updated 2/4/2008 12:52:16 PM ET 2008-02-04T17:52:16

Guests: Paul Tompkins

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

The lovin‘ in L.A.: Loving time - over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m confident I will get her votes if I‘m the nominee.  But it‘s not clear that she would get the votes I got if she were the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the war, the debate and the Iraq authorization vote and Senator Clinton‘s complicated explanation gets more complicated still.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I believe that it is abundantly clear that the case that was outlined on behalf of going to the resolution, not going to war, but going to the resolution was a credible case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And there was a part about the megalomaniac competition between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.  What the hell was that all about?

And here come the endorsements, not John Edwards, not bill Richardson, but the California Service Employee International Union—all 600,000 of them endorsing Obama.  So, too, MoveOn.org.  So, too, Alma Range.  Alma Rangel endorsing Obama.  Wife of Charlie Rangel who fired the last shot of the Martin Luther King‘s squirmish at Obama.  All these after a debate where they looked flatly, like a ticket.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR:  Would you consider an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket going down the road.

OBAMA:  Well, obviously, there‘s a big difference between those two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Would he even need her would either need to be V.P.

Undercutting the 9/11 Report: More on the Republican executive director of the commission suspicion by staffers about his contact with Karl Rove, suggestions he edited out the description of Condoleezza Rice‘s pre-9/11 performance as amounting to incompetence.

And back to the debate: More celebrities than a Lakers game.  Did the cutaway shots (ph) hurt the democratic cause?  At least with the writers strike shutting down no TV, at least though, we know Jason Alexander and Topper Grace (ph) are safe and warm.

All that and more now, on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Friday, February 1st, 277 days until the 2008 presidential election.  As an American clich,, it‘s one of the oldest, dating back to the real civil war which really did fit (ph) family against family member.  On our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN:  It was the grabble voice New York congressman, Charles Rangel who just as the first Obama-Clinton truce went into effect, told a New York interviewer that Senator Obama was quote, “Absolutely dumb to infer that Doctor King alone passed the legislation and signed into law.”  That was 16 days ago.  Today, Mr. Rangel‘s wife endorsed Barack Obama.  That‘s the Democratic candidates rejoined the battle house by house and spouse by spouse.  In fact, MSNBC and NBC political director, Chuck Todd reporting tonight that Bill Clinton will watch the Super Bowl on Sunday from New Mexico alongside Bill Richardson.  Alma Rangel‘s endorsement, not the only one that Senator Obama picked up today but it might be the most symbolic.  She appeared at a fundraiser for him Wednesday night, today, the Obama campaign issued a statement quoting her, “I believe Barack Obama has the ability to unify this country and the character to stand up for what‘s right instead of what‘s popular.  Barack is a man of principle; a man whose faith in the greatness of our nation gives us hope, showing us what‘s possible if we work together.”

The members of MoveOn.org also voting to endorse Senator Obama:

70.4 percent to 29.6.  The anti-war group saying that Senator Clinton still has not adequately explained her 2002 vote to go into Iraq.  Obama telling reporter at a news conference this morning that her vote for that war could hurt the Democratic Party in the general election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I don‘t think it‘s adequate for us to go into that argument suggesting that the somehow the difference just is in terms of execution.  I think the problem with the war in Iraq was a problem of conception.  And if we go in there suggesting that it just was not managed well by George Bush, then you know, Senator McCain I think, will be able to come back and argue that in fact, we reduce balance in the surge.  We are now getting it right in his you know, in his framework.  And I totally dispute that.  But, I think it‘s easier for me to dispute given my long standing belief that it was a strategic error on the part of the Bush administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In the speech she gave this afternoon in San Diego, Senator Clinton addressing not her vote that helped this country into war but what she would do to bring the troops home now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I want to restore our leadership in moral authority and that begins with ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home as quickly and responsibly as possible.  I have said that as soon as I am president, I will ask the joint chief, the secretary of defense, my security advisors to draw up a plan, so I can start bringing troops home within 60 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll look at Iraq as a specific issue in a moment.  First: Bigger pictures with Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine.  Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Alma Rangel, MoveOn.org, California Service Employees Union, the one that had previously backed Senator Edwards, 600,000 membership, all endorsing Obama today.  Are these indicators, are they operations, are they special interest groups, harbingers, what do they mean?

FINEMAN:  Well, I pick number one, indications.  And they‘re indications of the fact that Obama is gathering momentum by the minute.  In talking to people around the country today and exchanging e-mail with a lot of them in both campaigns and other Democrats who are still uncommitted or had been elsewhere, the amount of money that Obama is raising is truly spectacular and I think when Hillary Clinton‘s campaign eventually comes out with her financial report, which is due soon, I don‘t think it‘s going to be anywhere nearly as impressive as Obama‘s.  And Obama‘s likely to keep that up.  So, even if the two candidates split the delegates on Super Tuesday, which is possible, Obama‘s going then to have a free fire zone to blanket the rest of the nominating process with advertising in a way Hillary can‘t match.  And American politics as in American society, money is an often indicator of where things are going.

OLBERMANN:  The Rangels, the wrangling Rangels.  Nice symbolism here, is this - not necessarily a split in Democratic Party but a closeness of the two candidates and their supporters?  In this case, you know, the closeness of the husband and wife.  Is this kind of a definition of what this campaign is?

FINEMAN:  Not really.  I think it‘s Charlie Rangel who‘s a shrewd guy, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the ultimate survivor out of Harlem covering his bets.  He committed to the hometown gal, Hillary Clinton, early on.  I think he sees the possibility of that bet going south.  And believe me, if he didn‘t want his wife to go out there or be allowed to endorse Barack Obama, they are a big enough political team, a close enough political team, he and his wife that she wouldn‘t have done it.  So, that‘s my interpretation of it.  because I think it‘s possible that Obama is going to be extremely competitive in New York state with Hillary Clinton and I would imagine that Obama could win African-American vote in Charlie Rangel‘s own district next week.

OLBERMANN:  In the news conference this morning, Senator Obama repeated something he‘d said earlier that Clinton supporters would vote for him in his estimation but the reverse might not be true.  Would he not be doing himself a huge favor to say nothing of the party if every time he‘d said that he injected a little bit of the solidarity from last night, added something like, but, of course, I‘d ask them to.  And realistically, can a candidate say something magnanimous like that or the magnanimity get you into trouble here?

FINEMAN:  No, I think he‘s playing hard ball, Keith.  I think he‘s saying that not on so many words but he‘s saying, I have consolidated the African-American vote.  I have excited the young vote, people under 30.  He‘s winning sweepingly among that age group.  So, in terms of age and race, he can bring the people in and it‘s questionable whether Hillary can.  He‘s out to win the nomination now and he‘s using any tool he can, as soberly (ph) as he can, to say, I can win this nomination and Hillary Clinton can‘t and I can win the general election and Hillary Clinton can‘t.

OLBERMANN:  You mention New York.  Any other murmurs coming up about Super Tuesday, any large shifts (ph)?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think there‘s two strategies.  Hillary‘s strategy is to try to win California, to hang on there even though the polls are closing.  Obama‘s strategy is to end the night with the majority of delegates, to be in the lead with the delegates.  Because whoever has the delegate lead is going to have the inside track after Super Tuesday and he‘s already spending big, not only in all the Super Tuesday states but in the states that follow Super Tuesday.  Here in the Washington area, he‘s blanketing the air waves because there‘s a big Chesapeake primary in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. coming up the week after Super Tuesday.  He‘s flush and he‘s on the move.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, thank you, Howard.  Have a good weekend.

FINEMAN:  You too, Keith.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Any assessment of who, quote, “won” last night‘s “make love, not war” debate in L.A. would have to factor in Senator Clinton‘s attempt to defend her Iraq war vote.  And we‘ve mentioned earlier, not a topic she broaches in her stump speech.  Last night, she didn‘t have that luxury, asked a question she doesn‘t often get, why she voted against the 2002 Levin (ph) amendment, which would have required more diplomacy before the U.S. went to war against Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  The way that amendment was drafted suggested that the United States would subordinate whatever our judgment might be going forward to the United Nations Security Council.  I don‘t think that was a good precedent.  Therefore, I voted against it.  I did vote with Senator Byrd to limit the authority that was being given to President Bush to one year and that also was not approved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Sadly, no.  That is not what Senator Levin‘s amendment said, nor what Senator Levin said about his amendment.  From the floor of the Senate before the resolution was voted on in 2002, Senator Levin having been made it very clear that his amendment would not, quote, “Cede the authority of the United States to the U.N.”  Quoting from a Congressional record: “Our resolution affirms the United States has at all times the inherent right to use military force in self-defense.  There is no veto given the United Nations in this resolution of ours.  Quite the opposite, we explicitly make it clear we maintain, of course, a right to use self-defense.”

Last night, Senator Clinton also making a new rationalization for her yes vote to authorize the use of military force against Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  We had evidence they had a lot of bad stuff for a very long time which we discovered after the first Gulf War.  Knowing that he was a megalomaniac, knowing he would not want to compete for attention with Osama bin Laden, there were legitimate concerns about what he might do.  So, I think I made a reason judgment, unfortunately, the person who got to execute the policy, did not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yet, once again, that‘s precisely the opposite of what that resolution actually said.  It made references to bin Laden and Saddam working together.  At this point, let‘s turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  He‘s joining us from L.A. tonight.  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSBNC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That megalomania answer, is that anymore intelligible tonight than it was last night when she gave it late in the debate?

WOLFFE:  No, I have no idea what she was talking about, frankly.  And unless they pulled the megalomania of the two people, I ain‘t vote (ph), you know, it‘s a really interesting insight that her phrasing, her descriptions really haven‘t changed about the war.  Evidence that he had bad stuff, projecting into the psychology of a tyrant, and the mass-murdering terrorist; and the whole stuff about the U.N.  I mean, it‘s as if her framework for looking at the war hasn‘t changed.  And maybe, that‘s because she thinks she was right and everything has flawed since then was George Bush‘s fault and obviously, that‘s the case she makes.  But essentially, the mindset really hasn‘t changed.

OLBERMANN:  The Levin amendment, the claim last night that she made that the United States would subordinate judgment to the U.N., might that be to paraphrase her husband, if not a big fairy tale, then, at the very least, a very convenient piece of revision to history.

WOLFFE:  Well, let‘s rewind the tape on this.  The only people who are making that case at the time or rather the biggest advocates of the case at the time was Dick Cheney and his associates inside the administration.  This sort of black helicopter crowd that says, the Iran would control everything.  Of course, the Levin amendment didn‘t say that.  It gave Congress the ultimate right, it was trying to call the president‘s bluff on this whole idea of supporting diplomacy.  Everyone knew at that time that the president was heading towards war, that the diplomacy was something of a fig leaf, an attempt to give Tony Blair something, but the whole idea that today Hillary Clinton thinks that this was still about the U.N. trying to control America, I mean, again, a very interesting insight into how she looks at it now and how she looks at it then.

OLBERMANN:  She repeated this claim last night, she‘d used it many times, even phrased it this way, if I only knew then what I know now.  Her for speech before the vote on the authorization to use force, the senator had said, it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our president and we say to him, use these powers wisely and as a last resort.  It sounds like that‘s what we all knew then as opposed to what might have been surmised.  Pat Buchanan argued last night, she can‘t say I was wrong because  the response would be in the primaries, in the general, in the advertising against her, in most important vote of her life, Hillary Clinton was wrong.  Is Pat correct?  Is that why she has danced along the tight rope for so long?

WOLFFE:  Yes, I think they‘re fighting as if it‘s 2004.  And her husband‘s famous construction that strong and wrong beats weak and right.  And also, I think, look, there‘s a calculation here about her gender and has not been pretty vocal, the strategist then have been pretty vocal in explaining that a woman can‘t afford to say she‘d made a mistake.  I think that‘s actually boxing her in her gender and she‘s a very tough, confident character who can easily confess to a mistake if she really thought it was a mistake.  I guess at this point you‘re going to think, well, does she really believe it was a mistake.

OLBERMANN:  In total here, Senator Obama seems to be leveraging all this into from Iraq to an argument about electability but right now, the national catch phrase of this election is not exactly been it‘s the war, stupid, is Senator Obama betting that it will become so?

WOLFFE:  No, I don‘t think he is.  He has turned towards the economy just like everybody else, like the polls have shown on like Hillary Clinton has actually done pretty effectively.  But, look, the whole judgment about the war isn‘t just around only (ph) to Democrats, it‘s the crucial presidential test about judgment, about issues of life and death.  The question is: has he crossed the bar?  Has she crossed that bar?  What he‘s saying is: I‘m presidential; it‘s OK to vote for me.  And by the way, I got the war right.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek”.  Thanks, safe travels, have a good weekend.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And yet with all these head butting today, there was the elbow hug at the end of the debate and the moments that scream dream team.  Could they possibly run together?  And could the self interest of the White House have run together with the national interest of the 9/11 commission?  Pet Williams (ph) joins us on the explosive charges about alleged politicizing of that report.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Obama and Clinton in ‘08.  Clinton and Obama in ‘08.  Democratic dream team dreaming in ‘08.  Pet Williams reports on the allegations of political tampering on the 9/11 Commission and in Worst:

Because John Edwards did not give the address of the New Orleans bridge under which he spoke to the homeless who live there.  Bill O has claimed he made it up.  Guess what, Billy?  Tonight, we have that address for you.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Last night, we learned they are friends.  They generate enthusiasm and intensity.  They are working together to stop President Bush in Iraq and that‘s just what Senators Clinton and Obama said about one other.  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Against all logic and the fervor of their respective supporters, are they ultimately a ticket?  You hear of any ability of last night‘s debate culminating and Senator Obama actually holding Senator Clinton‘s chair out for her as they got up to leave, prompting that the coziness in California might morph into something more after the nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER:  Would you consider an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket down the road.

OBAMA:  Well, obviously, there‘s a big difference between those two.

I respect Senator Clinton, I think her service to this country has been extraordinary and I‘m glad that we‘ve walking on this road together and we‘re still on that road.  We got a lot more roads to travel.  And so, I think it‘s premature for either of us to start speculating about vice president, et cetera.  I think that would be premature and presumptuous.

BLITZER:  It sounds like a yes.  It seems she is in your short list.

OBAMA:  You know, I‘m sure Hillary would be on anybody‘s short

list.  So -

BLITZER:  All right.  What about to Senator Clinton, what do you think about a Clinton-Obama, Obama-Clinton ticket?

CLINTON:  Well, I have to agree with everything Barack just said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I‘m joined now by our own Craig Crawford from CQPolitics.com.  Craig, thanks for your time tonight.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM:  Are you sure he wasn‘t injecting gender holding that chair up for her?  I wonder.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE) He was just making safety the first issue the thing didn‘t pushed off and she falls and she gets out of it.

CRAWFORD:  - that he‘d get blamed for it.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, they were not going to answer the question directly.  But from Obama‘s first answering the debate, they were on the same side, at least the same team.  They each promised a unified Democratic Party.  Is it legitimately possible, in either permutation, a ticket with these two in it?

CRAWFORD:  I think it‘s a possibility simply because they might not have a choice if things do veer off course again.  You know, my earlier point about this was the worse it gets between them, the more they have to run together because that‘s the only way to pull the party back together again.  So, I think, actually the fact they were so nice to each other last night, eve though, that created a fervor for that possibility, it actually opens up the door for them not to run together because my theory is if it gets so bad between them, it‘s the only way to pull the party together and they have to run together.

OLBERMANN:  Did any of the math, other than that part of it, change last night.  You don‘t have to be an expert to see that if she gets the nomination, he‘d be an asset, maybe essential to the ticket as vice president.  What construction suggests she be a good V.P. choice for him or that she‘d even want to be?

CRAWFORD:  You know, I keep thinking of Hillary as the Democratic Dick Cheney.  What does that bring to mind?  I‘m serious though, I mean, it‘s sort of the hatchet woman in the White House.  The get it done on Capitol Hill.  Tough character as a co-president.  I can see her in that role.  I don‘t know if that‘s what he would look for but I‘ve been thinking about that today.  And maybe it‘s clouded by judgment, the notion of Hillary Clinton as Dick Cheney.

OLBERMANN:  Last week, you had said with great succinctness about the animosity between the two candidates, I don‘t think even Dr. Phil can fix this one.  We were not really no the one biting at some bait last night from that thing turning into a brawl because three times, Obama emphasized, I was always against the war, it seemingly like he was almost daring Clinton to say something like her husband did about fairy tales but she said nothing, she held back.  Was she holding back because she didn‘t have a good answer or because she wanted harmony or because she might need him later when it‘s V.P. time?

CRAWFORD:  Yes, I think it‘s also possible, Keith, that she didn‘t see any percentage in that.  What I‘ve noticed about these two candidates here in the closing days before Super Tuesday is that she‘s pulled to the hard ground more than he has.  He‘s been very tough on the road.  It did seemed like he was trying to bait a moments heat, but he didn‘t want to start it.  And she didn‘t take the bait.  I do think he is in a posture of wanting to engage her in these closing days, which always suggests to me, the candidate who‘s doing that feels like he‘s got - he needs to make up the most ground and the candidate trying to hold off engagement is the one who feels the most confident.  Now, that might be diluted, but that‘s how I read the different ways they were handling it.  In the end, I don‘t think he was as aggressive as someone like a John Edwards who‘s probably looking for him to be which is I understand a lot of things Edwards wants to see from Obama as a bit more aggressive in these debates and a lot other arenas.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  If not either of these two, give me one other vice presidential possibility for each candidate.

CRAWFORD:  Well, Evan Bayh, the senator from Indiana and former governor of Indiana has long been on everyone‘s short list possibility for Hillary Clinton.  He traveled with her when she went to Iraq and Afghanistan earlier in the year and has always been at her side at press conferences at various moments.  He‘s a real follower type character who would probably do what he‘s told and is very pleasant and does come from a state that would be a huge get for Democrats if he could actual deliver, very dicey though given its history.  But Indiana is a big, big red state that could be a check mate state for Democrats.  On Obama‘s side, I would say, John Edwards would be a possibility.  He‘ll probably have to go white male and then you‘ve got Bill Richardson out there for the Clintons as well and possibly Obama.  But I doubt it.  I see Edwards is in the running for Obama, if he wanted it.

OLBERMANN:  Craig Crawford of CQPolitics.com and MSNBC. Thanks as always, Craig.

CRWAFORD:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  Whatever is in the cards here, it‘s in the cards with the caveat that I‘m going (ph) to consult to the manufacturer.  Something unexpected in the packs of the 2008 tops baseball cards.  Amid the Jonathan Popy (ph) Bonds and the Joran Santana‘s (ph), John McCain card?  A baseball card of Hillary Clinton?  A card of Mike Huckabee from the GOP team?  An Obama?  Why they even made and didn‘t withdraw from circulation, a Rudy?  Also, all told 12 cards included among the ballplayers, six Republicans, six Democrats.  No, Mike Gravel.  He‘ll hear about that.  Also, there‘s a card of Manny Acta (ph) who already runs things in Washington who‘s manager of the Nationals and happens to be a COUNTDOWN hero.  Speaking of card board, oh, sure, your dog ate your Super Bowl tickets.

And in Worst: Bill O again denies that there are homeless people living under bridges.  He demands an address for them.  Tonight, we‘ve got one for him.

But first: The latest to the administration‘s 50 other scandals - Bushed.

Number three: Waterboarding-gate.  Senate majority whip (INAUDIBLE) Durbin (ph) says, if Attorney General Mukasey will not reply to Senate‘s letters requesting internal search information for more recordings of CIA interrogation, the Senate will not vote to confirm or reject the man Mr.  Bush wants as Mukasey‘s deputy attorney general, Mark Philip.

Number two: The surge didn‘t work-gate.  The new law about Baathist serving in the Iraqi government that the right wing is trumpeting it‘s proof we‘re winning in Iraq.  The Iraq‘s vice president says, his country‘s Iraq Presidency Council is unlikely to ratify that law.  Oops.

And number one: Tone deafness-gate.  Assistant secretary of state, Richard Boucher testify to the Senate, asked by Senator Russ Feingold about the administration‘s consistently confused prioritizing of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asked: which situation you regard as more important to our national security.  Boucher answered with an analogy: Sir, I mean, which of your kids do you like best?  Do you support one of these wars or both or neither?  When you cherish the troops or hate policy or cherish the troops and applaud the policy?  What rational person would compare a child to a war where there are deaths each day of somebody‘s children?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  On this date in 1924, Terrance Graham “Terry” Jones was born in Wales, giving me a chance to apologize to him.  One of the founders of “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus,” he was in our CNN offices in 1983, not long after the release of their money, “The Meaning of Life.  One of his roles in that film was a Mr. Creosote, a found man weighing 1000 pounds, who is shown more or less publicly, constantly sick to his stomach.  Terry Jones was nice enough to come over to my desk and accept my fan-style giggling.  Unfortunately, I had a picture of Mr.  Creosote at my desk.  He had just had bad fish for lunch.  Last time I saw him, he was heading to the restroom where he reportedly did a Mr. Creosote.  To Terry Jones, I‘m very sorry. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

We begin in Avondale, Arizona, in the home of Chris Gallagher.  He was not home when the FedEx, containing the two $900 Super Bowl tickets were dropped off at his house.  His dog, Buddy, was there to sign for them, and tore them to shreds and eat them.  Gallagher came home to find the $1,800-worth of confetti on his rug.  And when Buddy made himself scarce, he knew who the culprit was.  The good news is because the tickets were not completely eaten by the black lab, he can get new tickets printed, a much cleaner solution then searching for the missing pieces.   

News for bears.  Over to Frazier Park where Coda, the domesticated Kodiak grizzly bear, has become the Punxsutawney Phil of Super Bowl predictions.  Coda‘s keepers plop two cherry pies, one with a Giants logo, one with a Patriots logo, out in the snow.  The first one he wolfed down would be the certified lead pipe cinch.  He likes the Patriots.  He ate both pies, but ate the Patriots first. 

Of course, I myself like the Giants.  But why would you trust a host of “Football Night in America” over a bear eating a pie?     

Finally, to Germany.  It‘s time for our daily polar bear affirmation because you‘re good enough, you‘re smart enough and, doggone it, people like you.  This is Flocka, the Nuremberg Zoo‘s prized 5-week-old polar bear.  We‘ve avoided showing him.  This little sucker has released more video than tmz.com.  The latest, they decided to mess with Flocka by sticking her in front of a mirror.  Get it all in now before she gets big enough to rip your stupid face off.         

Was the 9/11 report cooked to stripped out a condemnation of

Condoleezza Rice‘s role as National Security advisor before 9/11?  Stripped

by one of Condoleezza Rice‘s former staffers. 

And if you were wondering what TV‘s Lauren Holly is doing these days? 

Going to the debate, the celebration of celebrities.

These stories ahead, but first, to the “Best Person in the World.”                 

Best dumb criminal, Steven Zahorsky.  Like the woman who advertised for a hit man.  Some people don‘t get the idea that Craig‘s List is a public website.  Police say Mr. Zahorsky posted an ad for, quote,” Mary Jane in Fairfield County.  Ounces of marijuana prices from $160 to $220.  Clever, disguising it as Mary Jane. 

Number two, best dilemma.  Juliana Cumbo, of the Austin, Texas.  President of the Oriental Medical Academy, at which she studied, says she‘s an acupuncturist.  She passed the board certification test with flying colors, but the State of Texas doesn‘t want to give her a license because she can‘t see.  She‘s sightless.  Then again, acupuncture is based on touch, not sight. 

Number one, the best sublimation of your employee‘s common sense to the corporate rule book.  Time Warner Cable of Wheatland, Wisconsin, sent Ann Bean a bill for $2000 claiming she destroyed their equipment.  Four or five other customers got similar bills.  Ms. Bean says the equipment was destroyed, but there was a good reason.  The manager told her to take it up to her insurance company, until the publicity hit, when Time Warner reversed itself and erased the bill.  Time Warner‘s five cable boxes and five remotes at Ann Bean‘s house were destroyed when the tornado destroyed her house. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Four days ago in his speech, in his final State of the Union speech, President Bush said, “Our country has been tested in ways none of us could have imagined.”  None of us could have imagined?  As if no one had ever warned him.  That is what he told the 9/11 Commission, the creation of which he opposed, whose members he appointed, whose questions he avoided as long as possible.  Now, in our third story in our “Countdown,” a book coming out next week raises new questions about ties between the man who served as executive director of that commission and the White House itself.  The commission has long withstood criticism that its desire to appear nonpolitical cost it and us a portion of blame.  This book raises the prospect the commission avoided blaming people for political reasons. 

Our chief justice correspondent, Pete Williams, report, the book also claims the commission missed out on a massive source of intel. 

PETER WILLIAMS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  With the deadline bearing down for the 9/11 Commission‘s final report, a new book says, the staff discovered a trove of information about al Qaeda that was unexplored.  Intelligence gathered by the government‘s eavesdroppers, the National Security Agency.  “New York Times” reporter, Philip Shenon, writes in a new book, “The Commission” that the NSA archives contain other vital information about al Qaeda, but there was no time left to search for it. 

PHILIP SHENON, AUTHOR, “THE COMMISSION”:  The fact that it had the most important intelligence archives in the federal government and went unexplored by the 9/11 Commission is a great deal of news. 

WILLIAMS:  The book also says many staffers didn‘t trust the executive director because, Philip Zeleco, because he‘d worked with Condoleezza Rice in the first Bush administration.  They were suspicious about phone calls he got from Bush advisor Karl Rove, though Zeleco says they had nothing to do with the investigation.

And the book says many staffers believed Zeleco pushed the commission to go easy on Rice‘s performance. 

(on camera):  Would it have come out difference had somebody else been the commission direction?

SHENON:  Again, I think it might have. 

WILLIAMS:  But the commission‘s co-chairman, Lee Hamilton, strongly defends Zeleco. 

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION:  We found him to be very fair-minded, quite impartial, very rigorous in searching out the facts.  He did not try to protect the Bush administration or to protect anybody else. 

WILLIAMS:  Zeleco declined an on-camera interview but says he pulled no punches and says the commission was well aware of the NSA‘s findings about al Qaeda even if the raw intelligence wasn‘t fully explored. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  Tonight, Lee Hamilton says he knows of nothing that would have changed the findings or its recommendations, which he says remain largely unchallenged—Keith? 

OLBERMANN:  Pete, can you flush out that Rice connection for us? 

WILLIAMS:  I think one of the biggest disputes for the 9/11 Commission was between Richard Clark, formerly of the National Security Council staff, and Condoleezza Rice.  Clark said he repeatedly tried to warn her and the Bush administration about the dangers of al Qaeda but they weren‘t interested. 

Shenon reports that commission staffers distrusted Zeleco when they learned he worked on the Bush transition and was involved in demoting Clark.

But Shenon also says in this book that the Zeleco gets credit for the reason the report reads well, is well organized and that he often put his interest as a historian above any loyalties he may have felt to the administration.  And Shenon concludes that Zeleco was, as he put it, a mixed bag. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s something in here that hasn‘t gotten publicity about the role that John Ashcroft played as attorney general? 

WILLIAMS:  Ashcroft was criticized for not having interest in terrorism.  When he came to testify before the 9/11 Commission, he was very critical of a commission member, Jamie Gorelick, who served in the Clinton administration, and said a policy she came up with kept intelligence people from talk to criminal investigators, cutting off potential connections.  When he did that, according to the book, the commission members rallied around her.  It came when the commission was under partisan attack and it had the effect of galvanizing the commission and uniting it. 

OLBERMANN:  Who would have expected that would have been Mr.

Ashcroft‘s legacy with the commission. 

Pete Williams, our chief justice correspondent of “NBC News.”  Thanks for staying late with us, Pete. 

WILLIAMS:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  Grim developments in the Britney Spears saga and textbook quote-twisting. 

Comedian Rush Limbaugh leads a stampede of idiots, who pull a quote out of context to insist that Bill Clinton supported something that he was condemning.  Part of the pageant that is “Worst Persons in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Actual news, and grim news at that in the Britney Spears story.  She‘s about the only Hollywood celebrity not at last night‘s Democratic debate in Los Angeles.  We‘ll ask Paul Tompkins what the deal with that was.       

And it‘s comedian Rush Limbaugh versus Bill There-are-no-homeless-persons- living-under-bridges O‘Reilly in the finals of tonight‘s “Worst Persons Self Demolition Derby.”  That‘s next.  This is “Countdown.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The condition of Britney Spears begins the look at celebrity and entertainment news.  In reports that after day two of hospital observation, Spears is classified as gravely disabled and she has been placed under temporary conservatorship through at least Monday.  According to the website TMZ, the first terms means she‘s unable to care for her basic needs and someone will be appointed, a conservator, to look after her needs.  TMS also reporting that Britney Spears started out calm, but then created a scene when she was taken to the hospital yesterday.  Several medical professionals blaming bipolar disorder, something her parents suspect was the cause of it, not necessarily drugs nor alcohol.                 

Three frightening developments about Sunday‘s Super Bowl.  One, Senator Arlen Specter has called for an investigation of why the NFL destroyed the tapes in the video controversy at the season‘s start that proved the New England Patriots were improperly tape recording the defensive signals of the Jets. 

Also, we don‘t know what, if anything, is wrong with the leg or ankle of their quarterback Tom Brady as New England seeks to beat the New York Giants to complete an undefeated 19-0 season.  A thing you would like to know before placing a bet.       

Lastly, only 36 of 100, quote, “celebrities,” unquote, polled by the Scripps-Howard News Service predicted the Giants would upset the Patriots.  I‘m worried about it.  I‘m one of them.  Giants, 27-21 based on Eli Manning‘s ability to create 4th quarter comebacks.  Who are the others?  General Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, says Giants, 28-24.  And this guy says it‘s Giants 31-30. 

Hey, you know who I saw in the crowd of the debate last night?  Congresswoman Jane Harmon, sitting in the mezzanine as these guys sat in the front row.

That‘s ahead but first, “Countdowns” “Worst Persons in the World.”  The staff of the Woolworth‘s on-line story in Britain.  After a series of protests from parents and a belated visit to Wikipedia, they have stopped selling a type of bed specifically designed for 6-year-old girls called Lolita beds.  They said they had no idea.  I‘m guessing they don‘t sell Vladimir Nabokov‘s novels at Woolworth.          

Runner up, comedian Rush Limbaugh.  To deliberately take a quote from Bill Clinton out of context to utterly twist it‘s meaning.  Talking about global warming, the former president said, quote, “And maybe America and Europe and Japan and Canada—the rich countries—would say, ok, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ‘cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.  We could do that.  But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grand children.”

So Clinton is saying slowing down our economy to stop global warming wouldn‘t work and he didn‘t support it.  But what did comedian Rush Limbaugh claim Clinton said?  He only quoted the hypothetical in the middle of the thing.  “OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions‘ cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”  He then bashed Clinton.

One could say the comedian was guilty of intellectual dishonesty, but that would be predicated on the mistaken belief that Limbaugh‘s got an intellect.

Our winner tonight is Billo, who is absolutely hanging himself in public by continuing to insist everybody else in this country is making up stories about homeless people living under bridges.  When John Edwards withdrew and said he just came from talking to some of those homeless under a bridge in New Orleans, Billo blusters, “We called the Edwards campaign and asked exactly where is the bridge so we could help those people.  Apparently, they don‘t know or they wouldn‘t tell us.  The Edwards campaign can‘t pinpoint the bridge.  Just tell me where the bridge is.  We will help those people.”

Claiborne Avenue near Canal Street.  You know how I know that?  It‘s online.  “The New Orleans Times Picayune” did a big story on it on January 11th, about roughly 250 homeless people living under one of those viaducts that Interstate 10 runs on in New Orleans.

A week later, the “Seattle Post Intelligencer” did a newspaper story about the Seattle Supersonics basketball team got there and serving food. 

Listen up, Bill O‘Reilly, you self-serving, self-inflating, uninformed buffoon.  That article suggests the current number of homeless just in New Orleans, men, women and children, is at least 17,000.  And you can find 250 of them under I-10.  Get your sorry ass to Claiborne at Canal and put your money where your bottomless pit of a mouth is.  We‘ll be waiting. 

Bill O‘Reilly, tonight‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  After a substantive Democratic debate with no petty ranker, what was the Republican National Committee to do but attack the Democrats for having celebrities in the audience? 

Number one story in the “Countdown,” stars watching the Dems and star envy from the GOP, although debate organizers should not have made Jane Harmon sit in the upper deck while so many celebrities got the good seats.  The audience members with INDB (ph) credentials, but perhaps the Huffington Post spirit, Diane Keaton, Stevie Wonder, Bradley Whitford (ph) , Gary Shandling, Jason Alexander, rob Reiner, Stephen Spielberg, Lauren Holly, Pierce Brosnan, Kate Capshaw, Brandy, Alfie Woodard—all right, you‘re getting the picture here.

There were more, including Toffer (ph) Grace, Fran Drescher and Leo—

DeCaprio, that is, leading the RNC to issue this statement, seriously.  “The Hollywood elites loved the Obama and Clinton Show tonight.  But average Americans who will most feel the pain of the Democrats‘ misguided policies will not.”

This is from the party that‘s done so much for the little guy.  When simmering underneath that statement, there might be some real resentment.  John Voit, Oscar winner that he is, didn‘t do Rudy Giuliani any favors. 

And Chuck Norris might get his butt kicked by John McCain. 

At this point, let‘s bring in Paul F. Tompkins, also a regular contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”

Paul, good evening. 

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR & VH1‘S “BEST WEEK EVER”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  It seemed a little out of control last night.  The cut-aways to the celebrities.  All you would see were shots of Jack Nicholson and Diane Cannon and Rose Marie sitting at courtside. 

TOMPKINS:  Of course, when he was well enough to join her. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah. 

TOMPKINS:  I think what was going on was the debate was so civil, there was nothing happening on the stage, the producer said quick, cut to “The Nanny.” 

OLBERMANN:  That wasn‘t hyperbole.  Rose Marie actually was at a Lakers, Miami Heat game in 1989.  I‘m sitting in the front—I swear to God. 

TOMPKINS:  I believe you. 

OLBERMANN:  The Democrats can‘t help this part of the Democratic DNA. 

They are proud of their celebrities. 

TOMPKINS:  Yeah, it‘s a way to bring people to their party.  It‘s like saying, look, somebody you like, likes us.  They are going on the theory that you don‘t want to take advice from your friends because you know they are idiots. 

OLBERMANN:  If the Academy Awards—people hand out the Oscar statue

what does the nominee win?  It can‘t be the naked gold Oprah.  She‘s picked Obama.  What‘s the award called?

TOMPKINS:  They get a life-size statue of Dennis Kucinich.  A statue that comes with its own Lolita bed. 

OLBERMANN:  The Republicans for a moment.  They have Arnold, of course.  They‘ve gotten most of their celebrity backing from Chuck Norris.  Is Chuck Norris not enough? 

TOMPKINS:  If Internet forwards are to be believed.  I think the Republicans have to get their secret Republican celebrities to come out. 

You have to hand it to the Hollywood liberals.  They will come out and be seen endorsing Democrats.  Come on, Ron Silver is the only guy close to admitting he‘s a Republican.  He can‘t do it by himself. 

OLBERMANN:  With the exception of Mr. Voit—we have to play this clip when we have the opportunity—speaking on Giuliani‘s behalf in Florida.  Listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN VOIT, ACTOR:  Then everybody said their prayers and an angel came and fixed the city. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now, that‘s Oscar gold, isn‘t it? 

TOMPKINS:  I hope this is not the same God that delivered the script for “Anaconda.” 

If this was God‘s plan to bring us Rudy Giuliani, I don‘t know where the plan goes now, unless he was John the Baptist for Ron Paul? 

OLBERMANN:  There you go.  Did we miss any celebrity embarrassing moments? 

TOMPKINS:  Only the usual embarrassment when they feel they are not allowed to participate, when they have to watch it.  They sit in a big theater and think, there‘s lights, camera and a stage.  I feel like people should be paying attention to me. 

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t they get up to walk somewhere and try not to trip and make a speech?

TOMPKINS:  I‘ll clap as hard as I can.

OLBERMANN:  Paul Tompkins, comedian and contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Paul, thanks as always.  Have a good weekend. 

TOMPKINS:  Hurray for Hollywood, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s “Countdown” for this, the 1,738th 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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