updated 3/28/2008 5:35:04 PM ET 2008-03-28T21:35:04

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Alter, Dana Milbank, Rachel Maddow, Maria Milito

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Good evening, this is COUNTDOWN.  And this is Thursday, March 27th, 222 days until the 2008 presidential election.

It has been the danger at the heart of the Clinton election strategy from the very beginning: tearing down your Democratic opponent, in part by praising the presumptive Republican nominee.  And in doing that, have you not also just made the case for four more years of GOP rule in the White House?

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: With no end in sight for the bloody Democratic nomination battle, new evidence this evening of potential Democratic defection in the general election.

The notion of McCain Democrats is beginning to take some hold in a new survey from Pew Research.  Thirty-two percent of Clinton supporters saying they would vote for Senator McCain if Senator Obama is the Democratic nominee not Senator Clinton.  Twenty-eight percent of Obama backers are saying the same should Senator Clinton win the nomination.

On the campaign trail in Fayetteville, North Carolina today, Senator Clinton is trying to put at least some of the toothpaste back into the tube, at least in public.  Asked about similar numbers from the Gallup organization in polls released yesterday, Senator Clinton is making a plea to any Democrat thinking of going over to the Republican side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Please, think through this decision.  It is not a wise decision for yourself or your country.

You know, Senator Obama has intense support, I have intense support.  And it‘s exciting because, you know, people want to be involved.  But the differences, and there are in my view, significant differences between Senator Obama and myself, but those differences pale in the comparison to the differences between us and Senator McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And in an interview earlier this evening with ABC News, Senator Obama is making the same case to far more unite the Democrats than divides them.  Last night on his campaign plane, the Illinois Democrat‘s stating that the sooner the nomination fight is over, the better for everyone, except John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think, giving whoever the nominee is, two or three months to pivot into the general election would be extremely helpful as opposed to having this drag on for two more months all the way up to the convention.  I think that would be disruptive and would be hard on the party as well as the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Other poll numbers that perhaps should be of more concern for the Democratic candidates tonight: 10 percent of registered Democrats telling Pew Research, they believe Senator Obama is a Muslim, including 23 percent of those who say, and they are Democrats, who oppose an Obama nomination.

Nearly four out of 10 Democrats, her opponents and opponents alike are finding Senator Clinton hard to like.

Let‘s look at the political fallout of all this.

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

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

OLBERMANN:  All this time and effectively, the Democrats merely to this point succeeded in running the perfect campaigns against each other?

WOLFFE:  Well, I hesitate to use the word perfect in this context for the Democrats because this is perfect in the same way the 2004 election was perfect.  It‘s so venomous at this stage, they‘re poisonous.

Remember, what happened in 2004, you ended up with John Kerry caricature, a some kind of French terrorist and George Bush‘s “doctor strange love” without the PhD.  Two more months of this and you will have Obama and Clinton, both of them, the kind of caricatures with $100 million to be spend between now and then, the kind of caricatures that supporters just don‘t recognize.  So, this is far from perfect for Democrats but both are very effective at tearing each other down.

OLBERMANN:  One thing about those startling numbers: 32 percent of Clinton supporters, 28 percent of Obama backers.  Presumably, that number would decrease merely by attrition when people are actually forced to cast the ballot but also as whooping as those numbers sound, that‘s 32 percent of, at most, 50 percent if you wanted to split support between Clinton and Obama, 50/50 based on the latest polling.

So, these are still large numbers but it‘s 16 percent and 14 percent of a whole depending on who gets the nomination, correct?  Is that manageable in some way by the Democratic Party?  Is there a salve that can be put on to that situation at some point?

WOLFFE:  Well, you‘re right about the math there.  And I also suspect that there are fair number of people who are feeling very intense right now as Hillary Clinton would put it.  And you know, maybe these are the kind of people who would say that move the counter (ph) if the election didn‘t go the right way.

So, look, maybe they will come back in to the fold at some point.  But there is also a very real danger.  And I don‘t think the Democratic Party is really far from the point of no return here.  A very real danger that these people will not come back into the fold, they‘ll be turned off from politics.

And that‘s why it‘s so important that these candidates rein themselves in and rein their supporters in as they have said from time to time that they would.  Both Clinton and Obama have said this together, separately, privately, and publicly.  They really have to deliver at this point.

OLBERMANN:  Washington State late yesterday had some Clinton superdelegates there beginning to waver.  Are there indications that there are individual Democrats or senior Democrats perhaps who are willing to step into this breech and say, alright, enough is enough and more importantly, do any of them have any damn ideas?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think some of them were already are.  And Governor Richardson was doing that just last week.  Of course, they are doing it, and there are very few of them who are uncommitted.

So, they are immediately tainted by suspicion from the other side.  You have some people floating this idea of a superdelegate primary.  That‘s one idea of course.

But in the end, I think, this is going to get results by one of these people, one of these candidates coming up with a magic number, that‘s getting enough superdelegates to get them to the magic number.  And right now, Obama is closer.

OLBERMANN:  The reported “Tonya Harding” strategy, the idea to kneecap, Senator Obama‘s candidacy, to make him unelectable and thus, force the superdelegates to turn to her at the convention.

Is there any indication that there‘s any kind of second thinking about that, any second thought whatsoever from the Clinton campaign now that there are more signs that it doesn‘t matter once you bring the baseball bat out, whoever is standing is going to get hit?  That the winner for the nomination and the loser for the nomination are going to suffer an equivalent of kneecap damage?

WOLFFE:  Well, I do think it‘s interesting that Senator Clinton‘s negatives have actually been on the rise recently.  But, look, loyalty is key inside the Clinton camp.  So, there‘s no sign of second thoughts going on.  But there is another pass for them.

I mean, if the Clinton camp is really convinced as many people are inside the Clinton camp, that Obama will implode, there will be some scandal, there will be some reason for him to fall down.  It‘s not going to happen because Clinton folks prompt it to happen.

They will be much better off riding into the convention on a white horse, having suspended the campaign, and then, rescue the party from itself.  It‘s not going to happen because of a Tonya Harding strategy.  It will just happen.

OLBERMANN:  Well, Tonya Harding didn‘t listen to that advice.  We‘ll see if her equivalent in the campaign does.  Great thanks to Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” for joining us tonight.  Thank you, sir.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on what happens next, let‘s turn to Richard‘s colleague and ours, Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.  Jon, good evening.

ALTER:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Those poll numbers, even when you cut them in half, 16 percent perhaps of the Democrats in total, saying right now, oh, no, if it‘s not Clinton, we‘re going to McCain.  Fourteen percent of the Democrats, if it‘s not Obama, their nominee, their choice is not actually nominated, they‘re saying, no, no, we‘re going to McCain.

Is there massive rationalization going on inside the Democratic Party about even those numbers which were enough to turn a tight race into a landslide for a Republican?  Or is there some true belief that those statistics represent merely super loyal interests for each of the candidates who can be assuaged in whole or in part?

ALTER:  I think it‘s the latter.  You know, you‘ve seen this before in the two parties in previous campaigns and what happens is, when they come together at the convention, and that‘s why a peaceful convention is so important.  Then, a lot of the supporters say, hey, if my guy or my woman tells me to vote for the other person, I will do it.

In fact, I‘ve gotten e-mail, Keith, from people who say, I‘m voting for John McCain if Obama is the nominee unless Hillary tells me otherwise.  And eventually, she will.  And a lot of those people will come along and support the nominee.  So, I actually think there‘s been a little too much attention paid to this particular poll.

OLBERMANN:  Is it confusing to that margin of people to whom the

actual identity of the Democratic nominee is the paramount issue rather

than, you know, again, a tin can with “D” next to it is the person they‘re

voting for.  Is it plausible (ph) here that those people getting confused

by a mixed message?

Hillary Clinton says there, in almost in desperation in the clip we‘d just played.  You know, think about this carefully, we‘re both far better than John McCain, and then something happens in the campaign that looks like it is right out of the Karl Rove playbook.  I mean, you‘d need three hands to count the things that happened today that fit in to that.

There‘s a mix message, is it a question of the frustration level being raised by this, you know, don‘t think about voting Republican, for God‘s sakes don‘t vote for Obama and to be fair from both directions, there‘s some of that still coming from the Obama campaign.  Is that the core of the problem right now?

ALTER:  Well, look, you know, the old expression, politics ain‘t bean bag.  And, I think, on some level, the voters know that this kind of thing goes on in a campaign and in some ways, it‘s not off the charts worst than it‘s been in, you know, in plenty of campaigns, going back to the campaign of 1800 where they‘re talking about Thomas Jefferson, you know, having a slave mistress.

So, these kinds of things are going on for a very long time.  I think the American people tend to take it in stride.  And there‘s a lot of time to make peace as long as nobody goes too far over the line.  And the problem for them is the schedule right now, just allows them so much time.  I mean, even three weeks between now and Pennsylvania.  It‘s so much time for mischief.  If the primaries were coming for rapidly, then this thing could be wrapped up more rapidly.

OLBERMANN:  To that point, Chris Dodd to the “National Journal” this afternoon, “We‘ve got a contest coming up in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina and Indiana very quickly afterwards.  I think the race has to be determined anyway at this point as we get into April, it seems to me then, that the leadership of the party has to stand up and reach a conclusion.”

So, that saying, we‘re going to have “civil war” casualties for another month.  That‘s the best case scenario right now?

ALTER:  Yes, best case scenario.  There‘s nobody in the Democratic Party who will end this before Pennsylvania on April 22nd.  And there‘s so much interest in Pennsylvania with all the new registration.  You know, that primary is on.

Now, if Obama wins even by a point, Hillary will withdraw at that point.  But the bigger and tougher question is because Hillary is favored, what happens if she wins by five or six points, still has no path to the nomination, but won‘t want to get out?  And that‘s where things are going to get even more intense.

OLBERMANN:  President Clinton on the campaign trail just last night, quote: “And I want to tell you something, my family is not big on quitting.  You probably noticed that.”

At some point though, does Senator Clinton saying, wait a wait, fellow, you‘re not running for office, I‘m running for office, if the Democrats lose the election, whether I‘m the nominee or I‘m not, I‘m going to take a large percentage, perhaps all of the blame?

There‘s scenarios in which Obama wins the nomination and loses the election and it is also pinned on Hillary Clinton in a way that would make what happened to Al Gore and John Kerry seemed like, you know, a pinch.

At some point, does she face the fact that under those circumstances, the Senate would be an awfully cold place for her, the Democratic Party would be an awfully cold place for her, no matter what she might think about running for president again, she might not get re-nominated?  I mean for the Senate.

ALTER:  Yes, I think, well, she can continue to win in New York State.  But I think she recognizes that her future whether as a presidential candidate or if she becomes a majority leader or something else, you know, it would be very much in jeopardy.  My understanding from talking to people in the Clinton camp is that she‘s more pragmatic and practical about that than her husband is.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that‘s a relative term though, isn‘t it?  Is she actually pragmatic about it or just more pragmatic than he is?

ALTER:  The latter.  You know, if she has it—when you‘re in the scrum, it‘s really hard, you know, to set all your emotions aside.  She‘s invested a lot in this.  And you can understand why she doesn‘t want to quit right now.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always, thanks for coming in, Jon.  Appreciate it.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Speaker Pelosi versus the gang of 20 super-Clinton donors.  She reminds them superdelegates should not have veto power and the Democratic congressman just threatened to cut, remind them, they themselves are largely superdelegates.  Oops.

And: A rare moment for the Democrats.  They both attack the same thing at the same time from the same side: Clinton and Obama versus John McCain‘s economic plan or his non-plan.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The gang of 20: Hillary Clinton‘s super-donors, threatens congressional Democrats over Speaker Pelosi‘s belief that the superdelegates should not overrule the primary and caucus results.  You know, a lot of the superdelegates are congressional Democrats.  That the big rollers just threatened the only people who can get their candidate the nomination.

And: Wal-Mart sticks to its guns.  She‘s brain damaged, she‘s in a nursing home, her son is dead in Iraq, but the $400,000, those who hurt (ph) her paid her for her medical expenses.  That money, Wal-Mart still says belongs to Wal-Mart.

Worst Persons: Later on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Posing extremely thinly veiled threat sent to the speaker of the House by 20 wealthy Democratic donors.  “We give your party a lot of money,” they said, “we support Hillary Clinton, now stop supporting Senator Obama‘s contention that superdelegates should follow the votes of the pledged delegates.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The Clinton campaign knew of the letter, though not letter by letter, and the speaker responds by telling them to shove it with one caveat.

Speaker Pelosi is conceding that superdelegates will have to make their choice of candidate based on, quote, “many considerations” including respecting the decisions of millions of Americans while reiterating that she believes, quote, “It would do great harm to the Democratic Party if superdelegates are perceived to overturn the will of the voters.”

Camp Clinton is declining to disavow the threatening tone of the fundraisers letter and revealing prior knowledge of its existence while claiming ignorance of the contents within.  Spokesman Phil Singer is telling reporters on a conference call, quote, “We got a heads up that a letter was being sent, but we didn‘t know what was in it.”

Joining me now is our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of the “Washington Post.”  Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Pelosi‘s response a little mixed, a little boon to them, but was it not mostly a kick to the chops?

MILBANK:  Yes, she was wearing one of those fluffy slippers, but it was a kick to the chops all the same.  The speaker is displeased with the Clinton campaign and understandably so.

First of all, the donors have come after her for saying essentially the same thing she‘d said all the way back on February 7th.  And, at the same time, it‘s sort of—it‘s not even a letter so much as a reverse ransom note.  They‘re basically saying, we‘re going to de-fund your House Democrats if you don‘t support our candidate.

That‘s the kind of scorched to earth campaign tactics that have -we‘re sort of a by-product of Bill Clinton‘s presidency that they‘re very wary of.

OLBERMANN: But to that point, one major issue that seemed to have been overlooked initially when that letter was written is that the high rollers are as you point out threatening the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, pulling funding for Democratic Congressional candidates, the problem is, a huge number of Democratic congressmen are superdelegates.

So, how does threatening the superdelegates who are Senator Clinton‘s only hope to get the nomination, how does that help Senator Clinton, exactly?

MILBANK:  Maybe, they didn‘t think it through all the way.

OLBERMANN:  That was the point I was going for.

MILBANK:  The DCCC or the D-trip as it‘s known right here in town is basically a member organization.  The members of Congress contribute money themselves to help their colleague.  So, yes, they are going at the very lifeblood of many of these superdelegates.

I understand that the displeasure is such that in the coming days, we may see some of the Democrats who have been neutral, the House Democrats, use this occasion to lend their support to Obama.

OLBERMANN:  Well, then, that touches on my next question, which is how smart are these 20, I mean, they‘re rich, but are their smart?  Obama has gotten this far without them.  He is certainly ahead on this contest, no matter if you think it‘s over or you don‘t.

They‘ve threatened the very people they need to get Clinton the nomination and they accused Nancy Pelosi of saying something she didn‘t, not only did she not exactly say what they claim she did, but in her response, she even muted it a little bit further.  Did they vastly misplay this to the deficit, if you will, in this exchange of Senator Clinton?

MILBANK:  Well, it seems to have backfired rather noisily.  They haven‘t achieved the objective in terms of changing Pelosi‘s point of view.  They have—in fact, NBC reported today that there was another major donor to the DCCC that actually maxed out as a result of this letter, an Obama supporter doing that.

So, they didn‘t necessarily achieve much on the funding threat either, they stirred up the Democratic left like Moveon now starting with letter writer campaigns.  So, it probably wasn‘t worth all this agitation they‘ve created.

OLBERMANN:  What is—the Clinton camp response to this was cryptic to say the least.  That they knew about the donor letter, knew it was being sent, they didn‘t know what was actually in it.

What does that mean?  And why not say, you know, this implied financial threat doesn‘t do us or anybody in this party any good?  Why not take advantage of it and look like the good guys in this situation, for a change?

MILBANK:  Well, I think, they‘re practicing the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy here.  There‘s something to be said for plausible deniability.  This allows you to get that sort of message it implied, threw it out there without actually having ownership for it.

It‘s like when Lanny Davis started talking about the Reverend Wright and how Obama‘s response was inadequate.  It‘s like when, you know, Clinton is saying that Obama is not a Muslim as far as I know.  You sort of distance yourself from it but then allow the issue to stand.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, the campaign by implication.  Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC, as always, sir, many thanks.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Not that we‘re giving advice to car thieves, by the way, but if you see a television camera crew near the vehicle you are trying to rip up, abort.  Go to plan B.

And the wall (ph) crime of Wal-Mart, still nothing from a company with the $11 billion profit about how it rationalize suing one of its brain-damaged ex-employee for every last dollar she has.  Worst Persons is ahead.

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

Number three: McSame-gate.  Evan Smith of Texas monthly magazine reporting that he moderated a public conservation among Republican operatives in Austin this week, during which McCain bandwagoner, Mark McKinnon displayed, quote, “Maps of the state broken down by electoral votes.”  What McCain was actually get in a race versus Obama and separately in a race versus Clinton.  Smith notes that, quote, “the printed header on both red Karl Rove and company.”

Karl Rove said he isn‘t consulting on the McCain campaign and McCain is not (INAUDIBLE).

Number two: The surge didn‘t work-gate.  The actual key to reduction in levels of violence in parts of Iraq is in big trouble.  Even as the administration trumpets the Iraqi government‘s attempt to regain control of city of Basra from the Mahdi army of Muqtada al-Sadr by force, that assault by thousands of Iraqi troops has stalled.

One Mahdi commander claims, government forces abandon their tanks, that his men promptly went over and spray painted verses from Quran on them.

And yes, there‘s a new all-day curfew in Baghdad.  Terrific.  They stand up, we stand down, they pull over (ph).

And number one: Moron-gate.  Amid all the nefarious explanations for our self-destructive foreign policy of the last eight years, there‘s always been this nagging suspicion that much of it was actually the result sheer unadulterated stupidity.  The latest evidence that that might be true, the Defense Intelligence Agency which brought you the mobile Iraqi labs bull crap that Colin Powell repeated to the United Nations, it has produced a brief, online history of itself detailing various world crises in which it has intervened.

The DIA included on page 14 from the 1980s, quote, the story of an Iraqi F-16 raid to destroy an Iranian nuclear reactor.  Iraqi - an Iraqi nuclear reactor, it was in Iraq.  That nuclear reactor the Israelis hit in ‘80s.  Iraq.  Iran.

Not unless you guys are reading ahead in John McCain‘s script. 

Idiots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Until the President Boris Yeltsin ordered it dissolved in 1995, the KGB was the infamous domestic and international spy agency, first of the Soviet Union and of Russia.  But on the same time, KGB, is also top radio station in San Diego, made nationally famous by its mascot, the KGB chicken, later known as the San Diego chicken played by the inevitable Ted Granolas.

Many assumed the radio station was named after the spies.  In fact, the Russian KGB only came into being in 1954, but today is the anniversary of KGB Radio signing on in 1928.  So, the Russians named their spy agency after a radio station in San Diego, California?

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin outside a police station in Gilbert, Arizona where an Oddball instructional video we‘re calling, “how not to steal a car.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s going to be every officer.

Watch out!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Local television station KTVK happened to be at the police department shooting an interview with an officer when, as you saw in the background, that guy tried to pinch that white Chevy Lumina.  The finest were all over it, capturing the crook in short order.  His next stop, the super duper stupid moron cell block in the big house. 

To Lima, Peru, where we drop in on the incredibly serious trial of a former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori (ph), on charges that he approved the actions of military death squads.  He faces up to 30 years in prison.  You think he might stay awake during the proceedings.  The ex-president caught sawing logs repeatedly during witness testimony.  The judge had to repeatedly ring his little bell to awaken him.  Hello.

The judge asked him if he needed medical attention.  Fujimori refused, saying, he had just been a little tired lately.  It‘s OK, pal.  Just go back to sleep and we‘ll wake you before sentencing. 

From it‘s the economy is stupid to it‘s the economy and you are stupid.  Both Democrats attack John McCain on the lead issue of the campaign and his admission he knows nothing about it. 

And the guilty parties know all about this; another network blatantly tries to steal something vital to the safe-guarding of your COUNTDOWN experience.  It‘s not the first time.  These stories ahead.  But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, the best long delayed peace, the Rolling Stone and the British seaside resort of Blackpool.  The city banned the Stones after a concert there led to a riot in which chandeliers and a grand piano were destroyed.  Blackpool council leader Peter Callow now says the ban has been lifted.  If they for give us, we will forgive them.  The infamous concert took place in 1964. 

Number two, best dumb criminal, Mr. Ruben Zarate of Chicago.  Police say there that he tried today hold up a muffler shop.  Nobody but the boss could open the safe at the muffler shop.  The boss was out, so Mr. Zarate said, fine, just have him call me on my cell phone when he gets back.  I‘ll come back for the money.

He gave them his phone number.  It never occurred once to him they might give it to the police. 

Number one, best impact on American culture, Herb Peterson, a McDonald‘s executive and later franchisee in Santa Barbara, California, a lover of Eggs Benedict, he wanted to see McDonald‘s sell something similar, so he invented the Egg McMuffin.  He has passed away peacefully at home at the age of 89.  Viewing hours at the local funeral parlor will be between 5:00 and 11:00 am, free breakfast burrito with every large beverage purchased, limit one per morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  No longer just the security crisis call at 3:00 in the morning, now Hillary Clinton is warning about the economic crisis call at 3:00 in the morning.  Let‘s hope the White House has call waiting.  In our third story on tonight, this time the subject of the senator‘s telephonic ridicule was not her Democratic rival, but the Republican nominee.  More over, her stance today was almost identical to Barack Obama‘s. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Sometimes the phone rings at 3:00 a.m. in the White House and it‘s an economic crisis.  We need a president ready, willing and able to answer that call.  I read the speech that Senator McCain gave the other day which set forth his plan, which does virtually nothing to ease the credit crisis or the housing crisis.  It seems like if the phone were ringing, he would just let it ring and ring and ring. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  One aside, always hire the professional lighting people. 

Both Democrats were on the same page today.  Neither slammed the other.  Both united in hitting McCain for his speech Tuesday advocating an economic philosophy best described as, you‘re on your own, sucker.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  John McCain recently announced his own plan.  Unfortunately, it amounts to little more than watching this crisis unfold.  While this is consistent with Senator McCain‘s determination to run for George Bush‘s third term, it won‘t—it won‘t help families that are suffering and it won‘t help lift our economy out of recession. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Not that the Democrats didn‘t take shots at each other via proxy.  Clinton‘s campaign claiming Obama copied her idea of a 30 billion dollars stimulus package, even though his package spends the money differently, even though Obama, introduced by independent New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, put his emphasis today not on spending but on regulation, not just for mortgage lenders, but for investment firms, calling for a radical updating of how America‘s financial sector is regulated, and blaming, quote, Republican and Democratic administrations for the current regulatory mess, claiming the rules should have been changed in the ‘90s. 

Who was president then?  Presumably, the first lady could have gotten the president on the phone anytime she wanted at that point, day or night. 

As usual, we phoned Rachel Maddow, our political analyst, host of her own show weeknights on Air America Radio.  Hello. 

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  We have not mentioned Mr. McCain‘s response to these two speeches today, which is sort of priceless.  The best he managed to do was he called them tax and spend Democrats.  Did he not oppose the Bush tax cuts that are at the heart of this as having favored the wealthy? 

MADDOW:  I remember that.  John McCain—

OLBERMANN:  So he‘s a tax and spend Republican?

MADDOW:  John McCain, before he was running for president, occasionally used to say stuff that made sense.  He‘s changed his mind on a lot of things, including the Bush tax cuts, which he initially said were favoring the wealthy.  Now he‘s calling for them to be permanent, and campaigning, in effect, as if he was a champion of them all along. 

What was interesting about his response to Obama and Clinton is that Obama and Clinton—I went through each of their speeches, the text of them.  I was circling all of the specific proposals.  I got to the point where my transcript was useless because there was a ton of specificity in it.  I think that maybe John McCain responded by just saying tax and spend because he didn‘t want to get called out on hitting them on any of the details, because we know that he himself has admitted that he doesn‘t really understand the details. 

OLBERMANN:  How do you—when the economy seems—barring, I don‘t know, a global warming causing cash to fall out of the sky between now and November—it seems like the economy will vie with a worsening situation in Iraq as the number one issue going into the campaign, the actual campaign, whenever the Democrats stop the fratricide.  How do you take a campaign and base it on this most important issue with the game plan of a faith based economy or good luck everybody.  How are you going to do that? 

MADDOW:  It‘s not just the game plan of we‘ll just have to see what happens.  We‘ll have to see how it all shakes out.  It‘s not just that that‘s his proposed intervention, which is to do nothing.  It‘s also what he says about how he understands how we got to be in this crisis.  His explanation in his economic speech this week is he said that the reason we‘re in the sub-prime crisis is because home lenders were complacent.

He also said, and I quote, “because of complex financial instruments that weren‘t particularly well understood.”  So, according to Senator McCain, that‘s his analysis; banks felt wrong.  It had nothing to do with deregulation.  They just had the wrong feeling and finances are hard.  That‘s what he‘s offering in terms of his economic understanding and the proposal that he would do nothing to fix our economic problems. 

OLBERMANN:  George Bailey wasn‘t responsible enough at the building and loan.  That‘s what it boils down to?

MADDOW:  Yes, he had a bad feeling. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there any—on the politics of what we heard today from the two Democrats; is there any indication in the message that both of them had basically the same message, Obama and Clinton—is there any suggestion that they heard the message of the Democratic party, the majority of it at least?  We‘d like to see you go after the Republican rather than each other. 

MADDOW:  Yes, I feel like I‘ve become kind of a semi-pro listener to the news, where I‘m always listening for Democratic candidates and even their surrogates to say John McCain.  Every time I hear them say it, a little bell goes off in my mind, because that‘s what I think Democrats—anybody who has an interest in John McCain not becoming president, whether or not you support Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Ralph Nader or anybody else in the race, Mike Gravel as the Libertarian, if you want John McCain to not win, you have to start hitting him now, because the fault position of the press toward John McCain is so positive that unless other candidates are actively and specifically going after him all the time, his free ride takes him right to the White House. 

OLBERMANN:  Or it could go down a side track of Bob Dole, the second coming.  It needs to be pushed. 

MADDOW:  The difference is the way Bob Dole lost is that he got hammered for about seven straight months by the Democratic side.  I am happy and there are bells going off every time I hear them star talking about McCain.  It‘s been a long time waiting for it, but I do think we‘re starting to see them both pivot that direction. 

OLBERMANN:  Last political subtext in New York; what was that with Mayor Bloomberg introducing Obama today? 

MADDOW:  I know.  I think he misses being in the headlines next to the words possible presidential candidate.  So this was a way to get himself back in the headlines.  I really don‘t see a future this time around with Bloomberg making a serious run of it, but I know he likes to get those stories written about him. 

OLBERMANN:  He‘ll be in the news a lot if he endorsed.  I‘m sure of that.  Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Air America, always a pleasure. 

“American Idol” continues.  We‘re working on the problem.  In the interim, the medium has become the message in a cross network war, which we have won. 

And Homeland Security, where your money and your freedom went.  Don‘t worry.  From Washington State, the breaking news, they have caught a nuclear terrorist pussy cat.  That‘s not an adjective.  It‘s actually a cat.  Worst persons next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  What veteran director Oliver Stone will make of the Bush clan in his latest film is hard to know.  But the cast is coming together.  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, our brief look called Keeping Taps, Elizabeth Banks has reportedly been cast to play Laura Bush in “W,” a drama about Mr. Bush‘s formative years.  You may recall Miss Banks as the sex starved one time date of Steve Carrell‘s character in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

Mr. Stone‘s film will feature Josh Brolin in the title role.  Today, Mr. Bush‘s were cast, per “Variety Magazine,” James Cromwell as George Herbert Walker Bush, and Ellen Burstyn as the current president‘s mother, Barbara Bush.  Just a note here, the great actress Ms. Burstyn also played the mother in “The Exorcist.” 

She did. 

Paris Hilton may not be planning for some future house arrest, but she will be ready should it ever happen again.  Miss Hilton reportedly renovating a five bedroom, six million dollar estate on Mullholand Drive, and transforming the basement into a night club, with its own entrance and capacity of 200, according to “In Touch Weekly.”  Miss Hilton saying, quote, my house is so big, I love it. 

So the pesky the matter of traveling between domicile and disco will be history.  It will be simple fall down a flight of stairs, so to speak.  The basement club would resemble a Parisian speak easy—how fitting—with gold fixtures and black furniture.  Hilton is also adding a recording studio to the house so she can get busy on her second album, which would presumably drive its listeners to the bar in her in-house disco.

The Internet work dust up that has resulted in poaching charges against the organization formerly known as the most trusted name in news.  CNN tries to swipe one of the crowned royalty of COUNTDOWN.  That‘s next, but first time for our number two story, the second part of it at least, COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.  

The bronze to Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart.  He did nothing today to address that story we told you about yesterday.  Wal-Mart is suing one of its former Indiana employees, who was put into a wheel chair and a nursing home when broadsided by a semi.  Debbie Shank (ph) got about 417,000 dollars in damages.  Wal-Mart has sued her for the money, claiming its health plan paid her 470,000 grand and it wants the money back now. 

A week after Wal-Mart beat her in court, Mrs. Shank lost her 18-year-old son in Iraq.  Because of her brain damage from the accident, her memory is intermittent.  So every time she asks about him, they have to tell her he‘s dead.  It‘s as if she‘s hearing it for the first time.  Wal-Mart is suing her for all the money she has in the world.  Wal-Mart, always low prices, always low humanity.  Yes, we‘re going to keep doing this until Wal-Mart atones. 

The runner up, Senator Lindsay Graham, went on Fixed News yesterday and said of his pal, Senator McCain, he‘s never said that this war would be easy.  In September 2002, McCain told CNN of Iraq, “I believe that the success will be fairly easy.”  In January of 2003, McCain told us, “we will win this conflict.  We will win it easily.”  In April 2003, McCain told us, “there‘s not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias.” 

In January 2007, McCain told us it was easy.  We were greeted as liberators.  Oh, did he ever say it would be easy?  I thought you said, did he ever say it would be fought with spoons and forks. 

But the winner, Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff.  The deputy chief of the border agents for Blaine, Washington addressed a meeting of 200 residents of San Juan Island in Washington State.  This guy, according to the “Seattle Times,” expressed reservations about the Patriot Act.  He thinks warrantless searches are wrong.  He sounds like the kind of man we need doing this stuff. 

He opened the door a crack as to what‘s really going on and why the politicians of both parties who keep trying to terrify us are not only evil but wrong.  Vehicle goes by at 70 miles per hour, Agent Joe Juliano (ph) tells the residents there.  Agent is in the median, a good 80 feet away from the traffic.  Signal went off and identified an isotope.  They spotted nuclear material in a car 25 yards away going 70. 

The agent finally pulls the car over.  What does he find inside?  A cat, a cat with a tumor who got a radiation treatment three days earlier.  We have equipment that sensitive at places as relatively obscure as Bellingham, Washington and George Bush and John McCain and Chertoff, every nut back conservative commentator, every Republican, at least one too many Democrats, they are all trying to leave you with the impression that we have no chance against any actual terrorists unless we seal the borders and spy on every American, even though Homeland Security‘s border control just managed to catch a slightly radioactive cat. 

This award goes to a lot of folks, to be accepted by Michael Chertoff, representing the many, Worst Persons in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps the cable news war is a knife fight, as a buddy of mine likes to say.  Goodness know the competition has employed skull-duggery to artificially boost its ratings.  But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, this is not just a matter that concerns all of us here on the COUNTDOWN, this is, Mrs. and Mr. Jane and Joe Q Public, is now threatening the peace and happiness of everyone in our beloved land, because, after having tried to steal me and some of my producers from this network and some of the political analyst, CNN is now trying to poach our guests. 

In fact, we believe they have somebody out there, behind me, this afternoon, casing the joint to see if they could steal the chairs.  The latest target is not just any guest, mind you, but one who has achieved a special status, at least that‘s what the ratings say, one whose byline bespeaks the kind of rarified elevated position that is achieved only when the very will of the people and the all mighty align, the one and only “American Idol” princess of COUNTDOWN, of course also the mid-day host of New York‘s Q-104.3, Maria Milito.   

It‘s good to see you in one piece. 

MARIA MILITO, NEW YORK‘S Q-104.3:  It‘s good to see you too.  I‘m glad I made it here.   

OLBERMANN:  Are you all right?  Do you need something?  Do we need to put a mote around you?

MILITO:  I‘m OK.  It‘s all good. 

OLBERMANN:  What happened? 

MILITO:  Well, I was asked to be on another network. 

OLBERMANN:  Which one? 

MILITO:  CNN. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

MILITO:  At 8:00 to talk about pop culture. 

OLBERMANN:  Wait a minute, we buried the lead, they are on at 8:00? 

MILITO:  I guess.  I guess.  It was very interesting, after being here last night.  Oh she exists, so yes. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re holding us out for a better offer? 

MILITO:  I guess.  No. 

OLBERMANN:  Were you shocked by this, Princess Maria? 

MILITO:  No exactly shocked.  I guess everyone wants a piece of the princess.  But you‘re my pump.  I‘m your hoe.  Pimps don‘t share hoes.  Come on. 

OLBERMANN:  Why did you go down that root of all roots on this network. 

MILITO:  You don‘t share, so, you know. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, let me see if I can steer it back on course here.  Go.  They are up the street, just go.  No, I‘m kidding.  Let‘s steer it back here.  “American Idol” is bad enough, in my estimation.  But what would I do if I didn‘t have you to complain to? 

MILITO:  I don‘t know.  I feel like it‘s a public service I do for you.  It‘s almost like therapy on TV.  I‘m like your therapist.  I need you to vent about “American Idol,” why is America into it?  Why do they love it?  If I wasn‘t here, we‘re talking about the kids head popping off his body—your head would explode on camera. 

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of which, was there anything of note in the show last night? 

MILITO:  No, this guy Chickezie that a lot of people thought was going to be eliminated was eliminated. 

OLBERMANN:  Chickezie?

MILITO:  Chickezie is his name.  He sings a lot like Luther Vandross though.  He was actually pretty good.  That‘s him.  He was eliminated.  You know, next week is another week of Idol. 

OLBERMANN:  So, has there been any effort by the show itself to steal you?  Have you ever heard from any—

MILITO:  From “American Idol?”  You mean like Simon Cowell calling me?  Well, that‘s a horse of a different color.  Simon calls me.  I love you, Keith, but—

OLBERMANN:  Paula Abdul falls off a pier and they need you and you go. 

MILITO:  I might have to go.  I would call you first.  You understand. 

If they ask me to judge, that would be OK. 

OLBERMANN:  Right, What Do you think the odds are of that happening? 

MILITO:  About one in three million gazillion. 

OLBERMANN:  Other than Simon Cowell, am I right the other two judges have never really said a bad word about the show? 

MILITO:  Randy Jackson has this season.  He‘s a little more negative. 

OLBERMANN:  What is he saying, it‘s a little pitchy, dog?

MILITO:  Exactly.  You‘re a little pitchy, dog, a little off key, dog, or dude.  He uses dude a lot this year.  He‘s very—

OLBERMANN:  He changed it?

MILITO:  Yes, dude and dog.  Yes, actually.  Paula sometimes—she‘s not critical, but she‘s not all like, yay, clapping like a seal. 

OLBERMANN:  Look, frankly, how many times has it been—put me back on camera for a second.  How many times has it been like this. 

MILITO:  That‘s the meds kicking in.

OLBERMANN:  Before we—all right.  We have something to seal the deal here.  We want you to wear this as the princess to our upcoming COUNTDOWN Fifth Anniversary Show. 

MILITO:  Is this like a contract with the show?

OLBERMANN:  Put it on first and then I‘ll say, yes it is.  That‘s right.  

MILITO:  That is just—it‘s beautiful.  It‘s going to pop off my head.  I have a big head. 

OLBERMANN:  You know where the anniversary party is going to be? 

MILITO:  Yes, I do. 

OLBERMANN:  Where? 

MILITO:  You say it.  I‘m not going to. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s at the Time Warner Center. 

MILITO:  That‘s right. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you know what else is at the Time Warner Center?

MILITO:  Yes, I do, (INAUDIBLE)

OLBERMANN:  Maria Milito, COUNTDOWN‘s “American Idol” princess. 

MILITO:  I love my tiara.  Do I wear this every week now when I‘m on your show?   

OLBERMANN:  You have to wear it on the radio too. 

MILITO:  Great.  Get my headphones around it.  That‘s going to hurt my head.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this—lord knows, you‘ve hurt my head enough times when we‘ve been here.  COUNTDOWN for this the 1,792nd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Please remember the fifth anniversary program, we get to celebrate by working this week.  Whose idea was that?  COUNTDOWN on NBC this Sunday, 7:00 and 6:00 Central.  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   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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