updated 2/22/2008 11:36:29 AM ET 2008-02-22T16:36:29

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

Vicki Iseman-gate:  John McCain answers questions, some questions.  And then cancels this afternoon news conference so there cannot be anymore questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:  Obviously, I‘m very disappointed in the article and it‘s not true.  I have many friends in Washington who represent various interests and those who don‘t.  And I consider her a friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Who benefits politically from Vicki-gate?  Was the right wing just galvanized?  Did “The New York Times” look silly and sleazy?  Did John McCain win, so to speak, the Iseman trophy?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  There‘s a great opportunity here for Senator McCain to learn the right lesson.  To understand who his friends are and who his enemies are.  And he‘s had that backwards for way too long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But his friends at a bank, they have gotten the senator into a bigger scandal, still, he may have no legal choice but to stay in the public campaign financing system after he reportedly use the promise of public money to help a secure a line of credit for his campaign.

A week after the president did not get immunity from the telecoms and his administrations, a week after he threaten to immediate and dire terror consequences and it‘s all quiet on the western front.

Plus: An extraordinary admission about renditions from the CIA.  We revisit the nexus of politics and terror.

Racist Bill O‘Reilly says it again.  He claims he was giving her the benefit of the doubt, claims he was defending her, claims that because he has said he probably wouldn‘t go on a lynching party, it was OK to talk about a lynching party about Michelle Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, TV HOST:  And the word lynching was used because I said it quite clearly.  I‘m not going to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama.  That‘s ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He also says he thinks she should call in to his show.

And: The comic relief: The joy of baseball spring training, 2008, scaring the shaynowa (ph) out of a 23-year-old pitcher by telling him, sayonara.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We made trade with a Japanese team, the Yomiuri Giants.  And you are one of the guys in the deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now: The revenge.  All part of 120 years of practical joke ‘em (ph) in baseball.

We‘re number one?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Thursday, February 21st, 257 days until the 2008 presidential election.  Every newsroom in Washington and Phoenix and the national ones in New York and countless others elsewhere, are sifting through tips, rumors, fights, stories, gossip and innuendo, not to mention what “The New York Times” reported about Vicki Iseman and didn‘t report last night, and what John McCain did say and didn‘t say this morning.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Vicki-gate.  The Iseman trophy.  The smear of the century.  The scandal with no scandal there.  You take your pick for the title.  John McCain responded to it today while a second scandal, a lot less salacious but perhaps a lot more profound broke over he‘s using federal matching funds as collateral for a bank loan for his campaign.  At a news conference this morning, Senator McCain denying an improper relation with Ms. Iseman, a lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, saying, “The New York Times” report suggesting favoritism for her clients is, quote, “Not true”.  As for a romantic relationship with Ms.

Iseman during his last campaign for president -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS:  Did you ever have any meeting with any of your staffers in which they would have intervened to ask you not to see Vicki Iseman or to be concerned about appearances of being too close to a lobbyist?

MCCAIN:  No.

O‘DONNELL:  No meeting ever occurred?

MCCAIN:  No.

O‘DONNELL:  A staffer was ever concern about a possible romantic relationship?

MCCAIN:  If they were, they didn‘t communicate that to me.

O‘DONNELL:  Did you ever have such relationships?

MCCAIN:  No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, how would the senator describe his relationship with Ms. Iseman?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  We‘re friends, seen her on occasion particularly at receptions and fundraisers and appearances before the committee.  I have many friends in Washington who represent various interests and those who don‘t.  And I consider her a friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  “The New York Times” is also reporting that Senator McCain had denied a romantic relationship with Ms. Iseman on a phone call with Bill Keller, executive editor of the newspaper.  This morning, at first, he seemed to dispute that account as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘d never tried to dissuade them from running the story or meet them?

MCCAIN:  No.  In fact, I never spoke directly to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But, what about that phone call with Bill Keller?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I‘m sorry.  I did have one conversation with him.  I correct the record.  I did have a conversation with Mr. Keller.  I called him up when the investigation was going on and asked him basically, what was happening and we hoped that could bring this to closure.  But it was a very brief conversation.  I apologize for that.  I was not trying to dissuade him from, for him anyway from doing the story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That in addition to hiring Attorney Bob Bennett to do the dissuading for him.   The senator‘s wife is also disappointed not so much in her husband, but in the newspaper which reported the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN‘S WIFE:  Well, obviously, I‘m very disappointed in “The New York Times”.  And more importantly, my children and I not only trust my husband, but know that he would never do anything to not only disappoint our family, but disappoint the people of America.  He‘s a man of great character.  And I‘m very, very disappointed with “The New York Times”.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There goes that subscription.  “The New York Times” standing by its reporting, the executive editor, Mr. Keller saying in a statement today, quote: “On the substance, we think the story speaks for itself.  On the timing, our policy is, we publish stories when they are ready.”  “Ready”, he went on, “means the facts have been nailed down to our satisfaction, the subjects have all been given a full and fair chance to respond, and the fair chance to respond, and the reporting has been written up with all the proper context and caveat.  This story was no exception.”

The other candidates in the race for president largely staying above the fray: The Democratic frontrunner, Senator Obama, making no comment during a tour of the football facilities at the University of Texas at Austin.  When asked about the story, he simply smiled and went in the opposite direction.  Among the Republicans, no public comment from former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney who last week endorsed Senator McCain to the surprise of some but several former Romney advisers lamented to ABC News about the timing of the revelation, suggesting, quote, “If this had run before New Hampshire, McCain would have lost.  If it‘d run before Florida, he would have lost.”  In Houston, Governor Mike Huckabee is still in the race for the Republican nomination, if in name only, commenting publicly and very kindly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, I‘ve campaigned now on the same stage and platform as John McCain for 14 months.  I only know him to be a man of integrity.  Today, he denied that any of that was true.  I take him at his word.  I‘d have no further comment other than that.  I think, you know, for me to get into it is completely immaterial.  Again, I only know him what I know him to be, and that‘s a good and decent, honorable man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to bring in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine.  Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is this the kind of story that has the potential to get worse before it gets better or is this it?

FINEMAN:  Well, it definitely has the potential because John McCain has to be absolutely accurate in every particular of what he said this morning.  There‘s no reason to think he isn‘t.  But if his account of things is undermined or questioned again in a credible way, then, this thing really has legs.  It‘s possible that “The New York Times” or other organizations have more information.  And as you said at the top, every news organization in town is looking to see if there‘s anymore to the story of John McCain and Vicki Iseman.

OLBERMANN:  Interestingly, the senator cancelled his news conference that was scheduled for this afternoon.  Was that about the salacious part of this or more about the fear that the questions in the second news conference would not be about those, you know, red letter headlines but about the letters that Senator McCain wrote to the FCC, evidently on behalf of Ms. Iseman‘s lobbying clients.

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think that‘s quite possible.  Right now, John McCain is thirsting to talk at about Bosnia and Kosovo and other pressing foreign policy matters.  That‘s what his aides he wanted to talk about starting tomorrow.  So, yes, I think their concern was not more sex questions because that‘s been flatly denied all around, but rather, the other part of “The New York Times” story which is about the culture of lobbying here in Washington and once again, throwing light on a part of John McCain‘s operations here in town that he‘d rather not talk about.

OLBERMANN:  About the substance of the story as written, is there any doubt of the veracity to it?  I mean, “The Washington Post” followed up this morning, reporting that there was indeed a message delivered by McCain aides or McCain aide to Ms. Iseman at Union Station and the message in their version of it was get lost.  And that she used to boast to her colleagues of her connections to McCain.  And one other thing, we will read exactly: “Concerns about Iseman‘s presence around McCain at one point led to her being banned from his Senate office,” according to sources close to McCain.  The “Post” story about, the one about Vicki Iseman was in some sense, is stronger than “The New York Times” one.  That for whatever reason, she acted like she influenced John McCain in a way lobbyists usually do not and cannot.

FINEMAN:  Now, despite all the dust flying around here, Keith, you‘re right.  The substance of what the “Times” actually reported, mainly, the concern of the aides wasn‘t really disputed or refuted by the McCain camp.  Although, Mark Salter, who‘s very close to McCain, a staffer on the Senate, disputed the notion that Vicki Iseman was banned from the Senate office.  But other than that, the actual substance of the “Times” story really wasn‘t disputed.  If the question is: So what?  In other words, it‘s not the actual particulars as Bill Keller said, the substance, but what it really added up to.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, the chairman of the FCC said, the senator can‘t drop out of the primary season‘s public financing system until he answers questions about this $1 million loan that he obtained, promising to pay it back with the public funds should his campaign have sunk.  How big a problem is that going to be?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think he‘s probably going to be able to argue his way out of it, if he wants to.  But the bigger political question is: Does he want to?  Because he‘ll try to paint Barack Obama into a corner of agreeing to public fund, but it could be a problem.  And he‘s offered that public financing as collateral, he‘d have to change the papers, change the documents.  I think if the worst thing you worry about in Washington is being under scrutiny by the FEC, you‘re probably in pretty good shape.

OLBERMANN:  An excellent point.  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  Thank you, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Comedian, Rush Limbaugh and why if this goes no further, John McCain might wind up thanking “The New York Times”.

And: The president up his demands about telecom immunity tonight.  It‘s no longer just retroactive.  He now wants them protected for untold crimes as yet as uncommitted.

Tonight: The nexus of politics and terror.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The old selling line in the newspapers help wanted section.  I got my job through “The New York Times”.  Might John McCain actually be saying that, at least about a job as the new favorite of the radical right?  Rachel Maddow is next here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  With the news coming just one day after Senator John McCain declared himself the presumptive Republican nominee, with months to go before the general election, does the senator tonight owe the staff and management of “The New York Times” a pizza party?

In our fourth story tonight: With Governor Mike Huckabee mathematically moot, the lunatic fringe talkers seem to be latching on to the “Times” story as their first opportunity to fall in line with their party‘s new leader, without losing too much face for the obvious flip flop.  Attacking the “Times”, of course, a tailor made excuse for a truce with McCain by portraying him as the enemy of their real enemy, no, not al Qaeda, liberals.  Laura Ingraham, a McCain critic who endorsed Mitt Romney reportedly spent part of her show today defending McCain; and comedian Rush Limbaugh who led the charge against McCain, today not only slammed the “Times”, he called this an opportunity for McCain to rejoin the fold.  And if you listen carefully to him, you can hear him roll out the welcome mat for McCain if McCain is willing to take the trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  The important question for John McCain today is: Is he going to learn the right lesson from this?  And what is the lesson?  The lesson is: Liberals are to be defeated.  You cannot walk across the aisle with them.  You cannot reach across the aisle.  You cannot welcome their media members on your bus and get all cozy with them and expect eternal love from them.  You are a Republican.  Whether you‘re a conservative or not, you are a Republican and at some point, the people you cozy up to, even to do legislation or to get cozy media stories, are going to turn on you.  They are snakes.  And if the right lesson is not learned from this, then, it will have proved to be of no value.  It‘s a great opportunity here for Senator McCain to learn the right lesson and understand who his friends are and who his enemies are.  And he‘s had that backwards for way too long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And if only Rush were still alive to hear himself talk.

Here with us now, MSNBC political analyst, Rachel Maddow, also host of the “Rachel Maddow Show”, weeknights on Air America Radio.  Good to see you this evening.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALSYT:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Do they have a time to cement a truce before November?

MADDOW:  They only need enough time to change the courses in their awkward parody campaign songs.  Yes, I mean, the Republicans, the right wing talk show hosts have been saying all this time, for about a year now, that they need Hillary Clinton to get the Democratic nomination because that‘s the only thing that will unite the Republican Party.  They don‘t need Hillary Clinton.  They could unite against “The New York Times.”  They could unite against you at some point.  I‘m sure it will happen in the next few months.  They could, you know, unite against any red menace, that they want to point at and this is an example of them doing it and being open and direct about the fact that‘s what they are doing.

OLBERMANN:  Well, the anarchists, if they‘re going back to 1886, they can run against the anarchists.  So, what is, practically speaking, Limbaugh is asking more of McCain than just, you know, just stand there and be victim of “The New York Times”.  What is he asking of McCain?

MADDOW:  He‘s asking John McCain to play along with the kind of Republican presidential politics that right wing radio show hosts are comfortable with.  He‘s essentially saying, it‘s time to play along now.  It‘s time to get inline with the way we do this.  Start using Barack Obama‘s middle name.  Start blaming the ills of America and your political problems on phantom menaces like the homosexual agenda or whatever else you want to pick out here.  He‘s essentially saying, you know, pick on the liberal media, get over anything that is in your political DNA that would keep you out of line with the kind of politics that we‘re comfortable with.  Run a George W. Bush presidential campaign.

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.  Get your vote total down to 27 percent by using Barack Obama‘s middle name.  One big criticism of this story and it does resonate to some degree among everybody, why did “The New York Times” endorse John McCain, while sitting on this story, leave this aside for a moment, what‘s the corollary to that?  Why if McCain knew and he did know that the “Times” were sitting on this story, why did John McCain accept the endorsement of “The New York Times”?

MADDOW:  All right.  If he was so angry about this—yes, I think John McCain liked getting that endorsement.  I think John McCain has had a relationship with the press that he has found very rewarding and very much to his benefit.  I don‘t think it would have occurred to him before this week, you know, before this point of the campaign to turn down an endorsement like that because he had not yet gone on board with the Limbaugh brand of politics.  The Limbaugh brand of politics is telling him that, you know, you got to use this as an opportunity to demagogue against mainstream journalism.  The great explanatory footnote to this story is that the Drudge report, Matt Drudge‘s Web site, broke this very same story in December and McCain didn‘t peep about it.  And nobody peep about it.  It‘s not because nobody reads the Drudge report, it‘s because there wasn‘t political hay to be made from attacking him the way they‘re trying to make political hay of attacking the “Times”.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  But they did make hay out of it today.  There‘s an e-mail out there referring to the liberal attack machine that McCain has sent out in an attempt to get money out of this, or maybe nets a profit out of it.  Or is it safe to say that his love affair with the media is over in the context of this story?

MADDOW:  Pregnant pause.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, thank you.

MADDOW:  It seems like he is changing his attitude about it.  It does feel like he‘s getting on board with the right wing talk show approach to politics.  But you know what?  The love affair is so inexplicable anyway.  It very well may survive in terms of them still loving him.  If they could survive the Keating Five and the torture flip-flop and the George Bush tax cut flip-flop and the campaign finance flip-flop and the immigration flip-flop.  All this stuff, if the press still loves him after all that, sure, he still loves them after this.

OLBERMANN:  Everybody loves John McCain.  Don‘t say anything.  MSNBC political analyst, Rachel Maddow of Air America, great thanks.  We‘ll see you later.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  President Bush resumes the telecom immunity chicken a little bit.  But he just added a big new twist: He also wants the immunity for future acts.

And Karl Rove of being quote: “History has a funny way of deciding things,” he said, “Sometimes, history sent you things and 9/11 came our way.”

Yes, that‘s funny, Karl.

Worsts Persons of the world is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The president does it again.  He‘s now demanding immunity for the telecom giants not just for past crimes but also for future crimes.  The nexus of politics and terror is back.  We look again at the bakers dozen of coincidences when the line is blurred between counterterror and political manipulation.

Racist Bill O‘Reilly says it again, as if he does not understand the implications of saying, he might join, quote, “Some lynching party against Michelle Obama.”  He repeats the phrase.

And: One of the classic practical jokes of baseball history is now avenged by its victim.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN: The nexus of politics and terror, again.  After several days in which he had kept his hysteria in check and the conservative bastions like Kato Institute and “The Washington Times” insisted he had credibility on this issue of Chicken Little.  President Bush lost it anew this afternoon on his flight home from Liberia.  It‘s the so-called Protect America Act which is not yet been renewed by the House because the president first refused a temporary extension of it and then, refused the permanent extension that does not include immunity for the telecom companies who helped him break the law.  “If we do not give liability protection to those who are helping us, they won‘t help us,” he said today.  “And if they don‘t help us, there will be no program.  And if there‘s no program, America is more vulnerable.”  Mr. Bush then presented two comparatively new “red herrings”.  “These companies are going to be subject to multi-billion dollar lawsuits by trial lawyers, plaintiffs‘ attorneys and it‘s going to drive them away from helping us—unless they get liability protection—prospective and retroactive.”  So, it‘s official, this is not just about laws they broke in the past, it‘s about laws they will break in the future.  Plus: The suits against the telecoms where mostly by outfits like ACLU, with lawyers volunteering their time.  So, you can drop that money-making crap, too.

As preface, we remind you again, that coincidences can happen, that the logical fallacy insists: that just because event A occurs, then event B occurs, it doesn‘t automatically mean that event A caused event B.  But neither does it say the opposite.  “I can assure you, Al Qaeda in their planning, isn‘t thinking about politics,” Mr. Bush said last week, “They‘re thinking about hurting American people again.”

As vital an issue of what is the Bush administration‘s thinking in its planning.  The first 13 juxtaposition that constitute the nexus of politics and terror, please judge for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Number one, May 18th, 2002, the first details of the president‘s daily briefing of August 6, 2001 are revealed, including its title “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”  The same day another memo is discovered revealing the FBI knew of men with links to al Qaeda training at an Arizona flight school.  The memo was never acted upon.  Questions about 9/11 intelligence failures are swirling.

May 20th, 2002:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The terror warnings from the highest levels of the federal government, tonight are.

OLBERMANN:  Two days later, FBI Director Mueller declares that another terrorist attack is “inevitable.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tonight there are even more warnings.

OLBERMANN: The next day, the Department of Homeland Security issues warnings of attacks against railroads nationwide and against New York City landmarks, like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

Number two, Thursday, June 6th, 2002.

COLEEN ROWLEY, FBI AGENT:  I never really anticipated this kind of impact.

OLBERMANN:  Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried to alert her superiors to the specialized flight training taken by Zacarias Moussaoui, whose information suggests the government missed a chance to break up the 9/11 plot, testifies before Congress.  Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Graham says, Rowley‘s testimony has inspired similar pre-9/11 whistleblowers.

Monday June 10th, 2002, four days later.

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  We have disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking from Russia, Attorney General John Ashcroft reveals that an American named Jose Padilla is under arrest, accused of plotting a radiation bomb attack in this country.  In fact, Padilla had by this time, already been detained for more than one month.

Number three, February 5th, 2003, Secretary of State Powell tells the United Nations Security Council of Iraq‘s concealment of weapons including 18 mobile biological weapons laboratories, justifying a U.N. or U.S. first strike.  Many in the U.N. are doubtful.  Months later, much of the information proves untrue.

February 7th, 2003, two days later, as anti-war demonstrations continue to take place around the globe.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  Take some time to prepare for an emergency.

OLBERMANN:  Homeland Security Secretary Ridge cites credible threats by al Qaeda and raises the terror alert level to orange.  Three days after that, Fire Administrator David Paulison, who would become the acting head of FEMA after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack.

Number four, July 23rd, 2003, the White House admits that the CIA, months before the president‘s State of the Unions Address, expressed strong doubts about the claim that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Niger.

On the 24th, the Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks is issued.  It criticizes government at all levels.  It reveals an FBI informant had been living with two of the future highjackers.  It concludes that Iraq had no link to al Qaeda.  Twenty-eight pages of the report are redacted.

On the 26th, American troops are accused of the beating Iraqi prisoners.

July 29th, 2003, three days later, amid all of the negative headlines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Word of a possible new al Qaeda attack.

OLBERMANN:  Homeland Security issues warnings of further terrorist attempts to use airplanes for suicide attacks.

Number five, December 17th, 2003, 9/11 Commission Co-Chair Thomas Kean says the attacks were preventable.  The next day, a Federal appeals court says the government cannot detain suspected radiation bomber Jose Padilla indefinitely without charges and the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, Dr. David Kay, who has previously announced he has found no weapons of mass destruction there, announces he will resign his post.

December 21st, 2003, four days later, the Sunday before Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Today the United States government raised the national threat level.

OLBERMANN:  Homed Land Security, again, raises the threat level to orange, claiming credible intelligence of further plots to crash airliners into U.S cities.  Subsequently, six international flights into this country are canceled after some passenger names purportedly produced matches on government “No-Fly” lists.  The French later identified those matched names.  One belongs to an insurance salesman from Wales, another to an elderly Chinese woman, a third to a 5-year-old boy.

Number six, March 30th, 2004 the new chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, tells Congress “We have still not found any WMD in that country.”  And after weeks of having refused to appear before the 9/11 Commission, Condoleezza Rice relents, and agrees to testify.

On the 31st, four Blackwater USA contractors working in Iraq are murdered.  Their mutilated bodies dragged through the streets and left on public display in Fallujah.  The role of civilian contractors in Iraq is now widely questioned.

April 2nd, 2004.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The FBI has issued a new warning tonight.

OLBERMANN:  Homeland Security issues a bulletin warning that terrorists may try to blow up buses and trains using fertilizer and fuel bombs, like the one detonated in Oklahoma City.  Bombs stuffed into satchels or duffle bags.

Number seven, May 16th, 2004, Secretary of State Powell, appears on “Meet the Press.”  Moderator Tim Russert closes by asking him about the enormous personal credibility Powell had placed before the U.N. in laying out a case against Saddam Hussein.  An aide to Powell interrupts the question saying the interview is over.

TIM RUSSERT, “MEET THE PRESS”:  I think that was one of your staff Mr. Secretary.  I don‘t think that‘s appropriate.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Get-Emily, get out of the way.

OLBERMANN:  Powell finishes his answer, admitting that much of the information he had been given about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was.

POWELL:  .inaccurate and wrong and in some cases deliberately misleading.

OLBERMANN:  On the 21st, new photos showing mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison are released.

On the 24th “Associated Press” video, from Iraq, confirms U.S.

Forces mistakenly bombed a wedding party, killing more than 40.

Wednesday May 26th, 2004, two days later.

ASHCROFT:  Good afternoon

OLBERMANN:  Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller warned that intelligence from multiple sources.

ASHCROFT:  Indicates al Qaeda‘s specific intention to hit the United States‘ hard.

OLBERMANN:  And that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack on the United States were complete.  The color coded warning system is not raised.  The Homeland Security secretary, Tom Ridge, does not attend the announcement.

Number eight, July 6th, 2004, Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry selects Senator John Edwards as his vice presidential running mate producing a small bump in the election opinion polls and producing a huge swing in media attention toward the Democratic campaign.

July 8th, 2004, two days later.

RIDGE:  Credible reporting now indicates that al Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States.

OLBERMANN:  Homeland Secretary Ridge warns of information about al Qaeda attacks during the summer or autumn.  Four days after that, the head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, DeForest B. Soaries Jr.  confirms he has written to Ridge about the prospect of postponing the upcoming presidential election in the event it is intercepted by terrorist acts.

Number 9th, July 29th, 2004, at their party convention in Boston, the Democrats formally nominate John Kerry as their candidate for president.  As in the wake of any convention, the Democrats now dominate the media attention over the subsequent weekend.

August 1st, 2004, Monday morning, three days later.

RIDGE:  It is as reliable as source-group of sources that we‘ve ever seen before.

OLBERMANN:  The Department of Homeland Security raises the alert status for financial centers in New York, New Jersey, and Washington to orange.  The evidence supporting the warning, reconnaissance data left in a home in Iraq.  Later proves to be roughly four years old and largely out of date.

Number ten, October 6th, 2005, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the president addresses the National Endowment for Democracy.  Once again emphasizing the importance of the war on terror and insisting his government has broken up at least 10 terrorist plots since 9/11.

At 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, five hours after the president‘s speech had begun, the “Associated Press” reports that Karl Rove will testify again to the CIA leak grand jury and that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has told Rove he cannot guaranteed that he will not be indicted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re awaiting a news conference at the bottom of the hour in New York City.

OLBERMANN:  At 5:17 p.m. Eastern Time, seven hours after the president‘s speech has begun, New York officials disclose a bomb threat to the city‘s subway system, based on information supplied by the Federal government.  A Homeland Security spokesman says the intelligence upon which the disclosure is based is of “doubtful credibility.”  And it later proves that New York City had known of the threat for at least three days and had increased police presence in the subways long before making the announcement at that particular time.

Local New York television station WNBC reports it had the story of the threats days in advance of the announcement, but was asked by high ranking Federal officials in New York and Washington to hold off on its story.

Less than four days after having revealed the threat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York says, “Since the period of the threat now seems to be passing, I think over the immediate future we will slowly be winding down the enhanced security.”

While news organizations ranging from the “New York Post” to NBC NEWS, quotes sources who say there was reason to believe the informant who triggered the warning simply made it up.  A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official tells “The New York Times,” quote, “there was no there, there.”

Number 11, a sequence of events in August 2006 best understood now in chronological order.  As the month begins, the controversy over domestic surveillance without legal warrants in this country crests.

Then on August 9th, the day after the Connecticut Democratic Senatorial Primary, Vice President Cheney says the victory of challenger Ned Lamont over incumbent Joe Lieberman is a positive for the, quote, “al Qaeda types”, who he says, quote, “Clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight.”

The next day, British authorities arrest 24 suspects in an alleged imminent plot to blow up U.S. bound aircraft using liquid explosives smuggled on board in sports drink bottles.  Domestic air travel is thrown into chaos as carry-on liquids are suddenly banned.

On August 14th, British intelligence reveals it did not think the plot was imminent.  Only the U.S. did.  And our authorities pressed to make the arrests.  Eleven of the 24 suspect are later released.  And in the months to come, the carry-on liquids ban is repeatedly relaxed.

Number 12, May 7th, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas leveled by a tornado and the state‘s governor notes, more in sorrow than in anger, that the redeployment of so much of the Kansas National Guard and its equipment to Iraq might now cripple the soldiers‘ ability to respond if another disaster hits Kansas.

GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS:  What we‘re really missing is equipment.  And that is putting a strain on recoveries like this one.

OLBERMANN:  The next day, the authorities announce arrests in a far-fetched plan to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey.  The so-called terrorists planned to gain access to the base by posing as pizza delivery men.  It is not a suicide mission.  They state clearly, they intend to kill personnel and then retreat to safety, even though they were going to attack a closed compound, full of trained soldiers with weapons.

And though the plan is branded sophisticated, its perpetrators are not sophisticated enough to have not handed over the videotape of themselves training with weapons to a Circuit City store in order to be transferred to DVD.  The Fort Dix plot not only erases from most news coverage the issue of disaster readiness in Kansas, but it also obscures the next day‘s story that in anticipation of his testimony to a House panel, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has submitted opening remarks that match, virtually word for word, the remarks he had given the previous month to a Senate committee.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Recognizing my limit involvement in the process, a mistake I freely acknowledge.  A mistake that I freely acknowledge, I have soberly questioned my prior decisions.

OLBERMANN:  And number 13, June, 2007, the JFK plot to blow up the jet fuel pipeline feeding John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, thus causing the entire airport to be consumed in an horrific conflagration.  One of the men arrested has, as a past employee access to the sprawling complex, but little knowledge of the reality of the pipeline system.

The manager of that system tells “The New York Times” that the pipeline is not some kind of fuse.  Shut off valves throughout would have easily contained any damage, just as a leak in a tunnel in any city would not flood everything in that city below ground.  A so called plot happens to be revealed the day before the second Democratic presidential debate.

And as the scandal continues to unfold over the firings of U.S.  attorneys, and their replacements by political hacks, the so called plot is announced by the Bush appointed U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, New York, and by the police chief of New York City, the father of a correspondent for Fox News Channel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  In all candors, somebody could probably construct similar timeline connecting terror events to the phases of the moon.  But also in all candors, after five years of this, it seems inarguable now.  What we are told about terror and not told for security reasons has overlapped considerably with what we are told about terror and not told for political reasons.

Just today, we learned that the CIA admitted in a given false information to the British.  But contrary to its previous insistence, it had used British airports.  But the extraordinary rendition of two terror suspects, one of them has now been set free.  And that the British government is now awkwardly apologizing for its consistent denials that it ever aided the so called torture flights.  No curious junks to position there.  Just hard evidence that politics and purported counter terrorism have been intertwined.

And if merely a reasonable case can be made to any of these other intertwinings are more than just coincidences.  It underscores the need for questions to be asked and asked continually in this nation.  Questions about what is prudence and what is merely fear mongering.

Racist Bill O‘Reilly says it again.  He doesn‘t have a clue that you should not suggest that you might join a, quote, “lynching party” against a woman name Michelle Obama.  He uses the phrase again.

And you would have thought the major league baseball player would have gotten suspicious when they told he‘s been traded to a Japanese team for the world‘s record hotdog eater but he was not.  And thus hangs the best baseball practical joke in years.  Plus the revenge, ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The racist Bill O‘Reilly explains it‘s OK for him to say if there is sufficient evidence he might join a, quote, “lynching party” against Michelle Obama.  And Karl Rove talks about that funny way history brought us 9/11.  It‘s worst persons.

And Brent Myers, the latest high priest of what is at least a 122 year tradition in baseball.  The elaborate practical joke.  There‘s video of this one and a photograph of one from 1886.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  American baseball teams do not trade players to Japanese teams.  This did not occur to the young Philadelphia pitcher who was told he had been traded to Japan.  He now has his revenge for this practical joke which we will show you.

But first, time for our number two story tonight.  COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”  The bronze to Richard Perle, chairman of Mr. Bush‘s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee.  When it helped begin our mistaken war in Iraq.  No one has ever more clearly expressed the confusion over this disaster than Mr. Perle has in an article for the American Interest magazine.

He first writes, quote, “The war is far from over.”  He later argues that without military action, we could not have decisively manages the threat from Iraq.  It is now managed.  Saddam will not be sharing WMD with anyone.  Judge against that measure, we have already won in Iraq.

OK, the war is far from over, we have already won.  Well, there‘s your problem right there.

Our runner up, racist Bill O‘Reilly.  His remark on radio show was simple and straightforward and honorable.  I don‘t want to go to a lynch—on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there‘s evidence.  He has neither been fired nor suspended.  Today, he says, because he said he might not do such a thing, he was therefore defending her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY:  To the word lynching was used because I said it quite clearly.  I‘m not going to go on some lynching party against Michelle Obama.  That‘s ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The man is an irredeemable racist and he can no longer be tolerated.

But our winner, Karl Rove, continuing to clean up on lecture circuit to summit at the University of Pennsylvania.  Again, defending the Iraq war as an opportunity to prove the U.S. would not hesitate to defend itself against Islamic extremist, even the wrong ones—quote, “History has a funny way of deciding things,” he said.  “Sometimes history sends you things and 9/11 came our way.”

History has a funny way of deciding things -- 9/11.  Real funny, Karl.  Karl Rove, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Practical jokes are old enough to pause for Aristotle‘s book of having red one, a book of one.  It happens around the year 300 B.C.  And by then, the book he was reading from was over 200 years old.

In our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, we have an example of a classic practical joke fresh from Baseball Spring Training 2008.  That when combined with the blow back is one of the all time greats.

First a little context, within its shorter history, the baseball practical joke is nearly as memorable as Aristotle‘s reading list suggests.  Be careful here if you‘re sensitive to one digit kind of practical jokes.

Opening day at the Polo Grounds in April 1886 in New York City.  The New York Giants and the visiting Boston Red Stockings posing for a celebratory joint team picture.  Joint, indeed.  Back row, far left, that is future hall of famer Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn of Boston.  Flipping the bird to the New York photographer, in 1886.

By 1991, outfielder Dave Gallagher traded to the California Angels would convince the team‘s public relations director that he was a member of the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame.  That PR director, Tim Mead (ph), promptly included that detail in his Gallagher‘s biography in the 1991 Angels Media Guide.  There is no New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame.  When the PR director was informed of this by a reporter, me, he decided to introduce two retaliations that also figure kind of into tonight‘s event.

Mr. Mead (ph) engaged a reporter, me, to record a fake radio sports cast about the Angels firing Dave Gallagher, releasing him from his contract and suing him from the salary that had already paid him on the premise that he had patted his resume to a team personnel official.  The tape played in the Angels spring training clubhouse just as Gallagher walked in reportedly left him, quote, “Pale as a ghost.”

Which brings us to second-year pitcher Kyle Kendrick of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Summoned to the office of Phillies‘ manager Charlie Manuel at the team‘s training complex in Clear Water, Florida with a major change of address at hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE MANUEL, MANAGER PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES:  What‘s up, Kyle.  How you doing?

KYLE KENDRICK:  Good.  You?

MANUEL:  We made a move today, and we made a trade with the Japanese team, Yomiuri Giants.  And you were one of the guys in the deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let me try to explain it to you.  (INAUDIBLE).  I think this is great opportunity.  You can make a hell lot of money.

MANUEL:  We just found out about it a few minutes ago of, you know.  I didn‘t know what was going on.  It kind of hit me by surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You got to be there two hours early so it‘s an early call.  You‘re going, all right?  And Dan and Phil will get you your stuff.  Just take whatever you need.  Do you have anything in Philly?

KENDRICK:  In Philly?  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, traded?  To what?  To who?

KENDRICK:  A Japanese team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  Sorry, man.  What the hell.  Does the guy throw hard?  Does he got a good sinker or what?  They didn‘t tell you crap about it.  When you leaving?

KENDRICK:  Tomorrow morning, 7:00.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is it a real deal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kendrick just got traded to Japan.  $1.5 million he‘s getting.  It‘s worth it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kyle Kendrick has been moved to Yomiuri Giants in exchange for Kobayashi Iwamura.  It‘s a deal we thought it was important for us to make.  And the fact of the matter is we‘re trying to get to the next level.

KENDRICK:  I don‘t know.  Do they have good food in Japan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know what I say?  You just got punked.  See this?  Kobayashi, that‘s a hotdog eater.  You got punked by a hotdog eater.  You got traded for a hotdog eater.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And no major league teams cannot trade players to Japanese teams.  But that was veteran pitcher Brett Myers skillfully professing that the deal was worth it for Kendrick.  And for YouTube, just about every sportscast in the nation made that prank a hit.  But Kendrick got a small bit of revenge on the today show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENDRICK:  I was so stunned and I can‘t believe I was leaving.  It was a good joke, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s easy to pick on.  He‘s gullible too, so it‘s kind of fun for everybody.

KENDRICK:  I don‘t know if I can get it back because (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I told you to tell me when he was coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Takeru Kobayashi meets Soupy Sales.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 1,758 days since the declaration of mission accomplish in Iraq.

Please join me again at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific for COUNTDOWN‘s, special post debate coverage.  Obama and Clinton at the University of Texas in Austin.  Rachel Maddow, Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, and Richard Wolffe joining me them.  Until then, 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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