updated 11/19/2007 10:48:41 AM ET 2007-11-19T15:48:41

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Mike Wise

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  The administration again uses the troops as blackmail—give us the money or they will have to throw the bullets or something.  The Democrats block 70 billion in war funding.  No strings attached.  The Republicans block 50 billion in war funding withdrawals attached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER:  He refuses to have any accountability for the money spent in Iraq.  $800 billion?  Shouldn‘t there be some minimal accountability?  That‘s all we are asking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But the president insists it is the Democratic majority

that -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  So far it‘s acting like a teenager with a new credit card.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nine million for the George H.W. Bush Points of Light Project, 24 million for the Laura Bush 21st century Librarian Program.  Regan and Kerik and Giuliani and FOX day four.  Did Roger Ailes have Bill O‘Reilly use O.J. Simpson to bash Judith Regan?  Why did Mitt Romney lead the other Republicans to stampede out of FOX hosted debate in Iowa?  And Giuliani‘s top fundraiser offers a million dollars to anybody who could disprove any of the Swift Boat claims against John Kerry and offer promptly by John Kerry.  The debate mud (ph)will taken up by Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t mind taking hits on my record, on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud; at least we can hope that it‘s both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Barry Bonds may turn himself in to authorities by Monday.  Has baseball already turned him out?  A passive-aggressive, non-suspension suspension.  And if he has to go to jail, wouldn‘t he want the Lindsay Lohan treatment?  She sweats it out in the big house for 84 minutes.  And the ultimate minute of Bill O. hypocrisy for financing the movie “Redacted.”  He says Mark Cuban is un-American, helping the terrorists.  Last night middle of O‘Reilly‘s Show a commercial for “Redacted.”  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bill O‘Reilly, you are a moron.

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This is Friday, November 16th, 354 days until the 2008 presidential election; 374 days after the 2006 midterm elections.  Day one, perhaps, of true Democratic Party backbone on the anti-war mandate that returned it to power.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Democrats vowing not to be bullied by President Bush about Iraq even as their proposal that would have paid for the war effort, strings attached was blocked in a procedural vote by Republicans. 

They even seem prepared to let the White House sit and stew until the New

Year when the Pentagon claims it will be on the brink of going broke.  The

$50 million Bridge Fund Bill would have required Mr. Bush to have most

combat forces out of Iraq by December 2008.  Senate majority leader, Reid

telling his colleagues this morning they have a choice to make

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER:  If you think we should simply stay the course, approve the president‘s request.  But if you think it‘s time to turn the page and take a responsible path out of Iraq, approve the Bridge Fund Bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Four Republicans joined the Democrats in voting for the Bridge Fund Bill, 53-45.  Senators Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snow of Maine, Susan Collins also of Maine, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.  The measure still seven votes shy of what was need, the 60 to advance.  The four Democrats in the race for president rushing back from last night‘s debate in Vegas to make that vote—Senators Biden, Clinton and Obama voting for the bill and Senator Dodd against it.  There was more for them to vote upon when they returned.  The Republican leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell slipping his own interim Iraq Funding Bill worth $70 billion on to the docket, one that had no strings attached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, ® MINORITY LEADER:  We should not leave our forces in the field without the funding that they need to accomplish the mission for which they have been deployed.  We need to get our troops everything they need and we need to get it to them now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  How about the returns they need on those round trip tickets?  The Republican bill, an even bigger flop, it was blocked by a vote of 45-53.  Before and after this morning‘s washout, the White House claiming the troops in Iraq will be left empty-handed since there has been no significant funding for the Pentagon since Tuesday.  That‘s when the president approved 470 billion for the Department of Defense.  Democratic senators saying the Defense Secretary Gates informed them on Wednesday that there‘s enough money for the army in Iraq until February and for the marines until March.  Time now to turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  When Democrats on the Hill have caved before, they have used often the fact that they‘re on a vacation as the excuse for doing that.  They did that notably in the summer with FISA.  This notion that the White House would be able to label “a do nothing” Congress over the break obviously loomed large.  The White House spokesman, Tony Fratto was already trying to hang them with that label again today.  Where did the Democrats suddenly come to this slight fearlessness?

WOLFFE:  Well, first of all, the White House line about the Pentagon should be engaged in military maneuvers, not accounting maneuvers as if everybody inside the Department of Defense is just plotting how where to put the troops.  Look, there are plenty of people in the Pentagon who can deal with this kind of accounting trouble.  They do it all the time.  They have thousands of employees who are engaged in administrative affairs.  What Democrats have become smart about is pushing this into the middle of the primary season—the presidential primary season.  That‘s where they feel a greater strength because they know public opinion is with them on the war.  They haven‘t actually gained strength in Congress.  In fact, things have actually turned worse in a sense because Republicans are much more solid behind President Bush than they used to be.  But they are playing better politics when it comes to the presidential cycle.

OLBERMANN:  This Pentagon claim that—once again, we have heard this six or seven times now, I guess, that they are going to run out of money in Iraq, or that Secretary Gates would not be able to re-appropriate enough of the 470 billion that he was given on Tuesday.  At the news briefing this afternoon, Bill Plante, the veteran correspondent from CBS pointed out that since nothing is set in stone, would the White House threaten Congress by saying—if you don‘t do this, this is what‘s going to happen.  That has all the credibility of saying - you know,it may might rain tomorrow.  Other than this repeated support the troop, support the troops mantra, when it comes to the administration‘s argument, is there actually very little there - there?

WOLFFE:  Well, you know, what this is going to end up with is stories about troops not having the equipment they need.  Now, of course, Democrats have been talking about troops not having the equipment they need for many years now.  But the White House is lining up a situation either later this year or early next year, where they‘re going to have lots of stories about troops not having what they need in the battlefield.  It‘s very clear that that will play out and they think, inside the White House, that it will be very effective.  Because, in the end, who knows how these budgets are spread around.  Nobody wants troops in a difficult situation to be even more exposed than they already are.  Again, this comes back down to really a much broader debate about whether the troops are actually being effective in Iraq.  And, of course, for the White House and Republicans in general, they see a strategic victory where Democrats really don‘t.

OLBERMANN:  And, of course, there is always the risk that the American public would say, even using the White House figure on what the wars have cost, you have $804 billion for this and you run out of money?  Is there any calculation in the White House that they might be the ones who get slapped around by the public and not a Congress that‘s saying, enough without some sort of planned de-escalation?

WOLFFE:  Well, that is the Democratic tactic here.  As they talk through some of these other spending bills, to contrast the spending that they want to have on things like children‘s health insurance with the cost of running the war in Iraq for another week and there are many Republicans I speak to on Capitol hill, really fiscal conservatives who are sick and tired of the budget games—the endless rounds of supplementals, a lack of accountability, never mind about a time line, they just want to know where this money is being spend, how it‘s being spent and to get some of these contractors in line as well—really basic management of government that Republicans used to have as one of their by words.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we can always ask the Krongard brothers.  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  Great thanks, have a good weekend.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If you thought Bush‘s war was the only thing rendering his new found zeal for fiscal authority—both hypocritical and surreal.  Sit down, please.  This was our budget slashing, earmark bond (ph) going president on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The majority was elected on the pledge of fiscal responsibility, so far it‘s acting like a teenager with a new credit card.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH:  This year alone, the leadership in Congress has proposed to spend $22 billion more than my budget provides.  Now, some of them claim that‘s not really much of a difference.  The scary part is they seem to mean it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Congressdaily.com has now obtained a watchdog group‘s preliminary study showing while earmarks more than doubled under President Bush and the GOP Congress to nearly $30 billion.  The Democratic first budget will reduce that to less than 20 billion.  It gets better.  “Congressional Quarterly” reports that in the Health and Human Services Bill Mr. Bush vetoed because of earmarks, the two biggest earmarks were Republican earmarks.  It gets better.  The number one source of all earmarks, President Bush.  He stuck 580 of them, $15 billion worth in the military construction and Veteran Affairs Bill alone.  It gets better.  The examiner of D.C. reports, the Health and Human Services Bill had more than a billion in Bush earmarks, including a reading program criticized by government auditors for steering contracts to favored companies as well as 8.9 million earmarked for the Points of Light Foundation.  The pet project of a wealthy Texan with close ties to the Bush family, very close.  And 24 million more earmarked for a program formerly known as the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.  One great librarian they‘re building.  Let‘s turn to Eugene Robinson, columnist and associate editor at the “Washington Post.”  Thanks for your time tonight, Gene.

EUGENE WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON POST:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m going to look for the correct political term here to describe the president regarding earmarks.  Is it psychotic?

WASHINGTON:  Well, let‘s start with cynical.

OLBERMANN:  OK.

WASHINGTON:  And then, well, by the time we get down here tonight we‘ll probably be up to psychotic.  I‘m not sure.  Look, you know, as you well know and have documented just now, over the past six years, really.  Remember Bill Clinton left this country with a budget surplus and a balance budget.  George Bush and the Republican majority for six years spent money in a way that would embarrass any self-respecting drunken sailor.  It‘s just amazing.  You know, the bridge to nowhere in Alaska and everything else.  And so, now, it seems the White House strategy, political strategy is to turn around and suddenly claim to have re-found the good old Republican religion on fiscal conservatism and fiscal restraint which is absurd at this point.  Nobody‘s going to believe it.

OLBERMANN:  Over the summer, the newspaper “The Hill” asked Republicans about this conflict between Mr. Bush‘s earmark rhetoric and his earmark actions.  One might call that duplicity was the response of Senator Craig of Idaho and he may be an expert on that.  Congressman in Idaho (ph) called it inconsistent.  Congressman Hobson (ph) said simply the White House has every earmarks in everything.  And even the Republicans in Congress are objecting to this.  Who is the president trying to help with it?

WASHINGTON:  Well, look, genuine fiscally Conservative Republicans are apoplectic what‘s going on, not just in Congress but out in the country.  I hear from people all the time who say, you know, I have been a Republican all my life.  One of the reasons is I believe in fiscal restraint and, you know, watching our money and thrift and, you know, I‘m so sorry I voted for George Bush because look at what he‘s done to the financial health of this country.  The Republicans on the Hill, seemed to have decided that for now, at least, they will stick with the president.  They‘re sticking with him on the war.  Yes, even though talk about fiscal restraint, I mean $800 billion war that‘s mostly been funded with supplemental requests not even in the main budget.  It‘s like here‘s my budget and, by the way, you know a small detail, I need $800 billion to run a war.  The Republicans don‘t have a whole lot of issues right now and Bush is trying to give them one but in doesn‘t look like a good one for them to me.

OLBERMANN:  Have we perhaps misunderstood the whole administration here maybe it‘s not creeping fascism and maybe it‘s not Dr. Strange Love maybe it‘s good old turn over every dollar you can get your hands on to your friends in private interest?

WASHINGTON:  I think this is an administration that, at some fundamental level, does not believe in government.  Because, remember, at the same time, we had the drunken sailor spending, we have tax cuts left and right, particularly for the wealthiest Americans.  But, nonetheless, tax cuts robbing the nation‘s coffers of moneys that would go to pay for say a $800 billion war.  I think the reason is - I just don‘t think George Bush fundamentally believes that government can do good for people so, you know, why does it need the money?  Let‘s just spend it on the librarian projects.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m more cynical than that I think somebody is got to be making a profit somewhere.  Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post.”  Great thanks, have a good weekend, Gene.

WASHINGTON:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Giuliani-FOX scandal - Roger Ailes getting Bill O‘Reilly to smear Judith Regan on Rudy Giuliani‘s behalf using as his weapon the O.J. Simpson book?  And after Bill O. temper transfer (ph) against the movie “Redacted,” you will not believe which commercial for which movie ran in the middle of his show.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Now, the other Republicans figured out the fix is in for Rudy Giuliani at FOX News.  Mitt Romney leads a walkout from the FOX debate next month in Iowa.  A swift boater offers a million dollars to anybody who could prove they were wrong at all about John Kerry, his offer now has been taken up by John Kerry.  And hypocrisy with a capital H.  Bill O‘Reilly has wound up calling his own employers at FOX is loyal to America.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Ninety-one years ago today, Yogi Bear was born and huckleberry hound, (INAUDIBLE), snag, Ogie doggie, Beanie boy, snap from snap on pop, crack and crunch and captain crunch.  Charles Dowson Doss Butler is gifted a comedic voice actor as the 20th century ever saw was born on this date in 1916.  On that noted, boo boo, let‘s play Oddball.

Speaking of boo boos, Alexis Glick and the company on the legs channel, I‘m sorry the FOX Business Channel, with one of the great factual mistakes of the year in television this morning.  Boy, were the folks at apple which has made no major acquisition this week surprised when they heard this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE HOST:  There‘s some news coming across the tape right now we are seeing from “Wall Street Journal” that Apple is buying an 8 percent stake in AMD.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE HOST:  I think it‘s a smart play by both companies to get involved with each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE HOST:  And we are getting some more news on -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE HOST:  It‘s not apple.  Let me just correct ourselves here.  It is not apple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE HOST:  I thought it would have been great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE HOST:  It was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE HOST:  We got a little ahead ourselves here on that.  Apple Dubai?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE HOST:  Oh.  The Arabs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Apple, apple Dubai.  Arab, something with an A.  Next week, she‘ll try to identify the relative whereabouts of the elbow.  On the other hand, great dress.

And to Escondido, California where nothing says happy holidays like a woman wearing a Santa hat robbing a local 7/11.  Yes, it‘s a bona fide, real life bad Santa, only less drunk and less southern Billy Bob Thornton charm.  She has robbed at least six other local stores.  Police say she‘s still on the lamb, presumably blending in with all the other Santa hat-wearing folks that emerge this time of year.

Presidential Debates, now seen more often than National Football League games on TV.  The day after score card with Jonathan Alter and the day after for Barry Bonds as he contemplates when to turn himself in.  The big question lingers—has he played his last game?  Those stories ahead.

But first time for COUNTDOWN  top three best persons in the world.  Number three, Best old left hand.  Joe Nuxhall has died.  He was a pitcher, coach, announcer for baseball Cincinnati Reds off and on for 64 years.  He was 79.  He was also as you might do the math here, the youngest Major League Baseball player ever.  Believed to be the major pro athlete ever in a team sport.  Making pitching debut during the second world war for the Reds at the age of 15.  Number two, best honesty.  Steven Biddle, adviser to General David Petraeus, send in by Council on Foreign Relations asked about recent reported improvements on the ground in Iraq.  Is this what is called the surge or good diplomacy by the U.S. military or just luck.  Biddle‘s answered quote, “All of those things have some roll but I would put luck is probably the biggest.”  Wow.  Thanks for that.  And after Dick Cheney finds out, best of luck in your next job.  One number, best proving our point, the Web site Digg, some folks calling themselves brave new films put together a segment called FOX News porn.  A much graphic version but actually not that much graphic of Robert Greenwald‘s mini-documentary on all the porn, nude photographs, lesbian kissing and such that winds up on fix news.  The Digg it folks briefly ban at the FOX News porn clip and suspended Brave New films for inappropriate content.  The content was 100 percent clips from actual FOX noise newscasts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On day four of Regan and Kerik and Giuliani and FOX the wheels might be coming off for the former mayor.  His was the big candidate profile on ABC‘s World News last night.  He told Charlie Gibson that he only thought about running for president after what else - 9/11.  The problem as the Web site Thinkprogress.org notes is the Giuliani is quoted as pledging sometime next year we‘ll focus on what happens to me in the future, whether I decide to be a candidate for president or senator.  That quote was from the “New York Daily News” of November 20th, 1998.  That‘s pre-9/11.  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: It‘s not how he contradicted himself on ABC but how often he‘s been on FOX News that maybe the newest part of that Giuliani scandal, 21 cable news appearances, only five of them not on FOX.  The upcoming FOX December GOP Iowa debate now canceled by the company after Mitt Romney said he would not participate.  Romney‘s official reason that there are just too many debates for him to attend them all.  Unofficially, draw your own inference.  The second day connect the dots headline of the day.  Salon.com today were noting that some of Judith regain‘s most virulent critics during the O.J. Simpson book debacle worked directly to Roger Ailes.  One of the most vicious voices, Bill O‘Reilly‘s, who first announce about the book, quote: “Americans have got to draw a line in the sand here.  Well, now become a force, we, the people to punish the people who are rewarding Simpson.”  The day FOX‘s publishing arm cancel the Regan-Simpson book, he actually phoned in to his own show while on vacation out of the country to express his delight.  That‘s not just the FOX attack dogs supporting Giuliani, his top fundraiser, having raised over half a million dollars from oil companies for the campaign, none other that financier of the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, the oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who is still claiming that his smear of John Kerry was totally accurate.  Having this week, publicly offered $1 million to anybody who can prove that a single allegation is false.  Senator Kerry himself today took that up challenge, vowing to give the million-dollar prize to paralyze veterans of America.  Joining us now, “Huffington Post” founder and author of “On becoming Fearless”, Arianna Huffington.  Thanks for your time tonight, Arianna.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to the swift boat thing in a moment but first, did Mitt Romney by the very act of dropping out of a FOX debate just gives us an indication that the other Republicans might be seeing through the Rudy Giuliani scam over there at FOX?

HUFFINGTON:  I think they did and in a way, Judith Regan‘s lawsuit is kind of helping pull the curtain and making the other Republican candidates realized and be public about it that they can get a more fair and balanced shake somewhere else.  I mean, it‘s a little bit like going into a boxing match where the referee is your opponent‘s brother.  And you know, it was not just Romney who got out of the Iowa FOX debate.  We will also remember, FOX sending a legal letter to John McCain asking him to take down the video that he was using on his Web site and in ad from the FOX debate, something which they clearly did not do with Giuliani.  So, it‘s been a consistent pattern of protecting and backing Giuliani whether it‘s Sean Hannity or any of the other FOX anchors.

OLBERMANN:  You mentioned the ref as brother.  It might be actually considering talking about FOX News, I think first cousin is the actual analogy there based on John Ellis the guy who called the race.

HUFFINGTON:  I should not be using spouse references with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  No, but - the first cousin was the guy who called the 2000 election for Bush on FOX.  It was Bush‘s first cousin, John Ellis.  In any event, to the FOX attack on Judith Regan, who is still were working for Rupert Murdock at that time, in the infamous Andrew Macros (ph) suit, Bill O‘Reilly had this quote that seems to be perfectly applicable here. “If you cross FOX, it‘s not just me, it‘s just me, it‘s Roger Ailes who will go after you.  I‘m the street guy out front making loud noises about the issues, but Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day, Bam!  The person gets what‘s coming to them.”

If that‘s not an Ailes-ordered hitch, the whole use the O.J.  Simpson book to discredit Judith Regan or an Ailes inspired hit, it‘s quite a coincidence, is it not?

HUFFINGTON:  Yes.  And also, this really that sense of killing the baby while he‘s still in the crib, kind of preemptively, dirtying her up, using you know, the usual attacks on women of course, you know, she‘s a little nutty, she is a little slutty. Then the cherry on Sunday was the anti-semitism and then suddenly, you know, News Corps being overcome by a corporate conscious and canceling the O.J. book.  All of that looked really premeditated.  Now, what we see in her lawsuit—incidentally, it‘s very interesting that Roger Ailes is not named in it.  It‘s a little bit like Lord Voldemort.  He‘s the one who must not be named. 

But everybody assumes that he is the one behind it.  And, in that lawsuit, it‘s clear that the reason for all of that challenging and taking on of Judith Regan is entirely based on News Corps‘ and Fox‘s and Roger Ailes‘ attempt to protect Giuliani, and discredit her before any testimony in the Kerik lawsuit or when his indictment comes up, or in any other aspect.  Because she knew Kerik really well.  From what she said to a lot of people, he is a bit of a border line personality.  There was this border line personality being nominated to run homeland security. 

OLBERMANN:  Arianna Huffington, author of “On Becoming Fearless,” founder, editor of “HuffingtonPost.com.”  Great thanks for stopping by.  Have a good weekend. 

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  One Fox note, not directly connected to Giuliani, but perhaps the ultimate moment of the channel‘s hypocrisy.  You will recall Bill O‘Reilly‘s flame out Monday over Dallas Maverick‘s owner Mark Cuban‘s financing of the movie “Redacted,” which fictionalizes real life examples of the brutality of the war in Iraq.  O‘Reilly said, quote, during World War II, President Roosevelt might have incarcerated Mark Cuban and General Patton would have slapped the tar out of him. 

He called for protest marches against “Redacted.”  Tuesday, he said Cuban was, quote, helping the terrorists, period.  Last night, in the middle of “The O‘Reilly Factor,” at 8:37 p.m. Eastern time, Fox News played a commercial for the movie “Redacted.”  We are told producers bought two ad slots on Fox.  They specifically told Fox‘s sales department that it was for ads for “Redacted” and the producers fully expected the commercials would be canceled, which obviously they were not, which brings new meaning to another one of O‘Reilly‘s comments about “Redacted,” that, quote, no loyal American should support the movie. 

O‘Reilly thus suggesting that Fox News Channel is either disloyal to this country or that he and it are great big fat flaming frauds.

The cutting edge of Hillary Clinton taking on her fellow Democrats.  After a relatively poor debate, a strong one.  And Barry Bonds will plead not guilty.  But in terms of his baseball career, will it make any difference at all?  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Not that she was necessarily in much of a slump, but Senator Hillary Clinton may be adopting the moniker once attributed to her husband, the comeback kid.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, if the senator‘s last debate strategy might have been described as above the fray, with the undesired side effect of seeming a bit fuzzy, last night was direct engagement, with an occasional edge, to boot.  The Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada was not to be a repeat of Senator Clinton‘s version of rope a dope, as when Senator Barack Obama tried to continue a successful line of attack from the last debate. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions.  And that is not what we have seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues. 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He talks a lot about stepping up and taking responsibility and taking strong positions.  But when it came time to step up and decide whether or not he would support universal health care coverage, he chose not to do that.  His plan would leave 15 million Americans out.  That‘s about the population of Nevada, Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. 

We can have a different politics.  But let‘s not forget here that the people who we‘re against are not going to be giving up without a fight.  The Republicans are not going to vacate the White House voluntarily. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And if you thought Senator Clinton subtly implied there that Senator Obama did not have what it takes to beat those Republicans, you might probably be right.  For former Senator John Edwards, subtly was tossed out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The most important issue is she says she will bring change to Washington, while she continues to defend a system that does not work, that is broken, that is rigged, and is corrupt. 

CLINTON:  I respect all of my colleagues on this stage.  And, you know, we are Democrats.  We are trying to nominate the very best person we can to win.  And I don‘t mind taking hits on my record, on issues.  But when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it‘s both accurate and not right out of the Republican play book. 

But for him to be throwing this mud and making these charges, I think really detracts from what we are trying to do here tonight.  We need to put forth a positive agenda for America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And on the issue of driver‘s licenses for illegal immigrants, this time it was evidently Senator Obama‘s turn to look flummixed.  He made several attempts to explain his support for the concept.  But when Senator Clinton was asked if she supported driver‘s licenses for undocumented workers, she answered simply no.  Let‘s turn now to “Newsweek Magazine” senior editor Jonathan Alter. 

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The most intense sparring in the two hour debate, as has been noted widely since last night, came in the first 12 minutes.  Both of those clips were from the first 12 minutes.  Did Senator Clinton diffuse both Obama and Edwards early on, or was that just how the questions were pulled out of the hat? 

ALTER:  Well, it was some combination.  But, you know, Stella got her groove back.  She had her old mojo in these debates.  She recovered nicely from what happened the last time.  Also, she had what was a hometown crowd.  It felt like they were in Chapaqua, not in Las Vegas.  When she would say something, go after her rivals, the audience cheered.  When Edwards and Obama would go after her, they would boo.  It was very clear that, for whatever reason, she had the crowd, which was a big help. 

OLBERMANN:  Now, to what do you attribute that?  Because when he Obama and Edwards were booed by the audience, after trying to go after her, did they reach some sort of speed limit on how aggressively they can go after her?  Was she getting some sort of positive make good after the McCain B-word incident?  What did it do and how does it effect what we are going to see going in to the Iowa caucuses? 

ALTER:  I think part of what happened is that Obama made a mistake in comparing her to Romney and Giuliani.  That‘s always a loser in primaries.  It really hurt John McCain in 2000 when he compared George W. Bush to Bill Clinton.  People in the party really don‘t—they think that‘s out of bounds to compare your inter-party—intra-party rivals with the bad guys on the other side.  So that was a mistake. 

And Edwards has been coming on so strong that I think he did reach his kind of speed limit.  But, you know, some of what Hillary said was quite aggressive.  She was counter punching hard there at the beginning of the debate, but doing it in a pretty effective way. 

OLBERMANN:  On the issue of driver‘s licenses for illegal aliens, Senator Obama had to have known that question was coming, and didn‘t seem to have a game plan on how to answer it.  And Senator Clinton obviously had a real hole to dig herself out of, no matter what she meant to say and what some people perceived her as saying.  Why did that work out the way it did? 

ALTER:  The well, the first reason is because when she said no, Wolf Blitzer didn‘t follow up and say well, could you say a little more, like about why you are in different place on this issue now?  So, that was just a lucky break for them, that there wasn‘t a follow-up on that particular no answer.  Obama, you are right, he should have been better prepared with a crisper response.  But he was trying to avoid a sound bite where he sounded like he was for a position that even Eliot Spitzer doesn‘t support anymore, that could, you know, be used against him down the road by Republicans, were he to be the nominee. 

He, I think, is trying, like Hillary, to be a little careful not to say something that could hurt him in November, were he to win the primaries. 

OLBERMANN:  Comparing the last two performances from Senator Clinton and the rebound effect, whatever degree the rebound was necessary.  That could be argued about.  There certainly was a different impact in this debate than the previous one.  What does that say about her ability to campaign?  Is she still improving upon her performance?  Is this somebody who is just really beginning to get what she needs to do out there? 

ALTER:  Well, I think she has been improving all year long and actually, you know, has done much better in all of these debates than people expected at the beginning of the year.  Her stump speech, which I saw in Iowa the other week, is better than it had been.  She is connecting better to audiences. 

But it‘s also true that Edwards and Obama have brought up their games.  I was with Obama last week in Iowa.  And he is also connecting.  You know, he was seen as having kind of won the Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner in front of 9,000 people last Saturday night in Des Moines.  So, you know, this thing is still real tight in Iowa.  And that‘s what makes it fun.  These national polls are much less relevant to what‘s going on out on the ground in Iowa. 

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek.”  Have a good weekend. 

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I hereby sentence you to a term of not less than an hour, but not more than 90 minutes.  Exactly, what kind of a deterrent is jail if Lindsay Lohan‘s stretch was shorter than the amount of time she could get from a parking meter. 

When did Jesus Christ die?  Do not ask our winner in tonight‘s worst person competition.  That‘s next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A swift serving of justice in the world of entertainment beginning our number two story tonight, swifter than anybody expected in the case of Lindsay Lohan, originally sentenced last August to spend a single day in jail for drunk driving and cocaine possession.  The star of “Freaky Friday” spending a quickie Thursday at the LA County Jail locked in a holding cell, then released into the wild again, in just one hour and 24 minutes, an excruciating four minutes longer than Nicole Richie spent for driving under the influence. 

Lohan pleaded no contest and checked into rehab twice after incidents that included wrecking her Mercedes in Beverly Hills and a car chase in Santa Monica.  Of her 84 minutes in stir, the law insists she did not get star treatment.  Quoting a sheriff‘s spokesman, absolutely not; this is what we do for more mostly everybody in this position. 

And a report tonight that Britney Spears recently bought a hoodie with a four leaf clover on it, joking that she could use some good luck.  That according to “OK! Magazine.”  No such luck in her latest battle over custody of her kids.  According to TMZ.com, this video of Spears running a red light while texting on her cell phone with her sons in the back seat was submitted to the judge, Commissioner Gordon, by Kevin Federline‘s attorneys in a closed door hearing. 

Commissioner Gordon issuing a sealed order that the attorneys would not discuss, but several sources say Spears is now banned from driving with her children. 

Barry Bonds, speaking of being banned, reportedly making plans to turn himself into the authorities.  Should he also be making plans to start his post-baseball career right now?  That‘s ahead.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s Worst Persons in the World. 

The bronze to Oliver North, appearing with Sean Hannity.  We wouldn‘t say if he meant six weeks or six years from now, America‘s least honored soldier explaining, quote, we are about to see VI day.  Victory in Iraq, Hannity parroted.  Colonel, it seems to me you have much more credibility talking about, say, Victory in Denmark Day.  Think about it.

The runner-up, Hannity himself.  In one of his nightly assaults on Hillary Clinton, he answered the fact that while in the White House she had little turnover on her staff, by saying, quote, OK, because they were scared to probably leave for—and then he just sort of trailed off, possibly because sometimes even Sean Hannity just runs out of bull crap. 

But the winner—and I don‘t think we have mentioned him yet tonight

who blasts secular progressives and makes fun of people who slip up on their biblical knowledge; he made a bible reference himself; “go to revelations in the Bible and look at the prediction for the end of the world.  This was written, what, 5,000 years ago?” 

Five thousand years ago?  All right, let me go through this slowly for you.  The Revelations in the Book of Revelations are said to have been written by John after an Angel came to see him with these revelations from Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ, Bill.  Now, he was supposed to have died roughly 2007 years ago, which is where we get the number on the calendar, the calendar things with the years on it.  It‘s a.d., ano domini (ph), year of our lord.  It is sort of dated back to the death—

Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s worst -- 5,000 years ago—person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Barry Bonds planning to plead not guilty to all charges, currently in Colorado hunting with his former San Francisco Giants teammate Ryan Klesko, may turn himself into authorities as soon as Monday.  That as reported by ESPN‘s Pedro Gomez.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, will all of his teammates now become former teammates.  And might the only uniform Bonds wears in 2008 be the old orange jumpsuit. 

Bonds‘ attorney, Mike Rains, promising the not guilty pleas to the charges of obstruction of justice and perjury, also analogized Bush administration incompetence.  Rains questioning the government‘s case, quoting, “every American should worry about a Justice Department that doesn‘t know if water boarding is torture, and can‘t tell the difference between prosecution on the one hand, and persecution on the other.”

They water boarded Bonds?  Victor Conti, the former head of BALCO, the company that allegedly supplied Bonds‘ steroids, who did three months in prison for steroids distribution, and the man who conducted the steroid test the government says they have positive results for, says he may testify on behalf of Bonds if there is a trial.  Even though Lance Williams of the “San Francisco Chronicle” told us here last night her thinks it may be the test conducted by Conti that prosecutors are describing as Bonds‘ positive test. 

Mr. Bonds taking the field again.  Again, as we suggested last night, now baseball officials telling ESPN they think Bonds‘ career is over and they wouldn‘t even bother to suspend him.  Bonds‘ last public comments about steroids and his season and career home run records were made to Jim Gray on this newscast last month. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM GRAY, NBC SPORTS ANCHOR:  Those who believe that you have unfairly obtained this record through the use of performance enhancing drugs, what would your response to them be? 

BARRY BONDS, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER:  That‘s not true and it‘s not right and it‘s not fair to me.  It‘s not fair to me.  It‘s not true.  It‘s not fair. 

GRAY:  You think, in some ways, that you are taking the brunt, and you are being unfairly singled out for the entire industry, and the problems that they have had? 

BONDS:  I truly believe I have been singled out, definitely, 100 percent. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, ask Mark Mcgwire about that.  Let‘s now turn to the sports columnist of the “Washington Post,” Mike Wise.  Good evening, Mike. 

MIKE WISE, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So I‘m sticking to my assessment from last night.  Nobody has to suspend him.  Nobody has to ban him.  Nobody has to convict him now, because no baseball team in its right mind would sign him or anybody else under active indictment, correct? 

WISE:  I think you have got it.  Barry Bonds, without even a perjury conviction, is probably lugging enough things with him right now that he is going to have to check a carry on.  This won‘t fit into the overhead compartment.  When you look at what he is facing, diminishing skills and age and everything against him, I can‘t see in god‘s name what general manager would take that risk. 

Now you want to say, never, never—if he could be a DH for somebody and jack one ball over the wall to get them into the playoffs.  But there is so much here.  And what‘s goings to come out in the trial, I think, is really not going to look good for him. 

OLBERMANN:  I was thinking just now, the only owner right now who would be crazy enough—or the only team that might be crazy enough to do something like this would be the New York Yankees.  And, on the other hand, the violation of the code would be something the Yankees would never do.  So his one shot is out the window here, I think. 

WISE:  Yes.  You want to say—in New York, I saw it happen with Latrelle Sprewell (ph).  If you can rehabilitate yourself there, you can do it anywhere. 

OLBERMANN:  But the Steinbrenner Academy would never go for that. 

WISE:  No, he would not. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, and this passive aggressive kind of banishment

you don‘t have to actually suspend the guy—it‘s happened before in baseball, long ago, when game fixing and gambling were at their worst in the late teens, the early 20s, during the White Sox scandals, the guys who dealt with gamblers during the 1919 World Series.  There were at least a dozen players, mid range stars, good players, who were simply released and just never got new job offers. 

So unless these charges are dismissed, they can just sort of forget Bonds to death because nobody signs him because he‘s indicted.  Even if he were acquitted, next winter nobody assigns him because he was either in jail or he‘s been acquitted.  But he hasn‘t played in a year and he is 44.  They have built the excuses into the equation now, right? 

WISE:  Yes, and I think, too, the public—if you have interviewed the man on the street today, I think there is a genuine feeling, even before this perjury conviction, that Henry Aaron—Hank Aaron should be still recognized as the genuine home run king.  Barry Bonds, as great as he was—and, lord knows, he would never have had to take a steroid in his life to get in the Hall of Fame.  What he did to probably achieve this record stained him enough publicly that nobody is really thinking to themselves of Barry Bonds, American hero, hall of fame inductee. 

OLBERMANN:  The statistic, the home run, 762, what do you do about it? 

Or, again, do you not need to do about anything it?   

WISE:  I think you hit on the head earlier, the public shame, the public ridicule is going to be so much that even if there was an asterisk ball in the Hall of Fame, even if Barry Bonds actually gave a speech at Cooperstown, in which he was shouted down, it doesn‘t matter.  We all know what happened.  All you have to do is read the book by Mark and Lance Williams, “Game of Shadows.” 

If you don‘t read that book, you can read some excerpts.  It will tell you pretty much what happened. 

OLBERMANN:  We mentioned the ball and the asterisk.  Of course, in that interview, he may have done the dumbest thing of all time by saying to Jim Gray, well, I‘m not going to the Hall of Fame if there is that ball with the asterisk on it.  Voters can now say, that‘s a good reason not to vote for you. 

Let me ask you, finally, about the Mitchell Report, steroid use in baseball; should the fans be bracing for a winter full of guys retiring at young ages, free agents who surprisingly don‘t get offered contracts by anybody? 

WISE:  Here is the interesting thing, Keith, a lot of people are putting pressure on Bud Selig to suspend Bonds, even though he hasn‘t got a contract and probably no one in their right mind will sign him.  Yet, if you do that—even if you publicly kill him at this time, you basically have to go after everybody that comes out in the Mitchell investigation.  You have to suspend a lot of your players, and your game has to take a bigger hit than it‘s already taken. 

Now, is Bud Selig prepared to do that?  I would love to see it, because I‘m one of these people that think these are the Black Sox of this century. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but if they do that, we would have to play next season with 24 teams, because we will be short of players.  Mike Wise of the “Washington Post,” great thanks. 

WISE:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,661st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann.  See you Sunday night on “Football Night in America.”  Good night and good luck.

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

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