updated 11/2/2006 12:39:31 PM ET 2006-11-02T17:39:31

Guests:  Mike Stark, Howard Fineman

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

“I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.”

Thus does Senator John Kerry apologize, and the White House says he did the right thing, and presumably it‘s case closed.  And presumably, now the president will apologize to the troops for creating a war with no plan, no exit strategy, and no hope, for mocking them in a tuxedo while they died in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Those weapons of mass key instruction have got to be somewhere.

Nope, no weapons over there.

Maybe under here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  My special comment about the apologies Mr. Bush owes, and about his new policy of talking loudly while letting others swing the big stick.

The day after the revenge of Macaca, Mike Stark thrown to the floor by supporters of Virginia Senator George Allen.  And yes, he‘s the same Mike Stark who encouraged people to call Bill Orally‘s radio show and mention he who must not be named—me.

And Ann Coulter under criminal investigation—no, I‘m not kidding—accused by the elections supervisor of deliberately voting in the wrong precinct.  The case goes to the Palm Beach County state‘s attorney.  Now, this offense, is this considered godless, or brainless?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER:  It‘s irrelevant.  Things are going swimmingly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  This is Wednesday, November 1, six days until the 2006 midterm elections.

In the words of then-President Gerald Ford, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over,” Senator John Kerry having now apologized for the misinterpretation, the deliberate misinterpretation, of what was actually a joke or an insult at the expense of the president, the White House having already said tonight that Senator Kerry has done the right thing.

So why, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, have the Republicans rushed a campaign manifesto onto their national Web site using the video of Kerry‘s comments and decided not to take it down?

And ahead this hour, my special comment.  We have Senator Kerry‘s apology to the troops.  So where are the ones from the president to the troops?

We begin tonight with the details.  Senator Kerry‘s statement reading, in part, quote, “I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.”

The kind of “I‘m sorry you feel that way” semiapology, which, in this case, appears perfectly calibrated, the senator offering a fuller explanation for what he meant to say on Monday, and how it has been misinterpreted since, whether by design or by accident, to Don Imus this morning on MNSBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Look, everybody knows, I botched a joke.  It‘s not the first time anybody‘s done that, Don, (INAUDIBLE)...

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Certainly not the first time you‘ve done it.

KERRY:  Not the first time I‘ve done it.  But on the other hand, it‘s just a disgraceful thing when people try to assert that somebody like me, who has spent 35 years of my life fighting for veterans, standing up for veterans, fighting for their combat pay, fighting for Agent Orange recognition, fighting for their armor, fighting for their up-armored Humvees, fighting for them to have a strategy that wins, fighting to honor them, that the notion that this comment was directed at them is an insult by these guys.  And they know it.

I‘m coming back to Washington today so that I‘m not a distraction, because I don‘t want to be a distraction to these campaigns.  And the point is simply, they owe America an apology for this disaster in Iraq.

IMUS:  Why not apologize for the misunderstanding?

KERRY:  Well, I did.  I said it was a botched joke.  Of course I‘m sorry about a botched joke.

IMUS:  Why not, along with (INAUDIBLE) apologizing for the botched joke, at least apologize for the, for the, for the, for the perception and the misunderstanding of your remarks, and then move on.  And please, I‘m just begging you, just go home.

KERRY:  Well, I did.  I said very clearly to people, I said—obviously I am—you think I‘m happy that they have an opportunity to be able to take something and exploit it?  Obviously not.  I am sorry that that‘s happened.

But I‘m not going to stand back from the reality here, which is, they‘re trying to change the subject.  It‘s their campaign of smear and fear.

This is Swiftboat stuff all over again.  Somebody says something, and they get excited and they love and have fun because, Oh, boy, isn‘t this good, you‘ve got a controversy.

But look behind the controversy.  The controversy is based on a lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:   Apologizing for the misunderstanding of his remarks, exactly what Senator Kerry ended up doing some nine hours later, White house press secretary Tony Snow praising Senator Kerry—I‘ll repeat that, praising Senator Kerry—for doing the right thing, in his terms, even if, earlier in the day, Mr. Snow was unrelenting in his assertion that there was never a misunderstanding about whether the senator had botched a joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s pretty clear Senator Kerry was in the middle of going after the president when he said this.  Do you agree with that?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No, I don‘t.  If you look at it—look, he had the warm-up period where apparently he was trying to tell jokes.  And then he said, Let‘s talk about education.  And you have the transition.  Now, usually, when somebody says, Let‘s talk about education, that doesn‘t mean that he‘s ready to fire off the rib ticklers, it means that it‘s time to start talking about a serious topic.

And if you listen, Jim, have you looked at the tape?  I mean, does it look like he‘s trying to tell a joke?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Something about which no one is joking, any number of issues for which the Kerry debacle is providing a welcome distraction for the Republicans.

At the top of the list, the situation in Iraq, which, by the administration‘s own assessment, is now bordering on chaos.  This diagram, described by “The New York Times” as a classified, color-coded chart used by the U.S. military to assess how things are going on the ground in Iraq, in this case, the degree of sectarian violence clearly showing Iraq slipping away from peace, the green area of the chart, and into chaos, the red zone on the right, the military today confirming for NBC News that the chart is an accurate depiction of its own assessment of the situation on the ground.

Add to Iraq other controversies being overshadowed, like First Lady Laura Bush‘s assertion that actor Michael J. Fox, suffering from Parkinson‘s disease, is part of the manipulation of people‘s feelings about stem cell research.

And in the Virginia Senate race, the George Allen campaign‘s mishandling and manhandling, if not outright assault, of a liberal blogger.

And one might guess that the people disappointed by Senator Kerry‘s apology work at the Republican National Committee.

Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, also the senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Even if the American Legion has accepted Senator Kerry‘s apology, and Mr. Snow has said what he has said, will the Republican Party accept that it‘s milked this story for all it‘s worth and move on?  Is this the last night you and I are going to be talking about this?

FINEMAN:  Probably the last night you and I will be talking about it, but not the last night or day for milking of this cow, because what‘s happening now is that some campaigns around the country, for example, Rick Santorum, the Republican senator in Pennsylvania, is now demanding that the Democrat, Bob Casey, repudiate the remarks of John Kerry, et cetera, et cetera.

So it‘ll echo out there on the campaign trail.  And it‘ll also echo on talk radio tomorrow, I‘m sure.  I‘m sure that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity haven‘t said the last that they want to say on this, because it not only provided an opportunity to obscure some other, more unpleasant news as far as Republicans are concerned, it gives the Republicans a chance to talk to military families, who, by the way, are quite ambivalent in many cases about the wisdom of and the progress and management of the war in Iraq.

And the Republicans have been having problems among those military families.  This gives the White House a chance to sort of amp up the emotions with those people.

OLBERMANN:  Despite what Mr. Snow is saying this afternoon, does anyone in the White House really believe, to your knowledge, that the president and his staff actually thought that Senator Kerry meant to malign the troops?  Was this not, from the moment it was brought to their attention, always about some nice broken field running, some ad hoc politicizing of a great opportunity?

FINEMAN:  Well, you know, I can‘t imagine somehow George Bush and Karl Rove sitting in the Oval Office and the president saying, Now, wait a minute, let‘s be fair, let‘s make sure we understand exactly what Kerry was saying here.

I mean, sometimes ambiguity is your friend in politics, Keith.  For example, you remember Bill Clinton saying, “It depends on what the meaning of ‘it‘ is.”  But sometimes ambiguity is your enemy, and that was true of Kerry here.

It‘s clear, and I‘ve read the transcript, I‘ve watched as much of the video as I—as is available.  It‘s clear he was trying to make a joke about the president.

Part of the problem with Kerry is, you can‘t tell when he‘s trying to make a joke, usually, because they aren‘t very funny.  But it was ambivalent enough and (INAUDIBLE) and ambiguous enough that it gave George -- Karl Rove the opening he wanted.  You play that clip just by itself, and it served the White House‘s purpose.  I‘m sure they—as soon as they saw it, they knew they had something they could drive, and they‘ve driven it now six or seven news cycles.

You know, there‘s not just one news cycle a day any more.  There are several, and they‘ve managed to milk this for a couple days.  And I must say, Kerry himself added two or three news cycles to this by saying what he said on the Imus show this morning.  He had told himself, and maybe some friends had told him, Look, you got to be tough, this is Swiftboat all over again, let‘s throw it right back at these guys.

But his failure to just flat out apologize for any misunderstanding about his ambiguous statement to military people and their families allowed the Republicans to go to town on this all day.  The president called Rush Limbaugh, they ran that on the Limbaugh show all day.  And it gave the White House talking points for the day.  And we‘ve all covered it for 48 hours now.

OLBERMANN:  Is the next cycle this, the president‘s assertion today that he‘s keeping both Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney for the rest of his term, that they‘ll be there till 2009, and Mr. Rumsfeld is just toxic in this campaign.  If you‘re a Republican who‘s distanced himself on Iraq, are you furious tonight?  If you‘re a Democrat hoping to get the focus back onto Iraq in the final six days of this campaign, is this the turnover after you just turned the ball over with John Kerry?

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think it is, because I could—because I think they have a lot of candidates all over the country who‘ve tried to—

Republicans who‘ve tried to distinguish themselves now by calling for Rumsfeld‘s ouster, and for the president to defend him on that way is not politically helpful.

I don‘t see how it helps the president in any way, shape, or form.  He likes to think of him self as a loyal guy, as a tough guy.  But this was just not worth it politically for him to do that, I think.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Tom Kean, Jr., here in Jersey said exactly that, Rumsfeld has to go.  This has got to cut the legs right from under him (INAUDIBLE)...

FINEMAN:  A lot of other candidates are saying that too.

OLBERMANN:  “Newsweek” magazine senior Washington correspondent, Howard Fineman.  As always, Howard, great thanks for joining us.

FINEMAN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also here tonight, a special comment.  We have Mr. Kerry‘s apology to the troops.  Where are the ones the president owes them?

And how much longer will Mr. Bush use a policy of talking loudly and letting others swing the big stick against his opponents?

And beyond the politics of distraction, the balance of power teeters on the brink.  A look at where the tight races like Webb versus Allen actually stand with six days to go.

And where Mark Foley will be on election day, as it turns out.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Here‘s a little breaking news, dutifully buried by those happiest to see it buried.  His attorney says that former Florida congressman Mark Foley will be staying in rehab just a little bit longer than expected.  He checked in for a 30-day stay on October 1, but apparently he needs more time for the treatment of his, quote, “alcoholism and other behavioral problems.”

And you‘re too late.  I‘ve got Wednesday, November 8, in the date he actually leaves pool.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, who will leave and who will stay the day before that?  And if you buy into the motto, Follow the money, the Republicans believe 50 of their House and Senate seats are at risk.  They have spread their advertising cash around on those elections.

For the overview, and the very latest, let‘s turn to MSNBC‘s own David Shuster.

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening to you.

Based on whichever pollster you will ask, Republicans stand to lose in the House as many as 35 House seats, or as few as 13 or 14.  But the averages that Republicans are going to lose between 17 and 25, and that would be enough for the Democrats to take control of the House.

Republicans themselves acknowledge that they are in some deep trouble in New York, Ohio, and Indiana, and even “Congressional Quarterly” says that the Republican situation now is just as dire as it was for Democrats 12 years ago, when Democrats lost control of the House.

On the Senate side, based on the latest polls, Democrats are poised to hold on to Senate seats in New Jersey and Minnesota, and pick up seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, and Montana.  But that still leaves the Democrats two seats short of taking control of the U.S. Senate.

And that‘s where you get into three crucial races, Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri.  In Virginia, Jim Webb is slightly ahead of George Allen, according to the latest polls.  In Tennessee, Harold Ford is slightly behind Bob Corker.  Missouri, the race between McCaskell and Talent, that one is a toss-up.  And again, the Democrats would need two or three of those races to take control of the U.S. Senate, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Assess it for me in the big picture in these key races, where Iraq and the question of the troops, and now the question of John Kerry, and now the question of the president saying Don Rumsfeld is staying as secretary of defense through the end of my term, which of the—those two news developments, the Rumsfeld thing or the Kerry thing, will have the greatest net effect on these really tight races?

SHUSTER:  Rumsfeld will clearly have a huge effect.  In fact, there were groans that went up today (INAUDIBLE) in Virginia, when that news circulated in Richmond, in part because George Allen has been getting hammered by Jim Webb over the issue of Iraq and management of the war, and this is another sign that there‘s no room, that the president is essentially—there‘s no lifeline the president‘s giving to George Allen.  So the Rumsfeld news is going to strike a lot harder than the news about John Kerry.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC‘s David Shuster in Washington.  Great thanks for the assessment.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks for being with us.

Also tonight, the truly magnetic personality, literally attracting silverware.  And we expect viewers wherever he goes.

And something finally sticks to Coultergeist.  She is now in trouble with the law.

That‘s ahead.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This is the anniversary, the 402nd, in fact, of one of those days you wish you had gone to the theater.  On November 1, 1604, “Othello: The Moor of Venice,” presumably written by William Shakespeare, premiered at the Whitehall Palace.  King James of England was in the audience.  Oddly enough, so was Barbara Walters.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin with the Shakespeare of Malaysia, a magnetic guy.  Look at him stick to stuff.  He‘s 77 years old, and for some reason, his body can attract and hold onto metal objects, just like the guy in “The X Men.”  Carl something or other.  But Magnetic Man can do more than stick silverware on his chest and pick up paper clips with his rear end.  Here he is pulling a Mercedes Benz with a rope tied to a hunk of metal stuck under his arm.  And he can do this with a bus too.

We‘re seeing him for the first time now, but the man says he discovered his strange powers 16 years ago in the kitchen.  Apparently since the early ‘90s, he‘s been stuck to the refrigerator there.

Checking Oddball traffic, we go to the Dartmoor in the U.K., for a police dashcam video of the running of the bulls of the construction zone.  I wouldn‘t say that‘s a mad cow, but he‘s certainly got road rage.  Police are not sure exactly where it came from, but the standoff lasted more than two hours.  It did not end well for the bull, nor did it end well for that officer‘s pants.  Whee.

Finally, to the worldwide leader in cool-ass robots, Tokyo, Japan, for the latest in hot-looking humanoids, Reply Q1 (ph), 50 different sensors and motors, along with silicon skin, silicone skin, probably, make the most realistic-seeming of all robots.  She‘s designed to work as conversation partners for the elderly, and in the future, as a robotic news anchor.  Live, local, and late breaking.

Also tonight, a warning to inquiring political minds, ask a question, get a headlock and a man wrestling you to the floor.  We‘ll talk with Mike Stark, the blogger who found himself on the business end of George Allen‘s minions.

And a special comment.  We have Senator Kerry‘s apology to the troops. 

And when do we get the one from the president?

All that ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Umair and Mehran Hussein, two of the 25 people charged in that purported plot to blow up U.S.-bound British aircraft.  You know, you may have heard the president mention it once or two or 300 times.  They have been released, insufficient evidence.  That would be 15 of the 25 alleged plotters.  Make it 10 of the 25 alleged plotters who were either released immediately or have been freed because there was absolutely no case against them.

Number two, an unnamed 65-year-old Dutch woman after the death of her husband last year.  She meticulously planned out her own funeral, even going so far as to put up her own headstone in the cemetery.  She was visiting that family plot earlier this week when she suffered a heart attack, a fatal one, and died next to her own grave.  One word, yikes.

And number one, Donald Trump.  And officials of Palm Beach, Florida, have filed five violations of local zoning regulations after Mr. Trump installed an 80-foot flagpole in front of his Marilago (ph) Club there.  The limit is 40 feet.  You got it.  Donald Trump‘s pole is too big.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Mike Stark was neither a protestor nor a heckler.  Yet he has been labeled as both, as well as a supporter of Senate candidate James Webb in Virginia, as if any of those labels materially changes the third story on the COUNTDOWN, what happened when Stark, a Marine veteran, as it so happens, dared to ask his senator a question.

Today, the campaign of senator George Allen released a statement about the incident saying, quote, “Volunteers restrained him and asked him to leave the building when he approached the senator for a second time, asking inappropriate questions.”

It is, of course, the right of all Americans to ask any question, and as this video from the summer shows, the Allen campaign was already familiar with Mr. Stark and his penchant for difficult questions.

It is still all right for us to ask questions, isn‘t it?

That said, whether Mr. Stark was restrained or asked to leave the building yesterday or, in fact, was thrown to the floor because Allen‘s campaign decided Stark was getting personal, you judge for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE STARK:  Why are you putting your hands on me?  (INAUDIBLE).  I‘m a constituent.  He‘s my senator.  I‘m asking a question.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re going to need to leave, now.  Get out the door!

STARK:  Are you part of...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I‘m not.  No, I‘m not at all.  Let‘s move on.

STARK:  Senator Allen, did you spit on your first wife?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now you‘re getting personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now you‘re getting personal.  Now you‘re getting personal.

STARK:  I didn‘t touch anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Come on.  You need to move on out of here now.

STARK:  If the hotel asked me to leave, I‘d leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re getting personal.

STARK:  Did he?  What do you know?  What do you know? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know he is a good man. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Know you‘re a punk. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s bring in the man at the start of all this, Mike Stark, law student at the university of Virginia, blogger at Callingallwingnuts.com. 

Mike, thanks for joining us tonight. 

STARK:  Good evening Keith.  Thanks for helping me out. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with the senator‘s accusation, irrelevant as it ultimate might be, is that you like, the young man he had called macaca, earlier in the campaign, were acting as part of his rival, Mr.  Webb‘s campaign.  Let me play the exchange and then get your reaction to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Do you have evidence that there was a direct connection between this gentleman and the Webb campaign? 

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  Sure, this guy with was with them taping it when he was trying this same sort of stunt back in August. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, he said he was direct evidence there was a direct connection between you and Webb campaign.  Did the Webb staffers know what you were doing beforehand? 

STARK:  No, none did at all.  Listen, campaigns lie and George Allen is a liar.  He‘s—it is getting towards the end of the election season, he is desperate and he‘s clinging to whatever excuse he can conjure up right now. 

OLBERMANN:  The press release from the Allen campaign does not mention you were once good enough to get people to call the Bill O‘Reilly‘s show and have them mention my name which caused the silicone chips in Bill-O‘s head to melt and it led him to claim he had his own police who he could send to the homes of evil callers.  But, the press release does claim Mike Stark pushed the Allen staffer.  Did you push anybody? 

STARK:  I didn‘t push anyone that I remember.  There was definitely scrum (ph) going on there and I definitely did my best to jockey for a position.  I was trying to pace the senator so I could continue with my questions as he moved through the crowd and they were pushing me around.  So, it was definitely difficult to maintain my position. 

I think the video speaks for itself, though.  I mean, I did my absolute best to restrain myself the entire time.  I mean, my attentions were completely focused on the senator. 

OLBERMANN:  That piece of grass that your head nearly hit against or at least touched, how—do you have any idea how thick that was?   I mean that looks, when you see the video, like you might have gone through that plate glass window.  Was that a possibility? 

STARK:  Sure.  It didn‘t happen.  I‘m glad it didn‘t happen.  But, I don‘t think anybody really took that into account when this was happening.  I think they were made uncomfortable by the questions I was asking.  I asked the senator whether or not he was going to release his arrest records and I asked him, you know, what was in the divorce records.  If the rumors were true that he spit on his first wife. 

OLBERMANN:  So, that‘s where that question, that was not a random question about did you stop spitting on your wife, in essence, that comes from where? 

STARK:  Talkingpointsmemo.com, it‘s one of the most reputable and reliable news blogs on the Internet right now. 

OLBERMANN:  I also note with amusement that the third paragraph of the senator‘s press release today accuses you of being “a frequent, daily cost (ph) blogger.”  Bad, Mike.  You know you‘re not allowed to do that. 

STARK:  I‘ve been doing that for three years, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, it‘s the third lead in their story of this.  Anyway, the other member of this family who‘s sort of peripherally involved in this campaign in a way they couldn‘t have expected, Allen‘s sister has wrote memoir called “Fifth Quarter,” talks about her brothers.  Let me quote something from this. 

“Once, when Bruce refused to go to bed, George hurled him through a sliding glass door.  Another time, when Gregory refused to go to bed, Gorge tackled him and broke his collarbone.  Another time, when I refused to go to bed, George dragged me up the stairs by my hair.”

Senator Allen knew you, had talked to you before.  Do you have any idea what his reaction to the assault on you was?  Did he try to stop it or intervene in any way? 

STARK:  That‘s the most disturbing thing about this.  And truly, it‘s embarrassing to the United States; it‘s embarrassing to the state of Virginia.  Senator Allen was in complete control of that situation at all times.  At any time he could have said, “hey, wait a minute, no, this isn‘t the way my campaign operates.  Take your hands off that man, stop this.”  Instead he watched it happen and walked away when things stared getting really out of control.  At any time he could have stopped that.  That‘s a failure of leadership. 

OLBERMANN:  Any idea who that was in the glasses who pulled you down finally? 

STARK:  No, I don‘t have any idea who any of these men are.  I did file a police report.  I am pressing charges against the people who did this.  And I expect the police and the commonwealth to sort out all the names.  These people are known, some of them are GOP officials in the county, others were campaign staffers.  And I‘ve heard that they‘ve threatened to press charges against me.  The senator‘s even got his wife out there casting dispersions against me.  It‘s tough when a grown man has to have his wife fight his battles for him.  What a cowardly bully. 

OLBERMANN:  Unfortunately, fairly common.  Mike Stark of Callingallwingnuts.com who was pushed to the ground while trying to push the senator on a question.  Great thanks for sharing your side of the story with us tonight. 

STARK:  Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the men behind the machine, how Rahm Emanuel and Ken Mehlman are power brokering the election.  And is Ann Coulter about to get her comeuppance?  She‘s now officially under investigation for voting violations.  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The powers behind the candidates.  A look at the two men responsible for getting their respective party‘s leaders elected.  And a look a the man currently hold the top job in politics.  My special comment on the president‘s latest sham, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  No doubt Karl Rove is in the hot seat as the so-called architect of the purported permanent Republican majority as the mid-term elections arrive, but as campaign strategists, Republican Chairman Ken Mehlman and Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel are really the deciders in chief of their respective party‘s efforts. 

In our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, while these two men may agree this is election is mostly about Iraq, they are focused on the turf wars here and their strategy is elemental.  For a look at their mindset, here is our own Tom Brokaw. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee on the right and the Congressman Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic National Campaign Committee on the left.  Mono e mono with five days of campaigning left. 

ROM EMMANUEL, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE:  American people want action, a Democratic congressman is going to give them action. 

KEN MEHLMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE:  I think their greatest vulnerability, frankly, is on the combination of national security issues and they‘re favoring higher taxes.

BROKAW:  Mehlman, a driven Harvard educated lawyer who ran President Bush‘s 2004 campaign, is famous for getting out the GOP vote. 

Emanuel, a Chicago congressman, is the son of Israeli immigrants. 

A veteran Clinton White House, he‘s a aggressive fund raiser.

They agree the war in Iraq is the big issue.

MEHLMAN:  Iraq is a key front in the war on terror.  I believe that it actually is beneficial to Republicans and the reason is, I think that most Americans who look are going to recognize we‘re in the middle of a very tough war, against a different kind of enemy.

EMANUEL:  All the republicans are saying is when you got yourself in a hole, can we get a bigger shovel?

REP.  NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA:  While the Republicans are cutting...

BROKAW:  Mehlman would rather make Nancy Pelosi the issue.  The San Francisco Liberal who will likely be speaker if the Democrats win.

MEHLMAN:  I think people are going to, instead, they‘re going to say it—who—which party is going to vote for leaders who will reflect my values in my community. 

BROKAW:  But Emanuel insists the Democrats have another agenda if they win. 

EMANUEL:  And increase in the minimum wage, which we haven‘t had in 10 years.  Direct negotiations by the federal government for lower prescription drug prices, but we are not going to privatize Social Security. 

MEHLMAN:  We‘re here to win... 

BROKAW:  And what do Mehlman and Emanuel have to do in the final days?  Charlie Cook, a leading election analyst, on Mehlmen‘s challenge. 

CHARLIE COOK, ELECTION ANALYST:  The two things that could make this thing just horrendous for Republicans is if their folks don‘t show up or if Independents show up in really big numbers. 

BROKAW:  And for Emanuel...

COOK:  They‘ve got a huge wave going and it‘s just keep his guys on the board, keep him riding it and don‘t say anything to screw things up. 

BROKAW:  For their part, Mehlman and Emanuel now are like football coaches in the locker room before the big game. 

MEHLMAN:  I think the people that are predicting our death, as they did in ‘04 and they did in ‘02 and they did in ‘00, are once again going to be wrong. 

EMANUEL:  I‘m really playing defense in about two races, and playing offense in about 46 races.  I just like those numbers. 

BROKAW:  Mehlman and Emanuel are friendly to each other, but come Tuesday, only one will be a winner. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And if you‘re wondering how we will bridge the gap from

the politics to the sleazy meaningless unsubstantial piffle that fills our

nightly round-up of tabloid news, “Keeping Tabs,” I‘ve got one word for you

Coultergeists.  She tars others with treason and claims to expose their lies and hates the American principle of presumption of innocence, is now enjoying that presumption herself, accused by the U.S. government of lying in an effort to undermine another American institution—the vote. 

The “Palm Beach Post” reporting that the local county election supervisor there as asked the state‘s attorney to investigate claims that Coultergeist knowingly voted in the wrong place, the wrong precinct after giving her realtor‘s address on her registration.  The official also claims Coulter made efforts to divert his own investigation.  It‘s treason! Only after she‘s proven guilty, of course.

Madonna is trying a unique tactic to get herself out of the media spotlight.  She gave and exclusive interview to the “Today” show revealing she was shocked by all the media attention given to her adoption of a one-year-old Malawian boy named David.  She also told Meredith Vieira that adoption of not the only option she considered. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEREDITH VIEIRA, “TODAY”:  Did you ever think, well, you know, I have the resource to help David‘s dad, he‘s a poor farmer. 

MADONNA, SINGER:  I, I, I...

VIEIRA:  But he is David‘s dad. 

MADONNA:  You‘re absolutely right and I offered that in court when I met him.  And he—he didn‘t want that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Madonna revealed that three weeks after she took David from an impoverished African orphanage to live with her in affluence, “now he throws tantrums.”  It took him three weeks did it? 

Speaking of bad behavior, well now Senator Kerry has apologized to the troops.  When will the president do so?  My special comment on the president‘s latest lie, ahead.  But first, time for COUNTDOWN latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The bronze to the Colorado State Republican Party deciding to attack the Democratic candidate in the seventh congressional district, Ed Perlmutter with a direct mail campaign.  Says Perlmutter‘s soft on crime.  But, there‘s nothing particularly out of line about that regardless of whether or not it‘s true, except that the fliers sent to the homes of thousands of Denver voters was especially designed to look exactly like a sex offender notification card. 

The Silver to Mayor Saundra Naifeh of Edmond, Oklahoma.  She and five dozen volunteers personally distributed 22,000 fliers discouraging underage drinking.  We‘re having trouble with fliers today.  The phone number on the hotline set up to combat underage drinking is actually the number of a phone sex line.  Well, that might discourage underage drinking.

But our winners, the fine folks at Diebold, the makers of those handy-dandy ever-reliable comprised voting machines that don‘t leave a paper trail nor any of those inconvenient records of who voted for whom.  HBO has done a documentary called “Hacking Democracy” premiers tomorrow.  Diebold says it questions the integrity of it‘s machines.  It‘s demanded HBO cancel the program.  (INAUDIBLE) Look, Diebold, just do what you always do—wait for the results of HBO‘s ratings, flip the odometers back to zero.  That‘ll learn ‘em. 

The Diebold company, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  And finally tonight a special comment.

On the 22nd of May, 1856, as the deteriorating American political system veered towards the edge of the cliff, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina shuffled into the Senate of this nation, his leg stiff from an old dueling injury, supported by a cane.  And he looked for the familiar figure of the prominent senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

Brooks found Sumner at his desk, mailing out copies of a speech he had delivered three days earlier, a speech against slavery.

The congressman matter-of-factly raised his walking stick in midair and smashed its metal point across the senator‘s head.

Congressman Brooks hit his victim repeatedly.  Senator Sumner somehow got to his feet and tried to flee.  Brooks chased him and delivered untold blows to Sumner‘s head.  Even though Sumner lay unconscious and bleeding on the Senate floor, Brooks finally stopped beating him only because his cane finally broke.

Others will cite John Brown‘s attack on the arsenal at Harper‘s Ferry as the exact point after which the Civil War became inevitable.

In point of fact, it might have been the moment, not when Brooks broke his cane over the prostrate body of Senator Sumner, but when voters in Brooks‘ district started sending him new canes.

Tonight, we almost wonder to whom President Bush will send the next new cane.

There is tonight no political division in this country that he and his party will not exploit, nor have not exploited; no anxiety that he and his party will not inflame.

There is no line this president has not crossed, nor will not cross to keep one political party in power.

He has spread any and every fear among us in a desperate effort to avoid that which he most fears—some check, some balance against what has become not an imperial, but a unilateral presidency.

And now it is evident that it no longer matters to him whether that effort to avoid the judgment of the people is subtle and nuanced or laughably transparent.

Senator John Kerry called him out Monday.  He did it two years too late.  He had been too cordial, just as Vice President Gore had been too cordial in 2000, just as millions of us have been too cordial ever since.

Senator Kerry, as you well know, spoke at a college in Southern California.  With bitter humor he told the students that he had been in Texas the day before, that President Bush used to live in that state, but that now he lives in the state of denial.

He said the trip had reminded him about the value of education, that “if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well.  If you don‘t, you can get stuck in Iraq.”

The senator, in essence, called Mr. Bush stupid.

The context was unmistakable:  Texas; the state of denial; stuck in Iraq.  No interpretation required.

And Mr. Bush and his minions responded by appearing to be too stupid to realize that they had been called stupid.

They demanded Kerry apologize to the troops in Iraq.

And so he now has.

That phrase, “appearing to be too stupid,” is used deliberately, Mr. Bush, because there are only three possibilities here.

One, sir, is that you are far more stupid than the worst of your critics has suggested; that you could not follow the construction of a simple sentence; that you could not recognize your own life story when it was deftly summarized; that you could not perceive it was the sad ledger of your presidency that was being recounted.

This, of course, compliments you, Mr. Bush, because even those who do not “make the most of it,” who do not “study hard,” who do not “do their homework,” and who do not “make an effort to be smart” might still just be stupid, but honest.

No, the first option, sir, is, at best, improbable.  You are not honest.

The second option is that you and those who work for you deliberately twisted what Senator Kerry said to fit your political template; that you decided to take advantage of it, to once again pretend that the attacks, solely about your own incompetence, were in fact attacks on the troops or even on the nation itself.

The third possibility is, obviously, the nightmare scenario: that the first two options are in some way conflated.

That it is both politically convenient for you and personally satisfying to you, to confuse yourself with the country for which, sir, you work.

A brief reminder, Mr. Bush:  You are not the United States of America.

You are merely a politician whose entire legacy will have been a willingness to make anything political; to have, in this case, refused to acknowledge that the insult wasn‘t about the troops, and that the insult was not even truly about you either, that the insult, in fact, is you.

So, now John Kerry has apologized to the troops; apologized for the Republicans‘ deliberate distortions.

Thus, the president will now begin the apologies he owes our troops, right?

This president must apologize to the troops for having suggested, six weeks ago, that the chaos in Iraq, the death and the carnage, the slaughtered Iraqi civilians and the dead American service personnel, will, to history, “look like just a comma.”

This president must apologize to the troops because the intelligence he claims led us into Iraq proved to be undeniably and irredeemably wrong.

This president must apologize to the troops for having laughed about the failure of that intelligence at a banquet while our troops were in harm‘s way.

This president must apologize to the troops because the streets of Iraq were not strewn with flowers and its residents did not greet the troops as liberators.

This president must apologize to the troops because his administration ran out of “plan” after barely two months.

This president must apologize to the troops for getting 2,815 of them killed.

This president must apologize to the troops for getting this country into a war without a clue.

And Mr. Bush owes us an apology for this destructive and omnivorous presidency.

We will not receive them, of course.

This president never apologizes.

Not to the troops.

Not to the people.

Nor will those henchmen who have echoed him.

In calling him a “stuffed suit,” Senator Kerry was wrong about the press secretary.

Mr. Snow‘s words and conducts, falsely earnest and earnestly false, suggest he is not “stuffed,” he is inflated.

And in leaving him out of the equation, Senator Kerry gave an unwarranted pass to his old friend Senator John McCain, who should be ashamed of himself tonight.

He rolled over and pretended Kerry had said what he obviously had not.

Only, the symbolic stick he broke over Kerry‘s head came in a context even more disturbing, still.

Mr. McCain demanded the apology while electioneering for a Republican congressional candidate in Illinois.

He was speaking of how often he had been to Walter Reed Hospital to see the wounded Iraq veterans, of how “many of them have lost limbs.”

He said all this while demanding that the voters of Illinois reject a candidate who is not only a wounded Iraq veteran, but who lost two limbs there, Tammy Duckworth.

Support some of the wounded veterans.  But bad-mouth the Democratic one.

And exploit all the veterans and all the still-serving personnel in a cheap and tawdry political trick to try to bury the truth:  that John Kerry said the president had been stupid.

And to continue this slander as late as this morning, as biased or gullible or lazy newscasters nodded in sleep-walking assent.

Senator McCain became a front man in a collective lie to break sticks over the heads of Democrats, one of them his friend, another his fellow veteran, legless, for whom he should weep and applaud or at minimum about whom he should stay quiet.

That was beneath the senator from Arizona.

And it was all because of an imaginary insult to the troops that his party cynically manufactured out of a desperation and a futility as deep as that of Congressman Brooks, when he went hunting for Senator Sumner.

This is our beloved country now as you have redefined it, Mr. Bush.

Get a tortured Vietnam veteran to attack a decorated Vietnam veteran in defense of military personnel whom that decorated veteran did not insult.

Or, get your henchmen to take advantage of the evil lingering dregs of the fear of miscegenation in Tennessee, in your party‘s advertisements against Harold Ford.

Or, get the satellites who orbit around you, like Rush Limbaugh, to exploit the illness and the bipartisanship of Michael J.  Fox.  Yes, get someone to make fun of the cripple.

Oh, and sir, don‘t forget to drag your own wife into it.

“It‘s always easy,” she said of Mr. Fox‘s commercials and she used this phrase twice “it‘s always easy to manipulate people‘s feelings.”

Where on earth might the first lady have gotten that idea, Mr.

President?

From your endless manipulation of people‘s feelings about terrorism?

“However they put it,” you said Monday of the Democrats, on the subject of Iraq, “their approach comes down to this: The terrorists win, and America loses.”

No manipulation of feelings there.

No manipulation of the charlatans of your administration into the only truth-tellers.

No shocked outrage at the Kerry insult that wasn‘t; no subtle smile as the first lady silently sticks the knife in Michael J.  Fox‘s back; no attempt on the campaign trail to bury the reality that you have already assured that the terrorists are winning.

Winning in Iraq, sir.

Winning in America, sir.

There we have chaos, joint U.S.-Iraqi checkpoints at Sadr City, the base of the radical Shiite militias, and the Americans have been ordered out by the prime minister of Iraq and our secretary of defense doesn‘t even know about it!

And here we have deliberate, systematic, institutionalized lying and smearing and terrorizing, a code of deceit that somehow permits a president to say, “If you listen carefully for a Democrat plan for success, they don‘t have one.”

Permits him to say this while his plan in Iraq has amounted to a twisted version of the advice once offered to Lyndon Johnson about his Iraq, then thing called Vietnam.

Instead of “declare victory and get out” we now have “declare victory and stay indefinitely.”

And also here, we have institutionalized the terrorizing of the opposition.

True domestic terror:  Critics of your administration in the media, sir, receive letters filled with fake anthrax.

Braying newspapers, sir, applaud or laugh or reveal details the FBI asked to have kept quiet, and thus impede or ruin the investigation.

A series of reactionary columnists encourages treason charges against a newspaper that published supposed “national security information” that was openly available on the Internet.

One radio critic receives a letter threatening the revelation of as much personal information about her as can be obtained and expressing the hope that someone will then shoot her with an AK-47 machine gun.

And finally, a critic of an incumbent Republican senator, a critic armed with nothing but words, is attacked by the senator‘s supporters and thrown to the floor in full view of television cameras as if someone really did want to re-enact the intent and the rage of the day Preston Brooks found Senator Charles Sumner.

Of course, Mr. President, you did none of these things.

You instructed no one to mail the fake anthrax, nor undermine the FBI‘s case, nor call for the execution of the editors of the New York Times, nor threaten to assassinate Stephanie Miller, nor beat up a man yelling at Senator Allen, nor have the first lady knife Michael J.  Fox, nor tell John McCain to lie about John Kerry.

No, you did not, sir.

And the genius of the thing is the same as in King Henry‘s rhetorical question about Archbishop Thomas Becket:  “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

All you have to do, sir, is hand out enough new canes.

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Goodnight and good luck. 

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

END   

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