updated 3/11/2008 11:59:25 AM ET 2008-03-11T15:59:25

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Dana Milbank, Wayne Barrett, Eugene Robinson

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

Obama wins the Wyoming caucuses, and suddenly, Clinton talks about how many different kinds of delegates there are: regular, super, and now, she says, caucus delegates.

Coincidence: No doubt.  The state count with caucuses: Obama 26 to 14.  The state count without caucuses: Obama 14 to 13.  Oh, I forgot one.  The state of denial: Clinton‘s tied, 14 all.

The vice presidency and passing the threshold of logic -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘ve had people say, I wish I could vote for both of you.  Well, that might be possible someday.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  But I don‘t understand.  If I‘m not ready, how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president?  Do you understand that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Howard Wolfson today: He‘s not ready to be vice president now, but might be before the convention.  What happens?  Does the tooth fairy leave it under his pillow?

Senator Obama today seems to resolve this logic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I am not running for vice president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The national horse race by Gallup: Obama back up by five, Keith number nine.  On the eve of Mississippi: Obama by 14 there, uncertainty is 12.

No uncertainty here: If Senator Clinton thought she won “Saturday Night Live,” apparently, there has been a recount.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMPERSONATOR:  I‘m Hillary Clinton.  And I approve this unfair and deceptive message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hillary, I‘m sorry to call late again but I need your help.  Oh, my God, I am so (BLEEP).  What do I do, Hillary?  What do I do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And no telling yet what Governor Spitzer of New York will do, quote, “linked to a prostitution ring?”  Meaning, he may have patronized the $1,500 an hour call girl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ELIOT SPITZER, (D) NEW YORK:  I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself.  I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  $1,500 an hour, whatever else she did I hope she voted for him.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Monday, March 10th, 239 days until the 2008 presidential election.

In a span of 48 hours, Senator Clinton has gone from trying to poach some of Senator Obama‘s support by hinting he might be her choice for the vice presidency and a vote for her now might be a vote for both them later.  She‘s gone from that to having chief strategist say that right now anyway, Obama has not passed whatever qualification test for vice president the Clinton campaign has, but maybe he can later.  Perhaps he has to take the SATs.

In the same time, Senator Clinton has gone from referencing the two kinds of delegates, pledged and super, to inventing a third category all her own, caucus delegates, even though her victory in Nevada was in a caucus and her victory in New Mexico was in a caucus and primary hybrid.

Our fifth store on the COUNTDOWN: Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1841, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  Whatever else you may think her, Hillary Clinton‘s is not a little mind.

In the new interview with “Newsweek,” Senator Clinton tackling the question of how she can still win the nomination when the delegate map looks so bleak for her, quote, “It doesn‘t look bleak at all.  I have a very close race with Senator Obama.  There are elected delegates, caucus delegates and superdelegates, all for different reasons.  And they‘re all equal in their ability to cast their vote for whomever they choose.  Even elected and caucus delegates are not required to stay with whomever they are pledged to.  This is a very carefully constructed process that goes back years, and we‘re going follow the process.”

Earlier in the same interview, in response to the same question: If at the end of primaries and caucuses, Senator Obama still has a lead in elected delegates and only superdelegates would give Senator Clinton the margin to capture the nomination, might that hurt her in a general election?  Senator Clinton responding, quote, “Well, I don‘t think we should speculate on what‘s going to happen.  I think we should just proceed with the next-up contests.”

In other words, pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain.  And so the delegate map that has the former first lady inventing new categories of delegates, pledged delegate after Senator Obama‘s landslide victory in the Wyoming caucuses Saturday: Obama 1,379, Clinton 1,230.

Yet, NBC News political director Chuck Todd pointing out, that even when those now redefined tertiary level caucus-won delegates are subtracted from the equation, Senator Obama still has a lead in pledged delegates, albeit a very small.  Senator Obama getting 12 more delegates in the primary contest than did Senator Clinton, that‘s 1,088 to 1,076.

As for Senator Clint‘s contention that Senator Obama has not passed her so-called threshold to be commander in chief, top military advisers to the Obama campaign today holding a news conference, to discuss why they believe the senator has demonstrated the judgment and accumulated the experience to be commander in chief.  Two of those advisers: The former secretaries of the Navy and the Air Force during the Clinton administration.

Meanwhile, to a campaign rally in Mississippi, where polls are opening only hours from now.  Senator Obama is addressing his own readiness to be commander in chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  And the reason I‘m running to be commander in chief is because I believe that the most important thing when you answer that phone call at 3:00 in the morning, is what kind of judgment do you have.  Not how long you‘ve been in Washington, but what kind of judgment do you have when you‘re answering that phone.  And I believe that I have shown better judgment than Senator Clinton.

I believe I offer a clean break from the policies of George Bush because Senator Clinton went along with George Bush on the war in Iraq.  Senator Clinton went along with George Bush on her willingness to try to saber rattle when it came to Iran.  She has gone along with many of the conventional ways of thinking about foreign policy that have gotten us into trouble.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Heading into the trouble that is tomorrow‘s Mississippi primary, a quick look where things stand poll-wise: Senator Obama with a 14-point lead.  According to the most recent Rasmussen Poll there: Obama 53, Clinton 39, exceeding our Keith number of not sure plus the margin of error at 12 percent, by the way, I‘m beginning to regret calling that number what I called it.

Senator Obama also recapturing the lead over the weekend in the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll nationally: 49, 44.  The uncertainty quotient there is 9 percent.

Let‘s turn now to our own Chuck Todd, as we mentioned, political director of NBC News and MSNBC.  Chuck, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  All right.  First: It‘s almost hard to remember when it was, Clinton‘s campaign did to create automatic delegates.  That phrase did not really catch on.  They‘re now trying to make a distinction between pledged delegates and caucus delegates.

The Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on MEET THE PRESS yesterday tried to say that caucuses were undemocratic.  Something is afoot here.  What is it?  In long range, is it the prospect of disqualifying caucus delegates?  Is it designed to prevent a Michigan caucus?  What‘s going on under foot?

TODD:  Well, I think, it‘s all part of this campaign, I think, by the Clinton folks to figure out a plausible way to make the case to superdelegates that it‘s OK to overturn the pledged delegate lead.  And, I think, one of the ways that they have figured out is: OK, what if they somehow eliminate the caucus delegates, create a third category, so that see can win pledged delegates on the primary front.

Well, the problem with there is obviously, you know, and I went ahead and did the math, I was curious, let‘s see where they‘re going here.  I figured, if Clinton had been ahead already, we would have probably gotten a spread sheet from them saying, look, you know, on primaries she‘s won more delegates.  He‘s lead is based on the caucuses.

So, I think what they‘re hoping is: If Michigan and Florida end up having a revote, and you have Pennsylvania, that they will get to a point with the primaries that she will catch up.  But actually, when you look at what‘s coming next, I don‘t know if that‘s possible.

He‘s going to extend his primary lead, pledged delegate lead tomorrow and I hesitate to even call it that, regular pledged delegate lead, but tomorrow with the Mississippi primary.  He‘ll extend when he wins in Oregon and when he likely wins in North Carolina.

So, they may never even catch him there, but I think, it‘s one of the things they‘re hoping to do.  They want to catch him in the popular vote and catch him in at least one of these categories of delegates, so they can make a case of the superdelegates to overturn.

OLBERMANN:  Are they getting hints from the superdelegates, convince us?  Is it based on that or is it all eliciting job or this is purely a sales job?

TODD:  Oh, I think, it‘s purely a sales job.

Look, the superdelegates are mostly elected officials.  They‘re mostly folks who are worried about what their next job is going to be.  You know, as a couple of people have put it, most of them are spineless at the end of the day.  And they‘re going to be under, whatever the last pressure they get, is the pressure they‘ll crumble under.

And if that‘s a, you know, case that somehow, Obama is not as electable, which ultimately I think, is where the Clinton folks have to go with this.  They have to somehow hope that between now and the time the superdelegates make their decision, Obama is trailing McCain and she‘s not, because really, that‘s the ultimate test here for the superdelegates.  They have to decide who will be the strongest nominee, not who will be the best president because their job is probably to look out for the Democratic Party first.

OLBERMANN:  Chuck, even as Senator Clinton hinted at that caucus delegate distinction in the interview with “Newsweek,” her spokesman Phil Singer was mailing talkingpointmemo.com, an e-mail that said that Hillary‘s camp has not, will not pursue Obama‘s pledged delegates.  There was a hint about this a month ago.  Senator Clinton never told “Newsweek” outright that she would be pursuing pledged delegates.

Should we filing this away for a way of reference depending on what happens in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and so on?

TODD:  Look, I think, you know, this idea that somehow either campaign can woo somebody else‘s delegate, if you‘ve done your job as a candidate, I mean, the person that you assign, that the campaign picks to be its representative as a delegate from the state of, say, Missouri, is going to be the person that moos the word Obama or moos the word Clinton in the side of their head via, you know, some sort of hair cut mechanism or puts it in their front lawn.

These people are rabid.  So, the idea that somehow, they would be able to be easily wooed, a superdelegate on the other hand, I think can easily be wooed because they are always looking out for the, you know, the next political deal, but not these pledge delegates who the campaigns pick.

OLBERMANN:  Chuck Todd, political director of MSNBC and NBC News and hair stylist to the political stars.  Thank you, Chuck.

TODD:  Yes.  You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Clinton campaign has by its own admission focused on this fundamental question: Is Obama sufficiently experienced to be commander in chief?  Does he have foreign policy credentials?

One subset of that if he does not as she claims, why does she hint she might make him a heartbeat away from the presidency?  In depth on that in a moment.

But first: The other subset, the specific credentials she has that he does not.  And they have now taken a huge hit, specifically her claimed that, quote, “I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland.”  That sentence coming back to haunt her tonight, now that a Nobel Peace Prize winner has called her bluff.

Over the weekend, negotiators who helped broker the Belfast Agreement in 1998, telling the British newspaper, “The Daily Telegraph” that her role there had been peripheral at best.  Lord Trimble who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for his work negotiating the Belfast Agreement, saying, she had no direct role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland and it is, quote, “a wee bit silly” for exaggerating the part she played now.

Further quoting the former David Trimble, ex-head of Ulster Unionist Party, “I don‘t know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill Clinton going around.  I don‘t want to rain on the thing for her, but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player.”

As for Senator Clinton‘s claim of gone to Bosnia in 1996, when it was too dangerous to send President Clinton, Susan Rice, the former assistant Secretary of State from the Clinton years, now an Obama campaign adviser, pointing out that singer Sheryl Crow and the comedian Sinbad accompanied Mrs. Clinton on that trip, the purpose of which was to put on a USO show for the troops.

Let‘s bring in our own Richard Wolffe for analogies made to Sinbad, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek.”  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton‘s claim of having vast experience because of her White House years, has she gotten a bye on that from the media so far?  Are we learning what can happen once they start getting vetted by Nobel Prize winners and others who describe her as “a wee bit silly?”

WOLFFE:  Yes.  It is a wee bit of an exaggeration and if it stretches exaggeration to the breaking point.  And if you look how the Northern Ireland peace process really developed, the hands-on grind that it was, there is no way a photo-op, a parachute event that Hillary Clinton was involved, with constitutes helping Northern Ireland to peace.

Has there been a media bye on this?  Well, the truth is that most political reporters are engaged in focusing on the horse race.  “The New York Times” did a great story a few weeks back when they pointed out that she didn‘t have national security clearance.

So, what was the basis for this experience?  And those kinds of stories have I‘m afraid got lost in the midst of what‘s been a very exciting story.  But with the six weeks now up to Pennsylvania, people got the time to go back and look.

OLBERMANN:  In the conference call the same day the 3:00 a.m. TV ad debut, a reporter asked senator Clinton‘s people about her foreign policy experience, and for five seconds, not one of her advisers had anything to say, and when they finally did speak, they spoke in generic terms.

Nothing changed.  They continue to go down this: She has the foreign policy experience, he does not.

Are we likely to see this issue of foreign policy kind of evaporate suddenly or are they‘re going to put themselves out to the kind of vetting that you just suggested?

WOLFFE:  No.  I don‘t think it will evaporate.  I mean, they have chosen to make this the critical issue at this point.  And remember, the experience argument isn‘t actually based in her real experience, which is serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Something they curiously don‘t mention really at all on the campaign trail.

When you put experience in the White House, at the centerpiece of your campaign, you really end up arguing about things that weren‘t obvious or, in fact, evidential in that time period.  So, they have to exaggerate because, frankly, she wasn‘t hands-on in terms of the foreign policy record of her husband‘s administration.

So, I don‘t think it can go away.  It is the very core of her argument.  Not her character, not her time in the Senate, but what she did in the White House.

OLBERMANN:  And what Senator Obama started to do today to try to strike back about this on qualification as commander in chief?  Is it too late to kind of crack the assumption that she knows what she‘s doing and he doesn‘t?  Or is there plenty of time between now and the vote in Pennsylvania?

WOLFFE:  Well, there is a lot of time.  And I think you are going to see a more robust performance by Obama.  Look, if the problem on the Clinton side is overreach when they nose or put an edge ahead, the problem for Obama has been complacency.

And he needs to fight.  Quite clearly, it changes his tone, he needs to go out and make these arguments.  Because you can have any number of surrogates, you can have former top military brass making the argument but he has to go out and do that to show that he has the mettle to go toe-to-toe not just with her but with Republicans in the fall.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” as always, sir, thanks for your time tonight.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Then, there‘s the vice presidency.  What are they shaking hands for exactly?  She says he might be her V.P., but he points out, she thinks he‘s not ready to be president.

So, her people say, yes, but maybe he will be ready to be president before the convention.

And: Chaos in the office of the governor of New York state.  A prostitution sting and he shows up in it.  Spitzer—don‘t even know her.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton‘s campaign now hinging on the premise that Senator Obama has not crossed the commander in chief threshold but he might make a good vice president.  Even though 25 percent of all the vice presidents of the last 90 years have suddenly have to become commander in chief under emergency and crisis conditions.

Nope.  I don‘t see anything inconsistent there?  The veep stakes.  And did Howard Wolfson of the Clinton campaign inadvertently say that Senator Obama will cross the commander in chief threshold before the first of September?  That‘s next.

This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If it doesn‘t sound like cynical political manipulation, does it at least sound like a logical disconnect?  Senator Clinton turns her campaign into a declaration that Senator Obama is not ready to be president.  Then, Senator Clinton suggests, she might choose Senator Obama as her vice president, even though two of the eighth last vice presidents and four of the last 16 have had to unexpectedly and suddenly succeed to the presidency.

And then, Senator Clinton‘s advisers say, well, no, Obama is not ready now but he might be.  And one of them suggests that the date that he might be, will fall just after, say, Senator Clinton have been nominated for president.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: No, I‘m not kidding.  Over the weekend, both Clintons repeated and amplified the campaign suggestions that you don‘t need to support him because you might get to vote for both of them if he is the vice president.

Today, Obama addressed the two things missing in this offer, reminding thousands of supporters that first, there might be something backward in it, saying, it‘s he and not she has won more states, more votes, and more delegates and second, he addressed the fact that the authenticity of Senator Clinton‘s offer might be undercut by her own previous words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Now, they have been spending the last two, three weeks, you remember with that, that advertisement with the phone call, getting all the generals to say, well, we‘re not sure he‘s ready.  I‘m ready on day one.  He may not be ready yet.

But I don‘t understand, if I‘m not ready, how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president?  Do you understand that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson today, trying to reconcile Clinton‘s conflicting positions, saying Obama is not ready yet, but he might be ready by August, refusing to answer what might transpire in the next four months to make him ready.

Maybe the learning annex has a presidential class this spring or he‘ll stay at a holiday inn express during the convention.

Actually, Obama kind of close the door on this.  Again, in Mississippi today, repeating what he said Friday in Wyoming, not absolute on the subject, but close.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I want everybody to be absolutely clear.  I‘m not running for vice president.  I‘m running for president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And one other note here, the Clinton camp offering no comment on the news that the girl shown in stock footage in Clinton‘s 3:00 a.m. ad is now actually old enough to be voting this year, and says, Casey Knowles, she would prefer to see Obama as commander in chief.  It‘s not just that she‘s voting for him, she was a precinct captain for him.

On that note, let‘s turn to Dana Milbank, national reporter for the “Washington Post” and an MSNBC political analyst.  Dana, thanks for your time tonight.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST:  I‘m ready for you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This may be the dumbest thing we‘ve seen yet in this campaign.  He‘s not qualified to be president, but he might be my vice president, he‘s not ready to be vice president, but he might yet become so before the election.

Did anybody in the Clinton campaign say that whole sentence aloud before they launched this or did the senator only know the first part of it and Howard Wolfson only know the second part or what?

MILBANK:  Well, I think, it‘s perfectly reasonable, Keith.  You‘ve got to think of the whole commander in chief test as sort of the driving test.  Obama has passed the written part of the exam but having some trouble with the key turns and the parallel parking.  Unfortunately for him, the only inspector however is Hillary Clinton.  So, she‘s the only one who can decide when he is ready.

That argument was tried before.  I don‘t know if you remember Orrin Hatch said it to George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign.  We see that that worked quite for “President Hatch.”

OLBERMANN:  There‘s also one part of this though, I don‘t even think the Clinton campaign has yet recognized.

If Howard Wolfson is saying, you know, hey, maybe he will cross the national security threshold in time to be nominated for vice president in Denver in August or elected in November or inaugurated in January as vice president, is it not also inescapable that Howard Wolfson is also saying without realizing it, you know, Obama will cross the threshold in time to be nominated for president in Denver in August and should be now elected president in November and inaugurated president next January?

MILBANK:  Yes.  I‘m sure it has occurred to them.  And you know, as Susan rice, an adviser to Obama, has said, nobody essentially is going to be ready for that 3:00 a.m. phone call.  There‘s nothing you can do to prepare for.

But that doesn‘t mean what Hillary Clinton is doing is dumb.  Essentially, it‘s keeping the debate where she wants it to be.  She doesn‘t want it to be on that delegate math that you just went through with Chuck Todd which doesn‘t look terribly good for her.  She wants to keep it in the big picture where she thinks she can have an advantage.  She‘s having some success, Obama is responding to her.

OLBERMANN:  Why did Obama then say anything about not running for V.P.  Why did he say, I‘m not doing it, when if you just sort of let this continue for a period of time, certainly, that logical disconnect has to come into it?  What I mean, I‘m not qualified to be president, but I‘m qualified to be president in the event of a crisis when you suddenly aren‘t.

Why did he do anything to tamp this down?  Let get her go further on it if I would with this.  Is that a mistake politically?

MILBANK:  I think it is.  I mean, he should be exploiting the contradiction as opposed to sort of defensively suggesting that, in fact, I am ready.  But the very nature of what he‘s been doing, rolling out these former secretaries of the military branches, I was at the press conference in Washington today, it has a defensive ring to it.

He needs to be out there, going back on the offense and taking it to her, not answering her charges, but delivering new charges of his own.  That‘s the only way he‘s going to get away from this.

OLBERMANN:  And as we watch him live in Jackson, Mississippi.  Is there anything to what Wolfson suggests or anything from what Hillary Clinton said, that gives us any idea of what the commander in chief threshold looks like?  I mean, you suggested the driving test.  It is like a life guard exam or something?

MILBANK:  Yes.  He can get a certification and the card will be signed by Hillary Clinton, and presented to him on day four of the Democratic convention.  He‘s not going to pass the test because Hillary is the only judge.

OLBERMANN:  He could pass the test but he wouldn‘t pass the test until after the election, but that brings us back to the point that he can pass—never mind.

Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC, and we can now resume the use of logic.  Thank you, Dana.

OLBERMANN:  Politically, the phrase is: “That dog won‘t hunt.”  In another context, like in this contest, the phrase is: “That dog won‘t—just get that ugly dog away from me.”

And in Bushed: Doug Feith throws President Bush under the bus, insist he lied about Iraq.  Doug Feith said that.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1903, Leon Bix Beiderbecke was born in Davenport, Iowa.  Apart from being one of its greatest cornet players, Bix Beiderbecke was probably the first legend of jazz to come from not only the middle class, but from the audience made possible by records.  Unfortunately, he reached his peak in an era of bathtub gin.  Accustomed to Beiderbecke dozing off during performances, a fellow band member used to write on his own sheet music where exactly during a piece it was time to, quote, wake Bix up. 

He died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 28.  Let‘s play Oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  We begin at Del Mar, California, with Decision 2008, the southern California butt ugly dog caucus.  It doesn‘t really count because it is just a caucus.  Homely hounds from all over the Golden State convened at the Del Mar Ugly Dog Contest.  Crowd favorites included Rascal, the hairless Chinese Crested with some sort of sausage thing around his neck, and this fellow, who was either captivated by a lady pooch in the crowd, or just could not jam his big tongue back in his mouth. 

When all the votes were counted, Victoria, the Italian Greyhound, took home top honors, successfully defending honors from—boy did she look stunned by the vote. 

To India, your world-wide leader in wacky hair news.  This is Ravikan Bajpay (ph), the Guinness record holder for world‘s longest ear whiskers.  Can you hair me now?  Mr. Bajpay achieved the record back in 2003 when his locks were just five inches long.  They have now sprouted to almost a foot in length.  Bajpay says he buys a special shampoo to keep his ear-fro clean and well coiffed, but that he more than makes up for the expense by saving a fortune on earmuffs. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  First there was the story of the sting of a prostitution ring, charging up to 5,500 dollars an hour.  Then dropped the other shoe.  Somewhere in the sting there appeared the name of the governor of New York. 

Oops. 

Sounds like “Saturday Night Live” can give Clinton and Obama the next week off.  What they gave Senator Clinton 48 hours ago will bring probably leave a symbolic welt for days to come. 

These stories ahead, but first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 scandals, Bushed. 

Number three, support the troops only we‘re not-gate—Since 2004, an Air Force doctor has been pleading with somebody to listen to her; our troops who are not being overtly physically or psychologically damaged in Iraq are being hit by an epidemic of partial and total deafness.  The newest study from the VA, hearing damage, the number one disability among vets from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Fifty eight thousand have hearing loss;

70,000 more have clinical ringing in the ears. 

Many troops have no ear plugs.  Others were given good ones, but never told the right way to use them. 

Number two, Halliburton-gate, another winner from the spin-off of the Halliburton subsidiary KBR.  Dozens of troops experienced skin abscesses, infections, cellulitus, diarrhea after they used discolored and smelly water to wash themselves and their clothes at the five U.S. military bases in Iraq, three of them run entirely by KBR.  The Pentagon inspector general says the water KBR supplied, quote, was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards. 

Number one, loyalty-Gate; Doug Feith, former under-secretary of

defense, most of whose nightmares made it into the planning of the Iraq war

he‘s got a new book in which he blames General Tommy Franks for not being interesting in post-invasion planning, says Colin Powell tried to cut the dove-hawk issue both ways, and claims Condi Rice screwed up the coordination of war policy. 

Oh, and he says the president told the National Security Council, quote, war is inevitable on December 18, 2002, meaning all of Mr. Bush‘s subsequent hand wringing and lamentations about the uncertainty of peace versus war were, well, lies.  When you get thrown under the bus by Douglas Feith, you are on your way to being a footnote in history.  Especially when the one seeming attribute to your entire administration had been loyalty, the reason you supposedly stuck with so many of these idiots, even after most of them who made mistakes which, even if they were honest mistakes, would have gotten them fired from managing the Visiting Nurse Association. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Even for the world of politics, leading American distributor of hypocrisy, sleaze and gal since 1789, it was quite a moment; the governor of New York, a vehement anti-corruption campaigner and harsh sentence advocate, turning up in an FBI sting of an international call girl and money laundering operation, and reportedly ready to resign, though he has not yet. 

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, on the other hand, it wasn‘t even the most impressive explosion or implosion by a governor in the New York/New Jersey/Fairfield County, Connecticut Metropolitan Area, not as long as the tapes of Jim McGreevey still exist. 

But there is this; New York Governor Eliot Spitzer—last check he is still is Eliot Spitzer and he still is the governor of New York—is also a Democratic super delegate pledged to Senator Clinton.  News conference first, in its brief entirety, and then the back story. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPITZER:  Today, I want to briefly address a private matter.  I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and that violates my or any sense of right and wrong.  I apologize, first and most importantly, to my family.  I apologize to the public, whom I promised better. 

I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals.  It is about ideas, the public good and doing what is best for the state of New York.  But I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself.  I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family. 

I will not be taking questions.  Thank you very much.  I will report back to you in short order.  Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Thanks for stopping by.  My wife will validate parking.  Governor Spitzer stingy with the details there.  The federal complaint a little bit more forthcoming, claiming that Client Nine, whom law enforcement sources confirm to NBC News is Governor Spitzer, on 13th of February, note that date, traveled to Washington after arranging to have a prostitute meet him at his hotel room there, at a room he got under the name of his friend, George Fox. 

According to FBI wire taps of the call girl ring, Spitzer referred to passed use of the service, and paid the prostitute in D.C. extra so he would have a line of credit with the ring for the future. 

With us now, “Village Voice” reporter and senior editor Wayne Barrett, who has covered Governor Spitzer for more than ten years.  Wayne, good to see you. 

WAYNE BARRETT, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Good to see you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  To quote Zero Mostel  in “The Producers,” why not just say oops and get out?  Why is he still governor as we speak at 8:30 Eastern time?  Is he cutting a deal? 

BARRETT:  I think it has to be part of a negotiating position, yes, because he‘s got to go to the feds with something, and maybe he can avoid an indictment.  Look, we are talking about the possibility of the governor being indicted.  If you look at the indictments of the others, who have already been indicted, there‘s a separate section in the indictment labeled “inter-state transportation,” which is exactly the statutes, the Mann Act, that he appears to have violated based on the facts laid out in the indictment. 

He paid to transport this woman for the purpose of sex, which is a violation of federal law which is quite seriously, and could, ostensibly, carries a 20-year penalty at max.  His lawyers must be in conversations, presumably already, with the federal authorities to see whether or not resignation could be part of the package that could prevent his indictment or perhaps limit the indictment to a minor charge. 

It seems to me, because it looked like early in the day he was going to resign, and then he didn‘t resign at this press conference—it is an enormous tragedy because he was an extremely effective attorney general of the state.  He has been, in my view, which is a minority view in the New York media, I think, an effective governor in his first term.  It is just remarkable to see how quickly a career can collapse. 

OLBERMANN:  How come this one leaked and Senator Vitter did not leak and Larry Craig was months before it leaked?  Is there any indication why it would happen to be a sort of two-fisted Democratic of New York being thrown under the bus, presumably out of the Justice Department, and not one of these Republicans. 

BARRETT:  Well, Larry Craig was involved in misdemeanor conduct.  What you‘re facing here with this indictment—and the people who have been indicted have been indicted for Mann Act violations.  So, you‘re facing a totally different criminal enterprise.  And you‘re talking about a chief executive, whose duty is to enforce the law, not a senator who merely passes it.  His duty to enforce the laws in New York, and the fact that he was a law enforcement official who prosecuted wrong-doers, and prosecuted them aggressively—

Jack Welsh, who used to own this network, said at one time, Eliot Spitzer came up to him at the Democratic National Convention—and he was investigating a friend of Welsh‘s and he said to Welsh, I‘m going to put a spike through his heart.  This guy knows how to play it tough.  I think people are playing it pretty tough with him today. 

OLBERMANN:  He prosecuted high-class call girl operations, too, which is the final—this is one with of those small scale Shakespearean and/or Greek tragedies.  This is, you know, you are eventually consumed by that which you are supposedly against. 

BARRETT:  Most of his landmark cases on Wall Street were made by e-mail.  He appears to have communicated by text message and e-mail, and left a trail that almost looks like a guy who is so reckless that he wanted to be caught.  It is so reckless to have communicated in the ways that apparently he communicated.  We are all assuming the indictment is correct.  We‘re assuming that the news coverage of the indictment is correct. 

OLBERMANN:  Based on the fact that he didn‘t say it was not, which is the first thing ordinarily you would say if you‘re accused of something like that and it might force you to leave office.  Wayne Barrett, senior editor of the “Village Voice,” an extraordinary story, thanks for coming in. 

BARRETT:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Back to the nationals.  Hillary Clinton‘s surprise appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” well those are probably a thing of the past after the show‘s portrayal of her this past Saturday. 

And this guy trying to blame President Clinton winds up instead blaming President Bush.  A good crop of worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The problem and the political and sports analogy goes with working the ref, the ref eventually look much more closely at you.  After reinforcing the idea that the media was torturing Hillary Clinton, “Saturday Night Live” tortures Hillary Clinton.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Brent Bazell, the endlessly angry guy from the self proclaimed Media Research Council.  Speaking on behalf of all conservatives, who apparently elected him king, he says John McCain, quote, needs to call on the United States to rebuild its military infrastructure so devastated by the Clinton administration. 

Last month, a survey of more than 3,400 current and retired military officers, 200 of them generals and admirals, showed 60 percent who said the military was weaker today than it was in 2003.  In other words, you should ask McCain to rebuild the military infrastructure so devastated by the Bush administration.  However, that was a very nice attempt to slide that one in there, Brent Bo.  And your coat, it looks particularly shiny today. 

The runner-up, somebody named Joseph Abrams as Fixed News dot com, writing an article with the official almost brazen heading, quote, “the following is a list of known terror plots thwarted by the U.S. government since September 11, 2001.”  There follows a list of 19 supposed events.  In rMD+IN_rMDNM_13 of them, there have been no convictions of anybody for anything.  In seven of them, there aren‘t even any charges, only accusations. 

The list somehow left out the terror plots when Fox Noise tried to scare America into submission.  Let me see, those came to a total of 14,287. 

But the winner, Congressman Steve King, who represents the fifth district of Iowa, where evidently they don‘t just care anymore.  The xenophobe who once claimed more Americans had died at the hands of undocumented immigrants than had been killed Iraq or Afghanistan in one year, the man who called the abuse in Abu Ghraib “little more than hazing,” now says that if Barack Obama is elected president, terrorists, quote, will be dancing in the streets, because of, quote, who his father was, and because, quote, of his middle name. 

OK, let‘s face this.  Of everybody in public life, this is the guy you would least like to be stuck defending at a sanity hearing.  Honestly, assuming things about Obama because of his name?  This would like somebody thinking that some Congressman believed in psychic powers which justified preemptive political assassination, or believe in keeping hostage a writer you didn‘t like anymore just because the Congressman‘s name was, Stephen King. 

Steven Arnold King, Congressman of Iowa, not Steven Edwin King, author and human being, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Three Saturdays ago, Senator Hillary Clinton loved “Saturday Night Live.”  Two Saturdays ago, Senator Clinton appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”  Forty eight hours ago, Senator Clinton would probably say she was watching “Hannah Montana” over on the Disney Channel.  Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post” joins me a minute for our number one story, it‘s 3:00 a.m. but somewhere at 30 Rock a phone is ringing and it‘s someone from the Clinton campaign complaining about this sketch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY POEHLER, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”:  I‘m Hillary Clinton and I approve this unfair and deceptive message. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s 3:00 a.m.  Across our country, kids are sound asleep.  But somewhere in the nation‘s capital a phone is ringing.  Your vote will decide who answers that call. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hello.  Senator Clinton, I have President Obama on the line. 

POEHLER:  I‘ll take it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hillary, I‘m sorry to call this late again, but I need your help. 

POEHLER:  Mr. President, what can I do? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The CIA just confirmed that Iran has completed a nuclear device.  It looks the Russians, the North Koreans and Hugo Chavez have been helping them. 

Oh, my god.  I am so (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  What do I do, Hillary. 

What do I do? 

POEHLER:  Mr. President, you can start by getting a hold of yourself. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can‘t!  Don‘t you see that I‘m in a panic, a blind, unreasoning and inexperienced panic. 

POEHLER:  The Russians will back down.  Helping Iran is a clear violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The what treaty? 

POEHLER:  Ask the secretary of state.  He can explain it.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Al Sharpton?  Between you, me and the lamp, not my best appointment. 

POEHLER:  Well, what‘s done is done. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right.  Chalk it up to inexperience.  This job is hard.  I had no idea.  I mean, it is a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ball buster. 

POEHLER:  Mr. President, would you kindly avoid the profanity.  It is really one of your least attractive traits that the public doesn‘t know about. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As promised, I‘m joined now by the associate editor and columnist of the “Washington Post,” Eugene Robinson.  Gene, thanks for your time tonight. 

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

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton has pointed to an SNL parody so far earlier this season as proof of media bias against her.  Are we safe in assuming she is not going to do that this time?  Is she going to use this as an example of media bias against her?

ROBINSON:  I think we are safe in assuming that she is just going to forget this ever aired.  And we‘re safe in assuming that she is not going to wear that get-up on the campaign trail any time soon. 

OLBERMANN:  Is this not, as I asked rhetorically earlier in the show, the problem with working the refs, whether in sports or in politics.  The refs may give you the immediate makeup call, but eventually, they start scrutinizing you much more than you thought they were originally? 

ROBINSON:  Yes, I mean, you start whining to the refs and they pay a lot of attention to you.  They resent that on some level.  Lorne Michaels hasn‘t shared with me his thinking about the sketch, but my impression is that they probably heard a lot about the last two weeks and all the play that Hillary Clinton got.  So this is a makeup makeup call, I think. 

OLBERMANN:  But the relevance of any of these—there have been a lot of presidential elections during the time “Saturday Night Live” has been on the air.  They influenced, to some degree, 1976, clearly, with Chevy Chase‘s impression of Gerald Ford.  Whether or not they had that kind of impact in 2000, with the lock box and everything else with Al Gore, is a little bit more debatable.  But in this case, is it not fair to say that that argument that Hillary Clinton was getting short-changed by the media really did resonate because of that “Saturday Night Live” sketch? 

Is that how tight this election is?  We are now going to have to count votes created by comedy sketches on NBC on Saturday nights? 

ROBINSON:  We might have to.  Timing is everything.  I think that sketch, coming just when it did, when she was trying to make that point, when Hillary Clinton supporters had just internalized and begun to give voice to the idea that she wasn‘t getting fair treatment, you know, then a funny “Saturday Night Live” sketch reinforces that.  A brilliant “Saturday Night Live” sketch can, I think, have some modest influence on an election. 

This past weekend was not a brilliant “Saturday Night Live” sketch.  I didn‘t think it was all that funny.  But it had its moments.  But it wasn‘t on anybody‘s list of the top 500 “Saturday Night Live” sketches. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it a little odd—is it instructional, do you suppose, to political candidates, that, you know, if you are going to go into this shark tank that is satirical humor, and the sharks are all nice to you for a little while, eventually the sharks are going to try to take a bite out of you?  Is that what we saw here? 

ROBINSON:  Absolutely.  That is the shark‘s job.  The job of the writers of “Saturday Night Live” is to take bites out of everybody.  If you have been nice to Hillary Clinton for a couple of weeks, then, of course, you are going to come back and portray her in that get-up that she was wearing to bed, and as deceptive and misleading and you name it. 

I think they still haven‘t quite got the Obama impression right, though.  They need to—Fred Armisen needs to keep working on that. 

OLBERMANN:  Given the challenge of it, I think he is doing OK, but there is room to grow.  Is that the way they say it in—

ROBINSON:  I think there is room to grow.  There is a high standard.  Darryl Hammond‘s Jesse Jackson, for example, is the gold standard for cross-racial impressions.  I think Armisen has a way to go. 

OLBERMANN:  It is a good effort.  He is a very talented guy.  We‘ll stop doing the TV reviews now.  Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC, thanks for answering our phone call at 3:00 in the afternoon. 

ROBINSON:  Good to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,776th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  That‘s right, 1,776.  Be sure to join us tomorrow night.  Complete coverage of the race in Mississippi.  We hope to have a call for you in less than 24 hours.  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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