updated 10/24/2006 10:51:56 AM ET 2006-10-24T14:51:56

Guests: A.B. Stoddard

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  Stay the course, no, no.  Stay not the course.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  We‘ve never been stay the course, George/

QUESTION:  Has anybody told the president he should stop calling it “stay the course”?

BUSH:  We will stay the course.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I don‘t think he has used that term.

BUSH:  We will stay the course.

SNOW:  I don‘t think he‘s used that term in a while.

BUSH:  We stay the course.

SNOW:  He stopped using it.

BUSH:  Stay the course.

QUESTION:  Why did he stop using it?

BUSH:  Stay the course.

Stay the course.

SNOW:  Because it left the wrong impression about what was going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Will the country keep the same leadership in two weeks time?  In other words, you know what is that phrase, stay the course?  New Jersey could be the key, a poll showing 51 percent of the Americans favoring impeachment could be the key.

A journey begins of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  A race of 26.2 miles evidently ends with a really rough one.  Maybe that guy needed whatever was on Kenny Rogers hand last night.

And the last thing we need is this.  The advertising of terror.  How Republicans are willing to do the terrorists‘ work for them by trying to terrify Americans.  A special comment.

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Monday, October 23, fifteen days until the 2006 midterm elections.

If when any Democrat advocates the need for a change of course in Iraq it is automatically labeled cutting and running.  What is it called when President Bush not only abandons the very term “stay the course” but also tries to claim he was never about staying the course in the first place.

In the etymology our current politics, there can be but one answer, flip-flopping.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN.  The administration‘s narrative of Iraq gets a rewrite as the cold, hard facts on the ground there keep spiraling out of control.

Later on in this news hour, “Special Comment” the Republicans narrative on terror and how the party seems willing to buy commercials in which to do the terrorists‘ work for them.

But we begin tonight with a reminder of what is at stake in Iraq.  The number of American troops there killed already reaching 87 this month with one more week in October to go.  Making this the worst month there since November 2004.

Defense secretary Rumsfeld today attributing the increase in death toll solely to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.  When violence traditionally spikes.  Ramadan ending yesterday as did the president‘s story regarding that phrase, “stay the course.”  The phrase to invoke a past administration is apparently no longer operative.

With the White House on spin control in the wake of a report claiming the administration is drawing up a timetable to pressure the Iraqi government for concrete results.  With the election only two weeks away, Mr. Bush claiming to NBC‘s George Stephanopoulos that he has never really been a “stay the course” kind of guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Listen.  We‘ve never been “stay the course,” George.  We‘ve been—we‘ll complete the mission we‘ll do our job and help achieve the goal, but we‘re constantly adjusting the tactics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The White House seeming to make the fatal error once again of  forgetting that in this case as in so many before it, that videotape was invented by the Ampex Company in 1956.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  We‘ll stay the course in Iraq.

Yet we must stay the course because the end result is in our nation‘s interest.

And that‘s why were going to stay the course in Iraq.

We‘re there to stay the course and we help a free society emerge.

If we don‘t lose our nerve, if we stay the course, someday down the road an American president will be working with democratically elected leaders in the broader Middle East.

We have the nerve to stay the course and help them succeed.

As a matter of fact, we‘ll win in Iraq so long as we stay the course.

We will stay the course, we will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Never change your “stay the course” in midstream.  A different tack today from White House press secretary Tony Snow, asserting that the president had to abandon the term “stay the course” because none of the administration‘s critics understood the subtleties of what he meant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  When he stopped using it, why did he stop using it?

SNOW:  Because it left the wrong impression about what was going on and it allowed critics to say, well, here is an administration that has just embarked on a policy not looking what the situation is when in fact it is just the opposite.  The president is determined not to leave Iraq short of victory, but he also understands that it is important to capture the dynamism of the efforts ongoing to try to make Iraq more secure and therefore enhance the clarification of—with greater precision.

QUESTION:  Is the president responsible for that perception of “stay the course” because he in fact described it that way himself?

SNOW:  No.

(END VIDEO CLI)

OLBERMANN:  Let me call in our own Richard Wolffe, also senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek Magazine.”  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Does the White House really expect swing voters to believe the president when he says he was never about staying the course or to believe Tony Snow when he says the administration‘s critics just don‘t understand what was meant by this “stay the course”?

And if not, at whom is this extreme revisionist history actually aimed?

WOLFFE:  Keith, who are you going believe, the president or your lying eyes?  Look, you know, there are so many talking points to sort of manage here.  Sometimes it is easy to get them confused.

Who are they aiming this at?  They‘re aiming it at everyone who is running away from them and in large part that is the Republican base.  You know, I was just out in Tennessee last week and you have the Republican candidate for Senate down there pleading with audiences, don‘t make this a referendum on national issues, I know you have these big concerns please just think about me.

And the more these people—these Republican candidates, Republican base try and distance themselves from the president, the harder it is to stick to the current strategy both for the election and for the war in Iraq.

Everyone has got to try to stick together in the president‘s view, otherwise the war in Iraq will fall apart.  So, you know, the problem here is, of course, one of consistency.  This is an administration that used to be known for message discipline and what we‘re seeing is just so many multiple messages people just can‘t keep up with it.

OLBERMANN:  For all the talk over the weekend of a change not just in terms, but in tactics in Iraq, no one appears able to address the question what was the administration‘s actual strategy is for Iraq.  Is there one besides waiting for the next administration?

WOLFFE:  Well, that‘s a good question.  There are two strategies, one is political and one is military.  The political strategy I‘m afraid has run into the ground.  It was based on the new Iraqi government establishing national reconciliation, renegotiating the constitution and establishing security and none of those things have happened, the government can barely stand itself up.

Then the security track of course has also run into the ground because there are all of these people—security forces being trained up and there is no more security.  So the strategy hasn‘t worked and I‘m told very sincerely by administration officials, senior White House officials that, you know—what used to happen was the president would call people in and there would be sort of photo op consultations, now he is really calling people in and saying please give me your ideas, I need those new ideas.

And so they‘re looking for a new strategy and that‘s obviously in itself an admission that the current strategy isn‘t working.

OLBERMANN:  But calling in a meeting over the weekend of his top commanders, senior members of the national security team to discuss Iraq, the defense secretary, the chairman of the joint chiefs, secretary of state, but these are the people who designed the current approach.  Is there new blood at that meeting or at any other meeting?  Is there somebody coming in with a fresh perspective on Iraq that would actually have the president‘s ear?

WOLFFE:  Well, some of the people—not in Saturday‘s meeting but generally coming in are more academics, people who know more about the region than maybe some of the earlier advisors of the president.  So you‘re seeing some of that.

But I think what we‘re seeing different in these strategy sessions is a more vocal assessment of what is it like on the ground from the military commanders.  I‘m told the military commanders have had enough of hearing the president say all the time well, the commanders don‘t ask me for anything new.  What we‘re seeing is a much more honest, much more direct conversation that the current strategy on the security track isn‘t working.  They want to see something different on the political track.

That‘s to say, this Iraqi government doing something.

OLBERMANN:  How does this, though, lastly all jive with the Karl Rove strategy about the midterms, to portray Iraq when it needs to be portrayed from a position of strength?

WOLFFE:  Well, this gets you back to how people are trying to separate themselves from the administration and from the president.

In some way, the biggest issue in this election isn‘t Iraq, it is the president and his conduct.  You know, 30 percent of the base still loves the president.  Independent voters are moving away from him in their droves, trying to hold these two sides together is the biggest challenge and I‘m afraid Karl Rove‘s script hasn‘t really got much legs outside of the Beltway.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek.”  As always, sir, our great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  The war in Iraq being just one reason why even the most skeptical of Democrats are allowing themselves to at least hope the party could actually win in November.  The latest poll from “Newsweek” showing that should they win, those that voted for them will be expecting a return on their voting investment.

More than half wanting the Democrats to take control of the Congress, compared to less than a third hoping the same for Republicans.  Thirty one percent cite Iraq as their top concern in the election, 18 percent named the economy, 16 percent chose healthcare and 13 percent pick terrorism.

Should the Democrats win control, 51 percent of those surveyed of both parties favoring impeachment as top or lower priority.  Forty-four percent saying it should be done at any cost.

But elsewhere in “Newsweek,” the Democratic House leader, Nancy Pelosi said to the magazine in effect as she did on “60 Minutes” last night that impeachment wouldn‘t happen on her watch if she gets one.

For more on the ‘06 outlook, let‘s call in A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper.  Thank you once again for your time tonight.

A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Optimism among the Democrats has been in short supply over the past dozen years, might it still be slightly undue optimism, even if there is only 15 days until the polls open?  The Republican Party needs only the last three days to complete the patented 72 hour get out the vote program.

STODDARD:  I think if you look at the polls the Democrats have reason to be guardedly optimistic.  I think that the polls are showing the makings of a nice wave if you look at angry, determined independents and Democrats and also a disenchanted and disappointed Republican base.  The combination for that, I think, puts them probably over the top, that they pick up the 15 they need to take control of the House at least, whether they are going to pick up 40, I doubt.  I‘m one of the people that I‘m not as optimistic as Karl Rove but I‘m in awe of the Republican machine.

I think that they continue to hold the mechanical edge, that the get out the vote operation is a stunning machine and just their advantage and money and the fact that they‘ve held power for so long, let—there is just a long list of advantages they have.  And I think if you go race by race it is hard to really make it a tsunami.

OLBERMANN:  But there seem to be buckets of sand teetering on the edge of falling into that machine and one of them obviously remains the Foley scandal which needs two weeks more of life to be factor here.  And the new polls show that despite it, the Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds seems to gaining ground in the reelection bid in New York State that many had already written off.

But he has to appear before the House Ethics Committee tomorrow.  Should Reynolds growth be a concern for the Democrats or should that appearance tomorrow be more of a concern for the Republicans?

STODDARD:  I think Reynolds—it he looks like he is picking up steam because he has been out of the news maybe for eight days or something.

But when you go before the Ethics Committee, that is not good this close to the election when he is in serious trouble.  The problem for Tom Reynolds is New York State.  And if you look at what is happening there with Senator Clinton and Eliot Spitzer, you have to be a Republican so devoted to Tom Reynolds that you‘re going to get in your car and drive to the polls that morning to help to save his job, even though you‘re not electing any other Republicans on that day.  So that is going to be a huge factor against Tom Reynolds.

OLBERMANN:  To return to Mr. Rove, he was out on the campaign trail over the weekend.  He was ratcheting up the rhetoric against the Democrats.  Much of it was aimed specifically at Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader and her voting record on domestic spying programs, on the PATRIOT Act, . Is that an issue attack against Pelosi or is it a gender specific attack against Pelosi?

STODDARD:  You know what?  I just happen to believe if John Murtha was about to be speaker in a Democratic House or Steny Hoyer was about to be speaker in a Democratic House, that they would be the boogiemen as well.

I don‘t think this necessarily has to do with the fact that she is a woman so much as that she is from San Francisco and this is quite convenient for Karl Rove.

And she‘s - either you‘ve got to have someone in these days leading up to scare your own voters with.  What we‘re talking about, the remaining voters -- the persuadable voters out there are now are wavering Republicans and Karl Rove has to tell them that they must to go to the polls and they must support the party one more time no matter how upset they are.

So the Pelosi punching bag is I think is probably effective and he would be beating up anybody, he would have to with the polls this bad for the Republicans.  If the Democrats, you know, were to be led by somebody else.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly we come to of all places, New Jersey.  Senators McCain and Clink were both here campaigning over the weekend.  Mr. Mccain for his part told fundraiser donors that the race between Robert Menendez, the Democratic incumbent and the challenger Tom Kean Jr. would determine control of the Senate.  Is his assessment right?

STODDARD:  Well, he is right.  The Democrats on the Senate side are looking to pick up Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Ohio and Montana.  Those are looking kind of like toast at this point.

And then they go to a second tier of hopefuls and those races are in Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia.  And they‘d like to run the table, but let‘s say they pick up one of the hopefuls and they just get to that fifth seat.  They need a sixth to take power in the Senate.  I mean—I‘m sorry if they pick up two of the three hopefuls.

If they were then to lose their incumbent Bob Menendez in New Jersey, it would be devastating.  So the Republicans are so happy with the rise of Kean, and they are really hoping that they can knock off Bob Menendez.

That is a volatile race.  The polls are going back and forth.  Right now Menendez is ahead.  But McCain is right, that is really important for the Republicans.  It is sort of their one hope for a pickup and for the Democrats they need Bob Menendez to stay right where he is.

OLBERMANN:  And ironically, the Democrats are trying to tattoo a picture of George Bush right on Kean Jr.‘s head.  A.B. Stoddard, the associate editor of “The Hill.”

STODDARD:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Great thanks for joining us again.

Looking past the midterms he told us and then Tim Russert that he‘ll start to think about a presidential run after November 7.  Could it really be Obama in 2008?  And speaking of campaigns, how the current resident of the White House and his party are literally using terrorism in commercials aimed at American voters.

My “Special Comment” ahead.  You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  “I have thought about the possibility.”  Those words to Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” yesterday.

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois was launched involuntarily or otherwise into the stratosphere of potential Democratic presidential nominees year after next.

In our fourth story on THE COUNTDOWN, the Obama boom, which with all deference to our esteemed Washington bureau chief might truly be said to have begun here on this news hour last Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) IL:  After the election, I‘m going to sit down and take a deep breath and take a look at what is going on and figure out how I can be useful both in my current job and whatever plans I may have for the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In any event, non-candidacies are orphans but presidential booms can have many fathers, me and Russ.  Here is Chip Reid with the reaction from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Senator Barack Obama.

CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  From Philadelphia .

OBAMA:  What‘s up, Philly?

REID:  To Tempe, Arizona, Democratic candidates want him by their side.

OBAMA:  Thank you Illinois.

REID:  Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the newest and at the moment, the brightest star in the Democratic sky.  He has been on the cover of “Time,” “Newsweek” and even “Men‘s Vogue” and now for the first t time he is thinking about running for president in 2008.

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS HOST:  So it sounds as if the door has opened a bit.

OBAMA:  A bit.

REID:  So why is he such a sensation?

Political analysts say it is partly because some Democrats are unhappy with the field of candidates they already have.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER:  Here is a person who comes across as spontaneous and genuine, running against other people who may be seen as calculating and as programmed.

REID:  That includes presumptive front runner, Hillary Clinton.  Analysts say some Democrats unhappy with her vote in favor of the Iraq War could turn to Obama, who has consistently opposed the war.

(on camera):  Some Democrats question whether Obama has earned the right to be such a political phenomenon.  After all, they say, he has been a senator less than two years.

(voice-over):  His record of legislative accomplishments is thin and he has little experience in foreign policy or military affairs.  “Chicago Tribune” columnist Clarence Page says for now Obama‘s personal story is overshadowing everything else.

CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Here is a guy who embodies in many ways the American dream and he also embodies all of America.  He is white, he is black, he has got a father from Kenya, a mother from Kansas.

REID:  But Page says the smooth ride will end if he actually does run and then Obama will be treated like all the other candidates.  Anything he has ever done, written or said will be fair game.  Chip Reid, NBC News, the Capitol.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the new Republican commercial that looks suspiciously like an Osama bin Laden terror video.  If the goal of each is to scare you, the difference between them is nonexistent?

But first a different kind of dirty race.  The Italian organized crime equivalent of the Kentucky Derby.  No I‘m not kidding.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This is the anniversary of everything apparently.  According to the biblical calculations of a 17th century British archbishop named James Usher.  It was on this date, October 23 in the year 4004 B.C. quote, “that the heavens and earth were created.”  And he figured out using the ages of biblical characters that it happened at exactly 9:00 a.m. Greenwich mean time.  5:00 Eastern, 4:00 Central.  2:00 Pacfic.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

(voice-over):  So never in the six thousand 10 year life span of this planet have we ever seen anything like this.  It is an illegal late night horse race run by the Mafia in the streets of Messina in Italy.  Cool.  And it is harness racing, no less.  Police have been trying to crack down on these things.

This one was caught by security cameras in the middle of the night.  In addition to the obvious danger to the horses and any pedestrian traffic that might be in the area, it is extremely difficult to cash in on your winning bets when the betting window is doing 60 miles an hour.

To Boston, home of the new world record for the most jack-o-lanterns lit in one place.  This is a nice companion to the record already held by drunken New England Patriot customers in Gillette Stadium.  The most fans - the most jackasses lit in one place.

Over 30,000 pumpkins carved and hollowed and filled with fire and set up for best effect over Boston Common over the weekend.  The event raised a quarter million dollars for charity and the areas a squirrels have never eaten better.

Finally to Santiago in Chile where taxi driver Juan Geraldo says he figured out how to keep criminals from robbing his cab.  Presenting the taxi cow.  It is a taxi decorated to look like a cow on the inside.  Not the inside of a cow, the outside of a cow on the inside of a car.  How exactly this fights crime is a bit unclear, but Geraldo says his cab business is booming now because of this and he said this on television in Chile.

So the guy in the conspicuous car is carrying around large amounts of cash did you say?  I‘m guessing we‘ll be doing a follow up on this story about how it wasn‘t such of a great idea after all, was it, Geraldo.

Also tonight, proof that it doesn‘t matter how fast or far you can run, factor in a wet bank logo in your path and even the best athlete will fall.

And speaking of slips, you know it is getting close to Election Day when the underdog calls a senator ugly and then denies he said it.

Those stories ahead but now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Newsmakers” of this day.

Number three.  Pye Chamberlayne, one of the legends of radio news and one of my first colleagues at UPI Audio with whom he spent most of his 46 years in journalism, himself the son of the news editor of the famed Paris edition of the “New York Herald Tribune”, Edward Pye Chamberlayne Jr. died suddenly Saturday at his home in Virginia.  He was 68 years old and left hundreds who will never forget him.

Number two, an unidentified Belgian convict, he was paroled on Friday and was arrested Saturday having in the interim committed eight separate robberies.  One day.

Number one, a pair of unnamed thieves in Stockholm in Sweden.  They pulled off an armored car robbery this afternoon there, held the guards at gunpoint and demanded they hand over the cash bag, but never checked to see whether or not there was any cash in the cash bag.  They got away with the empty bag and police warn they are to be considered to be armed, dangerous and probably murmuring, “Oh, man,” to each other in Swedish.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It should not a surprise when politics gets ugly.  But in our third story in the COUNTDOWN, who knew it would get this ugly.  The “New York Daily News” claiming Senator Hillary Clinton‘s opponent in New York, John Spenser, said “You ever see a picture of her back then?  Whew.I don‘t know why Bill married her,” and that “She looks good now” thanks to millions of dollars worth of plastic surgery.

One problem with the story, Spencer says it is not true, he never said all that.  His campaign telling COUNTDOWN Spencer merely said her looks have changed.  Senator Clinton‘s campaign would only comment on one aspect of the disputed story, saying, no, the senator who turns 59 this week has not had plastic surge. 

And on the national level, the Republicans in charge of their party‘s election efforts have been very clear what the GOP should talk about during these midterm elections.  Whether it‘s RNC Ken Mehlman or Tom Reynolds—who we mention earlier and who heads the House campaign committee—the message is the same:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TOM REYNOLDS (R-NV), RNC CHAIRMAN:  I‘ve advised our colleagues to talk about the issues that matter most.

KEN MEHLMAN, RNC CHAIRMAN:  A better approach might be to talk about the issues you‘re for. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But when it comes to the ads put out by Mehlman and Reynolds, even some Republicans say they have gone too far.  Reynold‘s committee stands by this ad attacking a New York Democrat for his aides call in 2004 to phone sex line, even the records show the call only lasted seconds followed less than a minute later by a call to a state office who‘s number ended in the same seven digits.  The Republican candidate calls the ad “way over the line.” 

In Tennessee, where Democrat Harold Ford, Jr.  and Republican Bob Corker are running for Senate, Mehlmen‘s RNC paid for this ad, which Corker‘s campaign called over the top accusing Ford of supporting terrorists, taking money from pornographers and tossing in a dash of interracial sex. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I met Harold at the playboy party.  Harold, call me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mehlman‘s RNC is also running this ad in Ohio, after the first version which attacked Senate hopeful, Sherrod Brown, was pulled for claiming Brown had failed to pay taxes for 13 year, it turns out Brown left $1,700 in unemployment taxes unpaid for eight months in 1992. 

And then, of course there is this RNC ad which we discussed here last week.  It raises the issue of terrorism, but rather than engage in substantive debate about policy differences on the issue, it actually serves only to raise fears of terrorism using political alchemy to turn fear of bin Laden into fear of Democratic politicians. 

That merely the most visual example of the administration managing to out terrify even the terrorists.  If terrorism means, in part, fear who are the terrorists right now in this country?  Special comment ahead. 

And you‘ve got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.  Kenny Rogers, the one from the Detroit Tigers—what was that on his pitching hand in the World Series last night?

First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAY LENO, TONIGHT SHOW:  It was one uncomfortable moment in the school computer room.  I guess a kid was playing a game on the computer, he didn‘t know President Bush was behind him.  Well here, take a look. 

GEORGE W.  BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You already finished didn‘t you? 

(LAUGHTER)

LENO:  A little awkward.  Little awkward

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is a pumpkin regala.  That‘s right, pumpkins.  Sailors find the biggest ones around, hollow them out, and take them to the lake.  Just what kind of person doesn‘t take to sail a pumpkin? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Crazy—cool and crazy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The competition gets fierce as rowers propel their crafts toward the finish line. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sailing on a pumpkin is very difficult and you need much skill. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not everyone has what it takes.  Some of the (INAUDIBLE) just don‘t keep the sailors afloat long enough to finish. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m curious, have you ever Googled anybody? 

Do you use Google? 

BUSH:  Occasionally.  And one of the things I‘ve used on the Google is to pull up maps.  It‘s interesting to see that.  I‘ve forgot the name of the program, but where you get the satellite and you can—like I kind of like to look at the ranch. 

(SONG):  Internet cowboy, Googling away

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Dirty hands and falling at the finish line.  And no we‘re not talking about the midterm elections, but the world of wide sports.  But the politics of fear, not terrorism from the terrorists, but terrorism from the administration.  My special comment tonight when COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Given the fact that the World Series will not be a sweep for the first time since 2003, fans were pretty excited already.  But in our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, the baseball world is up in arms—better make that up in hands—over Detroit pitcher Kenny Rogers.  In three previous post seasons Rogers had a record of no wins, three losses and an earned run average of 8.86. 

And after beating the St.  Louis Cardinals 3-1 last night in this post season, Rogers has a record of three wins, no losses and a earned run average of 0.00.  Fans are wondering if it has something to do with this, some brownish goop on the palm of his pitching hand, seen in the first inning of last night‘s game.  Then mysteriously washed off but not entirely washed off by the second inning. 

Rogers says it was a clump of dirt and that the game umpires did not tell him to wash it off, he noticed it and cleaned himself.  The head umpires said they told him to wash it off. 

One theory popular with dermatologists and musicians is that the brownish discoloration is evidence of gum benjamin or gum benzoin, also known as tincture of benzoin, once popular with dermatologist for close up legions, still popular with musicians who have to toughen up the skin on their hands before they play. 

Some of them note you can wash it off, but a lot of its stick, tacky qualities will still remain for as long as a day.  And a pitcher with goop on his hand might not only get a better grip on the ball, he might get some of the goop on the ball as well, causing it to drop or break unpredictably. 

Rogers says he is not cheating.  But there is a photograph of him from earlier in the play-offs and from another from a game in July showing the same clump of dirt in the same spot on the same hand.

The losing Cardinals didn‘t press the point, possibly because a lot of pitchers bend the rules by defacing the balls with rosins, pieces of sandpaper, cheese graters, and the rule of thumb is if you‘re not obvious about it, nobody‘s going to call you on it and no there are no signs in baseball clubhouse bathrooms reading “pitchers must wash hands.” 

And we begin “Keeping Tabs” in the world of sports with the frightening video from the finish line at yesterday‘s Chicago marathon.  Kenyan runner Robert Cheruiyot, leading the race threw his hands up in victory then slipped on a wet corporate logo emblazoned on the street.  He hit his head pretty hard, he was down for several minutes before being taken away in a wheelchair.

Cheruiyot remained hospitalized today and Northwestern Memorial in Chicago.  Doctors say he‘s undercombn CAT scans for the head injury but is expected to make a full recovery.  He‘ll take a few months off from competitive running and maybe have a few words with the guy at LaSalle bank who thought it would be a good idea to put a virtual Slip ‘n‘ Slide on the finish line. 

Madonna has not even adopted her new son yet, officially, already she‘s in a custody battle of sorts.  One-year-old David Banda left Malawi for London six days ago after government officials granted her temporary adoption rights.  Now David‘s father changed the story again.  He‘s reacting to news of the adoption with the Malawian equivalent of “I gave my son up to who for what now?” 

Turns out Mr. Banda can‘t read.  Says when he signed the paperwork, he took government officials at their word that Madonna was only going to look after David temporarily until he was older because the family is unable to educate and take care of him, which is why he was at the orphanage in the first place. 

Madonna is expected to discuss the issue, which has no awkward overtones whatsoever with Oprah Winfrey.  So, that‘s good. 

Also here tonight, the Republican Party‘s attempt to intimidate, to terrorize, in fact, American voters.  My special comment ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The Bronze, your United States Department of State.  Saturday, Alberto Fernandez, the director of the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy for the Bureau of Near East Affairs told the al-Jazeera network that the U.S. may be criticized by history for its role in Iraq because, “There was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iraq.”  Mr. Fernandez defended his remarks in a subsequent American interview, but now he‘s apologized and said he seriously misspoke. 

Yeah, don‘t ever tell the truth like that, you‘re in the State Department. 

Runner up, Sean Hannity, October 18, on the radio, told Democrats to stay home instead of voting.  October 20 on TV, said the media has “the sort of institutionalized bias to sort of suppress voting.” 

Yeah. 

But the winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh today criticizing the ad that actor Michael J.  Fox did for a Democratic Senate candidate in which Fox, who has Parkinson‘s disease, calls again for stem cell research.  Limbaugh says Fox was exploiting the shakes and convulsions of the disease possibly by not taking his palliative drugs.  Says Limpbaugh (SIC), “I asserted when I saw the ad—stated when I was the ad—I was commenting to you about it that he was either off the medication or he was acting.” 

Rush, given your history, maybe next time you just want to skip the phrase “off the medication!” Rush Limpbaugh (SIC), today‘s “Worst Person in the World.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  And lastly tonight, a special comment on the advertising of terrorism—the commercial you have already seen.

It is a distillation of everything this administration and the party in power have tried to do these last five years and six weeks. 

It is from the Republican National Committee;

It shows images of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri;

It offers quotes from them, all as a clock ticks ominously in the background. 

It concludes with what Zawahiri may or may not have said to a Pakistani journalist as long ago as 2001:  His dubious claim that he had purchased “suitcase bombs.” 

The quotation is followed, by sheer coincidence no doubt, by an image of a massive explosion. 

“These are the stakes,” appears on the screen, quoting exactly from Lyndon Johnson‘s infamous nuclear scare commercial from 1964. 

“Vote November 7th.” 

There is a cheap “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” quality to the whole thing, it also serves to immediately call to mind the occasions when President Bush dismissed Osama bin Laden as somebody he didn‘t think about except, obviously, when elections were near. 

Frankly, a lot of people seeing that commercial for the first time have laughed out loud, but not everyone.  And therein lies the true threat to this country.

The dictionary definition of the word “terrorize” is simple and not open to misinterpretation:  “To fill or overpower with terror; terrify.  To coerce by intimidation or fear.”  

Note please, that the words “violence” and “death” are missing from that definition.  For the key to terror, the key to terrorism is not the act, but the fear of the act. 

That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotaped statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings. 

But why is the Republican Party imitating them? 

Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; the Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear. 

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home. 

Only the Republicans have a bigger bank roll.  

When, last week, the CNN network ran video of an insurgent in Iraq, evidently stalking and killing an American soldier, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Hunter, Republican of California, branded that channel, “the publicist for an enemy propaganda film” and added that CNN used it “to sell commercials.”

Another California Republican, Representative Brian Bilbray, called the video “nothing short of a terrorist snuff film.” 

If so, Mr. Bilbray, then what in the hell is your Party‘s new advertisement? 

And Mr. Hunter, CNN using the video to “sell commercials?”

Commercials!

You have adopted bin Laden and Zawahiri as spokesmen for the Republican National Committee!

“To fill or overpower with terror; terrify.  To coerce by intimidation or fear.” 

By this definition, the people who put these videos together, first the terrorists and then the administration, whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking, they are the ones terrorizing you. 

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaeda. 

But the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party. 

Eleven presidents ago, a chief executive reassured us that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” 

His distant successor has wasted his administration insisting that there is nothing we can have but fear itself.

The vice president, as recently as this month, was caught campaigning again with the phrase “mass death in the United States.” 

Four years ago it was the now-Secretary of State, Dr.  Rice, rationalizing Iraq with “we don‘t want be the smoking gun to be the mushroom cloud.” 

Days later Mr. Bush himself told an audience that “we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” 

And now we have this cheesy commercial, complete with images of a faked mushroom cloud, and implications of “mass death in America.” 

This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorizing the very people it claims to be protecting from terror. 

It may be the oldest trick in the political book:  scare people into believing they are in danger and that only you can save them. 

Lyndon Johnson used it to bury Barry Goldwater. 

Joe McCarthy leaped from obscurity on its back. 

And now the legacy has come to President George Bush. 

Of course, the gruel of fear is getting thinner and thinner, is it not, Mr. President? 

And thus more and more of it needs to be made out of less and less actual terror. 

After last week‘s embarrassing Internet hoax about “dirty bombs” at football stadiums, the one your Department of Homeland Security immediately disseminated to the public, a self-described “former CIA operative” named Wayne Simmons, cited the fiasco as “the, and I mean the, perfect example of the President‘s Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the NSA terrorist eavesdropping program—how vital they are.” 

Frank Gaffney, once a respected assistant secretary of defense and now the president of something called the “Center for Security Policy,” added, “one of the things that I hope Americans take away from this, is not only that they‘re gunning for us not just in a place like Iraq, but truly, worldwide.” 

Of course, the “they” to which Mr. Gaffney referred, turned out to be a lone 20-year-old grocery bagger from Wisconsin named Jake—a kid, trying to one-up some other loser in an Internet game of chicken.

His “threat,” referenced seven football stadiums at which dirty bombs were to be exploded yesterday.  It began with the one in New York City—even though there isn‘t one in New York City.  And though the attacks were supposed to be simultaneous, four of the games were scheduled to start at 1 p.m.  Eastern Time and the others at 4 p.m.  Eastern Time.

Moreover, the kid said he had posted the identical message on 40 websites since September. 

We caught him in “merely” about six weeks, even though the only way he could have been less subtle, less stealthy, and less of a threat was if he‘d bought an advertisement on the Super Bowl telecast. 

Mr. Bush, this is the, what?   -- 100th plot your people have revealed, that turned out to be some nonsensical misunderstanding, or the fabrications of somebody hoping to talk his way off a water board in Eastern Europe? 

If, Mr. President, this is the kind of crack work that your new ad implies that only you and not the Democrats can do, you, sir, need to pull over and ask for directions.

The real question of course, Mr. Bush, is why did your Department of Homeland Security even release this information in the first place?

It was never a serious threat.  Even the first news accounts quoted a Homeland spokesman as admitting “strong skepticism”—the kind of strong skepticism which most government agencies address before telling the public, not afterwards. 

So that leaves two options, Mr. President. 

The first option:  you and your department of Homeland Security don‘t have the slightest idea what you‘re doing here.  Thus, contrary to your flip-flopping between saying “we‘re safe” and saying “but we‘re not safe enough,” and contrary to the vice president‘s swaggering pronouncements about the lack of another attack since 9/11, the last five years has been just an accident.

Or there‘s the second option:  your political operatives leaked this nonsense for the same reason your political operatives put out that commercial, to scare the gullible. 

Obviously the correct answer, Mr. Bush, is all of the above.

There are some of us who could forgive you for trying to run your candidates on the coattails of the Grim Reaper, for reducing your party‘s existence to “Death and Attacks Us.” 

It‘s cynical and barbaric. 

But, after all, it may be merely the natural extension of the gutter politics to which you have subscribed since you sidled over from baseball, and the business world of other people‘s money. 

But to forgive you for terrorizing us, we would have to believe you somehow competent in keeping others from terrorizing us. 

Yet, last week, construction workers repairing a subway line in New York City, were cleaning out an abandoned manhole on the edge of the World Trade Center site, when they stumbled on the horrific and the impossible: 

human remains from 9/11. 

Bones and fragments. 

Eighty of them. 

Some as much as a foot long. 

The victims had been lying, literally in the gutter, for five years and five weeks. 

The families and friends of each of the 2,749 dead, who had been grimly told in May 2002 that there were no more remains to be found, were struck anew as if the terrorism of that day had just happened again. 

And over the weekend they‘ve found still more remains. 

And now this week will be spent looking in places that should have already been looked at a thousand times five years ago. 

For all the victims in New York, Mr. Bush, the living and the dead, it is a touch of 9/11 all over again. 

And the mayor of this city, who called off the search four-and-a-half years ago is a Republican. 

The governor of this state with whom he conferred is a Republican. 

The House of Representatives, Republican.

The Senate, Republican. 

The President, Republican. 

And yet you can actually claim that you and you alone can protect us from terrorism? 

You can‘t even recover our dead from the battlefield—the battlefield in an American city—when we‘ve given you five years and unlimited funds to do so!

While signing a Military Commissions Act so monstrous that it has been criticized by even the John Birch Society, you told us, Mr. Bush, “there is nothing we can do to bring back the men and women lost on September 11, 2001.  Yet we‘ll always honor their memory, and we will never forget the way they were taken from us.” 

Except, of course, for the ones who‘ve been lying under a manhole cover for five years.

Setting aside the fact that your government has done nothing else for those five years but pat itself on the back about terror, while waging pointless war on the wrong enemy in Iraq, and waging war on the cherished freedoms in America;

Just on this subject of counter-terrorism, sir, yours is the least competent government, in time of crisis, in this country‘s history!

“These are the stakes,” indeed, Mr. President. 

You do not know what you are doing. 

And the commercial—the one about which Zawahiri might say “hey, pretty good, we love your choice of font style”? 

All that need further be said is to add three words to Shakespeare. 

Mr. President, you, and that advertisement of terror, are full of sound and fury—signifying, and competent at—nothing. 

Goodnight and good luck. 

Joe Scarborough is next.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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