updated 2/19/2008 10:43:12 AM ET 2008-02-19T15:43:12

Guests: Chris Cillizza, Jonathan Alter, James Moore, Gary Mack

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

On Wisconsin: Obama 47, Clinton 42, Keith number is 16.  Or Clinton 49, Obama 43, Keith number 11.  Or Obama 53, Clinton 40, the Keith number smaller than the lead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  All I want is (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  On John Edwards: There has been a meeting.  There has not been an endorsement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I said the day after he dropped out that I‘d love to have his support and his endorsement.  And I think he‘s still weighing things over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Edwards: Undeclared.  Biden, Richardson, Gore:

Coincidence?  Or are they setting themselves up as neutral wise old men in case the Democratic Party has to step in and settle this.

Wisconsin as test ground for dirty campaigning: Governor Patrick of Massachusetts spoke of how just words can change the world.  Senator Obama spoke how just words can change the world.  Why did Clinton advisor, Howard Wolfson call it plagiarism today when Obama and Patrick explained their shared use of imagery in the “Boston Globe” in April of last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Deval and I do trade ideas all the time.  I would add that I notice Senator Clinton on occasion has used words of mine as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Senator Clinton echoed in John McCain‘s charge: Obama flip flops by not recommitting to taking only public funding during the election.  Senator Clinton really wants to look like she‘s siding with McCain against the Democrats?

And how McCain himself wobbled on public financing.  One topic, two, maybe three candidates looking bad.

And15 boxes of JFK assassination evidence discovered in the safe of the Dallas County courthouse: Oswald‘s clothing, Jack Ruby‘s holster, a two-page transcript of the conversation between Lee Oswald and Jack—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG WATKINS, DALLAS COUNTY D.A.:  All I‘m doing is providing you the information that we found.  Now, I didn‘t say it was true.  I didn‘t say it was false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That wouldn‘t worry me except he‘s the district attorney.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Monday, February 18th, 260 days until the 2008 presidential election.  If you had somehow not yet defined the Clinton/Obama campaign as ugly, tonight, on the eve of the Wisconsin primary, pull out your needle points and start making that letter U.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The word thrown at Senator Obama by Clinton campaign honcho, Howard Wolfson was plagiarism, a charge that sank Joe Biden‘s first presidential bid 20 years ago.  But the purported victim of the plagiarism, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts says he and Senator Obama use each other‘s wordings all the time and he has no complaint.  At least one occasion, Senator Obama explicitly credited the source anyway and the issue of the overlap of language was discussed by both men in a “Boston Globe” article from April of last year.  And oh, by the way, the polls in Wisconsin are all over the map.

Dem first: The picture from Public Policy Polling: Obama 53 percent, Clinton 40, the Keith number, undecided plus margin of error is smaller than the margin: 10.4 percent.  A tighter race envisioned by WISC Television: Obama - 47, Clinton - 42, Keith number there is 16.  Senator Clinton is in the lead in polling by American Research Group: 49 to 43, Keith number 11.  And there are new hard numbers tonight from NBC News on the pledged delegate count: Obama at 1,116, Clinton at 985.  With that as a backdrop, Senator Clinton‘s opposition research team gifting media outlets with a Youtube clip of an Obama supporter, Deval Patrick saying virtually the identical thing in 2006 that Senator Obama did Saturday night in Milwaukee.  Clinton‘s spokesman, Howard Wolfson is calling it, quote, “plagiarism”.  Clinton surrogate, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones denying that the campaign had ever made a charge of plagiarism, telling MSNBC this afternoon, quote, “We are not accusing him of plagiarism.  It was another station that specifically showed that the governor of Massachusetts made a statement, made a speech and then, they showed Barack Obama, the senator, making the same speech.  Now, you all draw the conclusion.”  Senator Obama staying remarkably calm when asked about the charges during a news conference this afternoon, saying he really doesn‘t think this is too big of a deal.  He probably should have credited Patrick this time, but the oversight did not indicate a pattern of deception.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I‘ve written two books, wrote most of my speeches.  So, I think putting aside the question that you‘ve just raised in terms of whether my words are my own, I think that would be carrying it too far.  Deval and I do trade ideas all the time.  I would add that I notice Senator Clinton on occasion has used words of mine as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And there is evidence that Senator Obama has both borrowed ideas from Governor Deval Patrick before and credited him for them as he did on December 21st of last year on the campaign trail in Portsmouth in New Hampshire.  Senator Obama having said then, quote, “Don‘t vote your fears, I‘m stealing this line from my buddy, Deval Patrick, who stole a bunch of lines from me when he ran for the governorship, but it‘s the right one.  Don‘t vote your fears, vote your aspirations.”  Senator Obama also fitting in time over the weekend to steal some time, sorry, for this rescheduled meeting with Senator John Edwards.  For Senator Clinton herself, the topic of the day of her, the economy is now in pamphlet form, forget the oral exams, she wants this primary to be an essay question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  But when you think about what we really need here in Wisconsin and across America, it‘s an economy that‘s producing good jobs with rising wages for everybody willing to work hard.  And I‘ve been focused on the economy throughout this campaign.  And I have issued today in Wisconsin this economic blueprint, because, I think we should talk about the solutions that we think we can bring about that will make our economy work better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If there was a newspaper story from 10 months ago in which Governor Patrick and Senator Obama admit they‘ve used the same language, if Governor Patrick says, you don‘t have to credit me, and if there‘s at least one documented one occasion which Obama did credit him anyway, how much plagiarism is there in this?

FINEMAN:  Well, this isn‘t about plagiarism, Keith.  It‘s about looking for any way that is, from the Clinton campaign to slow Barack Obama‘s momentum.  I think if Barack Obama made a mistake, it wasn‘t lifting the words or repeating the words of his buddy Deval Patrick that he talked about before and used before and said so.  It‘s the occasional tendency that Obama has to be somewhat mesmerized by his own words and the power of his own personality and the evident fact that he‘s making history with every step.  Hillary Clinton‘s strategy obviously as she waved that blueprint around of solutions is to say, he can have the rhetoric, he can have the history, I‘m the one who‘s going to help you.  And I think if there was a tactical error on Obama‘s part, it was that he‘s already won the rhetoric argument.  He‘s got to worry about the ground game that he‘s going to shut Hillary down.

OLBERMANN:  In terms of tactics, of course, the problem is that once you bring this up, it‘s a fairly easy thing to vet.  The other company campaign will vet it.  News organizations will start vetting what the accuser says.  And so far, there is Senator Clinton‘s “send me” quote from the Coretta Scott King memorial turns out the President Clinton had used the same line “send me” two years earlier in another speech.  The John Edwards‘ line from one of the early debates about, you know, how if we can keep track of who rents what at blockbuster, we should be able to keep track of foreigners in the country and a couple of months later, at another debate, suddenly there‘s a Hillary Clinton line about, how if we can keep track of who rents what at Blockbuster, we should be able to keep track of foreigners in the country.  Was this a poor choice of a political knife fight by Howard Wolfson?

FINEMAN:  Well, you know, they‘re looking for anything they think they can lay their hands on.  Somebody saw this similarity here.  I guess Joe Biden flashed before their eyes.  But it‘s not that big of a deal in the end.  I mean, the problem that Hillary‘s got is in certain ways her whole candidacy is an act of ventriloquism from her husband.  Or at least, some people view it that way.  And Hillary isn‘t always known as the most authentic candidate that you‘ve ever seen that come down the pike, very calculating, very scripted and so forth.  And as Obama says, I mean, he‘s a prize-winning writer who has shown his felicity with words a million times, it‘s not like anybody accuses him of being desperate to lift other people‘s stuff.  I mean, Deval Patrick was an African-American candidate making history in Massachusetts.  Obama has tried to do the same thing in the country as a whole.  They‘re running in the same track to a certain extent.  And I think what - if Hillary‘s going to salvage herself in Wisconsin it‘s going to be because Obama declined to debate there and because Hillary has been running all kinds of ads on the health care plan and the economy.  And that‘s how if she‘s going to get back in the ball game, it‘s going to be because of that, not because of this little sort contretemps today, I don‘t think.

OLBERMANN:  Let me drop one last comment about the contra topic and we‘ll move on to Texas.  The Howard Wolfson‘s answer to the question of the possibility that Senator Clinton had used other people‘s comments, whether her husband‘s or somebody else‘s, Senator Clinton is not running on the strength of her rhetoric.  And that‘s a great defense right there.  Just attack your own candidate‘s ability to talk.  It‘s OK because she‘s not an orator.  I mean, that‘s just tone deaf.  All right, Texas.

FINEMAN:  Well, I agree, yes.

OLBERMANN:  Let me move on to that with the time we have left.  Opinion Research for CNN came out with a poll this afternoon, statistical dead heat, 50 to 48 percent, Keith number is 6.5, margin of error is 4.5.  The “Washington Post” today reported that the Clinton strategists were alarmed because the way the delegate rules work the convolution of them in Texas means, delegates won their will not reflect the popular vote.  They‘ve stated that Texas is the Clinton firewall.  Is it fireproof?

FINEMAN:  No.  Absolutely not.  That‘s a scary number for the Clintons for to be this close this far out even before Wisconsin and Hawaii.  And it‘s not that convoluted, Keith.  Basically, what it does is reward with extra delegates those parts of the state that turned out strongly for the Democratic general election candidate in ‘06 and ‘04.  Those are African-American areas.  Those are liberal areas like Austin.  That‘s why if Obama does well, he‘s going to win the lion‘s share of delegates.  But I‘ll tell you this, I think Hillary is in it to the end regardless of what happens on this things.  I think she‘s going to fight for every superdelegate that she can all the way to the convention.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”, his work is always his own on this broadcast.  We know that for sure.  Thank you, sir.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Clinton campaign now in the odd position of following the McCain campaign in trying to paint Senator Obama as a flip flopper over campaign finance reform.  If you will recall that first, Senator McCain called upon Senator Obama to abide by a purported pledge to commit to public financing in the general election.  This is what that actually was: a questionnaire last November from the Midwest Democracy Network.  Question 1-B was, if you‘re nominated for president in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?  Senator Obama‘s answer began with yes. 

Senators McCain and Clinton had been treating it as if it ended there.  In fact, he goes on to talk about his proposals for free radio and TV time, a fundraising truce, the return of excess donations and concludes: “The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal and Senator John McCain, Republican Arizona, has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge.  If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue and agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.  In following McCain‘s erasure of the nuance, Senator Clinton‘s campaign is more than happy to overlook the fact that its line of attack presumes she would not be the nominee.  It has now slammed its Illinois rival for backtracking, the attack, however, backfiring over the weekend certainly where Senator McCain is concerned, in the wake of a new report that raises questions of hypocrisy, because of the Arizona Republican‘s previous role as a campaign finance reform advocate.  The “Washington Post” reporting: Back in December, Senator McCain‘s cash strapped campaign borrowed $1 million from a Maryland bank by promising to use federal matching funds to pay off the loan if his bid for the presidency tanked.  You heard that right, Senator McCain, Mr. McCain-Feingold himself, having agreed that if he did not win the New Hampshire primary or place within 10 points of the winner there, he would keep his campaign alive just so he could reapply for public matching funds and use those taxpayer dollars to repay the personal loan. 

Let‘s bring in Chris Cillizza, national political reporter for

“WashingtonPost.com” and also, of course, the author of its political blog, “The fix”.  Chris, good evening.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  In political coverage, it‘s always smarter to start with the accuser.  So, John McCain tries to make this into a big deal last week and now, Senator Clinton picks it up.  How does it benefit her if the cost is she looks like she‘s siding with a Republican nominee against any Democrat?

CILLIZZA:  Well, remember, Keith, and Howard mentioned this, I think it‘s important the Clinton campaign is looking for any way in, any wedge in to raise questions about Barack Obama.  One of the key things, the strength of Barack Obama is that authenticity—that he is practices politics in a fundamentally different way than it‘s been done before.  Well, if they create this idea that he might have flip flopped, well, he said that he was for it and now, he‘s saying he‘s against it.  It‘s not necessarily, I don‘t think, based on the logic of people thinking it out as you point out while they are assuming Barack Obama is the nominee.  It‘s more based on the idea, well, he‘s saying one thing and he‘s done another.  And that‘s a line of attack the Clinton campaign has really pursued, they‘re going to keep pursuing it in Wisconsin and I can guarantee you, we‘re going to hear a lot more about saying one thing and doing another in advance of Ohio and Texas.

OLBERMANN:  Second point about the Clinton campaign in this and I made the mirror point of this when Obama said, you know, her supporters will vote for me but I don‘t know if mine would vote for her, without adding which we think a Democrat would add, but I try to convince them to.  If you wind up echoing whatever the Republican says, you do add a little authenticity to it by echoing it, but are you not basically saying, you know, if our candidate does not win the Democratic nomination, we‘re really not worried about whatever happens to whoever does win the nomination.  And would that not been seen a little shortsighted by, you know, say, Democrats?

CILLIZZA:  Well, you know what I think is hard, Keith.  I think that if you ask the average rank-and-file Democrat out there, what would they like to be the ticket to be, they give you some combination of Obama/Clinton as president and vice president.  They might switch around who was where but those are the two candidates that people in the Democratic Party want to see on the national ticket.  The problem I think is that the candidates themselves and certainly their staffs are so focused on figuring out ways, on which to bring the other down.  That larger view, the long view of, OK, what‘s good for the party, is the best thing for the party, one of us gets out and we get into a joint unity ticket?  They‘re so focused on the personal that they‘re not looking at the long term.  Meanwhile, John McCain rallies the party, raises a bunch of money and maybe puts Republicans in a position where they‘re going to be more viable that we wouldn‘t have thought they would have been given the political climate.

OLBERMANN:  But you just mentioned the magic words: John McCain raising a lot of money.  His moral ground on this issue of changing your mind about public financing, did that not just go out the window with revelation in your paper that he was using this issue as collateral for a bank loan?  Basically, he was going to have the U.S. government cover a bank loan if his candidacy went into the toilet?

CILLIZZA:  Well, you know, Keith, the thing I always remember is:

Politicians are politicians for a reason.  Most of the time, they do what is in their own best interest.  And the fact of the matter was: John McCain in advance of New Hampshire needed this money no matter what.  He needed this money to have a chance.  Now that the money has catapulted him beyond his wildest dreams into the nomination, he‘s got to deal with the promises he made.  Again, he faces an issue I think like Barack Obama that their authenticity, their willingness to go against the grain is that the core of who they are.  If John McCain starts to look opportunistic, that‘s not a good sign for him.

OLBERMANN:  He may have.  Chris Cillizza who writes “The Fix” blog and so much else at “WashingtoPost.com”, as always Chris, great thanks.

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And suddenly: Al Gore reappears, not as a candidate, but in some kind of role as dispute settler, kind of, you know, Democratic Party “supreme court” so to speak.

And maybe this was bad timing: Senator McCain announces, quote, “No new taxes”, Senator McCain is endorsed by the man whose presidency founded on a broken promise: Read my lips, no new taxes.  And on top that: What does McCain do about Bush 43 on the campaign trail?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The fiercest Democratic primary battle since 1968 and Al Gore hasn‘t endorsed anybody nor has John Edwards, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Nancy Pelosi.  Are they setting themselves up as neutral arbiters if it will come to that?

And in Worst Persons: The president of the United States so over the top about FISA and telecom immunity and terror that he has taken the task by, you won‘t believe by whom.  All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  And the man who was robbed of the presidency in the year 2000, ensure the Democrats are not robbed of a nominee in the year 2008.

Our fourth story tonight: Word from Al Gore, that the deadlock presidential race, don‘t make me stop this car and come back there because I will.  “The New York Times” reporting that Gore is withholding an endorsement right now, at least in part, so that he could serve as an honest broker if needed to prevent a potentially divisive convention fight between supporters of Senators Clinton and Obama in the event neither saws up the nomination beforehand, and try to ensure that the nominee is not picked by the 795 superdelegates.  According to “The Times”, former hopefuls, John Edwards, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden have all spoken with Mr.  Gore recently, not of them having issued endorsements, raising the prospect that a growing coalition of Democratic leaders which might include House Speaker Pelosi, has also spoken with Gore are discussing whether, when and how to intervene if the race threatens to split the party.

Let‘s turn at this point to MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Alter, also senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine.  Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is this legit?  Is this why Edwards hasn‘t endorsed or Richardson or Biden or Gore or anybody else?

ALTER:  The gang of five tilting the balance.  We‘re not sure yet.  You know, I spoke to somebody familiar with Edwards‘ thinking not too long ago and there is still a chance that he will endorse sooner and not be part of any effort that tries to, you know, stop this from going to the convention.  So, we‘ve got to consider that to be a live possibility.  But what we know for sure is that Al Gore does not want to happen to one of the candidates what happened to him in the 2000 general election against George W. Bush, where he won the popular vote by 500,000 votes and did not become president.  So, Gore is bound and determined that we will not have a situation where the end of the primaries in June, one of the candidates has won the popular vote, won most of the pledged delegates and loses the nomination because of the superdelegates.  I think we can be pretty confident that he has a lot of company in that and that will not happen.  Will the superdelegates be needed to put one of the candidates over the top the way they provided a little hamburger helper for Walter Mondale in 1984?  Yes.  Very likely, nobody will get to 2,025 delegates needed to nominate without at least a few superdelegates.  But they are not going to overturn the will of the majority in this, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Not that common sense applies to politics, Jon, but politics says, the Democrats cannot find themselves in the position of a brokered convention, even the resolution of a near tie by superdelegates or, you know, the gang of five, the three wise men, the “supreme court” of the Democratic Party, whatever you want to call them, could this actually be right now, a shot across somebody‘s bow, a warning to one or both of these candidates and what would it be about?

ALTER:  Well, I think it‘s a warning, you know, to quit if they‘re licked, in other words, not to drag this out, not to rip the party apart.  And you could as early as March 5th, the day after Texas and Iowa, should Obama win Wisconsin, should he win either Texas or Ohio, you could have a situation where as early as then, you did have these kind of party elders playing the grown ups saying, look, let‘s not drag this through Pennsylvania where Governor Rendell tries to save Hillary Clinton‘s bacon.  Let‘s end this now, let‘s pull together as a party.  That could happen in early March.

OLBERMANN:  And the Speaker Nancy Pelosi has echoed Senator Obama‘s arguments that the public vote ought to prevail, by these delegates or to superdelegates, former Vice President Gore is reported to be speaking by phone to Senator Obama every couple of weeks.  Which raises the question: how honest would these honest brokers really be?  Are they not to some degree tilted towards Obama to begin with?

ALTER:  You know, I think they probably are.  You know, we can‘t say that formally.  But there was a little-noticed interview of Al Gore close to a year ago where he was asked whether he would endorse a candidate in the primaries and he said he wasn‘t sure.  When he was asked if there was a possibility he would be endorsing Hillary Clinton, he said, no.  So, clearly, if he‘s not in the Obama camp, he‘s probably leaning that way a little bit.  I think that would be fair to say.  But sometimes politicians patch up old differences.  You know, look at Edwards and Hillary Clinton.  They had a great meeting.  Who would have thunk it?  All kinds of strange things could still keep on happening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that would be the strangest we‘ve seen so far in this

Democratic strange-fest -

ALTER:  Yes, that would take the cake.

OLBERMANN:  Our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at Newsweek magazine.  Thank you, Jon.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Presidents‘ Day is greeted by the sound of pipers from the Scottish—boys, I think you forgot something.

And a rare nomination for the president in the Worst Persons segment, his fire and brimstone predictions over the House‘s refusal to immunize the telecoms, analyzed, criticized and dismissed by a leading conservative voiced in this country.

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

Number three: Scalia-gate.  For the seventh time, Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia has been asked to recuse himself from a case, this time by the National Lawyers Guild after Scalia talked about how the need to extract information might justify torture.  Now we know why four years ago, Justice Scalia had the U.S. Marshals erase reporters‘ audio tapes of one of his speeches. 

Number two: Waterboarding-gate.  Steven Bradbury, the man the Senate will not approve as assistant attorney general, testified to a House committee about waterboarding and denying that we are doing what they did in the Spanish inquisition.  That water torture, he said, involved forcing large amounts of water down the throats of the victims, into his lungs.  Our water torture apparently only about placing a cloth or plastic wrapper over the mouths and noses of the victim, thus simulating drowning and asphyxiation at the same time.  Well, that‘s all right then.

And number one: Support the troops-gate.  The front page of “USA Today”, the Marine Corps made an urgent request three years ago this month for 11,069 armored personnel carriers to be purchased for immediate use in Iraq to try to protect our troops from roadside bombs.  MRAPS they‘re called, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected.  Project and logistical directors in the marines didn‘t understand the urgency, lost the requests, didn‘t report up to chain of command, said the military was developing its own version of the MRAP.  The MRAPs didn‘t start showing up in Iraq until last year.  In the interim more than 700 American troops died in Iraq because the MRAPs were not in use to protect them from the roadside bombs.  It is just a coincidence, of course, that some of the MRAPs the marine wanted would have been purchased from South Africa and the version of the vehicle that the military was itself developing is to be built by Northrop Grumman Corporation of Los Angeles for delivery in 2012.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Thanks to the 1970s decision to make everything a three-day weekend, today the 18th is Presidents Day even though no U.S. president was born on the 18th.  Lincoln was born on the 12th, Washington on the 22nd.  About the best we can do is Wendell Willkie, who was born on February 18th.  He lost the 1940 election to FDR after having campaigned for him in 1932 and 1936. 

He also reportedly had affairs with the book editor of The New York Herald Tribune, Irita Van Doren, during the campaign, and then later with Madame Chiang Kai-shek, wife of the dictator of China.  Happy Presidents Day.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin our Presidents Day festivities with two guys playing the bagpipes.  Hey, it looks like somebody stole your bagpipes. 

(UNIDENTIFIED MALES IMITATING BAGPIPES)

OLBERMANN:  Looks like a couple of policemen, from where, we don‘t know.  It is clear however that either their department is underfunded or they are big fans of Jonesy, the noise-making virtuoso played by Michael Winslow in those “Police Academy” movies. 

Let‘s go to Texas where zombies with TVs on their heads have invaded the streets of Dallas.  No, it is not a convention of FOX News viewers, it is an environmental protest.  A year before broadcasters switch all their signals from analogue to digital, a group called Texas Campaign for the Environment is asking TV-makers to institute recycling programs for all obsolete boob tubes, saying the TVs pose a threat to the environment if not disposed of properly.  No more so than when they‘re in use.

Number two on the green zombie list of demands is, of course, brains. 

A Bush in the hand means you get two and the bird?  John McCain gets Bush 41‘s endorsement.  Now he has to dance a razor‘s edge over the other Bush. 

And what do you mean they found 15 boxes of JFK assassination stuff in side a vault at the Dallas County Courthouse and released it today?  These stories ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Best Persons in the World.”

Number three, best lunatic, unidentified bank robber at Olathe, Kansas.  He told the teller the box she was brandishing contained explosives and demanded all the dough.  They gave it to her.  They evacuated the mall.  They discovered the box actually contained wires sticking out of some chocolate. 

Number two, best diminished expectations.  Another unnamed burglar bursts into the (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) Mart in South Toledo, Ohio, at 10:00 Saturday night, carrying a semi-automatic pistol, demanding all the dough and a condom.  No, just the one, thank you. 

And number one, best evidence that brains are overrated.  Jim Werdell, to commemorate the end of the Hollywood writers strike, Mr. Werdell, chairman of Mensa International, the brainiest group, those in the top 2 intelligence percentile, admitted to watching at least five hours of TV a day.  And he picked the top 10 smartest TV series of all time: Number 10, “Jeopardy”; number nine, “Mad about You”; “Frazier,” eight; “All in the Family,” seven; “Boston Legal,” sixth; number five, “West Wing”; fourth, “House”; third, “CSI”; second, “Cosmos” with Carl Saga; and number one, “Mash.”

Mr. Werdell added that he thought—wait a minute, “Mad about you”? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  its official now, the whole Bush clan hearts John McCain.  Our third story tonight, it is not just jab anymore.  As foreshadowed last week, President George H.W. Bush today endorsed Senator McCain now that no one else can win the Republican nomination. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, 41ST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I believe now is the right time for me to help John in his effort to start building the broad-based coalition it will take for our conservative values to carry the White House this fall. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Why the coalition needs building after his son‘s presidency, the senior Bush did not mention.  But junior and Senator McCain set themselves up today for the fall.  Asked about a New York Times report that he wants to keep Bush 43 behind closed doors raising money and rallying conservatives, McCain denies that, saying: “I would be honored to be anywhere with him under any circumstances.”

Really?  Well, today Mr. Bush said, I will help him in any way I can.  So if they‘re both telling the truth, expect to see this scene repeated over and over again all the way up to November. 

At this point, let‘s bring in journalist Jim Moore, co-author of “Bush‘s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential,” and a contributor at huffingtonpost.com. 

Jim, as always, thanks for your time tonight. 

JAMES MOORE, CO-AUTHOR, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”:  Hey, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Bush 43 says he will do anything McCain wants.  McCain says he would be honored to have Bush 43 with him day and night.  Any reason then that these two won‘t be, you know, tighter than Laverne and Shirley between now and November? 

MOORE:  I think what McCain wants is for Bush to stay away and raise him a lot of money.  I really believe the only thing that we are going to see of McCain and Bush together is that photograph that you and everybody else in America are showing over and over and over of McCain hugging the president.  It‘s going to be on every Democratic commercial.  And before this campaign is over, it is going to be as iconic on the American landscape as the Golden Arches of McDonald‘s, as far as I can tell. 

But I don‘t see this happening.  It just is not going to happen that this president is going to get out there.  McCain wants his help, he wants his money, but he doesn‘t want his stink.  And this president has political stink on him and he is going to have to be kept at a distance. 

OLBERMANN:  And incidentally, the Republicans will not be the ones buying the time to show that picture.  You are in Texas, you know Texas.  Do conservatives there value Bush 41‘s endorsement?  Will they bite the bullet and pull the lever for McCain on March 4th because of it? 

MOORE:  No.  I don‘t think that‘s going to happen.  I think what actually is going to happen is a lot of the Republicans are going to go over and vote in the Democratic primary to vote against Hillary sort of as an act of vengeance. 

But I should qualify it and say, though, that the president still does have a great standing in Texas.  He is a loved man.  And—but let‘s remember, he was an internationalist, unlike his son who has taken a grenade and thrown it under the bed of the concept of internationalism. 

His father was a man who believed that we have to live with and cope in this world.  And his son apparently doesn‘t believe that, the evidence would indicate.  So it is kind of a way to say John McCain knows about the world and he thinks like I do and he doesn‘t think like my son.  Frankly, in many ways, this is a repudiation of his son‘s own policies. 

OLBERMANN:  But then there are the policies from that administration that also come into play.  McCain said yesterday, no new taxes.  Was that a wise thing to invoke just as you‘re getting the endorsement of the president who cut his political throat by saying the same thing, only with “read my lips” in front of it? 

MOORE:  No.  That is never a wise thing to say for anyone, especially in a country that is running a debt that this president has generated and a war that is costing us about $13 billion or more—per hour, is it $35 million an hour, or $13 million a minute, who can keep track of what it is exactly. 

I mean, the country is going to have to have money to fix the problems.  And for any candidate to make a pledge of that nature is irresponsible and to make it on a stage anywhere near George H.W. Bush reminds everybody that it is not a promise that can be kept. 

OLBERMANN:  Jim Moore, the co-author of “Bush‘s Brain,” as always, thanks for your time, Jim. 

MOORE:  You bet, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So if it would be comic and actor Jim Gaffigan maybe playing Karl Rove in a movie, who plays Valerie Plame?  This actually matters.  There is going to be a Valerie Plame movie. 

And if you put this on your Web site, the thing on the right, aren‘t you rooting for a terrorist attack, an overtime FISA clock?  An answer ahead in “Worst Persons.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight‘s 90 seconds of celebrity and entertainment begins with art about to imitate what passes for life under George Bush.  Warner Brothers finally settling on an actress to play Valerie Plame in a movie about the former CIA spy.  You may have heard, was outed by the administration in revenge after her husband challenged the lie that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium to make nuclear weapons. 

MTV News reporting the Hollywood Valerie Plame will be Nicole Kidman, in a movie loosely based on Plame‘s book, “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.” The director says the choice of Kidman was fully approved by Plame.  No word yet on casting other characters like Dick Cheney, Bob Novak and Scooter Libby as “the Beaver.” 

Andy Pettitte has already told investigators that he and Roger Clemens used human growth hormone, but today the Yankees pitcher, the one who is still in baseball, spoke about it in public for the first time.  As Houston Chronicle writer Richard Justice postulated here last week, Pettitte saying he considered retiring from baseball because of the scandal, that he still considers Roger Clemens a close friend, although they still have not talked since they contradicted one another last week on Capitol Hill. 

Pettitte would not address the Clemens claim that when Pettitte heard Clemens admit he used the hormones, he was actually mishearing a story Clemens was telling about something he had seen on TV.  As for why he took HGH, Pettitte says it was not to gain an advantage, but to heal a damaged pitching arm and stay off the disabled list. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY PETTITTE, NEW YORK YANKEES PITCHER:  I did it because I was told that it might be able to help me.  So, I mean, that‘s for other people to decide.  If people think I‘m lying then they should call me a cheater.  Do I think I‘m a cheater?  I don‘t, because from the bottom of my heart, and God knows my heart, I know why I was doing this.  Was it stupid?  Yes, it was stupid. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Andy Pettitte also apologized to the Houston Astros, the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner, the fans, and especially kids, but not for signing a new $16 million one-year Yankees contract while knowing that he would be named in the Mitchell Report. 

Here is another surprise, it has been locked in a Dallas courthouse for decades, it is supposedly a transcript of a conversation between Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald. 

That‘s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World.” The bronze, Glenn Beck.  Let‘s count how many different groups he has offended with his Valentine‘s Day message.

Quoting: “I was talking about ugly people.  Ugly people.  If you are a

guy you can get past it.  I don‘t think you can as an ugly woman.  I don‘t

no, I don‘t.  If you are an ugly woman, I apologize, although you have got a double cross because if you‘re an ugly woman, you are probably a progressive as well.  Oh, jeez, I‘m sorry.  Today is just not your day.  But you know what?  If you believed in God you‘d know that there is going to be another chance for you.  You don‘t have to be ugly in heaven.  You are going to be your perfect self and there will be another perfect somebody waiting for you on the other side.” 

Everybody can see you will bet the ranch on that, Glenny, because you sure are ugly to people down here—or up here. 

Our runners up, the lunatic right-wing Heritage Foundation, running on its Web site a FISA overtime clock listing the days, hours, minutes and seconds since “extension expired.” It‘s just to the right of the ad for the Sean Hannity personal appearance.  Also the time is off.  So why do you guys want to make it look like you are happily counting down the hours until the next terrorist attack, especially since it was President Bush who caused that extension to expire? 

Our winner, speaking of whom, the president of the United States.  Just how much Mr. Bush has been lying about the expiration of the so-called Protect America Act was not really clear until a newspaper article was printed on Saturday morning.  It began with this from the writer: “Today‘s expiration of certain temporary domestic wiretapping laws will have little effect on national security, despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders.”

Then there was this quote from a thinktank: “There is no reason to think our nation will be in any more danger in 2008 than it was in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006.”  And then another quote from another thinktankster who, quote, also said he was “somewhat bewildered by the apocalyptic rhetoric of the White House.” 

The last quote was from Ben Wittes of the Brookings Institution.  The previous thinktanker was Timothy Lee at the conservative Cato Institute.  And the article itself barely restraining the mystification at the president‘s calumny, cynicism about his fear tactics, even its anger at the naked manipulation of the public, the article was entitled, “Analysts Say FISA Will Suffice,” it was not printed in The Washington Post, it was not printed in The Nation, it was printed in as conservative a newspaper as exists in this country, The Washington Times, wherein even they understand what we mean when we say George W. Bush, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Harkening back to our fourth story tonight, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico this evening says he will make up his mind in the next few days about a presidential endorsement. 

Now harkening back to presidents past, secrecy breeds conspiracy, and not all conspiracy theories are false, a potent blend that still fuels speculation about the assassination of President Kennedy.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, when a transcript of a purported conversation between Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and the man who shot Oswald, Jack Ruby, is released, a transcript pre-dating the assassinations in which the two men discuss the killing of Kennedy, it is bound to turn conspiracy theories anew, even though the transcript has been deemed by the FBI to be a fake. 

From a six-by-six-foot safe on the 10th floor of the Dallas district attorney‘s offices in the county courthouse, 15 boxes of evidence related to the 1964 murder trial of Jack Ruby and the Kennedy assassination, all of it released today more than 40 years after the fact by the Dallas district attorney, Craig Watkins, with a dose of provocation, whether intentional or not. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Every district attorney, to my knowledge, has been made aware of the contents of that safe.  And every D.A. up until the new administration decided that they wanted to keep it secret.  For whatever reason, they kept it secret. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oswald‘s clothing, the leather holster used to carry Ruby‘s gun and a transcript of a conversation between Oswald and Ruby on October 4th, 1963, less than two months before Kennedy‘s assassination, supposedly a transcript which reads like a bad B-movie script, according to a JFK assassination expert who will join us presently. 

Oswald: “I can still do it, all I need is my rifle and a tall building.  But it will take time, maybe six months to find the right place.  But I‘ll have to have some money to live on while I do the planning.” 

Even though the transcript may have been part of an unrealized movie deal 44 years ago between producers and the district attorney who prosecuted Jack Ruby, the current district attorney will not say whether he believes it to be true or false. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now, we don‘t know if this is an actual conversation or not, but what we do know is that as a result of this find it will open the debate as to whether or not there was a conspiracy to assassinate the president. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Because, of course, the debate has not been opened up yet.  Joining us now, the curator of the 6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the noted independent researcher on the topic, Gary Mack.

Thanks, again, for your time tonight, sir. 

GARY MACK, CURATOR, 6TH FLOOR MUSEUM:  Thank you, Keith.  Appreciate it. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s get to the jaw-dropper here.  That can‘t be a real transcript, can it?  I mean, does it even read like their manner of speaking? 

MACK:  Well, the folks in the D.A.‘s office say it doesn‘t read like real criminals to them.  What is interesting is that this Dallas attorney realized after the assassination that a conversation he overheard at the Carousel Club involved Ruby, whom he knew, and Oswald. 

So he filled out a transcript based on his memory.  He recreated this transcript, sent it to J. Edgar Hoover, Hoover sent a copy to Henry Wade, the district attorney at the time, and the investigators checked it out.  The problem is, it didn‘t check out, because Lee Harvey Oswald absolutely without question was 15 miles away in Irving with his wife and the woman his wife was living with. 

So the conversation could not have been with Oswald.  Just before the Ruby trial in 1964, Dallas police ran a polygraph test on the attorney who had recreated this dialogue and they found that the attorney was only truthful on two things, were you drinking that night, and were you drunk at the time?  Once investigators looked at the results they walked away from this man. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  Of course, this is one of the great hinges on conspiracy versus non-conspiracy because, just to walk it through again, if Oswald knew Ruby before this, then Oswald killed JFK, then Ruby killed Oswald, it is no longer a series of unconnected events.  But is there any credible evidence from any other source that they ever did meet? 

MACK:  There hasn‘t been so far.  And really, Lee Harvey Oswald was a loner.  He wasn‘t hanging out with anyone, much less a guy like Jack Ruby, who would only hang out with people who could help Jack Ruby. 

So the chances of these two guys meeting are just so tiny.  Oswald was married at the time.  It wasn‘t really fashionable for married men to hit the strip clubs.  And Oswald didn‘t drink, so he wouldn‘t go to the Carousel Club for a beer.  So it just doesn‘t make any sense. 

The important thing is Oswald didn‘t have anything in his background that would label him as a hitman.  So you know, why anyone would pick him to do something like that is just really pretty much absurd. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So putting this document aside and assuming it is some sort of script for a conspiracy theory, like we didn‘t have enough of those, is there anything in those 15 boxes that has made your hair stand up, that make you rush out to get a copy of it as soon as it is available to you? 

MACK:  I haven‘t had a chance to see those documents yet.  The vast majority have not been released.  What is important now, after 44 years of extra information coming out, some of the names, dates and places in those documents might make sense today whereas they didn‘t mean anything back in 1963.  That is why Kennedy researchers will be fascinated to see what this material really is. 

OLBERMANN:  Is the key to this, Gary, the idea that there is a room with 15 boxes or more of material, whatever its provenance and whatever its actual value is?  Isn‘t this what every conspiracy theorist has said, well, there is much more out there, this thing is going to keep going for a century or more? 

MACK:  Sure.  Well, I think everybody realizes there is not going to be a piece of paper in there that says, Ralph did it, signed, Bill.  That‘s not going to happen.  But there may be some ways to answer some of the questions that might lead to another person. 

I mean, you need a whole series of mights.  And the reality is virtually all the hard evidence leads directly to Lee Harvey Oswald and no one else, at least so far.  The problem is, most people just are not convinced of the official story.  And that‘s probably not going to change. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Not if they keep finding boxes of material 44 years after the fact.  Gary Mack, curator of the 6th Floor Museum.

MACK:  There you go.

OLBERMANN:  . at Dealey Plaza, always a pleasure to speak with you, sir.  Thank you. 

MACK:  Thank you.  Appreciate it. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,755th 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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