Thursday, January 10, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Jan. 10

Guests: Thomas Ricks

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

Obama's first shot across the Clintonian bow: The "some of us aren't ready" candidate endorsed by a 33-year veteran of the House and a 21-year veteran of the House and Senate and a 23-year veteran of the Senate.


SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Barack Obama isn't going to break the mold. Together, we are going to shatter it into a million pieces and rebuild our nation.


OBLERMANN: Barack Obama gets the endorsement of John Kerry.

Barack Obama gets the endorsement of Nancy Pelosi's wingman, George Miller. Barack Obama gets the endorsement of Jim Johnson. Barack Obama does not get the endorsement of Governor Bill Richardson, nobody does, yet.


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NEW MEXICO: At this time, I will not endorse any candidate. And all I ask of the candidates is that they do not resort to personal attacks to win the nomination.


OLBERMANN: Governor Richardson takes no questions, but he will be our special guest tonight.

The primaries: Not as marathon but as a game of monopoly. Not how many spaces you move but where you land. Chuck Todd explains from Marvin Gardens.

The surge: The first anniversary. The Republicans insisting wall to wall that it worked. Funny, Iraqis are still dying. Americans are still dying. Iraqi government still hasn't working. Thomas Ricks of the "Washington Post" tells the truth.

Something has finally stopped the telecom giants from helping the Bush administration to spy on you. They didn't get paid on time.

Comedian Rush Limbaugh explains how Hillary won New Hampshire. Buses full of out of state voters. One (ph) is apparently only he is capable of seeing.

Who is in Rudy Giuliani's newest TV commercial?


OLBERMANN (voice over): Hello, I'm Keith Olbermann and I did not approve this message.


OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening, this is Thursday, January 10th, 299 day until the 2008 presidential election. The endorsement is American political legend. But the last utterly decisive one might have been William Jennings Bryan backing Woodrow Wilson 96 years ago. As Howard Dean about Al Gore's endorsement or John McCain about Gary Bowers in 2000 or Rudy Giuliani about Pat Robertson's which precede by a seeming 17 minutes, the falling of the heavens on his candidacy last month.

So, in our fifth story on the Countdown: John Kerry endorses Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton cheers? Maybe not. Not if there's a specific threat here. An attempt to build up a wall of experience at a time when the Illinois senator is being accused of personal inexperience. Still, the Democratic day had a second highlight, a non-endorsement. The man who didn't give it, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico joins us presently.

First: Senator Kerry traveling to South Carolina to give his colleagues campaign a boost. Two weeks before that state's crucial primary, two days after Senator Clinton's unexpected victory in New Hampshire. Mr. Kerry seemingly suggests that it is time not just for new ideas but also for names in the White House.


KERRY: Sometimes, the hardest thing is for the establishment, to establish a political world, to make a clean break from the past, to really embrace new thinking and a new beginning. The old guard sometimes has a hard time acknowledging an individual who breaks the mold. Well, let me tell you something. Barack Obama isn't going to just break the mold. Together, we are going to shatter it into a million pieces and rebuild our nation.


OLBERMANN: You scratch my Barack, I'll scratch yours. The endorsement his, Senator Obama preceding to give what can only be described as the anti-swiftboating of John Kerry.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a man who sacrificed the comforts of youth, to fight in the jungles of Vietnam, the young lieutenant who extended his hands to a brother in arms pulling him from a river as bullets screamed by. This is a hero who will return to Washington where politicians continue to senseless war day after day, life after life because they were too afraid to challenge the conventional thinking. John Kerry is a man of courage, a man of conviction and a man of life story. A man who's life story gave him an intimate understanding of the kind of change we need right now.


OLBERMANN: Which one is running for president, again?

Well, it was Senator Obama who racked up other endorsements today, including one from California congressman, George miller. It might not sound all that significant, but this is perhaps the closest thing to getting a Nancy Pelosi endorsement without actually getting one. The two said to be incredibly close politically. The Obama campaign also picking up the endorsement today of South Dakota senator, Tim Johnson. No official endorsements for Senator Clinton today but it sure appeared as if Karl Rove was back to backing the candidate he'd love to see beaten. The former adviser to President Bush writing it up there (ph) in a now Murdoch-owned, Murdoch "Street Journal" in which he explains why Mrs. Clinton won in New Hampshire and otherwise, reiterates (ph) Senator Obama, saying that the Illinois Democrat's performance at the debate Saturday, quote, "His trash talking was an unattractive carry over from his the days of playing basketball at Harvard, and capped a mediocre night." And Karl Rove knows his mediocre. Of Senator Obama generally, Mr. Rove is saying, quote, "He's often lazy." Karl Rove knows his lazy. Out of Mr. Obama's speeches, Mr. Rove analyzing, quote, "His rhetoric while eloquent and moving at times, has been too often light as air." As we've mentioned New Mexico governor, Richardson choosing not to endorse anyone. Governor Richardson officially ending his campaign today but pointing out the ways in which he has and will the impact in the campaign for some time to come.


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NEW MEXICO: A year ago, we were the only campaign calling for the removal of all our troops within the year's time from Iraq. We were the only campaign calling for a complete reform of education including the scrapping of "no child left behind." And we were the campaign that was the most aggressive in clean energy and the most ambitious standards reducing global warming. Now, all the remaining candidates have come to our point of view.


OLBERMANN: Governor Richardson will join us momentarily. First:

Let's turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek Magazine." Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Which category do you think the Kerry endorsement is going to fit into? Either an Al Gore for Howard Dean or this and Johnson and Miller countering the latest Clinton team that Obama doesn't have experience and only the inexperienced would support him?

WOLFFE: Well, you notice, it's become fashionable inside the beltway to make fun of John Kerry and endorsements in general. But actually I think this one is very well-timed. This would only have a small life span, but the timing of this one is effective because of there's a question of foreign policy experience, of where the establishment of the party is likely to go. And people often overlook what Kerry actually achieved in 2004. He got a biggest share of the popular vote than Bill Clinton. Now, he did. And he left the campaign with (INAUDIBLE) of three million supporters. Again, an important piece of mobilizing voters that Barack Obama can plug into.

OLBERMANN: What does the endorsement say? How does it reflect upon the campaign of the man who ran with Senator Kerry in 2004 as his vice presidential candidate, John Edwards?

WOLFFE: Well, obviously, they are not best of friends. You know, there have been lots of cases where Edwards had been snipping at Kerry for how the campaign was run. And you know, there were tensions there at the time. I recall interviewing both of them together as soon after Kerry picked Edwards and Edwards was bristling at being kept in a sort of lower role than he thought he should have on foreign policy. Kerry didn't really want to have anyone there to humanizing (ph) because he thought he was human enough already on his own. So, those tensions had been there throughout.

OLBERMANN: The Karl Rove endorsement, although not in his many words. What is, is he scared of a Barack Obama nomination? Is he scared not to have a Hillary Clinton one? Does he just feel the need to be involved when his time is so clearly passed?

WOLFFE: Well, about his candidacy is clearly a repudiation of that kind of style of politics. And Obama is pretty explicit about it. More than that though, talking to some of Obama's aides, I think they detected a pretty ugly undertone in Rove's up (ph) there. The trash talking, the basketball, the lazy thing. Is he suggesting that some sort of color aspect to Barack Obama's behavior that he's getting at? You know, it was uncomfortably close to an edge of being playing that racist.

OBLERMANN: That's Karl. The Congressman George Miller endorsement, this is as we described it, essentially Pelosi's wing man. Super delegates like Speaker Pelosi, they're not likely to declare anything until the race is clear, correct?

WOLFFE: That's true. But the super delegate thing is important. I mean, you look at the delegate count right now; Hillary Clinton has 180 something delegates. Most of those are the super delegates, they can switch around. They obviously want to see who the winner is. But you know, Kerry plus Pelosi's confidante there, those are important signal to the party that not only can Obama be taken seriously but they should consider where they put their endorsements.

OLBERMANN: Indeed. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," as always Richard, great thanks for your time.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And now as promised, let's bring in New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson until 1:12 pm mountain time today, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Good evening, governor.

RICHARDSON: Nice to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Why end it and what did it say when men with the experience that you and Senators Biden and Dodd have wind up ending it before February 1st of the election year.

RICHARDSON: Well, I ended it even though I felt I had an impact on the Iraq war and education and energy, mainly, because I didn't have the resources to compete in Nevada. I didn't do as well as I wanted to in Iowa and New Hampshire. And I needed those two states to get a bump into the west and especially to boost my fundraising. Especially since Clinton and Obama out raised me 10 to one. I didn't get that so, I felt that rather than go into debt, rather than risk a potential third place in Nevada with no advertising in Nevada because I'd run out of cash, that the best thing would be for me to step aside. I've made my point. I did the best I could. I'm proud of the campaign I ran. I'm still a player in the west nationally. I neglected my state for about a year. I haven't been back that much and so I felt this was the time, Keith. On the experience issue, well, voters this year, they want change. They want some fresh faces. Although, I'm not a Washington man, I'm a governor, they still kind of bunch (ph) me in with the Washington crowd, which obviously, didn't help. All though, I bet you I was a second choice of a lot of voters. And so, you know, here I am. I'm going to be a player. I'm going to be active in the west with the Hispanic community trying to elect the Democrat president. I've got my legislation session starting here in Mexico next week. And I do the job that I really love. I love of being a governor.

OLBERMANN: All right. Let's look at the job ahead here in terms of the national party and the campaign. Why no endorsement at this point?

RICHARDSON: You know, I know you're beltway experts don't agree with me. I don't think endorsement make much of a difference from politicians. I really, I've never felt that. However, my view is that right now, I want to just stay loose. I may endorse later. But right now, you know, as some of these primaries head into my region, head into New Mexico, California, Arizona, Colorado, the best thing for me to do is not endorse. I think we got three very good top candidates. I have ties with all three, you know, we've all talked in the last couple of days. I just feel that it's best for me to stay loose for now. Let - not have my role enhanced in the west by staying out. Plus, in all candors, Keith, you know, I know Senator Kerry, he has a $3 million list. That's valuable. But I just never felt politicians endorsing other politicians makes much of a difference. It's up to the voters, it's up to grass roots, it's up to issues and so, that's my view.

OLBERMANN: What a great answer. You mentioned the debate Saturday in New Hampshire that you've been involved in hostage negotiations that had been more civil and today, you said the candidates, you wished that they would not resort to personal attacks to try to win this nomination. Do you have a sense that the thing is likely to get uglier as it goes on or did we reach a low in New Hampshire or where do you think it stands and how do you think it can be preserved from the low end of the trench?

RICHARDSON: Well, my concern is that it is going to get uglier. New Hampshire was just a start. It just seems that the attacks are going to intensify. That's not good because the voters want to see us being positive about the country, about issues. And this personal sniping, whether you trust somebody, whether you're tied to special interest, all that mudslinging I think makes us diminished in the eyes of the voter. And so, I am going to really urge all candidates to try and stay as positive as possible. Look, there's going to be plenty of time to get negative. The Republicans are going to throw the kitchen sink at us, swiftboating as you earlier mentioned discussed. Why not talk about the future and so far, I believe the campaign in general has talked about substantive issues. But if they're sniping and it gets very tight, you head in to the west, February 5th, and it's very tight, I hope the sniping doesn't intensify, but my sense is that it will. And that won't help the Democratic Party.

OLBERMANN: Have you thought long term about this no matter where it ends up? Would you be open to serving in a Democratic presidency starting next year?

RICHARDSON: You know, I've done that, Keith. I'm a very satisfied person. You know, I've run for president, I've been honored by that. I've had a lot of great jobs in my life. I want to spend more time with my wife, my family. You know, I'm going to get back on my horse and start horseback riding again. I love being governor. You know, I'm not looking for anything. I'm happy where I am. And I will play an active role in the next few months. I'm going to keep my hostage negotiating going, my international activities as a governor. So, I'm a very happy man right now. Although, you know, I know I'll probably start missing you guys and all the campaign. I love people, I love campaigning, shaking hands, I love the debates, but you know, there will be another day for me.

OLBERMANN: Well, one last personal thing here. What happens when you bow out from a presidential race? You mentioned talking to the three lead candidates in the last couple days, do all the remaining candidates call you up and actually say the words, will you endorse me? Does it go staff to staff? Do people sent fruit baskets, gift certificates? What happens?

RICHARDSON: Well, I've had a lot of calls. Even Governor Huckabee called me. No, he didn't ask for an endorsement. But you know, we're all friends. You know, apart from all the negative stuff about politics, Obama, Clinton and I, Edwards, we've all shared you know, being in the arena in a very pressured situation running for president. So, there's mutual personal respect. And it's mainly gracious exchanges. You know, they're not out where, hey, listen, will you be with me. The staffs by the way, they don't communicate. The staffs really hate each other. Candidates like each other.

OBLERMANN: I guess once you've stood out on the stage in 90 degree Chicago in August, that's a bonding experience. Governor Bill Richardson, I know it's not a great practical news right now, but do understand why I couldn't said something like this earlier. I think you would have made a fine president. And thanks for your time in all of this.

RICHARDSON: I appreciate it. I appreciate your saying that.

Thank you.

OLBERMANN: You're welcome. So, how do today's endorsements and exits change the practicalities for those still in the Democratic field. We'll ask Chuck Todd to literally draw us a map.

Something is sure has changed in the Republican field, that Rudy Giuliani is now putting me in his campaign ads. Your are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Bill Richardson out, John Kerry in - in in the Barack Obama camp anyway and does that have an impact in a very specific roadmap that is the Democratic primary. Chuck Todd will literally draw as a map. And ahead at Worst, Comedian Rush Limbaugh's explanation of the Clinton victory in New Hampshire versus Bill O's belief that the Left is religiously intolerant not the Right. And how in the hell did it get inside of Rudy Giuliani campaign commercial? All ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: So, John Kerry and Tim Johnson and George Miller threw their combined 77 years in the House and the Senate behind Barack Obama and if this changes things tonight, how exactly? Our fourth story on the Countdown: The Democrat's math and the Democrat's geography tonight seem unimpressed by the endorsements. In order to win their party's nomination for president, the Democratic candidate needs 2,025 delegates, Republican would need 1,191; so far 128 delegates have been assigned. The counts vote parties. Votes in South Carolina, Michigan, Nevada, Florida and Maine will edge up those numbers a bit. The big jump of course comes on February 5th, the superiors of the super Tuesdays, when two-thirds of all Democratic delegates get allocated. Right now, Barack Obama has 25, Hillary Clinton 24, John Edwards 18. That's not a final. Let's turn to NBC News political director, Chuck Todd. Good evening, Chuck.


OLBERMANN: All right. Well, before we play this who, what, where game, it looks like one of those drives through the states, place mates to use to have (INAUDIBLE).

TODD: Well, we could really use a telescope (ph) down here, you see? In that way.

OBLERMANN: We'll get it to you out of the budget like in 20 years. Is there anywhere in the immediate future where the math and the geography combine with today's development to specifically help anybody. I mean, does Bill Richardson bowing out help anybody in like South Carolina or does Kerry endorsement, does it help Obama somewhere?

TODD: I think there's an argument that Richardson's endorsement could be a good thing, excuse me, Richardson's withdrawal could be a good thing for Clinton in Nevada. Nevada has the largest Hispanic population. Richardson had been making a huge effort in that state, probably, second behind the effort he was making in Iowa. And then, when you look at what Clinton has been doing with Hispanic votes, she's been to wooing the Hispanic community you know, to a much greater extent than Obama, so far. Part of it is that she's known she was going to need Hispanics for February 5th. So, she might be slightly helped by his withdrawal in Nevada.

OBLERMANN: So, otherwise the layout is largely the same for Clinton and Obama Nevada and South Carolina coming up. Obviously, this could all changed at any moment, but we'll say they split them, what then needs to happen on Super Tuesday for either of them?

TODD: Well, let's discuss that Nevada and South Carolina, really quickly. Obama has to win South Carolina. I mean, that is a must win. If he doesn't, everybody will call in to question his ability to win over African-Americans, et cetera. So, let's get on the table first. But let's assume the split for even Obama winning both, I mean, Clinton doesn't need to win either of them. She can argue that she is, you know, at a disadvantage in both because the caucus process Obama showing some success at and then, South Carolina with African-American. So, then, we go to February 5th, where really, you have 23 states, and they're going to just split up the country pretty much. You're going to have Hillary Clinton focusing on states that have closed primaries. And these are states that don't allow independents to vote. At least, most of the states that are in her base category don't allow them to vote. That includes New York, that includes New Mexico, that includes the Colorado caucuses, Connecticut, Delaware, Arizona. And then also, you throw in New Jersey in the regional aspect. Those, I would argue are sort of her base states, states that she has to win and where she probably has an advantage going in because she has been winning among registered Democrats. In New Hampshire, she carried registered Democrats by a big number. It was very even in Iowa. Obama's margin of victory in Iowa and almost, sort of the margin of tie in New Hampshire was with independents.

OLBERMANN: All right. So, now, we've already established Obama's must win in South Carolina; does Clinton have a must win in Nevada then?

TODD: Well, I would, you know, it's interesting, is it a must win? No. Is it - make it life on February 5th a little easier? Yes. I think she can't deal with losing both and hope to stay the national front-runner. If Obama wins them both, that's suddenly he's three in one you know, and that's going into February 5. That could get more establishment folks jumping on the bandwagon. So, it's not a must win for her, but I think to get to make life on February 5th easier, she needs it.

OLBERMANN: And is there a map for John Edwards? I mean, is there an over the rivers and through the woods thing that keeps him or gets him back to where he was in Iowa or just keeps him going to declare Denver destination?

TODD: Yes, look, he won South Carolina in' 04, so, I'd argue that he needs to win it again. You know, not winning it, forget it. He right now is a player because at 15 percent, he can get delegates and he can sort of play king maker. But beyond that, it is hard to see a path. If he won South Carolina, then he would start going to the southern states on February 5th and look at those, there's Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia. But I'll tell you, with Obama in this race, he's really going to do well in the south because of the large pockets of African Americans, assuming he wins South Carolina. He's got a great southern strategy.

OLBERMANN: Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News. As always Chuck, many thanks.

TODD: You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Now: Exactly why anybody would invent this, I'm not sure but we can confirm tonight. The world's first ever combination of taser and mp3 player. Listen while you tase.

Now: I'm hearing you say you think President Bush had the same effect. OK, you had me there, regardless. This is the first anniversary of the surge and the radical Right is getting (ph) with repeating that it has worked. Do the Iraqis think so? Does any moderate in this country think so?

First: Breaking news in the administration's other 50 scandals -


Number three: No bid-gate. The U.S. attorney, Christopher Christie (ph) of New Jersey needed an outside lawyer to negotiate a settlement with the indicted firm it hired with no bidding and no public notice. Former attorney general, John Ashcroft gave him a contract worth at least $28 million.

Number two: Waterboarding-gate. The CIA official who ordered the destruction of the torture tapes says he will testify to the House Intelligence Community next Wednesday, but only if he gets immunity.

Number one: Wiretap-gate. News that at least one of the foreign intelligence surveillance act investigations. One of the FISA cases for which the administration had turned the Constitution inside out. They discontinued its eavesdropping because the FBI failed to pay the phone company bills on time, nearly 500 bills for wiretaps found in five bureau field offices around the country were found to have not been paid. Seriously? The telecom giants will break the law, violate the Constitution, help anybody spy on you for any reason, ignore their consciousness, ignore their responsibilities as citizens but if they don't get their money, the wiretap stop. And there's the saving grace to capitalism. That's a lesson for the Democrats in Congress, too.


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: It's the birthday of singing greats Sean Colvin and Donald Fagen. Ms. Colvin is 52. Mr. Fagen, best known for Steely Dan, is 60? Check please. Let's play "Oddball".

We begin at the consumer electronics show in Vegas where one product is the clear breakout hit of the convention, capturing the imagination of the security-conscious music-loving fool in all of us. It's the personal Taser-mp3 player. Now, you can listen to Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" as you make degenerate criminals ride the lightning. The C2 from Taser International comes in black, pink, red, and leopard print. The MP3 player is contained in a holster and it retails for $380. And it is our duty as responsible newscast to thus play the following clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, ya, ya, ow... it hurts!

OLBERMANN: Ya, ya, indeed, sir. Let's head back to San Luis Obispo, California. Oh! And the elephant seal chase has the whole nation holding its collective breath. Yesterday, we told you authorities were hoping to coax the seal back to the beach over the highway it had crossed. Today, in a stunning development, the seal has taken refuge in an area puddle and it is refusing to budge. Wildlife officials backed out of their plans to force old blubber across the highway, hoping he would head back to the beach on his own. Now, they are worried the seal won't leave the puddle until he gets hungry which could take up to two weeks. At which point, that C2 taser-mp3 player might become an option.

One year since the president announced the surge in a self-fulfilling prophecy, his people have now declared it successful. Do Iraqis think so? And what is the official jump the shark moment for a Republican presidential campaign? When it puts one individual in its TV commercial - guy on the left? These stories ahead. But, first, time for Countdown's top three "Best Persons in the World". Number three, best job of washing your own mouth out with soap: Senator McCain, joining a Michigan campaign rally, wanting to raise the level of political dialogue in America, I'm going to treat my opponents with respect. This is the man who turned an F-bomb on fellow Republican Senator John Corning last year who, three times called Republican Pete Dominicci a blank- hole in 1999. He called a third fellow Republican Chuck Grassly an f-ing jerk in 2000. Good luck to you, sir.

Number two, best new excuse for skipping school: Diego Palacios of Mexico City said, "I didn't want to go to school because vacation was so much fun." So when the Christmas break ended Monday, Diego woke up early and glued his hand to his bed. He's fine now.

Number one, best inter-species loyalty: in Manchester, England, Oscar the dog's best friend was 17-year-old Arthur the cat. They shared a basket in a house of their owner's, the Bell family. But then, Arthur passed on to his great cat reward. So, the Bells buried Arthur the cat out in their garden which, that night is where Oscar the dog went and dug Arthur up and dragged him back inside and put him back on their basket.


OLBERMANN: After publicly pretending he would, at least, consider reducing the number of Americans in harm's way in Iraq, President Bush one year ago tonight announced the surge of more troops, eventually up to 170,000. Our third story tonight, one year later, falling from the front pages but still uppermost in voters' minds: did the surge in Iraq work? In an op-ed today, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman predictably write, quote, "conditions in that country have been utterly transformed from those of a year ago as a consequence of the surge." While correct in its implication that violence has fallen dramatically, they are on shakier ground crediting the surge for that.

Ethnic cleansing, a pleasant euphemism for genocide and fear, has reduced sectarian violence. An estimated 10 percent of Iraqis having fled their homes. The UN estimating approximately one million fled to Syria alone last year. Also, Anbar militias broke ties with Al-Qaeda in Iraq before the surge. This Tuesday, the U. S. launched a massive new operation, targeting AIQ in its new stronghold in northern Iraq. That resulted in nine U. S. fatalities. Many militia leaders, such as Muqtada al-Sadr, now, have at least informal truces with the U. S., perhaps, in part, because the U. S. has decided to tolerate the less extreme ones. Both Republicans and pseudo-Republicans acknowledge the real goal of the surge - political change to ensure future stability - remains unmet. But Mr. Bush upheld his battle to hold Iraq to the 2007 benchmarks? Sharing oil revenues with the people? No. Local elections to empower Sunnis? No. Return of low-level Baathists to government? No. Constitutional review?

No. Iraqi control of provinces? No. 18 Iraqi brigades in Baghdad? No. Let's turn now to "Washington Post" military correspondent Thomas Ricks, author of the definitive war chronicle, "Fiasco: the American Military Adventure in Iraq". Once again, great thanks for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: You wrote today, despite the blood and the treasure, we were told we're worth building Mr. Bush's vision of democracy in Iraq. He, in general, portray that we have essentially decided - forget the benchmarks - let Iraqis do what they want. Can you elaborate on that?

RICKS: Sure. The phrase you hear a lot is Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems. It's been around for awhile, but it's become popular in the last six months. Essentially, what it means is, "Hey, we tried for four years to impose a solution here. It didn't work. OK, let the Iraqis figure it out."

OLBERMANN: Why is that suddenly an acceptable idea now when, a year or two earlier, that was considered cut and run?

RICKS: Because, we tried everything else, it didn't work. And, as Winston Churchhill said, you can always count on the Americans to do the right thing once they've tried everything else. And, that's kind of where we at now. The solutions we tried to impose where rejected, fell apart, weren't sustainable. It also represents in some ways an accommodation - they are talking about Sunnis and Shi'ites reconciling. It's also Americans reconciling themselves to reality and saying, "What we hope you'd have here is not going to happen." So, unless - let's try for something, at least, sustainable and secure.

OLBERMANN: You also wrote, once peace is established in Sunni areas and central Shi'ite government intends to disband the local Sunni militias. How on earth could that go wrong?

RICKS: There's a huge fight brewing there. An American officer told me that the insurgents he was working with, once they take care of Al-Qaeda, they turn in their guns to the government. This is not pleasing to the Baghdad government. The Americans are paying these people money and making promises to them. And, these are the same people who intend to go after they Shi'ite government at some point.

OLBERMANN: If the goal of the surge was - as stated a year ago tonight - to prevent American blood being shed in Iraq, obviously, we could have accomplished that by never going there. Likewise, the fictional Iraqi WMD was that phrase about the solutions for Iraqi problems rings oddly historically. The problems that Mr. Bush caused here, Al-qaeda in Iraq, does not the concessions to Iraqi solutions amount to a declaration of surrender on the economic and political that the president claimed was worth thousands of American lives?

RICKS: It certainly is a way of, kind of, moon walking away from those goals while still giving them a head nod and saying, "Look, if this is not going to happen, let's at least have these guys cobble together something so we can get out of here eventually."

OLBERMANN: So, a year later, when Senators Lieberman and McCain get all choked up how the surge has worked, are they apt or, at least, getting close to that old morbid joke about the doctor telling the family, "Well, the operation was a success but, I'm afraid, I have to tell you the patient died?"

RICKS: Well, from their perspective, perhaps, the surge is a success. As you said in the introduction, Iraq is no longer on the front pages everyday. For some politicians, that might be exactly the definition of success they were looking for. But, yes, judged on the terms in which the president presented it, the surge has not worked. The purpose of the surge was to improve security. But, to improve it to lead to a political breakthrough. And that political breakthrough has not happened. It was supposed to happen by last summer. That was the theory of the surge. So, the theory of the surge is now demonstrably false. We're in 2008 and it hasn't happened. So, there's a big question: OK, if the breakthrough doesn't happen, what do we do next?

OLBERMANN: Do the Iraqis think it has worked?

RICKS: I think, Iraqis recognize that large parts of Baghdad are more peaceful than they were. But, violence is basically back to 2005 levels. And, that was no picnic - 2005. It's just that 2006 was pure hell.

OLBERMANN: Thomas Ricks of "The Washing Post", author of "Fiasco".

Again, great thanks.

RICKS: You're welcome.

OLBERMANN: A quick note about culpability in Iraq: in the last ongoing court-martial related to Abu Ghraib, the U. S. Army today tossed out the conviction of Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Jordan. He was accused, not of torture, but of disobeying an order to not discuss the investigation of abuses at Abu Ghraib, the U. S. prison - the infamous one - in Iraq. The end of Jordan's case is a milestone in the investigation because it now means not a single officer will be convicted for their roles in the torture scandal that blemished America's already tarnished reputation. Only one person, Charles Grainer, remains behind bars. Nor will any civilian leaders face punishment, despite General Janis Karpinski's claim that the torture authorization came from the top, from then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Admittedly, it goes by very quickly, but why is there more of me in the new Rudy Giuliani ad than there is of, say, 9/11?

And, it's one of those special nights in "Worst" - Bill O. versus comedian Rush Limbaugh. Please sit well back from the TV as Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: One verb you shouldn't use when describing how to tee golf with Tiger Woods.

The surprise cameos in Rudy Giuliani's new TV commercial - not a surprise to me and Dana Milbank.

And in "Worst", Bill O. versus and comedian Rush Limbaugh in a battle to the death. Yes, that is exaggerating but, it is next, on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: "Keeping Tabs" begins with the passing of a celebrity tonight. He was figuratively and literally head and shoulders above most, the great mountaineer and adventurer, Sir Edmund Hillary. The New Zealander and his Nepalese Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay became world famous after climbing the 29,000 feet to the top of the world in 1953 - the Mount Everest. That was before lightweight high-tech equipment made it a sport for the wealthy. As plain-spoken as they get, Hillary's first words after returning from the summit were "We knocked the bastard off." So modest, he refused to disclose that he was actually the first to reach the peak until years after his Sherpa friend Norgay had died. Why do men climb mountains? He couldn't say but he fell in love with Nepal and its people, spending decades raising money for schools there and health clinics and reforestation. Sir Edmund Hillary was 88 years old.

Sports is a strange land. Roger Clemens, denying charges by a former trainer who claimed he used to inject Clemens in the buttocks with steroids and testosterone. Clemens answers with a four ______ sentence that, quote, "I put my butt on the line and I worked my tail off" - nobody notices. But when a golf commentator uses the most painful, least appropriate word imaginable about an African-American player and, even with that player promptly calling it a non-issue, it gets a mess of attention. Tiger Woods was the subject as Golf Channel anchors, Kelly Tillman and Nick Faldo, discuss what up-and-coming golfers can do to challenge the almost unstoppable Woods, fore! Here it comes:


NICK FALDO, ANCHOR, GOLF CHANNEL: It went quite through the year but, now, they realized that back into it, you know, they've realized the qualities that golf and it's good enough to get out there. And she said to take Tiger on, maybe, they should gang up on him a while until...

KELLY TILLMAN, ANCHOR, GOLF CHANNEL: Lynch him in a back alley



OLBERMANN: Woods magnanimously calling Tillman a friend and the incident a non-issue, Faldo apologizing to Tiger but the Golf Channel is suspending Ms. Tillman for two weeks after the lynch remark, saying, "it was hurtful and inappropriate, but unintentional."

And then, there are tombstones. The legendary WCP despised his hometown so much, that, asked what he wanted engraved on his, he suggested, quote, "I'd almost rather be in Philadelphia." He never got his wish. But, the late TV star and impresario Merv Griffin got his. The epitaph on his edgestone at Westwood Park in L. A., "I will not be right back after this message." put it best, final jeopardy.

Speaking of messages, you'd think the last person Rudy Giuliani would want in one of his campaign ad would be me. You'd be wrong. That's ahead but, first, time for Countdown's "Worst Persons in the World".

The bronze, to fascist, syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham. On his Sunday broadcast, he repeatedly identified a Democratic presidential candidate as, quote, "Barack Mohammed Hussein Obama" even though that is not his name. That is as offensive and dishonest as calling that host Bill Intelligent Cunningham. This guy, by the way, is one of the guest experts on the TV shows of Sean Hannity and Bill O. which tells you everything.

Our runner-up tonight: Bill O. Lost in another one of his secular-progressive pipedreams, he's now trying to link NBC and GE to Osama Bin Laden. That's right, Bill, and John Wilkes Booth worked for us, too. Anyway, he's asserting that he, quote: "Look, all these people are crazy. All believers are nuts. They're dangerous people. Mitt Romney is a dangerous Mormon." Actually, the people who are saying Mitt Romney is a dangerous Mormon are the wife of James Dobson from the "Focus on the Family" crowd and the Southern Baptist Convention which called Mormonism a cult. And that Gallup poll last year when 75% of liberals said they would vote for a Mormon and only 66 percent of conservatives did. So, who's likely to call Mitt Romney a dangerous Mormon, Bill O.? One of your viewers.

But, tonight's winner: comedian Rush Limbaugh. While blasting the pollsters in New Hampshire for predicting the Democratic primary wrong and letting himself off the hook for predicting the Democratic primary wrong, he and a caller decided there's reason to believe Senator Clinton won because she had out of state residents bust into New Hampshire to vote for her. The caller believed this because he claimed to live there and said he didn't recognize the other voters he saw. So, when the pre-vote opinion polls don't match a particular state's actual vote, comedian, you're saying that a likely explanation is voter fraud using ineligible non-residents. So, that would also explain, say, the outcome in the presidential race in Ohio in 2004? Instead of - I don't know - the polls were wrong? Comedian Rush Limbaugh. Today's "Worst Person in the World".


OLBERMANN: 2,093 fewer votes and he would have finished fifth in the Republican New Hampshire primary on Tuesday night, behind Ron Paul. So, on our number one story on the Countdown, one can understand that there might be some confusion in the advertising department of the Rudy Giuliani campaign. Still, with St. Rudy of 9/11's pitch for the Republican nomination hinging on how he does in Florida, one would have thought the last person he would want to include in his commercials there - even in the most subliminal fashion, even for the briefest of times - would be me. And yet, admittedly, in a crowd, there's the guy that the Giuliani campaign once tried to get thrown off the pre-debate coverage of the Republican debate at the Reagan Library. The guy who has faithfully covered all of Giuliani's scandals and reminded everybody that his character, his reputation is mostly a figment of his imagination. campaign. The guy that uncovered his scandals. Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER (voice-over): By handicapping the campaign like the Super Bowl, it's easy to lose sight of what's at stake: an economy in peril. A country at war. A future uncertain. The media loves process. Talking heads love chatter. But Florida has a chance to turn down the noise and show the world that Leadership is what really matters.

RUDY GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANT: I'm Rudy Giuliani and I approved this message.


OLBERMANN: It's quite a crowd. I kind of counted 14 of us, at least, in there, supposedly supporting that dubious claim of his that TV history is like the Super Bowl rather than addressing issues and character. If you missed it, there we are - me and Dana Milbank in a Rudy Giuliani commercial. We now have a statement from Mr. Milbank on this, quote, "In compliance with the FCC's equal time provisions, I've agreed to cut ads for Huckabee and Romney, too."

By the way, do you think Hannity, O'Reilly, Dobbs, Dick Morris, Ron Williams, Fred Barnes, and Brian Kilmead are (A) happy to be sharing the screen with us; (B) happy to be thrown under the bus as pundits, politicos, and talking heads by Giuliani? I mean, Hannity might even stop hosting Giuliani campaign events. Plus, knowing the Giuliani spiel, doesn't a commercial that mentions the economy sort of veer off from his one and only message?

In a bi-partisan spirit of cooperation, from one New Yorker to another and with the help of the archives at TPM Muckraker, we edited this Giuliani-Olbermann commercial in a way that fits the spirit of this fine American's campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER (voice-over): With handicapping the campaign like the Super Bowl, it's easy to lose sight of what's at stake.

GIULIANI: Like September 11.

GIULIANI: September 11...

GIULIANI: September 11 is, obviously, the biggest...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER: The media loves process

GIULIANI: Before September 11...

GIULIANI: Until September 11...

GIULIANI: During September 11...

GIULIANI: On September 11...

GIULIANI: Since September 11...

GIULIANI: Post-September 11.

GIULIANI: Future anniversary of September 11...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER: Talking heads love chatter.

GIULIANI: Talk about September 11.

GIULIANI: I'm not talking about September 11...

GIULIANI: Just because it's September 11...

GIULIANI: September 11 is a part of our debate...

GIULIANI:... if we took September 11 out of the debate...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER: But Florida has a chance to turn down the noise...

GIULIANI: September 11...

GIULIANI: September 11...

GIULIANI: September 11...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER:... and show the world that leadership is what really matters.

GIULIANI: September 11... September 11... September 11...

RUDY GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANT: I'm Rudy Giuliani and I approved this message.

GIULIANI: September 11...


OLBERMANN: Yes, also you should say I'm Rudy Giuliani and I'm 9/11, I approve this message.

That's Countdown for this, the 1,716th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.