshore drilling. Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer of the Franklin Institute, it's always an education, sir. Always, thank you for your time.

PITTS: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,119th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good might and good luck.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, July 30
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guest: Craig Crawford, Rachel Maddow, Richard Wolffe, Margaret Carlson, Christian Finnegan

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

McCain backs off the Landstuhl ad. Accused of distortion, caught using video of Obama visiting the troops, to argue that Obama refused to visit the troops, the campaign's official blogger now writes, "It does now seem that Barack Obama" didn't go "for reasons other than a lack of photo-op potential."

So on to the next ad McCain will eventually have to retract. Obama is not Hitler, he's not a liberal, he's not a Muslim, he's not Jimmy Carter second term, he's not William Jennings Brian, he's Britney Spears.


NARRATOR: He is the biggest celebrity in the world - but is he ready to lead?


OLBERMANN: The Obama campaign answer, "Oops, John McCain did it again." And Obama's answer - he's ready to lead and he's ready to - duel.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm ready to duel John McCain on taxes - right now, right here. I'm a quick draw.


OLBERMANN: Calling Zell Miller.

And the continuing adventure of the first campaign in which you should not listen to the candidate. The John McCain campaign spokesman claiming John McCain doesn't necessarily speak for the John McCain campaign.

Bushed: Contempt of Congress, Karl Rove cited, the feeling, obviously, is mutual.

Worst: FOX does the Obama/Osama switch again; and the gun control activist who is actually a spy for the pro-gun movement.

And "Dancing with the Stars" featuring - former Vice President Dan Quayle?


DAN QUAYLE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The question is whether we're going to go forward to tomorrow or we're going to past to the - to the back.


OLBERMANN: Could be worse, he could be starring on, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

All that and more: Now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Wednesday, July 30th, 97 days until the 2008 presidential election.

While the McCain campaign today began to back slowly away from its first dumbfounding TV commercial of this week, it also dropped a trail of bread crumbs from when it has to climb down from its newest advertisement stretch.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: The McCain campaign operations director, selling hardest (ph) the bizarre contention that Barack Obama is actually Britney Spears - just a celebrity, not a leader. He was the campaign manager for the re-election bid of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man elected governor of California straight from the ranks of celebrityhood (ph) whose movie "True Lies" runs again this weekend on TBS.

On his Web site today, McCain's official blogger admitting, the Arizona Republican got it wrong when he approved this message implying that Senator Obama had canceled his visit to a military hospital in Germany because the media would not be allowed into that medical center with him, quoting the back track, "It does now seem that Barack Obama snubbed to the troops for reasons other than a lack of photo-op potential," but the initial reports were less clear.

That's right; Senator McCain is blaming the media. Attack first, check facts later, blame the media last.

But in case you thought the Arizona Republican is attack-free tonight, as we mentioned, he has approved this brand-new message that isn't so much misleading as misguided.


NARRATOR: He is biggest celebrity in the world - but is he ready to lead? With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says no to offshore drilling and says he'll raise taxes on electricity? Higher taxes, more foreign oil that's the real Obama.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.


OLBERMANN: One former McCain strategist has today called that ad "childish." John Weaver noting that McCain himself is qualified as a celebrity ever since he was shot down by the North Vietnamese.

But on a conference call, McCain campaign manager, Rick Davis, defending the ad and disparaging the Democrat for, in effect, being more popular than the Republican. Saying of the attention that Obama received during his trip abroad, quote, "It's more something you'd expect from someone releasing a movie than running for president."

McCain senior strategist, Steve Schmidt who runs the day-to-day operations of that campaign and help reelect over (ph) celebrity Schwarzenegger, explaining all that went into the decision to feature Ms. Spears and Paris Hilton.


STEVE SCHMIDT, MCCAIN SR. STRATEGIST: What we decided to do is, is find the top three international celebrities in the world. And I would say, you know, from our estimations, Britney and Paris came in second and third. So, from our perspective, we have, in this ad, the three biggest celebrities in the world.


OLBERMANN: Yes, if this is still 2005.

Senator Obama on the campaign trail in Missouri, is wondering what his opponent actually stands for other than for attacking him, also, responding in kind, ad for ad this evening.


NARRATOR: He's practicing the politics of the past. John McCain. His attacks on Barack Obama: not true, false, baloney, the low road, baseless. John McCain: same old politics, same failed policies.

Barack Obama supports $1,000 middle class tax cuts; an energy plan that takes on oil companies, develops alternative fuels, and breaks the grip of foreign oil. That's change we can believe in.

OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.


OLBERMANN: Time now to call in MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford, also, of course, contributing editor with

Good evening, Craig.


OLBERMANN: We can pick this celebrity ad by any corner and shake it and see how silly it might be, which the celebrities that are included that Schmidt link to Schwarzenegger and Weaver's observation about McCain's own celebrity status, and the fact that large numbers of people actually really like Britney Spears and some of them even like Paris Hilton - but there must have been a point for McCain's people to do this. What is that underlying point?

CRAWFORD: Right. Britney is a star, was nominated for an MTV Awards.

So, she's really big now, on a comeback.

You know, the strategy here appears to be - go after Obama's greatest strength, which is his celebrityhood or popularity or however you want to put it. You know, McCain adviser some weeks ago told me, we're going to have to puncture his balloon before he floats out of our hands and this is part of that effort.

OLBERMANN: But you have to - that effort has to be done artfully. There's that famous Lesley Stahl story, her critical report on then-President Ronald Reagan and she gets a call from Mike Deaver and expects screaming and angry and said she gets a thank you for all that beautiful footage of Reagan smiling and addressing the happy crowds and all that.

Is that the real headline here that McCain has just spent a lot of money to show pictures of his opponent getting cheered by 200,000 people who are waving Americans flags?

CRAWFORD: Absolutely. You know, I did get a kick out of this argument that I'm hearing from McCain, we heard about it in the primaries against Obama, "All you with all your big crowds and eloquent speeches and all those big votes you get. You know, if it wasn't for that, I'd be winning this race."

I mean, it's almost as if they're trying to attack him for being popular - celebrityhood and everything else. But, you know, these things may stick with some people. I mean, there are some people who have some reservations about Obama and a lot of voters, unlike those of us in the junky class who aren't that familiar with it.

So, they're trying to define him in their own way.

OLBERMANN: The back track on the Landstuhl ad to the degree that there was, you know, there was a back track, there was a blogger. It was McCain's blogger but there was a blogger and that was it. There's been no statement or anything. But even that, was that done because they were really getting pounded?

I mean, there were investigative newspaper pieces today on whether or not Obama thought he was going to bring the media with him or never had the plan in his head at any point, but turns it was the latter. Was it done that way or was it simply done because the usefulness of the controversy to advancing the message had expired anyway?

CRAWFORD: I think that's one reason the celebrity ad came out so quickly. You know, part of the strategy here is - once you get caught, change the subject, and launch a new charge. You know, someone who practices these dark arts once called this, told me he called this the "red frog/green frog" strategy.

What it means is you shake a big ugly frog in your opponent's face and to voters, you say, "Look at this ugly frog" and then when they're - just as they're reacting to it and dissecting it, then you get another frog up there and say, "Look at this frog." You just keep switching the frogs - the ugly frogs, and that's what this strategy appears to be.

OLBERMANN: But one of the ugly frogs that was used today also was this McCain hit on this word "arrogant" again regarding Obama and the campaign certainly did, and yet at the same time, a poll has come out, the Opinion Research did for CNN and on the arrogance question, 63 percent answered no to the question on whether or not Obama is arrogant - 63 no. McCain only got a 66 no. Basically, this is a statistical arrogance tie.

So even if the negative narration breaks through the imagery, is it likely to have any kind of impact if the facts are so decidedly against the narration?

CRAWFORD: Well, maybe since Obama's actually the one who appears to be winning, it's easier to call him arrogant than the challenger McCain as he appears to be behind. You know, again, what they have tried to do here, something I've seen for campaigns going back to 1988, in particular - I remember this stuff starting - where you try to find something that voters are concerned about with the opponent and then you build on that storyline by adding episodes, adding facts, because what happens is - people, once they've drawn a conclusion, they don't scrutinize the facts as much if it confirms something they already believe. That's what they're trying to do with this arrogance stuff.

OLBERMANN: And, obviously, it plays right into that national crisis over Paris Hilton.

Craig Crawford of MSNBC and Great talking to you again, Craig.

CRAWFORD: Good to see you.

OLBERMANN: As the Obama response ad suggested, Senator McCain was eviscerated in the print media not only for getting the facts wrong in the Landstuhl ad but also the for the sharpening (ph) negative turn his campaign has taken and it appears not all Republicans approve his message.

Some Republicans are telling the "New York Times," they, quote, "worry that by going negative so early, and initiating so many of the attacks himself rather than leaving them to others, Mr. McCain risks coming across as angry or partisan in a way that could turn off some independents who have been attracted by his calls for respectful campaigning."

Let's turn now to our own Rachel Maddow, the host of the "Rachel Maddow Show" on Air America Radio.

Good evening, Rachel.


OLBERMANN: Lost in all this - what is McCain offering as the reason for people to vote for him?

MADDOW: Well, he's not Barack Obama.


MADDOW: That's the reason to vote for him. And while that might sound like a pitiful grounds for a man with the kind of career that John McCain has had, to try to win the presidency, honestly, even though it sounds kind of depressing, that might be the strongest political ground that he's got.

I think that a national election that is a referendum on Bush and McCain and the Republican Party in the last eight years, is an election that Barack Obama wins in a landslide. An election that is quite asking Americans essentially what they think about Barack Obama, which is John McCain has actually turned this campaign into at this point, that's an election that Barack Obama might win, but he might not. As depressing and sort of pitiful as it is, this might be exactly where John McCain wants the campaign to be.

OLBERMANN: Does that explain this quote of the year from yesterday, McCain tells Stephanopoulos that in terms, at least, of Social Security reform, tax increases were "not off the table" no matter what he said about not raising taxes, and a spokesman comes out and says, "McCain might not really be speaking for the McCain campaign."

Are they that lost so early in terms of the head-to-head and issue-to-issue? Are they that dedicated to simply - don't vote for Obama, he's filling the blank?

MADDOW: Yes, vote for not Obama. It's essentially what they're saying. I mean, that's not the only example of the McCain campaign saying that John McCain doesn't speak for the campaign. They did the same thing on affirmative action - essentially saying, "Don't listen to what John McCain says, just allow us to be a vague, not Obama presence in the corner that you might vote for if we succeed in scaring you enough about Barack Obama."

I mean, that's, I think, politically how it functions. But if you take it on its face, what they're really saying, if John McCain doesn't speak for his own campaign, what kind of president would he be? Is he going to legislate or lead the country with notes or with written communiques, would we not be allowed to trust what he said then either?

OLBERMANN: It would be like the one the great football quarterback, the late Bill Walsh, retired from the San Francisco 49ers and left supposedly a play list, the actual plays that his successor George Seifert was supposed to call for the first three games of the next season. They need (ph) to be done that way, I don't know who would leave on the list, maybe it would be Cheney.


OLBERMANN: This John Weaver, whom I quoted earlier - friend, confidant of McCain who quit the campaign a year ago. To "The Atlantic," it's a long quote that I want your reaction to this, "For McCain to win in such troubled times he needs to begin telling the American people how he intends to lead us, that McCain exists, he can aspire the country to greatness. There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now and it isn't at Obama's. For McCain's sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop."

Is that one guy who used to be on the McCain side who's just disappointed by what he's seeing or is there any actual ground swell of opinion that McCain and his campaign are making fools of themselves right now?

MADDOW: I think this is the car crash between McCain of 2000 and McCain of 2008. And this is, I think that this is what we're seeing as the reaction not only from people who have long worked with John McCain and who sort of wanted to be associated with the McCain of 2000, but to people who thought that that reputation that he carried over from those days might end up being who he was in this campaign, too.

He said he was going to be the McCain of 2000. He said it was going to be a substance-driven campaign and that he was not going to be scurrilous and negative the way that he went after Barack Obama.

And what his campaign is doing now with a series of now four negative campaign ads, nearly all of which can be factually disproven, but the sort of pettiness that they're throwing at Obama, it does seem pitiful, it does seem literally sad if the guy who you thought was going to be running for president on the Republican ticket this year was John McCain 2000.

OLBERMANN: Maybe not or maybe gotten down now to arguing about Arugula versus power bars versus McCain's $520 shoes. I don't think we're seeing what we wanted to see.


OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC - of course, great thanks, as always, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: This is how bad it has already gotten. Obama has now challenged McCain to a duel.

This is how bad it's already gotten. A major research project that concludes the only way to beat al Qaeda would be aptly described as the law enforcement approach.

And that Britney Spears/McCain celebrity ad, somebody tonight wants no part of it - Britney Spears.


OLBERMANN: Obama challenges McCain to duel on taxes. The House challenges the speaker to actually allow a vote to hold Karl Rove in contempt.

In Worst: "Bill-O, The Clown" says vote for McCain so he, Bill-O, will not have to pay more taxes.

And in Bushed: The amazing conclusion by a major conservative think tank, the correct means to fighting al Qaeda - local police and military, in other words, the law enforcement approach.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Move over Zell Miller, there's a duellist in town - a new one. Move over Ian Keith Harradine and Harvey Keitel, too, and Dennis Weaver for that matter.

Our fourth story on the Countdown: Senator Obama challenging his opponent to a duel. Obama holding an economic town hall in Springfield, Missouri this morning, using the city's history as a springboard to figuratively slap Senator McCain across the cheek with his glove.


OBAMA: I was just reading, I was just reading that Wild Bill Hickok, he had the first duel in the town square here in Springfield and I don't know if people are aware of the fact that - I have not done all the full research on this - but the family legend is that Wild Bill Hickok, he's a distant cousin of mine.


OBAMA: I'm serious. I'm serious. This is part of the family legend. I don't know if it's true but that's the legend. So, we're going to research that because I'm ready to duel John McCain on taxes, right now, right here. I'm a quick draw.


OLBERMANN: My seconds will call on your seconds. Well, my seconds will be out, have him call on my thirds.

The McCain campaign response, "If Barack Obama wants this so-called 'duel,' then why did he and his entourage run for the hills when John McCain challenged him to 10 town halls?"

So, now a town hall is a dueling ground?


MCCAIN: Senator Obama says he's going to change Washington but his solution is to simply make government bigger and raise your taxes to pay for it. And I want to look you in the eye - I will not raise your taxes, nor support a tax increase. I will not do it.


OLBERMANN: Unless he changes his mind.

As we've previously pointed out, that's a flop back from his flip on tax increases. On ABC's "This Week," where he told host, George Stephanopoulos, that when it comes to the possibility of payroll tax increases for Social Security, quote, "there is nothing that's off the table."

A position that has provoked a scathing response from the Rupert Murdoch-owned "Murdoch Street Journal" editorial board which observed, quote, "If Mr. McCain can't convince voters that he is better on taxes than is the Democrat, who says matter of factually that he wants to raise taxes, the Republican is going to lose in a rout," end quote.

We're joined now by our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Good evening, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: How damaging is it to Senator McCain when the "Wall Street Journal," the newspaper of choice for business people and many conservatives and for Rupert Murdoch, prints an editorial with words like rout and Republican in the same sentence?

WOLFFE: Well, you know, Keith, we often talk about and have written about the identity problems facing Barack Obama. Is he American enough? Is he black enough?

The identity question around McCain seems to be much more problematic. And the identity of whether he's conservative enough, that's what the "Wall Street Journal" editorial board is going after here. Obviously, they were worried previously about him for all sorts of reasons, on all sorts of subjects.

But with regard to Social Security and taxes, his comments have just set the alarm bell going and the strategic problem is that he keeps on having to talk to that group, to prove his credentials, which stops him from breaking with President Bush and being an independent he used to be.

OLBERMANN: How did McCain wind up getting off message on taxes? I mean, this is the one thing his base always wants to hear. How could he mess it up to the degree that he has in the last week alone?

WOLFFE: Well, he clearly had a couple of things in mind. First of all, he likes the Ronald Reagan model and he was trying to evoke that spirit, but he was also clearly unprepared for what was an obvious question on a Sunday talk show. And the vagueness of his approach to policies, especially a complex emotional one like Social Security is a recurrent theme on this campaign. I think that kind of gets him into these problems where he can't find a way out.

OLBERMANN: Another one, perhaps - outside of Denver last night, according to "Washington Post," he held this fundraiser at which he earned $3.2 million and he stood on the patio of the host, the multi-millionaire host's house and he joked to the crowd, and the quote was, "These public projects are quite remarkable."

In the days when that would never get repeated or might leak out three months later, perhaps that was a great joke for the environment of the people he was with, but in this instantaneous communication day, is he helping himself with a clip like that?

WOLFFE: I think he is, in his own mind, trying to enjoy himself in some way, but his jokes have proved difficult for him. Of course, though, is the deeply offensive joke about rape victim and the deeply distasteful joke about Janet Reno. And, again, in another era of that kind of joke was maybe considered funny.

It's not just about the speed of communications here. It's what you can get away with when you're no longer an insurgent and you're actually the presumptive nominee and possibly the president.

OLBERMANN: And a repeat of the "is he helping himself" question, only this one is about Obama. Why introduce the word duels into this equation, even in fun, even in a Springfield, Wild Bill Hickok context, since it does raise, as a duel, a debate, a showdown - it raises the question: figurative duel, yes; actual town halls, not so much?

WOLFFE: Yes, not a smart move to evoke Zell Miller, not a smart move to really dodge town halls and then show your old mantra (ph) about it. I have to say, the most worrying thing about this is the idea that he's related both to Dick Cheney and Wild Bill Hickok, whose genes does he have when it comes to shooting? Let's go and find out.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, setting out a possible meme for coverage in the years 2009 and 2010, at least. Thank you, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Jesus has relocated again. Yesterday, it was Jesus on a chino, today's sighting is Jesus on the back of this kitten. I don't see it myself and neither does the kitten.

"Bill-O, The Clown" explains why you can't vote for Obama because Bill-O is already paying too much in taxes and he doesn't want that money being spent on people who are smoking reefers. What he said is "reefers".

But first, headlines breaking administration 50 running scandals - Bushed.

Number three: Mr. Speaker, the petulant of the United States-gate. Mr. Bush fought a mortgage crisis bill that would permit homeowners who can no longer afford their payments who instead refinance with government-backed loans, instead of going under, he called the bill socialistic. The House voted overwhelmingly for it a week ago. The Senate did the same on Saturday.

So, the president gave up and signed it this morning, at 7:00 a.m. with no ceremony, no witnesses, no pause (ph) that it was really his idea.

As to other legislation designed to save the victims of the mortgage crisis, he is still threatening to hold his breath. Let me know if you do, somebody will get back it you in a week.

Number two: The oil drilling scam-gate. The president today is demanding Congress hold a vote on its part of the national moratorium on offshore oil drilling before its summer recess. "The American people," he said, "are rightly frustrated by the failure of the Democratic leaders in Congress to enact common sense solutions."

Common sense - drilling now so the companies who do the drilling can make more money now, so the price of gas will drop a nickel in 2016.

To quote Harry Truman during the 1948 presidential campaign, "How many times do you have to get or hit over the head before you see who it is that's hitting you?"

And number: The nexus of politics and terror-gate. Well, this is the all-time winner. The all-time low low. For seven years, we have heard about how terrorism hit this country, 20 percent of the way into Mr. Bush's first term, by the way, because of the, quote, "law enforcement approach employed by President Clinton, Max Cleland, the Democratic Party, John Kerry, Europe, England, France, Barack Obama, me, you."

Let me just read this verbatim by the study done by the conservative Rand Corporation which concluded that, quote, "Current U.S. strategy against the terrorist group al Qaeda has not been successful in significantly undermining the group's capabilities." So the Rand people go on to write, "In looking at how other terrorist groups have ended, the Rand study found that most terrorist groups end either because they join the political process, or because local police and intelligence efforts arrest or kill key members.

Police and intelligence agencies rather than the military, should be the tip of the spear against al Qaeda in most of the world, and the United States should abandon the use of the phrase 'war on terrorism.'"

So, one of the think tanks the Pentagon loves best, has deduced that President Bush has done it exactly wrong, that the war on terror is a bunch of crap, that local authorities have the best chance of stopping al Qaeda, that what John McCain is still quoting as if it were the revealed word is exactly the opposite of what we need to do if we want to put terror groups out of business, that the correct strategy is - the law enforcement approach.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and Victoria's panties for 9,000 dollars. First, if you're buying into the recent insistence that separation of church and state notwithstanding, the United States has always been intertwined with he religion; today is the anniversary of the adoption of the national motto, the official one, "in god we trust," the 52nd anniversary? It only happened in 1956 as a response while, as the Congress put it at the time, imperialistic and materialistic communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom. Fortunately, we vanquished the communism and took their imperialism and materialism from them.

Let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: We begin in Dunlop, Indiana and another sighting of the son of God. Yesterday, Jesus manifested himself in a Cheeto. Today - that looks like a scene from 2001. Today, he's found a new home on the back of Sissy the kitten. Sissy's owners think it is a sign of good things to come. Sissy herself, not so happy about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, so we're thinking eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, the two dark is the eyes and then - it's


OLBERMANN: We sure that's not the face of Satan? Are we sure? Moving from a Jesus cat to a cat that looks like it ate Jesus and then the apostles for dessert. This is Princess Chunk, a 44-pound stray, just two pounds shy of the world record for fattest cat on the planet, who was picked up, with great difficulty, in Blackwood, New Jersey. Animal control officers having no problems catching the portly pussycat. She's so fat, she literally cannot run anymore. Shelter workers are now trying to find Princess Chunk a new home, preferably one with a full fridge and reinforced timber flooring.


OLBERMANN: When is contempt of Congress not contemptuous enough to not merit a full vote by Congress? When is politicizing hiring at the Justice Department not corruptive enough to merit prosecution? When it's Rove on the left and Goodling on the right.

Hey, if this Dan Quayle story is true, I've got the song he can compete to on "Dancing with The Stars," you say potato with an E and I say potato with an E. These stories, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best response to four dollar gas, the guy who instead said bought six dollar gas, aviation fuel. A 20-year-old San Jose man accused of breaking into Reed Hillview Airport there and tried to fill up his car with airplane gas which, A, will destroy the valves in your automobile engine, and B, which can only be purchased by credit card and cost 5.97 a gallon. The airport manager postulates a secondary motive here; sometimes these people have the notion that since it's racing fuel, it will make their car go faster.

Number two, best price for old, used underwear, buyers at a London auction. One paid 8,000 dollars for a chemise. Another, 11,000 - 11 teen thousand - in English we call that 11,000 for a night gown, and another nine grand for bloomers, all which had belonged to Britain's Queen Victoria. The Chemise was designed for her 66-inch bust, the bloomers for her 50 inch waist. And that's how the Victoria's Secret line began.

Number one, best dumb criminal. A guy walks into a restaurant in Metria (ph), outside New Orleans, tries to rob the place. First, even there, his disguise gained him attention, a woman's wig and pink top and a purse. He orders two doughnuts, hands the cashier a five dollar bill. Then, as the cash register is open, he produces a handgun and in the ensuing melee, he flees. He got no cash. He did not take the doughnuts, but he left the money. His net take from this robbery, it cost him five dollars.


OLBERMANN: The Judiciary Committees of both Houses of Congress are now officially in agreement; Karl Rove should be cited for contempt of Congress. But in our third story on the Countdown, as Congress continues swimming laps through the Bush administration's sea of scandal, the persistent, increasingly stupefying question is, what, if anything, will come of it?

Today's events focusing on hiring and firing at the Justice Department. The House Judiciary Committee today voting to recommend contempt charges against Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, for defying a subpoena to testify. But a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not decide until September whether or not to bring this to a final vote. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee turned to illegal politically prejudiced hiring at the Justice Department by former officials Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson and others. But the inspector general of the Department, Glen Fine (ph), said that his office's report did not warrant prosecution because laws governing the hiring process are civil ones and not criminal.

Mr. Fine also said there was no evidence that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was aware of what these senior aides were doing. Concluding that, quote, "inexperienced junior people rose to a very high level and lacked adult supervision."

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democrat from Rhode Island, expressing disbelief about that quote, "when it comes to politics, this administration has no gag reflex."

Let's turn now to "Bloomberg News" political columnist Margaret Carlson, also the Washington editor of "The Week Magazine." Margaret, good evening.


OLBERMANN: The internal report from the Justice Department said laws were broken. It recommended and used the word disbarment in there for some of the attorneys in the Justice Department. But the inspector general is not linking any of it to Alberto Gonzales and is treating this as a civil matter, rather than a criminal one. The House Judiciary Committee is left exactly where on this?

CARLSON: I want to sign on with Senator Whitehouse. There's no gag reflex. In all my years of watching hearings, I've never encountered a witness who forgot so many things when he was questioned about potential illegalities as Alberto Gonzales. It was an insult. And if he's going to go Scott-free, that is criminal. That's not civil. That's criminal. And what's concerning is it was Nancy Pelosi saying she's waiting until September and this all falls - everything at the Justice Department falls on the shoulders of the 31-year-old Monica Goodling, is that no one is going to pay for any of this ever.

OLBERMANN: But nobody - nothing, rather, is going to happen even to the Monica Goodlings of this equation?

CARLSON: Well, she resigned under pressure when she testified before Congress. But I don't know, you leave your job. Is that punishment enough for having the most qualified person come in for a job in the anti-terrorism unit, somebody who had actually won a prize for his anti-terrorism efforts; Monica Goodling Googled his wife and doesn't like her politics and then she gives a job to a moron? You know, she made a joke of the civil service laws, and the 31-year-old was in charge and Alberto Gonzales knew nothing about it?

Remember, we have a lot of testimony on the record now from hearings Congress held where there's testimony that's in conflict with former Attorney General Gonzales, in that he was at meetings he said he couldn't remember being at and there were things said that he can't remember hearing. Also, government doesn't work in a way where a Monica Goodling does everything, you know, without adult supervision.

OLBERMANN: And the adult supervision comes in the form of instructions and what needs to be found out is who issued the instructions. And to that point, the contempt citations, specifically the one towards Karl Rove; is the motive by Speaker Pelosi to put them on ice as obvious as it seems? Don't let anything interfere with the November elections or is there some other possible reason to not have this vote take place until September or at all?

CARLSON: I think Democrats want to freeze the ball because Republicans are in such deep doo-doo now, they don't want to change anything, and they don't want to be seen as overly aggressive. However, it could be done entirely within the rule of law, just enforcing the contempt citation without fanfare, and just let the system - let the system play out. To be afraid to come forward and exercise your prerogatives, when this administration uses its executive privilege as an excuse for every time they broke the law. It didn't work in the Clinton administration. Remember, Keith, how many Clinton administration people were marched before Congress during Monica Lewinsky, which actually had nothing to do with giving advice to the president.

So, it's not a blanket excuse, but it's been used that way. And you think Democrats now in control would exercise it.

OLBERMANN: But didn't the experience that you just described and we all lived through and still live through in those terrible night sweats and flashbacks, did that not to some degree, maybe unintentionally, if you're a real conspiracy theorist, maybe intentionally, inoculate the Republicans against actual investigations like the ones we're talking about now, because of the Democrats' fear that the results the Republicans would be like the results fell for Bill Clinton, that the more he was pursued by the Republicans in the late '90s, the greater his stock rose with the public and there's some fear by Democrats that if they go after the Republicans right now, they'll make the Republicans just popular enough that perhaps McCain could slide into the White House.

CARLSON: Yes, and that is a reason to freeze the ball. But let's just look at the two different things. What Clinton did was about his life. What the Bush administration did is about the country's life. They violated public laws. They didn't offend private sensibilities. It is a matter for the Congress, and the public should want accountability on this, more than they wanted it on, you know, Clinton being hunted down on - because of the Lewinsky affair.

OLBERMANN: No disagreement there. Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg News" and "The Week Magazine," thank you very much.

CARLSON: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Good night. The man who would have been one of the legends of 24 hour cable news, had he just come along a few years later, may be returning to TV, but to reality TV. Vice President Dan Quayle "Dancing with the Stars?"

By day she was a vociferous gun control advocate, by night a vociferous pro-gun activist spying on gun control advocates. A remarkable story of spying in worst persons, next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Rumor that a former vice president of the United States will be on "Dancing with the Stars," and an exclusive comment from the host of the program. It's not - Plus, where McCain gets that list of the most famous celebrities in the world. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's number two story, our worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Bill-O the Clown. Somebody is sending him the talking points about how if you don't vote for McCain, rich people will suffer. "Yes," he writes, "I am part of the one percent of Americans that paid an astounding 40 percent of all federal income tax in 2006. President Obama and a Democratic Congress will likely dole out entitlements like free health care, child care and cash payments to anyone who falls under a certain income level, no matter their circumstances. That means - that means people who drink gin all day will get some of my hard-earned money. Folks who dropped out of school, who are too lazy to hold a job, who smoke reefers 24/7 all will get some goodies in the mail from Uncle Barack and Aunt Nancy, funded by me and other rich folks. There will be no drug testing, no background checks, no accountability for those receiving the government's largess. If you're an American citizen or even an illegal alien who doesn't make much money, you'll get stuff."

Reefers? M-Fer, I want more iced tea. What Dollar Bill-O is not telling you and I, as another member of that one percent who paid an astounding 40 percent of federal income tax in 2006, will tell you is that we made 22 percent of all income in 2006. That is believed to be the largest percentage since 1929. And still the average tax burden for the top one percent was at its lowest level in at least 18 years. And before Bill O shouts about where these statistics come from, they were printed in the Murdoch Street Journal. So, remember, vote for John McCain because Bill O'Reilly thinks he pays too much in taxes and doesn't want other people to get the reefers.

The runner-up. Mary McFate (ph), also known as Mary Lou Cippone (ph). "Mother Jones Magazine" reports this today. Miss McFate is a 60 something woman, a quirky but constant participant in gun control organizations like the Brady Campaign. Miss Cippone is a 60 something woman, a former figure in the National Rifle Association and wealthy pro-gun activist. The magazine says they're the same person. As Mary McFate, Mary Lou Cippone infiltrated the executive boards and learned the plans of organizations trying to decrease deaths by guns in this country, and apparently reported it back to organizations like the NRA, which are trying to increase death by gun in this country. In other words, she was a Benedict Arnold for the gun lobby.

But our winners, the "Fox and Friends" team over to Fixed News, did it again. On-screen graphics, Obama's TV aim wanted to be introduced to U.S.; on-screen picture Osama bin Laden. Amalgamated Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden again. There are only two options here: "Fox and Friends" is doing this deliberately, again, in which case they should all be fired, "Fox and Friends" is doing this accidentally again, in which case they should all be fired.

The "Fox and Friends" gang on Fixed News - Fixed News, now Obama/Osama accident free for 20 days - check that, for no days, today's worst persons in the world.


OLBERMANN: It is simply hard to imagine Henry Wallace or even Aaron Burr doing whatever the equivalent of this would have been in their own times. It is hard to see Dick Cheney doing it later. You know that the American political scene is in a sorry state when a campaign ad compares one candidate to Britney Spears and Britney Spears is offended. Our number one story on the Countdown, two more uncomfortable mergers between entertainment and politics. Former Vice President Dan Quayle has materialized as a possible contestant on reality competition show "Dancing with the Stars." Counting on the former VP, still scarred from his own self-inflicted wounds, as a remedy for, quote, low-Republican morale, at least according to Airtight as that source might be, Countdown sought independent confirmation. When reached for comment, "Dancing with the Stars" host Tom Bergeron told us exclusively that, quote, "if true, it would be the second time a Dan Quayle selection surprised me."

And Obama, as addressed earlier in this news hour, finding himself at the apex of celebrity, topping Britney and Paris on the McCain campaign's own shoddy short list. Perhaps there's some comfort in the vein of breaking news; Britney Spears' people demanding to be left out. 42 West Public Relations asking "why would we want to get Britney Spears involved in presidential politics?"

To answer those rhetorical questions and others revolving around this hot mess at the intersection of celebrity and politics, comedian Christian Finnegan, also a contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever." Christian, good evening.

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, VH-1: Gutentach (ph), heir Olbermann.

OLBERMANN: Do McCain and Obama need to converge some sort of emergency summit now to address this campaign? If Britney Spears wants no part of them, they and the American society must be in big, big trouble.

FINNEGAN: This is a national tragedy. I think when the candidates release their official platforms, you'll see policy initiatives aimed directly at winning Britney's support, things like repealing the child seat belt laws or universal spray tan coverage and advanced - like increased investment in fry-alator (ph) technology.

OLBERMANN: Do you expect other celebrities would step forward to fill this political vacuum left by Ms. Spears. Essentially, she's abdicated this role that has been offered to her.

FINNEGAN: Yes, I think that's what civic-minded celebrities have been waiting for, for Britney Spears to get out of the way. When will Britney stop hogging the spotlight? Don't you think that the Jonas Brothers have something interesting to say about the earned income tax credit?

OLBERMANN: Where did McCain's campaign get a list that suggested that the current number two and three in terms of world fame are Britney Spears and Paris Hilton? Is that not - I mean, I estimated 2005 before. It might even be earlier than that.

FINNEGAN: I don't know. If they wanted to be current, they could have played up Obama's mysterious racial background by going with somebody like Vanessa Hudgens. Who knows what she is. But honestly, we're lucky they got the right decade. If McCain had written the ad himself, it would have been something like Barack Obama is like one of those overblown starlets like Clara Bow or Lillian Gish.

OLBERMANN: We've seen an Obama counter-ad to this, but if he went in the same vein and did a celebrity parallel between McCain and some celebrity, who could we include on that McCain list? Does it start with not just the ones you mentioned, but also like Phyllis Diller?

FINNEGAN: I was actually thinking Boris Karloff.

OLBERMANN: Very nice.

FINNEGAN: But I think if Obama really wanted to slam McCain on the celebrity front, he could just air that clip of Eric Estrada calling him a man's man on a loop. That was creepy.

OLBERMANN: One thing about that ad, by the way, purely politically, somebody pointed out to me, anybody notice that it's a shot of an African-American man and it dissolves into two blond, two young blonds. Isn't there some sort of subliminal message in there that was also being presented, never mind the celebrity stuff.

FINNEGAN: Keith, are you high right now?

OLBERMANN: No, straight as an arrow.

FINNEGAN: Make sure. Did you ever notice the back of your hand, man?


OLBERMANN: As you heard here also, the host of "Dancing with the Stars" himself has heard nothing about the Dan Quayle rumor. This really is one of the most bizarre things I've ever heard. Is there any truth to it?

FINNEGAN: I'm going to say this once and only once; Dan Quayle is a former vice president and an elder statesman of the Republican party. Look, I'm sure all this hoopla is very flattering, but at the end of the day, I refuse to believe he's going to risk bringing shame and humiliation to "Dancing with the Stars."

OLBERMANN: The idea that this might be some sort of public pitch for the Republican party, like the famous Nixon ten-second appearance on "Laugh-In" in 1968; how would him doing the two-steps fix the Republican missteps and for that matter his own missteps when he was vice president?

FINNEGAN: The Republican brand name is in shambles. People think they're scary. But what could be less scary than an aging white dork wearing a hot pink flamingo outfit? That's just adorable right there. He could be like the cuddly new mascot. He could be like the GOP's version of the San Diego Chicken.

OLBERMANN: That's right, if he doesn't pitch forward off the stage and injure people in the crowd. Christian Finnegan, comedian and contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever," and occasionally, when we're fortunate, Countdown. Thank you, Christian.

FINNEGAN: Good night, sir.

OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this 1,918th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.