updated 1/25/2007 1:07:40 PM ET 2007-01-25T18:07:40

Guests: James Webb, Richard Wolffe, Hillary Clinton, Michael Musto

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

A Ping-Pong game with American lives.  A Republican takes the lead as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes to rebuke the president over the escalation in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  If we don‘t debate this, if we don‘t debate this, we are not worthy of our country.  We fail our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Eight other Republican senators agree to some kind of bill of protest, or something even stronger.  A night (ph).  Senator Lugar doesn‘t, but says, “I am not confident that President Bush‘s plan will succeed.”  We‘ll be joined by the man who gave last night‘s Democratic rebuttal to the State of the Union, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.

The Scooter Libby trial.  More fingers pointed at the vice president.  Mr. Cheney was selling the pro-war spin the State Department was calling B.S.

Not staying in.  John Kerry drops out of the 2008 presidential race.  You didn‘t know he was in the 2008 presidential race?  Had you heard about Senator Clinton?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But having spent eight years in the White House under the conditions in which you and your husband spent them, that‘s a reason to want to go back to the White House?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  It is for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The final part of the senator‘s first sit-down interview since she unveiled her presidential exploratory committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I was very, very proud of the record that the president left at the end of two terms.  And then I saw this president come in and basically undo everything that had been done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Although this seems strangely evocative.  Who is this woman, and why does she want the president‘s extra time and his kiss?  What?  She‘s a new congresswoman, the Katherine Harris of Minnesota.

And the Messiah has arrived, at least for Scientology.  And he‘s five-foot-seven.  Oh, here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”)

TOM CRUISE:  You‘re glib.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from Washington.

If President Bush had been hoping for some sort of honeymoon period after appealing to Congress in his State of the Union address last night for support on the Iraq war, that honeymoon consisted entirely of that congresswoman from Minnesota finally getting her kiss, and it ended when she let him free from her long and lingering grasp.

Worse still for Mr. Bush, the marriage between the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill could well be over tonight.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, a key Senate committee voting today to oppose sending more troops to Iraq.  And a key Republican on that committee, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, admonishing his colleagues in the strongest terms for not taking a stand on the conflict.

If the commander in chief was salesman in chief last night, the salesman seems to have been Willy Loman, Mr. Hagel and Democrat Joe Biden, the committee chairman, offering a nonbinding resolution against the troop increase, that‘s the phrasing they used, “increase,” “increasing,” the word “escalation” dropped from the resolution.

It passed 12 to nine, Senator Hagel the only Republican voting to support it, the Vietnam vet and likely presidential candidate giving his colleagues an angry and impassioned lecture for not doing more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAGEL:  This is not a defeatist resolution.  This is not a cut-and-run resolution.  We are not talking about cutting off funds, not supporting the troops.

This is a very real, responsible addressing of the most divisive issue in this country since Vietnam.  Yes, sure, it‘s tough, absolutely.  And I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this.  What do you believe?  What are you willing to support?  What do you think?  Why were you elected?  If you wanted to safe job, go sell shoes.  This is a tough business.

But is it any tougher us having to take a tough vote, express ourselves, and have the courage to step up, than what we‘re asking our young men and women to do?  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t know how many United States senators believe we have a coherent strategy in Iraq.  I don‘t think we‘ve ever have a coherent strategy.  In fact, I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the president talked about the other night.

There is no plan.  And my dear friend Dick Lugar talks about coherence of strategy.  There is no strategy.  This is a Ping-Pong game with American lives.  These young men and women that we put in Anbar Province, in Iraq, in Baghdad, are not beans.  They‘re real lives.

And we better be damn sure we know what we‘re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.  We better be as sure as you can be.  And I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators, to look in that camera, and you tell your people back home what you think.  Don‘t hide anymore.  None of us.

That is the essence of our responsibility.  And if we‘re not willing to do it, we‘re not worthy to be sitting right here.  We fail our country.  If we don‘t debate this, if we don‘t debate this, we are not worthy of our country.  We fail our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In the wake of the vote by the Foreign Relations Committee, we‘re joined by one of its members, Senator James Webb of Virginia, who, of course, gave the Democratic response to the president‘s State of the Union last night.

Senator, great thanks for some of your time today.

SEN. JAMES WEBB (D), VIRGINIA:  Yes, I appreciate your inviting me.

OLBERMANN:  Are you gratified, encouraged, amazed, what would the word be, that a Republican senator such as Mr. Hagel is willing to go to such lengths to try to get his colleagues to take a stand similar to your own on this war?

WEBB:  Oh, I‘ve known Senator Hagel for almost 30 years.  We came up together through the veterans programs after we both came back from Vietnam.  And he‘s always been an individual with a tremendous amount of integrity.

And actually, he and I were talking about this war before it even began.  I used to come over and see him a couple of times a year to discuss foreign policy.  So I‘m not surprised.

I think the bigger surprise, and it‘s a gratifying one, actually, is that Senator John Warner, my compatriot from Virginia, has stepped forward and expressed his concerns, because he‘s known as, you know, far more close to—being close to the administration.

OLBERMANN:  The phrasing on the nonbinding resolution about President Bush‘s troop “increase,” to use the kinder term rather than “escalation,” in Iraq is, quote, “not in the national interest.”  If the committee Democrats, if Mr. Hagel, if, to some degree, Mr. Warner feel this way, does it follow that literally stopping the escalation is in the national interest, does not the Senate and the House now have an obligation to do that by any means that don‘t endanger the troops already in the theater?

WEBB:  Well, I think that if you look at how the Senate works, it‘s the reality of our government, it works through consensus.  And there was a lot of care given in the drafting of this resolution, and in voting down certain amendments, so that we could have something that we could get a majority of the Senate to vote on.

And it‘s not the be-all, end-all.  What I‘ve been saying pretty consistently through this is that we need to take some leadership here.  We‘ve not seen leadership from the administration.  The Congress needs to stand up.  And this is a nonbinding resolution.

But at the same time, I think it‘s for the first time taking a head count of how the people in the Congress actually feel about this.  And I think the evidence of that to the American people is going to be pretty strong.  And from there, maybe we can proceed further, and do some other types of legislation.

OLBERMANN:  So is it fair to say, sir, that you see this as kind of the attention-getter for the president and the administration, that other action may follow, if attention is not paid?

WEBB:  I think that is fair to say, yes.  I mean, I don‘t think that in terms of the surge itself.  You know, one thing that I‘ve said all along, since the announcement of the surge, is that this really is not a new strategy.  It represents something of a new political strategy.  But in terms of how the troop levels have oscillated from ‘03, ‘04, where this is not out of the bounds of constitutional discretion for the president.

What we have to be able to say here is that it‘s time to do something different.  And this is a first step to get a sense of the Congress, so that we really can start doing something different.

OLBERMANN:  The vice president...

WEBB:  This is a first step, in my opinion.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sorry, sir.

The vice president today conceded that Congress could, can cut off the funding for the escalation, but he called the idea that there were mistakes about Iraq hogwash.  How—do you have a sense yet about how this is all going to turn out?  Is the president going to get his escalation, and is it going to be rolled back, or is it not going to happen?  What do you think is going to happen here?

WEBB:  Well, I‘m trying to take a longer view on this.  I mean, what I‘ve said from ‘02 forward, even before we went into Iraq is that there is no clearly enunciated strategy from this administration at all.  If you have a clearly enunciated strategy, you can tell the American people clearly what the end point of that strategy is.

And that‘s one thing I attempted to do on the Armed Services Committee day before yesterday, when we had General Petraeus in front of us, is to ask him clearly, What is your end point?  What—if you want to put down these benchmarks and these measurements for success, to what is it leading?

My view is, it‘s leading to a place where there will be no more American combat troops on the streets of Iraq.  That‘s an end point to a strategy.  And as far as what the vice president has said about—his hogwash comment, there are a lot of us who were saying even before this war began, that if we invaded and occupied Iraq, you would have the empowerment of Iran, you would have a worsening situation in the war against international terrorism, you would have a diminution of American prestige around the world, all of which has happened.

And now they warn us that a withdrawal would create these conditions.  And they use this straw man of a precipitous withdrawal, rather than the right way that we should be doing this, which is to get regional diplomacy to the table, as the Baker commission recommended, among others, and create the right kind of diplomatic ownership in the region, so that we can get our people out.

They‘re not doing that.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.  Thank you kindly for your time again, sir.

WEBB:  Thank you.  Good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the ramifications of the vote today, I‘m joined now by our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Good to see you, and good to see you in person, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

(INAUDIBLE), Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What is the early read right now?  Whose speech had more impact about Iraq, President Bush‘s or his?

WOLFFE:  Well, the White House, those eternal optimists in the White House, like to think that they did rather well last night.  But you don‘t have to talk to many Republicans outside the White House to hear a very different story.  They think the public has made up its mind on the war, that there‘s nothing the president can really say at this point to change public opinion on the war.

Senator Webb, he delivered a very clear response there.  And while his speech kind of tailed away at the end, I think it‘s quite a different scenario for Republicans to face Democrats who can speak clearly on the war.  Just think back to John Kerry in 2004.

OLBERMANN:  Well, the—this day saw the president here, that the proverbial sound of one congressman clapping, Mr. Vitter of Louisiana saying, with almost desperation in his voice, “I‘m going to support the president as a final attempt to stabilize a viable democracy in Iraq.”  It wasn‘t a standing ovation.

Earlier tonight, Senator Warner introduced his own nonbinding resolution that Senator Webb referred to.  That resolution is supposed to be a little more nuanced, a lot less partisan than the one that the Hagel-Biden-Levin one.  Is this at all registering with the White House?  I mean, you mentioned Republicans getting it.  But do the, do the—the—what—does the White House get it, or is that silence not deafening enough for them?

WOLFFE:  The White House has kind of moved beyond it, in a way.  They say, We‘re going to do what we‘re going to do.  We have the constitutional authority.  What you‘re setting up here is a constitutional clash, a Congress that‘s is asserting itself, that is saying, We didn‘t give you the powers to conduct the war in this way.

And some people, some Republican strategists say, this is going to end up in the Supreme Court.  So the White House is really on its own track.  Yes, they would love to have more support.  I guess they‘re going to say, Well, we got nine votes out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so it could be worse.  But really, they‘ve given up on that.

OLBERMANN:  So an administration that began in the Supreme Court might find this a key...

WOLFFE:  I think so.

OLBERMANN:  ... (INAUDIBLE) end in the Supreme Court.

A huge day, at least in terms of rhetoric, for Chuck Hagel, the “go sell shoes” line will go down in history, no doubt.  But there was also an interview with “GQ” magazine that maybe—may have been bypassed that might be even more impressive, that the original intent in 2002 from the Bush administration was a war resolution covering the whole of the Middle East.  Let me read some of this to you, and then get your reaction to it.

This is Mr. Hagel in the magazine.  “Finally, begrudgingly, the White House sent over a resolution of Congress to approve.  Well, it was astounding.  It said they could go anywhere in the region.”  And the interviewer said, “It was not specific to Iraq?”

And Hagel said, “Oh, no, it said the whole region.  Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East.  It was anything, it was literally anything, no boundaries, no restrictions, wide open.  We had to rewrite it.  Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up and put our language in it.”

First of all, is that true?  Because it sounds remarkable.  And secondly, what does it tell us about the White House, its real intentions then, and its real intentions now?

WOLFFE:  Well, I can tell you—I don‘t know about the this—the debate about the language.  But I can tell you from my own reporting in that period that the people pushing the war hardest thought this was the first stop.  Iraq was supposed to be the easy piece of the Middle East, the easy war, and that they would move on to other areas, other fields, other battlefields, other countries.

Maybe they wouldn‘t all require military action.  Some regimes would just topple, just like a domino.  And that was really sincerely their belief, that projection about Iran.

What‘s their position now?  Look, they‘ve moved far behind that.  Those starry-eyed projections are gone.  They are trying to just hold Baghdad, never mind the rest of the region.  So all this other talk, well, at some point in history, maybe, but not this administration, not now.

OLBERMANN:  What did—what happened today in the offices behind us? 

Were there a lot of phone calls from constituents, especially Democrats?  Were they hearing, By the way, this whole idea of bipartisanship on Iraq, and we—Gee, everybody played nice last night, forget it, we have to get out?  Was that what the message delivered from the people to the representatives today?

WOLFFE:  Calculation for Democrats has changed.  It‘s about being afraid of timidity in not confronting the administration.  Before, the timidity was, What if we confront the administration?  The ballgame has changed.

OLBERMANN:  Afraid of timidity?  Well, that‘ll go down there with “sell shoes” there for the line of the day.

Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek.”  A great pleasure, and a great pleasure to see you here.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.

Also tonight, as Capitol Hill debates a way out of the war, in a D.C.  courtroom, it‘s a way into the war.  It might as well be on trial.  We‘ll go back inside the courtroom for today‘s developments in the Scooter Libby trial.  What impact is the case having on the image of the vice president?

And more tonight of my interview with Senator Clinton.  Why she thinks she‘s qualified to be president, what role her husband will play on the campaign trail, and what role he would play in another Clinton administration.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you have dismissed the trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby as a case of nitpicking charges or inside baseball, you‘ve missed a central truth.

That truth, as we hit our number four story on the COUNTDOWN, is this.  Forget the legal wrangling, set aside even the guilt or innocent of the vice president‘s former chief of staff.  The priceless gift this trial offers us is its unprecedented revelations about how Mr. Cheney operates, and how exactly intent he was on selling the Iraq war.

Perhaps the most fascinating claim to emerge in just the first few days, Libby and Cheney‘s apparent fear that Mr. Libby would be sold out by the White House to protect Karl Rove.  When Libby complained that Rove‘s involvement was being categorically denied while his was not, Mr. Cheney wrote a note saying, quote, “Not going to protect one staffer”—Rove—

“and sacrifice the guy”—Libby—“who was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder.”

As that note implies, and as prosecution and defense agree, it was Cheney who ordered Libby to mount a PR campaign defending the administration‘s sales job of the war.

Covering the trial for us is David Shuster, who joins us now to flesh out the new insights it‘s giving us into the selling of the war, and also there‘s a lot of Tom Cruise news contained in this.

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening.

The trial has repeatedly underscored just how much of a personal fiefdom Vice President Cheney has carved out within the Bush administration, and not just three years ago, when the vice president forced the CIA to reevaluate a discredited piece of intelligence, such as the idea that the country of Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger.

Today in the trial, the Iraq manager of the CIA testified about the power of the vice president‘s office.  And this witness testified that it was so powerful that he was in a meeting with the director of the CIA, and was pulled out of that meeting just to take a phone call from the vice president‘s chief of staff, Scooter Libby.

We‘ve already heard statements in court about the vice president going against protocol, and how he declassified information, going against protocol and directing leaks to reporters, even as the vice president expressed public displeasure at such leaks, and sacrificing the credibility of the presidential press secretary, Scott McClellan, when the vice president wrote him a note essentially urging him to lie, not just about Karl—about Scooter—about Karl Rove, but also about Scooter Libby.

We‘ve also heard statements about the 2003 State of the Union, in which part of that speech had to be retracted.  We heard that the vice president himself demanded that the director of the CIA take complete responsibility for those mistakes, even though some of those mistakes rested within the White House.

And we keep hearing, Keith, about pressure being put on officials at the State Department and the CIA during the crucial time period in which these officials were asked to come up with information about both Joe and Valerie Wilson, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  David, Libby, a major proponent of the war, is going to base part of his defense on the idea that many people in government were out to get them, are out to get him, because so many of them at State and CIA strongly opposed the war?  What are we hearing on that front?

SHUSTER:  Well, Keith, today, defense attorneys repeatedly hammered both a CIA witness and a State Department witness about the internal dissent with those—within those agencies, the frustration those agencies had about how the vice president led the White House to war.

The defense has been suggesting that some of these inconsistent statements that some of these witnesses make, such as what they tell the FBI in one interview, and what they tell the grand jury in another, the defense is suggesting that these are deliberate, that, in fact, these witnesses are concocting their story about Scooter Libby because they have an axe to grind, and because they want to settle scores with the Bush administration over how the country went to war.

OLBERMANN:  And we heard today that Mr. Libby was all a-flutter at the visit of Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz?  You want to explain that in 30 seconds?

SHUSTER:  Yes, there was a CIA briefer who testified about notes showing that he was told by Scooter Libby about Valerie and Joe Wilson.  On that very same briefing, June 2003, the vice president‘s chief of staff also bragged to the CIA briefer about just having met Tom and Penelope Cruise, and discussing with them their concerns about how the country of Germany is treating Scientologists.  It was sort of a weird and funny moment.

Tomorrow, the trial will become deadly serious again, Keith, when a witness who was there at some of the crucial conversations between the vice president and Scooter Libby when they talked about the Wilsons, this witness will be on the witness stand there tomorrow, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Libby simply overwhelmed with important national security concerns, like Tom and Penelope Cruise and German Scientologists.

David Shuster with another day at the Scooter Libby perjury trial. 

Great thanks, David.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Hillary Clinton says she is the most qualified to be president.  More of my sit-down interview with her, and her answer to this question, what role would Bill Clinton play in her administration?

And bizarre fishes of old.  Really, really old.

COUNTDOWN, just like the shark, keeps moving forward.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1883, the American Civil War had only been over for less than 18 years.  Queen Victoria still ruled England.  The sun never set on her empire.  But just a handful of its people had any electricity.  And Estelle Winwood was born in Leigh (ph), Kent, in Great Britain, 1883.  She was later in the original movie version of “The Producers.”  She was a guest star on “Love, American Style” in 1972, and she was still acting in an episode of “Quincy” with Jack Klugman in 1980.

Asked on her 100th birthday the secret to longevity, she answered, “How rude of you to remind me.”

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin with fire, the untamed element, giver of warmth, destroyer of forests.  And right now, that building is on fire.  Well, not really.  It‘s the Aros art museum in Aarhus, Denmark.  And this is art.  The flames are actually being projected onto the side of the building, giving passers-by the illusion that the museum is burning, and that there are people trapped inside.

A brilliant piece of work, until there really is a fire, and comes to help because everybody thinks it‘s part of the show.  Then what will you do then, huh?  Stupid art.

And now for something completely different.  It‘s not Estelle Winwood, it‘s a totally disgusting prehistoric shark-eel creature-thing captured by the Japanese, revealed to the public for the first time ever.  Yo.  They say it‘s a five-foot-long deep-sea frill (ph) shark scientists are referring to as a living fossil.  At Oddball, we just call him cute as a button.

The creature usually lives 2,000 feet beneath the surface, but this one had ascended the depths like the first-ever deep-sea frill-shark astronaut to make contact with those of us up here on land.  And then it dropped dead.

No illusions, now.  Also tonight, the conclusion of my interview with Senator Hillary Clinton.  After spending eight years in the White House, why in the world would she want to go back?

And a newspaper report that the Church of Scientology considers Tom Cruise so important, such a draw, that he‘s almost Christlike.  Well, how Christlike, exactly?  The tale of the tape, ahead.

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

Number three, Mats the sloth.  Scientists in the German city of Genna (ph) say for three years, they have tried to get the animal to climb up and then back down a pole in a science experiment.  They‘ve tried bribing Mats with cucumbers and plates of spaghetti, but he won‘t budge.  After all, they call him a sloth for a reason.  Have you tried fire?

Number two, an unnamed 52-year-old football fan in Chimacum (ph), Washington, tried to recreate the touchdown celebration of Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints in the Saints playoff game against the Chicago Bears.  Tried to do it while cleaning his gun.  The bullet went through his hand, through a flowerpot, through a window, through the fence between his house and his neighbor‘s.  It stuck in their wall.  For purposes of identification, we‘ll simply call this proponent of the Shotgun offense Yosemite Sam.

And number Paul Reubens, better known as Pee Wee Herman, revealing to an interviewer that during the filming of his kids‘ classic “Pee Wee‘s Playhouse” he kept the set closed, especially to kids, because he was a smoker and he occasionally used his robot sidekick Konky (ph) as his ash tray.  Pee Wee smoking in public, well, as we know from the rap sheet, it could have been much worse, much, much worse. 

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OLBERMANN:  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, and then there were eight, only eight.  There was never a campaign, so the people who actually thought John Kerry would run again for the presidency might have totaled in the low hundreds, but he had people working, unofficially, on a prospective bid.  Not any more.

In a moment the conclusion of our interview with Senator Clinton, focusing on her campaign and a simple question, why should she be president? 

First, Senator Kerry ended his almost secret bid for another nomination in a statement on the Senate floor this afternoon. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I intend to devote all my efforts and energies over the coming tow years, not to another race for the presidency for myself, but to do what I can to ensure that the next president can take the oath with a reasonable prospect of success for him or her, for the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So that leaves only Senators Clinton and Obama vying for the Democratic nomination, and Senator Biden, and Senator Dodd, and former Senator Edwards, and Governor Richardson, and former Governor Vilsack, and Congressman Kucinich. 

So about Senator Clinton and the man who necessarily comes along with her, as potentially the first commander in chief to return to the White House in any other capacity.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  I believe that I would be the best candidate.  So I‘ve got to get out there and make the case to the voters.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  To that point, with the fullest possible respect, what qualifies you to be president of the United States?  What, if you could pick and could only show to the voters one element of your resume, would you say, “This is it, this why”?

CLINTON:  Well, I think my service in the Senate and as first lady in the White House, the combination.  Obviously, I have a lifetime of experience that I‘ll be sharing with the voters on a range of issues and causes that I‘ve been involved in.

But having seen what happens a White House when you face difficult decisions, understanding how to structure it, how to work with the Congress, how to take your message not only to our country, but to world and then now having been in the Senate, and having been reelected based on my record in the Senate, I feel confident that I would be able to work with the Congress. 

And I think that, you know, presidents who come in oftentimes, you know, try to make it us versus them.  That doesn‘t work.  You‘ve got to enlist the Congress in your own party, as well as the other party, and really find common ground in order to make progress in America.

Our political system is set up in a way to be cumbersome and difficult.  And, you know, most of the time that‘s OK, because we don‘t have a president who basically runs over everybody, as we‘ve had this last six years.  We have someone who will respect the balance of power and the constitutional separation of powers.  And I think I could understand how to make progress on these big issues we face.

OLBERMANN:  But having spent eight years in the White House under the conditions in which you and your husband spent them, that‘s a reason to want to go back to the White House?

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  It is for me.  It is for me because, you know, I was very, very proud of the record that the president left at the end of two terms.  And then I saw this president come in and basically undo everything that had been done, whether it was good for the country or not.  I think we should build on the progress of the past.

Obviously, we have new challenges.  It‘s the 21st century.  But to squander the budget deficit, to squander the good will of the world after 9/11, to launch a preemptive war, which I said at the time I was against, all that has just caused us so many difficult challenges.

And on top of that, to fail to meet the other problems we confront, the health care and education and energy and environmental, all of those issues.  We‘ve lost time.  We‘ve lost six years because we haven‘t had the leadership that we need from the White House.

So, maybe because I have seen it in a very up close and personal way, and now on the other end of Pennsylvania, I‘ve served in the Senate and I understand how difficult it is to work that body and get people on your side.

I feel like I‘m really prepared to do what is going to be needed, starting in January, 2009, to get back on the right track in our country.

OLBERMANN:  What role will the former president play in your campaign between now and January, 2009?

CLINTON:  Well, he will remain my staunchest supporter and greatest adviser.  And you know, as the campaign progresses I‘m sure we will be involved in it.  But I‘m running on my own.  And I bear the extra challenge of being the first, you know, woman in a long time to try.  And I intend to go all the way, so that will make history as well.  And he will be there helping and supporting me.

OLBERMANN:  Would he be in the administration?

CLINTON:  You know, I think it is smart to use former presidents.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  I think that, you know, when this president asked Bill and his father to work on important issues like the tsunami and Katrina, it sent a great message to the world.  And, you know, just to add, look at the difference that what we did tsunami as headed by Bill and former President Bush made, you know, the popularity of America went up in the countries where they went and, you know, shared the commitment that America had to helping people recover.

You know, we can do a lot more.  And someone, you know, like my husband would be a tremendous ambassador for our country.  And so I expect I will be reaching out to former presidents.

OLBERMANN:  The Internet roll-out of your campaign seems to have been

a very intriguing one.  Many people have used the Internet before.  Senator

Obama made his announcement in that way.  But with the Internet chats, with

this direct kind of approach, are you even taking this another level past

what might be the Internet establishment—if there is such a thing that -

the blogosphere?

Are you sort of setting up on your own, using the technology, and really trying to get unfiltered, even by the people who think they are unfiltered on the net?

CLINTON:  I‘m going to use every aspect of the Internet.  But clearly I want to be able to communicate directly to people.  I found, when I started running in New York, that many people had opinions about me that were quite, you know, unusual and I had to overcome those.

And when you would ask somebody, well, where did you hear that?  It was, well, you know, one of your competitors, for example.  And I just feel that if I can communicate directly—I‘m not expecting, you know, a hundred percent of the people to agree with me or like me, any of that—but at least I will have a fighting chance to be heard and to be assessed on my own merits.  And that is what I‘m looking for.

But I‘m also going to participate in everything else that the Internet—that the cyber world we live in today has to offer. 

OLBERMANN:  Senator, our greatest thanks for your time.

CLINTON:  Thank you.  Good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)            

OLBERMANN:  The full interview with Senator Clinton is about to twenty minutes in length.  It is at our website, COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com, talk about the Internet age we live in. 

Back her on this side of the computer, something that probably escaped your attention right after the State of the Union.  That‘s a Congresswoman and the previous Worst Person in the World nominee.  And that is she hanging on the president‘s every word.  What was that about? 

And sure Kevin Federline and Britney Spears are about to divorces, but that doesn‘t mean Fed-Ex can‘t offer her some caring advise about rehab.  Finally his area of expertise.  This is COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It might have seemed like just another State of the Union Address to you, but there were all kind of surprises, like how our COUNT-BALL coverage beat CNN in total viewers between 10:45 p.m. and midnight eastern, beat them in viewers aged 25 to 54 between 7:00 p.m. and midnight, and how we beat everybody in viewers 25 to 54, including the Fox noise Channel, between 11:00 p.m. and midnight, for the analysis of a Republican speech.  I say thank you.  Mr. Matthews asked me to add, ha!

But in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, far more surprising, obviously, the true grabber of the evening, brand new Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who told voters that god had told her to run for the office, getting an autograph, a hug and kiss from the president, in a bizarre and uncomfortable sequence that might have been about 10 seconds short of requiring the intervention of the Secret Service. 

After the State of the Union, here we go, she seems to be trying to talk to President Bush here, but instead he pulls away and she goes for the grab, and the hold, holding, holding, still holding.  Mr. Bush tries to ignore her.  The “where is the Dick Cheney when you need him” moment, the gosh darn it thought, and Miss Bachmann is not giving up.  Look at that extension.  The president, thinking she might have once been a Navy Seal, and then finally the pull, and we‘re going to get—no, she gets kissed and there‘s the kiss. 

But she‘s still not done.  More touching!  Creepy, crazy smile for the camera and publicity photos yet unborn, and finally the catch and release.  All right, Bachmann turning into overdrive.  And to invoke a term used first on a “New York Times” blog, to be forever remembered as the Congresswoman who put a death grip on the president, a president who perhaps knows now how Chancellor Merkel of Germany felt. 

Turning to the couple with a firmer grip on our nightly round up of celebrity news, Keeping Tabs, than Miss Bachmann did have on the president, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline.  And as far as reasons to fight your ex-wife for custody of the kids.  This one is a doozy; it‘s for her own good. 

A source telling “Star Magazine” that Mr. K-Fed is trying to persuade Miss Spears to go to rehab, and to that end, quote, first he tired threatening to take away the kids.  Then he tried pleading with her to take care of herself, a gentleman. 

Turning to a tabloid story that rivals the Spe-derlines for cliched white-trash content.  Who‘s the daddy of Anna Nicole Smith‘s baby?  A judge has temporarily blocked the order for Miss Smith to submit her young daughter to a paternity test, but that has not stopped her for apparently contacting the man who demanded that test, her ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead. 

TMZ.com exclusively obtaining an instant message conversation between the pair.  For your elucidation, here it is, unedited: Smith, “quit trashing me at the casino.”  Birkhead, “not at a casino.”  Smith, “go F*** my mom to,” “Y‘all are sick.”  Birkhead, “show up for the test with the baby.  Smith, “don‘t think so.”  Birkhead, “do what‘s right.”  Smith, “you wish.”  Birkhead, “Everybody just want you to do right thing is all.”  Smith, “in your dreams.” 

Who needs lawyers when you have that kind of great telegram-like communication. 

Speaking of the lawyers, is Tom Cruise the Jesus of our times?  Fewer gospels, more makeup.  A comparison reportedly made by key Scientologists.  The church‘s response ahead. 

But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list on nominees for Worst Persons in the World. 

The bronze to Major League Baseball.  For years it has offered its more addicted fans—hi, how are you—a deal by which they can watch about 60 games a week from around the country in package called Extra Innings.  It was available to cable viewers and subscribers of the satellite services Direct TV and Dish Network.  The “New York Times” reports baseball is taking the deal exclusively to Direct TV, thereby cutting off maybe half a million fans who don‘t get it or can‘t have it.  Thereby, as usual, cutting off its nose to spite its face. 

The runners up, Authentic Hendrix, the marketing firm which licenses the image of the late guitar immortal Jimi Hendrix.  It has let a company called Beverage Concepts use Hendrix‘s face to sell a non-alcoholic drink called Liquid Experience.  Excuse me while I don‘t buy a drink from a guy who died from a heroine overdose.

But our winner is a tie among the yackers of the irrational right, Glen Beck, Neil Boortz, Steve Doocy, Sean Hannity, and comedian Rush Limbaugh.  Each announced that Senator‘s Clinton online campaign announcement had to have been recorded months ago because you could see some green on the trees in the background and she, thus, was guilty of media manipulation.  Their source, apparently, the infamous wacky website News Busters. 

As National Public Radio‘s Juan Williams pointed out on Fox Noise, the senator taped the statement last week at her home here in Washington, near Rock Creek Park, which, believe it or not, is still a little green.  A little green like Glen Beck, Neil Boortz, Steve Ducey, Sean Hannity, and Comedian Rush Limbaugh, today‘s Worst Persons in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

In retrospect, we should have seen it coming.  When he dissed Oprah Winfrey‘s couch, when he called Matt Lauer glib, at minimum, when he tried to recruit soccer star David Beckham to his religion, only to be told by Mrs. Beckham that she would not join any church that costs money. 

Or maybe today when his name came in testimony at the Scooter Libby trial, having gone to see Mr. Libby to complain about how Germany treats Scientologist. 

Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, but only tonight, only tonight about Tom Cruise does it all begin to make sense.  Tom Cruise is Jesus, or at least the Jesus of Scientology.  The leader of that religion, David Misgivitch (ph) reported to have said he believes that Mr. Cruise will ultimately be worshipped like Jesus for his hard work in spreading the word of Scientology.  That according to British tabloid “The Sun,” a publication which itself often makes people say, Christ. 

Another so-called source, a Scientologist said to be close to Mr.  Cruise says that, “like Christ, he has been criticized for his views, but future generations will realize he was right,” which caused us to wonder, Tom Cruise, Jesus Christ, we‘re all mighty grateful that the church of Scientology contacted us tonight to completely and unequivocally deny the comparison.  Quote, this story has no basis in reality whatsoever. 

So, with the Scientologists on the record, it still made us wonder about all the yahoos out there, someone who might actually take this story seriously, what are the comparisons between Jesus Christ and Tom Cruise?  I mean, besides the fact that Jesus would never have played a character named Cole Trickle. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Jesus Christ was said to the born in Bethlehem.  Tom Cruise was born in Syracuse, about 150 miles from Bethlehem.  You‘re going to want to take the New York State Throughway.

Christ is the star of the greatest story ever told.  Cruise, he was the star of “Losing It” with Shelley Long.

Christ born of a Virgin Mary, they say.  Cruise still a virgin when he got married, they say.  Christ was anointed in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.  Cruise was given the keys to the spaceship by John Travolta. 

Cruise ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the father.  Cruise ascended the sofa while seated at the right hand of Oprah Winfrey. 

Christ turned water into wine.  Cruise juggled booze bottles in “Cocktail.”

J.C. walked on water in the Sea of Galilee.  T.C. got sprayed with water by a fake microphone. 

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR:  What‘s so funny about that?

OLBERMANN:  Betrayed before the cock crowed by Judas.  Betrayed between seven and eight eastern time by Lauer. 

CRUISE:  You‘re glib.

OLBERMANN:  Born on Christmas day, “Born on the Fourth of July.” 

Twelve disciples, “A Few Good Men.”

Last Supper, “Last Samurai.”

The only son, the “Top Gun.”

The Mount of olives, “Smuggling Plums.” 

Jesus Christ said “show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works.”  Tom Cruise said, “show me the money.” 

And on the third day, Christ came back from the dead and became lord and savior to a billion people worldwide.  Tom Cruise came back for a third “Mission Impossible” movie and raked in 400 million worldwide. 

It‘s really no contest at all. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN: I hope you got your bets down in time.  Where else could we go after that but to Cruise-ologist and overall celebrity debunker, the columnist of the “Village Voice,” Michael Musto.  Good evening Michael. 

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So this permits us to say Tom Cruise, Jesus Christ.  Are there comparisons we may have missed there? 

MUSTO:  Well Jesus was a prophet.  Tom turns a profit, or used to. 

Jesus had nice teeth, Tom has big time, that‘s kind of similar. 

And like Jesus, Tom was born without any sex involved—oh no, that‘s Suri.  I kid.

OLBERMANN:  Of course, Mr. Cruise is not quoted directly or otherwise as saying that he sees himself as a Christ like figure.  And we have the denial from the Scientology people themselves, but is this possibly an effort from his people to get the ball rolling on this, you know, warship the guy idea? 

MUSTO:  Yes, you can‘t run around going, hey, everybody, I‘m the new Jesus.  You have to have your handlers announce that.  And then you go, oh, I‘m not—you know, I‘m just a humble little multi-billion dollar movie star.  All right, I am the new Jesus, but they said it first.  That‘s how you have to play it.

OLBERMANN:  What happened to the guy who played Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar?”   What is it Murray Head?  What happened to him?  That didn‘t work out for—he was the new Jesus and that didn‘t work off. 

MUSTO:  I believe his name was Ted Neeley and I‘m mortified that I know that, so let‘s just keep moving.

OLBERMANN: If Mr. Cruise is the new, new Jesus, what about the wife? 

Katie Holmes is Mrs. Jesus. 

MUSTO:  Well she‘s a feminist.  She‘d be Ms. Christ or Ms. Holmes-Christ Cruise.  By any name, she‘ll be the same old kidnapped actress with Stockholm Syndrome and stretch marks. 

OLBERMANN:  Do we have a Last Supper then and who would be at it? 

MUSTO:  Oh, all the same freaks from the wedding.  You know, Brooke Shields will be there with a cheap blender and a sign that says, I forgive you.  Posh Spice in that hat that doubles as a spaceship and a serving tray.  And, of course, the mayor, remember, from the town in Italy that wasn‘t invited.  She‘s the Judas.  She‘s going to crash.  She‘s going to turn on Tom like bad spaghetti sauce. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, speaking of turning on Tom, could that be really dangerous, not only to your life, but your after life?  I mean, Sumner Redstone, who dumped him from Viacom, is he fire and brimstone bound? 

MUSTO:  No, no, no, Tom‘s going to turn the other cheek.  I‘m not going for a butt joke here, but—

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

MUSTO:  If anything, he‘ll just curse his fig tree and make a big cocky on his lawn.  Oh, I did go for a butt joke.  I‘m sorry.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very nicely.  The Jesus thing was miracles, right.  Have there been Tom Cruise miracles that we don‘t know about?  Is he holding back on us?  Have they happened? 

MUSTO:  He got “Legend” released in theaters.  He turned “Collateral” into a star vehicle for Jamie Foxx.  He made the only bad Kubrick movie ever made.  He had a baby that looked three-years-old when she was born.  There was not Sermon on the Mount, but he is constantly sermonizing about how mounts Katie.  So there are parallels. 

OLBERMANN: Well, thank you, by the way, for confirming my opinion of the Kubrick movie.  I‘ve had some arguments about that.

MUSTO:  My eyes were wide shut watching that one.

OLBERMANN:  What is it though—this is not the first comparison between a celebrity and Jesus.  Michael Jackson made something of this, did he not, or was that just Jesus Juice that I‘m thinking of? 

MUSTO:  Yes, he would pretty much tell kids he was Jesus so they would sip the sacramental wine and start genuflecting.  Jacko really should stick to comparisons to Diane Carol.  I think Tom should stick to, I‘m the new Sonny Tufts.  This Jesus thing is really overreaching.  Only Rachel Ray could pull that off. 

OLBERMANN:  And is there good news in this?  That if Mr. Cruise really reveals himself as some sort of figure like this, there‘ll be less time for him to make movies? 

MUSTO:  Oh dream on.  You wish.  If anything he‘s going to make more movies with more important messages.  In fact, I hear he‘s borrowing a cross from Madonna and he‘s going to remake “Jerry Maguire” as Jesus Maguire.  You had me at Hallelujah, that‘s the big line. 

OLBERMANN:  Show the minister the money. 

MUSTO:  I love it.

OLBERMANN:  The one and only Michael Musto.  As always, Michael, great thanks for your time.

MUSTO:  Thank you Keith.

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,362nd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From Washington, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night 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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