updated 3/12/2008 11:06:05 AM ET 2008-03-12T15:06:05

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Mississippi is too early to call, but Obama leads.  That at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time as the polls just closed in the Democratic primary in Mississippi.  Again, the state of Mississippi‘s Democratic primary is too early to call.  The polls have just closed, seconds ago.  And we now await the characterization and the first vote totals.

All this as an extraordinary controversy erupts around Senator Clinton.  Her fundraiser, former Democratic vice presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro, first declared that if Senator Obama, quote, “was a white man, he would not be in this position in the presidential race.”  She has now followed that up by accusing those who disagreed with her statement of reverse racism.

That and Mississippi, the last vote until Pennsylvania—tonight.

(voice over):  With Tim Russert analyzing the results for Mississippi;

Chuck Todd doing the new delegate math after this vote; Howard Fineman on Geraldine Ferraro‘s claim that Obama has only gotten this far in this race because he‘s a black man and on Clinton‘s refusal to fire her as an official fundraiser.

Plus: Still Governor Eliot “has yet to” Spitzer the bits in New York.

Bushed: He calls the possible war with Iran an ill-advised action. 

So, the head of Centcom just retired or just was retired.

Worst: Robert Novak‘s state of the great iron dinner in D.C.:

Coultergeists and the entertainment at that dinner?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES (singing):  Down the lane I look and here comes Scooter finally free of the prosecutor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERANN:  And you wondered what killed Bud Bill (ph).  Rachel Maddow answers the question how offensive was it.

All that and the Mississippi primary: Now, on this special edition of

COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Tuesday, March 11th, 238 days until the 2008 presidential election, 42 days until the next primary in Pennsylvania.  And Mississippi‘s vote tonight may actually be overshadowed by what is now a series of racially-charged remarks by a Clinton fundraiser who was once the most prominent woman in the Democratic Party.  More on that with our own Washington bureau chief: Tim Russert, in a moment.

First: The results in the Magnolia State.  Thirty-three delegates are up for grabs.  And again, NBC News is characterizing at two minutes past 8:00 o‘clock prevailing local time, two minutes after the polls close as too early to call, but with Barack Obama in the lead, again, too early to call.  When it changes, we‘ll call it.

Let‘s however look at some of the insights in Obama‘s lead in Mississippi from our MSNBC-NBC News exit polls is in the other Deep South states, the size of the African-American votes, key to the outcome.  Black voters made up just under half of all those voting in Democratic primary today: 48 percent, that comparable to their share of the voters in the Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia primaries but well below the 55 percent in South Carolina.

And going a bit deeper into those numbers, Senator Obama taking the black vote by the biggest margin we‘ve seen so far.  Nine out of 10, in fact, better than nine out of 10 black voters cast their ballots for him.  He‘s got a huge margin in every demographic segment: Old, young, male, female, well-educated, poorly-educated, affluent, struggling black voters.  All are going heavily for Obama.

How‘s the candidate doing with white voters in Mississippi?  He‘s getting about ¼ of their vote in total.  That‘s comparable to what he got in three other states in the Deep South: Alabama, South Carolina and Louisiana.  But it is nearly 20 points below the share of the white vote he got in Georgia.

However, Senator Obama is doing reasonably well among certain segments of Mississippi white voters, including white independents: 46 percent of that group according to that group according to our exit poll voted for him.  Among white liberals and white college graduates, he‘s getting about the same percentage with roughly four in 10 of those groups giving him their vote.

While in some states, 1/3 or more of Democratic primary voters made their voting decision in a final three days, they were not many late deciders in Mississippi today and this evening.  According to our exit poll: it‘s just 14 percent said they were waiting until the final days.

While Clinton won those late deciders by 55 percent to 44 percent, it was a clich’ come to life: Too little, too late.

Barack Obama winning the vote among those who‘d decided earlier by 20 points and again, the NBC News characterization right now: too early to call, with Obama leading in Mississippi.

Let‘s look at Mississippi and the Geraldine Ferraro story in-depth with our NBC News Washington bureau chief and the moderator of MEET THE PRESS: Tim Russert.  Tim, good evening.

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to shortchange Mississippi and we‘ll get to it in-depth a moment but the sequence of statements from Geraldine Ferraro seems to be the headline right at this hour.

This was to the “Torrance Daily Breeze,” one of the strings of smaller newspapers in around Los Angeles: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.  And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position.  He happens to be very lucky to be who he is.  And the country is caught up in the concept.”

After that remark was roundly criticized this afternoon, and the Clinton campaign distanced itself from the former congresswoman but didn‘t cut its ties to her.

She responded late this afternoon to same newspaper on its Web site:

“Anytime anybody does anything that in any way pulls the campaign down and says let‘s address reality and the problems we‘re facing in this world, you‘re accused of being racist, so you have to shut up.  Racism works in two different directions.  I really think they‘re attacking me because I‘m white.  How‘s that?”

Tim, of all the things her campaign surrogates could say, is this theoretically at least the most damaging to Senator Clinton?  You‘ve got a mix of race, gender, this whiff of affirmative action.  There‘s who belongs, who doesn‘t.  It‘s a lot to undoing that.

RUSSERT:  Keith, I‘ve been talking to African-American supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  And they all take great offense at this.  They think it‘s a real problem for the Clinton campaign, particularly, the subsequent comments that you referred to made by Congressman Ferraro after her initial ones.

She‘s still on the finance committee of the campaign.  When you look at those exit poll numbers from Mississippi that you pointed to, there is a growing racial divide in this campaign.  And you take that with Governor Rendell‘s of Pennsylvania comments a few weeks ago that there are some conservative whites that wouldn‘t vote for a black man.

It‘s in the interest of the Democrats to try to heal this divide.  Because no matter who the nominee is this fall, African-Americans are a central component of the votes necessary to win an election, to win Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and on and on.  The Democrats cannot do it without a loyal and energetic outpouring of African-American votes.  This rhetoric by Congresswoman Ferraro really places that in jeopardy.

OLBERMANN:  Tim, why then did Senator Clinton not severe her ties to Geraldine Ferraro after the first remark?  What on earth happens now after the second remark because she seems to be I in some ways boxed in here between two constituencies?

RUSSERT:  After the first comment, Senator Clinton said she disagreed, but there was no formal separation of the campaign.  After the second remark, Keith, I think, there will be renewed pressure on the Clinton campaign to do just that.

Otherwise, you‘re going into Pennsylvania with these comments hanging over the head of Hillary Clinton.  And again, race is so explosive in our society, in our culture, and in our politics.  It has to be dealt with very directly by both of these candidates.

OLBERMANN:  Is this—and this will be the last question I ask about this and then I‘ll turn to the nominal headline of Mississippi tonight.

RUSSERT:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  But is this special a difficult situation because of Geraldine Ferraro‘s role as a pathfinder for women in the Democratic Party, for women in politics, this was the first women on a national, a prominent national ticket in any capacity?

RUSSERT:  She had said repeatedly that she suggested that sexism is a bigger problem than racism.  But to suggest that Barack Obama, a head of this law review at Harvard Law School, a state senator in Illinois, a United States senator from Illinois, he achieved something being a United States senator that Geraldine Ferraro tried twice to do.  She was defeated both of her attempts to be United States senator.

So, to diminish him and to suggest that he is not qualified or could not be in this competitive position to be president of United States because of the color of his skin, I think, is going to create enormous ripples for the Clinton campaign in the hours and days ahead.  And it will have to be addressed again by the Clinton campaign, in light of Congressman Ferraro‘s most recent comments.

OLBERMANN:  And as I said, I‘ll pick this up later on with Howard Fineman.  Let‘s talk about Mississippi.  Obviously, it‘s deemed too close to call at this hour with Obama ahead.  Part from those numbers about African-American voters in the extraordinary 91 to 9 turnout in favor of Obama, that the exit poll suggests, what are we learning from those polls?  What have you seen so far about Mississippi and what does it tell us?

RUSSERT:  Well, it looks like based on the exit polls that Senator Obama is going to have a pretty good night in that state because of his appeal with African-Americans and with at least 25 percent of the whites, as you mentioned.  They‘re also suggesting that Obama will be the strongest candidate in the fall against John McCain, which is very important polling data that the Obama campaign will use trying to convince the superdelegates that their man is the place to go.

This now means, Keith, there are just 10 primaries left.  And if Obama does as well in Mississippi as the exit polls indicate and you couple that with what he did in Wyoming on Saturday, he will have a net gain of delegates in the last 72 hours which will come pretty close to the net gain of delegates Hillary Clinton had on March 4th with Ohio and Rhode Island and Texas and Vermont.

So, you‘ll go into Pennsylvania with Obama in a position with a significant lead among elected delegates with only 10 primaries to go.  Two weeks after Pennsylvania and this has been off the radar for a lot of people, come Indiana and North Carolina on May 6th.  And by my calculation, those two states have 187 delegates to Pennsylvania‘s 158.

So, the math gets tighter and tighter and tighter for Hillary Clinton to overtake Barack Obama with elected delegates.  And puts more and more intense spotlight and there I say scrutiny on the superdelegates.

OLBERMANN:  The mysteries of momentum, Tim.  A week ago, Senator Clinton won Ohio, the claim that she won in Texas, turns out the popular vote in Texas, lost the caucuses, actually lost or will lost in total delegates almost certainly.

Senator Obama won in Wyoming Saturday.  He is leading by our projection in Mississippi tonight.  Unless there‘s a huge turn around in that projection, where does the position arrow point right now?  Who has the momentum and who will say they have it?

RUSSERT:  Well, you know, I remember well our conversation last Tuesday, Keith, where I said the headlines, the public relations battle won decisively by Hillary Clinton, but by Thursday and Friday, we‘d be back talking about delegates.  I think, that‘s where we‘re going to be tomorrow morning.

Just looking at the simple hard math, if Obama is ahead in the elected delegates, ahead in the contest one, ahead in the cumulative popular vote, those are three area‘s that are very, very important and watch very closely by the superdelegates.

It‘s something that the Clinton campaign realizes and knows they have to overtake Obama in all those categories to be completely successful.  But certainly, at least one of them, the cumulative vote, to make their case that they would be the stronger nominee with the big states come the fall.

OLBERMANN:  And here‘s one last question based on those exit polls.  And I‘m wondering if it‘s particular to Mississippi for various reasons or any reasons or if this might be some sort of indicator that decisions have been made, that minds have been made up, that the number of absolute or effective undecideds is shrinking.  Only 14 percent decided in the last three days who to vote for, minds have been made much earlier than that.  Is that specific to Mississippi or could that mean anything else for the rest of the primary season?

RUSSERT:  Well, if it is, in fact, something that we‘re going to be seeing coming for the final 10 primaries, it indeed indicates how much money is going to be spent for so few votes.  The fact is, these Democrats have been watching this race very intently, very closely.  People have chosen sides and the so-called swing voters between Clinton and Obama have become a very limited universe, a lot of money for very few but critical votes.

I think it‘s something to watch.  As you look at these outside primaries, Keith, if you take a state like Oregon, people have been voting by mail for a very long time.  And so again, that‘s going to shrink the number of available votes that are undecided.

That‘s why many Democrats had hoped that this race would be over by now so that whoever was the Democratic nominee could be spending this time and this money on John McCain.  Instead, they‘re spending it against each other.  And John McCain, he‘s off to Europe for a goodwill tour.

OLBERMANN:  Eventually, now it‘s down, Tim, whether we both talking to one guy and spending a $1 million each to do so.  Tim Russert, NBC News Washington bureau chief, moderator of MEET THE PRESS of course.  Thanks, Tim.

RUSSERT:  Pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What Mississippi may do to the delegate map and what California a month after the vote there just did to the delegate math with Chuck Todd?

And later: First, the dancing, now, the singing.  After you‘ve heard it, you‘ll be nostalgic for the singing.

You‘re watching a special Mississippi primary edition of COUNTDOWN on

MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The delegate math: Mississippi may not be kind to Senator Clinton tonight.  Texas came back in bitter long after she‘s prematurely declared total victory there.  And now, Senator Obama had just get another gift from the calculus of California.  Chuck Todd joins us next.

And then in Worsts: The FOX commentator who doesn‘t understand that Senator Vitter‘s 2007 sex scandal did not impact the 2006 elections.

All ahead on the special primary edition of COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  With 33 pledged delegates, it is the 40th state to cast a vote so far in the 2008 Democratic presidential contest.  And as the polls close at 8:00 p.m., the result was still too early to call.

Before today‘s primaries, Senator Obama had 1,379 pledged delegates to Senator Clinton‘s 1,230, both far short of 2,025 needed for a nomination.  But surprisingly fluid in so much that Senator Obama will yet gain a few delegates from vote in Texas last week and apparently from the vote in California last month.

Joining us now to crunch the delegate numbers, now that the Mississippi results are on their way to being in, NBC News political director Chuck Todd.  Chuck, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  So, what does this anticipation we‘re saying too early to call, Obama leading? What is this win in Mississippi is likely a victory by Obama expected to do to his lead nationally?  What are the parameters?

TODD:  Well, it should, and say should, I mean, obviously, you know, we‘re waiting to see more data to see, you know, just if Obama does end up winning this thing as expected, but it should net him seven delegates.  And seven delegates would end up getting him, eliminating frankly, all of the leads and all of the delegates that Senator Clinton gained on March 4th.

OLBERMANN:  You just did it again, didn‘t you?

TODD:  I know.  I was thinking this is going to happen.

OLBERMANN:  NBC News projects Barack Obama as the winner of the Mississippi primary.  We should have known that it was Chuck Todd time and all decisions are made with Chuck Todd on the air explaining why we have not made the decision.

Here is it is.  The Mississippi projection: It‘s indeed Senator Barack Obama.  All the exit numbers suggest that he was going to be dominant in this race and for the third time on this race, a race has been called as Chuck was on our air.

Congratulations this unique ability, frankly, frightening capability that you have here.  I think we need to send you offerings from (INAUDIBLE).

TODD:  I think our friend, Shelly Geyser (ph), was having fun with us on this one.

OLBERMANN:  So, all right.  So, give us the perspective now.  This is going to do what for him?  So, you were saying the nomination and such.

TODD:  Right.  It will net him a minimum of seven delegates.  There‘s a few magic numbers to watch as the returns come in tonight.  One is the overall vote of 63 percent.  If he gets 63 percent or more, then, he could net up to nine delegates.

In particular, watch the second congressional district is where the most delegates are to be gotten, he needs a good, this is a heavily African-American district, Congressman Bennie Thompson, African-American congressman, if Obama can get 75 percent in that one, he should net a big haul of delegates out of there.  In total, minimum of a net of seven, he could get up to 11 but that seems a little difficult.  I think seven or nine.

But watch the magic statewide total: 63 percent, he‘ll net another two.  If he starts getting over 65 or closer to 70, then, maybe he could get another two.  But a net of seven, Keith, very much eliminates combined with what happened in Wyoming on Saturday, eliminates every delegate gain Senator Clinton on the pledged front on March 4th.

OLBERMANN:  And what happened in Texas or what is happening in Texas relative to the caucuses and prima-caucus as you phrase it so aptly, and also, what happened in California?

TODD:  Well, a couple things.  First, in California, they always have a lot of late vote to count.  And this is something—frankly, there are two districts in Ohio.

We don‘t have certified results in Ohio.  There are two districts we‘re keeping an eye on.  One is the first congressional district, one is the 17th, where as provisional ballots get counted, it could, could net Obama a delegate or two out of Ohio.  And that‘s what happened in California.

As more ballots were counted, as the results get certified by the

state, a couple of districts went from three one advantages for Clinton to

2-2.  And it happened in just enough places and he ended up netting more

delegates out of it than we had projected last week

OLBERMANN:  Last week, Chuck, looking now to Pennsylvania, which is

just six weeks away and we have no votes between now and then and beyond -

TODD:  Well, Michigan and Florida, maybe.

OLBERMANN:  In the next six weeks, you know something we don‘t know that that we should be telling the viewers in Michigan and Florida?

TODD:  I don‘t, but you what?  Who knows, right?  Who knows?

OLBERMANN:  You‘re going to be able to mail in box tops (ph).

All right.  Where are we probably given this vagaries of tonight in Mississippi and what we just talked about in Texas and California, where are we on the famous Todd percentages?  What does Senator Clinton need to do to stop the Obama delegate game and what does he need to do reach 2,025?  Where are we?

TODD:  OK.  Percentage-wise, if Senator Clinton catches Barack Obama in the pledged delegate count, we‘re going to assume that after tonight, he will have 160 pledged delegate lead, well, to catch him, to overtake him in that count, she has to win 64 percent of all remaining delegates.  And again, that means winning in every state.

So, if she loses some states, then the number goes up, it‘s closer to 70.  She would have to get a huge net out of Pennsylvania, her victory there, somehow make sure he doesn‘t win in North Carolina.  Anyway, we‘ve gone through this before, but now, her number crept up from 62 to 64.

Meanwhile, Obama now, if you assume his superdelegates stay where they are, it‘s 216, he would need 46 percent of all remaining delegates to get to 2,025.  All remaining delegates, supers and pledged that are left, less than 50 percent.  So, he‘s got to feel pretty good that his magic number of needed delegates is now under 50 percent.

OLBERMANN:  And if I were him, I‘d just hire Chuck Todd to come over and sit next to me during all the projections and all the primaries and all the votes here on in because apparently, you cause these things to happen.

Chuck Todd, the political director of MSNBC and NBC News, as always,

sir, thanks very much.  And thanks for calling it for us

TODD:  Happy to help get rid of the night, make the night go faster.

OLBERMANN:  Live long and prosper.

Geraldine Ferraro with the two, for first: Obama is only in the race because he‘s a black man.  Then, those criticizing her for saying that are actually doing reverse racism.

That and President Clinton steps into the 3:00 a.m. phone controversy.

And: The admiral who publicly stood up and said, war with Iran is nuts, is out.  Coincidence? No doubt.

Details ahead in Bushed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  NBC News and MSNBC projecting Barack Obama the winner of Mississippi‘s Democratic primary tonight.  More details on that.

And a story that makes Mississippi almost seem like an afterthought tonight.  A top Clinton fundraiser says Obama has only gotten this far in the race because he‘s a black man.  It was 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro, it was not nuance nor subtle.  Senator Clinton has not removed Ms. Ferraro from her campaign structure. 

Ms. Ferraro has come back and defended her remarks.

And President Bush singing—singing about the pardon of Scooter Libby and the lack of WMD.  How many meaning you think of for term tone deaf?

But first: The headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 scandals

Bushed.

Number three: Halliburton-gate.  First it was Halliburton‘s spun-off subsidiary KBR avoiding hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll taxes by claiming 21,000 employees actually worked for a company in the Cayman Islands.  Then yesterday, the Pentagon reporting indicating KBR poisoned troops in Iraq with unsanitary water.  Today, Senator Byron Dorgan saying prices of towels for the troops tripled or quadrupled because KBR insisted that its logo appear on every one of the towels.  It doesn‘t matter, a KBR official told the linen subcontractor who pointed out the cost.  This cost plus contract.  Taxpayers pay for that.

Number two: Decent is disloyalty-gate.  Admiral Williams Fallon, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, quoted in the new issues of “Esquire” as saying possible war with Iran would be a quote, “ill advised action.”  He has repeatedly said, the military is stretched too thin to take this on as well.  Speculation began just this morning, as to how long will it be before Fallon was forced out by a president who does not believe he is ever been wrong.  The answer was—about four hours.  Admiral Fallon, quoted, “retired” this afternoon.

And number one: You lied, and the troops died-gate.  The Pentagon will formally release the final word later this week.  It has reviewed 600,000 documents captured after this country invaded Iraq.  It has found absolutely no evidence of any operational link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda—none, not one.  It‘s a final.

So, when Secretary Rumsfeld said in September 2002 that he had bullet proof evidence of cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda, he was lying.

When President Bush said last July that that‘s the same people that attacked us on September 11th is a crowd that is now bombing people in Iraq, he was lying. 

When John McCain says to Senator Obama, I have some news, al Qaeda is in Iraq, without adding, I know because my political party put them there, he‘s lying too. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The politician who first broke the glass ceiling that had kept women off the presidential tickets has answered criticism about her startling position that Senator Obama is only, quote, in the position in because he‘s a black man, by bristling that anybody who, quote, “says let‘s address reality and the problem we‘re facing in this world, you‘re accused of being racist, so you have to shut up.  Racism works in two directions.  I really think they‘re attacking me because I‘m white.  How‘s that?” 

In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, it‘s not clear who is the they in the follow up statement from Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic nominee for vice president, and now a fund raiser and speaker for the Clinton campaign.  Among those who criticism her depiction of Senator Obama as some sort of equal opportunity hire in the presidential race was Senator Clinton. 

Senator Clinton has not fired former Congresswoman Ferraro.  Walter Mondale‘s running mate and the long time representative from Long Island, New York made her first remarks in an interview that took place February 28th, five days before the Ohio and Texas primaries.  These remarks were published only last Friday.

She told an L.A. are newspaper, quote, “if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.  And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position.  He happens to be very lucky to be who he is and the country is caught up in the concept.”

You will recall that last week, the Clinton campaign called for and received the removal of Samantha Power, a top foreign policy adviser to Senator Obama, after she gad called Senator Clinton a monster in an interview with a newspaper in Scotland. 

On a conference call this afternoon, Obama strategist David Axelrod saying of Miss Ferraro, quote, “she ought to be removed.  There‘s no other way to send a serious sign that you want to change the tone of the campaign.” 

Senator Obama himself saying in an interview with a Pennsylvania newspaper, quote, “I don‘t think Geraldine Ferraro‘s comments have any place in our politics or in the Democratic party.  They are divisive.  I think anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd.  I would expect that the same way those comments don‘t have a place in my campaign, they shouldn‘t have a place in Senator Clinton‘s either.”

Late this afternoon, Senator Clinton regretting Mrs. Ferraro‘s remark. 

That‘s it, regretting it.  Make that all such remarks from both campaigns.  Quoting Senator Clinton, “I do not agree with that.  It is regrettable that any of our supporters on both sides, because we‘ve both had that experience, say things that kind of veer off into the personal.  We ought to keep this on the issues.  There are differences between us.  There are differences between our approaches on health care, on energy, on our experience, on our results that we produce for people.  That‘s what this campaign should be about.”

You might have thought it ended there.  It did not.  The Clinton campaign sent out another e-mail in which new campaign manager Maggie Williams tries to make it seem as if Senator Obama has broken a pledge not to respond to personal attacks, instead of what he actually did do, which was to promise not to engage in them. 

Quoting campaign manager Williams, “Senator Obama‘s campaign staff seems to have forgotten its pledge.  We have not.  And we reject these false, personal and politically calculated attacks on the eve of a primary.”

So it‘s his fault for having cried foul.  That e-mail, we should point out, sent 51 minutes after Miss Ferraro‘s updated, I really think they‘re attacking because I‘m white, how‘s that comment, first posted to the “Daily Breeze” website in Torrence, California.  Coincidence.

Out on the campaign trail, Senator Obama chastising the Clinton campaign for its so called kitchen sink strategy, specifically for the allegation made by blogger Matt Drudge that unnamed Clinton staffers gave him that photograph of Senator Obama in native Somali clothing. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When in the midst of a campaign, you decide to throw the kitchen sink at your opponent because you‘re behind, and your campaign starts leaking photographs of me traveling over-seas wearing the native clothes of those folks to make people afraid, then you run an ad talking about who‘s going to answer the phone at 3:00 in the morning, an add straight out of the Republican play book.  That‘s not real change. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton on the attack as well in Harrisburg, sticking with the issues that worked for her in neighboring Ohio, NAFTA and energy policy.   

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In 2005, when we had a chance to say no to Dick Cheney and his energy bill, my opponent said yes and voted for it with all of those tax subsidies and give-aways that have been used by the oil companies and others to retard the development of clean, renewable energy. 

Really, when you think about what we have to do, it‘s not going to happen just by asking people.  It‘s not going to happen by saying, don‘t we all agree?  We‘re going to have to fight to make the changes against the special interest that dominate Washington. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Why did Geraldine Ferraro say what she said?  How did she not get fired instantly?  Why did she follow up the way she did?  Why did she not get fired instantly after that? 

FINEMAN:  Well, because the Clinton campaign doesn‘t want to change the tone.  They just made the kitchen sink bigger and put more things in it.  That‘s the way this campaign is headed.  I‘ve been e-mailing and talking to the Clinton campaign people, listening to the dueling conference calls and looking at the e-mails.  It‘s clear to me that the Clinton people aren‘t going to back down. 

As you saw, they sent Maggie Williams out with a statement to defend Geraldine Ferraro, who is defending herself.  So this is the fight the Clintons want, the way they want to fight it. 

OLBERMANN:  So, the senator wants a racist, clearly equal opportunity is not a good thing, and that‘s the only reason he‘s here, kind of statement interjected into the campaign?  It‘s not just somebody judging a negative to something.  This reaction right now is intentional? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I doubt that they sent Gerry Ferraro out to say what she said. 

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.

FINEMAN:  Gerry Ferraro I have covered for a long time.  The ironies are piled on ironies.  This is a woman who broke the ceiling of her own in 1984.  Here she is saying this.  Based on the way the Clinton campaign reacted in the last few hours, as you pointed out, and based on my own conversations with them, they are defending her.  They are defending this.  This, therefore, is their strategy. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sorry to sound speechless.  It seems remarkable to me that a campaign being run in the 21st century or even the second half of the 20th century would allow itself to be associated in any kind of way and not step back.  If it was two African Americans running against each other, and one of them had somebody say this on behalf of their candidate, that the other guy is only in there because he‘s equal opportunity, or there‘s been some sort of quota system, or that he‘s a black man—does it not have disaster written all over it, or are we living in South Africa? 

FINEMAN:  I would think so, in part because it was just a dumb remark.  All of us, I‘m sure—let me say in advance, I‘m being facetious here—have long observed all the advantages that African-American men have in American society. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s why Obama said it was absurd.  Of course it‘s absurd and it‘s, to many people, outrageous.  I think the Clinton people have gotten themselves in such a frame of mind of combat that it‘s possible—it‘s possible that they can‘t see what‘s happening to their own campaign in some ways.  They‘re mistaking combativeness and feistiness for possible disaster. 

Mississippi has come and gone.  We‘re heading into six weeks of Pennsylvania.  It‘s said by others, including James Carville, a Democrat who used to work for the Clintons, that Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, with Alabama in between, white Alabama, not black Alabama.  You may draw your own conclusions about why the Clinton people feel they think they can back up Gerry Ferraro at this moment. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  Is there any escaping this, that this would be an exact match to somebody having saying said in the 1984 Reagan against Mondale, if Geraldine Ferraro was a man, she would not be in this position, or some hypothetical Obama fund raiser or speech maker saying today, if Senator Clinton was a man, she would not be in this position.  She happens to be very lucky to be who she is?  Is it not that stark? 

FINEMAN:  It‘s exactly parallel in many ways.  Hillary was married to Bill.  That‘s what got her started in electoral politics, there‘s no doubt.  Gerry Ferraro got where she was in 1984 because she was a woman, because, having covered the Congress at that time, I can tell you, she would not have been in a leadership position around Tip O‘Neill, the then Democratic speaker, had it not been for the fact that she was a woman. 

She was an affirmative action hire, if you will, in the Democratic leadership.  The ironies are piled on ironies.  People in the middle of a campaign forget all about history, forget about the ironies.  It seems to me that the Clinton people are daring Obama to keep up his complaints about this remark.  They are daring him to do it, because they are not firing Gerry Ferraro from her role in the finance committee.  They are defending her.  They are sending out the African American campaign manager of their campaign, newly appointed African American campaign manager, Maggie Williams, to, in essence, not so subtly accuse the Obama campaign of waving the bloody shirt of race. 

They are trying to throw the accusation back at Obama.  It‘s daring.  It‘s risky.  It‘s cynical.  That‘s where things are at this stage of the campaign heading into Pennsylvania. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I won‘t add to that list.  I think it speaks for itself.  Extraordinary and it just gets worse the more you look at it.  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, great thanks for this latest insight on this. 

Well, he‘s still the governor of New York.  So the Republicans want to

wait a minute—impeach him in a sex scandal. 

And this man says that it‘s liberal media that‘s ignoring the Spitzer story but made Republican Senator Vitter‘s sex scandal the centerpiece of the 2006 midterm elections, even though Vitter‘s sex scandal did not occur until 2007. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Can‘t make a federal case out of this, but all singers died a little and most Americans.  President Bush at the Gridiron dinner, crooning about convicted felon Scooter Libby, the WMD that never were and Dick Cheney withholding documents from Congress.  That‘s ahead. 

First, time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.  The bronze, do we give this to him?  do we give this to her?  Do we give this to the people from the “Washington Post” who reported it?  I‘ll just read it as is, about the Grid Iron Club Dinner at which Mr. Bush sang, quote, Ann Coulter, who was there as Bob Novak‘s date—

By the way, it adds, how does she stay so thin?  Never ate.  Chewed gum all night. 

That wasn‘t just gum.  If what she said in Harry Shearer‘s video stash is to be believed, it‘s Nicorette gum. 

The runner up, James Tedisco, the leader of the Republican minority in the New York State assembly, threatening to start the impeachment of Governor Elliott Spitzer, if he doesn‘t resign by, say, start of business Thursday.  Not arguing with you that he should go, assemblyman.  Not arguing with you that this is about law breaking and not sex, assemblyman. 

Just let the man quit.  If you impeach him, you‘re suddenly going to have a lot of people saying, you‘re impeaching a governor for being a John, but you don‘t impeach a president for erasing the Constitution and lying us into a war. 

But our winner tonight, Steve Ducey of Fixed News, suggesting that the liberals who control the news media and beam thoughts of dissent directly into your brain via your fillings are covering up for disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer; “When David Vitter, a senator from down south, was caught up in the D.C. Madame scandal, of course the mainstream media said, look this is just part of the culture of corruption with the Republican party.  In fact, that led to steep losses in the 2006 Congressional elections.” 

OK, the David Vitter, D.C. Madame scandal broke on July 9th, 2007.  If it affected the 2006 Congressional elections, pal, the voters were all mind readers.  By the way, the senator from down south is from Louisiana.  They have separate states now down south.  For god‘s sake, get Steve a Sherpa guide or a St. Bernard with a brandy flask or something.  He‘s in way over his head.

Steve Ducey, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  NBC News projects Senator Barack Obama will win the Democratic primary in Mississippi.  It will be his 14th victory in his last 17 contests with Senator Clinton.  She won two, of course, outright. Texas‘ popular vote went to her, its delegates to him. 

If one theme has dominated this presidential campaign in both parties, it is that Washington is out of touch.  In our number one story tonight, Washington is so out of touch, it‘s not funny, but Washington is laughing anyway. 

Saturday night was President Bush‘s final Grid Iron Dinner, with 600 of the nation‘s most powerful journalists and politicians, including 13 members of the Bush cabinet and his Joint Chiefs chairman, this weeks Joint Chiefs Chairman.  In a song you will hear in a moment, Mr. Bush made light of his own failures, failures that have damaged America, our reliance on Saudi oil, his own hard work to circumvent justice by keeping Scooter Libby out of prison, to sell the Iraq war, even his escape goat for Katrina, a storm which crippled a major American city and killed hundreds of Americans. 

Washington‘s elite cheered him on, as you will see.  The dinner is traditionally off the record, but it‘s not off our record.  So here, courtesy of Youtube and somebody‘s cell phone, the high or low lights. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)\

OLBERMANN:  With us tonight, MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, host of her own program week nights on Air America radio.  Great thanks for your time tonight.  Welcome to soft ball.

Apart from finally discovering something he‘s comparatively good at, because he was keeping that tune pretty much all the way through.  That was actually pretty good.  The content matter, was it a little over the line, given the nature of the stuff he‘s singing about?

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  My general rule about other people‘s political humor is that you earn more leeway by being more funny.  On the grounds that this wasn‘t funny, it means that he has no leeway.  In terms of offensive subject matter, if you‘re going to joke about helping a guy evade sentencing for having obstructed an investigation into a U.S.  intelligence officer having her cover blown, you have to be really funny.  The funny bar is really high.  And I think mission not accomplished here. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, that begs the question here.  Maybe this is an aesthetic question more than a political content question, but if it was so bad, how come it was getting laughs? 

MADDOW:  It made me think—when I played this on my radio show today, I also played the clips of Bush joking about not finding weapons of mass destruction under those rugs in the Oval Office.  He got tons of laughs for those things too.  Karl Rove doing his MC Rove gangster rap minstrel show thing, getting tons laughs from the people in the room. 

These events are Washington insider homogenization, reification events.  They are the, we are all in this together, feel better and warm and fuzzy about the people who are supposed the subjects of your investigating reporting events.  They‘re insidious by nature, I  think. 

OLBERMANN:  Sort of like the Romans in the early part of the first century reminiscing about the day Caligula appointed a horse to be a council?  Remember that?  That was pretty funny.  Then he killed all those guys, that wasn‘t funny.  But that first part, that was really very funny. 

MADDOW:  We were all in that together. 

OLBERMANN:  So the “New York Times” does not attend this anymore.  Is that the proper position journalists should be staking out? 

MADDOW:  I don‘t know if there‘s always a proper position.  I‘d say yes.  If I were invited to one of these things—shockingly, I haven‘t been—I would say no.  Everybody gets to make their own decisions about these things, but you have to figure out what the cost is.  If the point of the event is to make you feel personally warm and personally connected to the people who are supposed to be the subjects of your reporting, you have to decide whether the chicken breast and the ego boost and the free drinks is worth you no longer knowing why it is that you have the job title journalist. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, let‘s spin this back into the campaign with Obama‘s victory in Mississippi tonight.  Of the three candidates out there still standing, who is the most and least likely to participate in this sort of inside joking of issues that have destroyed American lives. 

MADDOW:  I hope none of them will be.  Maybe we should just leave it at that. 

OLBERMANN:  I can‘t then, without having you here, let you have an opportunity to vocalize your thoughts on what Howard Fineman was reporting about the comments today, the second set of comments today from Geraldine Ferraro, implying that the Clinton campaign is repudiating her and firing her from its finance committee because it doesn‘t mind this idea of Barack Obama being an equal opportunity hire being out there, you know, without Senator Clinton‘s name directly on it.  

MADDOW:  For anybody to be saying that Barack Obama is only where he is because he is black, that black men are so privileged in America, that that‘s the only thing that explains his success, because he‘s otherwise unqualified, which is the implication of her comment, would be absolutely offensive, more than regrettable, from anybody commenting seriously on the campaigning.  Honestly, you know it would be. 

But for this to come from somebody who‘s an official part of the campaign, and for the campaign to not disavow that person and distance themselves is—it‘s an incredible decision and it therefore does make us question whether they are doing it on purpose for some reason. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, if we heard this from Robert Novak, if we heard this from Glen Beck, if we heard this from Bill O‘Reilly, we‘d be appalled.  I don‘t think we‘d necessarily hear it from some of them.  I‘m damming them with faint praise. 

Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, great thanks. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Needless to say, there will be a special comment on the campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on tomorrow night‘s edition of COUNTDOWN.

That is this edition of COUNTDOWN for this the 1777th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Again, the headline from Mississippi, NBC News and MSNBC projecting, based on exit polls and early returns, that Senator Barack Obama has won the primary there.  Obama the winner in Mississippi.  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.

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