updated 3/7/2008 12:16:02 PM ET 2008-03-07T17:16:02

Guests: Paul F. Tompkins, John Dean, Howard Fineman

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

Hillary Clinton again praises John McCain over Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think it‘s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate, we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold.  And I believe that I‘ve done that, certainly Senator McCain has done that.  And you‘ll have to ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And just as remarkable: Her campaign invokes the “S” word.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIR.:  I for one do not believe that imitating Kenneth Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve already called him George Bush and Karl Rove. 

Now Barack Obama is Ken Starr?  Who will you say he is tomorrow?  Nixon?

The stunning 180 on blame Canada-gate: The campaign, the Canadian prime minister‘s chief of staff said reassured his nation.  The campaign that told the Canadians any threat it made to alter or cancel NAFTA should be taken with a grain of salt?  The Clinton campaign, the prime minister is investigating why and why only a document leaks about the Canadian calling an Obama adviser.

And a new version of the Ghostbusters ad in Wyoming

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over):  I remember walking up here and saying, I would feel a lot more safe if you were president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, by the way, Obama raised $55 million last month.  And while Clinton leads McCain by six in a head to head match-up, Keith number is nine, Obama leads him by 12 and the Keith number is 11.

The nexus is back tonight.  The chief of U.S. northern command says, there are no specific threats to the election but al Qaeda maybe working more urgently to plan an attack on the U.S. and—for further details see anything the administration said in 2004.  Or anything John McCain has said in 2008.

And: A tap dancing president, a dancing candidate, a singing candidate, another singing candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Bam, bam, bam. 

Anyway -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it‘s the premier episode of “America‘s politicians don‘t got talent”.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Thursday, March 6th, 243 days until the 2008 presidential election.  Having last Saturday in Austin suggested that she and John McCain will each be able to campaign on their lifetime of experience.  But Barack Obama will only be able to put forth a speech in 2002, having last Monday in Toledo stated, she and Senator McCain will each bring that lifetime of experience to the White House, but Senator Obama would only have that speech, having today in Washington announced that she and Senator McCain have each crossed the commander in chief threshold but you‘ll to have ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: Begins with a rhetorical question, hyperbole for sure, but maybe not that much hyperbole.  Would Senator Clinton really prefer to see McCain become president than Obama?  And it‘s, oh, would that not make her a Lieberman Republican or maybe a McCain Democrat?

Senator Clinton‘s comments coming at a news conference beginning with a photo op with military officers, the better to drive home her contention that only she and the presumptive Republican nominee are qualified to be commander in chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Look, I have said that Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign.  I will bring a lifetime of experience.  And Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002.

I think that is a significant difference.  I think that since we now know Senator McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election.  We all know that.

And I think it‘s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander in chief threshold.  And I believe that I‘ve done that.  Certainly, Senator McCain has done that and you‘ll have to ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Earlier in the same news conference, Senator Clinton addressing her role when her husband answered middle of the night phone calls during his administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Obviously, I was there for a lot of phone calls at different times of the day and night.  And I have a very clear idea of what it takes to be prepared and ready to not only answer the phone but then to make the decision that are required, depending upon what the crisis is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the 3:00 a.m. phone call theme now, seeming to carry over into health care reform in a new radio commercial that the Clinton campaign has launched in Wyoming.  The Democratic caucuses there are convening Saturday.  The ad features a woman talking about her son who has a heart condition and now, she says he has benefited from the SCHIP program that Senator Clinton supported.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over):  I‘ve met her.  I‘ve read her healthcare plan.  I remember walking up to her and saying, I would feel a lot more safe if you were president than I have in many, many years.  She‘s going to help me and she‘s going to help my family.  I know she‘s the one with the strength and the heart to stand up for all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Earlier in the day, in what was originally thought to have been high water mark of jaw-dropping behavior from the Clinton campaign, senior adviser Ann Lewis, absent any hint of irony, first challenging Senator Obama to start running a more positive campaign.  Then communications director Howard Wolfson comparing the Illinois Democrat to, and if you have food in your mouth spit it out or ingest it now, Kenneth Starr of Whitewater independent counsel infamy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFSON:  Senator Obama was confronted with questions over whether he was ready to be commander in chief and steward of the economy.  He chose not to address those questions but to attack Senator Clinton, and that‘s what we‘re pointing out.  And I for one do not believe that imitating Kenneth Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president.  But perhaps that theory will be tested.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Obama‘s Press Secretary Bill Burton responding, quote, “It is absurd that after weeks of badgering the media to ‘vet‘ Senator Obama, the Clinton campaign believes that they should be held to an entirely different standard.  We don‘t believe that expecting candidates for the presidency to disclose their tax returns somehow constitutes Ken Starr-tactics, but the kind of transparency and accountability that Americans are looking fro and that‘s been missing in Washington for far too long.  And if Senator Clinton doesn‘t think that the Republicans will ask these very same questions, then she‘s not as ready to go toe-to-toe with John McCain as she claims.”

Something Senator Clinton left out of her claim that Senator Obama is less qualified to compete against McCain in the general election, the latest polls.  New head-to-head match-ups from “The Washington Post”:

Senator Clinton leading Senator McCain by six points.  The Keith number of neither plus would not vote, plus no opinion, plus margin much error is 9 percent.  How, Senator Obama bests the presumptive Republican nominee by 12 with a Keith number of less than that, just 11.

And about Florida and Michigan tonight: Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has written to Howard Dean to suggest the Democratic National Committee either seat the delegates chosen in the decertified Florida primary in January or pay for a new primary itself.  Senator Clinton has tonight presented a veto long before her prospective administration would begin: “I would not accept a caucus,” she tells “U.S.  News & World Report”.  “I think that would be a great disservice to 2 million people who turned out and voted.  I think they want their votes counted and you know a lot of people would be disenfranchised because of the timing and whatever the particular rules were.”  Later she said, “And I don‘t think there should be any do-over or any kind of a second run Florida.  I think Florida should be seated.”  Earlier today, she had said she was willing to leave it to the states.

It‘s time now to bring in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Florida and Michigan in a moment.  When Senator Clinton today says what she said about Senator McCain, what she said about him Saturday in Austin, what she said about him Monday in Toledo, what realistically separates her from Senator Lieberman of Connecticut?  And at what point might it risk crossing the line into, for all intents and purposes, an endorsement of McCain?

WOLFFE:  All she has to do now, I think, is kiss President Bush on the cheek and she‘ll be just like Joe Lieberman.  You know, there are a lot of interesting comparisons here.  She‘s so hawkish on the war and on other issues of national security, very strongly free trade, and also, very strongly pro-business.  I mean, the DCL-type (ph) just like Joe Lieberman.

And I think the comparisons with attitudes toward McCain are really quite striking.  You have to ask yourself what she finds so threatening about Barack Obama that John McCain is more palatable as commander in chief.  And finally, if she wants to compare herself to John McCain and their experience, she‘s opening herself up to a huge amount of criticism.

Is she really equating her time in the east wing with his time in the Hanoi Hilton?  Is she equating his service in the United States military with implying in (ph) to the former Yugoslavia with Sheryl Crow and Sinbad?  I mean, these comparisons are not helpful for her.

OLBERMANN:  Well, perhaps the experience of Sinbad is analogous, we will devout (ph) for another time.  We‘ll look at the McCain factor also in depth in a moment but I want to cover this wrap of the other headlines today from the other campaigns with you: Howard Wolfson analogizing Obama to Ken Starr.

A multimillion-dollar investigation into the real estate dealings run amok that bled into this Monica Lewinsky parse equals a request to release there tax returns?  I mean, I think, I maybe uniquely qualified in saying, I cover Ken Starr, and, senator, you‘re no Ken Starr.  How does this not make the man who says this and the candidate he works for look nuts?

WOLFFE:  Yes, well, remember, Ken Starr, Lewinsky, these are not names that have really ever come across the lips of the Obama campaign.  They don‘t want to go there.  And as long as the Clinton campaign wants to raise this one, well, they‘re reminding voters about for starters, the terrible period that they were involved with.

But also, you know, for a whole generation of voters who‘ve shown up.  The Clintons are trying to attract voters under 30.  This means nothing.  So, the comparison is outlandish.  And I‘ve often thought as a patent through this whole cycle, what we‘ve seen, time again, when the Clinton campaign has a moment of opportunity, they also suffer from overreach.  And this is clearly a case.

OLBERMANN:  Her opposition tonight, to a new Florida vote or Michigan caucus or some combination thereof, I don‘t think any of that is really news, nor a surprise.  I mean, she perceives those as two victories, but this phrasing, I won‘t accept a caucus.  Does she have final say on this first of all?  And is the implication there, lawsuit if necessary?

WOLFFE:  Well, I‘m sure there will be some litigation at some point.  But they‘ve also been very selective about what votes really count and what don‘t.  Certain types of states, certain types of voting, caucuses are pretty well established in many states, have been for many, many years.  But this also has to be a plan (ph) as agreed by both sides.  And ultimately, if the DNC can‘t broker an agreement between them, there will be no do-over.

OLBERMANN:  OK, into the back room or the courtroom.  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” magazine, and one more fortunate, MSNBC.  Thank you, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Back to the headline: Given the Republicans relative low profile, this might be close to literally true.  Since last Saturday, Senator Clinton in that time may have mentioned Senator John McCain more than Senator John McCain has mentioned Senator John McCain, and more positively.

Three versions now of the lifetime experience, quote, “complimenting” him and by implication, denigrating Senator Obama, the commander in chief threshold stuff from today and even a little more, at that same news conference, she today called McCain, a good friend and, quote, “a distinguished man with a great history of service to our country.”

What is this fascination with, and positive attitude towards the man chosen to keep her party, and if she‘s the nominee, keep her out of the White House?

Let‘s look at this in-depth with Margaret Carlson, political columnist for Bloomberg News, as well as Washington editor of “The Week” magazine.  Good evening, Margaret.

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe I‘m really naive.  But I know a little bit at least about every presidential election since like McKinley.  And leaving Senator Obama out of this for the moment, I don‘t get Senator Clinton‘s personal rationalization for this.  How do you beat some other guy to become president by continually saying how qualified the other guy is to become president?

CARLSON:  Well, you know, with the Clintons, it‘s something new every day.  And this is part of the kitchen sink.  We just didn‘t see this particular part of it coming.  This is the garbage disposal part of the kitchen sink.  Because it is so much disdain for Obama that she prefers to embrace the only other person on the screen these days which is Senator John McCain.

It is a very short-sighted strategy.  It makes no sense beyond tomorrow.  But the Clintons, the Clinton campaign doesn‘t look beyond tomorrow.  Otherwise, you know, they wouldn‘t have had so many problems.  They thought February 5th was the end of everything.  So, all of this is back to the future for them.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe it‘s the baby and the bath water in the kitchen sink at this point.  But Senator Obama‘s response tonight to Senator Clinton‘s line about life experience: She like Senator McCain believes life begins when you arrive in Washington.  Is this the thing that he has been looking for that he can hit her back on with impunity without seeming, you know, to go to those 3:00 a.m. Ghostbusters ads?

I mean, it seems like there were three principle groups comprise the Democratic Party.  His supporters, her supporters, and the Democrats don‘t care which of them or who defeats John McCain.  Would not two of those three groups respond pretty well to a theme of: Why on earth are you ranking John McCain ahead of any Democrat?

CARLSON:  I know.  Well, they said it was going to get rancorous and get really, really bad for Democrats if this went on too long.  And look where we are.  This looks bad for Democrats when she prefers John McCain winning the White House to Senator Obama winning the nomination.

I mean, this is, you know, this is about as far as you can go in terms of: It has to be me or no Democrat, I‘d rather it be a Republican.  Now remember a month ago, Keith, when Bill Clinton out of the blue said, what good friends of Hillary Clinton and John McCain were because they went on one of these condo things to, I think, Russia, and they were doing shots of vodka or, you know, really having a ball on the plane.  And maybe they were laying the groundwork for this way back then.  It doesn‘t seem possible.  But it is such a peculiar route to take.

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.  There‘s also—something that seems a little sad about the 3:00 a.m. phone call argument.  The premise here is McCain is a senator, Clinton is a senator, Obama is a senator, the variables, unless there are more that I‘m not aware of, Senator McCain is the only one who is a service veteran and Senator Clinton was the only who spent eight years married to the commander-in-chief.  And this equation somehow, I mean, this means kind of Laura Bush has about as much experience as she does on that front.

Is this an analogy in trying to stand up for herself and proving she is qualified to be a president?  Is this really the analogy that Senator Clinton wants to keep pursuing?  Look, I can be president, I was married to one.  Isn‘t that the whole criticism of her?

CARLSON:  Well, it is.  And she clearly doesn‘t want to take the bad stuff from that presidency.  She only wants to suggest that she was in on all the important stuff and that this gives her a leg up on Obama.

In a conference call, Keith, when the red phone ad came up, she was asked, what is her experience?  And there was no answer.  And then someone came back with, well, she gave the opening speech at the women‘s conference in Beijing.  And she has visited 80 countries.  Well, you know, she really did.  I was on some of those trips.  She really did have tea and cookies in those countries.

OLBERMANN:  Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News.  Great thanks for helping me.  I‘m about (ph) to think I‘m crazy about this.  Good night.

CARLSON:  Good night, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re not done with the campaign.  There is a huge develop many in the Obama-NAFTA story that basically turns it on its head.  The Clinton campaign winked to the Canadians.  It‘s the Clinton-NAFTA story.

If you‘re wondering how long before the Republicans did something to justify that snark about John McSame (ph), the answer was one day.  An army general talks about an al Qaeda threat against, bingo—Election Day.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The first stumble of the Obama campaign that was the almost universal perception to reports that the senator had talked about altering NAFTA that his campaign had reassured the Canadians they‘ll be doing nothing serious.  Startling developments tonight that turns that story completely on its head, the chief of staff to Canada‘s prime minister is quoted to saying, “It was Senator Clinton‘s campaign which said, she would be making the empty threats to change NAFTA but don‘t worry, she didn‘t mean it.”

Later in Worst: Restaurant held inspection scale one to 100, this one place got—no, you won‘t believe what they got.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I didn‘t know until this day that it was Borseni (ph) all along.

For a week now: Senator Clinton has bashed Senator Obama and even possibly won votes based on the story that Obama had publicly railed against NAFTA while a memo by a Canadian diplomat claimed that Obama‘s campaign secretly assured them his stand, quote, “Should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Obama‘s adviser denied speaking those words and now, we learned a much higher source from Canada revealed late last month that the NAFTA promises came from a very different source—the Clinton campaign.  According to an unnamed source speaking to that nation‘s equivalent of the “Associated Press”, the “Canadian Press”, it was Clinton‘s campaign that contacted the Canadian government to reassure them about Clinton‘s anti-NAFTA rhetoric.

The “Canadian Press” reporting that the source heard the chief of staff to Canada‘s prime minister saying in a room full of television journalists, quote, “Someone from Clinton‘s campaign is telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt.  Someone called us and told us not to worry.”

Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, of course the senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Am I oversimplifying this?  Or this story now basically, exactly the opposite of what it seemed to be a week ago?

FINEMAN:  I loved your godfather imitation.  I feel like Tom, the lawyer, you know, now advising you.  Yes, it is 180 degrees different.  Because I think it was the Clinton camp that started the conversation with the Canadians about “don‘t worry about NAFTA”.  But the Obama campaign really either didn‘t know about it or didn‘t realize it at the time.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, when the story first broke, there was a mention, although much obscured, relative to the Obama stuff, of Clinton‘s camp doing something like this.  But Canadian TV focused on Obama.  Obama gave that qualified denial.  Clinton denied it flat out.  Does she pay anything like the price Obama paid for it on Tuesday?

FINEMAN:  Well, I was just talking to the Obama campaign.  I don‘t think they noticed or knew about the Clinton side of this thing until today.  And so far, they haven‘t decided to make a big issue of it because they think the far more fundamental issue is that over the last few years, Hillary has had a lot of nice things to say about NAFTA.

She said it was a great achievement for her husband‘s administration.  You know, she had a lot of positive comments about it.  So, what her lieutenant said to the Canadians seems a side issue to them.

But as you point out, the question is really about truthfulness.  A flat denial of something that wasn‘t true.  They haven‘t gotten to that point yet but I‘m sure they will.  I just talked to some of their top level (ph) who said that they‘re looking at it carefully.

OLBERMANN:  Is this the situation perhaps, if the construction is accurate, or even if we‘ve just seen separately two halves of the same story, that you said that the Obama campaign did not necessarily know about the Clinton part of this until today.  But in their own defense, why did they not scream more loudly from more roof tops about their own relative or at least at worst, 50/50 guilt in this thing last week?

FINEMAN:  Well, because I think they think perhaps mistakenly, but they think they have the upper hand on the NAFTA debate.  They think if people focus on the fundamentals, which by the way is the substance of the Obama mailers, the flyers they‘ve been sending out, that Hillary has at best waffled on NAFTA from the very beginning and said a lot of positive things about NAFTA.

Whereas Obama has a much cleaner record on that and they would rather emphasize that and they‘re prepared to do that, here in Pennsylvania, where I am speaking to you from Pittsburgh.  Then, that‘s what they‘re prepared to do here in this state.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Wrap this stuff up for me.  We have all, again, another compliment to John McCain and an analogy from the Clinton campaign of Ken Starr and Barack Obama and this remarkable thing about NAFTA, where the story is, you know, the other side of the coin entirely.

I can‘t follow the Clinton campaign anymore.  What is going on?  I thought things turned around for them Tuesday night, thing seems like it‘s crashed after the best day of the campaign so far?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think they‘re still flailing around for exactly what tact to take.  You know, maybe the red phone worked a little bit in Texas.  Maybe the NAFTA dust-up worked a little bit in Ohio.  But they‘re still having trouble basically distinguishing their message from Obama‘s message, in saying that their message, the Clinton message, is also one of hope and optimism about the future of the country.

Here in a place like Pittsburgh, things have changed a lot.  This is a different city from what it used to be.  A lot of the younger people want a message of hope and excitement and optimism and Clinton hasn‘t figured out a way to reach that with anything other than negative attacks on her opponent.

OLBERMANN:  Although, she has moved into contention for the vice presidency for Mr. McCain in case things fall apart.

FINEMAN:  I guess.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, great thanks, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If you love Sweeney Todd (ph), the demon (ph) barber of Fleet Street (ph), wait until you meet this guy who puts his barbering money where his mouth is.

And: A body language expert.  A body language expert insults Hillary Clinton, a body language expert who puts this picture of herself on the cover of her own (INAUDIBLE) book.

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

Number three: Why you do not hire the pathologically religious-gate again.  If you recall Tim Goeglein resigned from the administration in shame this week, after it was discovered he, the White House liaison to the religious far right, and one of the authors of faith-based initiatives, have been plagiarizing material he claimed was his own in columns he was writing for a newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

It turns out it was a little worse than originally reported.  One of the other writers he stole from was Pope John Paul II.  Mr. Bush‘s religious liaison used the writing of a dead pope without giving him credit.

Number two: Halliburton-gate.  KBR, run of (ph) by that company a year ago, now itself the top contractor in Iraq turns out to be a giant tax escaper (ph).  It has $16 billion in contracts in Iraq, many of them no bid.  At least 21,000 KBR‘s employees there listed as actually working for two front companies based in the Cayman Islands.

So, KBR, the Halliburton spin up avoids having to pay hundreds of millions in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes for those employees.  This is the part of democracy we‘re bringing to Iraq.

And number one: Waterboarding-gate.  “Newsweek” reports that the Canadian government re-filed its paperwork in its case against two alleged terror sleepers in Ottawa and Montreal.  Missing from the new documents, the evidence that was obtained in CIA, quote, “interrogations”, unquote, of Abu Zubaydah, one of the guys our country tortured.

And the Canadians now think, whatever Zubaydah said, will not hold up in court.  And there it is in its starkest form.  You don‘t even have to think about the ethics.  You don‘t even have to think about whether the tortured suspect tells you the truth or makes it all up.

Legally, you can‘t use it.  All that trouble, all that pain, all that spitting on what America stands for, and your tough guy crap only winds up freeing the guys you think are terrorists.  Idiots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s the birthday of Ring Lardner.  He was very possibly the most underrated American writer of all time.  Started as a baseball reporter.  Often filing deadline stories about the Cubs or White Sox for Chicago newspapers.  Stories written in rhyme or in the persona of some of the quirkier players.  By 1913, he was writing the “Chicago Tribune‘s” famed general interest column in the wake of the news and some of the best short stories in the language.  In perfect re-creations of every kind of American vernacular.  Stories like “You Know Me” and the quietly terrifying “Haircut.”

Or in one in which he wrote in the voice of his own son as he drove across country.

“Are you lost, daddy, I arsk tenderly?  Shut up, he explained.”

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

Speaking of Lardner‘s “Haircut,” we begin in Azumard (ph) India where Edward Scissorsface is trying to set the world record for cutting hair with his mouth.  So, how is your family?  Did you see the game last night?  Believe this weather we‘re having?

This is Ansar Sheikh (ph), is a 41-year-old stylist with a pair of scissors tucked in his gums.  Sheikh hopes it will earn him recognition with the Guinness people.  He cuts hair like this for 24 consecutive hours, only taking short breaks to eat, drink, and shampoo the customers with his tongue.

Let‘s head over the a dam in Arizona, where the grand canyon is getting a high colonic.  This is day two of a three-day experiment.  During which the government is flooding the Colorado River with sediment rich water in hopes of restoring the river‘s pre Glen Canyon Dam ecosystem.  The muddy water is flowing at a rate of 3,000 gallons per second if all goes well, the experiment play return some of the animal species that have disappeared from their recent decades like certain types of snails, fish, and the “Brady Bunch.”

Here we go.  Another military commander you‘ve never heard of makes vague references to the possibility of an al Qaeda plan to attack the election here.  The reference immediately discounted by the Department of Homeland Security.  See, we should have known there was a reason he was doing the happy feet dance yesterday.

The talent competition among the president and his would be successors.  Those stories ahead.  First time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.  Municipal improvements night.  Number three, best practical solution.  The claim from London that one in 10 residents there has hurt themselves by colliding with stuff on the street while trying to walk and send a text message at the same time.  So in the city‘s Brick Lane, this experiment.  They will be padding the lamp posts.  This beat out the other suggestion, padding the residents.

Number two.  Best bet for an ACLU suit.  Mayor Michael Cacciotti of South Pasdena, California, this week of March, the first week of March has been declared no cussing week.  There are no fines, no summonses and absolutely no blanking chance this will work.

And number one.  Best life prolonging threat.  Mayor Gerard Lalanne of Sarporain (ph) of southwestern France responding to his village‘s cemetery having reached its maximum number of residents.  Quote, “All persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried here in Sarporane are forbidden from dying in the parish.”  He warns, Offenders will be severely punished.”

Two questions, Mr. Mayor, severely punished, how?  They‘re dead!

And also, if this works, and because of your order, people stop dying is Sarporain, isn‘t everybody in the world going to move to Sarporain?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Well, it took precisely one day after President Bush endorsed John McCain for us to hear that once familiar refrain.

In our third story tonight, you‘re in danger but we‘re safe and now only McCain can keep us that way.

Today the chief of the U.S. Northern Command told reporters, al Qaeda may be stepping up principals to attack the U.S. and that they‘re willing to try to affect our elections.  Using fear to affect our elections?  Who would be so monstrous?

Almost instantly after the story hit the Associated Press, military and homeland security officials reinforced to the media including NBC News that there is no new intelligence behind any of this.  In other words, don‘t be afraid any more than you need to be to make you keep us in office.

Or you can say, no new intelligence?  I could tell.

Just yesterday, the president hoped the prospect of terror to bolster his endorsement of McCain, promising that Senator McCain can make us safe because quote, “he is not going to change when it comes to taking on the enemy.”

No change whatsoever from the current policies in the abandoned quote, “war” unquote against al Qaeda or in Iraq.  Mr. Bush‘s need to stay in Iraq claiming along the way yesterday  not one but two fundamental constitutional principles in one fell swoop.  Mr. Bush at this moment has American envoys in Iraq bearing draft agreements will codify U.S.-Iraqi relations.  After the UN mandate for our presence expires on November 31st.

The assistant secretary of state David Satterfield telling Congress in a letter yesterday that Mr. Bush and presumably, a President McCain can negotiate their own agreements with Iraq and even send troops there in perpetuity without any congressional approval, this despite the specific delegation to Congress, the power to make war and of the Senate to ratify treaties.

Mr. Satterfield claimed the original authorization for military force in Iraq from 2002 essentially gives any president the unilateral, unchecked power to commit American resources, including future troops anywhere within Iraq.

Let‘s turn now to John Dean.  White House counsel in the Richard Nixon administration and most recently, the author of “Broken Government, How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches.”

John, a pleasure, great thanks for your time tonight.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is the Bush administration technically right here?  Did Congress abdicate so much responsibility with such haste and abandon six years ago, that he really does pretty much does have free reign?

DEAN:  The Bush administration has certainly interpreted the authorization to use force resolution in that way.  It is clear not all of Congress thought that.  Certainly the Republicans didn‘t try to check him in any way when he tried broadly interpret it and has tried to broadly interpret it.  So yes, in essence, they did abdicate an awful lot of authority.

OLBERMANN:  Is this one of the points of your previous books, “Worse than Watergate” about that 2002 Iraq vote being what they call in math a tautology, that when it comes to the thresholds, that the administration had to prove had been met before they could act in Iraq, they proved them to Congress by saying to Congress, hey, look.  We just proved them.  Want to see us prove them again?  I mean, this sorry Congress, you already approved perpetuity stating in Iraq, is this part of this one giant same permanent self-fulfilling prophecy?

DEAN:  They have certainly stretched this resolution far beyond anything anybody could have ever believed was in that resolution.  Keith, this is going to have a very interesting snap-back for the next president, actually.

Because whenever a president comes to Congress again to seek any kind of authorization, they‘re going to button it down pretty tightly.  So whoever that next president might be, if they do need additional authority, Congress is going to be very wary.  I think Bush is playing a dangerous game by pushing it the way he is.

OLBERMANN:  Narrowing it to the issue of Iraq.  Can Congress rescind, redefine any powers that it finds it knowingly or unknowingly turned over, and if so, how?

DEAN:  Well, yes.  They can.  What they can do—theoretically, a president can bind through an executive agreement like he is trying to now negotiate with Iraq, any kind of deal he wants to.  And only is he checked by the funding of it by Congress, not providing the money he needs.  So yes.  That‘s where the Congress can check this.  One with the money.  Or they can, as Senator Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both introduced legislation to try to check him in undertaking these activities.  Congress isn‘t likely to act on that though.

OLBERMANN:  Why is it—let‘s go back to a fundamental here to close.  Why does the Constitution force the president to get approval from the Senate before signing treaties and from approval from Senate and House before waging war?  Surely before phones and video conferences, they would have had more reason the fear waiting for Congress in the face of an imminent threat, no?

DEAN:  Well, the fundamentals, they were quite obvious to the founders of the country who believed the people of the country collectively ought to be making this decision and that is best represented through one or both houses of Congress.  Not the president who was theoretically not really a spokesperson for the people.  But he was elected by an electoral college initially.  Is now broadly interpreted by later presidents to give him a mandate.  This isn‘t exactly what the Constitution says.  It is the way particularly recent Republican presidents have interpreted the Constitution, however.

OLBERMANN:  This one, most particularly, John Dean, author of broken government.  Always a pleasure, sir.  Thank you, John.

DEAN:  Thanks. Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And no, this is not the president literally dancing on top of the Constitution.  It turn out it is his entry into the American political idol show.  And in worst persons.  The mighty fuvog (ph) has spoken.  Fixed News is not conservative because it has more viewers.  Brit Hume says this the day after his election finished last in the ratings.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I have a lifetime of singing experience I will bring to the White House.  I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of singing experience he will bring to the White House.  Senator Obama has a dance he did in 2007.

Senator Clinton did not say.  But after she sees the first episode of American presidential idol, she may.

That‘s next but first time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s “WORST PERSONS IN THE WORLD.”

The bronze tonight to Brit Hume of Fixed News telling the alumni magazine of the University of Virginia, “as long as our competitors are convinced we‘re a right wing news organization out to promote right wing causes, they will never get it.  That‘s good news for us.  They can‘t fix their problem because they don‘t understand it.  As long as they think that way, they are probably not going to gain much ground on us.  I think the viewers have spoken on this.”

Indeed.  That‘s why the primary coverage you anchored Tuesday finished third behind us and CNN.  The viewers have spoken on this.  You are a right wing organization.

The silver self-described body language expert Tonya Reimna.  She was asked if Senator Clinton joking and drinking beer with reporters with cameras present was an honest moment.  “The only thing that struck me as odd is, she said, “she is holding the beer with her left hand and she is a righty.  And if you think about how would you normally take a sip, it is a little by awkward to drink with your non-dominant hand unless you have a reason to be doing that, you know?”

Wait, you cannot hold a cup with either hand Reiman?  I mean, missing that

second opposable enthusiasm?  It gets worse.  She then asked what that

reason could be.  Quoting her again, “It could be anything.  Maybe she is

really just holding that cup to hold that cup.  Maybe she want to give the

appearance of being light and easy.”  Science

Her Web site says Ms. Reiman is a quote, “motivational and inspirational key note speaker, consultant and corporate trainer with a degree from Pace University in general studies who wrote a book.”

There‘s the cover.  Nowhere on this site did I find her scientific explanation of the body language depicted right there.

But our winner, he the unnamed manager of the Mar y Terra family Mexican restaurant Lilburn, Georgia.  It has been closed and the license revoked after it received the lowest score ever for a restaurant health inspection in the history of Gwinnett County.  On a scale of 1-100, Mar y Terra got a 13.  A 13.  Not to worry about the raw chicken stored with vegetables that were to be served raw themselves, or the black-mold inside the cooler says the manager.  The restaurant‘s food is clean.  They were just having a small problem with the freezer leaking and the refrigerator not working.  The manager of Mar y Terra Restaurant in Lilburn, Georgia, today‘s “Worst Person in the World!”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Politicians who try to entertain us deliberately do so at their own peril.  Because when true wit is not at the tip of their tongues they tend toward burlesque.  For two days running, no one has been able to adequately explain this.

Reminder, President Bush was waiting for the late arriving John McCain and he became obsessed with the notion that shimmying outside the White House in front of the media was a good idea.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, his possible successors are not entirely immune to public displays of mediocre talent.  One possible replacement, Senator Obama danced on “Ellen.”  He may have been brow beaten to do so.  Ellen dances there every single day except that day when she cried about the secondhand dog.

And memories like the corners of my mind.  Senator John McCain singing Barbra Streisand classics on “Saturday Night Live” in 2002.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  People, people who need

people are the luckiest people in the world

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The senator‘s heart play lie elsewhere songwise to say nothing of his foreign policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  That old Beach Boys song, “Bomb Iran.  Bomb, bomb, bomb—anyway.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Hillary Clinton is always self-deprecating when it comes to her own singing which is intelligent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NY:  For the land of the free and the home of the

brave

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Can any of them ever really top the cavorter in chief?

You laugh but if it had been seven years of that rather than seven years of what we got, everybody would have been happy.  This is a conundrum fit for comedian Paul F. Tompkins, also of course regular contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Paul, good evening.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  President Bush.  Tap dancing.  Metaphors for 1,000.  Paul F.

Tompkins.  Did you buzz in?

TOMPKINS:  Yes, if Bennett Surf (ph) and Kitty Carlisle (pH) will let me get a word in.  If you only thought President Bush was showing you how much he did not care about anything, you were wrong.  Because now he really is.  This guy has never not had a good time.  And this is unbelievable.  You would think the president of the United States, if he has got to stall, he just goes into a room and disappears and comes back out when it is time.  He doesn‘t have to stand around and start dancing.

OLBERMANN:  One envisions him in Cabinet meetings and other sort of war planning sessions and such just getting up and going into the aisle and dancing.

In other instances as we showed, the president was essentially playing along with the crowd.  This incident in Liberia.  He was dancing beside the Liberian president and the woman in the green was dancing towards him.  Fair enough.

And last year he was dancing on the South Lawn of the White House during this first ever malaria day.  Good for him.  It seems like he is displaying an odd degree of enthusiasm.  He took over drummer.  That‘s a union violation right there.  Isn‘t it?

TOMPKINS:  He could lose his cabaret card.  There is so much footage of him dancing.  You begin to think he is seeking these opportunities out.  Any time he is scheduled for a trip, the first question is, will there be dancing there?  I don‘t know if he is the president that has danced the most while in office.  But he has got to be right up there at the top.  Maybe just after Woodrow Wilson who by all accounts was a Charleston machine.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  He went to Arthur Murray.  Senator Obama once suggested during one of the 20 debates, one of the first 20 debates that we need to see how well former President Clinton danced.  There is no expectation of a dance-off between Obama and Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton for that matter.  But months and months remain now in the Democratic contest, obviously.  Is that where this is headed?  It will be decided, not by superdelegates but some sort of pants-off, dance-off?

TOMPKINS:  Yes.  Of course.  There will eventually be a talent portion.  And a swimsuit competition.  And of course, poise is very important.  But essentially, what it will come down to, each candidate will have to correctly answer the question why don‘t more Americans have maps and such like?

OLBERMANN:  And the Iraq.

TOMPKINS:  And the Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  We will not have, and you will not have President Giuliani in drag, President Huckabee with his guitar.  Are you rooting for somebody?  You will just take the best you get?  What is it going to be comedically for the next four years?

TOMPKINS:  Times have changed.  If people were able to get Richard Nixon to do one line on “Laugh-In” in the ‘70s, I think by now, no mat here is in the White House, we can get them to wear a rainbow wig and get them to sit in the booth of a dunk tank.

OLBERMANN:  Paul F. Tompkins, comedian and contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  And Woodrow Wilson historian.  Great thanks, Paul.

TOMPKINS:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,772 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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