updated 2/19/2008 10:30:29 AM ET 2008-02-19T15:30:29

Guests: Dana Milbank, Pat Buchanan, Maria Milito, Rachel Maddow

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

Clinton leads Obama by eight in the polls in Texas.

But: Obama gets the endorsement of the self-proclaimed largest union in the nation.

But: Back on the trail, if you hear any more about solutions, we have to be in a high school chemistry class.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, there‘s a big difference between making speeches and offering solutions.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t want to get into sort of a tit for tat here.  All of us have proposed plenty of solutions in this race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Republican McCain mutiny still without a solution.  Though Huckabee mathematically cannot win the nomination in the polls in Texas, he only trails McCain by 4 points.

The president bumped (ph) for the moment anyway by the Democrats over telecom immunity, goes back into: “The aborted (ph) child, the Democrats will kill you, slavery is freedom bit”.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  By blocking this piece of legislation, our country is more in dangere of an attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, except you blocked it and you blocked a temporary extension of it.  But Mr. Bush ratchets up the rhetoric by exploiting the victims of the London subway bombers on British television.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I don‘t see how you can say that in Great Britain, after people came, and, you know, blew up bombs and subways.  I suspect that families of those victims sort of understand the nature of the killers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  One problem: Mr. Bush‘s own Director of National Intelligence says, eavesdropping on terrorists and others is, quote, “Not the real issue.  The issue is: liability protection for the private sector.”

Can you get a piece of liability protection for this?  “American Idol” down to the final 24 contestants.  Final, as in for all time?  Yea!

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Friday, February 15th, 263 days until the 2008 presidential election.  Last Friday in Portland, Maine, Former President Bill Clinton ruminated on what he seemed to acknowledge was overzealous campaigning on his part in the race between his wife and Senator Obama.  Even if I win an argument with another candidate, he said, it‘s not the right thing to do.  I need to promote her but not to defend her.  The shelf life of that statement: apparently, exactly one week.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN:  Bill in a china shop.  The former president at Tyler, Texas this afternoon, asserting that one of two competing moods in America today belongs to those who find it, quote, “Inspiring that we might elect a president who literally was not part of any of the good things that happened or any of the bad things that were stopped before”, unquote, in the 1990‘s.  The quote capping another contentious day between the Democratic challengers, some polling data first: Senator Clinton up eight in polling conducted by the Democratic firm of Hamilton Campaigns and the Republican firm of Public Opinion Strategies for the Texas Credit Union League.  The Keith number in this odd poll: undecided voters plus margin of error, just under 13.  Senator Clinton‘s firewall in Texas is still holding tonight.  Somebody, though, please inform Senator McCain that the Democratic nomination process is not over yet.  The presumptive Republican nominee saying at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, that he expects Senator Obama to use public financing in the general election if he, Mr. McCain, does the same thing, calling on the Illinois Democrat to abide by his earlier pledge on the matter.  From Milwaukee, Senator Obama reminding reporters that in case they had forgotten, he is not the nominee yet, explaining further that he never promised to accept public financing in the general election, only that he would look into it and if or when he is the nominee, he would be happy to sit down with the McCain campaign to discuss the possibility of a level playing field.  Senator Obama winning the support of the Service Employees Union today, nearly 2 million members -- his second big labor endorsement in as many days as a result of today‘s endorsement.  Sarah Swisher, a superdelegate and SEIU member, is switching her support from Senator Clinton to Senator Obama.  She had started the year with Senator Edwards.  Last night, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia having said that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Obama, but his endorsement for Senator Clinton still holds.  If you think that‘s confusing, wait until you try to sort through the charges being made by the Clinton campaign in what it is being called its first all-out attack on Senator Obama, a new ad launching today in Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OVER:  Barack Obama still won‘t agree to debate in Wisconsin.  Now, he‘s hiding behind false attack ads.  Maybe, he doesn‘t want to explain why his health care plan leaves out 15 million people and Hillary‘s covers everyone.  Or why he voted to pass billions in Bush giveaways to the oil companies but Hillary didn‘t.  Or why he said he might raise the retirement age and cut benefits for social security.  Hillary won‘t.  Why won‘t Barack Obama debate these differences?  Wisconsin deserves better.

CLINTON:  I‘m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No false attack ads from Senator Obama that we could find, only that rebuttal to her first ad that launched yesterday, with the same music.  As for why Senator Obama‘s health care plan might leave as many as 15 million Americans without insurance by choice, he did explain that during the debate in Los Angeles, available for viewing to all basic cable subscribers in the state of Wisconsin.  Ask Toford (ph) Grace.  Senator Obama today, explaining his opponent‘s need to attack him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I understand that, you know, Senator Clinton periodically when she‘s feeling down, launches attacks and as a way of, you know, trying to boost her appeal.  But I think, you know, this kind of gamesmanship is not what the American people are looking for.  What they‘re looking for is ways to actually help send their kids to college or find a job or get a health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re joined now by Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post”.  Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let‘s start in Tyler, Texas this afternoon and that quote from Bill Clinton, slightly more contextualized in a fuller version.  People who want something fresh and new and they find it inspiring that we might elect a president who literally was not part of any of the good things that happened or any of the bad things that were stopped before and he‘s referencing the 1990s.  I thought that the former president had essentially declared he wished he had campaigned a little differently last month.  This would not be differently.  This would be the same.

MILBANK:  Well, it‘s a little bit differently.  He‘s not doing the same as Clinton finger-wag.  He‘s not comparing Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson and using loaded terms such as calling him a kid and a roll of the dice, but, of course, this is what Bill Clinton does when he‘s down and the truth is: I would be very skeptical that the Clinton campaign would be restraining him because, this is exactly what they have to be doing if they want any chance at all of preventing Obama from running away with it before March 4th.

OLBERMANN:  I am loathed to use this next phrase, even to put it in words.  I mean, I have deep personal affection for both of the Clintons.  I don‘t think that‘s some awful revelation and I don‘t think that‘s awful.  But between the debate ads in Wisconsin and these quotes about the states in which Obama has not, you know, won, not really being important states and this again, today from the former president, I can‘t see any way around this.  They sound angry.  Are they angry?  Are they angry at Obama, at the media, at the voters?

MILBANK:  Well, yes, of course they‘re angry and they have very many good reasons to be.  There is a long-standing antagonism with the press but they shouldn‘t be surprised about it at this particular point in time.  But I think it would be far too early to write off the whole idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency here.  They have been at least very clever in gambling everything on March 4th in Ohio and Texas and I think the media has essentially bought that line from them.  So, they have essentially bought themselves some time.  Now, if those polls that you mentioned hold up, then it‘s still a contest here.  But I don‘t think we‘re anywhere near, you know, what we‘re hearing right now, isn‘t sort of the last Hail Mary or a sort of desperation just yet.

OLBERMANN:  On this subject of funding and we‘ll turn to Senator Obama.  Is Senator McCain attempting to somehow hamstring the fund-raising juggernaut that Obama has put together in anticipation of the general election and if he is doing that, does he think it‘s going to work?

MILBANK:  Well, he sure is.  It‘s actually a terrific move because as the campaign finance and good government groups will attest, Obama did say that he would be willing to abide by public financing in the fall election if his Republican opponent did.  Of course, this was done at a time when he didn‘t expect to win the election and, of course, this would very much level the playing field with McCain.  This shows something of the danger of Obama and what could happen to him in the fall in that he may seem a little bit naive in that he‘s cast out sort of hopeful promises but then when push comes to shove, he actually has to do business the way Washington actually does business and if he‘s going to beat McCain, he‘s going to have to tap some private financing.

OLBERMANN:  But, of course, if you have so much more money, you can buy all the ads that you want and they can all say that you‘re not behaving business as usual.  So you can completely, just outshout all of that.  Last point, if it sounds lofty, it sounds honorable but if you are Senator Obama, why in the world would you seriously consider going along with public financing and the limit that that creates and the level playing field that that creates?  What‘s the point of it now?

MILBANK:  It‘s very hard to imagine that he would do that given that that would limit them to $85 million in the fall.  He‘s raised $100 million, $150 million, we don‘t know exactly the amount yet.  Consider that and the equivalent amount all the other Democrats have raised, he could get quadruple or more of the amount of public financing that he‘s getting.  So, he‘ll take a hit.  He‘ll look like he‘s being a bit hypocritical but, of course, that‘s easier to overcome than the loss of several hundred million dollars because that‘s ultimately what it‘s all about.

OLBERMANN:   Dana Milbank of MSNBC and, of course, the “Washington Post”.  As always, great thanks.  Have a good weekend.

MILBANK:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama telling reporters today that the superdelegates should not trump a victory by the candidate who comes away with the most delegates and the primaries and caucuses, quoting him, “Whoever has the most pledged delegates at the end of this contest should be the nominee”.  But there is a pattern of contradictory statements from the Clinton campaign on this.  Senator Clinton‘s chief strategist, Mark Penn telling reporters in a conference call on Wednesday, “Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn‘t won any of the significant states outside of Illinois?  That raises some serious questions about Senator Obama.”  Senator Obama having won 22 insignificant states so far in the Democratic nominating process, Senator Clinton 11.  Former President Clinton was saying of his wife‘s recent losses in an interview on Tuesday, quote, “The caucuses are not good for her.  They disproportionately favor upper income voters who don‘t really need a president but feel like they need a change.”  The Clinton campaign even tried to rename superdelegates themselves.  At the beginning of the week surrogates for Senator Clinton start referring to superdelegates as automatic delegates.

Time for us to call in our political director, Chuck “Automatic” Todd for guidance.  Good evening to you, sir.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Hello, there.

OLBERMANN:  Automatic delegates, I mean, it sounds sturdy, it sounds reliable, no variation, no element of chance like the Chicago Bears‘ plays kicker in the 30s, “Automatic” Jack Manders.

TODD:  There you go.

OLBERMANN:  But given the situation with Congressman Lewis, the fluidity with that and with this Ms. Swisher who is now on her third candidate of the year, is there anything at all automatic about the allegiance of a super or automatic delegate?

TODD:  Well, I‘ll give you a really scary scenario and that is not only are superdelegates not automatic and they could change with the wind but so could these pledged delegates but again I don‘t even want to open up that window.  I mean, there‘s nothing that keeps these, even these earned delegates that you say they have to stick with their candidate.  Now, of course, the candidate gets to pick who that delegate is that goes to the convention for them.  So, you would assume they would pick somebody that voted for them.  But the superdelegates, they are not automatic at all because you just don‘t know where they‘re going to go.  And right now most of them, if they‘re going anywhere, they‘re going with Obama.  Since Super Tuesday, Keith, 13 to negative three, that‘s been the superdelegate allocation publicly that has gone—Obama‘s picked up 13 and she has lost a net of three.  So, it is not been—I don‘t know if they want to start talking up the superdelegates right this week.

OLBERMANN:  What is that John Lewis situation, endorses Clinton, says he‘s going to vote for Obama?  And more importantly does it matter at this point?  Is there not a sense that the superdelegates have largely neutered themselves or intend to not overrule the verdict of the regular delegates?

TODD:  Well, it seems to me that there certainly seems to be a movement by the bigger name superdelegates to tell everybody to cool their jets or to at least follow a statement.  This John Lewis thing frankly I‘m very confused because what he told the “New York Times” is different from what his office was telling NBC News, from what other people.  So, you know, we think his stance is he‘s endorsing Senator Clinton but he may vote for Senator Obama.  So, kind of a very odd distinction that he‘s drawing.  But on this other—with these other superdelegates, you had Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House and obviously, maybe one of the three or four most important superdelegates out there, Al Gore, being one of the others.  She said, hey, you better follow the voters on this one and the pledged delegates.  So, everybody seems to be using their status to sort of create rules.  The problem is: I think you are going to have some superdelegates that are going to follow one set of rules which are going to be who‘s the most electable candidate, another set of superdelegates are going to follow a set of rules that say, who‘s going to make the best president and yet another set are going to say, well, let‘s see what the Democratic voters nationwide wanted.

OLBERMANN:  Chuck, these two statements this week, let‘s look at them separately.  Mark Penn suggesting that the 22 states with Senator Obama has won so far are insignificant to the outcome of the nomination process in any event.  What happens to Democratic chances in those 22 states if Senator Clinton gets the nomination?  And did Mark Penn just hand John McCain a campaign slogan for those 22, however, many states there might ultimately be, you know, my very dear friends, I think you‘re significant?

TODD:  Right, no.  He fed right into a sort of—a stereotype that conservatives have of liberals which, you know, all these states that Obama won is in so-called flyover country, right?  You know, it‘s basically you ask somebody, you know, where the midwest is and they say, well, I don‘t know, it‘s sort of halfway when I fly from New York to L.A.  And I think that he did feed into sort of that east coast/west coast elitism that sometimes has with so-called flyover country.  Obviously, that‘s where Obama‘s been cleaning up.  I mean, when you look at the map of states he‘s won versus states that she‘s won, you know, his looks much more substantial, you know?  Those are big geographic states that he‘s won, in Utah and in Idaho and places like that, and North Dakota.  But, you know, he‘s also won some other significant states.  I don‘t think Missouri‘s insignificant.  I don‘t think Virginia‘s insignificant.  These are very significant states and will matter in the Electoral College.  Let‘s remember, by the way, you know, it was four electoral votes that could have swung in 2000 in an insignificant state potentially like New Mexico or New Hampshire.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, the President Clinton remark about people country who don‘t need a president.  I may have missed a year of school or something.  Did we not offer rights, voting, et cetera, even to people who don‘t need help with health care and who are not—you know, who are suffering the deep burden of not having any financial strain?  I mean, it‘s, again, there seems to be something tone-deaf about that.  It‘s remarkably undemocratic statement from a Democratic president.  What possessed him?

TODD:  Well, you know what, though?  If you really remember, you know, his presidency, you know, he always liked to be—you know, he was sort of a mayoral presidency.  He was a mayor.  He was the guy that was going to fix everybody‘s pothole.  So, I think he‘s always viewed the presidency that way.  That, you know, the people that need the most help, that he could give the most help to are the ones that, you know, make the least.  The ones that make the most, they don‘t really need a—I mean, I actually think that philosophically that is what he believes.  I mean, that he was actually speaking from his own experience of where he thought he made the—you know, he probably felt that he had the most impact on people that made the least amount of money.

OLBERMANN:  NBC news political director. Chuck Todd.  We‘ll talk to you Tuesday after Wisconsin if not sooner.  Thank you, Chuck.

TODD:  You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If you think there is a conflict on the Democratic side, consider this: In the polls in Texas, John McCain is only leading Mike Huckabee by 4 points, 4 points.

And after being beaten by the Democrats on telecom immunity, the president makes his artificial thunder noises about increased dangers to citizens, not the telecoms.  But his own Director of National Intelligence essentially calls him a liar on it.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  The good news for John McCain: He‘s got an endorsement for a former republican president.  The bad news for John McCain: It‘s a former Republican president who was frequently who‘s unable to get the support of conservatives.  And ahead on Worst Persons: A Senate investigation of the New England Patriots, a illicit video take place and the National Football League?  All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  From the day last spring when they assembled inside the imposing edifice at the top of the hill in Southern California, that is the Ronald Reagan library, and it had been the dream of all the Republican would-be candidates to get some kind of endorsement by proxy from the late conservative icon.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The Republican frontrunner just got the closest thing possible, the endorsement George H. W. Bush just in time for a Texas primary in which Senator John McCain is favored incredibly by just 4 poll points.  Senator McCain is presumably not planning to mention that the first Mr. Bush both raised taxes and based American troops in Saudi Arabia, sparking the outrage of a young sociopath named Osama Bin Laden.  McCain is due to visit the former president Monday in Houston, announced the endorsement then, 15 days before Texas.  Whether it will help his standing in that state remains to be seen.  Mike Huckabee continues to fight despite his toughest opponent being math.  A new poll puts the two in a statistical tie for Texas: McCain at 45, Huckabee at 41, the margin of error, 4.9, well within a Keith number that could range as high as 19 percent nearly.

At this point let‘s turn to Pat Buchanan, both MSBNC political analyst and author of “Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology and Greed are Tearing America Apart”.  As always, Pat, great thanks for your time tonight.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with Texas.  A statistical tie and 14 percent goes to neither candidate.  Should not the presumptive frontrunner at least be slightly a clear frontrunner by this point?

BUCHANAN:  He should be a frontrunner for ahead of where he is now.  He should be winning Texas by 77 percent, 75 percent of the vote.  What this says, Keith, is that the Texas Republican Party which is much more conservative than Bush two, let alone Bush one, is really not reconciled to the candidacy of John McCain and they‘re looking for an opportunity to express their dissent and the fact that they don‘t want to be marched to the altar.

OLBERMANN:  Monday, in Houston and you mentioned George H. W.  Bush‘s history with conservatives, not always a smooth one, with this endorsement of McCain, obviously, he‘s the only living ex-Republican president but does not that historical breach that he had with conservatives the off and on quality to that, would that serve to underscore the problem that McCain has right now rather than relieve the problem that McCain has right now?

BUCHANAN:  I think that‘s exactly right.  George H. W. Bush, President Bush, retired president, is respected, admired and liked by everyone but there‘s no question that he represents, he is the epitome of the Republican establishment today and that‘s not what McCain needs in the Texas primary.  What he needs is hardcore conservatives, Texas congressmen and others rallying to him to help him out here.  I mean, I don‘t know what‘s going to happen, but I‘ll tell you, Keith, that would be a massive humiliation.  You recall that President Gerald Ford was beaten by Ronald Reagan, the challenger, in the Texas primary and Reagan went from there and stormed almost to the nomination.  Now, Huckabee‘s too far behind to do that but this would be an equivalent embarrassment if not a humiliation for John McCain at this point in his campaign.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let me do it again.  I‘ve asked you this question before but it bears repeating with every new development in this.  What does Governor Huckabee accomplish by staying in pass mathematical possibility and in turn, what does the GOP pay in November if any price?

BUCHANAN:  I think Huckabee helps himself because conservatives love lost causes, whether it‘s the Goldwater campaign, the Panama Canal Treaty, (INAUDIBLE).  They love an individual who goes up against the establishment even when the odds are totally against him.  They admire that.  So, conservatives could rally to Huckabee and a lot of them have been skeptical of him because of his Arkansas record.  He is making himself the conservative alternative in 2012 or the conservative nominee.  He is challenging Romney for delegates and votes.  That‘s what it does for him.  I don‘t really think it hurts the Republican Party.  It makes McCain look like a moderate or a liberal, or a moderate or a centrist out of line with the conservatives and Rush Limbaugh and everyone.  That helps him over there.  And all the Republicans are going to come aboard eventually, Keith.  The question is the conservatives.  A, do they all come aboard; and B, with what kind of enthusiasm do they fight for John McCain in November because you‘ve got to have the coalition not only united but energized by for a Republican to win in a bad Republican year.

OLBERMANN:  And also what kind of inducement because the Panama Canal‘s gone, I‘m afraid.  Our own Pat Buchanan, as always, many thanks.  Have a good weekend.  Take care.

BUCHANAN:  Take care, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You know, they try to convince us that Al Gore is full of it about global warming.  But I don‘t know.  I think this might be a real problem.  We‘ll have to explain this.

And the New England Patriots may have to explain something to the U.S. Senate.  The NFL may have closed the book on the Pat‘s unauthorized videotaping of opponents but Arlen Specter says, he hasn‘t.  Worst Persons ahead.

But first: The headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 other scandals—Bushed.

Number three: Detainee-gate.  Another reasonable demand causing the administration to threaten to hold its breath until it turns blue.  The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. wants the president to justify why more than 180 detainees at Gitmo are classified as enemy combatants.  The administration has now gone to the Supreme Court to argue that just answering that question would create a serious threat to national security.

Number two: Bush in the bush-gate.  That trip to Africa that he threatened to cancel and about which the president has made such a big deal?  Monday, the White House cut at least $193 million in U.S. funding to U.N. peace keeping forces in Africa.  We‘ve got a firm heartfelt commitment to the continent of Africa, Mr. Bush told the BBC.  Yes, no money but a heartfelt commitment.

And number one: 1984-gate.  Attorney General John Ashcroft now says in a speech to Missouri Republicans that President Bush is among the most respectful of all leaders ever in terms of respecting the civil rights of individuals.  Well, if you do the math here, there had been millions of, quote, “leaders”, quote, “ever”.  So, if Mr. Bush ranks, say, number 94,227, that would make him, you know, top 10 percent, right ahead of Genghis Khan.

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OLBERMANN:  Fifty-four years ago today Matt Groening was born.  The creator of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” was the son of Homer and Marge Groening, nee Wiggum, wait a minute.  His father was Abram.  Grandfather rather.  He has younger sisters named Lisa and Maggie.  He was born in Portland which has streets called Flanders, Kearney and Quimby.  My God, it‘s the most remarkable coincidence in human history.  Happy birthday, Matt Groening.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

Yes, we begin in Wheeling, West Virginia where yesterday Kevin Felder was sentenced to five to 18 years in the clank for robbery.  But it wasn‘t all bad news for him because right after the judge handed down his sentence, he then performed a wedding ceremony for Felder and his fiancee right in front of the bench.  You may now kiss the convict.

Sadly Mr. Felder was immediately whisked off to honeymoon in an eight by 10 cell where he might find himself violating his marital vows in the big house.

Let‘s head under the sea where 30 years after James Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me” swam the ocean blue in his amphibious Lotus sports car, somebody has built a real life version.  This is the Squba with a Q.  Also a modified Lotus, this car has no roof.  So you need an oxygen tank and, of course, then lots of towels when you get topside.  The aquamobile cost 1 ½ million clams. It is the brainchild of a Swiss inventor who said he was captivated by the Bond submarine/car and says his next project is to build a hovercraft skateboards from “Back to the Future Part 2.”

A funny thing happened to George Bush on his way to again blaming the Democrats for future terrorist attacks.  His director of national intelligence completely disagreed with the president‘s case.

And “American Idol” something, I don‘t know, they have the final 24 contestants?  Final?  You mean it‘s over?  No, I didn‘t think so.  These stories ahead.

Number three, best typo.  We told you yesterday a court filing by those prosecuting Barry Bonds for perjury contained a reference to a previously unreported positive steroid test by bonds in November 2001, a month after he broke the single season home run record.  Turns out it was a typo in the court.  The positive test was in November 2000.  The winter before Bonds broke the single season home run record.  And that‘s better for him how exactly?

Number two, best holding of your liquor.  Branko Milicevic, a driver in Sitvluk (ph) in Bosnia pulled over for DUI, blood-alcohol content 0.40.  Legal limit, 0.03.  The bad news, he was at 13 times the legal limit.  The good news, he did not explode when exposed to open flames.

Number one best doctor.  Chris Britt of Laughton (ph), England.  Introduced at dinner, by a mutual friend, the owner of the restaurant they were at, a man named Mark Guerreri (ph).  They shook hands and suddenly Dr. Britt had a flashback to a case he had as an intern.  He knew exactly why Mr.  Guerreri‘s hand felt so spongy.  He told Guerreri to see a doctor immediately, that he had acromegaly, an excessive human growth hormone caused by a tumor in the brain.  Mr. Guerreri thought the swelling had been because he thought he had been too much do-it-yourself work on his house.  After surgeons found and removed a benign tumor from the base of his brain, saving him from blindness and possibly death, he realized how lucky he had been.

The odds against you getting acromegaly are about 333,000:1 and this guy he just met at the restaurant, Dr. Britt, had already seen the symptoms in a case 20 years ago.

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OLBERMANN:  So much for President Bush‘s bleeding about how the Democrats in Congress just stole the eavesdropping authorities, the tools of counterterrorism, away from the professionals by not sending him his version of the FISA Act.  In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, “It‘s true,” said national director of intelligence Mike McConnell this morning on NPR radio.  “Some of the authorities would carry over to the period they were established, for one year.”

OK, one Bush lie confirmed.  Remarkably McConnell continued.  However, that‘s not the real issue he had.  The issue is liability protection for the private sector.  There goes the other Bush lie about this, that it‘s about keeping you safe when, in fact, it‘s only about keeping the telecom giants safe.  Mr. Bush today telling us what will happen as a result when his version of FISA expires tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PREISDENT:  This bill comes to the House of Representatives and it was blocked.  And by blocking this piece of legislation, our country is more endangered of an attack.  By not giving the professionals the tools they need, it‘s going to be a lot harder to do the job we need to be able to defend America.  These telephone companies that work collaboratively with us to protect the American people, are afraid they are going to get sued.  And the American people have got to understand these lawsuits make it harder for us to convince people to help protect you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, thanks for finally admitting they collaborated with you.  A, you don‘t have to convince anyone if you have a warrant; B, the U.S. can still wire tap terror suspects Sunday and for the following year.  C, Mr.  Bush blocked extending FISA past tomorrow, not the House.  D, Republicans blocked covering any losses that the telecoms might suffer in court; E, it was Mr. Bush who had intel after the bombing of the Cole that made our country more in danger by failing to act on it when it was revealed his lack of retaliation had pushed al Qaeda to plan something bigger than that.  And F, it was Mr. Bush who endorsed the Pakistani safe haven where Osama bin Laden and presumably his phone now reside; G, it was Mr. Bush despite all this who today dared to tell British television that the British families of those killed in Britain‘s subway bombings agree with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  It should send a signal that America is going to respect law but is going to take actions necessary to protect ourselves and find information that may protect others.  Unless, of course, people say, well, there‘s no threat, they are just making up the threat, these people aren‘t problematic.  But I don‘t see how you can say that in Great Britain after people came and, you know, blew up bombs in subways.  I suspect the families of those victims understand the nature of killers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now with us, MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, the host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” which airs weeknights on Air America.  Good to see you again.

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I forgot H, is he not arguing for enforcement tools against an enemy that his war was supposed to have nailed like six years ago?

MADDOW:  Yeah.  In the line as always, if al Qaeda is calling in the United States, we want to know who they‘re calling and why which sounds great until you think, well, wait a minute, the laws before, the old FISA law allowed you to wire tap anybody you even was suspected was al Qaeda.  There was even this nifty provision where if you couldn‘t get the paperwork in order ahead of time, you could go ahead and start the wiretap and then three days later get the paperwork gut into the FISA court.  If there‘s no connection between these expansions of presidential power and this kind of riding rough shod over the restrictions on presidential power and our laws, there is no connection between those and getting the bad guys.  It makes you wonder why it is that they want to expand presidential power this way.  Remember right after 9/11 the Congress offered to loosen the FISA rules and the Bush Justice Department said no, no, no, we actually think they are fine.  Then they proceed to break those rules which they aid were not to onerous.  They would prefer to do it in a law breaking way.  That should make us say hmmm.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point what do we attribute Mr. McConnell‘s honesty on the radio this morning where he said the issue is liability protection for the private sector?  Was there, like, oxygen deprivation for this man here that caused him to blurt out the truth like that?  Is it just difficult to lie 24 hours a day?  Why did he say that if it‘s so contrary to what his boss is saying?

MADDOW:  Well, the liability for the phone companies is the thing that expires.  The spying powers don‘t expire.  It‘s just the “Get Out of Jail Free” card for the phone companies.  And let us not forget as well that the phone companies have pulled the plug on government spying on Americans without a warrant.  At one point since 9/11, they didn‘t pull the plug on it, they didn‘t say no because of the privacy laws that we thought protected us.  They pulled the plug when the government stopped paying the bills.  So if that‘s the noble cause that they think, you know, earns them legal immunity for breaking the law, I would like to hear them make that case to the American public and explain the whole pulling the plug when they didn‘t pay the bills.

OLBERMANN:  And, of course, also you are getting protection for everybody in the government who collaborated with the telecoms. It‘s not just the telecoms who are getting the immunity in those lawsuits, too.

MADDOW:  Right.  That‘s the issue about the phone companies.  As you noted here, the Congress rejected, the Republicans in Congress rejected the idea that the government would just cover any financial losses that the companies suffered as a result of these, of these lawsuits.  Well, if you take that away, then they can‘t be afraid of anything from these lawsuits except what we would learn from those lawsuits proceeding, which is who they have wiretapped, why they were doing it and what the procedures were that brought us to this place.

OLBERMANN:  So how are, after all this happened, how are the Democrats sleeping at night?

MADDOW:  Yeah, how will our political processes move forward without fantasies of national security threats that don‘t exist covering up our corporate welfare?  How will we sleep?  Yeah.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of sleeping well, I guess Mr. Bush is going to sleep well even though he told the BBC that way that Brits who lost loved ones in the bombings in London are on his side?  Was that a shrewd maneuver or what?

MADDOW:  Unbelievable.  As if, you know, really the people, the families of people who have been killed in terrorism really want to make sure that lawsuits don‘t go forward against telecom companies that cover up what governments have done to their citizens in the name of national security.  That has nothing to do with making us safer from the next terrorist attack. 

I‘m sure that‘s how they feel.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  And also the family of Mr. Menezes‘ (ph) the electrician who was supposedly a terrorist except now just turned out to be an electrician who looked kind of like one who lived in the neighborhood.  I‘m sure they agreed, too.  Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC.  Have a good weekend.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For three years the high school students worked on it, a diorama of the Civil War but when the museum director saw historical inaccuracies in it, did he really have to respond by?  You won‘t believe what he did to it ahead in worst persons, and something about “American Idol.”  Simon Cowell leads John McCain in polling in Texas or something.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  “American Idol” down to just 24 contestants and just 26 viewers.  Oh, man, I knew that was too good to be true.  Twenty six million viewers.

That‘s next but first time for our number two story tonight, COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”  Parroting the latest talking point that Senator Obama has no ideas, just speeches.  “He‘s not getting micro into what he would do with Pakistan or Iran or how he would pay for the entitlement of universal healthcare.  But the folks in America seem to be willing to say, we‘re going to give him a chance; we done really care whether he has a lot of experience or if he spells out his platform.  Now is that dangerous?  Is it dangerous to give a guy the most powerful job in the world if you don‘t know what he‘s going to do?”

Those speeches and his policy statements about Pakistan and Iran and the Bush tax cut rollback to pay for his healthcare.  That‘s not getting micro?  Geez, Bill, I know you‘ve had a bad month but you are reduced to water-carrying Republican talking points?

Runners up, the New England Patriots, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania says he will pursue the football Spygate case.  Says he has a list of witnesses who will confirm that the Patriots‘ illicit videotaping of rival teams‘ signals and perhaps practices included two AFC championship games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and perhaps two of New England‘s Super Bowl wins over St. Louis and Philadelphia.  Specter also wants to know why the NFL destroyed all the evidence in the taping case.  If you think Specter is just doing some grandstanding for the fans of home state teams in Philly and Pittsburgh.  Not so fast.  A Senate investigation of this scandal and the NFL‘s tone-deaf decision to invoice the evidence the week the scandal broke, it could make the baseball steroids mess a hearing about a parking ticket.

And number one Jeff Hunt, director of the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mayberry in Austin, Texas.  Students at Highland High School in Gilbert, Arizona spent 7,000 hours building this 10-foot by five-foot diorama of the battle at Palmetto Ranch, the last land battle of the Civil War.  Two hundred kids spending free time over three years building, hand-painting 750 individual little soldiers all about 2 ½ inches tall, materials worth $23,000.  The labor as much as $130,000 and they sent it to be displayed at the Texas Military Forces Museum which is owned by the Texas National Guard.

But the director of this museum, this Mr. Hunt, did his master‘s thesis on the battle at palmetto ranch and he instantly recognized that some historical inaccuracies were present in the kids‘ amazing representation of the fight.  So naturally he took the diorama and he destroyed it.  He didn‘t send it back.  He didn‘t suggest changes.  He destroyed it.

A member of the museum‘s board said it looked like somebody had put their arm down and just swept it across the diorama.  I wonder who that was.  Jeff Hunt.  And how in the hell does he still have a job?  Today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Maybe, just maybe this will be the year in which more Americans care about who runs the country than who wins “American Idol,” 24,600,000 viewers on Wednesday night at the apex of the primaries the night before, the three cable news networks had a combined total of about 6 million.  Then again all the presidential candidates, we‘ve already seen Obama dance kind of stiffly, Huckabee play the guitar kind of stiffly and McCain sing the only song he knows, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.  Nevertheless, nothing will stop idol producers from presenting this hullabaloo as a matter of life or death.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Idol reaches its top 24 and our “American Idol” princess who will join us presently cares even if I pretty much don‘t.

This year during Hollywood week, contestants were allowed to accompany themselves with instruments to various effects.

(MUSIC)

OLBERMANN:  And the tears for these young kids, this contest really means, you know, something.  All boiling down to the top 12 guys in the top 12 gals with this week bringing “Idol‘s” sagging ratings almost to last year‘s levels, nearly 30 million viewers on Tuesday, 24 ½ million for Wednesday‘s results show.  Meantime determined not to be forgotten, Sanjaya Malakar will be hosting an upcoming special called “Idol Stars,” where are they now on the TV Guide Network.  So it‘s half of it‘s a show and half of it is the TV Guide listings.  Hair styles are included.  As promised and right here in the list our “American Idol” princess, also, of course, the midday host of New York‘s classic rock station, Q 104.3, Maria Milito.  Good evening.

MARIA MILITO, Q 104.3 RADIO:  Good evening.  Thanks for having me back.

OLBERMANN:  I have no choice but to return to this central point that I make every time you are here.

MILITO:  OK.

OLBERMANN:  Why should I care?

MILITO:  Almost 30 million viewers.  It produces talent.  Grammy nominations.  Come on.  A lot of .

OLBERMANN:  Grammies.

MILITO:  They had Grammies.  Somebody won a Grammy.  Carrie Underwood won a Grammy and Disney World now has an “American Idol” attraction.  Disney World, hello?  You have to accept it.  You have to care.

OLBERMANN:  None of those are reasons for me to care.

MILITO:  You have to.

OLBERMANN:  Grammies are door stops or big paper weights.  Disney World is crap.

MILITO:  You are so in the minority now.  Hello.  Almost 30 million viewers.  Come on.  I know you come over to the dark side.  You just don‘t want to admit it.  I know it, I know it, I know it.

OLBERMANN:  I graduated from the fourth grade.  I‘m told, there is no way for me telling this but I‘m told that there‘s actually talent this year?

MILITO:  Yes, absolutely, yes.

OLBERMANN:  And what is it?  Some guy can do the thing under your arm making that thing?

MILITO:  Yes—no.  People are very good.  Shut up.  People are very good. 

They are talented.  They play instruments.

OLBERMANN:  Yeah.

MILITO:  They are definitely not a Sanjaya this year or an Antonella. 

People are very talented.

OLBERMANN:  How about the homeless guy?

MILITO:  He is not homeless.  He left home.  He lives in his car.  He‘s 18.

OLBERMANN:  He‘s car homed.

MILITO:  One day he was shaving in his rearview mirror, then he‘s on idol. 

But he‘s a kid.  He is 18 years old.

OLBERMANN:  Is he hosting?

MILITO:  No, but actually check this out.  “In Touch” magazine says that he got a call from the president of Fox because the kid wants a sitcom.  The kid wants a sitcom and, you know, he‘s going to get it from Fox.

OLBERMANN:  I thought you were going to tell me the president of Fox needed someplace to stay and the guy was offering him his car.

MILITO:  He offered him the trunk.

OLBERMANN:  This week‘s president of Fox.  This is, again, I wouldn‘t know this.  It‘s handed on a piece of paper.

MILITO:  That‘s why I‘m here.  I‘ll tell you.

OLBERMANN:  A dirty little secret has surfaced about Hollywood week?

MILITO:  Yes, and I didn‘t even know this.  Hollywood week, three days of auditions and everybody assumes on the fourth day they are told yes or no.  They walk the green mile, right, when the three judges tell them.  But in reality those three days happen at the end of 2007 and then what we saw of the yes and no on Wednesday night‘s show was actually recorded, like, three weeks ago.  Which means the producers take a month in between.  Nobody knows that.  They think the judges are sitting there thinking, I want this person, I want this person.  Tomorrow they walk the green mile.  Which means the producers .

OLBERMANN:  Time to do market research on them and stuff.

MILITO:  Exactly.  And do a background check, a criminal record check.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s helpful after the last couple of years.

MILITO:  Exactly.  MySpace, naked pictures Antonella Barber check.  See, very smart so maybe they‘ve raised the bar.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  But on the other hand the contestants, the ones especially who don‘t make it are intent on lowering the bar and this one quote from one of the guys who didn‘t make it, “This is probably the worst day of my life.  I have no idea what I‘m going to do with my life now.”

MILITO:  Well, that‘s a loser and that person needs to get a life because if this is the worst thing in your life, you are very blessed.  I mean, come on.  That‘s a loser.  You can‘t go by that.  Seriously, the 24 kids, they are really talented this year.  I‘m telling you.  I think a boy‘s going to win.

OLBERMANN:  But there‘s not a Sanjaya in the bunch here?

MILITO:  I don‘t see one.

OLBERMANN:  You predict .

MILITO:  I have two predictions right now I want to make tonight on your show.

OLBERMANN:  All right, go ahead.

MILITO:  I predict a boy‘s going to win and I predict one of the first eliminations next week will be this kid Colton because there was a nerdy kid and Colton, the two boys together and the nerdy kid who might be a politician now, he is not going to be a singer and he was kind of a favorite and Simon Cowell said that he disagreed with that decision.  So I think this kid Colton will be the first eliminated.  Just a prediction, just a gut feeling.  I could be wrong.  I‘m just a princess.  I‘m not a queen.  I don‘t know.

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN‘s own “American Idol princess Maria Milito.  No wagering.  Do not bet the farm.

MILITO:  Right.  Because I could be wrong.

OLBERMANN:  Colton is out.  OK.  Thanks.

MILITO:  Well, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,752nd day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Have a good weekend.  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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