updated 2/8/2008 12:18:52 PM ET 2008-02-08T17:18:52

Guests: Dana Milbank, Eugene Robinson, Howard Bryant

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

The Republican nomination: It‘s John McCain‘s to lose.  Romney withdraws just hours before McCain speaks to the conservative conference.  To quit booing, then, forced applause.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  On the issue of illegal

immigration a position which -

(CROWD BOOING)

MCCAIN:  -- which -

(CROWD BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mitt‘s - Mitt‘s out.  To reduce he says, the chances of an evil Democratic president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, ® FMR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country.  I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nice playing of the terror card on the way out, Willard. 

How come you love America, but you smeared almost half of Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  This isn‘t an easy decision.  I hate to lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, get used to it.

The Democrats: Not enough delegates to nominate anybody.  Do the math, says Senator Obama.  This could end up in a tie.  Do not laugh.  In Syracuse, New York, it‘s a final, Clinton 6,001 and Obama 6,001.  Redo the primaries in Florida and Michigan, quips the Democratic National Committee.  Oh, Senator Clinton will certainly go along with that.  She now raises $6.5 million and counting online in 24 hours to Obama‘s $7.5 million and counting and the Clinton paid staff is getting paid again.

Lou Dobbs calls the Anti-Defamation League a joke.  He can even start his own Pro-Defamation League.  For now, he‘s in Worst Persons.

And Roger Clemens: Not back on the mound, but back on the hill, back facing perjury accusations.  He swears he never used steroids.  His ex-trainer says, he saved the steroid syringes with the traces of Clemens‘ blood on them.  Were you thinking eBay?

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

ROMNEY (voice over):  I hate to lose.

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening, this is Thursday, February 7th, 271 days until the 2008 presidential election.  Did you think the roil in the waters will simply smooth out over the wreck of the SS Romney permitting the new Republican candidate presumptive John McCain to sail without issue toward November?  Listen carefully to the sound of the booing at the conservative conference this week in Washington, twice as telltale as usual.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Politico.com reporting that a registrar at CPAC admitted, quote, “We‘ve been instructed to tell participants not to boo McCain.  We want to seem above Democrats.”  Even after Mitt Romney dropped out, even after he called for party unity, even after the conference goers are already joined in forced artificial cheering for McCain, even after people who live to be told what and what not to do were told what not to do, today, they booed John McCain anyway.  But let us tell this story of this epic, possibly fatal day for the Republican Party chronologically.  As our correspondent, John Yang foreshadowed that 12:30 a.m. early Wednesday morning, with reports that Wednesday would be a day of frank discussions in Romney land, today‘s speech at CPAC, becoming the final event on Governor Romney‘s campaign calendar.  He bowed out before the wing of the party he had hopefully would whip his bid for the White House, but ultimately which did not.  Governor Romney saying, he was exiting stage right not just to prevent a Democrat for becoming president but to save this country from terrorist surrender.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  If I fight on my campaign all the way to convention—I want you to know, I‘ve given this a lot of thought.  I forestall the launch of a national campaign.  And frankly, I‘d be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win.  Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain abstaining from saying that Democratic colleagues would surrender to terror but he said something similar in the past.  Then, this afternoon at CPAC, the event that he skipped last year because of an ongoing feud with conservatives, the new Republican front-runner is seeking to mend offenses with the right wing of his party but as we mentioned, despite the insistence by organizers not to, many in the audience were not eager to hear what the Arizona senator had to say, in this case, about illegal immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Surely, I have held other positions that have not met with

widespread agreements from conservatives.  I won‘t pretend otherwise, nor

would you permit me to forget it.  On the issue of illegal immigration, a

position which -

(CROWD BOOING)

MCCAIN:  Which -

(CROWD BOOING)

MCCAIN:  A position which obviously still provokes the outspoken opposition of many conservatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That booing would seem give to credence to the campaign strategy outlined by Governor Mike Huckabee today, on his way into a taping of the “Tyra Banks Show”.  He was a guest, not part of the audience.  The Arkansas Republican saying that he hopes Governor Romney‘s conservative supporters would be drawn to his campaign instead of Senator McCain‘s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I certainly hope so.  I know that a lot of the establishment Washington type folks are going with Senator McCain, I understand that, but the people of this country need a choice.  And right now, I‘m going to be their choice.  I‘m going to be the choice for all those people who don‘t think Washington has the answers, for all those people who think that somebody who is not a part of the establishment needs to represent our party and the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the governor being interviewed by FOX five and Tyra TV there.  Time now to call in our own Dana Milbank, a national political reporter of the “Washington Post”.  Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You spent a million something per delegate and the best farewell you can come up with variation on the old, “Vote Democratic and you die” campaign slogan.  I mean, did that attack on the way out have a particular meaning?  Was that Mr. Romney‘s application to the real conservatives club (INAUDIBLE), you have to hit a paraplegic in the mouth on the way out or slander half the population or you have to kick the rake out from under your lawn care specialist or something?

MILBANK:  Well, he preceded it by the word “frankly” which in Washington speak means he didn‘t mean it at all.  But you know, look, if he was going to say exactly the reason, he would have had to stand before that crowd and said, look, my wife had said, $60 million is enough, she‘s not letting me spending more money.  This hobby is getting too expensive.  That really wasn‘t going to fly there.  He didn‘t want to say, I love John McCain which is patently false, so, he picked the one area where they really have some sort of unity, and that‘s terrorism.  It was just sort of a throw away, I think.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of throw-aways, if anybody who‘s been covering politics since, I don‘t know, last month knew that was the closing whistle when John Yang reported from Romney headquarters very early Wednesday morning with the results of Super Tuesday and said, Wednesday is going to be this visit for Mr. Frank‘s discussions.  What is this whole song and dance coming out today about, you know, the governor didn‘t decide, he was just starting to write his CPAC speech and it just happened to turn into an “I quit” address?

MILBANK:  Well, you know, of course, frank discussion is another one of those code words.  But you know, what was phenomenal, I was there in the hall today as he gave it, it was in the basement of this hotel, there‘s no cell reception.  So, even though it had hit the wires that he‘s quitting, almost nobody in the room actually knew this.  So, I think that‘s where it‘s coming from.  The people were genuinely surprised.  Not that in the global sense of a surprise to anybody, at least, of all to Mitt Romney but he actually did take them off guard.  You heard the people saying, no, no, like they couldn‘t believe it was occurring in front of their eyes.

OLBERMANN:  Now, is there scenario or sort of calamity that keeps McCain from the nomination?

MILBANK:  Well, I mean, if Huckabee is indeed the anointed and the hand of God touches him, but you know, we here on earth have to deal with things such as delegate count.  So, it‘s virtually a statistic impossibility unless he basically wins everything almost entirely from here on out and it‘s just not on the cards.

OLBERMANN:  Or Chuck Norris goes over and visits Mr. McCain.

Clinton, Edwards, now Huckabee.  Did we not get the memo, when did Tyra Banks become the ubiquity stop in the campaign trail for everybody?

MILBANK:  Well, you know, the choices are somewhat limited since Oprah only has eyes for Obama; they‘re all out of luck on that show.  And Huckabee, you know, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.  And he‘s doing that, apparently, he‘s going to be on “The Colbert Show” tonight.  So, Mike Huckabee is just running wild.

OLBERMANN:  And the instruction story from Politico about CPAC and McCain.  Even with instructions, there was still booing of McCain.  What is that foretell?

MILBANK:  It wasn‘t secret instructions.  They got up in the morning

and said, you need to be polite.  A couple speakers before said, no booing,

please.  And you know, good luck trying to get people to do that.  They had

Republican against campaign, Republicans against McCain campaign banners up

by the end of the afternoon.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they didn‘t throw anything.  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post”, soon to appear on the “Tyra Banks Show”, I understand.

MILBANK:  Anytime now.

OLBERMANN:  Great thanks, Dana.

As the booing in the boo-free zone at CPAC suggests, there was not a sudden epiphany this afternoon of the louder self described conservatives, the ones who are on radio.  They did not suddenly line up behind John McCain whether or not they will voluntarily or otherwise, we offer them as a question to our Pat Buchanan, MSNBC analyst, himself, a former presidential candidate, author of “Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed are tearing America apart.”  Pat, thanks for your time tonight.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, the scenario was all but certain, John McCain, the Republican nominee, whether conservatives like it or not.  Will they pretend to like it?

BUCHANAN:  No, not right now.  They‘re not going to pretend to like it.  And Romney pulling out and as Dana said, which was a surprise to that convention, must have really torn them badly, then to have McCain come in and then, make that comment about illegal immigration.  I think you got authentic sentiment there.  But I will say this, Keith, McCain made a very good speech, I thought.  He said, I‘m going to need you people and we disagree.  And here‘s what I‘m going to fight.  Here‘s where we agree.  And I think pretty soon, it‘s going to settle in and folks said, look, we can tear up McCain for eight months and then the White House goes to Obama or Hillary and we get absolutely zero and we‘ve torn ourselves apart.  I think that‘s what McCain realizes that ultimately, the stakes are going to come home to these conservatives too.

OLBERMANN:  What can McCain do that he has not that can improve his situation?  Is it along the lines of when the booing starts?  Stir (ph) it down, take it, smile, let it wash over you and basically, you know, stand up to the dog that‘s barking?

BUCHANAN:  You know, that‘s not a bad thought you got right there, Keith.  Look, you‘re the winner.  You got the nomination.  It‘s locked up.  Sit there and take it.  John McCain‘s got one ambition in life and that is to be the president of the United States.  I think for only four years, these people are indispensable.  If they got to get it out of their system, let them get it out of their system.  It‘s eight months to go, but he came on and said, look, I got your message.  I‘ve been hearing it loud and clear.  If I were him, I would continue to hear it, continue doing it.  It takes to diminish the ego of it.  And I think there‘s a possibility, a lot of these folks are going to start coming around.  I mean, I listened to McCain‘s speech and I feel the same feelings of those folks.  And I said, the guy‘s making an effort.  And when you see that, you tend to say, OK, let‘s sit and talk.  Frankly, I think the vice president nomination or the stand he takes on immigration, things like these, I think that can help.

OLBERMANN:  What else do the conservatives get, presumably, a vice president that they find out about fairly soon in advance.  Are there other promises that can be made them well in front of the election to make sure they don‘t split up?

BUCHANAN:  The key thing is for the conservatives, we know the social issues.  You‘re not going to get legislation.  It‘s United States Supreme Court.  He has been said privately to have a disparaged Alito, if you notice that speech today, Keith, he said we want Roberts and Alito.  He‘s going to promise them judges.  You know, on the number of merits, he‘s going to promise them, he‘s going to cut entitlements.  That will guarantee he‘s a one term president but certainly a courageous promise.  He‘s going to keep the Reagan tax cuts.  He‘s going to cut corporate taxes.  He‘s going after the AMT.  Things like this, conservatives will say, look, we‘ve got all of this over here and we can‘t stand what he did the last 12 years.  Now, what are we going to do, we‘re going to sit home?  And what is that going to accomplish?  I think it‘s when conservatives move beyond their emotions and beyond the heart to the head and start thinking, where we‘re going and what we want in November, that you have a possibility of the coming together.  Frankly, Keith, at the same time, the Democrats, if they could go to a convention, and you got superdelegates ripping this thing away from Obama, you‘ll have a 1968 on your hands.

OLBERMANN:  Well, to your pointing about McCain and his speech, I listened to it as well and it included everything but a promise to retake the canal zones.  You got pretty much everything on the list.  But what would you make about this wildly repeated theme, repeated particularly and particularly loudly, on the air, it‘s better if the conservatives sit this election out, let the Democrats do whatever they‘re going to do to the country for four years and come back roaring in 2012?

BUCHANAN:  You know, that‘s the argument that sits with conservatives because we didn‘t sit on our hands in 1976.  But we went out, we all wanted Reagan or the conservatives really did where whipping into convention almost openly.  And Ford got nominated.  We were behind him.  But he lost.  And here comes Jimmy Carter and Carter lasted four years and you have the Reagan restoration, the victory in the Cold War, the cutting of taxes, the uplifting of the brow, the country.  And Ronald Reagan now is the Mr.  Conservative.  A lot of them are saying, OK, maybe you give it to Hillary, after four years the country is fed up with her and we get it all back then.  That‘s the way some of these folks think, Keith.  And you may look at one of them that used to think that way.  And so, I mean, it‘s how they feel and believe.  And McCain‘s going to make the case that we can‘t let that happen, the costs are too great and besides, I‘m a better man than you think for your causes.  The Sunnis and Shiites can still come together.

OLBERMANN:  Lord.  If there‘s a Ronald Reagan out there, he hasn‘t identified himself yet.  It‘s not like the Dalai Lama.  We haven‘t identify where he‘s reappeared, right?

BUCHANAN:  But you know, but I‘ll say this, Romney‘s speech today and that was very good, it‘s one of the best speeches of the campaign.  It‘s almost as good as the Mormon speech.  And I think he has clearly from that mantle, he knows what Reagan did in ‘76 which was go to that convention, give a terrific speech and the convention said, we nominated the wrong guy.  That‘s what he wants as a major convention of one half hour in primetime.  Do what Obama did in 2004 when he set himself off on the course.  And when McCain loses, who‘s the top guy?

OLBERMANN:  You and I always agree for the first four minutes, but the last 20 seconds, we disagree of that.  Pat Buchanan, we‘ll talk to you next Tuesday.  Sir, thank you.

BUCHANAN:  OK, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And now the Democrats are faced with the conundrum that Pat mentioned, an epic battle between two extraordinarily popular candidates within the party and in terms of competing with the Republican, basically already chosen, one that cannot end soon enough.  The latest idea to decide the primary, vote again in Michigan and Florida.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Democrats opponent has in essence been chosen.  He has nearly nine months to consolidate.  And what do Senators Clinton and Obama do about that?  Would you believe another primary in Michigan and in Florida?

Also: Roger Clemens in trouble on the hill, not on the mound.  Lou Dobbs competes with another fox noise, ops, we call it a Republican/Democrat blooper in Worst.  And a late breaking new entry into the celebrity mugshot Hall of Fame, one of the all time greats, as COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The scenario: A virtual delegate tie between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, running through and past the final Democratic primaries on June 3rd with neither candidate having reach the threshold needed for nomination.  A scenario predicted by the Obama campaign in a document released to the media by accident, maybe.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The duel and dueling expectations between the two Democratic front-runners.  The state by state forecast done by Obama‘s advisors envisions the candidate winning 19 of the remaining 27 Democratic primaries and caucuses with predicted losses to Senator Clinton in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and with Clinton‘s siphoning votes in other states with large populations of blue collar workers.  Clinton‘s delegate count would keep a pace.  The prediction for June then, 806 delegates, 789 for Clinton, 2025, needed to win.  However, as the document notes, the remaining superdelegates could swing the nomination and the issue of whether to count delegates from Michigan and Florida or redo the vote to allocate them, would then play a much larger role, which we‘ll analyze later in this news hour.  The actual delegate count so far, is Obama 861, Clinton 855, that according to NBC News only nine delegates separating them.  And even if superdelegates claim by both campaigns are added, it‘s still Clinton 1,115, Obama 1,031, ahead by just 84.

Meantime: Senator Clinton is in classic underdog mode, despite higher name recognition, for weekly debates with Senator Obama.  While, Obama although yesterday portraying himself as the underdog took on classic front-runner mode in his response, quoting, “I don‘t think anybody is clamoring for more debates.  We had 18 debates so far.”  But he did agree to at least two more face offs.  I‘ll do another debate.  Let‘s bring in “Washington Post” columnist and associate editor, Eugene Robinson.  Gene, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  So, if the Obama math was not accidentally released, what‘s the political motive for releasing it?

ROBINSON:  Well, I think the motive might be to kind of put the superdelegates on notice.  You know, that‘s essentially almost a doomsday scenario for the Democratic Party, going into the convention essentially tied, Having these party pooh-bas, essentially decide the nominee.  And I think, you know, floating the scenario is kind of a way of putting everybody on notice that it‘s not going to be a good thing if Obama, having awakened all this new interest in Democratic Party politics, perhaps having a lead going into the convention then, sees the nomination essentially taken away.  That would be his interpretation by party insiders, basically.  So, it just kind of put that out there.

OLBERMANN:  Right and by the way, you were almost word for word with Pat Buchanan from the previous segment on the whole construction of the bean taking away from Obama.  And would be catastrophic for the Democratic Party, if it came to that, not that he necessarily has to be the nominee, but if it were taken away from him or taken away from her, it would just be catastrophic to have it manipulated that way.  Debates - he say‘s 18 is plenty, I say, I‘ve only done one, I‘m happy to do another.  We have plenty (INAUDIBLE) two sides of the table, they could come in, I‘ll go to them, whatever.  But she pushes for more.  I thought it was automatic that the one with name recognition avoids debating, not pushes for it.  What does she see that changes that standard equation?

ROBINSON:  You know, this is the most interesting indicator I think of where the two candidates think they really are at this point in the race.  Because you look at delegates, he‘s a little ahead, she‘s a little ahead, you can spin anyway you want, who‘s likely to win the next primaries, everybody‘s kind of playing this well as a (ph) game.  But generally speaking, the front-runner, it‘s the challenger, the one who‘s behind who pushes for debate or for confrontation, for being on the same stage.  And it‘s the front-runner who kind of demurs and says, well, maybe we‘ll do a couple or whatever.  Now, it is true that that‘s a good format for her, but nonetheless, if you‘re ahead, you don‘t really push for debates.  So, that maybe, it‘s where the two campaigns think they are at this point.

OLBERMANN:  Also, the other possibility is free television time.  I mean, they are both raising money like tele-evangelists, but Obama at 7.5 million since the polls closed Tuesday, Clinton claiming about the same mark as the first of the month.  Everybody is back on salary, but they did go off salary for a day.  The money cannot be a bottomless pit of money and it‘s especially important that it not be treated as one given the Republicans essentially had their convention today and Romney evacuated.  Does either camp have any idea how much money there is still left out there to raise?

ROBINSON:  Not really, especially not if you look ahead to the general election.  I mean, in the cosmic sense, this is a $13 trillion economy, so $100 million is here, $100 million is there, it‘s not a lot.  But as long as you convince people who are not in the habit of giving to political campaigns to give to the eventual Democratic nominee.  Obama, and Clinton, to a lesser but significant extent, both have been successful in bringing new people into the process this time.  A lot of Obama‘s contributors are not tapped out, they‘ve not given the maximum.  So, there‘s a good deal of money out there, but the nominee will have spent all his or her money in the primaries and will have to raise a significant amount of new money from new people.

OLBERMANN:  Or do a debate a day.  Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post”.  Thank you, Gene.  We‘ll talk to you next week.

ROBINSON:  Talk to you soon.

OLBERMANN:  So, I went surfing and somebody stole my ocean and left me with this.  This you‘ll have to explain.  And this too, the mugshot hall of fame opens wide its doors.  Does she look familiar?  That‘s ahead.

First: The latest headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 scandals - Bushed.

Number three: Gulag-gate.  Did you know there was a U.S.-run secret prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?  Not that one, that‘s not a secret.  This is Camp seven, the secret Gitmo inside Gitmo.  No reporters have been there.  Any lawyers who knew about it were told the info was top secret, kind a like a chewy goodness inside the tootsie roll pop.

Number two: Gun violence is funny-gate.  Get another joke about Dick Cheney nearly killing a 78-year old guy in a duck shot in 2006.  With the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks visiting the White House, the president quipped, “have you noticed there‘s a lot of security around here?  That‘s because the vice president heard there were some ducks around.”

And number one: War of lies-gate.  Mr. Cheney‘s speaking at the conservative conference today about our war against Iraq.  The president, he says, quote, “Made the right decisions for the right reasons. Would I support those same decisions today?  You‘re damn right, I would.”  Yes, but you‘re crazy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was on this date in 1839 that the legendary Kentucky Senator Henry Clay uttered the immortal words: “I had rather be right than president.” Unfortunately for Hank, he turned out to be neither.  His beautiful phrase came after a speech on the Senator floor in which he said he disliked slavery, but disliked those who were trying to end slavery even more. 

This cost Clay much of his support in the North, gained him little in the South, and that pious part about, I‘d rather be right, that earned him mostly laughter from other politicians.  On top of which, when Clay said it, he sincerely thought he was going to be nominated for president in 1840, anyway.  He wasn‘t. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

And we begin on the Internet where some enterprising young men have figured out how to ride the waves even while landlocked.  All you need is a golf cart, a board, and a ditch.  Perhaps that‘s a culvert.  Sure, it‘s not as glamorous as surfing in the actual ocean, but where else can you use your buddies head for an extra lift? 

To London and the latest fashion trend: a hooded sweatshirt that covers your entire face.  How fetching.  Detractors are worried that criminals might start wearing these hoodies to hide themselves, to say nothing of the problem of lampposts.  Even though it‘s obvious from this footage that the wearer sticks out like—well, like a guy wearing a freakin‘ hood on his head.  For the record, the makers say they were inspired not by Abu Ghraib but by Kanye West. 

A brokered Democratic Convention means and broken Democratic campaign?  The other solution?  Vote once, vote twice, in Florida and Michigan.  Votes are still being compiled in “Worst Persons” derby.  I‘m liking Lou Dobbs, though, defaming the Anti-Defamation League.  These stories, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Best Persons in the World.”

Number three best and most missed, John McWethy, 24 years at ABC News, and from 1984 through 2003, its chief national security correspondent and stalwart at the Pentagon, as good as they were, who elevated all the reporting done there.  He had retired to ski.  He died yesterday in a skiing accident in Colorado, he was only 61. 

Number two, best tie.  Talk about counting votes.  Veterans at the board of elections in Syracuse, New York, are stunned, 12,002 votes cast in the Democratic primary there on Tuesday, Senator Clinton got 6,001 of them, Senator Obama got the other 6,001 of them. 

Number one, best hiding place: Chris Foster of Bournemouth, England.  His buddies told him he had done enough drinking for one night and they were taking him home.  Oh, no, you‘re not, he responded, promptly swallowed the key to his apartment.  Doctors assured him he would be OK and that later the key would magically reappear. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  He might be a stiff or he might be their 21st Century Ronald Reagan without the hair dye, or anything in between.  But there‘s one thing all Democrats are recognizing about John McCain this evening, barring some sort of heretofore unknown mandatory retirement age rule, he can start campaigning as the Republican nominee tonight.

While the Democrats bash each other, he can simply nod and agree.  Thus in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the politics of Democratic decision.  The sudden element of hurry up introduced to the equation, even prompting a suggestion that Florida and Michigan forget their decertified primaries from last month and hold new official ones, quickly. 

As we mentioned earlier, the Obama camp sees a potential delegate tie going into the convention.  If that happens, the party would have its first brokered convention since 1952.  The 20 percent of delegates who are not voted for, members of the Congress, members of the DNC, the superdelegates, would decide the nominee, an outcome that would look an awful lot like a smoke-filled room of yore, only with no smoke—no literal smoke, the figurative stuff would still be billowing. 

For that reason, DNC Chair Howard Dean this week said he will try to avoid going into the convention with a tie by meeting with the candidates beforehand and, not his words now, getting one of them to drop out. 

The new possibility today, there are now reports the party could return to Florida and Michigan, two states that had their delegates rejected by the Democrats after they broke party rules, national rules and held their primaries earlier than was requested. 

Senator Clinton, who won both of those contests, wants the delegates accepted anyway for some reason.  But reportedly the DNC is now pushing both states to perform what is technically known as do-over with no tag-backs.  Both states would hold new caucuses with both candidates on the ballot in a bid to help break the current deadlock without breaking faith with the party‘s grassroots.  At this point, let‘s turn to NBC News political director Chuck Todd. 

Good evening, Chuck. 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Good evening, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let‘s start with that last point, Michigan and Florida.  How plausible is the idea of do-overs in either or both states? 

TODD:  It‘s very plausible.  And I think more so on the Michigan side than the Florida side.  There is actually even precedent for it.  In 1996, Delaware moved up its primary.  And it broke the window.  They were told they weren‘t going to have any delegates.  Then suddenly, they found out that they could still submit a proposal to the DNC to have a caucus or a convention to choose  a delegation later in the process.  And they did just that.  They held a convention and picked new delegates and sent a delegation. 

Now of course, that was simply to renominate President Clinton.  So both Michigan—the Democratic Party in Michigan and the Democratic Party in Florida legally can still go to the DNC, file a new proposal for how to choose their delegates, a caucus, even a convention.  Though I don‘t think the DNC is going to be happy, their rules committee would approve a convention. 

And apparently Michigan, because there really isn‘t a united Democratic coalition in Michigan, a lot of African-American Democrats are putting pressure on the party to do something new.  The state party chair in Michigan and the governor, while both Democrats, don‘t always see eye-to-eye.  The governor is with Clinton, the state party chair was neutral, but a lot of people assume he was with John Edwards at the time when John Edwards was still in the race. 

So Michigan is enough of in chaos internally that there‘s going to be enough pressure that they will probably do something between, say—you know, after the March 4th primaries and June 6th.  It still would have to be in that window. 

Florida, and this gets a little confusing, could actually decide that, you know, they are going to try and get seated by the credentials committee.  Now the credentials committee may say, fine, Florida, you can have delegates, that vote, however, we will not use that primary to allocate those delegates. 

We will use—and this was one suggestion, I was told, the totality of the popular vote in all of the primaries and caucuses, and whatever the percentage breakdown is between is between Clinton and Obama, and we saw, for instance on Super Tuesday, it was literally—basically 50/50, that‘s how Florida‘s delegates will be allocated.  And that would be the compromise.

Because the credentials committee will probably be controlled 50 percent by Clinton supporters and 50 percent by Obama supporters.  You confused yet? 

OLBERMANN:  I have a pain right here.  And it always comes from Florida.  It has only been happening since 1876.  This other solution, Governor Dean is King Solomon, what on earth could he be proposing to say behind closed doors that would get either candidate to reply, oh, that‘s an excellent point, I hadn‘t thought of that, I‘ll be dropping out, now? 

TODD:  Well, I don‘t think people mistake Howard Dean for Boss Tweed or something like that.  But here‘s why I think he‘s bringing this up, between the last primary in Puerto Rico on June 7th, something for some reason I‘ve now committed to memory, don‘t ask, and the start of the Democratic Convention in late August, there‘s some 80-plus days.  OK, so that would be 80 days of backroom wrangling. 

Meanwhile, when they got a nominee to Election Day, it would only be about 60 days.  So that is a lot of wasted time, a lot of nervousness that you would have two-and-a-half months in between the last primary in June and the start of the convention where there would be nobody working on trying to make the case against Howard Dean or make the case for the Democrats. 

Instead they would be fighting over the support of former House Speaker Tom Foley, who‘s a superdelegate, or something like that, and take their eye off the ball.  So I think what Dean is trying to say is, you know, this is just going to be horrible for the party, you guys are going to have to figure something out, you‘re going to have to get into a room and figure.  And at that point, if they really are in a delegate tie, how do they not share the ticket and therefore how do they—you know, but who‘s first and who‘s second?  That‘s a whole other story.

OLBERMANN:  And briefly, in 30 seconds, did Governor Romney‘s decision galvanize this even more than Governor Dean‘s comments have? 

TODD:  Well, let‘s see what the next 30 days are like.  I still think that McCain—let‘s see what—there is an anti-McCain conservative coalition that sends a protest to McCain by defeating him in a primary.  Virginia is an interesting place to watch. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh boy.  NBC News political director, Chuck Todd.  Thank you, Chuck, as always. 

TODD:  You got it, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Also, something, something, something, Angelina Jolie, something, something, somewhere, something.  And something-something is wrong with this picture, again.  I don‘t want to seem cynical, but I‘m beginning to wonder if all of those incidents with the letter D and the letter R, whether they are not accidental.  Details in “Worst Persons.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Angelina Jolie in Baghdad topping, but not necessarily headlining the next 80 seconds in celebrity and entertainment news.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, and the rumors persist that she is with child.  She‘s apparently not in Iraq to adopt one.  Lest we forget, Ms.  Jolie a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. and her journey to Baghdad served that role.  Her mission, to focus on the plight of Iraqi refugees, specifically the 2 million-plus Iraqis internally displaced by the war. 

There is lots of goodwill and lots of discussion, she said in an interview, but there seems to be just a lot of talk at the moment.  Meanwhile, tmz.com focused on the trench coat Ms. Jolie wore when she ate lunch at a Baghdad canteen.  The notion being that if she is pregnant, as rumored, that‘s part of the cover up. 

A sad fall from grace to report tonight.  Former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss has been arrested today—well, technically it‘s more of a lateral from grace, I guess.  Though the mugshot is definitely a fall.  This, how Ms. Fleiss looked after cops nailed her in Pahrump—can that be right?  Oh, I see, Pahrump, Nevada. 

The charges: driving without a license, driving under the influence and possession of prescription drugs without possession of, say, a prescription.  Fleiss was also in possession of this guy, the previous not famous 53-year-old John Owen.  Happy day, sir. 

Fleiss was reportedly in Nevada to open legally what are known as stud farms where women pay men to—well, it‘s Nevada, you figure it out.  Bail for her set at $1,376.  No word how she could possibly raise the money. 

Roger Clemens swears to Congress he never used steroids.  That was before his ex-trainer stood up and claimed he still has the syringes with some of the steroids still in them and some of Clemens‘ blood in them too. 

That‘s next, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World.” The bronze: Republican Congressman Lamar Smith.  He told Attorney General Mukasey that 99 percent of the American people would support waterboarding a “known terrorist” if there was a high expectation that doing so would save thousands of lives.  This, even though in polling, 58 percent of Americans have insisted the government should not be allowed to waterboard anybody.  But of course, that “known terrorist” part, and the saving thousands of lives part, changes the equation.  How does Congressman Smith know if the waterboardee is a known terrorist and drowning him would save thousands of lives?  Well, obviously, he knows because he‘s seen “24.”

Worser tonight, FOX “Noise,” they‘ve done it again.  John McCain, during the CPAC speech today, you see it?  Sen. John McCain, D, Arizona.  That‘s John McCain accidentally identified as a Democrat by “Fixed” News.  After Arlen Specter was accidentally identified as a Democrat by “Fixed” News, and Mark Foley, page abuser, was accidentally identified as a Democrat by “Fixed” News, and now McCain.  I know what you‘re thinking, an accident?  But think of how many mistakes happen there every day.  I mean, for 12 years they have continued to use the word “news” in their brand name, as if they covered the news. 

But our winner, Lou Dobbs, not content with his perfectly symmetrical

hypocrisy, xenophobic anti-immigration rhetoric during the week, supporting

the show horse industry, which could not survive without illegal immigrants

during the weekend.  No, no, now he‘s going after the ADL, the Anti-

Defamation League, founded in 1913, still a bastion against anti-Semitism

and for civil rights.  In an exchange with a guest, Dobbs says, the ADL is

the guest says, they‘re a very well-respected voice.  Dobbs says, not by me.  The guest says, the Anti-Defamation League?  Dobbs says, they are a joke.  Well, Lou, here‘s your big chance.  You can start your presidential campaign now and get nominated by your own brand new party, the pro-defamation league.  Lou Dobbs, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Somewhere hanging still from a wall, doubtless trembling with embarrassment is one of George Brett‘s old jock straps, bronzed.  There‘s a Tom Seaver game-used toothpick in a collection somewhere.  And later this year, there will be auctioned an original copy of an 1897 warning, hand-delivered to the players because it was then illegal to send such things through the U.S. mail, describing in the most graphic terms possible the language which players were not permitted to shout at fans. 

In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, this may be the all-time lulu of bizarre baseball memorabilia.  And it could conceivably convict a seven-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher of perjury.  What is alleged to be a Roger Clemens steroid-used syringe, complete with Clemensian blood on it. 

Both Clemens, who has denied he has ever used steroids, and Brian McNamee, the ex-trainer who insists he injected them into Clemens were on Capitol Hill today in advance of next week‘s public hearing in front of the House Oversight Committee. 

McNamee meeting with congressional aides a day after The New York Daily News broke the story that for seven years, McNamee had been preserving vials with traces of steroids and growth hormone along with bloodstained syringes and gauze pads, all of which may contain the DNA of Roger Clemens. 

According to a source close to McNamee, on January 10th, the trainer turned the evidence over to the same IRS agent who initiated the BALCO steroids case.  That was three days after Clemens had filed a defamation case against McNamee for naming him in Major League Baseball‘s Mitchell Report. 

Back on the Hill today—Capitol Hill, Clemens, a smile frozen on his face, was pressing the flesh, his own for sure, with several different Oversight Committee members, trying to personally convince them that the testimony he gave in a closed session on Tuesday was true. 

On Tuesday, Clemens told reporters his testimony was exactly what he‘d been saying all along, he never used steroids nor HGH.  This evening, Clemens reiterated his innocence, then his attorney compared the McNamee claims to the abandoned Duke lacrosse rape allegations. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSTY HARDIN, ROGER CLEMENS‘ ATTORNEY:  You‘re about to see the second edition of the Duke case.  Duke was a troubled woman who made allegations that everybody jumped on and ruined and trashed the reputations of young men later found not to have done it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Howard Bryant writes and reports for the worldwide leader, ESPN.  He is also the author of the book “Juicing the Game.” And he joins us now.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD BRYANT, AUTHOR, “JUICING THE GAME”:  Hey, Keith, long time.

OLBERMANN:  So this makes those baseball cards that had the pieces of game-used bats or uniforms look like small potatoes? 

BRYANT:  I can‘t wait for the auction, to find the—are we going to put the bloody sock next to the bloody syringe? 

OLBERMANN:  Something like that.

BRYANT:  Or the bloody gauze, I‘m sorry. 

OLBERMANN:  Which seems less plausible to you, McNamee kept the Clemens medical waste in his freezer for seven years, or he didn‘t and submitted somebody else‘s medical waste and hoping nobody notices that the DNA doesn‘t match?

BRYANT:  Well, you‘d like to think that a former police officer would know that DNA wouldn‘t match if he was trying to pull a fast one.  I actually think that nothing is going to surprise me anymore when it comes to these two guys going at each other. 

But the one thing that does give McNamee credibility on this is that when you are in a supplicant position, as he was with Roger Clemens, knowing that you are doing something illegal, he probably figured, if I get caught and it‘s turns out to be my word against his word, I‘m going to lose.  So maybe I need some sort of protection against that.  And as it turns out, that‘s kind of what happened. 

OLBERMANN:  Do we have any idea where this is going in terms of Congress, where Congress wants it to go?  Are they talking perjury?  Are they contempt or are they just talking another, you know, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro show trial? 

BRYANT:  Well, I can‘t wait to see what happened, because this whole thing started—if Roger Clemens had kept his mouth shut, we wouldn‘t even be in this position.  But the only reason that this is happening is because Roger had the audacity to criticize the Mitchell Report. 

And it seems like what this is really all about is the committee members are protecting one of their own and the credibility of the report. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it going to come down to this, that either McNamee of Clemens is going to be somehow prosecuted for something, they said, concerning this? 

BRYANT:  Well, I‘m not sure that the battle is actually McNamee versus Clemens.  I think McNamee is going down no matter what.  He has got no reputation anymore.  And if it so turns out that he was lying to the federal prosecutors with the information that he gave George Mitchell, then he is going down for that.

I think the real battle here is Roger Clemens versus George Mitchell, because one of those two is certainly going down.  Because if it so turns out that after all of what we have heard for the past 60 days, that Roger Clemens is telling the truth, then the Mitchell Report has zero credibility whatsoever. 

If it so turns out that McNamee has been credible and that all of what George Mitchell reported was accurate, then Roger Clemens has set himself up, one, in destroying his legacy by lying, and two, also by essentially perjuring himself. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, funny also that he wouldn‘t sue Mitchell or baseball, since they‘re the ones who promulgated this. 

BRYANT:  Well, that is the interesting thing.  And the other thing, too, that I find kind of interesting is that when the Mitchell Report came out, the first thing that people had said against it, in opposition to it, was, well, OK, we have got these checks and you have got this different—the things that are being sent through the mail.  Where‘s the physical evidence? 

Now, we find out that McNamee has kept bloody gauze in his possession for seven years.  But yet he didn‘t give that information or that physical evidence to George Mitchell.  So once again, you have got two trains speeding toward each other and neither one has any breaks. 

OLBERMANN:  First a bloody glove, then a bloody sock, then the bloody gauze.  And we‘ve all had bloody enough of it, right?

BRYANT:  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  Howard Bryant of ESPN.  And of course, his book on the subject, great thanks, as always, Howard.  Good to talk to you.

BRYANT:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,744th 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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