updated 3/14/2008 1:11:58 PM ET 2008-03-14T17:11:58

Guests: Dana Milbank, Michael Musto

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

Us or nobody, again: If he can‘t win Pennsylvania, Obama can‘t win says the Clinton campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK PENN, CLINTON CHIEF STRATEGIST:  If Barack Obama can‘t win there, how could he win the general election?

We believe that this will again show that Hillary is ready to win and Senator Obama really can‘t win general election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mark Penn says Obama can‘t win the general election?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIR.:  Mark did not say that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Somebody must have tapped in to your phone call.

Putting the pen in Pennsylvania: Clinton now by 18 there, Keith number, nine.

Why don‘t you get a roll of stamps and mail it in?  Florida proposes by mail run by a private company.  One problem: Mail-in votes are illegal under Florida law.

Michigan: There may be a deal for a full revote in Michigan.

John McCain‘s religious nut eruption.  First: Pastor Hagee of “Catholic Church is the great whore.”  Now: McCain‘s spiritual adviser Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church.

“The fact is,” he says, “that America was founded in part with the intention of seeing this false religion, Islam, destroyed.”

You‘re running out of religions, chief.

Double secret session: The House votes on the FISA bill in private, no telecom immunity.  And so, since President Bush wants to protect corporations which helped him break the law, he will veto the bill, even though he says without the bill, we are all less safe.  We join the president‘s nonsense already in progress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  Congress, stop playing politics with the fast and focus on helping us prevent terrorist attacks in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And for a change, good political humor: Obama on if there‘s a “Saturday Night Live” bias towards Clinton; Clinton on Special Comments.

And: From Spitzer to spit take.  The ex-governor and the comedic crosshairs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hillary Clinton lost another superdelegate.  On the bright side, Bill Clinton gained a super-wingman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Thursday, March 13th, 236 days until the 2008 presidential election.

The lyric was sung with gusto by Howard Da Silva as Ben Franklin in the movie, “1776.”  It was about a struggle by the founding fathers, each of whom wanted to avoid having to write the Declaration of Independence.  But tonight, that lyric has unexpected relevance to the 2008 Democratic primary.

“I won‘t put politics on paper, it‘s a mania.  So, I refuse to use the pen in Pennsylvania.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The Clinton campaign is using its Penn, strategist Mark Penn in Pennsylvania but may wish it had not.  First, Penn declared Barack Obama incapable of winning the general election if he cannot beat Clinton in the Keystone State primary.  Then, the campaign tried to backtrack and it says he had not said that and had only said it raised serious questions.

Indeed.

A rare moment of unity today in the 2008 nominating process: Senators Clinton and Obama taking a break from the campaign trail to spend time at their day jobs in the U.S. Senate, among other things, casting their votes on a budget blueprint for the next fiscal year.

Senator Clinton‘s advisers are doing her campaigning for her today.  As we mentioned, chief strategist Mark Penn telling reporters on a conference call that Senator Obama cannot win the general election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENN:  Look, we believe that the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes right through the state of Pennsylvania and if Barack Obama can‘t win there, how can he win the general election?  I mean, it doesn‘t seem to be passing the commander in chief test.  He‘s not passing the steward of the economy test.  And it looks like he‘s saying that he won‘t pass the keystone test.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Later in the same phone call, Clinton communications director, Howard Wolfson denying that Mark Penn had said—what he said about Senator Obama being able to win the election.  Mr. Penn himself then backtracking to say, quote, “That if you can‘t win Pennsylvania, it raises serious questions about whether he can win a general election.”

And there‘s the Clinton campaign effort to get the delegates from the Florida and Michigan primary seated, even though no candidates officially campaign in either state.  And in Michigan, only Senator Clinton‘s name was on the ballot.

On National Public Radio this morning, Senator Clinton arguing that Senator Obama‘s nonparticipation in the Michigan primary was a voluntary option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, that was his choice, remember.  There was no rule or requirement that he takes his name off the ballot.  And his supporters ran a very aggressive campaign to try to get people to vote uncommitted.

So, it wasn‘t that he didn‘t participate at all, in fact, there was a real effort to get people to vote uncommitted and I still won 55 percent of the vote.

STEVE INSKEEP, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO:  You say that that is a fair result even without Barack Obama‘s name on the ballot?

CLINTON:  Well, that was his choice, Steve.  I mean -

INSKEEP:  Wasn‘t it the Democratic Party‘s choice that it would not a result that would be counted and most people took their names off the ballot?

CLINTON:  No, I think that the Democratic Party said that they would not, under the circumstances count the vote.  But we all had a choice as to whether or not to participate in what was going to be a primary.  And most people took their names off the ballot, but I didn‘t.  And I think that was a wise decision because Michigan is key to our electoral victory in the fall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Or perhaps more accurately, key to her primary victory in the spring.

As for Senator Clinton‘s claim that the Democratic candidates, quote, “all had a choice as to whether or not to participate,” that is apparently patently false.  All candidates, including Senator Clinton having signed the pledge vowing that they would not participate in the Michigan and Florida primaries.

Quoting from that document: “Therefore, I, your candidates name here, Democratic candidate for president, in honor and in accordance with DNC rules pledge to actively campaign in the pre-approved early states, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.  I pledge I shall not campaign or participate in any election contest occurring in any state not already authorized by the DNC to take place in the DNC approved pre-window, any date prior to February 5, 2008.”

On a plane ride from Chicago to Washington, D.C. this morning, Obama making his own argument against Senator Clinton‘s claim that the Michigan was fair, with an assist from his 6-year-old daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t know exactly how she drew that conclusion since I didn‘t step foot in Michigan and my name wasn‘t on the ballot.  So, you have the notion that somehow it would be fair for her to obtain significantly more delegates than me in a contest where we both agreed it wouldn‘t count, I wasn‘t on the ballot and I didn‘t campaign there.  Just the defies, you know, logic—I think you can ask my 6-year-old whether that was fair and she would probably be able to say, no, that isn‘t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama is also taking on the argument that Florida‘s primary results should stand exactly as they are because both his name and Senator Clinton‘s were on the ballot on January 29th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Why not just take a poll at the beginning of this whole contest 13 months ago.  We could have saves ourselves billions of dollars and a lot of travel time and she would have won by 20 points because nobody campaigned.  And she would have been the designated nominee.

I mean, the whole point of campaigning is that the voters actually start getting to know who the candidates are.  And, if we had made that determination in all these states, just put my name on the ballot without me campaigning or running any significant ads, I would have lost by 20 points across the country, right?  I don‘t think anybody would think that was fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

OLBERMANN:  The Clinton big states strategy is one thing.  But to parley that into “if Obama can‘t win Pennsylvania primary, he can‘t win the general election,” Howard Wolfson must have recognized immediately, that was something of a toxic statement there, because as we mentioned later in the same conference all, he was denying, Mark Penn had ever said that?

FINEMAN:  Well, the sequence of questions and answers is little jumbled up but the key word that Penn used was can‘t—can‘t win.  And you don‘t say that in politics unless you want to give a reason.  And, of course, everybody knows that we‘re in the psych war phase of this campaign, this primary campaign.

Well, I think the Clinton campaign, leave the numbers aside, Keith, leave your arithmetic and the big and the small states and all that, they‘re trying to goad Obama, this is my take.  They‘re trying to goad him into making a mistake and to losing his temper and to crying foul in some way and reacting for example to Mark Penn‘s assertion that Obama couldn‘t win.

I understand what Penn was saying, Pennsylvania is important and it is true that Democrats can‘t, probably can‘t win the general if they can‘t win Pennsylvania.  But just because Hillary maybe ahead in the primary doesn‘t mean that if Obama is the nominee, he couldn‘t win Pennsylvania.

Indeed, if you look at some of the test match-ups, Obama‘s running quite strong across the state of Pennsylvania against John McCain.  So, it was illogical and it begs the question of: Why the illogic, what amounts to an emotional statement that this guy can‘t win?

OLBERMANN:  Yes, if you think about this in terms of their being three-presidential candidates and this is a race now, next month involving two of them.  The person finishing second that if he still or she still is more popular than the other guy from the other party, she or he still wins the state in the actual election.  I mean, it seems really simple when you talk about it, those terms.

But as to this point about whether or not the Democrats can win with or without Pennsylvania, there was a set of polls that was issued by Survey USA last week that showed basically two different ground games.  Both Democratic candidates could win a general election match up against McCain.

The crucial difference for our purposes tonight being, Clinton wins Pennsylvania and then wins.  Obama does not win Pennsylvania, but he would still win in the Electoral College.  Does this is still the differences between these two campaigns?  Clinton says, you got to win Pennsylvania, and Obama says, I don‘t care about, specifically Pennsylvania.  I‘m going to win one more electoral vote.

FINEMAN:  Well, looking at the map there, I mean, since we‘re in basketball March madness season, let me say that the Clinton strategy is sort in the paint, you know.  They‘re the traditional, pounded inside.  Obama is like the Princeton offense working around clever passes all around the place.

Either one could probably work, except the fact is, that if you look at the last few elections, there‘s a bunch of states that the Democrats generally win and still need to win.  I would say Pennsylvania is probably still one of them.  But it doesn‘t mean that Obama can‘t win it.  That‘s the point.

If you look at the states that Obama and Clinton have won in the primaries, and I‘ve been studying this very carefully today.  Obama has actually won more swing states.  That is states that were narrow in their margins last time than Clinton has.  Obama has won Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.  Clinton has won New Hampshire, Ohio and New Mexico.  So, Obama wins four to three for Clinton.

So, you know, they both have their arguments.  They both make some sense.  Either one of this people is going to be a strong candidate, I think, against McCain.  And the fact is, in the primary, Obama has won more popular votes, more delegates and many more states than Clinton.

So, logic would tell you that he‘s probably overall the stronger candidate.

OLBERMANN:  Before we go, what do you see in Pennsylvania that say, a strategic vision the polling company there does not see.  Right now, it‘s an 18-point lead for Senator Clinton and our little margin of uncertainty is only nine.  What are you hearing from in Pennsylvania?

FINEMAN:  Well, I was just up there the other day.  I‘ll be spending a lot of time in my home state.  And I think, there‘s an opportunity for Obama there.  They‘re low-balling it now.  They‘re basically being weary.

But they did agree to the one that there‘s going to be a debate in Philadelphia.  Obama has time to introduce himself to the people of Pennsylvania and run what amount to be a governor‘s race there.

And the state is changed enormously.  The unemployment rate is low.  Pittsburgh and Philly have a lot of new tech, a lot of high-tech.  There are a lot of Obama voters.

The only problem Obama‘s got is it‘s a closed Democratic primary.  If you don‘t register by March 24th to vote on the Democratic primary, you can‘t vote.  That‘s why it‘s a tough state for him.

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

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the issue surrounding Michigan and Florida and the votes there, whether there will be revotes there.  Let‘s turn to our own MSNBC and NBC News political director Chuck Todd.  Chuck, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  So, you have some information on Michigan.  Are we nearing a deal there?  Is there going to be another vote?

TODD:  Well, we‘re nearing a deal in the Michigan Democratic Party.  Now, the question is: Are we nearing a deal with Clinton and Obama participating?  Basically, all of sort of—there‘s a lot of inter-party feuding that goes on in the Michigan Democratic Party but all of the different facets of the party have gotten together.

Now, it appears they‘re very close to being able to get an agreement where the state would agree to run the primary as long as they were reimbursed the cost of this primary.  And the question is: How do you reimburse the cost?  Is it through the state party?  Is it through a nonprofit?  Is money actually given directly to the state?

And more importantly, who raises this money?  Who funds it?  There are some Obama supporters who are not as interested in helping to raise money for this and I‘m wondering if it‘s going to be just funded by Clinton supporters.

Michigan Democrats don‘t want a primary is solely funded by Clinton supporters.  They just won‘t look right, it will look bad.  They hope to have the cooperation of the Obama campaign so that they‘d find for this thing.

But it‘s a lot farther down the road than Florida, frankly.  And so, the possibility of it and if it happens, it will happen in the next 10 to 14 days, as far as they approve the process.  The actual primary would take place on June 3rd.

Now, the question is: Does the likelihood of a potential revote move the negotiations for settling the Florida/Michigan dispute internally down the road a little bit?  Meaning, the threat of a revote, something frankly, the Obama campaign is not crazy about, does it end upbringing everybody to the table and saying, OK, let‘s split the delegates this way and let‘s stop worrying about this Michigan/Florida situation.

OLBERMANN:  And there‘s another in Florida.  They had this revote with mail-in ballots run by an independent company and then, somebody discovered, by the way, it‘s illegal.  You can‘t certify a vote, even a primary vote in Florida when the stuff has been mailed in.

Where are we in Florida?

TODD:  Well, the Florida Democratic Party believes that they‘ve found a way where they can get cooperation from the Secretary of State‘s Office and that it would be legal and that they would be able to look at the signatures.  Not necessarily copy the data.  Anyway, it‘s confusing.

It‘s what makes this Florida deal very unlikely.  There are too many unknowns, lot of awkward situations.  That said, if Michigan does what it does and the state legislature cooperates, and surprisingly, Keith, Michigan Republicans are willing to work with the Michigan Democrats in the legislature to get it done.

You‘re not seeing that in Florida.  But if it happens in Michigan, then, there‘s going to be enormous pressure on Florida to come up with the similar thing.  The mail-in primary, it looks like there are too many people against that idea.  But I think you could see Michigan triggering a more robust than Florida primary redo.

OLBERMANN:  Amazing that we have gotten to this point.  Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News.  Great thanks, Chuck.

TODD:  You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  A funny thing has happened to the Republicans on their way to portray Barack Obama as a pawn of some dangerous religious outfit.  John McCain has, for the second time in two weeks, accepted the endorsement of a dangerous religious outfit which is trying to draw this country into religious war fair.

And the FISA vote: “We must have the ability to listen to the terrorists,” says the president, “but if you pass this bill, I‘ll veto it.”

From the logic of torture to tortured logic.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Did you know a presidential candidate just accepted the endorsement of a man who said out loud that the U.S. was founded to destroy Islam?  Senator McCain met “Reverend Albatross,” his second “Reverend Albatross.”

And it‘s Lou Dobbs and the polling data only he can hear versus Bill Crystal leaving the baseball fans ultimately dream and striking out.

That‘s in Worst Persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Senators Clinton and Obama to some reenact “Punch and Judy,” Senator McCain freed of the responsibility of campaigning to mainstream America or even while the media was watching, found a new religious group to cross off his mailing list—Muslims.

Our fourth story tonight: On February 27th, McCain angered Catholics and, you know, sane people, nondenominational sane people when he happily accepted the endorsement of John Hagee, the fundamentalist pastor who had called Catholicism, quote, “The great whore” and said he eagerly looks forward to nuclear war with Iran.  McCain is still refusing to reject that endorsement.

Now, we learn from “Mother Jones” magazine that just day before that, as McCain sought to hold off Mike Huckabee in Ohio, he‘d also accepted the endorsement of Reverend Rod Parsley, who has a congregation of 12,000 in Columbus as well some interesting views about Islam and America and American history, quote, “Allah was a demon secret.  America was founded in part with the intention of seeing this false religion, Islam, destroyed.  Are we a Christian nation?  I say yes.”

Your name is Parsley.  McCain is not rejecting nor denouncing, not even commenting to “Mother Jones,” leading us to dig, quotes from our own from 1797: “As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense founded on the Christian religion.  As it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Mussulmen.”  Muslims.  “And as the said states never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declare by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

The Treaty of Tripoli ratified unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed by President John Adams.  Starring in a miniseries on HBO soon.

It‘s time now to bring in MSNBC political analyst Dana Milbank, also, national political reporter, of course for the “Washington Post.”  Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is there a chance McCain pays a price in November for embracing hate mongers or does he make up for it with the votes of the people who like the hate mongers?

MILBANK:  Well, he might.  But on the other hand, you got Clinton dealing with Ferraro, you got Obama with his own pastor problems and the Farrakhan issue.  Maybe it‘s time to use one of McCain‘s favorite words, everybody to declare an amnesty.  They can disavow all these wacky supporters on all sides and get down to business.

We‘re sort in the “guilt by association” phase of the campaign.  It‘s because there‘s not a whole lot of other activity going on here.  The candidates need to sort of do the delegate dance of just how far you distance yourself.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but what Obama‘s advantage in doing that since he‘d already renounced and denounced and rejected and dejected Farrakhan.  To some degree, I mean, McCain is particularly with Hagee, we don‘t know to what degree with Mr. Parsley here, you know, put his arm around his shoulder but he was on the same stage with Hagee.  That‘s not some sort of distant, remote that you got to prove this connection, connection.

MILBANK:  No, it‘s true.  But, you know, and to go to your first question, McCain does not have a great deal of fear of losing voters over this.  Certainly, figuring it will be forgotten.  Now, in the case of Mr.  Parsley, it has really bubbled up to the level that he‘s feeling any pressure on this.

I think you are the first member of the mainstream media to be sprinkling partially at this point.  We‘ll have to see if it sort of blow up into a full Ferraro.

OLBERMANN:  And when we go to Rosemary in time later on.  But McCain called Parsley a spiritual guide.  Is this the sort of thing, again, in a reverse way, could this work to Obama‘s advantage because in a general election, it would might be the Republican who has the vulnerability, seeming vulnerability on the issue of, you know, he‘s associated with a crazy unstable religion?

MILBANK:  Well, there will be plenty of crazy and unstable people on all sides of this to go around.  It‘s hard to project out how far something like the Reverend Parsley could really take John McCain later on.  You know, there‘s going to be this kind of hate mongering going on on the right whether John McCain denounces, renounces, rejects or not.

So, you know, from that point of view, it doesn‘t really hurt him to renounce it because it‘s going to benefit to his advantage anyway.

OLBERMANN:  Well, Parsley has no flavor, so you sprinkle it liberally on every thing I suppose.  Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC.  Thank you, Dana.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  In sports, the plague of mascot on mascot violence continues.  Well, it (ph) to be a plague, it would have to continue.  (INAUDIBLE) You say, it is, Keith, I agree with you.

And in Worst Persons: You struck out?  You struck out against the Pittsburgh Pirates?

That‘s ahead.

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

Bushed.

Number three: Iraq-gate.  Just as Republicans seem ready to run the Presidential race and all the supposed good news out of there, the number of Iraqis killed in violence and terrorism, on an average day there, has nearly doubled since January, from 20 a day to 39 a day through the first 13 days of March.  Twelve American soldiers have been killed in suicide bombs in Baghdad this week.

About the same time, a Pew Research Survey is out, nearly half the public here thinks the total number of American dead in Iraq is 3,000 or fewer.  Only about 28 percent now that we are approaching our 4,000 fatalities there.

Number two: You lied, they died-gate.  We told you earlier this week that the Pentagon had just finished its study of more than 600,000 documents seized from Saddam Hussein‘s files in Iraq and has concluded the actual operational between that regime and al Qaeda, the bases for Mr.  Bush‘s war was zero, zilch, nein.

Now, several news organizations are reporting that instead of following through on its original plan to post that report on its Web site and brief reporters, the Pentagon will not put it on the Web, it will not email copies to reporters.  It will only send it out via the U.S. Postal Service.

Another Pentagon official reported to the ABC.com said, initial press reports on the study made it too politically sensitive.

And number one: Halliburton-gate.  This one gets worse and worse.  The Pentagon‘s inspector general reported, dozens of our soldiers in Iraq felt sick, were poisoned after using discolored, smelly water provided by the now spun out Halliburton subsidiary, KBR.  Symptoms: Diarrhea, skin infections, cellulitis and abscesses.

The response from Geoff Morrell, the press spokesman of Pentagon: “You know, we‘ve all been to Iraq several times, everywhere you go, they make it perfectly clear that you don‘t want to drink the water.  So, I‘m little surprised myself that this is an issue.  I would encourage to as always for journalist and war fighters alike is to read the signs and just drink the bottled water.

The unsafe Halliburton water wasn‘t used for drinking, it was for washing and washing clothes.

And you, Mr. Morrell, you are a moron.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

*

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1764, Charles Gray was born.  He became a noted British prime minister of the 1830‘s, the man in charge when slavery was abolished throughout the British empire.  He‘s best known for something named after him.  After he succeeded into 1807 to the title Earl Gray.  Earl Gray Tea is, of course, a special blend of tea leaves and the remains of Earl Gray. 

I‘m sorry, that‘s a typo.  Orange rind, they mix it with Bergamot and Orange grind.  Earl Gray tea is not people.  Let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Okey-dokey, let‘s begin on the hard courts.  Oral Roberts University downing Indiana/Purdue of Indianapolis to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament, you know, the tournament Cornell is in.  The real action is not with the players, but the plushies.  During a time out, Eli, the Oral Roberts eagle squared off with Jaws, Indiana/Purdue Jaguar. 

Playful dancing then turned into Greco-Roman wrestling.  First the eagle lost his head, later he would lose his feet.  Down goes Eli the Eagle.  Not only did he get his beak handed to him by the Jaguar, but the next day ORU handed Eli the Eagle his walking or in this case flying papers.  When will this mascot-on-mascot cycle of violence end? 

To Madison, Wisconsin, where this fellow is taking a whiff of his own stinking fingers.  It‘s the world cheese championships.  Tasting experts in white coats and funny hats smelled and tasted their way through 2,000 entries from 20 different countries in an attempt to find out who cuts the best cheese. 

In the end, it was a Swiss Gray that took home the trophy.  A Gorgonzola from Italy was the runner up.  Sadly, the entire contest was tainted when the American Velveta tested positive for a performance enhancing substance. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  The president again warns we‘re all in great danger unless Congress passes the Protects Corporations Act.  I‘m sorry, it‘s called the Protect American Corporations Act.  No, I‘m sorry, here it is, the Protect America Act.  What did they call it that for?  That doesn‘t say anything about Telecom Immunity. 

No immunity, but anything you catch can probably be cured with antibiotics.  It‘s open comedy season on the governor and the hooker.  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best not taking political humor too seriously, Press Secretary Bill Burton of the Obama campaign, saying to the “L.A. Times” for a story on a perception that “Saturday Night Live” might have tilted toward Senator Clinton; quote, “Frankly, Barack Obama knows he‘s good enough, smart enough and, gosh darn it, he‘s one more states, more votes and more delegates, and that‘s what probably matters more anyway. 

Number two, best not taking political commentary too seriously, senior adviser Howard Wolfson of the Clinton campaign.  Asked on a conference call about something I said here last night, quote, “we obviously vigorously disagree with that characterization, although many of us remain fans of Keith and enjoy watching the show on nights other than last night. 

Number one, best dumb criminals, James Wombles of Montgomery County, Florida.  He‘s in the jailhouse now, accused of multiple burglaries in Clark and Miami Counties in December and January.  This happens.  People commit crimes.  People get arrested.  But at the time of the burglary, Mr.  Wombles was on probation for another crime.  Part of the probation for that other crime was that he had to wear a global positioning satellite device on an ankle bracelet on his ankle. 

That‘s right, he robbed a series of stores while wearing equipment that constantly transmitted his whereabouts to the police. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The House floats a FISA bill that does not protect the administration?  The president promises a veto, saying, quote, voting for this bill would make our country less safe.  The head of U.S. Central Command, CENTCom, disagrees with the White House on Iraq and Iran.  The president asked the Defense Secretary to, quote, handle it and suddenly there‘s a resignation letter. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, he may be a lame duck, but every once in a while, George W, Bush still does something nefarious just to remind us all that he‘s still around.  The latest target, the House Democrats‘ attempt in open debate but secret session to pass an intelligence bill to protect both America and protect what it means to be an American. 

According to President Bush, it actually protects terrorists. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The partisan legislation would extend protections we enjoy as Americans to foreign terrorists over seas. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For the record, the bill does not protect terrorists.  But neither does it protect Telecom companies for the legal repercussions of helping the American government spy on American citizens.  Prompting this telling response from the president. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  This litigation would be unfair, because any companies that assisted us after 9/11 were assured by our government that their cooperation was legal and necessary. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Translation, the Telecom companies need protection because if what they did was illegal and what the Bush administration did was also illegal, and if they could be prosecuted, so to could the president. 

To that end, it is no surprise that Bush also abhors a provision in the bill calling for more investigation into the spying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The House bill would establish yet another commission to examine past intelligence committees.  This would be a redundant and partisan exercise that would waste our intelligence officials‘ time and tax payers‘ money.  Congress should stop playing politics with the past and focus on preventing terrorist attacks in the future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Listen to his tone of voice.  He‘s just given up, hasn‘t he? 

The Democratic Congressional response to the president‘s proselytizing clearly delineated by the speaker of the House a few hours later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The president has said that our legislation will not make America safe.  The president is wrong. 

The president is wrong. 

The president was wrong and the president knows it.  He knows that our bill protects the American people and we all understand our responsibility to do that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me now to help figure out what the president was wrong about, when did he stop knowing it, our own Rachel Maddow, host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America Radio and also one of the sole survivors of the Dan Abrams show last night.  Thanks for your time tonight.  You don‘t have to wear any protective clothing tonight. 

MADDOW:  Shut up. 

OLBERMANN:  Why don‘t Democrats just come out and say this directly, that the president is prepared to veto a bill that makes America safer, if it makes him less safer from prosecution? 

MADDOW:  At this point, they might just be waiting for him to make that argument himself.  He‘s made so many other arguments for why the Telecoms need immunity.  Remember, first he said that they would stop wiretaps, if they didn‘t have the immunity.  Then they didn‘t stop the wiretaps.  They haven‘t stopped.  That one out the window.

Then he said they wouldn‘t cooperate with the government anymore.  Then Bush learned that if you get a warrant, cooperation isn‘t really an issue.  Then he said it would bankrupt the companies, and so they said, let‘s have the government assume the companies‘ losses here.  That went up in smoke. 

The latest argument is that the companies are patriotic, and because they are patriotic, they must be thanked and not sued.  That, of course, runs smack up against the fact that the telecom companies have cut off existing wiretaps when the government paid its phone bills late.  The constitution and our privacy laws were not enough to stop them wiretapping, but a late phone bill is. 

If you hold a phone bill in higher esteem than the U.S. constitution, you are a lot of things, but patriotic is not one of them.  

OLBERMANN:  Maybe this is, from the Bush administration‘s point of view—this is a question of its credit report. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  They are worried that if they don‘t give them the Telecom immunity, next time, they are going to cut the phone service off and the wire tapping service off all together.  Maybe it‘s that.  The president is literally equating voting for this bill—He has now said it‘s voting to help terrorists.  It‘s absurd scare mongering.  It shouldn‘t scare, to use the woman of the night, Barack Obama‘s six-year-old daughter.  How come it seems to work occasionally on Democrats in the House? 

MADDOW:  The scare mongering—it is almost unexplainable how this would create—this would be the secret dog whistle for the next 9/11 if the phone companies were not protected from being sued for previous bad behavior.  The only grounds in which that makes sense—the only way that‘s logical is if al Qaeda, we believe, is made up of disgruntled telecom shareholders. 

It‘s an argument that‘s very easy to defeat.  The Democrats ought to be able to defeat it.  They have shown a willingness to sacrifice our concrete rights and liberties for these phantoms of lost securities, to paraphrase John Ashcroft, time and time again.  I hope they won‘t do it again, but I do not live in expectation that they will do the right thing. 

OLBERMANN:  Are they all afraid they will turn into America firsters like Lindbergh or Neville Chamberlain?  That there actually would be another attack and there would be a list of the people who voted against this particular bill, trotted out and marched through the streets towards stockades? 

MADDOW:  They might be.  They might literally be afraid of that.  What you do, if you‘re a competent political animal, is that you disprove that your actions had anything to do with the reduction in safety for the country.  You ought to be able to make this argument and you ought to be able to shoot down these arguments, particularly because Bush can‘t settle on one for arguing for Telecom immunity.  The ones that he has settled on make no sense. 

OLBERMANN:  About Admiral Fallon, now former head of CENTCom, the White House did not actually say who will rid me of this meddlesome Fallon, but they sort of hinted.  The president asked the secretary of defense to handle the matter.  Is that kind of shadowy process meant to scare others who are currently in the Pentagon into acquiescence to whatever the politicians want?  Or is it, in fact, are we just forgetting how often this has happened in this course of this administration to other military figures, who went, excuses me; this is nuts? 

MADDOW:  The other part of the strategy is they are using a biplane to fly a picture of Eric Shinseki around the Pentagon to remind everybody what happens when people don‘t toe the line and do something that‘s right, instead of what the president wants.  This—I think that if “Esquire,” in their profile of Fallon this month is right, that Fallon was the guy standing between Bush and an invasion and unprovoked attack on Iran.  Then this seems to be a shot across the bow at anybody else who would take a stand. 

OLBERMANN:  They should fly a biplane around the Pentagon that had Shinseki‘s picture on it, because, hey, he‘s a patriot.  He did something for his country.  History will reward him if the Bush administration will not.  Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, as always, a pleasure. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The Eliot Spitzer scandal.  There are no winners here.  Well, maybe Kristin, the singing floozy, is a winner.  Of course, every comedian working this side of the Atlantic Tectonic plate is a winner. 

Speaking of comedians, what‘s on the mind of voters?  Lou Dobbs knows, even if his list of the top three issues does not match any poll taken this year.  Worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Three decades a ago, it was Chevy Chase and the persona of his “Saturday Night Live” parody news caster who reassured us, I don‘t want to kick a man while he‘s done.  I want to stomp on his face while wearing golf shoes with big spikes on them.  That‘s the case of political humor in this country for Kristin, the singing prostitute, and Governor Spitzer, I don‘t even know her. 

That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story tonight, the Worst Persons in the World.  The bronze to Bush administration cheerleader Michael O‘Hanlon of the Brookings Institution think tank.  Asked for comment on the resignation of CENTCom Commander Fallon, who had repeatedly made the mistake of suggesting that a Bush war on Iran was nuts, undoable, disastrous for the U.S. military, and genuinely a mistake; quote, I can‘t clearly see what the reason would be for why he resigned.  O‘Hanlon added, he may have lost heart from sheer exhaustion. 

The idea that he was squeezed out by the same administration who has squeezed out every other military leader who ever told them they were nuts or this war was a mistake or that war would be a mistake, that never occurred to you.  You‘re supposed to be in a think tank, not a sensory deprivation tank. 

The silver to CNN‘s Lou Dobbs, assuring his audience that illegal immigration is, quote, one of the top three issues for American voters in both political parties.  Last month, “New York Times” poll, illegal immigration seventh most important.  January, Fox News poll, seven percent said it was tops.  Early January, a CNN poll, seventh most important.  Sixth was gas prices.   

So how does Lou Dobbs know it is one of the top three issues for all voters?  Because he listens to polling being done inside his own head, if you know what I mean. 

Our winner, actor and comedian and comic Billy Crystal.  His lifetime dream comes true on the day before his 60th birthday.  He actually played for the New York Yankees today.  He batted lead off as the designated hitter in their exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In his only at bat, he worked the count to three and one against Pittsburgh Pirates left hander Paul Mollholland (ph), then swung over a fast ball for strike two.  Then swung over another high fast ball. 

You struck out against Paul Mollholland.  The Paul Mollholland whose ERA was 5.02 last year?  The Paul Mullholland against whom right handers hit 305 last year.  You struck out against Paul Mullholland of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Worst yet for Bill, after the game, the Pirates announced they had purchased his contract and he‘ll be starting in center field for them this year. 

Billy—you struck out against Paul Mullholland—Crystal, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you thought yourself callous to be making jokes about a man who had to bail out during his 15th month as the governor of New York State after being caught in a prostitution sting, relax.  Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, Eliot Spitzer‘s successor, Governor to be David Patterson, asked at his first news conference today, quote, so New Yorkers don‘t have to go through this again, have you ever patronized a prostitute? 

Patterson‘s answer, only the lobbyists.  Thank you, try the veal. 

Please tip your precinct captains.  I‘m here all term. 

Humor about a sitting governor—there are entendres everywhere—caught up in a prostitution bust.  Who writes this stuff?  It‘s comedy gold.  We got details about his hook up with the Emperors Club online brothel.  Now we know more about the woman named in the complaint as Kristin, allegedly Governor Spitzer‘s sex partner while he was not wearing the Emperors Club new clothes. 

She‘s a 22-year-old wanna be singer born Ashley Yumins (ph), who changed her name to Ashley Ray Mikey Du Pietro (ph) and uses the stage name Ashley Alexandra Dupre.  Whatever her name is, her life has been ruined until she lands a contract of some sort to make money.

Nevertheless, thanks to late night comedians, it‘s the governor, not the call girl, who has been getting the short end of the—just roll the tape. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  Top ten surprises during Eliot Spitzer‘s resignation.  Here we go, number 10, entered to the sounds of JZ‘s “Big Pimping,” wow. 

CONAN O‘BRIEN, COMEDIAN:  That means Hillary Clinton has lost another super delegate.  It‘s true.  On the bright side, Bill Clinton gained a super wingman. 

LETTERMAN:  Number seven, reaffirmed his policy of bro‘s before ho‘s. 

SNOOP DOGG, RAPPER:  Eliot Spitzer‘s wife Silda will get back at her husband by driving down to New York City and getting a little shoom shoom from Snoop Dogg. 

LETTERMAN:  Number three, he was kind of pitchy, dog.  Why is that in here? 

O‘BRIEN:  Here‘s Spitzer.  He‘s back on the road again.  He‘s heading on that kitchen floor.  He‘s headed into a tunnel somewhere.  Oh, for god‘s sake. 

LETTERMAN:  The number one surprise during Eliot Spitzer‘s resignation, when reporters asked how much he paid per hour, his wife said, believe me, he doesn‘t need an hour. 

There you go. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If anyone can find unplowed territory in this scandal, it would be Michael Musto of the “Village Voice,” author of “The Dolce Musto.” 

MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”:  I haven‘t plowed anyone.  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Hi Michael.  Please remember, it‘s basic cable.  It‘s not even dinner time yet in Hawaii for example.  Just in case the network yanks us off the air before the segment is over, let‘s start at the strongest point here.  What‘s the single best part of this, in your mind?

MUSTO:  I think the inevitable TV movie called Screws Her, Pays Her, Spits Her, AKA “Love Potion Number Nine” with Stanley Tucci and Rita Wilson and Ashleigh Olson as the cocktail waitress who serves herself as the special of the day. 

OLBERMANN:  Rita Wilson, for god‘s sake. 

MUSTO:  It‘s a job.  She hasn‘t worked since the big fat wedding or whatever it is. 

OLBERMANN:  Help us out on this.  We‘ve got like 18 different choices. 

What is Kristin‘s real name to your knowledge? 

MUSTO:  Her name is mud in this town.  Her birth name, as you say, was Ashley Yumen, as in you men, come over here, sit on my lap.  Then she changed it to Ashley Alexandra Dupre Mellencamp or something different.  It‘s Dupre, by the way, with one E.  She dropped the extra E for ewe. 

OLBERMANN:  By the way, we had a quote from somebody who lived in the building where she had the 5,000 dollar a month apartment who actually said, I don‘t understand this.  If you can afford to pay for a 5,000 dollars a month apartment, why would you be in prostitution, which was really genius if you think about that. 

What is your advice to this women for how to convert this opportunity here?  She‘s standing here at the free-throw line of life.  She has 10 shots.  How does she make fame and fortune. 

MUSTO:  She already has fortune.  Forty three hundred dollars a pop is pretty good, and she won‘t even do the unsafe stuff.  I would just say don‘t waist your time with just governors.  Go for bigger fish.  Castro might be alive.  W might be alive.  Wanda Sykes is available.  By the way, don‘t worry about becoming a singer.  Britney and Paris made it as singers.  A ho can become a singer. 

OLBERMANN:  That was—OK, she apparently discussed with the home office Client nine‘s enjoyment of unspecific activities she, quote, thinks might not be safe.  We‘re talking about running with scissors?      

MUSTO:  I don‘t know, I think using state funds.  No, we‘ll never know.  I hear from my sources, it‘s a combination of Clinton‘s cigar trick and O‘Reilly‘s loofah thing.  It‘s like a light up Loofah.  Look, the unsafest thing that Spitzer did was playing with his career, his reputation and his wife just to play with some tail.  Very smart, Spitzer, very smart;

“West Side Story.”

OLBERMANN:  Kristin told her associate that she had a way of dealing with unsafe requests.  The quote was, I‘d be like, listen dude, you really want the sex.  You know what I mean.  I have no idea what she means.  Do you know what she means?   

MUSTO:  I do, because I know people in low places.  She means look, if you really want the sex, you‘ll drop this unsafe thing and just do it the normal way, hanging upside down in a dungeon.  I have no idea.  She‘s not the most elegant ho.  She makes Devine Brown look like Dorothy Parker, actually.  When she was a waitress, she used to say, look dude, you want the Mojito?

OLBERMANN:  Any suggestions?  Obviously this has political implications well beyond New York State.  Who could replace Eliot Spitzer as Hillary Clinton‘s super delegate? 

MUSTO:  Geraldine Ferraro?  No, bad idea.  Stick with Spitzer, Keith.  Now that he‘s been through a dirty sex scandal himself, he can be even more qualified to back Hillary.  And she could have a whole new campaign; if a hooker calls at 3:00 in the morning, wouldn‘t you want Spitzer to answer? 

OLBERMANN:  Who do you want answer that phone?  The one and only Michael Musto.  Good to talk to you, Michael. Thank you.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,779th 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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