updated 12/5/2007 12:31:55 PM ET 2007-12-05T17:31:55

Guests: Wendy Sherman, Richard Wolffe, Chris Cillizza, Joel McHale

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talk about tomorrow?  Bush knows best, the NIE, the National Intelligence Estimates says Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program, stopped it four years ago.  But it still could mean World War III because of his logic that means they could start it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CALL)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  The NIE says that Iran had a hidden covert nuclear weapons program.  That‘s what it said.  What‘s to say they couldn‘t start another covert nuclear weapons program?

(END VIDEO CALL)

OLBERMANN:  What‘s to say Lindsay Lohan could start another nuclear weapons program?  The president top answers (ph) are not too well and once again it says the Intel must fit this prejudgment.  Does this increase or decrease the chance he‘ll try to start another phony war?

Sex on the city.  The impact is unmistakable.  Rudy Giuliani has shed one quarter of his poll points in a week since he‘s taxpayer funded secured love nest was revealed.  He has now dropped to a tie nationally with Mike Huckabee.  Hypocrisy in capital letters, a demagogue loses it when his network is accused of hyping the marginal issue of immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, TV HOST:  You‘re just another elitist partisan that explains by the “L.A. Times” continues to lose reader.  You‘re a lousy media critic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But those who applaud, Lou Dobbs says—had the immigration rants don‘t know but one of the towering figures in an elitist American sport employing hundreds or thousands of illegal immigrants is Lou Dobbs.

And not immigrants but maybe we can make it illegal.  The list of the 50 dumbest people in Hollywood.  And, no, she didn‘t finish first.  And how sad is it.  The list is 50 and you finish 50?  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

It is really hard one.

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This is Tuesday, December 4th, 366 days until the 2008 presidential election.  There were not already enough proof or facts or evidence have no consequence as White House but the Bush administration appears determined for military confrontation with Iran before it leaves office and that for president seems to think himself a genius because he knows where Iran is.  Today came conclusive evidence about all three.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Faith-based intelligence.  Mr. Bush had a morning news conference arguing that Iran is every bit the threat it once was despite the damning new intelligence report which concludes the Iranian regime halted its nuclear weapons program more than four years ago.  The National Intelligence Estimate dominating question time with Mr. Bush that he‘s previous news conference on October 17th, you might recall that the president had said - people interested in avoiding World War III should be doing all they could to keep Iran from making a nuclear weapon. I - threats much, Mr. President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS:  When you talked about Iraq, you and others in the administration talked about a mushroom cloud then there were no WMD in Iraq.  But it came to Iran, you said on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in ‘03 had already come to light to this administration.  So, can‘t you be accused of hyping this threat and don‘t you worry that that undermines U.S.  credibility?

BUSH:  Not that I want to contradict on our guest reporter such as yourself but I was made aware of the NIE last week.  In August—I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information.  He didn‘t tell me what the information was.  He did tell it was going to take a while to analyze.  Why would you take time to analyze information?  Well, you want to make sure it‘s not disinformation.  You want to make sure the piece of intelligence you have is real.  And secondly, they want to make sure they understand the intelligence they gathered.  If they think it‘s real, then what does it mean?  And it wasn‘t until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, just last week, that depends on what the definition

of “aware” is.  As one highly reliable intelligence community source told

“Harper‘s” magazine yesterday, the NIE has been in substantially the form

in which it was finally submitted for more than six months.  Plus, earlier

this month, the similar report revealed that the vice president, Mr. Cheney

had been holding up publication of the NIE from the better part of the

year.  And that leaves you skeptical about the president‘s claim that did

the same for Jim Axelrod at CBS News

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM AXELROD, CBS NEWS:  Are you saying at no point while the rhetoric was escalating as World War III is making it into the conversation, at no point nobody from your intelligence team from your administration was saying, maybe you want to back it down a little bit?

BUSH:  No.  Nobody ever told me that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nobody ever told him that.  Then more astounding, we didn‘t ask.  With that claim, the birth of yet another scandal which the question needs to be asked, what did the president know and when did he know it?  If only Howard Baker were collecting royalties on that line.  Even Mr. Bush‘s own National Security Adviser disputes the time line.  Stephen Hadley told reporters yesterday that said the president was told in August or September about new intelligence indicating Iran had halted its weapons program.  Mr. Hadley however, the first to float the ludicrous news story that intelligence officials did not reach any conclusions about the true nature of the Iranian threats until last Tuesday, that the president and vice president weren‘t briefed until Wednesday.  Even more ludicrous that the administration‘s policy towards Iran will not be morphing to match the new intelligence.  Even FOX News seemed incredulous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS:  Mr. President, thank you.  I‘d like to ask for one clarification and one question.

BUSH:  Sure.  It depends on what the clarification is.

BAIER:  For clarification is - are you saying that this NIE will not lead to a change in U.S. policy toward Iran or shift in focus?

BUSH:  I‘m saying that I believed before the NIE that Iran was dangerous and I believe after the NIE that Iran is dangerous.  So, our policy remains the same.  I see a danger.  And many in the world see the same danger.  This report is not - OK, everybody needs to relax and quit - report.  This is a report that says—what has happened in the past could be repeated and that the policies used to cause the regime to halt are effective policies and let‘s keep them up, let‘s continue to work together.  Question, please?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Then watch out for those Carthaginians, they may come back, too.  I have a question, though, Mr. President, any chance you‘ll now be taking credit for Iran having abandoned the development of nuclear materials?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  One thing is for certain, the NIE talks about how a carrot and stick approach can now work.  And this is heartening news to people who believe that on the one hand we should exert pressure and on the other hand we should provide the Iranians a way forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This is like a guy falling off a roof into a campfire with the force of the fall putting out the fire and then the guy concludes - the means of firefighting is falling off a roof.  From analogy to psychology, the president‘s now traditionally wants a news conference moment of (inaudible), that the end of this morning Q&A session following questions about the president‘s body language, the reporter is saying he seemed dispirited and about whether Mr. Bush might now be facing a credibility gap with the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  And so, you know, kind of psychology 101 ain‘t working.  It‘s just not working.  You know, I am—I understand the issues.  I clearly see the problems and I‘m going to use the NIE to continue to rally the international community for the sake of peace.  Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Tip your waiters.  The time now to call on our own, Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK:   Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, why did the White House finally release this report?  I mean, obviously, it has not made them look good.  Did the way did it give them time to formulate this new strategy that it‘s apparent total failure to understand what is actually happening in Iran was some sort of positive by-product of trying to get Iran stop doing something it has stopped doing four years ago?

WOLFFE:  Well, first of all, what a great headline that is.  I understand the issues.  I mean, that‘s right up there where events still relevant.  Look, the White House is trying to put the best face on this.  But it is deeply damaging to their policy, to their credibility as if they didn‘t have a credibility problem already of course after Iraq.  And when it comes down to the NIE, there are a couple of ways of looking at it.  One is this whole sort of cat-and-mouse game of when did the intelligence come to light?  With the semantic game about the NIE and the conclusions the president got.  But another way to look at it is that this is the intelligence community backed up by the Defense Secretary, the Secretary of State really saying, enough with the rhetoric, we‘ve got to take a different approach.  And the hawks have got to back down.  And really the hawks have left the ship, they‘ve gone to different jobs and there‘s nobody left in the vice president‘s circle that could stop this NIE from coming out.

OLBERMANN:  The sub-headline here - the story that the intelligence community only figured out what Iran was not up to last Tuesday and the president and the vice president didn‘t hear about it until last Wednesday.  Is anybody buying that and why does that need to be sold so hard?

WOLFFE:  Well, again, listen to what the president said.  He said, I only found out about the NIE—they didn‘t hear about the conclusions.  I mean this is a president who gets briefed all the time.  It feeds into the policy and the public statements and really for a long time—I‘ve been saying on this show and others have noted it, too.  The public rhetoric of this administration did not match what they were saying privately, about the diplomacy or, for instance, about the way they were going to deal with other nations.  I mean, the two tracks didn‘t match.  And frankly that led a lot of us to believe that they didn‘t have the evidence, they were approaching it very differently behind the scenes and look, we can now see why.  It‘s not about when they knew.  It‘s really about why they were making public statement that is they knew privately didn‘t match up to the facts.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that ties into this other question.  The president‘s claim that in August the DNI, Mr. McConnell - Admiral McConnell, it‘s Mike and not John told him we have some new information but didn‘t tell him what the information was and the president didn‘t ask.  Well, apart from the fact that when that was stated he probably calls my friend, John McConnell from ABC radio spit coffee to his nose.  This would not be the first instance in which giving this president the benefit of the doubt means accepting the idea that he‘s an intellectual lightweight who doesn‘t asked that question.  How bad have things become when the most charitable thing you can see about the man who he is briefed every morning by the CIA and at various other times like every other intelligence agency in the book that he did not have a clue about this remarkable 180 on what our Intel was saying to him and to this country about Iranian nukes?

WOLFFE:  Keith, you think McConnell is a difficult man, just think about Ahmadinejad. Look, there‘s a problem here of what the president is really saying.  Now, I expect Mr. President spend a lot of times on and off the record.  He is fascinated by every minute detail about the Iranian regime, every last story about who‘s up and who‘s down, what the quality of the intelligence is and clearly, what we‘re seeing from this NIE is that there are new sources of information about Iran.  It‘s generating a new kind of analysis of what they‘re up to, both on the security side of things and also on the policy political front.  So, it just leads us believe to think that this president who has in the past said they didn‘t have good intelligence, this president once say, what did you got and where is it come from?  I mean, look, he may like to have this public persona of not being curious.  But he asks questions and I got to believe he asked this question of his intelligence folks.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  To sum this up, translate this for us.  He‘s insisting that policy is not going to change regarding Iran.  Does the NIE make it impossible for them to sell a case?  What is going to happen next?  They‘ll continue to talk tough against Iran but we really don‘t have to pay attention to the prospect of waking up one morning and find out there‘s been a strike against Tehran?

WOLFFE:  Well, look, this is the real problem of this whole story.  They hit a brick wall on the sanctions front.  Russia was getting difficult.  The Germans were complaining about all sorts of commercial interests that were in jeopardy.  And so, things were already fracturing.  It‘s incredibly hard to keep the coalition together that they had, the diplomatic coalition on this.  And actually, it had been a pretty successful policy so far of getting the community together.  So, it‘s a credibility and how that damages the policy.  That‘s the lasting thing impact.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek” tonight in Des Moines Iowa, where they are conserving energy, likewise.  Great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  So he‘s an under-informed president either because he didn‘t think to ask or didn‘t want to ask.  Is he still targeting Ahmadinejad the way he targeting Saddam Hussein whether the Intel justifies it or not?

And a presidential wannabe drops one quarter of his national poll number in one week and of the one week followed the revelation of the “Sex on the city” scandal.  Are we safe in suggesting the scandal caused the bottom to fall out?  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If a distant bell goes off in the back of your mind when you hear the Bush administration‘s insistence that its own intelligence suggesting Iran is not threat really means is a really threat perhaps that‘s because you remember the run up to Iraq.  Massaging no into yes, next and later in Worst, Lou Dobbs goes nuts over criticism of his obsession about illegal immigrants.  Why is he not as obsessed with the illegal immigrants he supports?  Hypocrisy in action ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Frantic butt coverage is in full swing in Washington on the wake of the National Intelligence Estimate‘s conclusion that Iran ended it‘s nuclear weapons program four years ago.  Neo-cons senior war-mongerer, Norman Podhoretz suspects the intelligence community of lying and leaking to undermine George W. Bush.  Elected war mongerer, House Minority leader, John Boehner had to hurriedly change the line on his Web site warning that Iran is, quote, “Governed by a fanatic and actively building nuclear weapons.”  For our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: As disturbing as paranoia, disbelief or revisionist it might be, each is better than simply insisting that a devastating report that reveals ones war-rallying cry is unmitigated crap actually confirms the unmitigated crap.

National Security Adviser, Hadley: On one hand, it confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen.  But it also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.

First of all, how many hands you got there, buddy?  Secondly, you made progress by insisting that something was not true, was true?  The argument of course, from the president as aids that anything the NIE might have said, Iran has a bomb, Iran is not trying to get one, would prove Iran is a threat.  The president taking his flawed logic to its climax arguing that even Iran‘s compliance with world pressure proves it is a threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I view this report as a warning signal, that they had the program, they halted the program.  And reason why it‘s a warning signal is that they could restart it.  And the thing that would make a restarted program effective and dangerous is the ability to enrich uranium, the knowledge of which could be passed on to a hidden program.  And so it‘s, to me, the NIE provides an opportunity for us to rally the international community, continue to rally the community, to pressure the Iranian regime to suspend its program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In sum, a stopped program could be restarted bypassing knowledge Iran does not have to a hidden program of the existence of which there is no evidence.  (INAUDIBLE) Let‘s bring in Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former special adviser to President Clinton now one of the principals of the Albright group, former Secretary State‘s consulting firm.  Ambassador Sherman, great thanks for your time tonight.

AMB. WENDY SHERMAN, FMR. SPECIAL ADVISOR TO PRES. CLINTON:  Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  Before dissecting some of the specifics here, does what the administration is doing with this NIE reminds you of what it did with the prewar Intel about Iraq, only this time it‘s not being done entirely in secret, we‘re actually seeing them trying to turn no into yes and black into white?

SHERMAN:  Well, I think the real victim here is the American people because they are left with absolutely no belief whatsoever in the president.  They don‘t know what to believe.  They don‘t know whether what he says makes any sense whatsoever.  He tells them that he didn‘t ask any questions.  He simply didn‘t know even though the director of National Intelligence gave him a heads up about the information.  So, the American people are left wondering, well, we weren‘t right in Iraq.  First, you told us we should go be about to go to war with Iran.  Now he‘s saying, well, we need to keep negotiating because we really kept them from closing down their program which hasn‘t existed since 2003.  So, I think the American people are in a complete quandary.  And the president has given new meaning to the policy of don‘t ask and don‘t tell because he doesn‘t ask and he doesn‘t tell.  He lets others tell and then we have to live with the consequences.

OLBERMANN:  He also spent an extraordinary amount of efforts spinning this report as in fact vindication, not just a minor dent in his Iran policy but in fact it was European officials who are acting against the president‘s wishes who won formal concessions from Iran on nuclear issues in the fall of 2003, exactly when the NIE now believes Iran shut down that program.  What is the real track record of the Bush administration on the subject of Iranian diplomacy?

SHERMAN:  The bush administration was very late to this game.  For a long time, they wouldn‘t engage in any negotiation, even at arm‘s length.  Then, they finally agreed to join the EU3 along with Russia and then China to try to engage with Iran but still at an arm‘s length.  No direct talks at all, only allowing others to put carrots or sticks on the table.  And I think the real issue here is that today we don‘t know what to believe, we don‘t know where to go.  And Iran is still an issue.  I think in the days ahead, Keith, we‘re going to see that an awful lot went on here that nobody knew about.  If you may recall, shortly after Thanksgiving, we had a terrific Middle East photo op in Annapolis, and my guess is the president knew full well that Iran had given up its nuclear weapons program, had halted it but he didn‘t want to put that on the table because in fact, fear of Iran helped get everybody into the room in Annapolis.  I think we may begin to find out that when the negotiators met to talk about another sanctions regime at the U.N. against Iran that the administration knew.  But one of that sanctions negotiation to go forward before the information is shared.  So I think we‘re going to find out a lot in the days ahead and I think the president is glad to have the saber rattling off the table so he can focus on what he hopes will be his legacy on Middle East peace process.  But I think he‘s going to keep coming back from time to time to say Iran‘s a problem just so he keeps some leverage and he can say he was right all along.

OLBERMANN:  And of course, he‘s been well-served by this notion that in fact, Iran is run by a lunatics who could do anything and therefore might attack us, despite the fact that it would be suicidal and pointless.  But buried in the NIE, that bogeyman was addressed, too, the exact quote was - “Tehran‘s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”  Does that not imply that a capable administration could find a way forward peacefully whether it‘s a capable administration in Tehran or one in Washington if it chooses?

SHERMAN:  There‘s no question many of the candidates, certainly the Democratic candidates, certainly, Senator Clinton have called for vigorous diplomacy, to really use all the carrots and sticks we have, American-led diplomacy, not just handing it over to others, that it‘s time for the kind of engagement that would really make a change and take Tehran out of the danger column and put it in a column in the community of nations.  It‘s hard work, it‘s tough work.  Iran has problems, it is a problem.  But the president‘s lost all credibility on the issue.

OLBERMANN:  Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former counselor of the State Department during the Clinton administration.  Great thanks for your time tonight.

SHERMAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The lid blows off the boiling pot that is Lou Dobbs‘ head.  Howard Beal like (INAUDIBLE) about illegal immigrants without the charm of Howard Beal.  And also tonight: His secret support for illegal immigrants.

And when you‘ve stole a red hot sausages, what better getaway vehicle than a crispy cream truck.  They‘ll never look for me in this.  That‘s next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Exactly 89 years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson sailed from Washington for France to attend the peace conference after World War I.  The peace treaty of course, led more or less directly to World War II.  He‘s own attempts to get it ratified by the Senate here led more or less directly to a paralyzing stroke.  What‘s important about the trip is that it is that recently, that an American president left this country while in office for the first time, only 89 years ago.  On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Madison, Wisconsin.  Were, we didn‘t have this tape as proof, we would all be thinking somebody‘s pulling up proverbial legs.  Here you see dash cam footage, a suspect Warren G. Whitelighting, yes, that is his real name, makes his escape.  Born to be a burglar.  He had just stolen eight giant red hot pickled sausages from a convenient store.  Then in the parking lot, the stroke of in the proposition of genius, Mr.  Whitelighting chose a Krispy Kreme donut truck as his giveaway car.  He then led police on a high speed or as high speed as donut truck can get chase to town, scattering the merchandise as you see, that‘s what‘s  falling out of the back of the truck, donuts.  What a waste!  Now, Mr.  Whitelighting bottled up where that term Krispy Kreme have a whole new meaning- in the big house.

In Richmill, Texas, Warren G. Whitelighting can get nothing on this guy, Maynard the red kangaroo, local pet of a local vet escapes from his pen and led police on a mini-chase through the neighborhood.  It seems to be an international epidemic.  You remember the Roo in Australia that actually run in the middle of the stock car race.  Cops in Texas had a tougher time of capturing this kangaroo, running after Maynard at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour for 20 minutes, until somebody was finally able to grab onto his tail.  Much more work than chasing donuts, not to mention, much less tasty.

The writing is on the polls for St. Rudy of 9/11.  How the sex on the city scandal has evidently eroded one quarter of his support in a week. 

Our first year-end list of the dumbest?  The dumbest anything; she didn‘t win it?  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s best persons in the world.

Number three, best timing, the unnamed student drive who passed his road test in Houston yesterday, then let the instructor out of the vehicle and then promptly crashed the car into the side of the Texas Department of Public Safety.  Nobody was hurt, but there is a hole in the Department. 

Number two, best hat, police in Manila in the Philippines, 1,000 or more of whom, deciding to celebrate the impending Yuletide by dumping their traditional police caps and instead donning red and white Santa hats.  Santa cops, Santa cops.  Bill-O got really excited.

And number one, best comeback, spokesman Juan Arbelaez of Spirit Airlines.  It has introduced a cut rate ticket price from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas.  He swears the company had no idea what the acronym would be for its Many Islands Low Fares Campaign, MILF.  When suggested there was a possible obscene interpretation, Mr. Arbelaez, who is clearly a pro in the spokesmanship game, said, quote, the most obscene thing we‘ve noticed is what other carriers have charged to fly the Caribbean.  He did not add, Mrs. Stiffler. 

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OLBERMANN:  Here at COUNTDOWN, we always advise perpetual vigilance against the logical fallacy that just because event B follows event A, that does not automatically mean event A caused Event B.  But when a political candidate‘s popularity tumbles after yet another scandal, the link seems to be undeniable.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the fall and fall of Rudy Giuliani. 

The latest daily Republican presidential primary tracking poll from Rasmussen putting Giuliani in a tie with Mike Huckabee nationally, 18 percent.  A week ago, Giuliani was at 24 percent.  John McCain, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney just four, five and six percentage points behind, respectively.  Giuliani‘s plunge in the polls coming just as he faces new criticism about his business interests. 

The “New York Times” reporting that his law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, lobbied Congress last year for a law that would promote opposition party‘s in Ethiopia.  That is legislation which the Bush administration considers a threat to its anti-terror efforts in that part of Africa.  Mr. Giuliani has also just stepped down from his other firm, Giuliani Partners, which he promised to leave last spring, and which, in possible violation of federal election laws, financed security for him for at least six month after his candidacy began, to say nothing of having been involved in security for the government of Qatar, in which the Emir of that nation hosted Iranian President Ahmadinejad. 

Joining us now, Chris Cillizza, who writes “the Fix” at WashingtonPost.com.  Good evening, Chris. 

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, Rasmussen has a tie for Giuliani.  But the Gallop Poll still has him in the lead, 25 to 15 over Huckabee nationally, which still, by itself, is a slide from these 40 percent ratings from the spring.  What conclusion can we draw now?  Is he just slipping slightly, slipping seriously?  Is this the Rudy wall that you and I have been talking about possibly existing there for months? 

CILLIZZA:  Well, I think a couple of things are going on.  First of all, Keith, anyone who watches a lot sports, like I do—I know you do—knows the American people—everyone likes a close, competitive game.  So I think some of this is just that people want to see a race.  So Giuliani and, on the other side, Hillary Clinton, was never going to win this with 40 or 45 percent in these national polls.  So part of it is the natural tightening that happens as we get closer to a vote. 

The other thing is that two things have been going on.  First of all, as you mentioned, Giuliani‘s been hit by a number of problems of late.  The biggest, to my mind, being allegations that he may have diverted city funds into obscure city agencies to pay for his Secret Service as he was going back and forth from the Hamptons, when he was involved with his mistress, now wife, Judy Nathan.  That‘s hurt him. 

At the same time, you‘ve seen Mike Huckabee surge, getting a huge amount of national attention, getting a huge amount of press coverage.  So I think those two things have converged.  So Huckabee‘s moved up as Giuliani‘s moved down.  That‘s what makes it look as sharp as it does. 

OLBERMANN:  Giuliani obviously markets himself as Mr. Law and Order, but there may be a violation of Federal Election Laws and, as you mentioned, the fiddling of city finances to have a secure trip to see his mistress, and putting his mistress then in a police car that she was described as using as a taxi.  And, of course, he markets himself as St.  Rudy of 9/11.  But the law firm was lobbying for legislation that the State Department thinks would hurt the war on terror. 

How many of these particularly hypocritical looking revelations can come forward?  How many more of them can the campaign sustain?  Is there a point at which he hits critical mass?

CILLIZZA:  Chris, you mentioned in the earlier question that you and I have talked a lot about the Rudy wall.  Is there some point where we do reach this critical mass?  I‘m hesitant to say it because so many times in this campaign I have predicted at some point voters are going to focus, whether it‘s on the fact that on social issues he differs with them, whether it‘s the fact that he‘s been married three times, and carried on a very public relationship with a woman, not his wife.  There‘s a lot out there that if you just told me a generic candidate had these issues, I would say, there‘s absolutely no chance. 

He continues, however, to generally lead.  As you mentioned, it‘s tight.  But he‘s still in relatively good position, certainly nationally, in this nomination.  So you never know.  Small things, I think sometimes, that don‘t look like big things at the start, can wind up turning into big things.  I‘ll give you an example, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; this was a relatively small group, spending a relatively small amount of money against John Kerry.  It wound up being one of the factors that cost him the presidency, to my mind.  But at the start, it looked pretty small.  We didn‘t know then it was going to grow into a huge thing. 

OLBERMANN:  That underscores the old truism about television and about politics, and especially about where they converge, that perception is reality.  And to that point, what happens if the numbers come out somewhere close to where the polls are now, and where he is in Iowa?  Less than a month away, he‘s third in that state.  Mitt Romney‘s winning in New Hampshire.  Giuliani is sliding nationally.  What happens to the perception if he doesn‘t do well in the first two primaries, and still has all these other—the image of the guy carrying too many packages down the street; he drops one.  Every time he bends over to pick it up, he drops two more.  Is that what he‘s faced with after Iowa and New Hampshire?

CILLIZZA:  I think it‘s possible and I think it‘s why you‘ve seen his campaign—the sort of chief strategy shift from saying. he doesn‘t need to win in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Michigan.  We‘ll just wait until Florida to win, to putting a real big focus on New Hampshire.  I think they recognize that if you‘re going to be the nominee, you have to win somewhere.  This is a process that is as much about momentum as it is about money. 

If Mitt Romney wins Iowa, which is certainly an open question, given how Mike Huckabee has come on in the state—but if he does win Iowa and he does win New Hampshire, it‘s going to be hard for anyone, including Rudy Giuliani, to stop him.  Giuliani‘s campaign knows that.  It‘s why they‘re spending a lot of time, a lot of money and the candidate‘s time in New Hampshire, because that‘s where they think they can ambush Romney and stop that momentum and build momentum for the themselves. 

OLBERMANN:  Chris Cillizza, author of “The Fix,” the political blog at WashingtonPost.com.  Great thanks, Chris. 

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  She once explained she did not know if the Earth were flat or round or either.  Today, one of the hosts of “The View” explains that historically nothing happened on Earth prior to Jesus showing up. 

Speaking of Messiah complexes, in Worsts, weeknights, he makes his living talking about the threat from and threatening illegal immigrants.  Weekends?  He‘s helping to pay their salaries.  Next on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  The most frightening think about public stupidity these days, as your jaw is dropping over somebody saying something you would have thought would have led them to repeat the fifth grade 20 or 30 times, somebody else is just about to say something even dumber.  Or, as in our number two story tonight, Keeping Tabs, on those special occasions, the same quasi-celebrity actually manages to make his or her previous remark look genius by comparison. 

Sherri Shepherd it was, the junior co-hostess of “The View,” who said in mid-September that not only did she believe in evolution, but she really didn‘t know if the Earth was round or flat.  The next day, she said she really hadn‘t heard the question.  Of course, it was round.

Now it‘s the question of how old Christianity is and if there were any religions before it?  Ms. Shepherd is fully convinced there weren‘t. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERRI SHEPHERD, “THE VIEW”:  I don‘t think anything predated Christians. 

JOY BEHAR, “THE VIEW”:  The Greeks came first.  The Greeks were first, then the Romans, then the Christian. 

SHEPHERD:  Jesus came first before them. 

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, “THE VIEW”:  Not on paper. 

BEHAR:  It doesn‘t matter anyway.  They didn‘t believe in Jesus.  They believed in polytheism, many gods. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right, polytheism, nothing to do with parents.  Worst persons in a moment.  First, 25 seconds of shameless plugging with a side of snarky trivia.  The Special Comments book still holding its own at Amazon, second in sales for books on U.S. politics, behind Al Gore, but ahead of Bernard Goldberg, third in sales for books on the executive branch, behind Ronald Reagan, but ahead of Kathleen Willy.  And third in sales for books on journalism, ahead of William F. Buckley, but behind “Oprah Magazine.”  Not even Oprah?  “Oprah Magazine.” 

Whatever, we thank you for your support.  Who‘s the dumbest person in Hollywood?  Don‘t say it‘s a three million-way tie.  That‘s next with Joel McHale from “The Soup.”  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.

The Bronze to former attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.  His tentative speaking engagement at Pamona College in California canceled after two numbers came into play, this according to the chair person of the student speakers committee, Kelly Schwartz (ph), as quoted in the school paper.  The first number, Mr. Gonzales asked for fee of 35,000 dollars.  Number two, the number of Pamona students who actually expressed an interest in hearing him speak was zero. 

Runner up, E.D. Hill of Fixed News, rounding out a weekend of absolutely psychotic Fox coverage, politicizing the hostage situation at the Hillary Clinton local headquarters in New Hampshire last Friday.  The hostage taker, Leeland Eisenberg, an emotionally disturbed man who had concluded he needed hospitalization and was not getting, apparently saw a Clinton campaign ad in which another New Hampshire resident said Senator Clinton helped him to get health insurance.  He reportedly told a relative that he was, quote, going to do something to get into the hospital. 

So E.D. Hill says, quote, something about what Senator Clinton said just drove him over the edge.  That‘s kind of what it appears to sound like.  Just sort of kind of what it appears to sound like?  She didn‘t drive him over the edge, Miss Hill.  She drove you over the edge. 

But our winner, Lou Dobbs of CNN, who has been teetering on the edge of madness for a couple of years now.  And last night stopped the teetering part.  A critic from the “LA Times,” CNN‘s partner in an upcoming debate, accused CNN of improperly tailoring the first half hour of its YouTube debate last week to reflect Dobbs‘ personal obsession with undocumented immigrants.  The latest “Wall Street Journal”/NBC News polls suggests the topic is only the fifth highest priority among American voters at 11 percent.  The latest Pew Poll says it‘s only the sixth priority of Republicans. 

Dobbs thinks it‘s the only one.  The critic called CNN corrupt, strong language.  But, of course, on this topic, Dobbs is corrupt and hypocritical too, as we‘ll examine in a moment.   First though, let‘s play the tape of some of Dobbs‘ detonating, largely because, at this point, I‘m sad to say, my impression of him consists of only three words - I‘m Lou Dobbs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR:  Imagine that.  We offended the little liberal lily.  Not only was Rutten apoplectic that presidential candidates would actually have to deal with the issue of illegal immigration.  But Rutten‘s tortured mind crushed his own sense of reason and managed to conclude that CNN focused on illegal immigration to create a larger audience for me.  Did Rutten notice I was not involved in that debate?  The candidates get a little nervous if I‘m in the same building.

Rutten, you either don‘t know how to read a survey, a poll, or you have no interest in the facts, or you‘re just another elitist partisan, and that explains why the “L.A. Times” continues to lose readers.  You‘re a lousy media critic.  We all knew that.  But now you‘ve stepped into advocacy and you‘re even worse at that.

And you don‘t even have the guts to come on this broadcast and discuss your corrupt reasoning and partisan activism disguised as media criticism.  Too bad, we would have loved to have discussed the issues with you.  But you‘re not interested in reality or truth.  You‘re a media critic, of sorts. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He sounds passionate about immigration, the way, say, Senator Joe McCarthy was passionate.  But actually it‘s hypocritical.  As noted in the book “A Sunday Horse” by Vickie Moon, Dobbs has two daughters who have for years been passionately involved in show jumping, the upper class, super expensive, elitist world of horses and hurdles.  Show jumping depends on—and Lou Dobbs spends his money indirectly employing—hundreds of the very people he rails against each night.  After mentioning the Dobbs‘ family involvement, Vickie Moon writes of the sport, “this melting pot of international equine aficionados does not include the countless number of illegal Spanish speaking immigrants who shovel the forty tons of poop a day.”

In other words, weeknights, Lou Dobbs threatens illegal immigrants, and on weekends, he pays them to clean up after his daughters‘ horses.  So, Lou, get serious one way or the other.  Drop your racism, thinly disguised as warnings and threats about illegal immigrant, or get your daughters and money out of a sport that could not exits without them.  Better still, why don‘t you go clean up the 40 tons of poop a day yourself.  On TV, you seem pretty good at shoveling it.

Lou, do as I say, not as I spend, Dobbs, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is the nightmare of every December.  No, not your hometown filling up with tourists who like to come to a full halt walking or driving on the street in front of you to stare at something.  Rather, the deluge of year end lists.  Our number one story on our nightly list, COUNTDOWN—of course, they trigger more lists.  First, “Entertainment Weekly” had 50 smartest people in Hollywood.  Thus, was the “New York Daily News” inspired to produce the top 50 dumbest people in Hollywood.  Wait, top dumbest, is that where you wanted to go with this?

Anyway, the amazing upset.  Number one is neither Paris Hilton nor Britney Spears.  Thereby, by process of elimination, it‘s Lindsay Lohan.  The “Daily News” explained that dumb doesn‘t necessarily correspond to a low I.Q.  But after throwing Miss Lohan that bone, awards her the top spot, citing her poor movie choices, delinquent behavior and bad choice in men. 

Number two, Kim Kardashian.  Reason given?  It‘s sad to leak your own sex tape and find out nobody cares. 

Britney Spears got a pass, numbers one through 13, coming in at 14.  But the dude who gave the OK for her appearance on MTV was allotted the number four spot for his troubles.  Paris Hilton, who‘s played dumb so effectively, as she‘s convinced all that media and all the world‘s population that she is, in fact, dumb.  Yet, she‘s not at number five, nor at number 23, nor 37.  She‘s not even on the list, putting the glare in glaring omission. 

Of course, it‘s one thing to top a diss list, but it‘s particularly lame to land at the bottom of it.  Tom Sizemore, number 50 -- is he mediocre at being dumb or is the smartest non-dumb guy?  Let‘s bring in the host of the pop cultural show of record, E Entertainment‘s “The Soup,” Joel McHale.  Joel, good evening, and happy Tyra Banks birthday day.

JOEL MCHALE, “THE SOUP”:  Thank you, Keith.  I‘m happy to be here.  But I‘m a little sad I was available, because I was sure I was going to get invited to Tyra‘s birthday party. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  You may yet, which would explain—never mind.  I‘ll get back to that subject.  We‘ll get to some of these quirkier choices in a moment.  But what of Ms. Lohan at number one?  Does this choice have real merit to it? 

MCHALE:  I‘ve got to hand it to the “Daily News,” because most people kick people while they‘re down.  And not a lot think to wait and kick while someone is getting up.  

OLBERMANN:  Paris Hilton, 50 spaces for dumbness, no Paris Hilton; why, Joel, why? 

MCHALE:  She is a lot smarter than she used to be, Keith.  She got out of having to work at E.

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t get—I have an uncontrollable cough now.  Listen, Kim Kardashian, number two.  Two part question, what is she famous for, Joel, and does this suggest that sex tapes don‘t have the impact they used to? 

MCHALE:  Yes, she‘s number two.  I‘ve usually associated her with taking a number one.  But sex tapes don‘t have the same impact.  I‘ve been trying to get my sex tape distributed for the last five years and the distributors say, you‘ve got to wax your back, Joel. 

OLBERMANN:  The “Daily News” said it used criteria in all this other than low I.Q.  But I‘m also wondering, is there a difference between dumb and dumb ass. 

MCHALE:  Yes, dumb is Kelly Picker going on “Are you smarter Than a Fifth Grader” and saying that Europe is a country?  Dumb ass is Sherri Shepherd from “The View” saying she wasn‘t sure whether the Earth was round or not.  And stupid dumb ass is that coach from the Ravens who called the time out on that fourth down, after the Ravens defense had already read the Patriot‘s play.  

OLBERMANN:  Thank you for clearing all those up.  Britney Spears, and what might be called her satellites, her celebrity satellites, got many of these spots.  She‘s at 14, as we said.  The ex-manager, who thought the VMA appearance would be good, that was number four.  Kevin Federline, number 38.  His other ex, Shar Jackson, 39.  And the possible, alleged new baby daddy, J.R. Rodum (ph), lucky number 13.  So she gets some sort of group award?  She did pretty well? 

MCHALE:  Yes, and you didn‘t mention me there, Keith, and the thousands of hours I‘ve spent talking about her this year.  So move over, Lindsay, I think you‘re in my chair. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘ve got to ask you—this is actually informational about number three, Spencer Pratt from the hills.  How do you get—Who in the hell is that and how do you finish third in anything if someone can say of you, who in the hell is that? 

MCHALE:  Clearly, Keith, you are not a female between the ages of 18 and 34.  I am.  And Spencer—I‘ll tell you, Spencer is the fiance of Heidi, who used to be BFF with Lauren.  But they broke up.  But Lauren has problems of her own.  Her roommate is still dating Justin Bobby.  I think Whitney has had the hardest year.  She went from being “Teen Vogue” intern to being “Teen Vogue” full time employee.  And I just wish they would all go to the same nightclub, perhaps Privilege or Hide, and commit group suicide. 

OLBERMANN:  But unfortunately I‘m uninformed on the subject.  Joel McHale of “The Soup” on E, the new episode is Friday.  The latest special episode this week, best of the worst game show moments.  And your code word to watch that is sticky.  Joel, great thanks as always. 

MCHALE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,679th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York, 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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