Monday, December 1, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, December 1, 2008
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Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
The toss: Ms. Moderator

Guests: Steve Clemons, Margaret Carlson

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? "The buck will stop with me," the president-elect's promise if anything goes off the rails with his national security nominees. To replace Team America world police: Gates, Jones, Holder, Napolitano, Rice, and Secretary of State Clinton.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: Mr. President-elect, I am proud to join you on what will be a difficult and exciting adventure in this new century.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think she is going to be an outstanding secretary of state. And, if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have offered her the job.


OLBERMANN: And the bill to pay? Bill. He agrees to identify 200,000 donors to his foundation, inspiring Republican senator, Mr. Lugar of Indiana to praise him and say he will vote to confirm her. What do we do now about diplomacy? The president-elect and the stain of the Bush Doctrine. After Mumbai, how do we tell India not to avenge itself at/or in Pakistan? Bushed: The amazing conclusion of an ex-Special Ops torturer in Iraq, "The number of U.S. soldiers who died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known. But it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on September 11th, 2001." Worsts: Rupert Murdoch and quote, "everybody else at News Corp's highest levels," quote, "absolutely despises Bill O'Reilly." Possibly he just told Newsday, "I'm a secular guy. It's the separation of church and state." Five years after saying the separation of church and state was, quote, "bogus.""Governor Freudian Slip" is back. Sarah Palin campaigns for the Saxby Chambliss in tomorrow's Georgia Senate runoff, insists she is there for checks and balances, you know, for the kids.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) ALASKA: That's why I am here. I'm kind of selflessly looking at this to tell you truth, not just for Georgia.


OLBERMANN: No, it isn't, is it? All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, December 1st, 50 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

Abraham Lincoln managed to appoint to his cabinet four of his rivals for the 1860 Republican nomination. Barack Obama has now made one of his, his vice president, another of his, secretary of state, a third likely to become his secretary of commerce. But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: As he rolled out his national security team this morning, the president-elect could now out-Lincoln Lincoln. He also has a secretary of defense fresh from the Bush administration. An attorney general and a U.N. ambassador from the Clinton administration, a head of an economic recovery advisory board out of the Carter and Reagan administrations, and a national security advisor who appeared at, at least, one campaign event for the senator Obama defeated in the election last month. This is not the dream of Doris Kearns Goodwin's publishers come true, another "Team of Rivals."This is now bordering on a coalition government and here they are. National security division-all of them heavyweights. In addition at State and Gates at the Pentagon, Mr. Obama picking retired general and former NATO commander and friend of McCain, Jim Jones as national security advisor. Arizona's governor, Janet Napolitano, his homeland security chief. Foreign policy Susan Rice, his U.N. ambassador. And former deputy A.G., Eric Holder, who led the V.P. selection committee, as attorney general. This morning in Chicago, the president-elect calling his new national security team a "new beginning."


OBAMA: And so, in this uncertain world, the time has come for a new beginning-a new dawn of American leadership to overcome the challenges of the 21st century and to seize the opportunities embedded in those challenges. We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends. We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships.


OLBERMANN: Diplomacy, once again, taking its place alongside military might as means of solving problems.


OBAMA: They served in uniform and as diplomats. They've worked as legislators, law enforcement officials, and executives. They share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my sense of purpose about America's role as a leader in the world.


OLBERMANN: And they have also been frequently at odds with the president-elect, none more so than the new nominee at State.


OBAMA: I have known Hillary Clinton as a friend, a colleague, a source of counsel, and a tough campaign opponent. She possesses an extraordinary intelligence and a remarkable work ethic. I am proud that she will be our next secretary of state. She is an American of tremendous stature who will have my complete confidence, who knows many of the world's leaders, who will command respect in every capital, and who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the world.


OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton not one to do anything half-heartedly.


CLINTON: Mr. President-elect, thank you for this honor. If confirmed, I will give this assignment, your administration and this country my all.


OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton is eager to tackle the world's problems as well as address America's standing in that world.


CLINTON: An economy that is reeling, a climate that is warming, and as we saw with the horrible events in Mumbai, threats that are relentless. The fate of our nation and the future of our children will be forged in the crucible of these global challenges. America cannot solve these crises without the world, and the world cannot solve them without America. By electing Barack Obama, our next president, the American people have demanded, not just a new direction at home, but a new effort, to renew America's standing in the world as a force for positive change.


OLBERMANN: And the leadership at the Pentagon might not be changing, but the mission there, apparently, will be, 50 days hence.


OBAMA: I will be giving Secretary Gates and our military a new mission as soon as I take office-responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control.


OLBERMANN: In his prepared remarks, the president-elect not mentioning his campaign pledge to withdraw most combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. But when asked about it this morning, saying that 16 months was still the goal.


OBAMA: I believe that 16 months is the right time frame, but as I said consistently, I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders. And my number one priority is making sure that our troops remain safe in this transition phase and that the Iraqi people are well-served by a government that is taking on increased responsibility for its own security.


OLBERMANN: And Defense Secretary Gates agreeing to stay on, he said this morning, out of an obligation to those troops.


ROBERT GATES, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Mindful that we are engaged in two wars and face other serious challenges at home and around the world, and with a profound sense of personal responsibility to and for our men and women in uniform and their families, I must do my duty, as they do theirs. How could I do otherwise?


OLBERMANN: And how might the president-elect be planning to keep his near-coalition from becoming perhaps near-chaos? The answer to that is taken from yet another administration.


OBAMA: But understand-I will be setting policy as president. I will be responsible for the vision that this team carries out, and I expect them to implement that vision once decisions are made. So, as Harry Truman said, "The buck will stop with me."


OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: As we well know from the campaign, as first lady, senator now Secretary of State Nominee Clinton visited 82 countries. Do we know how some of those countries agreeing news of her nomination tonight?

WOLFFE: Yes, we do. And it was on a couple of different levels. First of all, a lot of these countries are frankly terrified of change. They don't like seeing the world's only superpower go through this kind of transition. And the Clinton brand is something that is familiar to many of them. Not quite as Hillary Clinton said in the primaries that she knows these leaders, there had been multiple changes of leaders in many of these countries over the last decade or more. So, there is a familiarity there that is reassuring for some of these countries. There's another base political level in which they're happy, if we can generalize about the rest of the world in this way-and that's that a lot of the political leaders like to get a domestic benefit from being photographed and appearing like a leader alongside a big, American figure. And Hillary Clinton is certainly that. They will get their photos in the paper. They'll get TV cameras. So, she brings benefits in a couple of ways.

OLBERMANN: Should we-since this had been so expected for such a long period of time, more than two weeks now-should we have been more focused today on the appointment or the continuation of Secretary Gates' responsibilities? I mean, as outlined by the president-elect, he is now supposed to end the war in Iraq and essentially to do so within 16 months, if at all possible. This is something of a change not in the man, nor in the title, but in what he's supposed to be doing.

WOLFFE: It's a huge change and we should have been more focused on it. I think one of the benefits from the transition and one of the downsides for the media (ph) is that Hillary Clinton had overshadowed every other pick coming out of this transition. And Gates is in an unusual position, not just that it sort of confirms that judgment of President Bush, let's face it, at least in his second term, but what you have here is the rare consensus. The situation in Iraq is good enough that Republicans think it's OK to drawdown forces. The Iraqi government clearly wants American forces out. And, of course, for Democrats, they've long wanted troops out. So, there is a confluence of events here that suits Gates, but it also says something about his temperament and about, of course, the president-elects temperament that he would want Gates to do this and have confidence that he would execute these new orders.

OLBERMANN: Back to the overall picture. We have talked, if we want to stick with the older cliche of the "Team of Rivals" and give Doris Kearns Goodwin another plug, or move on to the new cliche of the coalition government and, you know, somebody is going to be looking for Stanley Baldwin and Ramsay MacDonald in Wikipedia-you got Clintonian people, not necessarily Clintonian policies going in certainly, but do the president-elect and his people around him, have they had any fear of this not being their administration, but more of a Clintonian administration? Is there any fear whatsoever that there will be a challenge for the leadership in any way, shape, or form?

WOLFFE: Well, I don't think the president-elect has a confidence problem. He thinks he's going to be in control. He's the boss. And he hasn't used the word decider but, you know, that pretty much what he's saying. There are concerns, real concerns among the people around him, the people who struggled through the primaries especially but also through the general election about all of these newcomers coming into this. Some of them are just fearful about their own jobs that are unclear at the moment. But the thing to remember here, that I heard from senior transition officials is that they will have, the president-elect will have his own loyalists, really Obama people who were with him through the campaign throughout this administration. So, whoever is brought in, there will be lines of reporting going directly back to Obama from people he knows are loyal to him. This is not a takeover. And those checks and balances within the administration will be there.

OLBERMANN: And yet, they will start with one seemingly fundamental conflict between the campaign and the administration. Great, you are drawing three other Democratic presidential hopefuls, a lot of us who favored the progressive point of view were hoping whoever the Democratic nominee, if elected, would do that, would bring in some of the other talent that was on stage in the early debates with them. Now, we got a Bush appointee who's continuing. Several Clinton appointees. It does have that reassuring coalition feel to it. But at time of crisis, get all the smart people you can find and put them in the same room. But having said all that, how does the president-elect jive the ideas of a bunch of familiar components with his catch phrase of change?

WOLFFE: Well, it is good politics, it is a crisis. But, on the other hand, you are right. There's a contradiction there between change and more of the same. And most importantly, there was something more nuanced in the criticism that Obama level (ph) through the primaries which was the level of groupthink. I think you referred to it today, of people who've been in Washington for too long, thinking and doing things in the same old ways, especially when it came to the decision about the war in Iraq. Now, nobody thinks the president-elect is going to go and do the same kind of thing there. And his leadership does matter. But groupthink is a danger. You know, we can only test by the results here. But, obviously, he thinks the benefits right now of having that new talent is more important. We just have to wait and see.

OLBERMANN: Well, hopefully for him, they'll all be mavericks. Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC-great thanks, as always, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And then, there's Bill. The elephant in that Clintonian room that nobody wants to talk about becomes an 800-pound gorilla, who they think they have convinced to sit quietly over there in that sort of direction, metaphorically speaking. And five years after Bill O'Reilly declared the separation of church and state in this country was, quote, "bogus," he is completed today by Bill O'Reilly.


OLBERMANN: Two hundred thousand FOBs, funders of Bill, will now be publicly identified as part of the process by which President-elect Obama hopes to make Senator Clinton his secretary of state. What do we do now about international diplomacy? After what we did in Iraq, how could we convince India to do nothing in Pakistan? And more damnation of Billo from Rupert, while today, two of the most hypocritical statements O'Reilly has ever made and that is saying something.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Secretary of state nominee, Hillary Clinton, day one, part two. To offend lovers of Hemingway is, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: With his wife poised to become the nation's official point person on international diplomacy, the former president agreeing to detail not only the $10 million he earned last year, mostly speaking about international diplomacy, but also to publicly disclose the names of over 200,000 donors to the William J. Clinton Foundation. That made today's official announcement by Barack Obama, and not John Dunne, officially possible. The disclosure among nine conditions that Mr. Clinton signed off on during discussions with representatives of President-elect Obama, according to the "New York Times." He also agreed to incorporate the Clinton Global Initiative separately from the Clinton Foundation. As for the lucrative speaking engagements, while he does not have to give them up, future invitations will be reviewed by State Department's ethics officials and if necessary by White House lawyers. Yet another indication of the former president's support for his spouse, a statement today praising the choice released before the news conference announcing the choice have even been completed, quote, "As an American, I am thankful that President-elect Barack Obama has asked Hillary to be secretary of state and that she has accepted. As her husband, I am deeply proud."

In the meantime, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, on ABC's "This Week," cautioned questions about Mr. Clinton's, quote, "cosmic ties" will come up during the confirmation process, but that the level of disclosure was impressive and that he, ultimately, will vote for the secretary of state nominee. Let's turn now to Eugene Robinson, "Washington Post's" associate editor and columnist, and MSNBC political analyst as well.

Good evening, Gene.


OLBERMANN: Him first. Has he corralled himself by doing this? Has he proscribed himself?

ROBINSON: Bill Clinton, we're talking about here corralling or proscribing himself?


ROBINSON: That's really likely. I don't think that will happen. I certainly don't think it has happened. He will learn to deal with the new reality, but he will still be front and center in the Bill Clinton movie that is always playing in his head, and as far as he's concerned, in everybody's head. So, no, he hasn't corralled himself.

OLBERMANN: So, which is likelier for President Obama, do you think, in the next, you know, umpteen years? He'll have a Bill Clinton problem, a single event or a series of them, or he will get some sort of opportunity on the world stage to use Bill Clinton to the nation's advantage?

ROBINSON: Well, if you're playing the odds, you're going to say both are going to happen. I think, I actually think it's more likely that he will have an opportunity to use Clinton to, possibly to great advantage. And one place he could use him is very much in the news now, in South Asia, in Kashmir, for example. You could send Bill Clinton there to finally work on some sort of deal between India and Pakistan, or at least a negotiating process to lower the tensions in the whole Mumbai carnage has brought that back to the news. But-President-elect Obama believes that solving Kashmir could be a key to what he wants to do in Afghanistan. So, there's a lot of ways you can use somebody like Bill Clinton.

OLBERMANN: One problem for all of them, and never mind the traded "shame on you" quotes from the primaries. Another quote from March of this year, "Was she negotiating treaties, was she handling crises, the answer is no." Obama said that. How does he avoid that quote coming back up, if and when there is either a foreign policy gaffe or a crisis, or just a foreign policy disagreement inside the cabinet with the president?

ROBINSON: He has to be certain that it will come back up. And all the things he said to belittle her foreign policy experience and all the things she said to belittle his will certainly be thrown back in their faces. The only way they both can deal with it is by demonstrating that they have each other's back. She says he has her complete confidence, he says the same about her. If they continue to demonstrate this as they did in the press conference today, then, they'll make progress and people will, if not forget about the statements, then consign them to the campaign season.

OLBERMANN: And lastly, Gene, it probably deserves to be more publicized than this, or at least placed higher up in the order, the last four secretaries of state had each served the equivalent of a full presidential term. If Senator Clinton does the same, this will mean that after 63 secretaries of state, about 30 more acting secretaries of state, this nation will have gone from January 1997 through at least January of 2013 without one white guy as a secretary of state. And I have to say that's a hell of an accomplishment and it's deserving of some bipartisan applause right now.

ROBINSON: It certainly is. It is amazing. It's an amazing thing that this nation has accomplished. Now, let's go a little deeper, though. Let's look at the Foreign Service, for example. I had this conversation with Secretary of State Rice. Her groundbreaking appoint me as secretary of state is certainly something to be celebrated, but the U.S. Foreign Service is still mostly white. And so, that's certainly part of the face that we present to the world and something, I think, this administration will want to work on and try to change.

OLBERMANN: If change can come from the top-down or the bottom-up, either one works.

Gene Robinson of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC-great thanks, Gene.

ROBINSON: Good to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And, of course, every time you think our politicians are the worst on the planet, video like this pops up. Romanian debates, hello. And George Will insists about 94 percent of the economy is doing just great. The economic problem maybe confined to just one sector. Yes, the sector consisting of people who work for a living. Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. You used the SWAT Team to take down a cardboard cutout? First on this date in 1891, James Naismith, an instructor at YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts hung two peach baskets on opposite walls of the gym and instructed his student athletes to try to throw a soccer ball up into either of them. It was the first game of modern basketball. Incidentally, Naismith asked Stephon Marbury of New York to play in that first game, but Marbury refused and was suspended.

Let's play Oddball. We begin in Bucharest, politics Romanian-style, the debate between an incumbent senator and his female challenger, started with name calling. Then she knocked a glass of water into his lap. It was not inadvertent. He responded by throwing the glass water in her face. That's democracy in action, even though, our nation, specifically in Tampa, Florida still leads the world in the great debates of democracy.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You have lied on this program about the issues.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Now, tell me what I lied about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, Tony (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your hands off of me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, please. Joe, please. Folks, I'm sorry you had to see that. It's not right.



OLBERMANN: Have a chair. Have a seat. To Jakarta, Indonesia where a baker is trying to break the world record for the biggest edible Christmas tree. And unfortunately, it is appearing here that nobody has told her and her minions there what the word edible means. Metal covered with sugar coating does not fit the criteria. Also, the ornamental drizzling on this thing showed a lack of command and control.

Our series, what do we do now? Obama and the Bush Doctrine. After Iraq, how can he, how can we say to India, no, you can't avenge yourself against Pakistan? And this is what the Georgia Senate runoff comes to. Governor Palin campaigning against-Ludacris?

These stories ahead. But first, time now for COUNTDOWN's Top Three Best Persons in the World. Number three: Best excuse. The "Associated Press" has revealed that last year, at least 34,000 New Yorkers received actual notes addressed to the teachers or their bosses, asking that their tardiness be excused because the subway was late. The notes are from the New York City Transit Authority. Right now, they are written for delayed commuters who contact the authority by phone. The authority is working to upgrade to an online system. I have been riding this train since 1959 and I'm only finding out about this now? Number two: Best near-sighted authorities. Police in Somerset County, New Jersey, an alarm went off at a bank there late Thursday night. Police arrived to see through its partially closed blinds, a figure of one man, presumably the perpetrator, possibly though a hostage. For 90 minutes, they try to contact that individual with bull horns and phones, to no avail. For 90 minute he remained silent, almost supernaturally motionless. Finally, they sent in the SWAT team, which is when they decided the motionless man was in fact a full-sized cardboard figure. And number one best dumb criminal. Brian Russell of New Gloucester, Maine. He led police on a short high speed chase from Cumberland County in that state into adjoining Androscoggin County and then suddenly pulled to a stop and surrendered, expressing surprise as he did so. He said he only fled because he assumed the Cumberland County sheriff could not arrest him if he went into Androscoggin County. Oops, no, sorry, that was a "Kids in the Hall" sketch.


OLBERMANN: If George W. Bush were prime minister of India, receiving intelligence as India has that Pakistani intelligence played some kind of a role in last week's terror strikes, we might well expect India soon to attack, well of course, Iraq. But in our third story tonight, India instead is understandably focused on Pakistan and has in its diplomatic arsenal the precedent of the Bush Doctrine. The claim that nations, at least those run by Mr. Bush have the right to attack countries that might pose a threat. Leaving Barack Obama and us to pose the question we will ask nightly until the inauguration, what do we do now? Mr. Bush today dispatched his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, to India, in part precisely to ensure that India does not act on the Bush Doctrine. But the parallels run deeper than that as we are learning India and even the U.S. had considerable intelligence before the attacks on Mumbai, specific enough, ABC reports, to warn of a threat, quote "from the sea against hotels in Mumbai." Despite the fact he too had warnings of al Qaeda's intent to strike New York and Washington before 3,000 Americans died on our 9/11 in the worst attack on U.S. soil on his watch. In an interview with ABC's Charles Gibson, Mr. Bush calls, quote "keeping America safe the one thing he's proudest of," despite his almost admission of failure to do that.


CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: What were you most unprepared for?

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I think I was unprepared for war. In other words, I didn't campaign saying please vote for me, I'll be able to handle an attack. In other words, I didn't anticipate a war. One of the things about the presidency is that the unexpected will happen.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush's successor is already grappling with the results of the Bush Doctrine. But even Mr. Obama today ducked the question when he was asked about his own version of the Bush doctrine, his campaign statement the U.S. had the right to attack terrorist targets within Pakistan. The question specifically, does India not have the same right? Let's bring in the publisher of the Steve Clemons, also a fellow at the New America Foundation. Mr. Clemons, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: President 43 America can attack which ever nation we decide threatens us. Soon to be President 44 in a sense echoes President 42, who had America attack terrorist sites within other sovereign nations. How does Mr. Obama and his new team, how do they go about telling India or anybody else to practice a restraint that we abjure?

CLEMONS: It's going to be hard for him. We sort of gave up the moral high ground when we divided those with us and those who weren't. And we decided to go and penetrate sovereign countries and tried to, if the neoconservatives wanted to, try to show the failed experiment of trying to spread democracy at the end of a gun. I think, in 2002, we came very close to a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India. And then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage really earned his pay by stopping that. And I think it's going to be very, very hard for India and Pakistan not to escalate this to scary levels. And we've got to reengage and bring in other players as well to stop that very dangerous escalation.

OLBERMANN: Is it plausible that the attack on Mumbai, the attacks on Mumbai, involve us more than perhaps we know. That maybe one of the motives was to heat things up and revert to the 2002 events that you describe to perhaps distract Pakistan out of the hunt for al Qaeda and other terrorists?

CLEMONS: I think there's little doubt that there are a lot of things that probably converged on the Pakistan and India side for what we just saw in Mumbai. Some years ago, I met a general who was the former head of ISI, the intelligence services in Pakistan. And I was very intrigued at the debate then that President Musharraf was rumored to not really quite control ISI. I asked this guy, and I didn't know he was the former head of ISI when I asked him at a public lunch. Is it true that Musharraf doesn't control ISI. And his response was it's to his benefit not to act as if he does. And this is the dilemma we're in today. We don't know quite what the Pakistani government does control and doesn't control in this sort of environment. It's a very dangerous amorphous and ethereal situation where India is making accusations against the Pakistani government and parts of ISI. And it's not clear how much of the terror operations that ISI was previously involved with they still control.

OLBERMANN: If Armitage actually, as you suggest earned his pay in 2002 and actually got that done at that time in our world's history, how would the Obama administration actually be better positioned than the Bush administration has been to positively influence the aftereffects of Mumbai.

CLEMONS: I think we got lucky with Armitage. You remember at the beginning of the Bush administration. They pretty much wanted to ignore terrorism, wanted to ignore bin Laden, wanted to ignore a lot of the security, except for a small group of people in the Bush administration who, the neoconservatives, who wanted to find a crisis to trigger their experiment on forceful spread of democracy.

So the Bush administration was unprepared and reacted into a dangerous period. The Obama team is coming in, not even in place yet and is not going to be surprised by these kinds of things. And I think the challenge for them is to show how they sculpt proactively a new strategic game for the United States that isn't just reacting to this crisis and that. Joe Biden was right, we're going to have other nations, other terrorist groups, other friends of ours, allies who doubt the United States so much they are going to contrive crises to try to push the Obama administration to show what it cares about and what it doesn't in its reactions. And I think it's going to be very, very important for the new team he's bringing together and the president himself, not to overreact or to make reactions to the crises the way he defines the national security strategy.

OLBERMANN: Steve Clemons author of the foreign policy blog,, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

CLEMONS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: The faces of the Georgia Senate run-off. The governor of Alaska versus the man who sang "Get Out My Business."

And Billo the Clown announces he's the defender of the separation of church and state five years after he called that separation "bogus."

But first, because they're not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals, "Bushed."

Number three, "Wow, did he miss the point gate." In a radio interview conducted by his own sister, the president said he is relishing the chance to see the klieg lights shift somewhere else when his presidency ends. He will at least three things about the job. He will miss Air Force One, he will miss the chefs at the White House and not having to worry about traffic. If only we knew that's why he liked the job, we could have collectively offered him those perks, if he would have left early. Number two, mortgage-gate. No later than January 2006, the Bush administration had, at its fingertips, it proves, urgent recommendations about how to stop the toxic mortgage process. How to avoid what one lender told them was otherwise a future in which they should quote, "expect fall out, expect foreclosure, expect horror stories" and the administration ignored those warnings. And as the bank regulatory documents from all the info is gleaned shows, it bowed to lobbyists and other pressure groups and waited a year to do anything about no money down mortgages and the like by which time the mortgage meltdown and the domino effect were inevitable. One of the testimony records says a gentleman named Kevin Stein of the California Reinvestment Coalition urged tighter lending rules, saying, quote, "Otherwise we're going to be feeling the effects of the regulators' failure to address these mortgages for the next several years." But number one, torture-gate. A dramatic "Washington Post" op ed on Friday, written under an assumed name. He writes, he was startled by three things there. One to try to get information by torture was unproductive, two, that switching to rapport building brought immediate results and three, that the top reason captured foreign fighters went to Iraq was abuse by Americans at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. The author says a detainee told him, I thought you would torture me and when you didn't I decided everything I was told about Americans was wrong. And that's when I decided to cooperate. And then the ex special ops guy wrote something chilling and definitive, something that should end forever any debate over the usefulness or moral appropriateness of torture and end forever any debate over whether or not the Obama administration should aggressively prosecute those who stained the nation with torture. He wrote, "It's no exaggeration to say half our losses and casualties came at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who died because of our torture policy will never be definitely known. But it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on September 11, 2001." How anyone says torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans. To anybody who thinks it works, if anything besides sadism and revenge and the messiah complex can fit into your fevered brains, yes, William Kristol, I'm talking to you. Mark well those last words and atone for the ultimate of your many sins. "The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitely known, but it's fair to say it's close to the number of lives lost on September 11, 2001."


OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin versus Ludacris. Yes, our political dialogue has changed just a little bit. That's next. But first, time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's "Worst Persons in the World." The bronze tonight to George Will who went on "This Week" on ABC yesterday and insisted the economy is doing just great for everybody whom it's not just doing terribly. "It's just possible," he said, "that the economy is not going down the drain. Ninety four, ninety five percent of mortgages are being paid off on time. Ninety four percent of those who want to work are now working. This may be more of a financial problem. That is one sector while the rest of the economy is doing well."

One sector you say. Banking, construction, the auto industry, advertising, television, oooh, television, which the banks and the car companies are not advertising on anymore. One sector. George, tell me about it when "This Week" cuts back to four panelists or three or two or they fire all of you and just give George Stephanopoulos a harmonica and the instructions "fill for five minutes."

Our runner up, Billo the Clown. Another leak from Michael Wolf's (ph) biography of Rupert Murdoch, the man who owns it news, arr, quoting Wolf, "It's not just Murdoch and everybody else at News Corps highest levels who absolutely despises Bill O'Reilly, the bullying, mean-spirited and hugely successful evening commentator but Roger Ailes himself who loves him. Success, however, has cemented everyone to each other." Another quote about Murdoch. "He barely pretends to hide the way he feels about Bill O'Reilly. And while it is not that he would give Fox up because the money is the money, success trumps all. In the larger sense of who he is he seems to want to hedge his bets." Why would Murdoch feel that way? Michael Wolf will join me tomorrow on COUNTDOWN and I'll ask him.

But here's today's newest answer, our winner, Billo. Out there in the liberal media trying to hawk his book, "A Bold Fresh Piece of Hypocrisy." He tells the "New York Times" - "New York Newsday", rather, the lies about his hardscrabble upbringing, that Dickensian childhood he spent in the slums and private schools of Long Island. But in the all-time list of Billo double talk lulus, we have a new one. "I'm a secular guy," he tells "Newsday" today. "It's the separation of church and state. We don't make laws based on religion and I don't accept arguments based on that." But five years and 11 days ago on November 20, 2003, the very first day that he first hallucinated there was a war on Christmas, he also said "These antichristian zealots talking Judeo-Christian philosophy today reject that honor. But in reality, they are cowards. They hide behind the bogus separation of church and state argument to batter any public displays they find offensive. Led by the ACLU and aided by secular judges the antichristian Americans are insulting and denigrating a key part of America."

Today, he says, "I'm a secular guy." Five years ago he said "secular judges" were insulting and denigrating a key part of America. Today he says "We don't make laws based on religion, it's the separation of church and state." Five years ago, he called the separation of church and state "bogus." You know what they say about opinions. Everybody has an opinion, just like, you know whats, except Billo was born with two you know whats. Bill O'Reilly, defending that bogus separation of church and state. Today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: On the eve of the run off election between Senator Saxby Chambliss and his Democratic challenger Jim Martin their surrogates, Governor Sarah Palin and rapper Ludacris campaigned in Georgia today, clearly a vainglorious attempt to try to sway voters with gibberish from a so-called younger generation. And I'm not referring to the guy who does the hip hop. In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, it's governor, give me a turkey killing backdrop and I'll talk all day Palin stumping for Chambliss with a vigilant eye on her prospects for 2012. Four rallies today, Governor Palin saying Senator Chambliss doesn't just run with the Washington herd and it's vital to maintaining checks and balances in Congress.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) AK: I'm kind of selfishly looking at this to tell you the truth. It's not just for Georgia. This is for folks in Alaska and in Hawaii and in Maine and in Washington State and Washington, DC. I'm looking at this, I'm a mom with five kids. This is for my kids and their future.


OLBERMANN: That could easily be contracted to, "I'm kind of selfishly looking at the future." And the governor has some ideas on that score.


PALIN: Let us reclaim our good name as those with spending restraints and believing in limited government and providing economic opportunity and by protecting liberty. Let us all be true to our beliefs. We must be strong and unafraid to speak up for American ideals and firm in support for Americans finest, those who are defending the ideals for us in a very dangerous world.


OLBERMANN: But, closer to her so-called home, the editorial page editor of the "Anchorage Daily News" asks, "I wonder if she knows the true measure of the man she's eagerly helping. In the best Karl Rove fashion, Chambliss the draft evader attacked Max Cleland the war hero for being soft on terrorism," referring to the Chambliss 2002 infamous Senate run. And the "Alaska Dispatch" recently assessed the governor's attendance record. "It's now been three weeks since the election and Sarah has yet to step foot in the capital Juneau."

As for the election, hard to say whether Ludacris making an appearance for Jim Martin or Governor Ludicrous of Alaska or anybody else would actually boost the traditionally low turnout for such run-off contests. In the interim, let's bring in Bloomberg News political columnist and Washington editor of "The Week" magazine, Margaret Carlson. Good evening, Margaret.


OLBERMANN: Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney also campaigned for Chambliss so Palin would hardly be committing a political sin if her motives for doing the same thing includes her own political future. But to be clear, that is what's going on here?

CARLSON: Well, she did say she was doing it for the people of Alaska. I think the people of Alaska would take issue with, in particular with the newspapers taking issue with it. But her popularity rating in Alaska has gone down since her national debut. She hasn't been back in the capital of Alaska since August. So they have reason to complain. But I now think Sarah Palin like Bill Clinton and like Elvis, never going away. She's with us for a good long time. I think she'll be opening supermarkets soon.

OLBERMANN: This just occurred to me. What is the most grotesque event to be standing in front of and not paying attention to.

What we're seeing now, she's standing in front of Saxby Chambliss who ran that campaign against Max Cleland six years ago or standing in front of a turkey killing machine.

CARLSON: Both are killers. Talking about her son in her appearance and ignoring what happened to Max Cleland is a terrible disconnect. I don't think enough attention can ever be paid to the ads that were run against Max Cleland. I'm waiting to hear if Chambliss apologizes for that some day.

OLBERMANN: Well, I hope you have some time.

CARLSON: An eternity, apparently.

OLBERMANN: Whether or not she actually helps Chambliss get votes is not really of importance as long as she can draw the crowds and keep herself in the public eye. And it's in the lower 48. That's the key to this from her viewpoint, correct?

CARLSON: Right. Now, you cannot keep her on the tundra now that she's seen the lower 48. She likes it here. And she gets, you know, she gets air time. By the way, she did pull off crowds for him. We should see who did better, Ludacris, the actual Ludacris or Ms. Slight Ludicrous.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, the president-elect is kind of busy and there are major issues going on here, but is there an explanation, is there an excuse out of the White House in waiting for why he didn't make a single appearance on behalf of a Democratic challenger who at least had a chance of unseating another Republican in Georgia?

CARLSON: You gave the excuse, which is he's naming his national security and other teams. And if he's going to hold true, at least temporarily or at least during the honeymoon to be bipartisan, to go and appear in a partisan election goes against the image he's trying to create right now.

OLBERMANN: All right. I suppose. At some point maybe earlier in the process, it might have been acceptable. Do you think he'll regret it at some point at some later date, especially if Chambliss wins.

CARLSON: You have a point. If he did it right away, before giving the press conference and choosing, he could have done it. Now, on the eve of the election or the last couple days I think it would have been unpresidential.

OLBERMANN: Well, for that we have Sarah Palin.

CARLSON: For that we have a vice presidential nominee.

OLBERMANN: Who's not quite even up to those standards. Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News, have a good night. And thank you kindly.

CARLSON: You too, thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN for this, the 2,032 day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. Now, our MSNBC coverage continues with the individual today nominated by no less than Tina Brown as the next host of MEET THE PRESS, your moderator Rachel Maddow. Good evening Ms. Moderator.