Thursday, January 31, 2008

Two episodes for this date.
Click to go directly to:
Pre-debate, 8 PM
Post-debate, 11 PM
'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Jan. 31, 11 p.m. ET

Guests: Eugene Robinson, David Axelrod, Mark Penn, John Amato, Josh Marshall, Arianna Huffington

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: At the top of the hour is Countdown's coverage of the electoral debate continues now. This is Countdown's continuing coverage of the Democratic debate. Good evening. I'm Keith Olbermann.

And in the end, tonight's Democratic debate at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California, was not "American Idol." It was not the Academy Awards. It was not even last week's slum lord slug fest in South Carolina. And our fifth story in the Countdown, the Democrat Party, not to mention the American democracy, should be all the better for it. The candidates finding more common ground than engaging in verbal fisticuffs with each other.

Although a handshake at the outset would have been nice. There was the hug and almost kiss at the end. Facing only each other for the first time in the campaign, it would be their last debate before Super Tuesday. Super being perhaps just the word to describe the substance of their policy discussions, including how they would bring troops home from Iraq.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will do everything I can to get as many of our troops out as quickly as possibly, taking into account all of these contingencies that we're going to have to contend with once we're in charge and once we can get into the Pentagon to figure out what's really there and what's going on.

WOLF BLITZER, MODERATOR: Right. You can't make a commitment, though, that 16 months after your inauguration would be enough time?

CLINTON: I certainly hope it will be. And I said I hope to have nearly all of them out within a year.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, I think it is important for us to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.


OLBERMANN: The candidates also addressing a question of taxes. They wouldn't have even had to threaten to raise to be called tax and spend liberals by the Republicans, rolling back the current administration's tax cut should be enough to get them that honor. And both candidates tonight fighting back that charge.


OBAMA: I don't think the Republicans are going to be in a real strong position to argue fiscal responsibility when they've added $4 trillion or $5 trillion worth of national debt. You know, I am happy to have that argument. If John McCain, for example, is the nominee, I'd respect that John McCain, in the first two rounds of Bush tax cuts, said, it is irresponsible that we have never before cut taxes at the same time as we're going into war. And somewhere along the line, the straight talk express lost some wheels and now he is in favor of extending Bush tax cuts that went to some of the wealthiest Americans who don't need them and were not even asking for them.

CLINTON: It's just really important to underscore here that we will go back to the tax rates we had before George Bush became president. And my memory is people did really well during that time period and they will keep doing really well.

OBAMA: They were. That's right.


OLBERMANN: This was Hollywood. This was the site both of the "American Idol" finals and, of course, of the Oscars, back when they still used to have the Oscars. And if you did not watch this, you missed, again, more cutaways of celebrities in the crowd.

There's a point to this. Stevie Wonder was there. Bradley Whitford, Lauren Holly, Jason Alexander, Rob Reiner, Diane Keaton, Pierce Brosnan, Steven Spielberg, Ed Helms, Kate Capshaw, Brandy, Alfrey Woodard, America Ferrara, Fisher Stevens, Isaiah Washington where there, Topher Grace and, at the end, Fran Drescher. The most important part of this, of course, the reason we're mentioning it is, they were all in the box seats. They were all down at ground level. We are told that Congresswoman Jane Harman), one of the most significant people in American politics, certainly in California politics, was seated in the mezzanine. If you've never lived in Los Angeles, that was it in a nutshell.

We're now going to analyze what we saw. Eugene Robinson, columnist and associate editor at the "Washington Post" is good enough to be back with us.

And, Gene, with some time to reflect on this, did anybody win? Was there a winner? And I'm not asking this to try to elicit one answer or the other. I just don't know.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST": I'm not really sure either. I think there were narrow victories on various issues. I think Obama wins on Iraq. I thought she - maybe Pat Buchanan is right, that she won on immigration or she was clearer on immigration. There wasn't much of a decisive victory by either side in this debate. There was a lot more agreement than disagreement. I'm sure you noticed that one thing they're in complete agreement on is what a fine human being John Edwards is. And the fact that fine human beings...

OLBERMANN: Now that he's gone.

ROBINSON: Right, exactly. And all his supporters are fine human beings, too, by the way. And they might want to consider supporting either Obama or Clinton now.

But it was - you know, I wouldn't call it a lovefest, despite the hug at the end. I didn't get a sense of true love between the two of them. But they were respectful and it seemed to be two campaigns who thought they were in pretty good shape right now.

OLBERMANN: The question was asked at the end, and it was a note that was there from the beginning, that looked to some degree like a ticket. Was there some self-protective measure invoked here? Because we've had such acrimony. And as we discussed earlier, we love to see the acrimony. Then there isn't any acrimony. We wonder where it is. It happens. We get all upset about it. The acrimony wasn't there even to the point where several times there were subtle jabs about flip-flopping, especially on the issue of immigration, on both of them and they wound up agreeing that it was a tough issue and maybe every once in a while you would flip-flop.

ROBINSON: Right. Right. So, aw, it was nothing, you know, just a little flip flop. They - the acrimony was just like in the last couple of days. I mean, Obama has been going after Hillary Clinton with pretty tough language yesterday and earlier today. So this was kind of a sudden flowering of their mutual respect and friendship.

And clearly was a considered decision by both camps to be that nice. I took them at their word that neither is thinking about taking second place on a ticket at this point. And I think they both think that they can still win this thing and that they're set up to win this thing and this was a night to chill out a little bit.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, if there's bloodletting, it will come later, I guess. I guess they're willing to go into Super Tuesday allowing the other one to survive.

Eugene Robinson...

ROBINSON: Well, unless...

OLBERMANN: Go ahead.

ROBINSON: I was just saying, unless tomorrow the knives come at you.

OLBERMANN: Exactly. With a live audience, with people actually seeing what they're saying, they're not going to say anything like that.

Eugene Robinson with the "Washington Post." Always a pleasure, sir.

ROBINSON: Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right. Turning now to MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow. And when last we discussed things with them, the subject of Iraq had come up, which might have been maybe the biggest area of dispute between the two and for reasons that have been long present.

But, Rachel, I'm wondering, do you think Hillary Clinton answered any of those people in the Democratic Party who are literally holding her vote in 2002 - late 2002, early 2003 her votes and her stance against her. Did she convince anybody to go with her? And if she did not, what can she do about a, winning the nomination, and, b, winning the election without them?

RACHEL MADDOW: She made it considerably worse for herself tonight on Iraq. And I think that's why I would say, if I had to pick a winner, I would say she lost the debate because of Iraq. Previously when Obama has pointing out that he was against the war when she was voting for the use of force, she's counterpunched by pointing out his softer statements earlier on in the war and the fact that he's voted to continue funding it since he's been in the Senate.

Tonight she didn't counterpunch. And instead she decided to explain that her vote in 2002 - when she voted that way was a complete shock to her that Bush used that use of force authorization as an excuse to go to war.

OLBERMANN: As a use of force.

MADDOW: Yes, exactly. I remember vividly that night in October, 2002, driving around and around and around in my Ford because I didn't have a TV and somebody was broadcasting those Senate floor speeches. And when she started to give her speech, I literally - and I don't mean to be dramatic here - I literally remember crying as I was driving because she was voting for the war.

We all knew she was voting for the war. She was voting for the war. She knew she was voting for the war. It's one thing to be wrong. It's another thing to go back and say, how could I have known? I was so surprised? It insults me personally for her to have make that case tonight. And I think it insults all of us who remember that far back or can Google it tonight.


PAT BUCHANAN: I'm not insulted, but I will say I thought that was the strongest - look, Barack Obama did two things tonight. The most important thing, I think, he got back up - he got away from the Rezco/Wal-Mart nonsense and got back up as sort of an inspirational leader. And you got all of that race/gender stuff out of there.

Secondly, on Iraq, he was very good. He had two outstanding lines. He said, the important thing is to be right on day one, which goes right at her. And the second line, which I thought was a very good line, we've not only got to end the war, we've got to end the mindset that brought on this war.

And I think those two are really telling lines and maybe because I happen to agree with the position, but I thought they were the best lines that Barack got tonight besides - also, let me add one thing. I think his humor came back.


BUCHANAN: And it's a very - it's a soft humor about the wheels coming off McCain and Romney's investment looks like it's going a little bad. And you can smile with his humor. And so I think, in this sense, he really helped himself, especially in the second half of the debate. In the first half, I thought Hillary was basically winning on points.

OLBERMANN: Where, Rachel, was Hillary's answer on any of the three occasions when Barack Obama said, I've always been against the war? We've seen her husband say, this is a fairy tale. We know what sort of trouble happened as a result of that. But she seemed to just punt on each of those three occasions.

MADDOW: I think that she, for some reason, seemed intimidated to give that standard counterpunch that she's been giving. I mean Barack Obama is not perfect on the war. He said tonight that - he makes the case eloquently that, you know, it's important to have had the judgement to see it was wrong from the beginning. But then he says stuff like, it's important to me to complete the mission and we need to show the Iraqis we're serious. You know, what part of a 3rd Infantry Division doesn't make us look serious?

There's a lot of ways in which he's showing he doesn't get the fundamental problem that Iraq is for America right now. He's not perfect on the war. She could hit him on that. I don't know why she isn't especially when it's probably the worst thing about her record for the Democratic base.

BUCHANAN: Well, the reason she doesn't do that is, you don't fight somebody on your weakest ground. In my judgment, and I think this is her weakest ground. I do think she could have at least made the case that her husband did make fairly, that after speaking against the war, he voted for it, for it, for it. But again, when you get more and more deeply into that, I mean, Hillary has an indefensible position for the audience she's courting. So the sooner she gets off that, the better.

MADDOW: She needs to say that vote in 2002 was wrong and stop say...

BUCHANAN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

MADDOW: No, listen, what she's saying - but listen to the alternative.

She's saying, I had no idea Bush would use that as an excuse to go to war.

That makes her sound like an idiot.

BUCHANAN: Wait a minute. Look, she - why would you say - if you say that my vote was wrong, I made a mistake, what you're saying is the most important vote of my public life, I made a mistake and it brought on the biggest strategic disaster in my lifetime. That was the major vote of her lifetime. I don't think about - Edwards has been helped by running around, I made a mistake and I apologize. I think she's politically, she's on the right course and she takes her hits. But don't start apologizing and graveling because they'll start beating you up.

MADDOW: She's on a political road to hell here and she's got two bad choices to choose between.

BUCHANAN: She looks pretty good (INAUDIBLE).

MADDOW: But saying I couldn't have known that Bush would go to war is not the better of the two choices.

OLBERMANN: Hold on. Hey. Hold on. I've got 45 seconds and, Pat, I'm going to put you in your nightmare position and Hillary Clinton's nightmare position. You're her adviser on this. How does she answer that question if she doesn't say, I made a mistake?

BUCHANAN: She does exactly what she's doing. She says, here's why I voted the way I voted. We had the information we were given. We weren't given all the correct facts. I voted correctly, I believed, on the information I was given. And Bush did it. And he's responsible. And stay with it.

But let me tell you, when you start going out there and say, I made a mistake on the biggest vote of my life and you start apologizing for it, who wants to elect somebody that did that?

OLBERMANN: As I was once asked by Steven Colbert, have you ever made a mistake on the air? And I said, yes. And he said, how do I know you're not making a mistake on the air right now?

Air America's Rachel Maddow and MSNBC's Pat Buchanan, great. Thanks to you both. And we'll see you again on Super Tuesday.

BUCHANAN: Take it easy, chief (ph).

MADDOW: Indeed.


OLBERMANN: Coming up, tonight's debate as seen through the eyes of the top strategists. Mark Penn and David Axelrod join us. Reaction from both camps. The reaction on the blogosphere, The Net, Huffington Post, Talking Post Memo, Crooks and Liars and their leading participants all here. You are watching Countdown's special coverage of tonight's 18th Democratic debate from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California, in front of a live audience.


OLBERMANN: Barack Obama raised $32 million in the first 30 days of January. Tomorrow he will get one of John Edwards' key endorsements from the Transportation Workers Union. Did he get anywhere with the first one-on-one debate in the Democratic nominating process? There was a lot of policy, there was a lot of information, was there any distinction? Ahead on our special, the post-debate reaction from both campaigns. That's next, this is Countdown.



OBAMA: I respect Senator Clinton's record. I think it's a terrific record. But I also believe that the skills that I have are the ones that are needed right now to move the country forward, otherwise I wouldn't be running for president of the United States of America.



OLBERMANN: Countdown's special coverage of the Democratic debate continues. And joining us now from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Senator Barack Obama.

Thank you for your tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: Incredibly thorough by both candidates, I think you would agree, incredibly policy-heavy, incredibly unified in terms of the Democratic Party. But what were the distinctions between the candidates? They both looked like winners to me?

AXELROD: Well, I think that there were some areas of disagreement. I think there were some areas of disagreement on health care at the beginning of the debate that were pretty clear. They have a difference over whether we should mandate people to buy health care policies, even if they can't afford it. Senator Obama says no, Senator Clinton says yes.

But the biggest, I think, difference, Keith, came over the issue over Iraq. And Senator Clinton, still, after 17 debates, has a hard time explaining why she reposed her trust in George Bush on this war and how she somehow believed that this wasn't a vote for war, when the resolution itself was called a Resolution to Authorize Military Action Against Iraq.

So you know, I don't - I thought that was an interesting 20 minutes. But overall, I think what they saw in Obama is someone who is ready to lead this country and lead it forward, bring it together, take it in a new direction. And you know, I think it was a very positive night for us.

OLBERMANN: To that answer that Senator Clinton gave, it certainly got a lot of response to those of us watching here that there was fear in her circles, among her advisers that she had given that authorization vote, that there was fear that somehow Saddam Hussein wasn't going stand having his megalomaniac crown taken from him by Osama bin Laden.

Had you heard anything like that before? Was the one head-scratcher for those of us watching here?

AXELROD: No. As I said, I think that those 20 minutes did not illuminate her decision-making during that period. And as Senator Obama said, it really isn't a matter of what she did then. I mean, the fact that she still doesn't acknowledge it is a mistake is problematical. But it really does give you an insight into how these two people thing.

Senator Obama gave a very trenchant analysis back in 2002 as to why this war would be a mistake. He predicted with chilling accuracy that we would end up in the situation we did and it would have a deleterious effect in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, make us less safe. And Senator Clinton is still trying to justify that decision.

So in terms of judging these two people as commanders-in-chief, people who are going to lead American foreign policy, that is an important exchange.

OLBERMANN: David, was there to any degree a sense going into this that you might as well have your candidate address issues that will come up in the general election to begin the actual presidential campaign now, because a couple of those answers sounded like they might be palatable, not merely to people in the middle, but even to people on the right?

Senator Obama said of Iraq, I want to see this mission completed honorably, which could have been something - though obviously it means something entirely different, it could have been something Richard Nixon said about Vietnam. But the second thing was about this issue of learning English for any illegal immigrants who want to achieve citizenship here, which was echoed to some less degree by Senator Clinton's answer.

Was this partially a debate that was designed to sell both of these candidates to the general election audience?

AXELROD: Keith, actually he has been saying that throughout this campaign. That - on immigration, he has always said that he thought that one of the conditions for people who wanted to make the transition from illegal status to legal status was not just to pay fines, but also to learn English.

In terms of the war, you know, leaving honorably doesn't necessarily mean - just doesn't conflict with leaving swiftly. He wants to get out as quickly as we possibly can. And I think he believes that we have to get out in order to compel the Iraqis to take charge of their own destiny and come to a political accommodation.

So his position hasn't changed at all. We do have big differences with John McCain, however, who wants to be there for 100 years - or said he wouldn't mind it. So I think we're going to have great debate with Senator McCain in the fall.

OLBERMANN: David Axelrod, who is obviously already preparing for that debate, Mr. Obama's chief strategist, thanks for stopping by with us, from the spin room at the Kodak Theatre.

AXELROD: Thanks, Keith. Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Good to be with you.

So that is the take on tonight's festivities from the Obama side of the equation. Up next, the Hillary Clinton campaign and its chief strategist, Mark Penn, will join us.

And later, analysis of the Democratic race as it now stands, from Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan. This is Countdown's continuing coverage of the Democratic debate.



CLINTON: So clearly, we are both dedicated to doing the best we can to win the nomination. But there's no doubt we will have a unified Democratic Party. We will go in to the November election prepared to win.


OLBERMANN: And that was heard throughout the night at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. We rejoin you with Countdown's special coverage of the aftermath of this 18th Democratic debate. And joining me now from the spin room at the Kodak, Mark Penn, Senator Clinton's chief strategist.

Mark, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Deep, convincing arguments by both candidates, subtleties and nuances of heavy duty policy issues that didn't bore, that did have shades of difference between the two candidates, a lot of excellent back and forth, and almost a love-in quality to it.

But as I asked your counterpart, Mr. Axelrod, where were the distinctions between those two candidates?

PENN: I think it was a very strong debate for Senator Clinton. I think she again showed that she's ready on day one to be president of the United States and carry out the duties of commander-in-chief. I think it's very important that she really stands for universal health care, a plan that covers each and every American without any exceptions.

And I think that's a very important difference between the two candidates. It's a fundamental Democratic principle. I think she was very strong in her belief that we need comprehensive immigration reform and that we've got to do something about this dreadful economic situation that we've got here as well as get our troops out of Iraq.

OLBERMANN: About the subject of Iraq, the only time that I did not follow what was happening from either was her answer invoking a reference to the megalomania of Saddam Hussein as being part of the - and a sort of some sort of megalomania contest between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein as a component in her decision to vote yes on the authorization bill that gave President Bush the powers that he exercised to such great detriment to this country in that one. Do you have a further explanation of what that answer was actually about?

PENN: Well, I think she was really just commenting that previously Saddam Hussein had done a number of things, including using poison gas on his own people. And that those were all factors in her decision that she made to go ahead and to give authorization to the president and that authorization, as she said, was misused by President Bush. And that if she knew then the facts that he knows now, she would not have voted the same way.

But we have to look forward, as she said. Who - as the commander-in-chief, who is ready to pull out the troops that we have there responsibly, to reestablish relations around the world and to deal with the dictators and other influences around the world that we have to pursue aggressive diplomacy against. And I think that's Senator Clinton.

OLBERMANN: Mark, the wild card, or the change in this race since the last time your candidate and Mr. Obama met is obviously the departure of Senator Edwards from this campaign. Was there something in your candidate's performance tonight that was specifically tailored to or you think would have a specific impact on those voters who were supporting John Edwards and are now looking for a new place to live?

PENN: Well, I hope the voters of Senator Edwards will very seriously consider coming over to Senator Clinton. I think that she shares the same kind of passion for many of the issues that Senator Edwards did. She has been fighting life-long fights, starting with working for the Children's Defense Fund, on issues of the poor.

And I think as you saw, both Senator Edwards and her had a similar health care plan that in fact covers each and every American. And that was a fundamental principle to Senator Edwards, and it's a fundamental principle to Senator Clinton.

OLBERMANN: Last question, sir, was it deliberate on your part of the equation here to have this be a perfectly well-mannered and almost non-confrontational debate? Was this a healing moment for the Democrat Party and was it intentional?

PENN: I think the senator felt that tonight's debate was really a conversation, a conversation with the American people who are going to make a very serious choice with some very big stakes here with the economy, two wars, and needing to elect somebody who can both beat the Republicans and be commander-in-chief. She wanted to have that conversation. I think that the conversation we had. And I think also she's going to continue it Monday night in a national town hall as she announced in the debate.

OLBERMANN: Got the plug in on two networks. Mark Penn, chief strategist for Hillary Clinton and Senator Clinton's presidential campaign, thank you for your time, sir.

PENN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Coming up, the reaction to tonight's debate from the leading voices in the blogosphere. We will go to the net. Will tonight's debate provide a significant momentum swing for either of these candidates going into those extraordinarily crucial 22 Super Tuesday contests?

Also, Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow join us. What was the hottest issue of the night? You're watching this special edition of Countdown on MSNBC.



CLINTON: And with all due respect, we have a president who basically ran as the CEO/MBA president, and look what we got. I'm not too happy about the results.


OBAMA: Let me just also point out that Mitt Romney has not gotten a very good return on his investment during this presidential campaign.



OLBERMANN: The answer to questions about businessmen or CEOs as president and the lack of Democratic experience running companies pretty well slam-dunked by both of the candidates tonight as we continue with Countdown's special post-debate coverage.

And joining me now, a panel of people who keep their mouse on the pulse of the netroots, or the mice on the - if we prefer that. Arianna Huffington, of course, founder of Huffington Post and author of "On Becoming Fearless," who is with me here in the studio. Josh Marshall, the publisher of Talking Points Memo, TPMMuckraker, and TPMElection Central. And John Amato, creator, managing editor of Crooks and Liars who attended tonight's debate and is still there. And I thank you all for being with us.

And, John, I'll start with you, because you are still there. There were a lot of slam dunks in here and there were a lot of applause lines and there were a lot of laughs. Who is getting the live and online love after this debate?

JOHN AMATO, CROOKS AND LIARS: Well, I'll tell you, Keith, it has really been a great debate. The people are alive, it's crackling in this auditorium. It was palpable, the electricity as the candidates were coming on to the stage. So there is a lot of love both ways. The Obama fans were screaming outside, they were just as loud inside. And also the Hillary camp was huge. So it's quite - you know, it is broken up, but it's - you can hear the pandemonium behind me, I'm sure. It's a pretty split even group, I would say.

OLBERMANN: Josh Marshall, from Talking Points Memo, from TPMMuckraker, from TPMElection Central, is that your read on this, too? I mean, I asked Mark Penn and David Axelrod the same question. There seemed to be great substance, there seemed to be great nuance. There seemed to be conviviality. There seemed to be party unison. But was there anything in here that really separated these candidates by any major distance?

JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO: I mean, I agree, it was shockingly substantive for a debate. You know, I thought both of them really had a pretty good debate. I thought that Hillary was a little stronger in the first half, Obama in the second half, especially because of Iraq.

You know, I think what this debate showed is that both campaigns went into this seeing the trajectory they are on going into Super Tuesday, basically liking where they are, not wanting to rock the boat. So, no, it didn't - there were not a lot of contrasts. I think the one thing it came back to was on Iraq.

And even though it was very convivial and very gentle, I thought that Obama did pretty well on that. Because for this audience, Hillary Clinton just doesn't have a great set of facts to argue. So on balance I would give it mildly to Iraq. But I thought both of them did pretty well, and that is because both campaigns are on a trajectory that they are comfortable with, and they didn't want anything unexpected to happen.

OLBERMANN: And we had very little, Arianna, that seemed to be unexpected. What - did anything come out at you as the decisive, a faux pas, a great victory, a decisive leap?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, THE HUFFINGTON POST: There was no faux pas from either one. But Hillary had the best line of the night. The one about it took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, it will take a Clinton to clean up after the second Bush. That was the biggest applause line.

I feel that Obama had the best kind of, sadly, powerful line when he said "right from day one," contrasting the "ready from day one" that we can all sing along to. And also what Josh said about Iraq, I mean, that is the most important moment of the debate for me, because no matter what Hillary Clinton says, she cannot get away from that vote. She cannot get away from the fact that she did not vote for the Carl Levin amendment.

I was amazing that actually that came up in the debate like that. Because it is the one decision that kind of throws into question her claim that she really was voting to authorize more inspections rather than going to war.

OLBERMANN: And I want to ask each of you this question, and we'll go

back in the reverse order that we got here. So, Arianna, you start. That

may be that's it. Did she get deeper into the woods of trying to explain Iraq and not get out? Because it seemed as if bringing in the megalomania of Saddam Hussein, I still don't know. And I don't think...

HUFFINGTON: And then Mark Penn didn't answer it for you.

OLBERMANN: I don't think he knew what it was either. Where was she going, and the only thing that it did seem was that they seemed to be comfortable to some degree rationalizing the decision. Well, it could have turned out the right, the odds, in retrospect, are obviously a million-to-one. But we didn't know that then. Has there been some sort of shift in the Clinton campaign to rationalize that decision?

HUFFINGTON: Well, not didn't she explain it, but I think she did go deeper into the woods, because by the end, she was saying that the basically execution was wrong, which is completely the wrong argument for a Democratic primary, because the whole thing here is not that the execution was wrong. Even John McCain agrees that the execution was wrong.

OLBERMANN: Right. That is a McCain or a Romney answer.

HUFFINGTON: You know, that is like - exactly. Everybody agrees on that. Rumsfeld agrees on that. So the whole point here is that Democrats almost universally now will say that it was a mistake for those of them, the 75 senators who voted for the war.

And what is interesting is the journey. She went from being one of the 77 senators to vote for the war to being one of 14 senators to vote against the funding of war. And there's no way she can explain that transition except for political expediency.

OLBERMANN: Or if you just come out and say, no, that was really wrong of me in the first chance and I didn't do...

HUFFINGTON: But she has down that.

OLBERMANN: Well, then, Josh, where is that in the list of items that most concerns the Web, the blogosphere? Where is the online outrage about that? Will it be tamped up as a result of this or tamped down as a result of this debate?

MARSHALL: Well, look, Iraq has been a key issue online and offline in this entire country, since 2003. And you know, I think that was - it was almost sort of a touching moment in my mind, because I thought Hillary in debating terms did pretty well coming with explanations and rationalizations. But at the end of the day, she just didn't have the set of facts in hand that Obama did. And that made it - she just couldn't overcome that.

I guess the point that I would point out is that if you're a political junkie like we are here, you've seen them go over this a million times. You know sort of the basic argument that each one of them make. But there are a lot of people who are going to vote on Tuesday who are watching this who probably have not seen these earlier debates.

So this was really their introduction to this issue for them. And on those terms, I think he came off pretty well. And again, I think that's - it's really key for people like us who, you know, live and breathe politics, don't have another life otherwise to remember that. This the first time for a lot of people.

OLBERMANN: That's right. A lot of people are saying, now which one's last name is Clinton and which one's last name is Obama? John Amato, in the theater, was that feeling there extant, that the Iraq issue may be the separator in these two candidates and that maybe that's the one thing that you wouldn't give an individual grade of A to is Hillary Clinton's answers and the new versions, the new mutations of those answers that we heard tonight?

AMATO: Yes, you know, look, Hillary is never going say that that was a wrong vote. She has taken a tough stand on it. I think she said it in every debate that with the information that she has had, she made the vote that she thought (INAUDIBLE).

And we all know that she's not coming off that. Because she thinks it's a weakness. And of course, in the blogosphere there's a lot of animosity towards that vote. And it's a position that she's had trouble dancing around. And I think Arianna and Josh make that point.

But all - you know, if you're a Hillary fan, you'll accept that and move on. And you'll also notice that when Wolf kept hammering on her about being a naive vote, the audience started booing Wolf. I think that she got a chance to explain it and weaved and bobbed and weaved, but then Wolf just kept piling on. And it actually turned the audience against Wolf instead of focusing on Hillary's question and her answer.

OLBERMANN: It will not be the last time nor the first time that the moderator gets in the way, if that's indeed what happened. John Amato, stand by. Josh Marshall, stand by. Arianna Huffington, stand by.

Does tonight's faceoff in Hollywood provide a boost to either of these candidates as we look at Super Tuesday? What has actually changed? Speaking of that, the John Edwards factor, what impact will his supporters have now in the outcome of the national primaries? Our special coverage of the Democratic debate continues here on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: After the first one-on-one debate of the Democratic campaign, the super two head to Super Tuesday, did either gain the support of those who had been supporting John Edwards? We'll get the reactions of our Web masters and Web mistress, if you will, when Countdown's special coverage of the Democratic debate in Los Angeles continues after this.


OLBERMANN: Of course tonight was all about tomorrow, or to be precise, five days from now when Democrats choose between senators Clinton and Obama in 22 state contests that have come to be known collectively as Super Tuesday. Super because the extra ingredient is American Samoa.

Right now we continue to look online for a look ahead to most likely the most decisive day in this race. Still with us: Arianna Huffington of; Josh Marshall of; and John Amato of

Let's start on where the Edwards factor goes now that Edwards has gone. Arianna, did anything happen in here that would, in your estimation or the estimation of your bloggers and readers, attract the people who were from Edwards to either Clinton or Obama?

HUFFINGTON: I think something did happen. There were no fireworks, but there were two very distinct styles of leadership presented here. You had Hillary Clinton, who is passionate about electronic medical records. She's a realist, a pragmatist. She's a brilliant woman who is a wonk, who is going to be disciplined. She's going to give us electronic medical records, I have no doubt about that.

And then there was Obama, and he talked about bringing in new people to the process. And he talked about transformational leadership really. You know, interesting, even about the war, he said, I don't want just to end the war, I want to end the mindset that got us into war. So these are two very different kinds of leadership.

I think a lot of the Edwards people would be drawn to that passionate, transformational leadership. A lot of them also would want to actually end poverty. So it depends who they will think will do that. But I would tend to think that given that Bill Clinton did not exactly end poverty during eight great years of prosperity, he marginally kind of reduced, if they want something fundamentally different, they would go for Obama.

OLBERMANN: Josh, anything from what you tell from your community where the Edwards people might wind up and what, if anything, they heard today that might influence them in either direction?

MARSHALL: Well, the one thing I thought is, you know, John Edwards got out at just the wrong time, just before he was acclaimed a Democratic saint by both candidates. You know, I think - I don't really know. And I don't think we've seen from the polls yet how they're going break.

I haven't got - I mean, the one thing all the Edwards supporters that e-mail me from the site, you know, their big thing was John Edwards. They were really, really committed to him. So it's kind of hard to figure.

The one thing I would say is just that his campaign was so oppositional, and in a lot of cases so oppositional towards what he saw Hillary Clinton as representing, that it's not so much that I see them naturally going to Obama, but I don't think we know.

OLBERMANN: John Amato at the Kodak Theatre, any impression on this? Because obviously the first thing that was said when I guess he won the coin toss and when he was allowed to go and speak first, the first thing Senator Obama did, even before his first kumbaya moment with Hillary Clinton, the first thing was to invoke John Edwards and to talk about what a great campaign. There was more referencing of John Edwards in the first minute of a debate than there had been in the previous 17 debates.

AMATO: Well, I couldn't agree with you more, Keith. It was - as soon as they took the stage, it was John Edwards was just an incredible human being. And of course, I think that Josh also hit on it. We really don't know where the votes at this point are going fall.

You know, you could see a big difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, because as soon as Rudy was done, it was an interesting picture of Rudy with Arnie, with McCain, he was like a little lost puppy, immediately giving his votes to McCain. And you don't see that with John.

I think John is trying to - he wants his agenda - you know, he wants to make sure that poverty rules and that what he believes in, both candidates are going to carry on. So he's being kind of cagey with where he is going and if he's actually going to even endorse anyone. We're not sure of that. And so it was very fascinating that that was the opening salvo fired by Barack. And I guess more shall be revealed come Tuesday.

OLBERMANN: Well, yes, maybe. And maybe not. I mean, of course, we're still waiting for Bill Richardson and Joe Biden and Chris Dodd to endorse anybody, and they haven't done that. Maybe the cards will be held to the vest and you let the voters decide. What a concept. John Amato of Crooks and Liars, at the scene at the Kodak Theatre, my great thanks to you. Also to Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, thank you for coming in. Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, always a pleasure to see you, especially in person.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The Democratic debate may be over, but the fight over the issues lives on. Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow, our MSNBC political analysts, hit the hot issue from the Hollywood - well, from the Hollywood faceoff, next on Countdown. And it won't be all those cutaways of celebrities either.



OBAMA: We should not use immigration as a tactic to divide. Instead we should pull the country together to get this economy back on track. That's what I intend to do as president of the United States of America.



OLBERMANN: Something a little different at the Democratic debate tonight, immigration as an issue for the Democrats to debate, the two remaining ones. This is our continuing coverage in the aftermath of this, the 18th Democratic debate. And we're now joined by MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow.

And let's talk about this issue of Democrats addressing, to some degree - and I imagine Pat will think it was a very small one, to some degree the issue of immigration. Pat, start us off.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that Obama had a good moment on it when he said we ought not to scapegoat these folks. It was emotional. But the fact that the question was asked by an African-American, and she was talking about the - as I recall, asking about the immigrants taking away these jobs. And on that I thought Hillary won the debate for this reason.

She showed empathy for the person and she also showed realism. Because the truth is, with the 12 million to 14 million illegals she mentioned in the country, most of them very low wage workers, they do dramatically increase competition for low wage jobs. And so I thought Hillary won the immigration debate basically in terms of reaching out into Barack's constituency and into the poor working class folks. So I think she won that section.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think she won it in terms of political aggressiveness, certainly. That was actually the one kind of shocking moment for me in the debate. I thought that Hillary seemed very bad tonight on Iraq. But on that immigration issue, that's the one other time when I made notes.

I looked down at my notes and I said, Hillary says that African-Americans should scapegoat Latino immigrants for taking their jobs. She specifically said, African-Americans - she referenced a personal interaction with an African-American man who had lost his job and believed it was because of Latino immigrants.

Barack Obama had said, let's not scapegoat anybody, African-Americans were having high unemployment rates before the current wave of immigrants that we know we're talking about here. And Hillary Clinton essentially said, well, I don't know why we shouldn't scapegoat them? I mean, it wasn't in that blunt a term, but it was - she was putting a wedge between Latinos and blacks.

BUCHANAN: But the truth is that if you ask African-Americans, many of them are more militant than white conservatives on the immigration issue because they're living in these communities and jobs are being taken. And there is a real turf war, if you will, over jobs and opportunities.

And the real world that is happening. And Hillary is showing that awareness. I think that is going to stand her in good stead. And I'm surprised. It showed courage, because it also - I guess you're going find some Hispanics to say just what you're saying, Rachel, she is scapegoating.

MADDOW: Yes, well, I don't think it showed courage. I think it showed cravenness. I mean, anytime you have got communities that are hard hit, and when you look at - like if you compare the start of Bush's term and Latino and African-American families and their incomes, and how they have dropped so much more than the average American family's incomes have dropped over Bush's presidency, when you've got two communities that are hard hit, that are both essentially at the bottom of the economic ladder, it's great place to drive a wedge. That's political dynamite right there. You can always turn them against each other. I was just shocked that she did it.

OLBERMANN: Let me interject something here to try to get a little bit bigger picture on this. Was it a surprise the hear two Democratic candidates for the presidency of the United States both say that for illegal immigrants in this country to gain citizenship, one said they would have to learn English, and the other said, we are going to have to help them learn English? They seemed to be fairly conservative - if it's a very, very subtle slice of the pie, Pat, that was a fairly conservative point of view for two Democrats, was it not?

BUCHANAN: It is, indeed. It is, indeed. And of course, when you get into the general election, I think Barack Obama's position about the driver's licenses and things, as we saw up in New York State, where 70 percent of New Yorkers turned against Governor Spitzer, and Hillary Rodham Clinton had to spin on the issue in a matter of weeks - and I thought she was effective also, Keith when she came back, Barack Obama said you had two positions.

And she came back and said, yes, and you were asked your position, it took you 60 seconds and you couldn't think of one. And he did not come back and respond. I thought she was crisp and in command.

On the first section, on the national health insurance, she has got clarity there. And on the second section, I do agree Barack Obama raised himself up back to the pedestal. And I think a couple of those answers on Iraq were terrific from the national standpoint.

OLBERMANN: We're going look at that intensely in a moment, literally in a moment. But, Rachel, just finish us off on the immigration issue and the subject of teaching English mandatorily.

MADDOW: I would just say right now that that sounds good, because I think the country has kind of accepted the Republican talking points and framing on this. But right now, Eliot Spitzer would probably beat any Republican candidate for president. Immigration has not been a great electoral issue for the Republicans, even as good as their talking points sound.

BUCHANAN: You wait.


MADDOW: Sure, Pat, I'm looking forward to it.

OLBERMANN: I just thought it was extraordinary that they were willing to take any kind of position that might be controversial at the extreme left of their constituencies. And that's why it's noteworthy for that, never mind the nuance that followed that both of you have discussed. As I said, literally, stand by. We're going to reset here at the top of the hour as Countdown's the coverage of the electoral debate continues now.

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Jan. 31, 8 p.m. ET
video 'podcast'

Special Comment:
Bush put telecoms ahead of citizens
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Alter

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

Clinton, nationally: 43-39. But the Keith number is 11. Clinton and Obama in Connecticut: 40-40. But the missing number including any support for John Edwards is 24. Clinton, California: 43-40, but the flex number there is 12.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Over the past few weeks, we've heard some cynical talk about how black folks and white folks and Latinos cannot come together.


OLBERMANN: The latest subtext to the Obama-Clinton battle: Ted Kennedy, reportedly offended by the Hillary Clinton's remarks about Martin Luther King and President Johnson because left entirely out of the equation was President Kennedy. President Clinton versus Senator Kennedy, Bill and Ted's not so excellent adventure.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can you control him? Oh, of course. You know, there's only one president at a time.


OLBERMANN: Since when? Oh, yes, before those guys. Well, here's hoping. The Republicans rant (ph) asunder as the lunatic fringe screams that John McCain has been forced down their throats by liberals and independents, even though Florida was a Republicans only vote. The senator gets his third endorsement that will tick them off still further. First the "New York Times," then Rudy Giuliani and now -


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CALIFORNIA: I think that Senator McCain has proven over and over again that he is reaching across the aisle.


OLBERMANN: Reaching back through the television. Bill O, protested by the homeless veterans who said, do not exist or if they did, they were drug addicts and crazy people and nobody can help them. And he sends his flunky to taunt the protesting homeless heroes.

And tonight: A special comment of FISA and the telecoms.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: It means, if you don't act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger.


OLBERMANN: The deadline is extended 15 days but the president still insists on retroactive immunity for whatever crimes the telecom companies committed helping him eavesdrop on you even though he will not confirm they did anything. Too bad the vice president just did confirm that and too bad the president would rather protect the corporations from the law than protect the people from the terrorists.

All that and more, now, on Countdown.

Good evening, this is Thursday, January 31st, 278 days until the 2008 presidential election. The Woodward and Bernstein source may have conveyed the reporters to connect the burglary at Democratic headquarters to the campaign financing a President Nixon's election, but "deep throat" never actually said, "follow the money." That was the concise creation of the great screenwriter, Bill Goldman. And tonight, his line also proves useful even for campaigns absent any whiff of scandal.

Our fifth story in the Countdown: Follow the money. Barack Obama has raised $32 million this month and they haven't counted today's receipts yet, nor the receipt of the late breaking news that 200,000-member transportation workers' union will switch its endorsement to Obama from John Edwards. And Senator Obama was speaking at the town hall style forum in L.A. No word yet on how much Senators Clinton or McCain raised this month. Though, McCain apparently was as broke as he seemed before his winning streak - more on that in a bit.

Obama now advertising in 20 of the 22 states in play for next week's Super Tuesday primaries and to start advertising in states that would vote thereafter. No public events on Senator Clinton's schedule today. She is now advertising in 12 Super Tuesday states including her own New York and California where a statewide ad buy can cost as much as $5 million a week, can't find me love, can't buy me improve poll numbers.

Senator Obama appears to be gaining on Senator Clinton there. Her lead down to three in the Rasmussen Reports poll for California: 43 percent to 40 percent. The survey was taken on Tuesday when Edwards was still in the race. His 9 percent now up for grabs. In addition, the Keith number: not sure plus margin of error is 8 percent. Two weeks ago, Senator Clinton was up by a point margin in the same survey, the other variables considerably greater then as well. Meanwhile, the race is also tightening up nationally. In the Gallup daily tracking poll, Senator Obama closing the gap by two points in just the last 24-hours. Today, Clinton: 43, Obama: 39; Keith number: 11 percent. Yesterday, it had been Clinton: 42;

Obama: 36, Keith number, holding. Time now to call in our own, Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine joining us tonight from Los Angeles. Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Today's headlines, Senator Obama $32 million raised in the month of January with the last day not counted yet. The entire presidential field in California for the day, in terms of what it's going to take to win in California next Tuesday, these headlines are linked how?

WOLFFE: Well, first up, it's an extraordinary amount of money for any candidate to pull in and not least the candidate who he pulled in all this money after he lost in New Hampshire. So, big sums of money here. California, you'd think, well, that's the TV advertising. But it is interesting that the Obama campaign has not added to it's TV buy here with all this cash flowing in. And that tells you one of two things, either the numbers are closing even more than we think and they are confident how it's going to shape from here. Or, what I think is more probable, there are diminishing returns of the Obama campaign. They can add an extra $5 million to their spending and really not increase the number of delegates that much. So, they're taking a strategic view here putting that money in the post February 5th states.

OLBERMANN: So, what is in play that was not? We cannot stir at all 22 states at once or we'll go nuts. Which one or two are in fact, the least wins on Tuesday?

WOLFFE: Well, I don't want to make you go nuts before February 5th, but it's going to be even more complex and confusing. Because we use to in TV land anyway, calling these states and saying the winner is this. But these are proportional states. So, what we have to do here is look congressional district by district. So, in California you make another winner but the delegate counts will look different and it does come back to add California, number of delegates in play, the complexity here is going to decide how long and whether this race continues beyond February 5th. It's all down to those individual districts in California.

OLBERMANN: The news that's coming tonight that tomorrow the transportation workers endorsement is going to move from Senator Edwards to Senator Obama. Is this a harbinger? Is this the gates moving apart here for him? Could it be the first of several unions to switch to Obama now that Edwards has pulled out?

WOLFFE: Well, you would think so. I mean, unions were Edwards' core strength here. And it's been something lacking in terms of the Obama campaign and they do deliver the votes when it comes to the ground game in the last 48-72 hours of any of these primaries. So, they are important. Clinton has a lot of big union support, too. So, I'd say, it's a evening out here rather than a decisive factor for anything in Obama land.

OLBERMANN: And as important as securing any endorsement by Senator Edwards, himself, might it be just as important to lock down his fundraisers?

WOLFFE: Yes, there's a hard competition here for the fundraisers. I mean, clearly, Obama is raising enough money from the Internet and I'm sure Hillary Clinton is raising a lot of money, too. Not as much but those big fundraisers are important, they're important signals for the people in the party, too. In the end, what they're looking for of course, is where is that 12 points as soon the polls break down in terms of Edwards' vote going to Obama or Clinton. And we still haven't got a good handle on that.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, Richard, anything on an Edwards endorsement?

WOLFFE: You know, not yet. I think it's going to be - it's a tough call whether he does it before February 5th. Look for the other key figures who are out there, notably, the wife of Charlie Rangel, look what she does. She sponsored in an Obama fundraiser, big New York supporter as she might go for Obama.

OLBERMANN: Wow. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek" Great thanks. See what's happening in the Rangel's household. We'll see you again later tonight. Thanks, Richard.

Senator Ted Kennedy's stumping for Obama today in New Mexico. Quoting the Latino vote on Obama's behalf. Three days after he gave him his endorsement. Not coincidentally, New Mexico is where former president Clinton spent his day as well, raising the question of whether we are going to see as many Kennedy-Clinton match-ups on the campaign trail as we do match-ups between the actual candidates who are running. Bill Clinton's making other headlines today. According to the "New York Times" report, Bill Clinton helped a Canadian mining magnate secure a contract in Kazakhstan after deal, the magnate donated $31 million to the Clinton foundation. Senator Clinton seem to admit in a Nightline interview last night that her husband's presidency was in fact a co-presidency and saying, it did not work. In a key phrase of her husband's stump speech essentially about America is the message her administration would be, quote, "We're back." It's open to multiple interpretations. It's time now to bring in our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at "Newsweek" magazine. John, good evening.


OLBERMANN: A little of Senator Kennedy's motives sort of coming to the surface a few days after he made his endorsement that he was taking enraged in a different way at Senator Clinton's invocation of Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson?

ALTER: Yes, there's indication that he was concerned that Senator Clinton didn't mention the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was actually originally proposed by President Kennedy. President Johnson got it through after the assassination. I don't think that by itself is the sum total of what caused them to get so angry on that now famous telephone call between Kennedy and Clinton. He was also upset about the fairy tale line where Bill Clinton said that Obama's position on Iraq was a fairy tale. Kennedy said, in the day since that clearly Obama and his view was entirely consistent on Iraq and to make him into a flip-flopper on that issue, he felt was out of bounds. And he also felt, and he told Clinton directly that the campaign was getting too racial and that they were pushing some buttons that if not racist by themselves, set in motion dynamics that made the campaign more racial than Ted Kennedy felt comfortable with. And the call was apparently quite hot.

OLBERMANN: Wow. And nobody gets quite hotter than an angry Kennedy except it's an angry Bill Clinton. Are we seeing Senator Kennedy as Senator Obama's President Clinton equivalent, I mean when worlds or moons collide here?

ALTER: Well, it's interesting because on Monday, at the endorsement event, Kennedy was much angrier really in his rhetoric than anybody really expected. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton is toning down his rhetoric. He's on his best behavior. I think where Kennedy is going to be critical is on this Hispanic vote. He was on the Hispanic radio today in California saying that only he and Obama went out and marched with those Hispanics against what was going on the Republican side on immigration a couple of years ago.

OLBERMANN: It may have been last year.

ALTER: Yes, last year. And so, they're really trying to use him to bring in Hispanic votes and other votes of traditional liberals, older Democrats less of a hatchet man.

OLBERMANN: Is it clear yet regarding the Clinton campaign whether the Clinton's are trying to convince people there's going to be a co-presidency or they're isn't going to be a co-presidency?

ALTER: Well, they're walking that line, you know. On the hand one, when you talk to voters and that was out you know, knocking on doors in San Pablo, California a few days ago, just trying to talk to working class Democrats and for them, Bill Clinton is a huge asset, for many of them. So, that co-presidency thing is one of the things they like about Hillary. But obviously, if it goes too far, as we've seen in the last couple of weeks, it raises questions. And Gary Wills, the great historian raised this question in the "New York Times" recently and he brought up Dick Cheney. He said it didn't work well to have two presidents over the last eight years; we might want to think twice about whether we want a two presidents going forward.

OLBERMANN: And addressing the question of raising in the different sense, there's no denying the Clinton Foundation has done great work, but what happens if his wife becomes president, what happens to him trying to raise money and weld influence internationally on his own?

ALTER: Well, you and I really know this because we are two of the only reporters who cover this part of Bill Clinton's life which is highly commendable. He's done amazing work raising money to fight AIDS and fight poverty overseas. The problem is: Can he continue to do that if Hillary is the nominee and president or are there just too many conflicts that would come to the floor? And that's something he and his foundation worry about.

OLBERMANN: Yes, that was a shot across the bow on that topic today. Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC. Thanks for coming in. Just a reminder, I'll be back with special analysis tonight's face off between Senators Clinton and Obama. I'm joined by Richard Wolffe, Eugene Robinson, Rachel Maddow, Pat Buchanan and a view from the Web from Arianna Huffington, Josh Marshall with TPM, John Armando (ph) from Crooks and Liars. Watch it there, if you must. Understand it here. Countdown special coverage begins at 10:00 eastern, 7:00 pacific.

Another endorsement for John McCain by another person hard Right Republicans really don't like. Is there a genuine the GOP will implode over this?

And: If the FISA law is not renewed, the president is implying Americans could die at the hands of terrorists. Yet, he is willing to see it not renewed. And that means - does that mean he's also willing to see Americans die at the hands of terrorists?

Tonight: A special comments of FISA and the telecoms. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: An ultraconservative brands the first big four primary states, the axis of evil and claims that John McCain has hijacked the Republican Party. Is it coming apart at the scenes? And later: Logic sure is as the president a counter terror bill, one who will veto if the people are protected but the telecom giants are not, a special comment tonight on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: If the far right has its way by the election, the Republican Party may come apart like a cheap suit. The Republican Party has been hijacked write one overheated gentleman at "Human Events" magazine. Over the past month, a new axis of evil has emerged. Not one based in Damascus, Tehran, or Pyongyang but instead in Cedar Rapids, Charleston South Carolina, there in New Hampshire and Boca Raton, Florida. It is the liberal and independent voters of these four states that have nearly completed a deed that makes Kim Jong-il envious. The near crippling of American electoral system. He blames the extreme liberalism of Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Florida for making liberal John McCain the front-runner. Our fourth story on the Countdown: If he's liberal, what would they call Abraham Lincoln? Satan? Meantime, the kind of endorsements for McCain that drive the lunatic fringe nuts keep filing up at a solar energy company, in Simi Valley, California and key word seemed to be global. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger official threw his support to John McCain. The governor admitted later in answering to a question that he did not plan on endorsing anybody because he didn't want to choose between his two friends, McCain and Rudy Giuliani who was also there today. But yesterday's Giuliani endorsement obviously put all that to rest.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CALIFORNIA: There are things that Senator McCain has proven over and over again. That he is reaching across the aisle in order to get things done. There are people out there that talked about reaching across the aisle but he has shown the action.


OLBERMANN: And after Senator McCain's own remarks, he was asked the $64,000 question. If two endorsements as in many days from party moderates may have a downside. McCain responded, the two heroes endorsed him and he dropped in another name.


MCCAIN: Today, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas will be endorsing me. You will see a flood of endorsements across this country from both liberal and conservative. We need all parts of our party together if we're going to win in November.


OLBERMANN: Let's call in NBC News political director, Chuck Todd.

Thanks for your time tonight, Chuck.


OLBERMANN: Given the early reaction to McCain, Right wing radio, these guys at the fringe or apparently trying to draft Herbert Hoover or somebody. Does McCain have prayer (ph) of pulling what he just said of? Can he bring different parts of this incredibly desperate party together?

TODD: One big if. If the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton. And that's what he's counting on and that's what makes the Democratic race become more fascinating now. Now that it looks like the Republicans are going to have a nominee. Because John McCain is much stronger and much more capable of keeping the Republican Party together and the conservative movement together if the opponent is Hillary Clinton. If it's Barack Obama, you know, then all of a sudden, all these scenarios, a third party challenger, you know, a challenge from the right, a challenge in the middle. Then, suddenly, he could face some problems.

OLBERMANN: And what are the chances this keeps getting worst internally and not better and they really run a third party candidate and maybe two of them. Maybe there's a Tom Tancredo, practical conservative and there's a religious conservative, Huckabee. That could be four candidates, is that possible?

TODD: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with who the Democrats nominate. You know, Hillary Clinton solves all of John McCain's problems. He keeps everybody calm, keeps everybody sort of inside the big tent. If you know, the opponent is Obama, then all bets are off. But, I think that McCain obviously is going to have, it may take that McCain has to start not just naming a running mate early, but start naming some cabinet members early. Start trying to keep different wings of the party happy. He may have to create a whole team of running mates to keep certain members happy. I mean, on the running front, you know, look, Mike Huckabee right now is the reason why John McCain is probably going to have this nomination sawn up on February 5th. He is serving as this 15 percent siphon of a potential Mitt Romney vote, that Romney has not been able to get the social conservatives and the economic conservatives in his tent. If he could, he could probably take McCain in a one on one. It would be very close. McCain has corralled the 40 percent of moderates that are there in the party. And there are 40 percent. It's a very high number, sometimes one that's overlook, but you take that 15 percent that Huckabee is getting from social conservatives and suddenly McCain has the winning hand.

OLBERMANN: So, are the endorsements, the "New York Times", Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, are they more hurtful to McCain's effort here than helpful?

TODD: You know, they could be hurtful, but the problem is Romney doesn't have - in a one on one, they would be hurtful. In a fact that it's still three-way race and still a three-way because look, Huckabee shows up, flashes the smile, does the op shots (ph) routine and somehow he gets 10-15 percent of evangelicals to climb aboard. As long as he's still in there, then, you know, these endorsements from the so-called left of the Republican Party, Arnold, Rudy and the "New York Times," although the "New York Times" is not part of the Republican Party, but you know what I'm saying. From the left there. Then, they're just not as harmful because there isn't a united anti-McCain front. And that's the thing that's benefiting McCain here.

OLBERMANN: Yes, the New York Times is not been Republican since Lincoln. Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News. Is that the guy for Lincoln like - anyway, thank you, Chuck.

TODD: All right, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Only at FOX noise would they do this. A group supporting homeless vets pickets Bill O, Bill O sends out a producer idiot to harass the homeless vets. And hey, body, anybody ever tell you looks like, what's his name? What's his name? These stories ahead but first the headline's breaking in the administration's 50 other scandals - Bushed.

Number three: Lip service-gate. In the State of the Union, Mr. Bush implored, let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. Twenty-four hours later, the administration cancelled the FutureGen projects, $1.5 billion facility that was supposed to be build at Mattoon, Illinois has the, quote, "cleanest fossil fuel fired power plant in the world."

Number two: Surge-gate. The president also said in the same address, the surge troops were beginning to come home. Not exactly. The operational commander in Iraq, General Odierno says, after the troop productions this July, he may call for a freeze on anymore withdrawals.

And number one: Commission-gate. A new book by New York Times reporter, Philip Shannon (ph), will claim that the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow not only interfere with the 9/11 report, but he talked to Karl Rove about how to do that and the staffers of the committee that he prevented the report from including language, quote, "It would have depicted Condoleezza Rice performance. During the months prior to 9/11 as amounting to in confidence (ph) or something not far from it." How fortunate that we all already knew that.


OLBERMANN: January 31st, this is the birthday of actresses, Jessica Walter and Portia de Rossi, who happened to play mother and daughter in the late romantic of genius that was the television series "Arrested Development." Miss Walters' father appeared in Arturo Toscanini's NBC's Symphony Orchestra, and Miss de Rossi was born Amanda Rogers in Australia. Are you guys making an "Arrested Development" movie, or do I have to keep pleading or what? Let's play Oddball.

We begin in the Santa Fe section of Bogota, Colombia where Oddball has managed to do something President Bush could not. We have found Osama Bin Laden. Actually, it's bizarro Osama bin Laden, a man named, Fernando Aguirre who claims he is Bin Laden's son and who for seven years, has patrolled Bogota streets dressed like the homicidal maniac, in order to ward off neighborhood criminals. So, just exactly why would Aguirre use Osama's evil for good?


FERNANDO AGUIRRE (translation): I guard stores, taverns and most of all restaurants so that people can come have fun here in Santa Fe, and it is not a dangerous place because Osama is here.


OLBERMANN: Ah, it's a pro-food and fun based fatwa. Now, it makes sense.

Seoul, South Korea, where earlier this week, celebrity crooner Na Huna (ph) called a news conference to dispel ugly rumors probably somebody in the media floated the story that the singer was castrated by a Japanese gang leader because of some sort of a lovers quarrel. Na Huna (ph) refused to stand for this, instead deciding to stand on the table and offering to whip out the truth on live TV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): I can show you for five minutes. Do I have to show you, or would you just believe me?


OLBERMANN: I believe you, I believe you!

TV Networks cut the feed. Na Huna never did expose the kahuna, eventually zipping up and stepping down. Unfortunately, I think he just give Bill O an idea.

Finally to the Internet. It's the stupidest thing in the world web to date. Behold, the pizza tracker. A website that allows you to track the progress of your pizza order online. Once you place the order, you log on to the Interweb and watch your pie's magical journey. From prep to bake to box to the delivery phase. It doesn't do anything useful I tell you when your delivery guy is around the corner. If you put on your pants like that, that - and never mind. But it gets you emotionally invested in the life span of your pie so you then feel guilty about eating the little sucker.

Same as the hands a bit annoyed written all over it.

Homeless vets protest the Frank Burns of news. So Bill O' sends out his chattels to give them a hard time.

In tonight's "Special Comment," President Bush, the FISA Bill and immunity for the telecoms. The president throwing out the counter terrorism baby with bath water. These stories ahead.

But first some of kind of, "Best Persons in the World". Number three best, alls well that ends well. Cody Young of South Salem, Oregon. The 13-year-old didn't want anybody to steal his bicycle, while he was out of the electronics place so he parked it just inside the Good Will store and they promptly sold it for $7. Everybody felt lousy so a local newspaper printed the story and the woman who bought the bike, promptly returned it. If it was my son's bike said, Anne Lambert, I know how he would feel for you.

Number two, Stevie Wood, members of the Hash House Harriers, the social and running club in Dorset in England. The late Stevie Wood. She was 86. She passed away her instructions, cremation and then mixed her ashes with sawdust and flour to create a new running trail on which friends could run the first Stevie Wood Memorial 8K. Ashes to dashes, as they say.

And number one, the new prime minister of Thailand, Samak Sundaravej. In sign language in Thailand, celebrities are often identified by a prominent physical characteristic at the same time. Now he has big ears, the interpreter might point through the ear shorthand. The new prime minister has been nicknamed at Rose Apple Nose because his nose is thought to look like a rose apple. So for years, they've had this one gesture for him. But now that he's prime minister, for some reason, this shorthand for Mr. Rose Apple Nose, this is suddenly a problem.


OLBERMANN: Today, two weeks after challenging a guest to show him a single homeless veteran so he could help them. Bill O'Reilly, the Frank Burns of news, had a chance to meet one for himself. More than one, in fact, and in our third story in the "Countdown," he chose not to.

More than that, just a few hours ago, just two blocks from here, O'Reilly turn the veterans away back out into the cold. Not only did Bill O' cold shoulder away, the man who serve their country, he broke his public pledge to make sure veterans no longer had to sleep under bridges, literally or metaphorically. He did not even have the courage to meet them face to face to shake their hands, to hear their stories, to have them forbid summon the grace to apologize.

Instead, a producer asked the woman whose group provides transitional housing for 83 vets whether have an appointment. This despite the fact that Bill O' literally said on TV, quote, "We are still looking for all the veterans sleeping under the bridges, so if you find anybody let us know."

The producer took them into the lobby so that our cameras could not get a shot at of him except in their petition with 17,000 signatures calling on O'Reilly to apologize for saying there are no homeless vets. Instead of meeting with those veterans, O'Reilly had one of his, Stuttering-John-Type guys, tell the vets group, please leave a message, somebody will get back to you.


CAROLE GARDENER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FITZGERALD HOUSE: They were very thankful. Thanks for coming with the petition and that they will get back to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel?



OLBERMANN: Great. It all began after John Edwards started pledging to help the average 200,000 U.S. military veterans who go without a roof on any given light in this country. Instead of helping Edwards, Bill O' called them a liar, saying quote, "The only thing sleeping under a bridge is that guy's brain," whatever that means. In fact, two minutes on the intertubes, would have told Bill O', the 200, 000 estimates came from the Bush administration.

And that number is a lot lower than the official government number that's who are homeless at some point over the course of the year. That's closer to 330,000. Of course, when facts like that did emerge, O'Reilly, changed his story - OK, maybe there are homeless vets, but not a lot. OK maybe it is a lot, but they all have substance abuse problems or mental problems and the government can't help them. OK, the government should help them. OK, anything but I was wrong, Edwards was right. Today those homeless veterans and Bill O' would not meet, would not hear, and spoke to us about O'Reilly.


GREGORY ROLLINS, HOMELESS VETERAN: What you got to hide? We're right here. We brought it to you. What you got to hide? You know what I mean. If you make the statement, if your man enough, own up to it. If you didn't make it, then own up. I mean, at least you're man enough to apologize if you did make the statement. You know, if your man enough, own up to what you do. That's a real man.

NESTOR CABRERA, HOMELESS VETERAN: You know, Mr. Bill O'Reilly, I would like to escort you to the shelters. I would like to escort you to the V.A. Hospitals and to the streets. I would like to know where you get your data from. We need to sit down so we can get add this up and get back to business. You know? This is a great nation. You know? Wouldn't we fight for our country? I love my country. Don't treat us like this. Help us.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Cabrera, he gets his data from what he sits on.

The president must have the FISA bill extended or Americans would be imperiled. But if the FISA bill does not include immunity for the companies who helped him eavesdrop or Americans, he will veto his. So wait, does that not mean the president is ready to imperil Americans? And this man has managed. He's managed to offend everyone. His analogy for Rudy Giuliani's farewell speech on Florida on Tuesday. What an Italian hostage said just before he was shot, he is a landmark edition of "Worse Persons" next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Tonight's free fluke at celebrity and entertainment begins with what could be a turning point in the train wreck that has become Britney Spears. For a second time, she was hospitalizes for observation but in star contrast, her last trip under duress. The website TMZ says her new psychiatrist plan this intervention, days in advance. Police escort, taking her to the UCLA Medical Center in the early morning hours referring to her as "the package." Police radios to limit the paparazzi.

According to TMZ, her mother, Lynne Spears was agitated. Britney Spears telling her to shut the hell up as she sat calmly and voluntarily submitted to begin several days of observation.

Meanwhile, Dr. Phil was repeatedly said he shouldn't have said what he said after his hospital visit to Spear. He was on "The View," this morning, saying he couldn't say much this time because he knows nothing about it. When does the, not saying anything, part take in.

And in star contrast, the Hollywood self-absorb celebrities, here's the latest role for the actor, George Clooney, as a messenger of peace for the United Nations. Clooney is now officially touring U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world to bring attention to humanitarian disasters. Telling a news conference, celebrities can't change policy or minds, but they can make people pay attention to problems like Darfur, something he and fellow actors had been during for years to their organization called "Not on Our Watch". Hundreds of thousands have died and millions displaced have been displace by war in Darfur.

Tonight's "Special Comment," is the FISA Bill, if it really is life or death for Americans as the president insists why is he willing to veto it just to protect some corporations from lawsuits. That's ahead.

But first some kind of "Worst Persons in the World." The bronze to Karl Rove and Fox Noise. The blog inside cable news reporting when it was promptly stolen without credit by Matt Drudge but Rove will join Fox News as a contributor and start working with them as early as next week, Super Tuesday. You mean continue working with them, not start, continue.

The silver tonight to William Donohue, self crescent president of the Catholic League who really has been in a mood off late. He has now attacked (INAUDIBLE) Bill Maher, telling Fox News that Maher is quote, "Going out to not just religion in general, he really has it out against Christians and that the point right now, I'd love to challenge this guy in a ring. Preferably Madison Square Garden. I'm a lot older than he is, but let me tell you something, I floor him."

Yes, that's exactly how Jesus dealt with his doubters, right? Didn't he stage a series of exciting three-round bouts against the paresis?

But our winner, our Byron York of the "National Review," wring a Tuesday's sweat filled semi-farewell by St. Rudy of 9/11, quote, "It is here in the Tuscan Bowl, that Rudy Giuliani has come to address supporters in the wake of his resounding defeat in the Florida primary. And he is probably, wildly inappropriate to say, but in this setting and under these circumstances, it is hard not to think of that Fabrizio Quattrocchi, the courageous gentleman who taken hostage by Islamic terrorist in Iraq in 2004, cried out now I will show you how an Italian dies, just before he was shot.

Well, congratulations. Not even in this segment whom I think I've ever encountered anybody who has managed to pull all this off. Managing to offend and at the same time, Republicans, Democrats, Giuliani supporters, Giuliani haters, Italians, Humanist, paranoid, counter terrorist, pragmatic counter terrorist, friends of Fabrizio Quattrocchi and magazine critics. Well done, sir. You have offended everybody.

Byron, if you think it's probably widely inappropriate to say, then don't say it, moron. York, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: Finally, tonight as promised, a "Special Comment" of FISA and the telecoms. In a presidency of hypocrisy and administration of exploitation, a labyrinth of leadership in which every vital fact is a puzzle inside a riddle wrap in an enigma hidden under a claim of executive privilege supervised by an idiot. This one is surprisingly easy.

President Bush has put protecting the telecom giants from the laws ahead of protecting you from the terrorist. He has demanded an extension of FISA law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But only an extension that includes retroactive immunity for the telecoms who helped him spy on you. Congress has given him and he has today signed a 15-day extension, which simply kicks the time bomb down the field, which has change nothing of his insipid rhetoric in which he portrays the Democrats as soft on terror and getting in the way of his super human efforts to protect the nation.

When, in fact and with bitter irony, if anybody is soft on terror right now, it is Mr. Bush. In the State of the Union address, sir, you told Congress, if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats will be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. Yet you are willing to weaken that ability. You will subject us, your citizens, to that radar danger.

This Mr. Bush is simple enough even for you to understand. If Congress approves the new FISA act without telecom immunity, and sends it to your desk and you veto it, you by your own terms and your definitions. You will have just sided with the terrorists. You got to have this law or we're all going to die. But you might veto this law.

It's bad enough, sir, that you are demanding an Expose Facto Law, which would clear the phone giants from responsibility for their systematic, aggressive, and blatant collaboration with your illegal and unjustified spying on Americans under this flimsy guides of looking for any terrorists who are stupid enough to make a collect call or send a mass e-mail.

But when you then demanded again during the State of the Union address, the Congress retroactively clear the Verizon's and AT&T's you wouldn't even confirm that they actually did anything for which they deserved to be cleared. The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America. Believed? Don't you know? Does the endless hair splitting of your presidential fine print extend even here?

If you, sir, are asking Congress and us to join you in this shameless, breathless, literally textbook example of fascism, the merge efforts of government and corporation who answered to no government, you still don't have the guts to even say the telecom companies did assist you in your efforts? Will you and the equivocators who surround you like a cocoon never go on the record about anything, even the stuff you claim to believe in? Silly me.

Of course Mr. Bush is going to say believe. Yes, it sounds dumber than if he had referred to himself as the alleged president or had said today is reportedly Thursday or acclaim mission accomplished in Iraq. But the moment he does say anything else, any doubt that the telecoms knowingly broke the laws out the window and with it, any chance that even the Republicans who are fighting this like they are trying to fend off terrorists using nothing but broke beer bottles and swear words could not consent to retroactively immunize corporate criminals, which is why the vice president probably shouldn't have phoned in to the Rush Limbaugh propaganda festival yesterday.

Six sentence out of Mr. Cheney's mouth. The FISA bill is about, quote, retroactive liability protection for the company's that have worked with us and helped us prevent further attacks against the United States. Oops, Mr. Cheney is something of a loose cannon of course. But he kind of let the wrong cat out of the bag there. Because Mr. Bush and the corporations that he values more than people, did not want anybody to verify what Mark Klein says.

Mark Klein is the AT&T whistle blower who appeared on this news cast last November who explained in a placid, dull terms of your local neighborhood IT desk, how he personally attached all of AT&T circuits, everything. Carrying every phone call, every e-mail, every bit of web browsing into a secure room, room number 641-A at the Folsom St. facility in San Francisco, where it was all copied so the government could look at it. Not some of it, not just the international part of it, certainly not just the stuff some, truly patriotic and telepathic spy might able to define have been sent or spoken by or to a terrorist, every thing.

Every time you looked at a naked picture, every time you bid on eBay, every time you phoned in a donation to a Democrat, my thought was George Orwell's 1984, Mr. Klein told me, reflecting back and here I am, forced to connect the big brother machine. You know, Mr. Bush, if Mr. Klein's big brother machine, along the vice president conveniently just confirmed for us, if it wasn't any damn use at all at actually finding anything, you could probably program it to find out who started that slanderous e-mail about Barack Obama.

Use room 641-A to identify that E-assassin, sir, and I'll stand up and applaud you. Yes, I'm holding my breath on that one too. But of course, sir, this isn't about finding that kind of needle in a haystack. This is not even about finding a haystack. This is about scooping up every piece of hay there ever was and laying the ground work for the next little job which you have to outsource to AT&T and Verizon and all the rest.

It was your director of National Intelligence, Mr. McConnell, letting this one out of that same bag. The need for homeland security to stable off cyber attacks against the governments computer networks. And how do they do that, sir? By constantly monitoring the Internet. The whole internet. And who actually, physically does that, Mr. Bush? Right, the same telecom giants for whom you want immunity quickly, so quickly you wouldn't believe it. Because this previous domestic spying and this upcoming policing of the Internet, they may be completely evil, indiscriminate, unlawful and you have to dress it all up as something just the opposite. It isn't evil. It's you said to protect America.

It isn't indiscriminate. You said it's the ability to monitor terrorist communications. It isn't unlawful. It's just the kind of perfectly legal thing for which you happen to need immunity. There's yet another level to this and here we move from big brother to sleazy son. Mr. Bush's new attorney-general Mr. Mukasey, the one who has already taken four different positions on waterboarding and who may yet tie that record on this subject of telecom immunity. He has a very personal stake in all this.

There happens to be a partner in the law firm of Bracewell and Giuliani name, Mark Mukasey. Bracewell and Giuliani and the attorney general's son, Mark, just happens to represent Verizon. You know, Verizon, telecom giant. And all of a sudden, this is no longer just a farce in which protecting the telecom as dress up as protecting us from terrorist conference calls.

Now, it begins to look like the bureaucrats in the third write, trying to protect the Krupp Family, industrial giants, by literally rewriting the laws of Germany for their benefit. And we know how that turned out. Alfred Krupp and 11 of his directors were convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg.

And then the last, for those of us watching the president demanding this very specific law, the once that Germans had, it was called the Lex-Krupp. There is one surprising bit of comfort in all this. Clearly, Mr. Bush is at his hyperbolic worst here. Consider how his chief of staff, Andy Card, came on and scolded Chris Matthews in the after the State of the Union Address. The president's address tonight was very important, Card said, because it really was a sobering call to reality for us.

And the reality is we have an enemy who wants to hurt us. The primary job of the president is to protect us. He talked about protecting us, he talked the needs to have the tools to protect us. Indeed, Mr. Bush. The primary job of any president is to protect us, not just those of us who own Internet and telephone companies, but all of us. And even you, sir, with your Internet and grasp of reality, even with your ego greater than 100 percent approval rating, even with your messianic petulance, even you could not truly choose to protect corporations instead of the people.

I am not talking about ethics here. I am talking about blame. Even if it's you throwing out the baby with the bathwater, Mr. Bush, it still means we can safely conclude, there is no baby. There is not a choice of protecting the telecoms from prosecution, or protecting the people from terrorists, sir. There is a choice of protecting the telecoms from this prosecution or pretending to protect the people from terrorists.

Sorry, Mr. Bush. The eavesdropping provisions of FISA have obviously had no impact on counter-terrorism and there is no current or perceived terrorist threat, the thwarting of which could hinge on an e-mail or a phone call that's going through room 641-A at AT&T in San Francisco next week or next month. Because if there were, Mr. Bush, and you were to, by your own hand, veto an extension of this eavesdropping, and some terrorist attack were to follow, you would not merely be guilty of siding with the terrorists, you would not merely be guilty of prioritizing the telecoms over the people, you would not merely be guilty of stupidity, you would not merely be guilty of treason, sir, but you would be personally, and eternally, responsible.

And if there is one thing we know about you, Mr. Bush, one thing that you have proved time and time again under any and all circumstances, it is that you are never responsible. Good night and good luck.