updated 10/19/2007 11:36:15 AM ET 2007-10-19T15:36:15

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Craig Crawford, Christian Finnegan

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Good evening from New York.  Are wins really that vital to this White House?  Are they so few and far between that a president who threw away the greatest personal support ever afforded a chief executive in this country and threw away a re-election is so marginalized he would have a spokesperson characterized denying roughly four million children health insurance, quote, “We won this round on S-chip.”

Of the fifth story of the COUNTDOWN: Yes, George W. Bush is that bankrupt.  For now at least, Mr. Bush‘s veto stands, lawmakers falling 13 votes shy of the 2/3 margin to override required, Democrats picking up eight supporters from the original vote, a total of 44 Republicans voting against the president.  As we‘ve mentioned, the White House classifying the vote as a win.  The press secretary, Dana Perino describing the president as protecting the needs of poor children even though their health care needs are covered under Medicaid, S-chip having been designed to help middle class families who cannot afford to buy health insurance.  Ms.  Perino, apparently living in Wonderland and she introduced that analogy not me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Maybe, I just - just like Alice‘s falling down, rather, I see the world in a different way.  I think Republicans who‘ve stayed with the president are actually going to be very protective because of theirs strong stand about sticking to the principle of, one, poor children first and making sure that we‘re not raising taxes and that we‘re not having a program that‘s supposed to be for poor children be used to expand to a government run health care.  I think that that bode well for Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll put that to a vote.  Except for when it clearly does not bode well for Republicans.  According to a new poll from CBS News there‘s 81 percent of Americans in favor of expanding S-chip the way the Democrats want it.  Seventy-four percent of those in favor are willing to pay more taxes in order to fund it.  The Democratic leadership pointing out there‘s another perfectly acceptable funding source.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  And if the president is saying we can‘t afford the bill, then I would just say, and remind that for 40 days in Iraq we can insure ten million children for one year in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ms. Pelosi giving the measured kind of “Iraq sound byte” that made her Speaker of the House.  In contrast, the Democrat Pete Stark of California taking the Iraq analogy and turning it up to 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETE STARK, (D) CALIFORNIA:  You don‘t have money to fund the war or children.  But you‘re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we could get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president‘s amusement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  With that comment, Congressman Stark becoming the story

today.  Minority leader, Boehner, calling for Mr.Stark to retract his

statement and issue an apology.  Instead of doing that Mr. Stark issued

another criticism of the Mr. Boehner, quoting from his statement -

“I have nothing but respect for our brave men and women in uniform and wish them the very best, but I respect neither the Commander in Chief who keeps them in harm‘s way nor the chicken hawks in Congress who vote to deny children health care.”

OLBERMANN:  I‘m now turn to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine, John, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Did the Republicans in the White House just win a battle while putting themselves firmly in danger of losing a war on S-chip?  If that CBS poll is you know even close, expanding S-chips seems to be something that more than 2/3 of the country wants and are willing to fund with higher taxes.

ALTER:  I think it‘ll happen.  You know, even if they‘re saying it will pull off taxes would be tobacco taxes which most people have no problem with.  Look, this thing is going to get done.  It‘s only 13 votes shy and it‘s done on the Senate side and they can put sweeteners in a refashioned version of this bill and get this through over the president‘s veto.  If they don‘t, everybody in politics knows it is just a killer political issue.  Democrats have indicated that they‘d bring it up again shortly before next November‘s presidential election and, you know, that‘s basically saying, look.  We will just blow you up if you don‘t do this.  And I think Republicans will get that message with a few little tweaks, this will become law.

OLBERMANN:  So why the crowing from the White House now and why the Republicans being so medieval about this?  Is it - are they trying to position themselves so that they will pass this bill whenever it does get passed?  They can grab the credit for it?

ALTER:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think they‘re just trying to position themselves with hardcore Conservatives to say, “Look.  We will stand on principle.  They got so beaten down over the Medicare prescription drug benefit for instance, that they supported within their own Conservative base that they want to signal that they‘re “men and women of principle” and so that‘s really what this is about on the Republican side.

OLBERMANN:  Did the Democrats finally find some actual tact of use politically here, the Pelosi line that 40 days in Iraq would pay for a year of the fully funded S-chip?  I mean in saving kids lives versus taking the lives of slightly older kids in Iraq?  It would seem like that‘s a slogan.  That‘s a winner.

ALTER:  Yes. You know, Iraq dollars are actually a pretty good way of measuring misplaced priorities.  When you‘re at nine billion a month, that‘s real money and you can explain it to the American people, you know, what we‘re not getting and it‘s pretty hard to argue that something is too expensive especially for kids when you‘re spending that kind of money in Iraq.  But at the same time, you know, for Pete Stark to go off and say the president likes to see people killed for his own amusement is pretty stupid and it‘s the kind of thing that, you know, cause the Democrats problems that they should otherwise be able to avoid.

OLBERMANN:  And yet, did he not in that—obviously he went to extremes there but was there not something refreshing about his at least refusal to back down when somebody came after him or is the Democratic leadership going to say to him, now you are going to have to back down to some degree?

ALTER:  No.  I think he should back down.  I mean, you are going to look at the way say, Pelosi handles it versus the way you know, Stark handles it.  You can‘t say, “Look, the president is misguided.  He‘s been a terrible president.  But he is a human being and he doesn‘t like to see people killed and to say that he does is just silly and counterproductive and the best thing for him to do would be to apologize and move on.

OLBERMANN:  One last question here about this—is there a deliberate kind of attempt to conflate S-chip and Medicare here?  The Republicans actually think anybody is going to be foolish enough to think this is about the insurance for the poor being stretched out to include in one case, illegal aliens?

ALTER:  Yes and that was untrue and that was just a fib that they‘ve spread that this was somehow was going to extend to illegal aliens because it says specifically in the bill that it did not.  The Republicans are very good about staying on the same talking point so they got this thing—this idea peddled pretty far and wide that this would apply to families making $83,000 a year.  That was actually a waiver that New York applied for and failed to get.  What they‘re really saying is that people—families with $50,000 a year in income shouldn‘t get any help with health care for their kids, which the American people have rejected and I think will continue to reject as long as they put it up the flag pole.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that one about aliens, we‘ll get to that later.  That is Steve King from Iowa who makes Pete Stark look like Churchill.  John Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” as always, great thanks.

ALTER:  Great thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The lies about S-chip have been manifold but they are dying, S-chip is not for the poor.  It is for working families ineligible for Medicaid, it is not a first step towards government health care that would be the free health care Congress and the president get.  It is not physically irresponsible.  It‘s preventative medicine.  Saves money in emergency room costs and it saves future productivity.  And then there are of course the lies about S-chip supporters.  You know the ones about 12-year-old Graeme Frost initiated online shared with the media week ago Monday by an aide to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.  The aide retracted that email when he learned the lies were lies.  He told McConnell about the whole thing last Thursday.  The next day, McConnell added his own lies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What was the deal with the email?

MCCONNELL:  What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What was the deal with the email?

MCCONNELL:  There was no involvement whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  From your staff?

MCCONNELL:  None.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The senator will object to any suggestion of lying.  The “Louisville Courier Journal” wrote today but what else is it when you knowingly misrepresent facts?  And today this S-chip ad featuring Bethany Wilkerson was attacked by House minority leader, Boehner, as despicable and exploitive.  He actually feels like his territory was being infringed.  Her parents appeared on this news hour last night standing by the aid.  So, what is Boehner beef?  The ad does not mention that S-chip was not created in 1997 under a Republican Congress which tends to demonstrate of course just how out of touch party has become since then.  Joining us now to dissect the S-chip saga, Rachel Maddow, who‘s in program that airs every week, now on Air America Radio.  Thanks again for your time, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  How much of this dishonesty was due to blame for the failure to override the veto today?  Or is this today simply the case of obedience of GOP leadership and it is by itself as John Alter suggested crumbling?

MADDOW:  Well, what I think is interesting about the S-chip program and what‘s interesting of the politics here is to see the transformation from its establishment under a Republican Congress in 1997 to what it is now, before they went through this Republican spin cycle around the president‘s veto, S-chip was considered to be a nonpartisan, non-controversial, universally praised, remarkably successful health care program, possibly the most successful health care program of a generation.  That which is why George Bush celebrated it as governor of Texas and why as you said 81 percent of Americans support expanding it.  By the time it got through the spin cycle it wasn‘t a non-controversial, nonpartisan success story anymore.  It was as I‘m sure you‘re going to talk about in Steve King‘s words today socialized, Clinton-style, Hillary care for illegals and their parents.  It‘s like it‘s down the rabbit hole and deep.

OLBERMANN:  Right. It‘s  just making stuff up at this point.

MADDOW:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  But we‘ve now have, like it‘s like a marble cake or a Neapolitan ice cream bar of lies.  The GOP had water carriers like the comedian like Rush Limbaugh and the bloggers spread these personal lies and the president repeated the policy lies.  This is about—you know, this is for poor people not middle class and Mitch McConnell looked like he was CYA after a bunch of lies told on his behalf that he added to.  Why the three - tri-part lies here?  Are they aimed at different parts of the lying base?

MADDOW:  Keith, you know, Jonathan pointed out, he said the Republicans are very good at staying on talking points and it‘s usually true.  Usually when they want to shoot something down, they‘ve got one line and hit it again and again and again.  But in this case, I think because they were so not interested in taking on the program on its face, because it is such a popular program, they decided to go with the shotgun approach instead of the sniper approach and so they just decided to go after it any way they could.  And so if you need to hear it was for illegals then they‘ll tell you that it‘s illegals.  If you need to hear it‘s Hillary care, fine.  They‘ll tell you that.  If you need to hear that it‘s communism, then they‘ll tell you that.  I think it was just kind of a matter of throwing everything up there and hoping that enough things would stick with enough different people that they could defeat it without ever taking it on - on its merits.

OLBERMANN:  But what is the point of it?  I just asked John this question.  I don‘t know that he fully answered it at least to my satisfaction, nothing against him.  It‘s just startling.  If it‘s 14 votes away from being overridden and that number is going to have to change and get smaller and go into negative numbers because of an impending election and people who don‘t want to be perceived as being against something 81 percent of the country supports, what do the Republicans say then?  Oh, yes.  We had some other S-chip?  We thought it was chocolate chip cookies?  What are they going to say when it passes?

MADDOW:  They will come up a way to pass it that makes them - that allows them to take credit for having done something to it.  They will change a semi-colon in some section 47 of paragraph G that makes them say - “Oh, it‘s not communism anymore and by the way we took care of the illegals program.”  Ultimately this will pass, it needs to pass, it ought to pass.  It is a health care success story.  The Republicans know that and they‘ll going to know it a lot more, the closer they get to 2008.  They will need to find a way to claim political victory while going along with the Democrats.

OLBERMANN:  And Democratic strategy changes in any way or did they learn something from this that they do something wrong?  That they have to revise strategy going to the next round of this?

MADDOW:  No,  I think they do have to change strategy and I think that they need to change strategy to do what they need to do on the war and on FISA and on habeas corpus and all of the other big issues that they were elected and put in power to try to change.  And that is that they need to be tougher.  They need to get both barrels engaged here.  and while it‘s true that Pete Stark might have been inflammatory today in what he said about the president, that kind of “no backing down, we‘re in the right, you guys are the problem here” attitude, even if it‘s a little rough around the edges, if that‘s going to be what wins.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Take out the gore at the end of it not referring to

Al but the ghoulishness quality to it and you have something that sounded

to me little like a special comment actually.  Rachel Maddow of Air

America, as always, great thanks, Rachel

MADDOW:  Thank you Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Bush administration says its request made it legal.  The phone company insists other laws made it legal.  So why is the Senate Intelligence Committee about to immunize the phone companies for their rules in the Bush administration absolutely result to domestic legal spying legal scandal?

And the scandal of the Ellen sort takes an unexpected twist, who is heard on tape threatening who?  About give me the dog?  It never ends.  You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  It is perhaps the greatest paradox of the many paradox of the Bush administration.  The president desperately fighting for immunity for telecom giants, which assisted him with domestic surveillance even the president maintains that he and they have done nothing illegal.

On our fourth story of the COUNTDOWN: The White House clearing another hurdle in its effort to claim the get out of jail free card for the phone companies.  The Senate Intelligence Committee reaching a tentative agreement with the administration that would give the telephone carriers blanket immunity for whatever role they‘ve played in the National Security Agency‘s eavesdropping program.  The tentative deal reached with the committee‘s leaders, the Democrat Chairman John Rockefeller of West Virginia and Chris Bond of Missouri, the ranking Republican.  But over at day two of confirmation hearings for Attorney General Nominee, Michael Mukasey, it appears the Judiciary Committee chairman is going to be a tougher sell.  Senator Pat Leahy saying he believes the Intelligence Committee is about to cave on this and bring pressure on the Judiciary Committee to immunize past illegal conduct only because they know that it was illegal conduct, he says.  If only Democrats in the House exhibited as much skepticism or as much back bone, party leaders they‘re putting off a vote on the FISA bill last night because of a competing measure from Republicans that asks lawmakers where they stood on stopping Osama bin Laden from attacking the United States again?  About coming back with a Democratic bill asking Republicans to pay attention next time if they got any warnings about that?  Let‘s turn now to our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of “The Washington Post.”  Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMAN:  Democrats may have denounced the Republicans‘ poison pill on Bin Laden as a cheap shot, a political ploy but I‘m noticing here that it worked.  So, who ends up looking cheap not to mention weak?

MILBANK:  Keith, I am shocked that there are cheap, political ploys occurring in Washington.  Of course this city is the leading manufacturer of cheap, political ploys and they‘re done every day.  People only howl about them when they‘ve been outmaneuvered and that‘s exactly what happened here with the Democrats.  The Republicans saw disunity, properly, correctly, within the Democratic caucus, and they were able to put in this measure that they could peel off enough people and hand Nancy Pelosi major embarrassment.

OLBERMANN:  Proper note - proper realization of the disunity or proper disunity which is you there?

MILBANK:  The realization that there was a disunity and I think what‘s occurring here is that the hardcore, left wing of the party wanted to go even further in protecting civil liberties so they had sort of the unintended consequence of derailing the party‘s larger efforts.  This has happened to some extent on the Iraq war, too.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  And why?  It becomes in this particular thing, being declared soft on terrorism basically is saying if you vote Democratic, you stand a much better chance of dying did not stick in the last election or it did not prevent Democrats from taking control of Congress in the mid terms.  The voters are apparently smarter than the politicians so why are Democrats still afraid of tackling national security issues head on or did I just answer my own question?

MILBANK:  I‘m not sure they really are still afraid.  There is some lingering sense among them that they are the mommy party and the Republicans are the daddy party.  But I really think what‘s happened here is because they cannot rely on the base to support their challenge, what‘s happening is they can‘t make sort of the full throated challenge.  They‘ve got to balance the Conservatives within their party and the Liberals within their party.

OLBERMANN:  If there is a deadbeat daddy party here is what we‘re dealing with and he‘s (inaudible).  The Judiciary Committee was grilling the attorney general nominee who has been billed—you described him the other day in these terms—as a fairly responsible guy and makes the president look good, Judge Mukasey, but yesterday he said he disagreed with the president on torture.  He got a lot of gold stars from the center and the left and today he would not say where he stands on water boarding and would not define water boarding as torture.  What is this - this is - is he going to wind up asking for immunity before this is over?  Is that what we‘re seeing?

MILBANK:  It sounds like somebody got to him overnight after the first day there.  I‘m not saying he was water boarded but he was probably put into some stress positions and perhaps told by the administration—you don‘t want to get too far out on a limb in terms of what you‘re denouncing here because you haven‘t been yet read into the program as they say.  He doesn‘t know exactly what‘s going on here.  So there may be a bit of back tracking there because he wants to continue to be the nominee.  However, he has impressed a number of the Democrats on the panel even to spite these problems today.

OLBERMANN:  So they‘ll get him out of committee handily and with a big recommendation with the full Senate?  There‘s no - nobody‘s going to stand up and go, no.  Either you say this is torture or we‘re keeping you here in the hearings for the next eight months?

MILBANK:  No.  They‘ll get about as far as our colleague Richard Wolf did asking the president to define torture yesterday.  No, Leahy has made clear that he expects him to be confirmed.  There may be symbolic votes against him but the truth is they‘re just so happy to have anybody but Gonzalez that they‘ll let him through.

OLBERMANN:  On the other point, you know, Richard is just trying to enhance his legacy for after he leaves the White House beat.  Our own Dana Milbank and also of “The Washington Post.”  Of course, thanks for being with us here tonight, Dana.

Is there a scenario in which a former governor of Arkansas who‘s dealt with weight issues could become president of the United States?  No, I mean this time.  After one of his Republican rivals dropped out, speaking of which model there is a hole in the cat walk.  There‘s a hole coming up in the—never mind.  We‘ll explain how that happened next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this day 145 years ago, America‘s first sports superstar died during a game.  Jim Crayton, a baseball book on who threw the first fastball, invented the change up, picked the shoot up, was involved in the first triple play, probably got the first salary, and at the age of 20 did not make an out as a batter all season.  Batting during all game late in season of 1862, Crayton swung so hard that he either raptured his bladder, raptured the hernia he didn‘t known he had or even suffered the burst appendix.  He was dead within days.  Because he played of the days before professional leagues, Crayton is almost forgotten today, there‘s never been any serious consideration for voting him in the Baseball‘s Hall of Fame.  But the grief in 1862 over his death was so great, that memorial shroud and bunching (ph) were still being used in his memory, seven years later.  Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin at the L.A. fashion week and a double catastrophe on the cat walk.  The first ninja lands so badly on his final flip he punches a hole in the floor.  Then nobody remembers to tell the next model about it.  There‘s a hole there.  There‘s a hole there.  Lady, there‘s—lady.  Look out.  OK, let‘s see that in slow motion.  There it is again.  The model sink hole has opened up.  She‘s all right.  Fortunately the real floor below stopped her fall and somebody stopped the subsequent models before we had a lemming like event here. 

To Thailand where circus trainers have decided to forego the standard performing animals, lions, seals, elephants and the like in favor of pigs.  These little porkers entertain dozens of people every day, turning circles on a stand, shooting hoops with tennis balls, running slaloms through fluffy pegs.  There‘s the fluffy pegs.  Not to mention performing death defying feats of daring, like jumping—sorry, Make that walking slowly through rings of fire. 

More slowly, performing pork chops. 

Sam Brownback is no longer running for president.  You say you didn‘t know Sam Brownback was running for president? 

Ellen Degeneres insists the story of Iggy the dog is over.  But with an interview with the little girl and a voice mail threat from Ellen‘s publicist out tonight, why do I think it‘s not over?  These stories ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best psych job, baseball‘s Cleveland Indians.  They insist this had been long since scheduled, a total coincidence.  Who sang the national anthem before tonight‘s playoff game with the Boston Red Sox, who had to win or see their season end, with Boston‘s ace pitcher Josh Beckett on the mound?  Country artist Danielle Peck, ex-girlfriend of Boston‘s ace pitcher Josh Beckett. 

Number two, best dumb criminal, an unnamed 25 year old driver in Bahrain, asked to produce his license, he reached into his wallet and pulled out the license and a piece of hashish in stick form that was stuck to his license. 

And number one, best example of self-respect, my friend Joe Torre, tonight the ex-manager of the New York Yankees.  The team offered to let him stay on if he accepted just a one-year contract with a 1/3 pay cut with an option for 2009 provided the Yankees reached the World Series.  Let‘s see, pay cut, no job security, the owner of the team fading in and out of reality?  Joe politely said, no thanks.  And if the next manager leads them to 12 straight playoff appearances and four world championships in five years the way Joe Torre did, I‘ll reimburse the Yankees for his salary.  Good luck, Joe. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Considering the ferocity with which the states are pushing up their presidential primaries, if you ran for the nomination and did not make it to even the first of them, it did not go well.  Our third story, the COUNTDOWN to 2008 and another Republican calling it quit; Kansas Senator Sam Brownback expected to end his part of the race tomorrow.  Low in the polls and lower on cash, Brownback ran a mostly anti-abortion campaign.

A favorite of fundamentalists, he was not however a fire-breathing conservative on immigration.  He favored a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, an unpopular stance in the GOP, to say the least.  Though Brownback does not have a lot of support to throw around, his exit from the race could reshuffle the deck, in part.  One possible effect, a boost for Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, the Southern Baptist preacher who has been climbing in the latest polls in Iowa.  Huckabee showing surprising strength in the latest Rasmussen poll of Republicans there, pulling past Rudy Giuliani even with Fred Thompson for second place. 

Mitt Romney is still at the top there.  “Congressional Quarterly‘s” Craig Crawford joins us now for the latest in both the Republican and Democratic campaigns.  Craig, good evening. 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  It‘s just another extension of Oddball, isn‘t it? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, the whole show is. 

CRAWFORD:  All right. 

OLBERMANN:  Huckabee‘s Iowa numbers mean what?  One basket all eggs, or is there more to it? 

CRAWFORD:  Well, if you‘re going to pick one basket to put your eggs in, it would be Iowa.  They‘re first in just about two and a half months for Republicans.  So he is in the right place to do that.  In the old days, Keith, before these campaigns became multinational corporations with more cash on hand than some countries, I would say someone like Huckabee would have a better than even shot.  But even if he does well in Iowa, then he‘s got to have all this money and infrastructure all over the country, because the calendar is so compressed, with big states voting all around the country so quickly. 

It‘s going to be hard for him to leverage that.  I do think he is a very popular running mate possibility for the Republicans, particularly if a social moderate like Giuliani becomes the presidential nominee. 

OLBERMANN:  Is that, in fact—just going a field here, is that what the religious right, the James Dobsons and such, are actually angling for?  Or is there still Huckabee as a third party candidate out there? 

CRAWFORD:  I think they‘re so used to not having to settle for second spot, they‘re not willing to accept it at the moment.  But I see that down the road if someone like Giuliani sticks with it.  But here‘s the thing about that poll, Rasmussen Poll, you talked about in Iowa.  If you combine the candidates who are competing for the social conservative vote, Romney and Huckabee, you actually get to about 60 percent of the vote. 

If that conservative vote ever does gather around one particular candidate, Fred Thompson is another, then Giuliani is in big trouble. 

OLBERMANN:  But Thompson moved up after the one debate to second in the Iowa poll, then dropped back in the national polls.  Did he just go poof?  Is that it for him? 

CRAWFORD:  There is this weird disconnect, Keith, with Thompson.  He gets better coverage than he does nationally, and it doesn‘t surprise me that in a state where he has spent a fair amount of time and gotten some fairly good local press coverage that he‘s doing a lot better.  He is now arguing he is the real conservative of the race.  There‘s a debate in Orlando this Sunday with the Republican candidates where I think he‘s going to come out swinging. 

He is making a hard pitch now for—to coalesce that conservative vote.  Like I say, if anyone does that, Giuliani is in big trouble in the Republican race. 

OLBERMANN:  The Democrats—John Edwards famously said a little while ago, did I miss something?  Why is everybody treating Hillary Clinton as if she‘s gotten the nomination?  She leads in cash.  The CNN poll has her ahead of Obama by 30.  Is there anything foreseeable to trip her up? 

CRAWFORD:  Maybe her own two feet.  If there is a trap door like on the cat walk for the model you showed.  But I don‘t see anyone taking her down, unless she really makes a mistake.  And that‘s one thing I‘ve seen in Hillary Rodham Clinton, not just in this race, but when she first ran for Senate and re-election to the Senate; this woman doesn‘t make mistakes on the campaign trail. 

She is very careful.  She doesn‘t take a lot of risks.  But as a result, I don‘t think the other candidates can count on her to trip on her own two feet. 

OLBERMANN:  To that point, people I talked to say—who actually see that campaign day to day say, she is getting better at this as it goes along.  And it is maybe counter-intuitive, but does it make sense because she has actually only been a candidate, her own candidate for eight years?  She is a relative rookie at this? 

CRAWFORD:  Rookie in that sense, but such a pro in the sense that she‘s been so close to the fire for so long as a result of her husband.  So I think Hillary Rodham Clinton is more of a veteran than maybe the paperwork shows.  On the campaign trail, you know, it does get—you do get a little more comfortable and have a lot more fun when you‘re 30 points ahead.  I think that‘s making a big difference for her. 

OLBERMANN:  Our own Craig Crawford, also, of course, of “Congressional Quarterly.”  As always, Craig, a great pleasure to speak with you. 

Maybe we can throw in a Tony Soprano question into the primaries and settle this.  David Chase hints he survived the last episode?  David Chase also hints he died in the last episode. 

And Britney Spears‘ access to her kids did not survive a court asked her to do something on time.  La set back for la Spears next on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  The reaction to David Chase‘s mystifying series finale of “The Sopranos” is akin to the seven stages of grief.  First shock or disbelief, then denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and finally acceptance and hope.  Now in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, Mr.  Chase‘s official interview on the series end is certain to start the process all over again from the beginning. 

In “The Sopranos, The Complete Book” from HBO, Mr. Chase is interviewed.  Large portions excerpted in “Entertainment Weekly.”  Quoting, we didn‘t expect them, the viewers, to be pissed off for that long, Chase said.  Later, why would we entertain people for eight years only to give them the finger? 

As for the ending of all endings, a refresher. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR:  Wonder he‘s even got a stomach left. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As opposed to yours. 

GANDOLFINI:  At least my father was out front about what was bothering him. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right, with a bullet through your mother‘s bee hive hair-do. 

GANDOLFINI:  I knew—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You know, that‘s not the way I remember it ending.  I never heard anything about the bee hive hair-do.  This wasn‘t really about leaving the door open, Chase said, of the finale.  There was nothing definite about what happened.  But there was a clean trend on view, a definite sense of what Tony and Carmela‘s future looks like.  Whether it happened that night or some other night doesn‘t really matter. 

That seems to answer the question.  Then there was also this; “there had been indications of what the end is like.  Remember when Jerry Toricano was killed?  Silvio was not even aware that the gun had been fired until after Jerry was on his down to the floor.  That‘s the way things happen.  It‘s already going on by the time you even notice it.”

That means Tony did die when the screen went black?  Who knows?  Chase is also angry that so many viewers wanted him dead.  They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall?  I thought that was disgusting, frankly, but these people have always wanted blood. 

Well, at least Mr. Chase can say he never gave in and gave it to them. 

Nothing ambiguous—My turn—Nothing ambiguous about the latest on Britney Spears‘ custody battle in our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Now Miss Spears cannot even visit her children.  Following another emergency hearing yesterday, Commissioner Gordon of the L.A. Family Court issued this order, Batman, quoting, “petitioner Spears‘ visitation with the minor children is suspended pending petitioner‘s,” that‘s Spears‘, “compliance with the court orders.” 

There may be several orders with which Ms. Spears has not yet complied, like meeting with the parenting coach and seeking drug counseling.  But TMZ.com reports that Ms. Spears did not provide information to the people responsible for conducting random drug tests and that her failure to facilitate that triggered the judge‘s latest order.  The next regular hearing in the matter is next Friday. 

It‘s a rare thing when a world leader gets divorced while in office.  The new French president, the conservative Nicholas Sarkozy, ended two years of domestic coverage of his and his wife‘s alleged infidelities by announcing their divorce today.  The Sarkozies were married in 1987.  The president said his wife, Cecilia, quote, no longer wanted to participate in the president‘s life, in public life. 

The bloom probably came off the rose last may when Madam Sarkozy did not vote in the run off that elected her husband.  Still, for Mr. Sarkozy, 23rd president of the French Republic, it could have been much worse.  Consider one of Sarkozy‘s predecessors, the sixth French president, Felix Faure.  It was to this president that Emile Zola was speaking when he wrote his famous public letter J‘Accuse, during the Dreyfuss affair.  In terms of affairs, Zola picked the right president. 

President Faure died in office and in trouble.  On February 16th, 1899, while canoodling on or near the French presidential desk with a 30-year-old woman named Marguerite Steinheil (ph), 58-year-old Monsieur le President died of a stroke. 

Ellen Degeneres said this dog has had its day.  She is done talking about it.  Could that have anything to do with the revelation of a tape of a threat by her publicist reportedly against the dog agency.  That‘s ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s Worst Persons in the World.

The bronze to Attorney General Designate Michael Mukasey, following Bush‘s lead when he would not define torture.  Asked today by Senator White house of Rhode Island if water boarding was torture, the judge said, quote, if water boarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.  Then he said, if it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional. 

So if you‘re just another lackey there to cover the president‘s backside while he orders torture then you can torture the language to avoid saying that water boarding is torture? 

The runner up, Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa.  While he upheld uphold the minority veto of the expansion of SCHIP today Congressman King said the acronym SCHIP stood for Socialized Clinton Style Hillary Care for Illegals and Their Parents.  The Congressman made a funny.  Yes, Hillary care, as voted for today by Chris Shays and Tom Davis and 42 other Republicans who don‘t hate kids.  And illegals?  State citizenship has to be proved, sir.  You think this has anything to do with illegal immigration?  Anybody in the fifth congressional district in Iowa?  Did you really vote for this idiot? 

But the winner, Sean Hannity of Fixed News.  Next time somebody tells you Fox is not dedicated to electing Republicans and slamming Democrats, answer with this anecdote.  Another Hannity interview of Rudy Giuliani this week, yet another occasion when Hannity and Fox and Roger Ales did not disclose that on August 19th Giuliani held a big ticket fund raiser in Cincinnati and the man introducing him to the high paying guests was Sean Hannity. 

Sean Hannity, whom his bosses insist is not a journalist, but just a conservative commentator who has now dropped down one more notch to Rudy Giuliani‘s fund raising meat puppet.  Even the other presidential hopefuls should be screaming bloody murder about this.  Sean Hannity, today‘s Worst Person in the World!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s gotten out of hand, she says.  Ellen Degeneres says she is shutting down the scandal that has gripped the nation, well, a very small percentage of the nation for four whole days.  Just a coincidence, apparently, that her decision to do this happens on the same day that a tape pops up out of nowhere, reportedly of a publicist for Ms. Degeneres threatening the Mutts and Moms agency over the future of Iggy the dog. 

In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, that tape in a moment.  First, Ms.  Degeneres has heard, just like the rest of us, that Mutts and Moms found the puppy Iggy another home.  But she has evidently not given up hope that the dog could be returned to her hair dresser‘s young children, saying she will not talk about the matter further until that occurs.  And she wants a gross over reaction to her plea to stop. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN DEGENERES, “ELLEN”:  The people that have Iggy or had Iggy—I don‘t know—are receiving death threats I am told.  And that is not OK.  They want nothing—nothing more than that dog returned to that family. 

But you don‘t resort to violence, so anybody out there, please, stop that. 

Don‘t threaten or do whatever. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That was from today‘s “Ellen” show, taped yesterday.  Meantime, one of the daughters of Ms. Degeneres‘s hair dresser also still hoping to get this dog back. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I want to tell the agency and the people who have now adopted Iggy that—to rethink the situation because I miss my dog. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And now word that Ms. Degeneres canceled the taping of her show today for air tomorrow.  According to a statement, quote, Ellen is taking a long weekend and will be back with a new show on Tuesday.  Ms.  Degeneres may also be uncomfortable with the revelation of what is claimed to be the voice of her own publicist leaving a message for the pet adoption agency. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re filing a legal case against you.  We‘re going to be contacting the media.  This is not going to be good for your store or your organization. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s bring in comedian Christian Finnegan, also a regular contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever,” and the new show “What‘s New With Celebrity Dogs?”  Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, VH-1:  Good evening, Heir Olbermann. 

OLBERMANN:  Where do—What—if that‘s the publicist, what, she never watched “The Sopranos?”  You only make threats in person, where they can‘t record you, right? 

FINNEGAN:  Listen, when you have a client with a fan base like Ellen‘s, you can afford to throw your weight around a little bit.  They are incredibly loyal and by virtue of the fact that they watch daytime talk shows, you know they have a lot of free time to send angry e-mails. 

OLBERMANN:  This whole thing, do you think it is to any degree blowing back on her at this point?  Because if she knew about that call and then she made this into the international incident that it is now, she might not also be the sharpest wheel at the cheese shop either. 

FINNEGAN:  I was really weirded out by the whole situation.  I turned on my TV.  Ellen is balling her eyes out.  And I thought the same thing you did, Keith.  Oh, my god, the Indigo Girls broke up.  Thank God.  God forbid. 

OLBERMANN:  She is taking the weekend off.  Reportedly one of the women who owns the dog adoption agency—and I don‘t know when we started to have dog adoption agencies—but she is home and on medication.  She is so shattered by this.  And this story, which makes the Monica Lewinsky saga look like the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Michael Jackson trial look like Gore v. Bush, continues to move on without any of the principals here.

I‘m missing something.  Why didn‘t they just give the dog back to the kids? 

FINNEGAN:  No, it all sounds very innocent.  She gave it to her hair dresser.  What Ellen is not telling you is that Ellen gets her hair done by Michael Vick.  Bad news stylist, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that would explain it, Christian, very good.  Even if this is this case where this dog adoption agency is, you know, protecting all other dog adoption agencies and every contract yet unsigned on the universe, and they‘re trying to make an important point about following rules for the sake of the pet.  Where is the friend or the family member or the lawyer or the spokesman or the PR agent who goes up to them and says, you know what, people get it.  Now you should give the dog back to the girls? 

FINNEGAN:  Actually, her PR—the shelter‘s PR people had to talk them down.  Their original plan was to bust down the door at 3:00 in the morning and set fire to the Barbie Dream House, just to send a message. 

OLBERMANN:  And go in like they got Elian Gonzalez. 

FINNEGAN:  Exactly.  Hard and fast, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Unless somebody budges, it looks like Iggy is in this new home.  Does it scare the crap out of people who are interested in pets through adoption, you know, rather than that old way of going to a pound?  Do you now have that same fear that people adopt kids have that the rightful parents are going to call for this Chihuahua later on in the year? 

FINNEGAN:  It is very sad.  Now to find this kind of love and companionship you‘re going to have to drive around your neighborhood on a Saturday looking for a crayon free puppy sign taped to a mail box.  That can take upwards of 45 minutes. 

OLBERMANN:  Right and the eight-year-old with the sign is going to make you sign a 47-page contract.  Last point, PETA weighed in with a statement; “at a time when so many people in Hollywood like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are making impetuous pet purchases, PETA commends Ellen for adopting a homeless animal from a shelter.  We know Ellen was trying to do the right thing.  She just missed a step.” 

How in the hell did Spears and Hilton get dragged into this thing.

FINNEGAN:  You‘re never going to go wrong contrasting yourself with Britney and Paris.  That is like moral relativism at its finest.  If Jose Padilla‘s lawyers had used that strategy, he‘d be a free man right now. 

OLBERMANN:  Dirty bomb, probation violations, dirty bomb, secure—

Christian Finnegan, comedian and contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever,” great thanks for the update on the degenerating Degeneres story. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,632nd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  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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